February 13th. His first Valentine’s day in South Africa. Off to the shop on the way home, to pick up 26 identical little boxes, each with 2 chocolates and a little red rose.
February 14th. In to the office ahead of everyone – quite difficult to achieve, these South Africans always started work an hour too early for his taste. On each woman’s desk, one little Valentine’s present.
The gossip circulated fast. Next thing he came back to his office and there was a huge card. Signed by every woman in the company. But no single special hint of any of the delightful young women taking a specific interest in him. When he said that in the pub on Friday night, he wasn’t sure anyone had understood.
Seemingly very young for his role, to take the South African part of the company through the tough financial times, and into whatever solution was negotiated in the UK. Openness with everyone, a calm façade, even on the occasional days he felt like breaking out into a rage. Not in front of anyone, always calm, always responsive. Taking them through the difficult time. Later that year the take-over announced. Retrenchments for some, job offers for others.
Settling into his new role in the much larger company. Christmas back to the UK, great to see family and friends, yet feeling a little out of it as he had really begun to settle into the more outdoor-oriented life back south.
February 14th. There it was on his desk. An anonymous Valentine card. He looked round the office. No one seemed to be watching him from behind pretty eyelashes. Ah well, surely she would make herself known some time.
During the year he met the woman who seemed right for him. The relationship developed, blossomed. They were happy together.
The next year. February 14th, there it was again. Another anonymous Valentine card. But he had already had one from his wife of 1 month.
And the next February 14th. Another. Anonymous, always anonymous.
And the next. And the next, until after 7 years he returned to the UK.
Never to know who she was, his faithful Secret Valentine.