Valentine Gifts

By Katie A.

February 18, 2020

A story by another fanfic author reminded me of the symbols of the dragon and the phoenix seen often as decorative motifs in Chinese art. I was further reminded that I have two fountain pens decorated with that motif, and so, this story popped into my head.

Catherine smiled to herself as she put the heavy, ornate gold and black fountain pen back into its presentation box. Through a merchant friend of Master Wong’s, she was able to purchase a fine quality fountain pen with a phoenix and dragon design.

Vincent will really enjoy this, she thought to herself. I know that he likely knows what the dragon and the phoenix represent, but I wonder if he realizes that I know.

In Chinese mythology, the phoenix and the dragon are a marriage pair, a representation of Yin and Yang. The symbols are all over Chinatown, in may variations.

She knew how Vincent preferred fountain pens. This one was special enough for him in her mind, especially given the symbolism of the design, and the fact that it was a Valentine gift for their first married Valentine’s Day. The fact that the merchant had found one in a beautiful presentation box, which had the dragon and phoenix motif on the lid as well was icing on the cake.

Catherine considered the symbols as they pertained to Vincent and herself. She did “rise from the ashes” of her attack, and the personal disaster that was her old life. Vincent was definitely a special dragon. He was noble, and powerful, and kind, and wise. Also gorgeous, muscular, sexy… Best stop that train of thought or you’ll distract the poor man from his work, she told herself sternly.

Far below the city, in a rough-hewn chamber that he and two others were finishing as a way station, Vincent felt Catherine’s moment of lustful thought, and her concern about distracting him as she squelched it. He smiled to himself. She truly doesn’t realize how much practice I’ve had inputting those sort of feelings from her aside.

He had lost quite a lot of sleep in the second year of their relationship due to the nature of her dreams about him. Now, he was used to “saving” those feelings for later, and he also knew, now that they were husband and wife, that they could act on them. Soon, he told himself. Soon we will be finished here, and I can go to Catherine. Her court case should be finished tomorrow. Perhaps we can spend our first married Valentine’s Day together for the ENTIRE day.

They had been apart all week, he here with Kanin and Mouse, finishing this new way station, and she staying at her apartment, partly because it was easier to get to work from there in a timely manner after a long day in court and a long night studying briefs and preparing for the next long day in court. But mostly, she had confessed, because sleeping alone in their big bed that used to be just his made her sad. She missed him more when she stayed Below when he was away. He could see her point. He had gone to her apartment once when she was away in Albany on a case, in search of a little privacy, peace and quiet, and to feel closer to her. What he had found instead was the constant hope that she would walk in from the next room, or come through the front door. The apartment felt cold and very lonely without her lively presence. Perhaps when the renovations on their brownstone were finally finished, and they had a place that was truly THEIRS they might both feel less lonely when they had to be apart. He rather doubted it, though.

He smiled again as he thought of the small Valentine’s gift he had gotten for Catherine. In exchange for his help in moving some heavy shelving in her shop, Madame Yin had given him a lovely jade pendant on a black silk cord. “For your phoenix,” she had said, her eyes twinkling, “now that she has found her dragon and married him.” Madame Yin was as wise in her way as Wong was. Vincent thought he had recognized the lapel pin with a phoenix on it that Catherine had as one that came from Madame Yin’s. That was a story he had yet to hear, but he was certain he would hear it, eventually.

Friday came with the dawn, and it was the 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day. Instead of being unlucky, though, for both Catherine and Vincent, it was a good day. Catherine’s court case was done, with a most satisfactory verdict, as far as she and Joe were concerned.

I bet the defense is blaming Friday the 13th for the loss, but I know better, she thought.

Vincent, Kanin, and Mouse had gotten the finishing touches added to the new way station, and had already started back. They would be back to the hub by lunchtime.

I’ll have time to rest before Catherine comes down after her work. I will send word to her as soon as we return, he thought.

Catherine smiled as she read the note that was in her lunchtime sandwich from the lunch cart vendor. Since she knew there was a children’s party during the day on Valentine’s Day, she knew they would have to be Below all day. They had more privacy now that the separate sleeping chamber was completed, and the bed moved out of “Grand Central”, as Vincent’s chamber seemed to be. But I want him all to myself for awhile. I’ll have him come up to the apartment for dinner, and we can both go Below later in the evening, she mused.

She quickly wrote a note to request that Vincent come to the apartment for dinner, caught the vendor with it folded into a bill, saying she forgot his tip. She then took advantage of Joe’s continuing good mood about the trial verdict, and asked and received permission to leave early. She made a phone call, then left to get everything ready for their evening together.

Vincent received Catherine’s note as he was preparing to take a nap after his bath. He laughed to himself as he read her note. She wants my undivided attention. I can understand that, and I feel the same way!

Catherine stopped at the Pei’s restaurant before she went home, to pick up the food she had ordered just before she left. Lin had provided reheating instructions so everything would reheat properly.

Once she got back to the apartment, she gave the place a quick one-over with the duster and the vacuum, changed the sheets on the bed, showered, then put out clean towels as she took the others and popped them into the wash. She stood now before the closet wearing her terrycloth robe, with a towel on her head, and considered what to wear. Oh, I remember. I have just the thing! Where is it… she thought to herself as she searched the top shelf in the closet. There it was, in the lovely red box, just as she thought. A tunic and pants set that Lin had given her for a bridal shower gift. The note with it said, “Save this for a special evening with your Vincent.” The tunic top had a Mandarin collar, and long sleeves, but the sleeves weren’t too “sloppy”, they wouldn’t be awkward when getting the food ready, and the pants had straight legs, not too tight and not too “bell-bottom”, so she wouldn’t look or feel like she was wearing pajamas. The outfit was red silk, and as she examined the fabric closely, she realized the pattern woven into the cloth was a dragon and phoenix motif.

How perfect! She thought, and proceeded to finish dressing and getting ready for Vincent’s appearance.

Just as she put the finishing touches on her hair, and slipped her feet into her black satin ballet flats, she saw the French door into the bedroom swing open. She ran to the door, and Vincent took her into his arms.

They held each other tight for a minute or two, and then moved at the same time into a sweet, but passionate kiss of greeting. Catherine pulled away first. “I am so glad to see you! I’d love to continue as we’ve begun, but I’m hungry!”

Vincent looked at her with laughing eyes. “So am I! Is that sweet and sour chicken from Pei’s restaurant that I smell?”

“Yes, and there’s pepper steak and almond chicken, too, and steamed rice to go with everything,” she answered.

“Mmm, all of our favorites,“ he observed. “You spoil me, Catherine.”

“You deserve to be spoiled. You look quite handsome this evening.” He was wearing a new vest. Mary had gotten hold of some heavy silk brocade, it looked like, and unless Catherine was mistaken, there were dragons and phoenixes cavorting across the fabric, subtly woven in, just as the design on her lounging set.

“Thank you, Catherine. This vest seemed particularly appropriate to me this evening. You are also very beautiful this evening. I really like this outfit on you.”

“Thank you. It was a bridal shower gift from Lin. I haven’t had a good reason to wear it yet. It was perfect for tonight, though, so I’m glad I saved it.”

“It does seem to fit with the evening’s theme,” Vincent said.

“Oh, indeed it does, but you’ll find out more about that after dinner,” Catherine replied with a grin.

Vincent smiled to himself. So will you, my phoenix, when you see your gift.” He double-checked the watch pocket on his vest. Yes, the red silk bag was still safely tucked inside.

They adjourned to the kitchen, where Lin’s reheating instructions were carefully followed, and then took their feast to the beautifully set dining table to enjoy. After they dined, and cleared the table, they adjourned to the living room with the last of the jasmine tea and their fortune cookies.

Snuggled together on one of the couches, they broke open the cookies and read their fortunes. “Your deepest dreams will soon come true.” Catherine read from the small slip of paper her cookie contained. “Well,” she said, stretching up to plant a kiss on Vincent’s cheek, “I have one dream come true right here. I wouldn’t want to be greedy.”

Vincent smiled. “Your dream is not greedy, Catherine. I share it.” He knew she wanted a child, their child. “Perhaps the fortune is true.”

Catherine blushed. “Let’s hear your fortune.”

“Your heart’s desire is within your reach.” Vincent smiled again, and gathered her into his arms. “You see, these fortunes are pretty accurate,” he declared, right before he kissed her senseless.

When they came up for air, Catherine got up and picked up a slender box from the top of her desk. “Happy Valentine’s Day, my love,” she said, as she handed Vincent the box.

He carefully opened the outer cardboard box, and lifted out the beautiful presentation box, with the dragon and phoenix design twining upon the lid. “Oh, Catherine, this is lovely. Thank you.”

“There’s more. Open the box.”

He did as she bid him, and was stunned by the beautiful gold colored metal design overlaying the black lacquered finish of the fountain pen within. He lifted the pen, and observed that of course, the design wrought in golden metal was a dragon (on the barrel) and a phoenix (on the cap). He opened the cap, and hefted the pen. It was heavy, but beautifully balanced. “Oh, Catherine, this is beautiful. Thank you.”

He pulled her closer and kissed her.

“Now, “

he said, as the kiss ended, and he leaned away from her a bit. He pulled a small red silk bag from the watch pocket of his vest, and presented it to her. “Here is your gift.”

She took the bag in her hand, surprised a bit at its weight. She opened the drawstring closure, and pulled out a beautiful dark jade medallion on a black silk cord.

“Oh, Vincent,” she gasped, seeing the dragon and phoenix design on the pendant, “It’s lovely. So appropriate, too,” she added with a smile. “Thank you so much. I will treasure it.” She hugged him tight, and when she released him, he watched as she slipped the long cord of the necklace over her head. The dark green pendant looked very much at home upon the red silk, nestling as it was at her bosom.

“It would seem the dragon and the phoenix are determined to be in our lives, Catherine. Are you aware of the symbolism?”

“Oh yes. The dragon and the phoenix are a marriage pair. They symbolize Yin and Yang, and are thought to bring prosperity and good luck to a marriage; one reason for Lin’s gift of this particular outfit for a wedding shower. I have long thought of you as my dragon, noble, honest, mysterious, and the one who completes me.”

“As you are my phoenix, Catherine, renewed in strength and spirit after a terrible ordeal, beautiful and vital, and the one I am incomplete without. By the way, Madame Yin sends her regards.”

Catherine just smiled and responded “She sent best wishes to my noble dragon also, through Master Wong, who helped me acquire your gift.”

“I get the feeling Madame Yin knows more than she is ever willing to say.” Vincent replied.

They looked at each other, and as they came together in a sweet kiss, they both seemed to remember that this was their chance to celebrate their first married Valentine’s Day as married couples do, so they deepened their kiss, and spent an enjoyable time in an appropriate, and private, celebration.