Part of this setting, but except for a couple unimportant references you don’t need to know about it.
I tossed yet another dozen red roses into the discard pile, flinging myself back into the pile of cushions with a pained sigh. As much as the idea of a day entirely devoted to professions of romantic inclinations appealed to me, the sheer quantities of trite poetry and overpriced roses had led my enthusiasm to wear thin.
Now I must admit, I am quite fond of chocolates, flowers, jewelry, and being showered with gifts from my devoted admirers. That was all well enough. The irritating part was how cheap they all were! Oh, not in terms of cost; they were all quite evidently the most expensive roses and chocolates they could lay their adoring hands upon. Which only served to emphasize their complete lack of discerning taste.
Although sometimes one of them did get things right. There was that one gentleman, David I think his name was, who had a true eye for flowers. He hand-picked a half dozen musk roses in an absolutely beautiful shade of pink and, I could tell, had lovingly arranged the bouquet himself with a few sprigs of purple lilacs and delicate ferns. Now that had been a bouquet to be proud of, both in giving and receiving.
Not like these expensively generic commercial… things.
The chocolates, at least, were somewhat better. I twisted around on the cushions to look through the “acceptable” pile, finally selecting one from a small French chocolatier. Removing a chocolate and nibbling on it, I absently flipped open the card. An endearingly naive inscription, signed Harvey. Hmmm. Young man, dark-haired and freckled, saved from awkwardness by a life of educated manners. And with good taste in chocolates.
I was distracted from my musings by a quiet sound from behind me. I glanced back to see Patrick straightening up from, I assumed, placing the crystal vase containing a dozen vibrantly coloured orchids on the coffee table.
Ridiculously vibrantly colored, in fact. I was intrigued by this latest addition to this year’s Fourteenth of February collection and moved closer to investigate.
It was with complete surprise that I realized they were so brightly colored because they were made out of folded paper. Origami orchids? I sniffed delicately at the air above them. Perfumed origami orchids. And it was quite a lovely perfume.
“Where did these come from?” I gently turned the vase around, but there was no card or note attached.
“I am not certain, milady. A secret admirer, perhaps?”
I shot Patrick a look. He was amused. Why was he amused? “Is this some sort of elaborate joke?”
“I wouldn’t know, milady. I don’t think so.”
He was still amused. I hummed suspiciously under my breath, eyeing him for a long moment before returning to the paper orchids. “Well whoever they’re from did a very lovely job. And they should keep nicely. Wait, while you’re here,” I called after Patrick as he moved to leave, stopping him. “Have I already decided who to go out with tonight?”
Patrick looked thoughtful for a moment, one ear canting a few degrees. “If I recall correctly, yes, you decided… no one.”
“What?” I looked at him, utterly taken aback. “Alone? On Valentine’s Day?” Had I been trying to make some sort of point? I should have thought I would remember such a ridiculous declaration of my own. First the ‘secret admirer’, now this. “Tell me truthfully, is this a joke?”
“It is not a joke, milady.” His amusement mixed with resignation.
I frowned, vaguely irritated, but before I could voice my displeasure at not having the faintest clue what was going on, he spoke again.
“Regarding this evening, you do have a reservation with [Expensive Restaurant] at seven. Shall I cancel?”
“Cancel?” I certainly didn’t recall making such a reservation, but remembering such things was Patrick’s job after all. “And no date?”
“And no date,” he echoed.
Hmph. I wasn’t about to go out to dinner alone, but I did very much love the establishment in question. Reservations generally had to be placed well in advance, so cancelling at such a late hour seemed like a waste.
It would be simple enough to find someone to take to dinner, or to find an unattached admirer who was sadly short of a date of his own, but… I looked back over the pile of expensive but boring roses and sighed. I should have liked to invite this ‘secret admirer’, but.
“I suppose you’ll have to do.” I glanced over Patrick critically. “Make sure the reservation is for me and a guest and be ready at six.”
With a short bow, he excused himself and went off to do as ordered.
Later that evening as Patrick and I were led to our table, I found myself noting for the first time in… quite a while, really, just how lovely a couple he and I made. Well, I did pick him out for a reason besides just a desire for a pet puppy. Tonight he was playing the perfect gentleman, immaculately and understatedly dressed, pretending to take the lead but following mine with well-trained practice.
Dinner was, of course, excellent, but it wasn’t until we were quietly mocking the dreadful hairstyle of a middle-aged woman across the room – Patrick presenting increasingly ridiculous excuses for her having it – that I realized just how very much I was enjoying myself. It was a rather nice change from recently, and a very pleasant change indeed from the past several instances of the holiday.
In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I said as much to Patrick, as we left for home.
He smiled, pleased and a little amused and probably wagging his tail behind the Mask. “I am glad to hear it, milady.”
It was then and only then where I realized what exactly had just happened, and I am afraid I stared at him in blank surprise for a good half a minute. “You planned all of this, didn’t you?”
“I did, yes.” He felt a little uncertain all of the sudden.
“You took me out to dinner. A date!” Despite my best efforts, I felt a broad smile spread across my face. “You clever dog. I would never have suspected it from you!”
“Some old dogs never stop learning new tricks.” Patrick smiled happily back, reaching into his jacket and, with a flourish, pulling out a single folded paper orchid – tinted a delicate lavender to match my dress – and gently tucking it behind my ear. “Happy Valentine’s day, milady.”