Title: The Anniversary - Part 1
Lee Stetson smiled as he changed the calendar in Amanda's and his cheery kitchen from January to February. Noticing with dismay that the important dates for the month had not yet been marked, he moved to the junk drawer and searched until he found a red pen. Walking back over to the calendar, he carefully drew a circle around the box for 13 February. Then, grinning broadly, he placed a number "10" within the marking and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
"Ten years," he muttered softly under his breath, hardly believing that he and Amanda had been married for that long. It seemed like only yesterday that they had stood in front of the Justice of the Peace in Marion and promised to love and cherish one another for all the days of their lives. He remembered the excitement and nervousness he had felt repeating the vows that had transformed him from a carefree bachelor into a committed husband. He'd been worried at the time that he would not be able to be the kind of husband Amanda deserved. He knew that he loved her more than he had ever loved anyone before, but he remembered thinking, Is that enough? Will I still feel the same way years down the road?
Now, ten years later, he knew the answer - yes, love was enough. In the time since their wedding Lee had been amazed as he had found himself falling more in love with his wife. He could honestly say that he loved her more now, a decade later, than he did the day he married her. He couldn't imagine what his life would have been like without her.
They were a true team, facing everything together. They shared heartaches and joys, laughter and tears. They were friends, partners, and lovers. She brought the meaning to his life.
Shaking his head, he brought himself out of his reverie and focused his attention back to the present. I'll have to think of some special way for Amanda and me to celebrate this anniversary, he thought happily, glancing once again at the calendar before heading outside to tend to the horses.
Amanda walked into the kitchen later that morning with her arms full of groceries. Setting her load on the counter, she turned to take a bag from Jenny and noticed the red circle on the calendar. Mechanically putting the bag down, she walked over to take a closer look, an unreadable expression on her face.
Staring at the words on the page, she was filled with a sense of dread. Up until that moment she hadn't thought much about the fact that Lee's and her tenth anniversary was approaching. She'd pushed it out of her mind, forcing herself not to think about it and hoping that Lee would forget it was coming up. She realized now, though, that she would have to face the inevitable. Lee obviously remembered and was looking forward to celebrating the occasion. Amanda wished she could be excited too, but her fear prevented her from feeling anything but uneasiness. She didn't know how to tell Lee that she didn't want to do anything to mark this anniversary, that she would rather just forget about it completely.
Lost in thought, it took her a few moments to realize that Jenny was trying to get her attention, "Mommy. Mommy? What's the matter? Why are you just standing there?"
She turned to her daughter, "Huh, what Sweetheart? Oh, nothing's wrong." Looking down into Jenny's worried eyes, she smiled reassuringly and replied, "I was just thinking is all." Sensing that Jenny knew something was bothering her, she tried to distract her. "Hey, what do you say we get these groceries put away then go see what Daddy and Matt are up to?"
Jenny's face broke out into a broad smile in response to her suggestion. "Okay, Mommy," she answered eagerly as she started helping Amanda unpack the groceries.
A couple of days later, while at work, Lee broached the subject of their anniversary. "You know, Amanda, I've been thinking," he started.
"Yeah," she responded absently, not looking up from the file she was studying. "About what?"
"Well, we have a special day coming up and so far we haven't made any plans for it," he continued, ignoring her preoccupation.
Amanda glanced up, then quickly reverted her gaze back down before answering. "That's right, we do, " she hedged. Hoping to distract him, she drew his attention to the file. "You know, Lee, I think if we look hard enough we might find a clue to this case right here."
Undaunted, Lee continued. "Well, I have some ideas for what we can do, " he offered excitedly. When Amanda didn't respond, he pressed harder. "I've been doing some checking around, and there's still enough time to plan something nice, to get away for a few days."
Amanda remained engrossed in her work. "Get away where?" she asked warily. "We only have two weeks. That's not enough time to arrange a trip."
Lee wouldn't be put off. "Sure it is, " he insisted confidently, then grinned slyly "You forget, I have my ways. Time is no obstacle."
In exasperation, Amanda met his gaze. "But Lee… we have a lot of other things to consider now. What about work? The kids? Who are we going to get to watch the kids?"
"Amanda, you know your mother would love to watch the kids and we can take a few days off from work; it's pretty quiet anyway right now, " he countered calmly. "How often do we get to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary?" he questioned with a smile. "So… whattaya say? Any suggestions where we should go?"
Before she could say anything, the phone rang, causing Amanda to breathe a sigh of relief as she reached to answer it. For the moment, she was saved by the bell. She knew, though, her reprieve was only temporary: Lee wouldn't give up that easily. It would just be a matter of time before he pursued the subject once again
She didn't have long to wait. The next day Lee came home from running errands after work with a handful of brochures. He had been doing his research and had about five different ideas of places they could go -- from weekend trips to a mini vacation. As Amanda prepared dinner, he excitedly showed her the many options.
"We have a couple of different choices. We can just make a weekend of it and go somewhere locally, say… Pine Top. Or, we extend it a few days and do something like take a cruise. Or, we can really go all out… take a week or so and go someplace like Europe. It's up to you, " Lee recounted enthusiastically.
"I don't really think we have enough time really to plan a trip to Europe," Amanda stalled. "And I don't know about a cruise. There are a lot of details -- flight reservations to coordinate… on top of the actual cruise booking. That might be tough," she finished logically.
Lee nodded his head slowly. "You're right. Maybe we should just try a weekend get away." He thought for a few moments, then suddenly snapped his fingers and smiled broadly. "I've got an idea! Why don't we recreate our wedding night? We can stay at the Crystal Springs Inn in Marion. That's not too far away and two weeks is plenty of time to make reservations; that's all we had the first time. We'll make a weekend of it. Do you like it?" he asked excitedly.
Amanda tried to appear as if she was concentrating on chopping carrots while she answered hesitantly. "Well… we could do that. It's just..." Before she could finish her sentence, Jenny and Matt came running into the kitchen to show off the pictures they'd drawn. After Lee and Amanda praised their work enthusiastically, the kids pulled their daddy into the other room to color with them, effectively ending the discussion for the time being.
Later that night, as they got ready for bed, Lee brought the subject up again. Amanda was in the bathroom combing her hair as Lee called in to her.
"You know Amanda, we still haven't decided what we want to do for our anniversary. Every time we try and talk about it, we get interrupted. It's coming up fast, though, so we should make some decisions. What do you want to do? Want me to call Crystal Springs Inn and reserve the honeymoon suite?" He flashed a mischievous grin.
Amanda paused with the brush in mid-stroke. She knew she wouldn't be able to avoid the conversation much longer. "I don't know, Lee, " she began slowly. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"
Lee walked over and stood in the doorway to the bathroom, his expression one of confusion. "Why wouldn't it be?"
Amanda set the brush down on the sink, then turned to him hesitantly, carefully avoiding his gaze. "What if it's not the same? We might be disappointed. Why don't we just have a quiet night at home?" she asked timidly.
Lee wasn't quite sure how to respond. "I guess we could, but I thought you'd want to do something special. After all, it's a special day," Lee stated at last.
Amanda looked down at her hands. "I'd rather not make a big deal out of it. Why can't we just treat it like any other day?" she questioned softly.
Lee was confused and a little hurt. "But it isn't like any other day, " he persisted, "It's our tenth anniversary." Not getting a response out of Amanda, Lee walked over to her and gently placed his hands on her elbows, asking her worriedly, "Amanda, what's wrong? Is something bothering you? You haven't seemed yourself lately."
Becoming uncharacteristically defensive, Amanda shook his hands off her arms and took a step away from him. "Why do you think something's wrong?" she demanded hotly. "I just would rather not do anything special for our anniversary this year is all. Is there anything wrong with that?"
Lee grew defensive as well, hurt by her seeming indifference. "I just don't understand why you're not as excited as I am," Lee told her angrily. "Are you mad at me? Did I do something to upset you?"
"No," Amanda answered quickly. "Look, I'd just rather not do anything to mark this anniversary, " she supplied testily. "Can't you just respect my wishes on this?" she demanded in frustration.
"No, " Lee returned honestly, "I can't. I want to know what's bothering you."
Amanda felt like she was losing control. She didn't want to fight with Lee, but for some reason she couldn't contain her anger. Needing some time to gain control over her emotions, she snapped curtly, "Nothing is bothering me, all right? I just need some time to think." Pushing past him, she hurried out of the room and down the stairs.
Lee watched her go with shock on his face. He had never seen Amanda react this way before. Not certain if he should follow her or not, he sat on the edge of the bed and went over their last few conversations in his head, trying to find a clue to her behavior.
Written by: Erin Cady