Christmas in Iverhill: Merry Christmas, Steve Kaplan

NOTE: To read Chuck Miller’s book “The Robins of Iverhill: A Minor League Fairy Tale,” as well as the short stories in the “Christmas in Iverhill” series, visit this link.

Friday, December 21, 1973.

He could smell the perfume-scented Christmas card the moment he opened his mailbox.  And he smiled.  He knew it was from Cathy, and that knowledge alone made his heart skip a beat.

Everything seemed to be in place.  He picked up the engagement ring from the jewelers last week.  A quarter-carat single solitaire diamond in a gold-pronged setting, a 14-karat symbol of happiness that cost him nearly six months of savings and thriftiness from his accounting job at Magedoma Lumber.  But he knew that all those nights he spent with Cathy, all the dates and all the dinners and the drive-ins and the dances he spent with her, was worth every karat and carat.

He had everything planned out.  He told Cathy he would pick her up for a date, a walk through the shops on North Main Avenue, and maybe a stop at the park bench at the intersection of North Main Avenue and Red Pine Street.  He would get down on one knee, show her the ring box, open the ring box and watch for her to mouth the words yes I’ll marry you.

One more sniff of the envelope.  Yes, it’s the perfume he bought her.  The one she asked for, the perfume with the big 5 on the label bottle.  Slowly opening the envelope, so that he wouldn’t tear the card inside.

Merry Christmas, the card read.  He wondered if she bought the card at ShopCo or went to the local stationery store on North Main Avenue.  He smiled.  And then he opened the card.

And in Cathy’s flowing, pen-perfect handwriting, he saw a handwritten note inside the Christmas card.

My darling Steve.  Every night I think about you, I dream about your arms holding me, your lips kissing me, your body close to mine.  And every morning, I fall more and more in love with you.

His heart skipped a beat.  He could feel the nerves tingle in his body as he read the letter.  He continued to read.

From the first day I saw you, from the first day you said hello to me, all I could think about was being Mrs. Steve Kaplan.  I’ve practiced writing it on pieces of paper.  Cathy Kaplan.  It’s gotten easier to write, and it’s a lot easier than writing Cathy Kopczynski.

He didn’t know what to think.  The words he read were heartfelt and poignant.  Every word he read blended through his essence and pressed against his soul.

From the first day I met you, it felt like I won the sweepstakes.  I fell in love with you that day and I’ve been in love with you ever since.  Merry Christmas, my love.  I hope you and I will be Mr. and Mrs. Steve Kaplan very soon.  Maybe there might be something under the mistletoe for you on Christmas?  Hugs and kisses and all my love, Cathy.

He read the letter over and over.  It was more than he expected.  And every emotion in his heart bubbled to the surface.

There was only one thing he could do at that point.  He had to call Cathy and make sure that what he read was true.

He dialed Cathy’s number.  The phone rang.  Rang and rang.  He knew that Cathy didn’t have an answering machine, so he gave her plenty of time to reach the phone.  Eight rings.  Nine.  Ten.

And then he hung up, the tears streaming down his face in streams of salty, wet pain.

The ringbox – with the engagement ring – was still in his pocket.  He opened the box one more time, and glimpsed at the glittering diamond engagement band inside.  He then closed the box, muttered an obscenity, and put the ring box in a drawer.

And at that moment, David Wilkerson sat in a chair and cried, wondering to himself if anybody knew that Cathy Kopcynski’s love letter to someone named Steve Kaplan was mixed up with the Christmas card David was supposed to have received.  I wonder if this Steve Kaplan guy got a break-up letter from Cathy that was meant to be sent to me, David thought, as the tears continued to trickle from his joy-deprived eyes.