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Love Means Never Having to Say “Surprise!”

The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch adult coloring page

It is Valentine’s day. A Tuesday. Carolyn is at home, at the beach. I am at work, in Washington. Our plan is to skip the formalities and enjoy a romantic dinner the following weekend. 

Correction; That is Carolyn’s plan. At 5 p.m. I am heading for Lewes. Riding shotgun are a blood-red Hallmark envelope and a spray of roses, wrapped in plastic that crackles gleefully with every bump.

I speed across the Bay Bridge, singing with Luther Vandross. At the Kent Island Dairy Queen. I pick up the heart-shaped ice cream cake I’ve ordered.

As planned, the house is dark. Carolyn is at Fish On for Writer’s Guild Night. I light every candle I can find, flick on the fireplace, and set up a three-candle candelabra on the front porch, where I lean suavely against a pillar. And wait.  

Carolyn’s white suv pulls tentatively into the driveway. For a short eternity it just sits there, motor running, as if the driver might suddenly throw it into reverse. The window rolls down, revealing the expression of a woman who, oh, I don’t know, was expecting to come home to a nice, solitary evening but who now knows that is not going to happen.

“What are you doing here?” she asks, making no move to open the door.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” I say, unnecessarily.

Carolyn slowly exits the car. She traverses the sidewalk with a crooked smile.

This is a surprise,” she says. She does not say, “This is a wonderful surprise.”

Inside, my heart-shaped ice cream cake is melting. As we slow dance to At Last by Etta James on a romantic music mix I’ve prepared, Carolyn’s muscles are tight as bungee cords stretched around a crash test dummy. 

In five years of marriage, I’ve somehow missed something. “You don’t like surprises, do you?” I whisper. She shakes her head.

I sigh. “This will never, ever happen again.”

Carolyn raises her head. She breathes in my ear, “I’m looking forward to that.” 


Published by Bill Newcott

Award-Winning Film Critic, Columnist, TV Host and Creator of AARP's Movies For Grownups, Bill writes for publications including National Geographic, The Saturday Evening Post, Delaware Beach Life, Alaska Beyond and Northwest Travel.

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