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    Crystal Joy Divider

    Jen and Daniel’s Love Story

       Jen Platte zipped her coat and stepped onto the covered front porch. The cold winter wind whirled through the night, stinging her face. Shivering, she pulled a blue wool hat out of her coat pocket and slipped it down over her forehead. Could it be any colder tonight? Hopefully, Daniel would show up any minute. The sooner he arrived, the faster she could jump inside his truck and escape from the cold.

       She leaned against the porch railing, standing on her tiptoes. Where did Daniel plan on taking her for her birthday? Maybe that new Italian restaurant? Or maybe to a movie? Not that she really cared. As long as she could spend time with him, it didn’t matter what he had planned.

       Daniel’s truck inched up the driveway. His windshield wipers slid across the glass in a steady rhythm, clearing off the wet heavy snow spiraling through the night. He stopped his vehicle and held up a finger for her to wait, then leaned over, reaching for something on the passenger’s side.

       Jen sighed, sending a puff of warm air dancing in front of her face. What was Daniel doing?

       Finally, he stepped out of his truck, wearing a puffy winter coat, stocking cap, and scarf. He strode up to the porch, his long legs taking quick strides. Wrapping her in a hug, he set his mouth by her ear. “Happy belated Birthday, my valentine. I’m sorry I had to work yesterday.”

       Jen shrugged. “It’s okay. You can make it up to me tonight.”

       “Oh yeah? How so?” His voice was muffled behind the scarf, which wrapped around his neck up to his nose.

       She set a finger to her lips. “A kiss would work, but your scarf is in the way.”

       “I can fix that.” Daniel tugged at the tucked end of the scarf and unwove it, exposing a clean-shaven face.

       Her jaw dropped. She hadn’t seen Daniel without facial hair since their senior year of high school.

       Daniel grinned. “What do you think?”

       She pulled off her gloves and set her hands on his smooth cheeks. “I think you look handsome either way, but I really like this new look.”

       The porch light shadowed his face as he dipped his head lower and brought his lips to hers. Her fingers caressed his cheeks before she lowered her arms, trying to wrap them around his back. But she couldn’t. One of Daniel’s arms was bent behind his back. He clutched something in his hand.

       With her focus on the scarf, she hadn’t noticed. Did he have another gift to give her? How could he top off what he’d already bought? Over the last couple of weeks, he’d been showering her with gifts—a gold locket, two sweaters, and a leather jacket. She hadn’t expected anything else for her birthday. He’d already given her enough.

       Daniel pulled back, kissing her on her forehead. He gave her a mischievous smile. “I have two more gifts for you. You get one right now and one later in the date.”

       Jen took a step to the side, peeking around his back.

       “Not so fast.” He twisted his torso, blocking her view. “We’re going to use this to do something you’ve never done before. Any guesses?”

       She yanked her gloves over her icy hands and clapped them together. “No. What is it?”

       He held out his arm, revealing her first gift—an orange and black box kite.

        Smiling, she took the kite, her imagination setting her far way from the snow and plopping her in a hot summer day. She closed her eyes, imagining the sun heating her skin, her feet running across the freshly mowed grass as the kite lifted into the air, and the warm breeze guiding it across the blue sky. “I love it.”

       “Are you ready to fly it?”

       Jen opened her eyes and stared at Daniel. “Now?”

       He gave a simple nod—his signature response for yes.

       “But it’s almost zero degrees. Shouldn’t we wait for a warmer day?”

       “I say we try it tonight. It’s a unique way to celebrate your birthday. We’ll have fun, and I promise I’ll keep you warm.”

       Jen twisted her lips. Why did Daniel have to be so convincing? She couldn’t possibly say no to him without crushing his excitement.

       She unwrapped the packaging around the kite and looked up at him. “Let’s go to the church lot. It’s long and it’s not too far away from my house.” That way if they were too cold, they could escape from the blistering weather as quickly as possible.

       “Perfect. Let’s go.” Daniel reached for her free hand as they walked to the lot.

       Her teeth chattered, but she leaned closer to Daniel, lost in reverie. How did she get so lucky? Just a year ago, she’d given up hope of ever having a romantic relationship with him. She’d come to the realization that God had a different plan for her. She would never marry her high school crush. But then she’d seen Daniel again at a school play and he’d asked her on a date. Thank God she’d decided to attend that play. If she hadn’t, her life certainly wouldn’t be as full.

       Reaching the lot, she stopped beside Daniel.

       He took the kite from her, unraveling a good length of string. He pointed down the driveway. “The wind is coming from the north, so when I say run, keep your back to the wind and go as far as you can.” His eyes lit with excitement as he held the kite above his head and handed her the ball of string. “Ready, set, go!”

       Jen ran, but her heavy coat weighed at least three pounds, slowing her pace. The cold air burned her cheeks. She peered at the kite. It lifted a few feet, then plummeted to the pavement.

       Walking back to Daniel, her shoulders slumped. She had to fly this kite. It seemed to mean so much to him. “Let’s try again.”

       He shot a fist in the air. “That’s the spirit. Ready, set, go.”

       She dashed across the pavement, the falling snow blurring her vision. She blinked away the flakes on her eyelashes and veered off the driveway. The heavy snow stuck to her shoes, wetting her socks. Her foot caught on a patch of ice. She let go of the kite and flailed her arms for balance. It didn’t work. She struck the snowy ground like a fallen sumo wrestler. At least her puffy coat had saved her from any real damage.

       She took a deep breath and pushed forward, attempting to sit up. Her head landed back on the ground. Laughter bubbled in her chest. “Daniel, I can’t get up.”

       His footsteps crunched through the snow. He plopped down beside her, brushing flakes from her face. “Are you okay?”

       “Yes. Just cold.”

       “If it makes you feel any better, you’re the sexist kite flyer I’ve ever seen.”

       She shook her head. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re trying to butter me up.”

       He kissed her on the cheek. “I know you weren’t crazy about being out in the cold, but I’m glad you tried anyway. We can do this again in a few months.”

       She nodded, relief softening her frozen extremities. “I’ll make us hot chocolate when we get back to my house.”

       He stood up and reached for her hand, pulling her to a standing position. “I want lots of marshmallows.”

       “You’re such a kid.” Jen grabbed the kite, rolled up the string, and walked toward her house, trying not to jog. She could almost feel the creamy chocolate thawing her throat.

       “Not so fast. Come back.”

       She turned around. Daniel hadn’t followed her. He stood in the middle of the sidewalk just below the street lamp. The light beamed down on him as he stuck a hand in his pocket.

       She walked back. Hopefully, she hadn’t disappointed him. “Is something wrong?”

       He didn’t answer.

       “If you want to stay, we …”

       “I’m not mad.” Daniel took his hand out of his pocket, clutching a black box. “This is your second present.”

       She stared at the box, her eyes widening. Was that a jewelry box?

       Daniel kneeled down in the snow and opened the box, revealing two beautiful bands—one with a diamond.

       He looked up at her, his expression serious. “Jennifer, will you marry me?”

       For a moment, her world stopped as she processed the meaning of Daniel’s words. He wanted to marry her. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

       Memories flashed across her mind like an old video recorder—flirting with the cute boy next to her locker. Dancing at prom, wishing he would like her just as much as she liked him. Trying to forget about him when they parted ways. Bumping into him at the school play. Reconnecting and falling in love all over again.

       And now, a proposal. Jennifer, will you marry me? The words sunk deep into her heart, taking root inside her soul.

       Tears trickled down her face. Her heart beat wildly in her chest as she held out her left hand. “Yes, I will.”

       Daniel pulled off her glove with his teeth and slipped both rings on her finger.

       As he stood, Jen wrapped her arms around his neck. Her lips found his, and all of her past worries and doubts melted away. Daniel was hers forever.

    Where are they now?