Gift giving, words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, and acts of service. These are the five languages of love. We each speak them in our own unique ways; yet, all too often, our partners, families, friends, and loved ones, the people with whom we share the deepest connection, speak a different language. We hear different dialects, read different passages, and perceive different tones, all the time wondering why the love we cherish so much leaves us empty. This is a journey to understand those languages and to give a voice to the people who speak them. Whether through grand gestures or small sacrifices, we all should speak to the heart!
Speak to the Heart is a collection of 15 short stories and the languages of love.
ISBN: 978-1508792024 Available August 2016.
Angie had always found herself somewhere along the fringes of society. She was never sure how she got there. It wasn’t where she set out to be, but somehow she never managed to be front and center in anyone’s mind.
She didn’t understand it at all. She was well liked, as far as she could tell. Everyone said so. People seemed to notice when she was gone. Unfortunately, no one seemed to notice when she was there. She just blended in with whatever background there was at the time.
In many ways, she was considered invaluable to the company. She handled the office birthday celebrations. She got the cake for the promotion party. She collected the money for the big wedding present or baby gift. She could always be counted on for any last minute preparation. Her sense of humor kept most people in stitches. Even on the worst day, she could find a good word to say. Rarely was she to be found without a smile on her face. So why was she so alone?
No one remembered her birthday. They hadn’t known the date. Teasingly they reprimanded her for not telling them so they could have done something special.
She smiled. The date had been plainly marked on her calendar since the first of the year. And she’d made mention of it for well over a month. Dropping little hints and reminders here and there. But still, they hadn’t known. Or hadn’t remembered. Whatever the reason, it still caused a pain to settle somewhere deep within her being. It hurt when you realized you were good enough to cheer for everyone else, but not quite good enough to be cheered yourself. And she realized this in full force on her thirty-fifth birthday.
But in all reality, what could she do about it? She thought about quitting. Not quitting her job. She didn’t have enough personal wealth to make a leap like that. And she would be bored to tears anyway. No, she thought about quitting all the rest of it. The party planning. The gifts on special occasions. The making sure everyone else was cared for. What was the point if nobody could think of her for one measly day out of the year?
The thought alone filled her with as much sorrow as the fact that everyone forgot her. She liked doing things for others. She loved to see the reaction on their faces when they were remembered. But sometimes she would have liked the opportunity to have the same reaction herself.
She thought about things long and hard when she got home that evening. Rita in accounting had told her to go out with friends for a birthday bash. Yet, Rita didn’t know, no one knew, there were no friends to go out with. If she was on the sidelines at work, she was lost in the middle of the ocean at home. Only her cat Felix showed any signs of affection and that was rare indeed.
Of course, she could never tell them that at work. She could never show how hurt she had been by their thoughtlessness. That would have invited pity which was the last thing she wanted. No, she knew as she made a sandwich for dinner that some little white lie would have to be ready, if and when they asked about her evening. Something simple to cover the awkwardness that may present itself.
As it happened, Rita never got around to asking about the previous evening. There was too much excitement brewing when Angie walked into the office the next morning. Several people had gathered around her desk. Coming closer, she saw why. A dozen roses in a crystal vase sat front and center beside her keyboard. The florist had just left. Rita was all a dither. The possibility of an undiscovered romance loomed in the air. She must know all the details before anyone else got the story.
Angie was stunned. They must have come to her by mistake. She didn’t know anyone who would send her flowers. But the card was clearly marked – Angie Willis, The Tiswell Corporation. She was the only one by that name with the company. They had to be for her. With Rita peering over her shoulders, she opened the card and read.
I didn’t realize yesterday was your birthday. I’m sorry. If you’ll let me, I’ll make it up to you Saturday night.
Saturday night? And there was no name. Was this some kind of a joke? If so, it was cruel indeed.
Rita was convinced otherwise. A dozen roses with all that expense. Surely, if it was a joke, he would have picked carnations or lilies. A much cheaper flower. No one would send roses to be cruel. It had to be the work of a secret admirer. Angie balked at the idea. She was a bit long in the tooth for that sort of thing. Best not to get too excited about the whole notion.
There was a simple way to find out who had sent them. Rita was on the case before Angie could protest. She called the florist shop where the roses had been purchased. Everyone used a credit card these days. They’d have a record of who sent them. The mystery would be solved in no time.
It proved a dead end. The order was placed yesterday afternoon. A gentleman came by and personally placed the order. He dictated the card. He signed no name, only leaving a cell phone number which she could not disclose. And worst of all, he paid in cash with an added tip for the earliest delivery possible. Rita hung up the phone in dismay. It was a mystery.
How was Angie supposed to get through the rest of the week? It was only Wednesday. Three and a half long days until Saturday night. And then, how was she supposed to meet him? This secret admirer. Where was she supposed to go? The note had been so vague. There wasn’t a meeting time or place. Nothing to give any credibility to a secret rendezvous. By Friday morning she had reverted back to the cruel joke line of thought. If she ever found out who the mysterious sender was, she just might have to kill him for causing such a fuss.
Rita was not to be deterred by Angie’s uncertainty. She was very excited about who it could be. Maybe that new salesman, Roger. Or Ted in Operations. He was older and very distinguished, recently divorced and out on the prowl for a new lady friend. Or quite possibly the owner of the company, Al Tiswell, himself. He was only six years older. Maybe he was planning on sweeping her off her feet.
Rita laughed with delight over it all. Angie wished she wouldn’t. It seemed to build the whole thing up to an unrecoverable point. It would only make the overall disappointment that much more difficult to bear. And she knew now that she would definitely be disappointed, for there had been nothing to indicate a place or time to meet. There was no date planned. Not really. Whoever this mystery person was, she hoped he realized how much pain she was going to feel with an entire office knowing she’d been made the fool of. She found herself seething at the mere thought of it.
An envelope lay in Angie’s chair when she returned from lunch. She pushed it under her keyboard lest Rita saw it and began again with the constant prodding. When Rita finally left, Angie slid the letter opener inside and braced herself for the punch line of the meanest joke she’d ever seen.
The note was simple, typed with no name.
Saturday night @ 7p.m. Michelle’s on Broadway. The reservations will be in your name.
For the first time since the roses arrived, Angie allowed herself to be swept away with raw anticipation. It certainly seemed that he was serious. Michelle’s was the nicest restaurant in town. She’d never been there herself but all the girls at work raved about it when they’d gone there with their husbands or boyfriends. But who in the world could it be? She didn’t think Rita’s assessments were correct. Angie had earned a reputation of silence. As such, she had a far better grasp of the lives of her coworkers than Rita did. She knew for example that Roger, the good looking salesman, was in a relationship with a married woman. It was a well kept secret few people knew. Recently divorced Ted in Operations was reliving his youth with a string of twenty somethings. And Al, the owner, had been in steady, if unpublicized relationships with his CPA and a professor at the local university. She’d helped juggle more than one event for that little charade.
Thankfully any thought of secret admirers and whispered rendezvous galloped from her mind that afternoon. A major client was livid. His latest order had been botched and he needed the product by the first of next week. Everyone scrambled to calm the situation and repair the order. It was definitely not the way anyone wanted to end the week but the chaos worked like a tonic on Angie’s frazzled nerves.
As she watched TV that evening, she discussed the situation in detail with Felix. It was all crystal clear. She’d been thrifty all her life. Never treating herself to the little things she would have liked to have. After all, this was her birthday celebration. She deserved a little treat. Not only would she go to Michelle’s tomorrow evening, she would go shopping during the day and get herself something really nice. And even if this was some cruel joke, so what? She had enough money to buy dinner. She’d go there and have a great time with or without this enigmatic suitor.
That confidence began to wane as she stepped out of her car and handed her keys to the valet. It was all well and good to make life altering decisions with a bowlegged calico. It’s a different thing entirely when you walk through the door wearing new shoes.
“Good evening. Welcome to Michelle’s.” The hostess greeted her as she walked through the door.
“Hi. Reservation for Angie Willis, please.” She tried to hide the unease in her voice. If this was a heartless prank, there may be no reservations at all. She hadn’t called to confirm. She hadn’t thought about it until this very minute. Was she about to be thoroughly humiliated?
“Yes, Ms. Willis. Your friend is already waiting on you. Right this way.” She motioned toward the main dining room.
He was already here. But who? The butterflies began to tumble in earnest. If she could only weave past the birthday party in the center of the room, she might be able to get a glimpse.
“Hi.” He stood up and held her chair out for her. She watched him as he took his seat across the table.
“I hope you’re not disappointed.” He said with a weak smile and half shrug.
His words brought her out of her daze. “Disappointed? No. But I. . . I am surprised.” That was the understatement of the evening. Sean was a cutie. Everyone knew that. Sandy blonde hair and emerald eyes. And the most adorable dimples she’d ever seen. But he was aloof and haughty. He never socialized with anyone. It was rare to hear him utter more than a few words in any given day. She’d had great difficulty drumming up interest in his birthday celebration.
“I thought you might be expecting somebody else.”
“To tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting anyone at all.”
“Why would you think that?”
“I was scared someone might be pulling a prank. You know, having a bit of a laugh at my expense.” She gave a half smile. “I mean, the card with the flowers just said Saturday. It didn’t say anything specific. So I thought. . .” Her words drifted off. Then she forced a sincere smile. “Well, I wasn’t sure if it was for real.”
“I’m sorry. I guess I messed that up. I forgot all that when I sent the flowers.”
“I was nervous.” He shrugged again. “I didn’t even think about that until I heard Rita running on about it in the break room.”
She remembered that little incident. Rita had promptly reported that the uptight Sean had scowled at her while she was getting an afternoon snack. How funny there wasn’t as much tension with him tonight. “You were nervous? We see each other every day and you never talk to me.”
“I never talk to anybody.”
She nodded. “You do tend to stick to yourself a bit.”
He looked down at his hands. “I don’t really know how to talk to people.”
She looked at him in confusion.
He took a deep breath and leaned in closer to her. “When I was a kid, I had a terrible stutter. It was horrible. I didn’t live in the best neighborhood so that meant I got beat up. A lot. I went to a dozen or so speech therapists until I finally found one who could help me. That was my senior year of high school. She worked with me all through college. It’s almost gone now, but I still have to concentrate on not doing it sometimes. I don’t really like to talk a lot in case it comes back.”
“I never knew any of that.”
“I don’t really like people to know. I was made fun of enough when I was a kid. Don’t want to hear anymore.”
Her thoughts went back to her own childhood and the teasing she’d endured at the time. It was easy to understand why he wouldn’t want a repeat of such an incident. “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
He gave a weak smile. “Thank you.”
The waiter interrupted the awkward silence of the moment. Sean watched him leave then turned his attention to Angie.
“I’m really sorry I missed your birthday.”
“Did you do anything special?”
She thought for a split second. “I’m having dinner with you.”
The response brought an instant smile to his face and he seemed to fully relax for the first time in ages.
“You know, I’ve wanted to ask you out for a long time now.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Are you kidding? You’re amazing.” There was genuine admiration in his eyes. “Everybody loves you. I didn’t figure you’d ever consider going out with me.”
“They must not love me too much or they would have at least gotten me a card.” She said slyly.
“I didn’t say they weren’t hypocrites.”
“But I promise you this – I’ll never miss your birthday again. As long as I live I’ll always remember it.”
The intensity of his gaze was unnerving. She felt a skip in her chest she hadn’t felt in a long time. The waiter’s timing was impeccable. It gave her a chance to catch her breath and return the conversation to a normal footing. She devoted the rest of dinner to casual conversation. Sean was actually very funny. He knew as much gossip as she did and had an equally devilish assessment of interoffice politics. After two hours they had successfully solved most of the major problems within the company, not that anyone would ever heed their wisdom.
He put his hand on the small of her back as they walked to the door. “I had a really nice time tonight.” He said, leaning to kiss her cheek.
“I did too.”
His face became stern; his body rigid, like the weight of the world had landed on his shoulders. “Would you like to go to the movies tomorrow afternoon?” He spat out willing his stammer at bay.
“I thought you’d never ask.” She said as the streetlight danced across the smile on her face.