The boy labored over the card, a red ballpoint in his hand. He drew a heart-shaped dartboard with an E in the center, a scoreboard with Love written at the top and the name Emma fifteen times. Giant red darts that looked like rockets filled the corners of the paper. His tongue peeked out at the corner of his mouth as he wrote, “I shuw hopen you like this card. Love, Jake.” He folded it in half and added it to the glittery wooden heart he had persuaded his mother to purchase at the craft store.
“Mommy, when aw you goween to make an envelope fow Emma’s valentime?” His auditory processing problem was evident when he spoke; the garbled sounds of the words he heard were converted to speech. After five years of therapy, he was understandable, but still sounded less mature than his seven years.
His mother was over at the kitchen sink, washing up the pots and pans from dinner.
“Why don’t you write the names on your other valentines, and I’ll do it when I’m done?”
With a slight scowl, he freed the box of valentines from its cellophane wrapper and got the list of names out of his backpack.
“Have you even seen Emma lately?” his mother asked. Emma had moved up to the gifted program at the start of the school year, along with Jake’s best friend, Niles. Jake had been passed over because his disability interfered with the testing and his scores were low.
“Well, I saw hew at wecess.”
“Did she say hi?”
“No. But I did see hew in da dwivah line, and she waved at me.”
A moment passed.
“Does Emma love you, too?” The real question.
“I don’t think so, but if I give hew enough pwesents, she will,” he said with confidence.
That made his mother smile, but she cautioned, “Well, maybe. There are lots of other little girls, you know.”
“I know dat,” Jake said, “but I love Emma.”
His mother dried her hands on a towel and walked over. Picking up the pink sheet of acetate Jake had chosen, she quickly fashioned an envelope large enough to accommodate the card and sparkling heart. She was an artist, and knew how to make all kinds of things. Jake watched her swift movements with admiration.
“There,” she said, slipping the gifts inside and sealing it. She handed it to him. “You can write her name on the front. E-M-M-A.”
“I know dat,” Jake protested. He always knew more than she thought he did. He wrote the name and carefully put the envelope into his backpack.
Emma would like it — he knew that, too.