Valentine's Day. It's full of flowers and chocolate and wine and maybe, if you're lucky, lingerie, body paints and a whole lot of getting busy. But this is not the case for everyone. In light of the sometimes sucky reality of being single on Valentine's Day, two lovely bloggers shared some of Hayden's not-so-warm-and-fuzzy thoughts and poems about Valentine's Day.
Now anyone who knows the way I write, understands that I have a difficult time keeping things concise, so while I was writing these fun little outtakes, I got carried away. As usual. As a result, I had quite an extensive piece written before I pared it down into something reasonable.
To experience Hayden's poetic genius, visit SUBClub Books
For the full experience of Hayden's Valentine's Day disdain, please read the Hayden Stryker Outtake so graciously posted by Bookish Temptations before reading the continuation below:
By four in the afternoon I was hopped up on sugar from all the treats Lisa forced on me. And by forced, I meant she put one of those little heart shaped candy dishes at my station and refilled it every time she passed by. Resisting those stupid gummie hearts was impossible because they were sitting right beside me. Thankfully, I had a short break before my appointment this afternoon. It was enough time to add a shot of caffeine to my system and offset the come down from the sugar rush.
I took a coffee order and headed across the street to my Aunt Cassie’s antiques shop, Serendipity. Two store fronts to the left was a florist. It was a revolving door today, with just as many people leaving as entering at any given moment. Nothing said romance more than a frazzled suit buying last minute flowers for his girlfriend/wife/woman-on-the-side. The bell above the door jingled as I entered Serendipity.
Cassie was half-hidden behind a massive vase of flowers poised on the counter. Nate must have stopped by. For a second I felt bad, like maybe I should have done something nice for her. It was too late now, though. Cassie looked up from the battered book in her hands and smiled. It was the same one she read every year at this time. It had been my mother’s favorite.
“Hayden. I’m glad you stopped by. How are you today?”
“It’s been busy in the shop.” I avoided giving a truthful answer and leaned across the counter to kiss her cheek. I plucked a red carnation from the vase, hidden among some of the more exotic blooms, and twirled it between my fingers.
“Eleanor loved those,” she said wistfully.
“Yeah. Carnations were mom’s favorite.” I slipped the flower between a few pink roses. “Nate send you these?”
“He had them delivered first thing this morning.”
“You two got plans tonight?” I asked, changing the subject.
“He made me breakfast in bed and he’s taking me out for dinner tonight.” Her cheeks flushed. I didn’t want details on the breakfast in bed part. “Are you doing anything special?”
I snorted. “If you call putting hearts on boobs special, then I’m doing special all day.”
She covered her smile with her hand. “You’re booked solid?”
“It’s mostly walk-ins.”
“Oh? I’m closing early. Nate’s coming to get me around five. I was thinking about stopping by Chapel Hill before we go for dinner, if you have time. . .”
“I have a client soon, but thanks for the offer.”
Cassie’s smile fell a little.
She asked me to go every year. My answer never changed, I hadn’t been to Chapel Hill in years. If I went, it would be on my own, with no witnesses.
“If you finish early—”
“It'll be a few hours, maybe another time.” I adjusted the vase just so I wouldn’t have to meet her disappointed gaze. “Enjoy your date with Nate. I gotta grab coffees and head back.”
“Okay. Maybe when the weather's nicer?"
“Sure thing.” I continued through the store to the adjoining café, the smell of fresh cupcakes not nearly as alluring as usual, thanks to all the crap I’d consumed over the course of the day.
I ordered coffees and returned just in time for my client’s arrival. By the time I finished it was close to six. Chris was cashing out his most recent walk-in and Jamie, Lisa's boyfriend and my business partner, was helping Lisa into her coat. Her poppy red hair was pulled into a ponytail. It matched her red dress with the tiny white hearts dotting the fabric.
“Don’t stay too late.” She called over her shoulder as Jamie ushered her out of the shop.
On days like today, I was perfectly happy not to deal with all the crap that came with relationships. Besides going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day was a waste. Restaurants were over-crowded, the menu was fixed and they jacked up the price. Or so I'd heard.
After they left I went to the private room to set up for my first session tomorrow morning. Chris poked his head in a few minutes later. “I’m out, H.”
I stopped sorting ink and raised an eyebrow. “You got a date?”
He grinned. “Not exactly.”
“What does that mean?”
“I got an invite me to a party.”
“When was the last time you saw her?” He'd had a thing with her a while back. I’d been under the impression that was done, but maybe not.
Chris shrugged. “I don’t know. A few months? You wanna come along?”
“Nah, man. I’ll just finish up here and then call it a night.”
“You sure? I can blow her off if you want to hit the club instead. Either way, I’m guaranteed a hook up tonight.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I’m good. Have fun.” I turned back to the drawer of ink.
There was a long pause before he finally said, “All right. Hit me if you change your mind.”
The door chimed a few seconds later.
Clubs were the worst place to be on Valentine’s Day. Combine alcohol with desperation and the result was a nightmare of epic proportions. Romanticized expectation applied to hook ups, as if Cupid would string up his bow and make people fall magically in love just because they’d gotten their fuck on. Over the years I’d learned not to partake in the gratuitous opportunities for casual sex on this particular night of the year.
Once Chris left, I got to work putting away all the decorations Lisa had put up. When I was done and there was nothing left to do, I locked up. My condo was almost directly above Inked Armor, so I was home before seven, which meant I had a long night of nothing to look forward to.
I milled around the kitchen for a while, fixated on Cassie’s invitation to go with her to Chapel Hill. If I wasn’t such a pussy, I would have taken her up on the offer. It wasn't too late to go on my own, though. Before I could give myself time to reconsider, I grabbed the keys to my car, nabbed my wallet and headed for the underground parking garage.
I hit the florist across the street on the way. There wasn’t much selection left, but then, I wasn’t looking for roses. I picked a bouquet of carnations and gave the tired looking girl behind the register a twenty as a tip.
Even though I hadn’t been out to Chapel Hill in several years, I still knew the route by heart. I parked beneath one of the dim lights and crunched across the snow. Cassie had been here already. There were two sets of tracks in the snow; one belonged to her and the other to Nate. Unlike me, he would never let her go alone. A bouquet lay across the top of the headstone, all carnations. I put my own, less impressive one against the base and shoved my hands in my pockets, absorbing the eerie quiet.
Growing up, we’d never celebrated Valentine’s Day because it was my mom’s birthday. Even though my dad had been gone a lot on business, he never missed her birthday. He always made sure it wasn’t overshadowed by the commercialized, Cupid inspired love-fest. Sure he bought her flowers, but that was the only tribute to the artificial holiday she got. Everything else on that day was totally about her.
As I stood there in the bitter cold of the dark February night, staring at my mother's headstone, I wondered if this day would ever be more than a painful memory of someone I’d never get back.
Be sure to check out more of the Valentine's Day posts over at Bookish Temptations and SUBClub Books
Stay tuned for more from me later this week. I'll have something to share on Friday!