She was in there. Belinda. Belinda Allison Palmer.
He knew, because he’d followed her home. From half a block behind and on the other side of the street. He’d watched her skip with Patty. Watched as she played with Mrs. Tenney’s Golden Retriever. Thor had tumbled in the high grass while Belinda laughed and laughed.
Her hair sparkled in the bright sunshine, so shiny that Jeffrey wanted to close his eyes, but didn’t. No, he liked that sparkle and shine. It made him feel sparkly himself, on the inside. He’d never felt sparkly before.
Belinda’s wrist sparkled too. Jeffrey grinned, knowing he’d made that happen, given Belinda a sparkly wrist. Well…given her a bracelet. She’d put it on and shown it to everyone at school, including the principal.
TJ had laughed at him, called him a sissy girl lover. Jeffrey’d wanted to hit him. But Belinda had pulled him away and pressed her lips to his ear. She’d whispered thank you so softly that Jeffrey had to screw his eyes closed to hear. With closed eyes, he’d still seen her face, soft and pretty. He could trace the pattern of freckles on her cheeks. And he knew that her eyes were just as sparkly as the fake—no, faux, Mom called them faux—diamonds that circled her wrist. Something inside Belinda brightened everything around her. And Jeffrey wanted that bright heat on him. ’Cause when Belinda looked at someone that way she had, fire shooting from her eyes, then that person would never be plain and normal. No, he would be alive and full of fizz. And strong. Jeffrey was strong when Belinda smiled at him.
Jeffrey leaned into the fence. He’d followed her home to see if she’d take the bracelet off or play with it or throw it away or…
Mrs. Palmer came out with Belinda, hugging her. The two of them sat on the porch swing—it squeaked as they rocked. He scooched down to peek through the fence slats.
She was twisting her arm around, showing off his present! Jeffrey’s chest relaxed, his smile growing wide. Her mom liked it. But more importantly, Belinda liked it. Enough to show her mom. Enough to wear it home. Enough to be excited about a gift one of her friends had called silly.
He didn’t care about her friend or TJ or anyone else. He’d found a way to get Belinda to smile at him that sparkly way. And he planned to make her smile every day.
Jeffrey popped up when he heard the door slam. Mrs. Palmer was gone, and Belinda’s hand was on the screen door. She was looking down, away from the sidewalk where Jeffrey stood. He pushed himself higher. What was she doing? She lifted her eyes without warning, meeting his. Then she smiled. And Jeffrey lost his heart.
“Hey, Bel? Where’s that bracelet I got you when we were in elementary school? You used to keep it in some old box. What happened to it?”
Belinda straightened from her contortions under the kitchen table and settled her butt on the floor. Why did that man insist on asking questions when she was screwed into the most awkward positions? Scrubbing bubblegum off the underside of the table—ask a question. Head poked up the chimney, arguing with the flue—ask a question. Riding him like a cowgirl on an annual rodeo—ask her a dozen questions!
She pulled on his leg to help herself stand. And then stared into his eyes. Those beautiful, get-lost-forever-in-them eyes. Hell, she didn’t know why he always bugged her when she was busy, but she certainly knew why she put up with it. It was those eyes. And the mouth. The mouth that made promises that both his body and his love had carried through on.
She shivered. The kids were with Mom tonight. They had the entire house—two stories and basement—to play in. And when Jeffrey was in the mood to play, she had a whole lotta fun. She wondered what he’d planned. But unlike him, she didn’t ask. She’d rather be surprised. She felt a tightening in her chest when she thought about the surprise she’d arranged for him. What if he didn’t like it?
Belinda jumped when he pinched her nearly numb butt. “You listening to me, Belinda?”
“Um… Thinking. I know I had it… Last year. I’m not sure…”
“Honey, did you let Jenny play with it? She could’ve broken or lost it. Damn, Bel, you know there are things the kids shouldn’t get into. What were you thinking?”
Thinking she was getting her daughter into trouble for no reason. What had she been thinking? Jeffrey was sentimental. That bracelet tied them in a way she had never been able to understand. Three strands of glittering beads, repaired half a dozen times, spoke love and commitment and something soul-deep for Jeffrey. As if they were a testament to their devotion.
She wiped away his frown with a caress. No, her surprise couldn’t wait for candlelight and a sexy dress, soft music and perfume.
“Sit.” She pushed him onto one of the kitchen chairs.
“It’s okay, Bel. I wasn’t mad. It’s just—”
“Hush. My turn.” She watched him, one eyebrow lifted. He covered his mouth and slumped into the chair.
Belinda stepped through the maze that was the kitchen floor—Legos and dump trucks and candy wrappers. She sighed. This was certainly not the most romantic Valentine’s Day, no matter how diligently she’d planned.
She reached into the cabinet that held her cookbooks, recipe boxes, and baking supplies. Pulled out an old, tin box. She returned to Jeffrey, knowing he’d watched her. She’d have to reward him for not asking what she was up to.
“I know how you feel about the bracelet.” She sank to her knees, resting one palm on his leg. “How it says love for you. And because that love has always been so deep and safe and freeing, I wanted to share it.” She felt his thigh jump under her hand. “Not give it away. Share. With those created by that love.”
She lifted the tin to his lap and opened it. She drew out the three velvet pouches that had been stuffed within.
“I had the bracelet taken apart—so each of them would have part of the original. And I asked the jeweler to make three identical bracelets based on that first one. For the kids, Jeffrey.” She looked up at him, throat tight, hands shaking. Would he understand what she’d done? Or think she’d destroyed something precious? “One for Jenny, so she’d know the love her parents had, and when she’s older, the passion as well.” She rose higher, gripping his knees. “And one each for the boys. So that maybe one day they’ll give a girl a gift, a gift that tells her how very cherished she is by a special boy.” Her throat closed up. “I’m so sorry. I wanted to show our children love, and instead I’ve ruined your favorite memory.” Hot tears blurred her vision.
Jeffrey yanked Belinda closer, lifting her until her head was nestled next to his heart.
“God, Belinda, you show them that every day. We show them love. It’s in your hands when you soothe them and when you caress me. It’s in your voice when you correct their mistakes.” He tightened his arms. “It’s in your eyes, when they sparkle. God, honey, when they sparkle with life and joy and that thing that makes you… My heart. My life.” He cradled her face, stared into her eyes. “You are love in every movement you make, every word you speak.” He kissed her once softly and then with passion. When they finally broke the kiss, he rested his forehead against hers.
“I’m overwhelmed by what you’ve done with the bracelet. It’s a symbol, a powerful symbol, but it’s not our love. We haven’t broken that apart. You’ve only made it stronger.”
He slid her off his lap before standing himself.
He stepped down the hall and into the garage. When he returned, he carried a jeweler’s box. “I should have done this long ago. You are worth so much more than shiny beads and string.” He eased open the box. “More than diamonds too, but I wanted—”
Belinda threw herself at him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
There, highlighted on a bed of black velvet, sat a triple-strand bracelet of diamonds and sapphires.
“They’re sparkly.” She twisted until she could see the box and then reached out a shaking hand. “They’re so sparkly.”
“I told the guy I needed something that shined as bright as my wife.” He grinned. “This was the best he could do.”
And that was all right. Because what could ever match the brilliance of their love?
Or the fire of their hearts?
Beth Hill writes fiction and loves words. She thinks that being a writer is the most satisfying and best job, hobby, career, and/or addiction one can pursue.
You can reach Beth at her website, A Novel Edit or her blog, The Editor's Blog