The wind howled so loudly, it sounded like a jetliner overhead. But the whipping snow was so blinding she hoped all planes had been grounded during the storm.
There were only yards to go to get home now. Yards she counted as she struggled to keep moving.
Despite the layers she wore, the frigid air had numbed her face, her legs, her hands and feet. The only good thing about the weather was how well it would keep the groceries she bought specifically for this day. She had everything she needed for French onion soup and salmon Dijon. His favorites, for his birthday, which was often overlooked as it fell on Valentine ’s Day.
Almost there, the house was in sight, but the walkways were unshoveled as everyone seemed to have hunkered in during the worst of the storm. Everyone but her, of course, though she couldn’t let this day go by without celebrating as they had for years. A special dinner for the kindest man she’d ever known.
She trudged through the last few feet, trying her best to hurry, so she could get inside and warm up before he even discovered she’d gone out. How upset he’d be if he knew. The last thing he ever wanted was for her to go out of her way for him. He was so attentive and caring, and wanted to do for her, not the other way around. But she found ways, mostly simple ways he didn’t seem to notice, yet hopefully made his life easier. Happier. Fuller. And sometimes not the smartest ways, like this, waiting until the last minute to prepare. But he was always there for her, an ear, a shoulder, a sound bit of advice. She adored him, and his love for her made this worthwhile.
She reached the door, struggled to move her fingers well enough to get the key in the lock.
Then the door opened, and he stood before her, surprise and concern on his face. “What…why are you out in this weather?” he said. “I thought you were still asleep. Come inside, quick.”
She couldn’t move her mouth to speak, her jaw felt frozen.
She stepped into the tiny entry and closed her eyes as the warm sweet scent of fresh apple cider and something else filled her senses.
She took off her coat, set the grocery bag down and looked at him again. He wore an apron. Her apron. With “Kiss the Cook” written on it. He only wore that when he made his signature breakfast. Her favorite. Strawberry crepes with extra strawberries on top, all of them cut precisely in half to look like tiny hearts. Seemed she wasn’t the only one who planned a special treat. Though, somehow, he had been well prepared for it while she had not.
She looked at the apron again, then at his sweet face, and then gave him a warm hug and kiss on the cheek. “Happy Birthday, Grandpa.”