"Honey?" Jessica asked, in a tone he'd come to recognize. It was the tone that said 'everything's fine, and I'm not mad, because I trust you, but I'd like to understand your reasoning so I can decide if it's time to get mad'. Jessica could do a lot with a tone of voice.
"Yes?" Mike replied. He'd been waiting for this. He was pretty impressed it had taken her this long. Most women he knew would have started asking questions around dinnertime.
"I'm not mad." Sweet of her to say it out loud. "It's just I can't help but notice..." she paused, took a long vape, and didn't quite meet his eyes.
Mike turned and looked at her. She didn't hardly look the same as when they'd met, ten years and seemingly half a lifetime ago, but he was okay with that, a lot more okay with that than he'd figured he'd be when he was a kid. Then again, he didn't hardly look the same anymore, either. They didn't worry too much about that. "Couldn't help but notice what?"
Jessie stirred in the bed, absently blew a cloud at the lamp and watched the vapor curl in the light. He didn't usually forget holidays, and she was having a real hard time blaming him for this one. "It's just that I know you own a calendar, and also, Facebook is totally a thing, and I dropped what I thought was a pretty clear set of hints most of last week--" It was true. Actually "pretty clear" didn't begin to cover it. She wasn't a subtle woman: he'd always liked that about her. She finished in a rush, "--but now it's 11 at night on Valentine's Day, and I know money's been tight, but I have kind of a thing for chocolate and you've only known about that for about a billion--"
"Let me stop you right there, babe." He gently pried the mod from her tiny hands and stole a vape. Landslide: not his personal favorite - he'd be a Grey Matter man for life - but surely nicer to kiss than the ashtray their mouths had been when they met.
She feigned a pout until he handed the mod back. "Okay," she said, unscrewing the cap on her vape juice and deftly refilling her tank.
Mike smiled at her, practically beamed. "See, I have a plan."
Bless her heart, she didn't laugh in his face. He knew guys with wives like that. Not his. She just nodded, and looked up from her refilling operation. "A plan, you say?"
"It's a good plan."
"You have a good plan that involves not giving me chocolates on Valentine's Day."
He nodded back. "Yes, ma'am. It's a very good plan."
Jessica just eyed him, and recapped her Landslide. His smile was infectious, and even when he did something dumb, it was hard to stay angry with him. And she wasn't sure yet that he'd really done something dumb. Finally she did laugh, then, but with him, not at him. "Okay, honey. I trust your very good plan."
"Thank you." He nodded solemnly, and stole her newly-filled mod. She tried to wrestle it back, and pretty soon they'd both forgotten all about any plans, however good they might be.
She wasn't wrong, about money being tight. Mike worked his ass off all week, and Jessie too, plus she picked up shifts on the weekend sometimes. And it still wasn't enough. Not enough for him to treat her the way he wanted to, the way he felt she deserved. Her shifts meant she got home hours after he did, and her dinner would be his bedtime, so they rarely ate together anymore. But that extra time worked to his advantage, too: sometimes he could surprise her, and get some shopping and cleaning done before she got home. Today, that was all part of the plan.
He was waiting for her in the kitchen when she got home. It would have been a rough day, between the work and everyone else talking about what they'd done for Valentine's Day, and he wanted to catch her right away, before she had a chance to simmer. As he expected, her face as she stepped in the door was tired, and worn, and the way it transformed when she saw him was the reason he did everything in life. "I had a very good plan," Mike said, and she laughed at loud.
He held out his hands to her. In one, chocolates; in the other, vape juice. Jessica stepped past them both and hugged him so hard he thought she might break something. "A very good plan," she whispered in his ear, and he shuddered involuntarily. She stepped back, took the gifts from him, and surveyed her prizes, seemingly unaware of her effect on him.
"You see," he said, pretending he didn't want to carry her into the back right now, "I knew if I bought chocolates, no money for e-liquid. If I bought e-liquid, no money for chocolates. But your husband--" He put his foot up on one of the kitchen chairs. "--your very brilliant husband, your very wise and capable husband--"
"Don't overdo it, dear," she said absently, picking a caramel turtle out of her chocolates and putting it in her mouth as if it was the last thing she'd ever taste. "Oh, my god," she breathed.
"Your very brilliant and capable husband waited until the day after Valentine's Day, and bought you candy and e-liquid on sale. Money. Enough. For both," he finished, fist on heart.
She nodded, swallowed chocolate heaven, and took a long pull of Landslide from her mod. "That was, I agree, a very good plan." She set the chocolates and the e-liquid down on the kitchen table and stepped close to him again. The lingering vapor curled around her face, and she looked like nothing he deserved in this world. "So tell me," she said quietly, vapor tickling his lips, "how's your plan working out?"
Around her kiss, Mike managed to say, "It's a good plan."
Jessica withdrew just slightly, and nodded, "Do you have a plan that involves taking me to bed right now?"
He nodded back. "Yes, ma'am. It's a very good plan."
She led the way, and as he followed, grinning, she said, "Bring the chocolates. And the vape juice."
A very good plan, he thought.