"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


My Funny Valentine

David turned his key in the front door, opened it, and quietly made his way into the dark hallway.  A solitary light came from deep inside the house. He dropped his briefcase and overcoat in the hall closet, loosened his tie, and started toward the gleam.  As he was passing through the living room, the table in the shadows of the dining room caught his eye.


Two places had been set with their good china, cloth napkins, and sparkling crystal goblets.  Jenny had never done more than get him a card before, and after three months of her withholding sex, he really hadn't expected this.

He heard a shuffle and turned.  Jenny stood in the doorway of the room, wearing her terry cloth robe and fuzzy pink slippers.  Even with the light behind her, he could see that her eyes were red-rimmed and swollen.  He shrugged helplessly.

"I'm so sorry.  I had no idea.  Work has been so busy, and I stayed late to try to get caught up.  I completely forgot it was Valentine's Day."

That was a lie.  He hadn't forgotten at all.  He'd simply chosen to spend the evening banging Phoebe, his secretary, on the suede couch in his office than enduring the cold silence of the woman he'd married.

"I know how busy you've been.  It's OK," Jenny said without looking at him.

That, too, was a lie.  It was not OK.  He could almost see her mentally taking out a three by five card and writing "2-14-2011: Missed Valentine's Day dinner" in bright red ink.  It would be filed away in that endless card catalog of hurts and mistakes that she had kept over the last 12 years.

She moved toward the table and picked up a covered platter.

"I could heat it up for you," she said as she walked into the adjoining kitchen.

"No, no, that's OK.  I had take-out at the office."

Now that was true.  He had ordered a three-course meal from Avanti Ristorante delivered to his office, complete with antipasto, crab-stuffed chicken over angel hair pasta, crusty bread and olive oil, and tiramisu for dessert, all served with the house champagne.  Phoebe had gotten tipsy, and then a little bit whiny.

"When are you going to leave your wife?" she'd asked him as he walked her to her car.

"Soon," he'd promised, then kissed her good-bye and watched her drive away.

Jenny came back into the dining room and began clearing the table.

"I can help with dishes," he offered.

She waved him away with a tired smile.  She was in full-martyr mode now.

"I'll just set them in the sink and do them tomorrow.  They didn't really get dirty."

He picked up the goblets and followed her, added them to the rest of the untouched dishes, and turned to leave. 

She reached out and caught his arm.  It was the first time they had touched, that they had been close enough to touch, in months.  Her hand trembled with uncertainty.

"Happy Valentine's Day," she said and finally looked up at him.

He held her eye, fell into those bottomless ebony pools and saw the jagged cuts and tears that he had caused.  Another lie.  He'd never leave her.  He'd always stay.  It was his penance.

"Happy Valentine's Day."


K, this wasn't my favorite.  I guess I'm not a comfortable cynic! 

Today's prompt:

Its late on Feb 14th. Your character has just realised that they have forgotten Valentines Day and the affiliated expectations surrounding it. What excuse or reason are they going to give to their partner?

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


Laura Rachel Fox said...

A sad story this week. His guilt came across well. The sadness of it permeates the entire piece.

I was a little unclear at the end as to the "jagged cuts and tears." Are these physical or emotional? Either way works with the story, but not knowing leaves me feeling that there may be something more to the story; something that I should know but isn't quite coming across. Does that make sense? Feel free to ask me for clarification. I've always viewed Fiction Friday as a way to get real feedback on my writing and like to help the other participants get that as well.

Laura Rachel Fox said...

I've been MIA for a bit, but it's good to be back even if I'm just reading this week.

Eric J. Krause said...

Good story. Seemed very real. I hope something clicks in them and they can find love for each other again. Or at least realize it's time to move on so they can be happy again.

Shelli said...

Laura -- Thanks! The jagged cuts and tears were emotional, but I can see how it might be confusing. I don't think this was my sharpest piece. That's what you get when no editing allowed, right? And glad to have you back! I hope you'll be back to writing, as well. :)

Eric, thanks for dropping by! Yeah, I think they're just one of those couples who stay together and torture each other forever. I know people do that.

Laura Rachel Fox said...

I still like the relationship dynamics your have going on here. Maybe a jumping off place for another piece or characters for something else. I wouldn't abandon it entirely.

I'm eager to get back to writing. It's just a matter of squeezing in some time. My baby boy, Jonah Matthias, was born February 11th and well I'm sure you know how insane things are right now.

Shelli said...

Oh, Laura, congratulations! I'm so happy for you! A day after my own birthday, in fact. Well, a day and 40+ years. ;) Of course, things are crazy for you right now. Enjoy this wonderful time with your little boy. Babies are a blessing. Hugs!

Cathryn Grant said...

wow, Shelli. That's really powerful. I'm kind of glad I didn't read it on Valentine's day. Well done.

Annie said...

Clear storytelling interpersed with honest emotions. You captured the uncomfortable silences, the unsaid guilt perfectly.

I liked the imagery you created within your scene.

My story can be found here -

Shelli said...

Cathryn, thanks so much. A little suburban noir, myself, eh?

Annie -- Thank you! Very kind words, ma'am.

Cathryn Grant said...

Definitely a little suburban noir!