A/N: This started as a journal entry to vent after a terrible Valentine's Day, but then it turned into this, so the majority is based on a true story. Maybe some fellow cynics can relate.
"Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting for him to profess his undying love for me?"
Taking a glance at my best friend, Lyndsey, as we walked down our high school's crowded hallway on godforsaken Valentine's Day, I rolled my eyes. "Are you kidding me? You've only told me you wanted him every single day since we were freshmen."
"My point exactly!" Lyndsey cried, clearly not sensing my frustration with her. "Four years, Caitlyn! It's been four years!"
I smirked. "I suppose if I point out that it's only been three and a half…you'll say that's just a technicality?"
I shook my head sadly while attempting to shove my way to my locker. It was sort of funny how every time I was running late, a larger amount of people would get in my way. Funny in a sadistic way that really pissed me off, of course.
"It's so unfair," Lyndsey went on, twirling the end of her blonde ponytail. Somehow, no matter how much I was rushing, she always seemed to be carefree, like she had all the time in the world to fight crowds, despite the fact that her locker was on the opposite side of the school, and she instead chose to accompany me to mine when we had only a few minutes until the final bell rang before first period.
"Isn't there some cliché saying about wishing for things you can't have?" I murmured, finally reaching my locker and putting in my combination. "Don't…I don't know…wish for…something?"
Lyndsey didn't answer, and when I looked over at her, she appeared quite disinterested. Actually, she was eying one of our classmates, who had just received a dozen red roses from her boyfriend, the 'coveted' Valentine's Day present. "What? Oh. I don't know, who cares? I just know that I want Daniel Marshall to ask me to prom! And to marry him, whichever comes first. I'm not picky."
"Because beggars can't be choosers," I quipped playfully.
After I'd retrieved the books I wanted from my locker, I shut the navy metal door, took a deep breath, and prepared myself for shoving people around again. That was a perk of being a senior; I could shove as much as I wanted to shove.
"I can't believe you told Matt that you wouldn't go to prom with him," Lyndsey frowned, following me with empty arms. "I mean, you guys are good friends. Why shouldn't he take you?"
"Because prom is a useless night of useless drama with useless people that I don't like and don't want to spend another useless night with? And we're not good friends; I can barely stand him." I wrinkled my nose and maneuvered into a less crowded hallway. "Besides, the whole dressing up thing? Not my style."
"And you're holding out for Zach to ask you, right?"
Scowling, I shot Lyndsey a displeased glance. "No, I am not. I'm not going to prom, no matter who asks me, and that's that." I knew that wasn't true, because I probably would have gone if Zach had asked me, since I'd had an on-again-off-again crush on him for years, but…that didn't matter. He didn't ask me, and that's what mattered.
Lyndsey shrugged. "I still don't see why you had to tell Matt that you'd rather stab rusty nails into your eyes than go to prom. I mean, I know you don't like him and all, but—"
"No buts." I stopped in front of my first period classroom and looked at my watch pointedly. Lyndsey now had about ninety seconds to go to her locker across the school and return to a class two doors down from mine. It was a trip that would take an average person three minutes, but with Lyndsey's slowness, it would take closer to five. She didn't stand a chance at being on time. Prophesizing detention for her tardiness, I offered Lyndsey a smile. "Try not to be disappointed about Daniel. You know he only dates sluts, so it's really a compliment that he's not interested in you."
Lyndsey blinked at me. "I could be a slut for him."
"You've kissed two guys in your entire life, and one of them was on accident," I reminded her, fake gently. "Get to class."
Although she murmured something about me being pessimistic, Lyndsey took off down the hall, and I entered my classroom. By the time I'd taken my seat in the middle of the room, in the front seat, the bell had rung, and I almost laughed at my mental image of Lyndsey not caring at all. Robotically, I placed a mechanical pencil, a blue ink pen, and a slim stack of blank notebook paper on my desktop; as always, I was ready, even before my teacher took attendance.
"Good morning." I looked over and saw Matt smiling at me. I tried to return his smile, but ever since that whole rusty-nails-in-my-eyes comment, things had been awkward for me, though I still blamed the awkwardness on him because he'd asked me to prom. "How's it going?"
"Okay," I replied, turning my head the opposite way to talk to some of my other friends. They'd been well versed on talking to me nonstop in first period, when my teacher wasn't lecturing, so that I could avoid Matt. Chattering about boyfriends' presents and showing off cute little gifts ensued for a good ten minutes, during which I was bored to tears. Finally, my teacher entered the room and saved me from my hell. At last, there were no more giggles about where the girls' dates were going to be later.
Fortunately for my dwindling sanity, my first class was over pretty quickly, and my next classes went smoothly. I had to force a few smiles at all the Valentine's Day garbage, but I was used to faking niceness to people that I didn't like, so faking niceness about things I didn't like was fairly easy and almost painless. Before I knew it, it was lunchtime, and the one perk to Valentine's Day was looking me right in the eyes.
White chocolate-covered strawberries. Yum.
"Remember the cool little parties we'd have in elementary school?" my friend John asked at the lunch table that he, Lyndsey, and I sat at, as our other closest friends had another lunch period. "We'd eat candy and pizza until someone puked. Good times, good times."
I held one of my seven remaining strawberries up at him in a salute. "Back before everyone cared about boyfriends and love," I agreed. "When all we had to worry about was giving a cheesy valentine to everyone in the class and eating more Warheads than everyone else."
"Mmhmm, it was much better back then," John nodded, chewing a bite of his pizza. "I had to fork over eighty bucks for the teddy bear and candy I bought Tori. Un-freaking-believable."
"It was bigger than she is," I scoffed. "You didn't go overboard at all."
"I think it's adorable," Lyndsey declared, smiling so dreamily that I wanted to gag. "I wish somebody—and we all know who I wish my somebody was—would do something that cute for me."
Raising my eyebrows dubiously, I looked between John and Lyndsey, thinking that both of them were romantic saps. "You guys don't think that a teddy bear that is five feet tall is even slightly impractical? Where in the world would you put something like that? And, for the love of God, why would you want to?"
Lyndsey shrugged. "It's nice—and romantic."
Cocking his head to the side, John studied me. "Isn't there anything a guy could do to impress you, Caitlyn?"
I pretended to think about it. "No, not really," I answered brightly. Both of my friends groaned, but I shrugged it off easily. "You know, I just don't see what the big deal about Valentine's Day is. Seriously, what's so special about one day? Why this day? If you're going to be nice to your significant other, be nice every day, not just this one day."
"Ah, I understand your philosophy now," John began, clearly sarcastic. "And if you're going to be a bitch every day, why stop for one?"
"Exactly!" I cried, just as sarcastic. Then I sobered and went on, "It's just stupid to make a big deal out of one day. It's a Hallmark gimmick."
"It's sweet," Lyndsey insisted stubbornly, her blue eyes glowing. "It's a special time to show someone you care! Be nice to your lover every day, sure, but be extra nice for one day."
Much to the displeasure of my friends, I answered dryly with, "Yeah, I would just call that Christmas. Or a birthday."
I tried to reconsider by thinking of Zach. If Zach brought me candy and a teddy bear for Valentine's Day… It might be sort of sweet, as long as it was a little teddy bear and not something that would clutter up my room. And, of course, the candy would have to be something really commercial, not that boxed Russell Stover crap. Give me a pack of Snickers instead please. Oh, and I wouldn't want a mushy card either. No card at all, actually. Then it might be okay.
Oblivious to my thoughts, John sighed in exasperation. "You're hopeless, Caitlyn. Someday, you're going to fall in love, and I'm going to be there to crack up in your face when you start making goo-goo eyes at—"
I cracked up in his face at that moment. "Goo-goo eyes? What the heck is that?" I demanded, containing my laughter quickly. "If I ever fall in love, John, and someday I just might, I won't act like some crazy fool. No, and if this ever happens, I won't celebrate my love on Valentine's Day. Uh-uh. I'll celebrate on, like, Halloween, or June the sixth at six o'clock." Pausing, I had a sardonic moment of brilliance and added, "Why, I might even celebrate it on my anniversary!"
It was Lyndsey's time to moan and groan then. "You are hopeless, Caitlyn!" She sighed deeply and picked at her remaining chicken sandwich. "I'd give anything for anybody to give me something today. It'd be so precious!" She then gave me a dirty look. "And you won't even accept a prom invitation! You're so not normal."
"I've got something that I can give you today." Unable to resist, I smirked and held up my left hand. "I have five fingers, and there's one I'd like to give you. Can you guess which one it is?"
John snickered and rolled his eyes. "Lovely, Caitlyn."
"Oh, I thought so too," I said agreeably, polishing off my last strawberry. "You know what else would be lovely?" I waited until John raised his eyebrows at me. "It'd be lovely if Tori broke up with you next week after you spent all that money on her present. I'd never be able to stop laughing."
He scowled at me, and it made me want to laugh harder. People got so uptight when it came to love—or so-called love. And I was convinced that more cases were ones of the latter instead of the former, which probably makes me more of a romantic than anyone else because I have such high standards of love. But try telling everyone else that.
- - - - -
"Oh my God, it's so pretty!"
"Awww, baby, thank you!"
"I love you too!"
"Pick me up at 6:30, okay?"
"Look at the itty-bitty, snuggly monkey with his pretty pillowy heart! How sweet!"
All of the gush and mush in the hallways after school was enough to make me cringe. I wished everyone could hear themselves, particularly the group of freshmen girls I passed who gushed in particularly high-pitched voices. I started to stop and tell them to audition for choir next year, since most of the highest sopranos were graduating and our choir director would need replacements. Something kept me from doing so, however, and I'm convinced it was Cupid.
Okay, not really, but something held me back.
And it was probably John, who was attached to my side, frowning. It was customary for us to walk home together, even in the cold February temperatures, since we lived two blocks from the school, but it was pretty rare for him to be brooding so quietly. My inner cynic—no, who am I kidding? My inner and outer cynical sides were dying to ask him what was wrong, but I decided to let his thoughts fester and then eventually pop. It tended to be more amusing that way, at least for me.
Outside, in the wind, John began to mutter, a sign that he was about to explode. I bit the inside of my cheek, hardly able to contain my anticipation. When profanities began to leak into his mutterings, I probed, "What's the matter, John?"
A furious stare met my eyes, and I smiled politely back at him. "Some idiot gave Tori a chocolate heart," he snapped. "She tried to hide it from me, but I saw it, Caitlyn, and I'm pissed!"
His stare's fury grew more intense at my innocent question. "Yes!" he practically barked. "Who goes around giving another guy's girlfriend chocolate? There's bound to be a rule written about that somewhere!"
"Aww, maybe today was just a special day for him to show that he cared," I said in a soothing tone. John did not appear consoled. My smile widened. "Don't take it out on me, buddy. I think this special day sucks hardcore."
John sighed deeply and shook his head. "I'll just have to ask her about it." I recognized his tone; he was trying to calm himself and not overreact. I found it hilarious, but I resisted the urge to laugh at him, because I'm a nice girl. "Maybe it was nothing."
"Of course," I patronized. "Maybe another girl gave it to him, and he was allergic, so he gave it to Tori." John only stared at me like I was crazy, so I shrugged and nodded eagerly. "Hey, it could happen."
"If she breaks up with me for him…" John's voice trailed in a cloud of paranoia that made me snort, but I disguised it with a cough. I'm sure it was very convincing, but hey, what could I say? He'd just given me proof that his case of 'love' was more in the category of 'so-called love,' as it was obviously so fickle. "I'll rip his lungs out through his throat."
Approvingly, I raised my eyebrows. "That's clever, and it won't be messy at all. I'm sure there won't even be any DNA stains on your clothing to be used as evidence in court."
John cast an annoyed glance my way, but I reveled in it. If Valentine's Day was the general public's special day for affection, it could be my special day for aggravation. Being different was, after all, my claim to fame. Exhaling and inhaling deeply, John changed the subject, saying, "I saw Lyndsey before last period. She was trying to steal Daniel's girlfriend's roses as discreetly as possible." He smiled then, and he looked just a little bit mischievous, which was a hugely welcome change. "I noticed from across the gym."
I laughed almost merrily at that. "Huh. I'm guessing she hates today too by now."
"Mm. Probably." John stopped when we reached his house and faced me. His frown had mostly disappeared, but I could tell he was still worried. "Take care of yourself, Caitlyn. Don't get too bored tonight when the rest of the world is out having sex. You know, like people do on this joyous day."
Smiling, I chirped, "Oh, I'll console myself with the fact that you'll all wake up with STDs in the morning." As I walked onward, I waved over at my shoulder at John, hoping that he didn't do too much with Tori later, since she seemed like a genuine skank to me. I made a mental note to have some samples of genital herpes treatments mailed to him.
My cell phone vibrated from inside my jacket pocket, where I kept it when outside in case some random mugger appeared to mug or even rape me. It could happen, and I'd be as prepared as possible if it ever did. When I took my phone out, I saw that I'd received a new text message from Lyndsey.
Wanna have girls night 2nite? No bf for me…, it said.
It made me smile, actually, just because that was typical of Lyndsey. While some of our friends would sit at home sulking because they had nothing to do on Valentine's Day, Lyndsey would look to have some fun. I knew her philosophy on life—life's too short to take anything for granted, which was why she never cared if she was late as long as she was spending time with someone she cared about. I'd find that sweet if it wasn't so ridiculous to be late for everything.
I typed a quick reply to her, saying that I'd be honored to spend such a special day with her. By the time I looked up from my phone, I was at my driveway, and I was glad that I had my phone in my hand because some random mugger was standing on my front porch.
Okay, so actually, it was Matt, but calling the cops on him wasn't something I'd shy away from doing. Though, I regretfully must admit, I didn't do it. I simply approached my porch like some boring normal person.
"Hey," he greeted me, and it was then that I noticed a bouquet of red roses in his hand, as well as a package of Godiva chocolates with a balloon tied around it. The words on the balloon—'Be My Valentine'—were enough to make me gag. No, to be honest, the sight of Matt had been enough to do that, and the balloon had me nearly dry-heaving.
Matt smiled and moved toward me, holding out the roses to me. I had no choice but to take them from him, and it took all I had in me to keep from hitting him over the head with them. "Happy Valentine's Day."
His voice was bright and cheerful, not sarcastic like my thoughts were. My throat went dry, which was probably good because no good words came to my mind. I watched as Matt picked up the balloon and chocolates and settled them in my other hand. The way his hand brushed mine made me pull back in revulsion. What the heck was he doing?!
"I-I've, um…" Matt stopped short, and his smile turned shy. "I've been crazy about you, Caitlyn…for a long time. I just haven't known how to tell you."
Hmmm, well, buddy, something tells me that this wasn't the best way to do it. Those were the words I wanted to tell him, but Cupid—that stupid jerk—must have cupped an invisible hand over my mouth; I couldn't make myself say anything. I couldn't even point out that if he thought I'd react warmly to Godiva chocolate and mush instead of M&M's and comedy, he was clearly crazy about the wrong image of me.
Matt took a step toward me; my knees were locked, disabling me from moving away. "I know it's short notice, but I was wondering if you'd go out with me tonight. I want to spend more time with you, Caitlyn."
And I just want to spend time beating you with your own balloon. I cleared my throat and started to ask him what he'd been smoking, but the words that flew out of my mouth instead were, "I'm sorry, Matt, but…I don't feel the same way."
Sadness appeared in his eyes, but, though it did waiver briefly, the smile remained on his face. "Oh." The brightness left his tone, leaving him sounding downright lame, and I'm not being biased here. "Um, have a good day then, Caitlyn."
Feeling almost sorry for him, I swallowed and nodded back at him, trying to think of a way to thank him for the thought without betraying my true feelings for all the mushy garbage. I came up with nothing. "You too."
He moved around me and left my porch. My knees were no longer paralyzed, so I let myself into my house, thankful to be away from Matt. I honestly tried to feel sorry for him while I placed the roses into a vase, but it was difficult to gather the pity when I'd never given him a reason to think that I'd be thrilled to have roses and candy on Valentine's Day. Or any other day. I'd never given him a reason to think that I liked him. In fact, I'd declined his invitation to prom, which should have been his first hint, right?
The roses, I guess, were sort of pretty. I studied them for awhile and then took a sniff of them. Ugh. The scent reminded me of my grandfather's funeral—of any funeral that I'd ever been to. Somehow, I'm fairly convinced that romance should not be confused with funerals, so I fail to understand why roses are supposedly so freaking romantic.
Maybe I would have felt differently if Zach had been the one to give them to me. Then again…maybe I'm just heartless.
I set the roses on the kitchen table and gave them a long, hard look. "Dang…" I murmured to myself. "Valentine's Day blows big chunks."