Last Valentine’s Day
snow piles had turned into slush the week before but by Friday that
awfully sloppy wintry mess had been licked away by an unexpected
sunshine, so it was going to be a great Valentine’s weekend for
most people at Elmtown. The weather forecast for Saturday was so
favorable that it was obvious how busy most restaurants, bars and
nightclubs would be.
Day had never been a great day for Jen and Kim. They had never
received roses or chocolates throughout their college years. No one
ever threw a bow on a teddy bear and gave it to either of them. Not
even one card came in the mail from a love interest. It was just a
day for Cupid to laugh in their faces and point his arrow the other
shut the door to her 2002 Mazda and walked towards her apartment
building. She'd spent some hours at the library working on her
Behavioral Economics paper. Usually the library would be packed on
Saturdays but there were barely ten students there, most people were
busy with their significant others or looking forward to going out
with their new dates.
Mr. Kaplan,” Jen said.
waved to her Landlord who was walking the opposite way. He lived in
one of the apartments in the same building which most of the students
didn’t like as it made them feel as though someone was always
watching over their shoulder, making sure they were following his
policies; stupid twentieth century rules Jen always called it, no
parties ,no Alcohol, no friends staying over. Not that they all
followed it anyway, there were ways to do it without him finding out
especially when he was away in Canada to check his other real estate
business. The main advantage he had over other student-housing
landlords at Elmtown was his low pricing strategy and that was good
enough for Jen and Kim.
Hello Jen,” he said smiling at her. “Happy Valentine’s Day. Do
you have any big plans for tonight?”
Probably just gonna study and call it an early night,” she said
then unconsciously sighed.
date?” The elderly man asked, his eyes widening with surprise.
she said shaking her head. He never seemed to mind his business but
she was accustomed to him now, she knew how to handle him. “But I
hope you have a great Valentine’s Day,” she added quickly,
cutting the conversation short.
I will,” he said then started towards his car. “I actually have a
date with a woman I met at the doctor’s office.”
OK have fun then,” she said hurriedly but thought, well
thanks for the information and for adding salt to my wound.
Her seventy year old Landlord had a better dating life than she did,
and he barely even left his apartment. She wished him well and
continued towards the front door.
Jen!” Sarah suddenly yelled from the parking lot. “What's up”
Sarah, not much,” Jen said then waited as Sara walked towards her.
Why was everyone trying to talk to her today. She was tired and just
wanted to get into the warmth of her apartment, eat some food, pull
her covers over herself and binge-watch Gilmore Girls on that new
website her brother Jason just told her about. Jason always came up
with money-saving ideas on the internet and since he told her about a
bunch of file-sharing sites, she’d stopped paying for netflix.
nothing. Just wanted to say Hi. I’m heading out to pick up Tara. We
are meeting the rest of the girls for dinner. We’re all bringing
our boyfriends. It’s like one huge double date, triple date if you
will. It's so nice that Valentine's on Saturday this year,” Sarah
said, her eyelids blinking as fast as the words emanating from her
mouth. She talked so fast, most people didn’t understand her
sentences, it took getting used to.
that sounds fun,” Jen said. “Tara has a boyfriend now? Since
when?” She asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
Yeah, Tara met someone a few weeks ago. Such a great guy. He
graduated from Malcolm Vale last year but he works as an Electrical
Engineer now. We are all going out to eat and then bowling. You are
right, it will be fun,” Sarah said.
you girls have fun.” Jen said as she waved and then quickly opened
the front door. “See you around.”
Tara now has a boyfriend. She thought. She remembered what Tara said
when they were sophomores (before they stopped being close). Tara had
said to her that she knew she was not the greatest catch for most
boys because she was not one of the most attractive girls on campus
(which was putting it mildly) but she was confident she would find
someone to love her one day because she had personality and
character, she was beautiful inside. So
that's it then? Jen
I and Kim have no personality, no inside beauty?
happy for her, be happy for her.
She muttered to herself. It was her way of keeping the jealousy
brewing within her from coming to the surface. Jealousy and envy are
very negative emotions, her mother always said.
climbed the stairs sluggishly, the thought of Tara bringing back
memories of their first two years on campus. They'd all been fresh
out of Malcolm Vale High School, excited and anxiously looking
forward to their new independent life. There were six of them in
their group of friends and although they all still hung out together
once in awhile, by their third year in College, the group had been
split into close knits of twos. Jen and Kim on one side, Tara and
Sarah on another and then Meghan and Khloe on one.
on it deeply, although she and Kim were now the odd ones out, she was
kind of glad that at least Kim was in the same boat as her. Even if
it was a lonely boat in the midst of a storm, they had each other to
help row to shore and that provided a comfort of sorts. Not that she
wouldn't be happy for Kim if she had a boyfriend but she couldn't
deny the feeling of being pleased about having someone who understood
where she was at.
never gave Jen the types of speeches everyone and their mothers liked
to give whenever she complained about being single. None of that “You
are complete by yourself.” talk, which jen was frankly tired of it.
Of course she knew completeness was something that came from within
and didn't depend on being with a man. But does that take away the
desire to be wanted and loved by a guy? Personally, she would love to
share her complete self with another wonderful complete human being
that complemented her and she didn’t think anything was wrong with
that type of desire. At 23, if no one has ever even asked you out,
shouldn’t you be worried? Maybe she shouldn’t worry so much but
still it was something to notice and think about.
being in the same predicament, Kim seemed not to worry as much about
it like Jen did. Kim wanted a good guy in her life too but the
absence of it didn’t bother her as much. She believed things would
fall in place at the right time and looked forward earnestly to the
day she would meet her prince charming.
and Kim had been assigned the same dorm room with two other roommates
in their first year of College. The other roommates were nice and
they got along well, but it was different with Jen and Kim. They
clicked and were inseparable. Their friendship continued and after a
few years they decided to get an apartment together. They loved this
apartment, even if it was small and older, it was close enough to
school so they could walk when they had trouble driving (There were
times Jen’s car wouldn't start because of the extreme winter of
Elmtown. And sometimes driving in the snow storms were literally
had each other, an apartment, good grades, great siblings and
wonderful parents. Everything seemed great, but something was
missing, the college guys just didn’t seem to have any interest in
them. Unlocking the door and shutting it behind her, Jen came moping
into the apartment.
Valentine’s Day alone,” she said as she sulked around their small
apartment living room before sitting down on the couch.
not so bad,” Kim said plopping down onto the couch beside her. She
put her arm around Jen then kissed her forehead. “Stop being a
downer. You get to spend the day with me.”
like that’s something special.”
can’t really blame you for not understanding my awesomeness. You
know what they say, familiarity breeds contempt,” Kim said.
Shut up. When did you start talking smart. What’s that anyway?”
Jen said pointing to a white container on the coffee table.
mmmh...that my friend is Dr. Zed’s 10 day magic formula,” Kim
said then got up to fetch the weight loss solution. “Look I think
I’ve lost five pounds already,” She raised her sweater and tugged
at her belly.
told you a million times, you are perfectly healthy. Your BMI is
fine. You don’t need this garbage. They never work anyway.”
I swear on my grandfather’s deathbed, this isn’t like those other
ones that didn’t work.”
what you said the last time,” Jen reminded her.
me it’s been tested by NASA.”
as in National Aeronautics Space Administration?”
They’ve started doing weight loss programs as a result of boredom.
Apparently, there are no more planets to discover.”
should learn how to lie intelligently. That was lame.”
both laughed. Then suddenly Jen wrapped her long arms around herself
and reclined into the chair looking forlorn.
wrong?” You can always talk to the love of your life. Come on
let’s hear it,” Kim said.
just hungry,” Jen replied looking at a corner of their floor she’d
missed when vacuuming. She hated doing that so much, missing a spot.
She knew it would bother her until she had it vacuumed again so she
contemplated getting up immediately to fetch the vacuum cleaner.
true. I know you. What is it? This isn’t just hunger my love.”
ok. I was just thinking about how I broke up with John after
high-school and decided not to be seriously involved with anyone in
my first two years in College. Do you think that was a mistake? It’s
like I intentionally made myself unavailable and now that I’m ready
there’s not even a hint of romance. We are seniors now and this is
our last Valentine’s Day here at college. It would have been nice
to have someone special to spend it with. Is this how it’s going to
be forever? Doesn’t it ever bother you at all? Maybe I’m just
over-analysing as usual.”
I know how you feel. I think about it a lot too but you can’t let
it affect you this much. My dad said love usually comes when you
least expect it. Most times when you’re not even worrying about it
so I have decided to enjoy my life and when it happens, it happens, ”
Kim said. She stood up, swayed her hips across the room like a model
on a runway.
mean we are decent looking girls. We are smart, ambitious and funny.
There’s someone out there who can handle all of this,” she
continued, gesturing at her voluptuous figure.
laughed then said “You always look so silly when you try to do that
phony serious face of yours. Anyways, so last week I was thinking,
maybe I should stop being a prude and get into this whole hooking-up
business. Maybe that’s the new way of dating?”
Been there. Done that. I’m not as emotional as you but even I
wouldn’t go back to that. I want something real now. I know you and
it’s definitely not for you at all. Besides, Katherine does hookups
but she’s still as single as you and I. Forget it babe.”
we are screwed then I guess.”
laughed then told Jen more hilarious dating stories.
minutes later they’d changed to talking about Kim’s visit to the
mall. She asked Jen to come into her room to see the new pairs of
jeans she’d stumbled upon at a store.
how much I got these two,” Kim said as she pointed to two pairs of
blue jeans on her bed.
don’t know. sixty bucks?”
bucks for both.”
I told you. You should have come with me. They are closing down so
everything was dirt cheap. I saw a couple of girls there too. Lauren,
parents don’t send me pocket money like yours remember?”
shoosh. You do more hours than I do at work so there’s really no
difference. You probably even have more money than I do right now,”
Kim said shaking her head, then she pushed her long dark hair over
her shoulder. Jen laughed and stood next to her in front of the
mirror. They were around the same height and size. Jen had shoulder
length blonde hair and bright blue eyes, a contrast from Kim’s dark
hair and hazel eyes, but they were alike in many other ways.
we should go out tonight and have dinner somewhere, or go to the
movies?” Kim said changing the topic.
Jen sighed knowing what was on her best friends mind. “But that
will just put us in a worse mood. There will be couples everywhere.
Everyone is out celebrating Valentine’s Day and I don’t feel like
looking at cute couples and hearing lips smacking all night. I’d
rather stay home and do something fun.”
are right.” Kim agreed. “I remember last Valentine’s Day, when
we went out to dinner with Karisa and the tables were all set up for
couples with candles and flower centerpieces.”
yeah, and that Italian waiter even felt sorry for us.” Jen
remembered. “He gave us a free dessert to help sweeten our sorrow.
That was hilarious.”
know Kim I think you are a great catch and I’m not sure why no one
has caught you yet.”
you Jen, I think that you amazing and it’s a tragedy that no man
has swept you up yet either.”
I can be your Valentine,” Jen smiled and winked at her friend.
love if you were my Valentine.” Kim puckered her lips at Jen and
made silly kiss sounds. “You will be the best Valentine that I have
should make a good dinner, drink some wine and have a few laughs.
Just you and me, like always,” Jen suggested. “We do not need any
guy to make our night complete.”
sounds good. Screw cupid and his arrow!” Kim stuck out her tongue
playfully. “We will have a better time with each other.”
girls reached out and hugged each other, embracing the friendship
that they cherished with all of their hearts. Jen knew they would
have a good time with just the two of them. It was what they’d
always done. The most important thing was to be happy and just get on
so since you are the better cook, you can make dinner and I will go
buy us a good bottle of wine.”
plan. I’ll just go ahead and start cooking then.”
grabbed her purse and keys. “This will be the best Valentine’s
it will!” Kim headed to the kitchen, happier than she had been a
few minutes before.
Kim had always been the chef in their friendship, Jen could barely
make a frozen dinner successfully. She would burn eggs, put too much
water in Pasta, overcook meat and had been known to set the fire
alarms off many times in the kitchen. Kim on the other hand had a
knack for cooking. She would prepare a three course meal like it was
nothing, create a menu plan for their week and sometimes even cater
for small parties. Not only was she good at it but she also enjoyed
it which was why she’d decided to go to cooking school after
Jen left the apartment and got in her car, she remembered how her Mom
had reminded her about calling at least once a week so she checked
for her phone in her bag. She placed the call but had to leave a
voicemail message as it went unanswered on two attempts. Then she
called her sister, Melanie.
why are you crying,” she said as soon as she noticed the sobs.
don’t know what to do sis,” Melanie said. “Gareth wants us to
get back together.”
What does that matter? I thought you were with Chris.”
am,” Melanie said. “But it’s so hard. I have so much history
with Gareth but on the other hand, I don’t want to jeopardise what
I have with Chris. Why is my life like this. Why can’t things just
be straight forward for once in my life”
see,” Jen said. She rolled her eyes thinking about how spoilt her
sister could be sometimes. OK, it was understandable what she was
saying but did she realize some people didn’t even have a
boyfriend, talkless of two people wanting to be with them. “Have
you spoken to Mom about this?”
what’s the point. I know what she’s going to say.”
look just relax. Everything will be fine. Let me call you back
tonight, I’m about to start driving.”
was slightly heavy, with cars heading downtown, buses doing their
last trips. The bus system at Elmtown was efficient and well run but
usually closed after seven pm, which was sufficient for a small
university town its size. Restaurants were crowded with love birds
waiting for tables and stores were rushing with customers hurrying to
buy that special gift for their special someone. Just when Jen had
decided to have a good time and not worry about being single, all
she saw were more reminders of how much she was missing out. Great.
She shook herself and forced herself to snap out of her of it
already,” she said to herself out loud as she turned near Paula’s
checked out of her pity party and pulled herself together, glanced at
herself through the rearview mirror and said “Stop behaving like a
baby, Valentine’s Day is just another day.” Whether she had a boy
to spend it with or not was irrelevant. She was a smart, driven girl
with a bright future ahead of her. She had tackled a lot in her life
and she did it all while being single and that was something to be
proud about. Why would she need anyone now to validate her?
was only months away and she would be entering a whole new world with
her career. College would be behind her, she would make more friends,
meet more interesting people, including mature guys that were ready
to settle down and none of these things she worried about now would
even matter. What was Valentine’s Day in the grand scheme of
the blink of her turn signal, she made a left into the liquor store
parking lot. She normally went to other stores, but this one was
usually not overcrowded with people and she hated to fight the lines
with tons of other customers. Plus today she just wanted to get in
and out and be on her way to a glass of wine.
liquor store was not very big and it was easy to find the wine
section. Jen was not a wine connoisseur and didn’t know the
difference between chardonnay and merlot. White, rose, red? She had
no idea which one to choose. Kim was the one who usually chose the
wine so Jen was lost. Maybe she would just pick the prettiest bottle
or the wine with the least calories? She was out of her element. She
thought about calling Kim but decided against it, she would try this
one time.The bright pink heart shaped sign above the wine caught her
ONE GET ONE HALF OFF
at least she would get a deal. She figured it was the least Cupid
could give her since he hadn’t given her anything else this
A man’s voice said from beside her.
turned quickly and saw an old classmate of hers from her second year
of college. His name slipped her mind, but his face was all too
Ben, from Chemistry. We were lab partners for a semester.” He
smiled revealing his deep dimples. “Do you remember me?”
was dressed casual but he looked anything but simple. His face was
charming, complementing his toned body, it was obvious he worked out.
She caught a wisp of his scent. Whether it was his cologne or
aftershave, she couldn’t tell but one thing was sure, she felt like
remember you Ben. You did all the work while I messed around and
talked.” She said moving closer to him. He didn’t attempt to hug
her so she stayed put.
laughed and said “Yeah didn't look like you liked science much.”
Their time together had been short. They were lab partners for that
semester and she saw him every week in class but they had never spent
any time with each other outside of class and after that semester
ended, never saw him again.
used to love to come to chemistry class just so I could sit next to
you.” Ben told her. “You were the only thing that made that class
thank goodness you did because I would have never passed that class
without you,” Jen thanked him. “Those labs were so hard but you
got us through them. What happened to you? I expected to see you in
Chemistry Two but you never showed up. You know I could have used
your help in that lab.”
smiled at him. He had really been a good help to her that semester
and she remembered regretting not being able to thank him after the
class ended. They probably would have been good friends but she
didn't have the chance to get to know him.
that semester I switched colleges,” he told her. “And sadly I
never got to see you again.”
would have liked to see me again?
quiet moment passed where the two looked at each other as though they
were realizing something for the first time.
know I always hoped to run into you somewhere in town but it just
never happened,” he said then shook his head like he was thinking
of their past time spent together in class.
She said blushing a little with surprise and gladness. “I don’t
go out much. My classes are pretty demanding and I work part-time at
the hospital. It just seems like I never get a chance to go
I just figured you were busy or something,” he said. “Or your
boyfriend was keeping you indoors to protect his treasure? I wouldn't
blame him anyway.” His eyes looked deep into hers waiting for a
response. She remembered something she’d read recently about the
‘length of a man’s gaze’. How it can tell how a man really felt
She shook her head and laughed a little. “No boyfriend for me. I am
very single,” she said then cleared her throat before saying, “I
mean...I am single.”
You are single? I figured a beautiful girl like you must have guys
lining up at the front door to take her out.” His brown hair was
perfect for his tanned skin and Jen couldn’t help notice how good
looking he was. Why hadn’t she noticed back in lab when he was
mixing solutions and helping her solve the periodic table?
am in a liquor store alone, on Valentine’s Day,” she told him.
“Not one guy waiting in a line at my door back home. In fact, I
have never had a date on Valentine’s day.”
is because you intimidate men with your good looks and intelligence,”
he said. “They think you are above their standards and they don’t
take a risk and try to talk to you.”
is not true,” she said laughing as her cheeks grew pink. “That is
so not true.”
that’s why I never tried before. You’re a gorgeous girl Jen. You
have a way about you that says that you deserve the best and I was
always afraid that I was not deserving of you. ”
looked at Ben for a long moment. He was tall and handsome with a
boyish charm and daring smile. The blue shirt he was wearing
complemented his ocean colored eyes. His athletic built body looked
strong and tempting. She couldn’t believe that he would think that
she was above his standards. The quiet moment grew too long so Jen
changed the subject. ‘The Length of a man’s gaze’
you know anything about wine? I have no idea what to buy.” She
asked as she focused on
glass bottles in front of her instead of his enchanting eyes (‘The
Length of a man’s gaze’). “They all taste the same to me.”
am more of a beer guy, so I can’t really say,” he said as his big
hand reached for a bottle. “Is it just for you?”
friend Kim and I are spending tonight together for Valentine’s
Day,” she explained. “Well she is my roommate so we spend every
day together but we are both alone today and have been for every
single Valentine’s Day during college. We decided to have a great
dinner and some wine together. She is back at our apartment making
dinner and I am here picking out the wine.”
can’t believe a pretty girl like you doesn’t have a date.” Ben
sat the bottle he was looking at back down on the rack and looked at
her. “I had the biggest crush on you sophomore year.”
never acted like it. You barely even looked at me during lab.” She
remembered how focused he would be on their work.
I said, I was intimidated by you,” he said. “You were so
beautiful and I was afraid that you would just reject me and turn me
would have never turned you down.” Jen confessed, her heart now
racing.. “I just never knew that you were interested in me.”
great. I guess I blew my chances,” he said then winked as Jen felt
her skin flush with heat. He was so cute and she wished she would
have known how he felt back then. Everything
happens when they do for a reason Jen.
She remembered her mother’s words.
what are you doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day tonight?” She
pointed to his case of beer and bag of potato chips. “Besides
spending it with your frat brothers.”
He laughed. “I am not in a frat. But just like you I am planning on
drinking and eating my sorrows away.”
familiar,” she smiled.
but at least you get to share your booze and food with your friend.
All of my friends are out buying roses and cute teddy bears. They are
all taking their girlfriends out. One of them is even proposing
tonight.” Ben threw his hands up helplessly in the air. “So I
plan on watching some reruns of Seinfeld while drinking a few beers.”
know the feeling. Other than Kim, all of our friends are going on a
huge double date to dinner and bowling. We are the outsiders. They
didn’t even bother asking us because they are used to us not having
dates. Sometimes I think I will never spend Valentine’s with a guy,
conversation got interrupted by a hand in hand couple that was
shopping for a bottle of wine also. The man was kissing her neck as
she looked over the wines and the woman was giggling like his lips
tickled her skin. It was yet another reminder, sent from Cupid
himself, to flaunt the Valentine’s Day curse.
is a great bottle if you two are looking for a nice glass to
complement your date,” the woman said to Ben and Jen. Elmtown folks
were like that, always giving advice, helping with directions, asking
if you were alright even if they didn’t know you. They were called
The City of the Good Neighbours for a reason.
The man added. “It will definitely help lighten the mood.” He
raised his eyebrows playfully.
no, we aren’t-” ben started but was cut off by Jen when she
stepped in front of him to speak.
aren’t fans of red wine. We are more of a white wine couple. Thanks
anyway.” She grabbed two bottles and turned to Ben. “Let’s go,
dinner should be done soon.”
they had walked far enough away from the couple Ben stopped Jen.
am confused.” He said.
I would not have turned you down back in sophomore year. You are nice
and cute and
good to be alone on Valentine’s Day. Come back to my apartment and
have dinner with Kim and me.”
love that.” His face lit up and his dimples sunk in with his large
Jen was happy too. She desperately needed the company of a man and
Ben was cute, nice, and interested in her. She couldn’t wait to
spend the evening with him.
you sure that your friend Kim won’t mind?” he asked. “I know
that you two planned an evening with each other because neither of
you had dates for Valentine’s Day. I hope she doesn’t get upset
or feel left out.”
isn’t the jealous type. She will be fine with it.” Jen was
hoping. “Besides, we have wine. She will just be happy to have an
extra person to toast with.”
Sounds good. I can’t think of a prettier date for Valentine’s
Day,” Ben said as he grabbed a bundle of roses by the counter. “And
what kind of date would I be if I did not bring flowers.”
with gentleman qualities, Jen knew this was going to be a good night.
They paid for their items and headed to their cars. Jen told Ben to
follow her back to her apartment. The ride back to the apartment was
different for her. She felt desired and wanted. Ben had always
thought that she was pretty and too good for him. It was kind of
strange to know now, years after she had met him. If she had known
that back when they were sharing lecture notes and lab results, she
could have been dating him by now. She may have even spent the past
Valentine’s Days with him, but of course that would mean that Kim
would have been alone on those days without her, and that was not
something she liked to think about. Everything
happens when they do for a reason.
suddenly hit her that Kim might not be so happy about seeing Jen
bring Ben in through the door. What if she got mad? She may get
upset. Jen and Kim had made plans for the night. She had cooked a
meal and probably set the table for two. It would be horrible if Jen
walked into the apartment and ruined Kim’s night by bringing a
date. What was she thinking? Her attraction to ben had gotten the
better of her.
sign to her apartment building was up ahead and as she turned in she
kept wondering what would happen when she entered her place. Parking
her car, she checked herself in the mirror and got out to meet Ben.
let me get your bags.” He took her bagged bottle of wine in one
hand and scooped her arm under his other. “I can’t wait to
celebrate Valentine’s Day with someone so beautiful and smart.”
was glad that the sun was going down and the sky was no longer bright
so that Ben could not see her reddened cheeks. His flattery was nice
but she was not used to the attention and compliments from a guy. It
felt amazing but she still got flushed with a touch of embarrassment
when she heard him call her beautiful.
this one is mine.” They stopped in front of Jen and Kim’s
reached for the doorknob and silently hoped that her friend would not
be too offended that she brought home a guy. Twisting the doorknob,
Jen pushed the door open and stepped slowly inside.
she saw was not what she expected.
on the couch was Kim with an unfamiliar guy. They were locking lips,
kissing passionately and holding each other tight. At the sound of
the door slamming behind Jen and Ben, Kim and her kissing partner
quickly parted lips and turned to Jen. Kim was just as surprised as
Jen when she saw Ben. The two best friends looked into each other’s
eyes and smiled. They knew Cupid had smiled on them.
Message From The Author
Thanks for reading
Last Valentine’s day, the
second book in my Elmtown
It is the first of many short stories I will be publishing this year
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Again thank you
Last Valentine’s Day
© April 2017 Joy Galloway
book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and
incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual
events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
scanning, uploading and electronic sharing of this book without the
permission of the author is unlawful and will be treated as theft of
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Author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org