Summary: A short story in answer to the alphabet fan fiction challenge. *
Amanda Stetson stared at the telephone she held in her hand. 'Extremely late', he'd said. Extremely late! Extremely sorry!
She glanced around the kitchen. Dinner would go to waste. Sighing, she began putting everything into the refrigerator, not in the mood to eat alone. She put away the wine glasses and the vintage Bordeaux.
Her mother and the boys were out of town. She had been planning a romantic evening for him, and he was going to be extremely late. She'd left the office at four. He'd told her he'd be home by seven.
With a shrug of her shoulders, she went upstairs to their bedroom. 'Might as well put all of this away, too,' she thought miserably. She glanced around at the room. New sheets adorned the bed. A new ruby red gown lay on her side, a new pair of navy silk boxers on his. Candles stood ready on the dresser, tables and shelves.
Late. Extremely late. And he was extremely sorry. How many times had she heard that in the past few weeks?
Suddenly, she wanted to do nothing more than lay down for just a few minutes. Neglecting the room, she curled up in the bed in her jeans and T-shirt. From the bed she eyed the new dress she'd been planning on putting on before he got home.
Feeling her eyelids grow heavy, she promised herself a brief nap. Then she'd get up and shower, maybe watch a movie and have some popcorn. She fell into a sound sleep.
Lee pulled into the driveway and ran towards the front door. He was later than he'd expected. Much later. Extremely late. He knew how disappointed Amanda had been when he'd called. He meant to make it up to her. The late nights wouldn't last much longer, and he was glad.
Creeping into the house, he glanced again at his watch. Ten-thirty! He went into the kitchen and caught the aroma of the delicious meal he'd missed. He sighed. Opening the refrigerator, he saw the dinner packaged in Tupperware and foil, the bottle of unopened wine.
Hanging his head, he turned and went upstairs to apologize yet again. He was sure Amanda was getting extremely tired of his work schedule of late.
'Extremely late -- extremely sorry,' he thought sadly. I must sound like a broken record.
Quietly opening the bedroom door, he saw her on the bed, wrapped up in the sheets and blanket and sound asleep. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could make out the candles. Then he saw the new garments laying on the bed. Moving across the room, he could make out the form of a new dress hanging on the door jamb.
He stood guiltily in the middle of the room with his eyes closed. She'd been planning to surprise him with a romantic evening, even after his neglectful behavior. He felt like a total creep as he watched her sleeping peacefully.
"I'm going to make it up to you, Amanda," he whispered softly.
As quietly as he could, he changed out of his clothes and brushed his teeth. Then he crept into the bed with her, being careful not to disturb her.
In her sleep, Amanda turned towards Lee and wrapped her arm around him, snuggling up to his warm body.
Amanda stepped out of the post office into the fading sunshine and headed for her car. As she drove home, she smiled as she remembered Lee's profuse apologies for ruining the evening she'd planned. It was clear that he felt terrible.
She'd asked him to come along with her on her errands when she left out at one, but he'd hastily pushed her out the door, claiming to have things he needed to do around the house. She had left, chuckling, wondering what in the world Lee Stetson, the Scarecrow, had to do in the way of domestic chores.
She pulled into the driveway, ready to spend the evening with her husband. Smiling in anticipation of being with him again, she gathered her bags and headed into the house.
When she entered the kitchen, she saw and smelled preparations for a
wonderful dinner. There were salmon steaks broiling in the oven,
a loaf of garlic bread on the counter waiting to be heated, there was a
tossed salad chilling in the refrigerator.
The bottle of Bordeaux was sitting on the counter by a solitary wine glass.
Lee was nowhere in sight, but on the counter next to the wine was a note. It read:
"To my exquisite wife,
I am looking forward to spending an extra special evening with you.Please pour yourself a glass of wine and meet me upstairs. Oh,stop in the den first, okay?
Grinning to herself, Amanda stepped into the den. On the table were two dozen red roses in a crystal vase, and another note.
"Put on the exciting gown that matches the roses.
The gown she'd bought for the previous night rested on the arm of the sofa. Raising her eyebrows, Amanda looked around for Lee, then quickly undressed and slid the silky sheath over her head. She left her clothes in a heap on the couch.
'What does he think he's doing?' Amanda laughed gently to herself. 'Dinner will be burned!'
At the foot of the stairs, she noticed another note. Reading it, she knew he must have anticipated her response.
"The salmon has a while to go, yet. We've got plenty of time. Get upstairs. I'm extremely impatient.
Her grin broadening, she went upstairs and down the hall. The bedroom door was slightly ajar, and from her position she could see the myriad of candles burning, casting dancing shadows on the walls.
Opening the door, she stepped into the room. Lee was sitting on the bed in the navy silk boxers and his open robe. He held the matching glass of wine in his hand.
On the bed were another dozen roses, spread across the sheets in a big 'X'. Lee stood, drinking in the sight of her, and held his arms open to her.
Stepping into his embrace, Amanda kissed him fervently, tasting the wine on his lips. He held her tightly to him and murmured, "I'm always surprised at how stunning you truly are."
Speechless, Amanda just smiled at him. "Thank you," she said.
"I'm not finished," he protested. At her waiting silence, he went on. "I've been working extremely late, and I've been extremely sorry. I realized last night how many times you must have heard those words."
"Lee, it's okay, I understand -" she began.
He hushed her with a gentle finger. "You are exquisite, Amanda. You're exciting to be with. Every day, I wait expectantly if we're apart, and our time together is always extra special. I want to kiss you all over, extravagantly. I'm going to make it all up to you, Amanda. No more excuses."
He kissed her smiling lips. She had enjoyed his speech, and enjoyed his kiss even more.
"That was nice, Mr. Stetson. But you forgot one 'X'," she teased.
"No, I didn't, Mrs. Stetson," he returned with a wicked gleam. "X marks the spot!" he exclaimed, and gently pushed her down onto their rose-covered bed.