I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. Why does the world need a day to show love and affection to the ones they care about?
This isn’t my first Valentine’s Day with Tate. Our first involved tour busses, a new blossom of romance, and a whole lot of pasta. I don’t need much more. Honestly, I think I’d be plum happy to sit in our sweats, watch something funny like Nacho Libre and eat the cheesecake he’s been trying to make for the last two days.
The one he thinks I don’t know about.
The one he keeps waking up at four in the morning to get some baking time in with the Food Network while he thinks I’m dead to the world.
The difference with this Valentine’s Day—it’s our first day of love since we got married.
In Tate’s mind this new development means this day must be a day where our grandchildren will tell our great-grandchildren about. A day that will live on as a template for what true love looks like.
This day means a lot to my man.
The thought makes me grin and hug his pillow against my chest, breathing it in. It smells like him and, yes, he’s only down the hall, clanging a few pots and pans in the kitchen at the moment, but there is something delicious breathing in the remnants of his pine spice skin.
Doesn’t Tate know all I need to fill every nook and cranny of my heart is knowing he’s the face I see each morning? Each night? His is the rock on my finger. His is the heart I want.
But I’m not about to throw a wrench in his hard-thought plans.
After a few more seconds of monkey-hugging his pillow, I log roll over his side of the bed. Might as well shower and look half-alive if my husband is going to spoil me all day. A giddy kind of perma-smile hits my lips. How I got so lucky to marry a man like Tate Hawkins, I’m still trying to puzzle it out in my head.
As I slip out from our tangle of sheets and comforter, my hand covers a drum magazine on his bedside table, and slips.
The magazine tumbles, but with it a folded piece of paper with my name written in his tiny handwriting.
It doesn’t look like a card. More like a bulleted list under my name. Should I look? I don’t know. Do I? Yes.
Tate knows my curiosity will always get the better of me. And he’s the one always telling me to test his color sheets to find which one helps keep my dyslexia from bouncing the words across the pages best.
So far, the translucent lavender sheet has been the most valuable for books and notes such as this. I plop the handy sheet he gave me the night we broke through the walls keeping us apart. He’s tried to buy new and improved things: glasses and tablets, but I can’t seem to part with the Christmas gift he gave me when he didn’t want to love me.
The words still, quivering a little, as I read his list.
My brow furrows, until I understand.
It’s his top moments together. A burn of tears sting behind my eyes. The moments aren’t anything grand or exciting. Simply moments he doesn’t want to forget, while to others they might be wholly forgettable.
Ellie—Fav times I knew I loved her
- Gas station at the border
- Five different soups
- Netflix massage
- Sleep talking
The last one, I don’t know what he’s talking about. I definitely don’t sleep talk. But the others—it can’t be helped. My head drifts through each memory. Each moment. And I know why they’re on his list.
They’re on mine too.
Eighteen Months ago
It’s hot. Dry. Dusty. A little miserable.
Mostly because Tate is on edge and I’m feeling like we’re inches from biting each other’s heads off. I had this interview on the calendar for three weeks and he still forgot. It wasn’t until I called him around eleven this morning that he remembered we needed to be in Anaheim by three in the afternoon.
We had plans with the other guys before the big media spread for Alexis’s Never Forgotten Boxes. It’s the first big push and we are all going to be there, supporter her and Bridger if it’s the last thing I do.
This is Tate’s family. His band, and he answered half-asleep when I called. First, who sleeps that late in the day. Second, this is important and we’re probably going to miss it.
I don’t know how I can make it more appealing to him—we’re going to Disneyland when it’s all over. He’s never been to Disneyland and his eyes lit up more than Micah’s did. It goes without saying when he finally showed up at my house, I did not have a smile on my face.
“We need gas,” he says, voice heavy. It’s the first thing we’ve said since I let him have it in a few glares after we pulled out of Las Vegas.
I give a dismissive nod, but I’m not so far gone in my pout-session I don’t notice the pulse of his jaw. My heart sort of squeezes. I’m not being completely fair here. I’m irritated, but a lot of my own bad mood is coming from a place of not wanting to let Alexis down.
In the process of being the perfect friend, I’m forgetting Tate is probably eating himself to pieces for slipping this morning.
Nothing means more to him than his people, and me digging the guilt-knife a little deeper isn’t going to make any of this better.
In fact, now I have the guilt knife.
My boyfriend, the man I love from head to toe, is an anxiety-riddled sexy machine. He’s keeping it together. Our sessions with Dan are helping, but here I am, using my own guilt to make his life a little harder.
Guilt over what.
When I texted Lex that we might be late. She responded with a long-winded text letting me know it’s no big deal, what really matters it the dinner and amusement park afterward. She’s not even batting a lash if we’re not standing in the wings of the studio waiting to give her a back slap when it’s all over.
Tate turns off the ignition, the boiling factor of the air increases. He slips out, mutely filling the tank. I take the opportunity to head into the convenient store. My guilt is now hyper-focused on adding a layer to his unease.
Knowing Tate Hawkins he will dwell on this unless I do something to stop the tight knot of irrational thoughts.
I can’t control them all, obviously, but I can give him a little reassurance when it comes to me. I can apologize for being a bear when he didn’t deserve it over an hour delay.
The gas station is a dump.
No need to mince words. If it were a contest on picking the creepiest, you’re-going-to-get-murdered gas station, we would win.
Still, many times, these hole-in-the-wall places don’t recognize us and anonymity is worth a bit of grime on the floor. I slip inside. The cashier is locked on an old TV hanging in the corner, watching an old Vegas Kings game. Old because they aren’t playing right now. I know because Parker is with Bridger and Alexis in California as we speak.
I shuffle along the shelves, looking for road trip snacks. Another reason I know Tate is utterly discomposed this morning—he forgot snacks.
Tate Hawkins is foodless.
I grab a few bags of pretzels he loves. Two bottled waters, then I catch sight of a box in the freezer section. A smile washes over my face. Those gross little premade PB & J sandwiches are sitting there, untouched.
Only three boxes of twelve are stocked, and I grab all three of them. I’ll never be able to look at a PB & J without thinking of Tate Hawkins. I’ve discovered they are his ultimate comfort food. He needs one now. He needs me to give him one. It’s his own kind of olive branch.
The clerk hardly peels his eyes off the TV as he checks me out. I consider telling him the Kings are going to win this game by two runs since, you know, it was last season. But maybe he’s a die-hard fan and already knows. Maybe this is pleasure watching.
Outside, Tate’s back is to me. He leans against the side of his car, still waiting for the exceptionally slow pump to finish filling the tank. Probably feeling guilty for stopping at such an archaic gas station, since we are even more late.
I don’t say anything as I round to the driver’s side of the car. Truth be told, I’m not sure he’s aware I’m even back. His face is sort of contorted in a grimace. He’s inside his head, no mistake, and I want his beautiful laugh to come back. I want his chattiness to fill the rest of the drive.
I want him to know I love him. Even when we’re an hour late.
I lean against the car, holding the boxes of sandwiches in my hands, voice soft. “I’m sorry, T.”
His eyes blink open and he notices me for the first time. Without a word, I hand him the peace offering of sandwiches.
If possible, he looks even more confused. “What are you doing?”
I bite my bottom lip between my teeth, feeling more sheepish than ever over my temper tantrum. “I’ve been a grump today, and I took it out on you. I’m sorry. We’re not even needed at the interview, all that matters is that we’re going to show our support and are going to have an awesome weekend with everyone.”
He handles the boxes of sandwiches, still at a loss. “What are these, Elle?”
“Peanut butter and Jellies. The super gross ones you like so much, and I thought—”
“I know. Why did you buy them? You hate these.”
He’s staring at me like I slapped him. Did I read this wrong? I thought I knew my man good enough to know he’d be giddy over his sandwiches.
“I . . . we didn’t have any snacks, and I thought you’d want them,” I say softly. “I was bringing a peace offering. I shouldn’t have—”
My words are cut off when Tate slaps the boxes of sandwiches on the top of the car, and has me in his arms in the next second, his mouth on mine. He kisses me, raw, sweet, tantalizing, all rolled in one perfect moment.
I take it back—this is a much better peace offering. Tate’s mouth on mine, what was I thinking a few processed sandwiches were the best idea. I could stand here in the boiling heat, hands in his tousled hair, his body against mine all day.
But he’s able to keep at least a portion of his brain and pulls back when the pump—finally—clicks with a full tank. His soft eyes study mine, one palm traps my face when he lets his forehead fall against mine. “You bought me sandwiches.”
I grip his T-shirt. “Geez, if that’s how you react to a few sandwiches, Hawkins, I’ll buy them for you three times a day.”
Tate gathers me in his arms again, simply hugging me. “I thought you were mad at me, and I’ve been trying to think of all the ways to apologize, or make this up to you, so your weekend isn’t ruined. I didn’t mean to oversleep, Elle, but Gramps called me last night and I—”
“Tate,” I say, pulling back. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
His jaw tightens. “I didn’t want to make the morning worse.”
Shot. To. The. Heart. He didn’t vent to me because I pouted and stomped my feet because he was fifty-eight minutes tardy.
I kiss him slowly, hoping he knows I’m the sorry one here. “I shouldn’t have overreacted, Tate. You can always tell me things. Always. Forgive me?” I gesture at the sandwiches.
Tate shakes his head, almost like he’s in disbelief. “I’m the one who messed up, so I’m not sure why you bought me sandwiches.”
Ugh. This man. I stroke my fingertips down the side of his face. “Because your minor sin of oversleeping did not warrant a silent treatment and a grumpy girlfriend making you feel worse about it. We both know all Lex cares about is Disneyland anyway.”
“I love you, Tate. I bought you those disgusting sandwiches because you were flustered and I caused it. I’m sorry, and I want to have a fun weekend with you, and my man needs to eat. You haven’t had anything for at least two hours.”
I laugh, trying to make it light, but he’s still staring at me in that fiery stare. Tate kisses me again, then whispers against my lips. “I love you, Ellie Walker. No one has ever bought me sandwiches or apologized to me when I’m the one who started the trouble, and I love you. You make no sense to me, princess, but I want to keep trying to figure you out until the day I die.”
Such a simple thing. To me, I was apologizing for being a diva. To Tate, I was telling him he was worth everything.
I’m going to marry this man someday.
Five Different Soups
Two weeks before second Christmas together
Finn: Tate isn’t answering. Is he good? We were going to have a quick session this morning.
I stare at the text from my brother, one brow lifted. It’s only eight in the morning, and I was literally going to call Tate in three seconds. Hmm. Something is up. It’s not like him to miss a jam session with the guys. In fact, it is the second favorite thing of his to do. First, I’ll take some liberty in assuming time with me is his favorite now.
I call him. If he doesn’t answer Finn, I’m not sure if he’ll answer me, but—
“Hey, sweetie,” his rough, throaty voice answers. Not the usual bouncy, happy-to-be-alive voice of Tate.
“Hey, are you okay? Finn texted me and said you weren’t answering.” He sniffles, then sneezes. A real not-a-man-cold sneeze. “T, are you sick?”
“I was just” – sniff – “going to call the guys. I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus, and I live in Las Vegas. Not the arctic.”
It’s seventy degrees outside.
“I’m coming over,” I say.
“No,” he insists. “No way, princess. You’ll get whatever—”
I hang up. Because we’re at that solid, head-over-heels in love place in our relationship that we don’t need to listen to each other’s excuses and we do what needs to be done for each other. Even if it means catching some cooties.
The man is sick and I will be there to nurse him back to health.
I’ll wear a mask if it makes him feel better. A mask I’ll, no doubt, lift a few times to kiss him. Even if it’s his forehead, it’s wholly impossible not to kiss Tate when I’m in his presence.
He texts me, tries to call me once, but I think he knows. He knows, I’m already on the way.
I’m not a natural at this nurse thing, so I think back to all the ways Mom took care of me. The classics—soup, right? But Tate has a vast pallet. What if chicken noodle isn’t the best thing for these germs. He also really loves potato soups, and minestrone. He really, really has a thing for tomato basil and grilled cheeses. What if he’s craving a grilled cheese with his soup? Or maybe what he needs is a healthier veggie soup. He’ll glare at that, but sickness hates vegetables.
I stop at a bougie café on the way to his house and end up ordering three sandwiches and five different types of soup.
If this bug lasts for the long haul, at least he’ll be stocked.
Ten minutes later, I pull into my side of his garage. He even had a license plate made that he hangs on the wall that says, Ellie’s Spot.
Inside his house, the heater is on. I didn’t even know he had a heater. We live in Las Vegas.
I cut through the kitchen to his front room where I find him nestled in two blankets, a hoodie pulled over his head, and his glassy eyes a little bloodshot.
“It’s the plague,” he rasps, “better run while you can, princess.”
I blow out my lips. “I’m not scared, Hawkins. I’m here to kick the plague’s butt.”
I hold up the bags of food.
His lips quirk up, at least I assume, the only thing I can see beyond his nest of blankets is the twitch of his cheek. “What is all that.”
“Five types of soup and a few sandwiches.” I wink and start unloading the cups picnic style beside his couch. “I’ve got to say when your boyfriend has the taste for nearly every earthly flavor, it can be hard to narrow it down on what he might want.”
Tate isn’t smiling when he looks at me again. The flush in his cheeks isn’t just from a fever. He unfurls one of his hands from under his blankets and brushes his hot fingertips across my cheek. For a few breaths, a few beautifully meaningful breaths, he stares at me.
“You’re the best part of me, Elle,” he whispers. “I hope you know that.”
Whelp, I tried. I tried to be responsible, but screw the plague. I kiss him softly. A close-lipped kiss because, you know, he is sick. But a thousand things are said in such a sweet touch.
I tap his nose, smiling after a moment. “I must be pretty great them, because I think you’re basically the best thing about each day. Now. Soup. Healing. I will get you better, Hawkins, because that kiss will only hold me over for so long.”
He laughs and I think my heart tumbles for him all over again.
Seven months ago
Tate has been off today. We’re deep enough into us I don’t need him to tell me when his mind is wanting to lead him down the rabbit hole. He’s only seeing Dan every three months now. He’s made amazing progress in working through the grip of panic and anxiety and I couldn’t be prouder of him.
Still, because he’s human, there are days when things happen and it’s more of a struggle.
Most of the time it revolves around Gramps.
I’ve met the man a handful of times. He’s not warm. Not what I’d describe as kind. Most of the time he gives Tate a lot of backhanded compliments about how he can hardly believe he managed to get a woman like me.
I know he got a phone call this morning saying Gramps nearly got kicked out of his apartment—which Tate pays for—after being belligerent with the landlord.
Part of me wants him to talk about it all. Give up his feelings, but my gut is telling me something else.
He’s quietly sitting in my living room, drumming a new beat on my coffee table as I scoop us bowls of chunky cookie ice cream.
I step back into the room, and he lifts his eyes. He’s trying to bury the frustration behind smiles and laughter and drums. But I’m his future wife—in five months, thank you very much. I’ve trained for this moment—when I can see behind the façade and know the truth.
“Ah, I get it,” he says, leaning back against the couch. “Bathroom break is now code for get ice cream. I like this idea, Elle. I like it.”
I chuckle and hand him a bowl, nestling against his side. “Actually, I thought we could shut off our brains for a bit, maybe watch Netflix and do nothing but stuff our faces.”
He pauses, and turns his eyes to me. “What’s happening? I thought you wanted to talk about . . . about Gramps.”
I kiss his temple, and pick up the remote. “I do, but I have a feeling you don’t. Not yet, at least. So, why don’t we forget reality for a second, yeah?”
He looks at me like I’ve dumped a giant plate of spaghetti in front of him. Tate loves spaghetti.
He nods, slowly, voice soft. “Sounds good, princess.”
I lean back, letting my ice cream melt a little, just the way I like it, and pull him against me. His head is over my heart, and when I pick his favorite comedian, my fingers start to rub his scalp, his ear, rubbing away the last few moments of tension.
Tate drapes an arm around my middle, then lifts my palm to his lips, kissing me there. “You get me, Elle,” he whispers. “I’ll tell you what the landlord said, but . . . I didn’t want to yet. It was causing some tension.”
AKA a bit of a panic.
“I know, T.” I kiss his forehead. “We’ll talk and figure it out later.”
I keep rubbing his head, falling more in love with him the longer his laughter fills the space as we watch the TV.
I hold the list to my chest, smiling as I replay all the simple, yet meaningful moments of Tate and Ellie.
Times together that brought us to this point.
“You weren’t supposed to see that.”
My eyes snap to the door of our bedroom. Tate gives me a sly, sexy grin. He’s dressed and ready and the sun is barely waking up. The man is cunning. He knows how much I love those black pants that hug his toned legs too perfectly. Then, add on his Sexiest Husband Ever T-shirt, and a tray of a tall, chocolate cheesecake in the shape of a heart next to a red box, I’m a goner.
I blink through a few tears and scoot over, giving him room to come sit beside me. He does, setting the cheesecake, two plates and two forks in front of us.
Because in the Hawkins’ household we eat cheesecake for Valentine’s Day breakfast.
“What is this list for?” I ask.
He pulls me against his side. “Like I said. The times after we were together that I knew I was in love with you, moments I knew I’d never love anyone else.”
“Well, you got one wrong,” I say. “Sleep talking.”
“You did. One night.” He cups my cheek. “Our wedding night.”
Now, my face is on fire. “Um, did I? That night?”
He grins. “Yes. You smiled, took a deep breath, and said “Love you forever, Hawkins”. Like you said in your vows.”
“I did not.”
“You did so. I almost woke you up because I about exploded, but figured you were a little tired.” He winks because he’s dirty and wonderful and mine. “Anyway, it’s definitely on my moment list, which are all part of your present.”
I kiss the warm nape of his neck and let my head drop onto his shoulder. “The cheesecake?”
“No,” he says, a bit of pink in his cheeks. “That is more selfishly motivated. I wanted to prove to myself I could make something awesome for you on Valentine’s Day.”
“Husband, you are literally the only thing I want today.”
He chuckles. “Well, you’ve got me, but you get a few more things too.”
I kiss his cheek and dig into his cake.
Um, change of plans. Tate will need to make this every year. Probably more than once. Maybe every time we have anything remotely resembling a special occasion. When I tell him, I think it’s probably the best present I could’ve given him.
After a second slice each, Tate puts his plate off to the side, and lifts the box.
“Oh, wait. I have a present for you too.” Another husband T-shirt and new cologne that I’m pretty sure is an aphrodisiac.
“Mine first,” he says, pulling me back against his side. Tate hands me the box.
I smile as I open it, then let out a little gasp. A dainty silver bracelet lies a pillow of velvet. It’s a charm bracelet. One of those quirky things I always mutter that I want, but have never actually bought one.
It’s not so much that he’s listened to all those mutterings and did something about it that brings the tears. It’s the charms dangling from the bracelet. Clearly, custom made. A tiny, weirdly beautiful sandwich with garnet as the jelly inside. Next, a crystal bowl with a sapphire spoon. The one for the massage is two gold hands entwined. He tells me it was the best he could come up with to symbolize a massage. Then a pink diamond infinity symbol as the final one.
“There’s room for more moments,” he whispers, lacing our fingers together.
My chin quivers before I kiss him, hard, needy, with a clear intention to let him know exactly what I’m feeling about him.
There will be moments. There will be million tiny moments for the rest of our lives that will be constant reminders I made the best choice by loving Tate Hawkins.
Thanks for wanting a sweet Valentine’s Day story with Tate and Ellie.
If you haven’t read their full story check out OUR BROKEN SONG HERE.
I hope you have a wonderful love filled day!