IT ALL started because of a pink envelope with Jared’s name on it.
It was a Friday night. We’d just finished dinner, and I was settling in on the couch with a cold beer. Jared was next to me, grading a stack of papers on the arm of the couch. The dog we’d adopted six months earlier from the Humane Society in Boulder jumped up next to me and lay down with his head in my lap. He was a complete mutt, with begging eyes and hound-dog characteristics, and Jared had insisted on calling him Scooby.
I reached for the remote to change the channel, and that’s when I saw the envelope. “What’s this?” I asked, picking it up off the coffee table.
“What’s it look like?” he asked without even looking over at me.
The envelope was already open, so I pulled the card out. It had a huge red heart on it, the words “Be My Valentine” written in flowing letters across it. “It’s Valentine’s Day?” I asked.
He looked over at me with obvious amusement. “Tomorrow is. You didn’t know that?”
“No. I can’t believe you do.”
He shrugged. “I work at a high school. Believe me, Valentine’s Day is not something teenage girls let go unnoticed.”
I looked back at the card in my hand. I didn’t open it, partly because that seemed too nosy, but also because I didn’t really want to see what it said. I was afraid it would only annoy me more. “Who’s giving you Valentines?” I asked, fighting back the horrible feeling that welled up in me at the thought of anybody else wanting him.
“One of my students.”
“Your student?” I asked with far more anger in my voice than was warranted.
“What’s wrong, Matt?” he teased. “You jealous of a seventeen year old girl?”
“No!” I said. We both knew I was lying.
“It’s not a big deal,” he said, turning back to his papers.
I knew he was right. She was a student, and too young, and female to boot. I knew she was absolutely no threat to me. Still, I’ve never exactly been rational when it comes to Jared. The fact that somebody else was giving him a Valentine annoyed me. “I don’t think you should encourage that kind of behavior,” I said.
Usually he found my jealousy amusing, but the look he turned on me was more annoyed than anything else. “It’s nice to feel appreciated once in a while,” he snapped.
What was I supposed to say to that? Did he think I didn’t appreciate him? If that’s what he thought, he was wrong, but it didn’t matter. Whatever I said now would end up sounding defensive and insincere.
We didn’t talk much the rest of the night. He was busy grading papers. I couldn’t tell if he was still mad at me or not, and I was too afraid to ask. I didn’t want to fight with him. It wasn’t until we went to bed that I found out for sure. When I reached for him, he turned away without a word, and I lay on my side of the bed trying to decide what to do.
It had been three years since we met, two and a half since we’d become lovers, one since I’d given him the rings. After coming out to my parents, Jared and I had settled easily into our relationship. We were always happy together, but it was a low-key, comfortable kind of happiness. I worried now that we were doing as so many other couples did, taking each other for granted. For myself, I could honestly say I loved him as much now as I ever had—maybe more—but I wasn’t exactly an affectionate guy. Maybe I needed to do more.