There are many, many differences between men and women. Janine knew that and she tried to be tolerant when Ben’s differences were annoying. For the most part, she succeeded. But there was one real sticking point – greeting cards. Janine loved them and Ben just didn’t get it.
Whatever the occasion, Janine searched for the perfect card. She took pride in finding the right sentiments for holidays, birthdays, graduations, weddings and new babies. And she didn’t stop there. She sent cards “For your Daughter’s First Dance Recital,” “For the Loss of Your Pet,” “For Your Promotion.” On really special occasions, there were musical cards, talking cards, pop-up cards.
“Six-fifty??” Ben roared. “You could buy a gift for that.”
“In what dream world, Mister?” Janine shot back. “The card is instead of a gift.”
Honestly. Men. She’d seen them take all of five seconds to make a selection. They just looked at the picture on the front; never mind the message inside. She shuddered to think of the wife who opened a birthday card that read, “You’re Six!”
If Janine did get a rare card from Ben, it would be a jokey one, which was sometimes worse than no card at all. They tended to be about aging and bodily functions gone awry. Insults had no place in card-giving, in Janine’s opinion.
“What’s the big deal? The message is someone else’s words, nothing personal about it. Wouldn’t it be more meaningful to write your own?” Ben asked.
“I write a note inside the card.” Janine shook her head at his puzzled look. It was hopeless. “You just don’t get it.”
So when their twenty-fifth anniversary rolled around, she wasn’t expecting a card. There were a silver bracelet, a dozen yellow roses and dinner at a fancy restaurant – all very nice, but over the top for Ben. True, it was a landmark occasion, but it was almost like he felt guilty. She wondered what he’d have to feel guilty about. Her misgivings were forgotten when he pushed a stiff white rectangle across the table.
“A card? You got me a card?” Janine opened it eagerly and read the printed message.
Happy twenty-fifth anniversary
To my sweetheart
You complete me.
“Oh, Ben! How sweet. I’ll treasure it forever.”
She pictured him bumbling endearingly among hundreds of greeting cards, maybe asking a clerk for help as he tried to find the perfect one. Okay, so it was rather a cheesy sentiment – a line from a movie – but that didn’t matter. He wasn’t one for flowery compliments, so maybe it was easier to use, as he put it, someone else’s words to say what he felt. Maybe he’d stood reading card after card until he’d found the one that was just right. After all these years, Ben finally got it!
In the morning, she sighed over the card again. As she inserted it back into its envelope to be deposited among her treasures, it stuck on something. Turning the envelope over, she shook it. A small yellow Post-It note fluttered out.
“Boss – Hope this one is okay.”
His secretary bought the card. He’d sent little Miss Perky Pants out to buy his wife a twenty-fifth anniversary card, after all his self-righteous talk about her being impersonal. Her! The enormity of Ben’s perfidy overwhelmed her. She hated the card now. An unwelcome suspicion flickered in her mind. She’d always had a bad feeling about Miss Perky Pants, and now she had one about Ben. What was going on in that office, anyway?
Janine bought a box of twenty blank cards and spent a couple of hours at the kitchen table. She had a lot of ground to cover, including a visit to Ben’s office when he wasn’t there.
The next morning, Ben reached for a towel as he emerged from the shower. A small white envelope fell to the floor.
“What the heck?” he muttered, picking it up.
It was a card. Inside, in Janine’s handwriting, he read, “May your day be filled with sunshine, not showers.”
Okay, she’d finally gone completely around the bend. He wouldn’t mention it, just hope she came to her senses.
His car seat held another envelope: “Drive with care, because I care.”
On his desk: “I miss you already.”
All day, he found sappy handwritten notes. What was Janine trying to prove? Ben wondered uneasily if it had something to do with the anniversary card. He’d thought it was okay, and surely his secretary knew what a woman would like. But Janine had been acting funny ever since. He had an itchy feeling that he was in trouble.
The card shower didn’t stop when he got home. Janine wasn’t there and hadn’t left a note saying where she was, which was unusual. There was a card in the refrigerator when he went foraging for supper; a card under the television remote; a card on his pillow. Where was Janine, anyway? She never stayed out this late.
A sudden premonition made Ben yank open the closet door. A few forlorn hangers rocked gently on the rod – her clothes were gone. The big suitcase on wheels was missing, too. In the empty space he saw another of those dreaded white envelopes. He opened it with trembling fingers. It contained only one line in Janine’s handwriting:
I’m gone. Get it?