In honour of Valentine’s Day I’m sharing a Valentine’s Day excerpt from my story ‘Love Bites’. Enjoy!
The pedestal fan in my lounge room pushed around the muggy heat without offering much relief. I cracked a window and sighed in relief as the cool air flowed in. Finally the cool change had arrived. I pushed the window open as wide as it would go, then opened the window in the kitchen, too, so I could heat up a frozen pizza in the oven. Flicking through TV channels, I settled on an old black and white movie. I’d barely snuggled under blanket on the couch with my pizza when there was a knock at the door. I lay my pizza down with a sigh and answered it. A floral delivery lady stood outside with a bunch of yellow gerberas and a heart-shaped box.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” she said, smiling as she handed the flowers and box to me.
I thanked her and went to the kitchen to fill a vase with water. I put the flowers in the vase and pulled out the card to see who had sent them.
To my favourite gal pal. Love Stu.
I smiled to myself as I peeked inside the heart-shaped box to find it full of my favourite chocolates (the ones with the cherry centres). Stu and I had been good mates since high school. He always knew just how to cheer me up.
I placed the box of chocolates beside the couch for later while I finished off my pizza. I’d barely sat down when another knock at the door interrupted me. I trudged back over to answer it.
It was Todd. Muscles bulged beneath his skin tight white t-shirt and his shaved head gleamed under the porch light. He held a single white rose and a box of chocolates with a hopeful look on his face.
I didn’t take them.
“What’s this about?” I asked, indicating the flower and chocolates.
“I knew you’d be alone for Valentine’s Day and I wondered if you would be my Valentine?”
“Oh, so this is a pity Valentine, is it?”
Anger boiled inside me. Todd and I had not parted on good terms. He’d taken up with his ex-girlfriend while we were still together. I found out about it the day he dumped me. It was a hard blow to get dumped and to find out he’d been cheating on me all at the same time. I was still feeling hurt from being treated so badly by him. I was nowhere near ready to forgive him. And now, to rub salt into the wound, here he was offering me a Valentine because I was obviously too pathetic to find a date for Valentine’s Day. I wondered why he wasn’t spending Valentine’s Day with her.
“Of course it’s not a pity Valentine,” he said smoothly. “Michelle, I still have feelings for you and I was hoping there was a chance we could get back together, now you’ve had time to cool down about everything that happened.”
In other words, his ex had tossed him to the kerb again. I could have spit chips. Did he think all I needed to do was cool down, maybe have a little affair of my own to get everything out of my system, and I would take him back? “So you came over here, presuming I would have no plans on Valentine’s Day? You thought I would be drowning in self-pity and you would have a chance at worming your way back into my life?”
He ran an eye over my grey sweatpants and stretched Mickey Mouse t-shirt.
“Do you have plans?” he asked, a hint of a knowing smile played on his lips.
“As a matter of fact I do have plans,” I lied. “I was just about to get ready when you knocked on the door. Now I’m going to be late for my date because I’ve been held up talking to you.”
I slammed the door in his face and stomped off to my bedroom. I peeked out of the curtains and saw him leaning against the side of the house, grinning. He was going to call my bluff. Now I would have to pretend I really did have a date or else have to face Todd’s smug smile when he found out I was lying.
I jumped in the shower and washed my hair. A perfectly good night in front of the TV with my favourite chocolates had been ruined. After I had blow-dried my hair, I peeked out of the curtains again. He was still there. I gritted my teeth and went to my closet. I found the sexiest dress I owned, just to spite him. A cherry red colour, the dress had a heart-cut bodice with shoestring straps and flared out from the waist. It showed just enough cleavage and leg to be sexy, without being too trampy. I left my hair out, popped in some hoop earrings and slipped into my favourite red high heels.
I grabbed my purse and opened the door, expecting Todd to be still standing on the porch. He wasn’t. Doing a quick scan of the front yard, I spotted his elbow jutting out from behind the tree line. He was spying on me, probably testing to see if I’d give up my ruse if I didn’t think he was there. I almost trod on the box of chocolates and rose he’d left by the door. I couldn’t just leave them there—the chocolates would attract wildlife and I didn’t want some possum to get sick because it had devoured a whole box. I put the rose in the vase with the gerberas from Stu because I couldn’t stand to see it wilt and die. The white did look kind of pretty amongst all the yellow. I opened the box to see what kind of chocolates were inside. Lemon creams. Yuck. I knew Todd was a health nut and didn’t take a lot of notice of junk food (he always hated it when I ate junk food in front of him), but surely after dating all those months he would have some idea of what kind of chocolate I liked. I guess he really didn’t know me that well at all. There was a little note stuck inside the lid, ‘You squeeze my lemon, baby.’ Why did I ever date this guy? I dumped the chocolates unceremoniously into the bin.
As a last minute thought I grabbed the heart-shaped box of chocolates from Stu and tucked them under my arm to take with me. Hopefully Todd would think they were a gift for my mystery date and realise I wasn’t faking it—even though I was.
I got in the car, put the chocolates on the passenger seat and started driving with no idea where I was going or whether Todd would follow me. I reached over and plucked a chocolate from the box to suck on.
Driving on autopilot, I ended up in the city and before long I neared the neon lights of the new nightclub that had opened up a few months ago. I guess it must have subconsciously stuck in my mind from my earlier conversation with Cherie.
I wasn’t really one for going out in the city, usually, though I’d been out to a couple of the nightclubs with the girls when they’d dragged me. The rumours of it being frequented by aliens or monsters or vampires had intrigued me. I guess now I could find out for myself. I’d tried to convince Todd to take me nightclubbing a couple of times when we’d still been dating, but he’d always resisted the idea. He said the music in those places gave him a headache.
Good, I thought. If Todd had decided to follow me this would really rile him up.
I pulled into the car park out front and replaced the lid on the chocolates (had I really eaten half a box?)
As I climbed out of the car I felt a little woozy, as though I’d had too much to drink. I leaned over and checked the label on the chocolates. Liqueur. No wonder I felt a bit drunk. I’d been so angry at Todd I hadn’t even noticed they tasted different to normal. I looked around for Todd, but couldn’t see him. For all I knew he was sulking back at his house, or back in the arms of what’s-her-face. I must have really thought a lot of myself to have thought he’d follow me all the way to the city out of jealousy.
I’d wasted petrol getting to the city and I wasn’t about to turn around and drive back home again, I figured I might as well ease my curiosity. Actually, considering my slightly drunk condition, driving wasn’t really an option anyway.
I shouldered my spaghetti-string purse and walked to the door. The bright blue neon sign above the door read, ‘Love Bites’. It suited my Valentine’s Day mood perfectly. A neon clad employee checked my I.D. and took my cover charge. Nerves hopped around my body as I walked through the doorway. It felt strange walking in alone. No date. No gaggle of girlfriends.
Like the pub back in Min Min, ‘Love Bites’ had not bothered with any Valentine’s Day decorations. That’s where the similarities to my hometown bar ended. The interior walls were painted black and nearly the entire expanse of the large room was taken up by a dance floor. Bodies writhed in rhythm to music pumped out by a D.J. in a booth. Coloured lights flashed, reflected by a giant disco ball hanging directly above the centre of the dance floor. The bar was off to one side and that’s where I headed, squeezing through throngs of dancers dressed in skimpy fluorescent clothing. My short skirted, low cut dress felt more like a nun’s habit next to all the bronzed, sweaty flesh.
I tried to gain the attention of the androgynous bartender. While I waited to be served, I studied the interesting specimen. I couldn’t decide if the bartender was a masculine female or a feminine male. The lurid glittery eye shadow and pink short shorts made me think maybe a woman, but I swore those shorts bulged a little too much in the front. Besides, there were lots of men in the nightclub wearing make-up and pink items of clothing, so it was no real indicator. This place was a far cry from my small town bar where everyone wore flannel shirts and dirty jeans and occasionally the women might wear a nice cotton dress if she felt like dressing up a bit. It was like another world in here. Maybe the bartender was one of the ‘aliens’ from the rumours. Certainly he/she would appear as alien in the Min Min pub.
“What’ll it be, honey?” the bartender trilled. Even the voice gave away no indication of gender.
I ordered a pink fruity cocktail in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Even though I was already tipsy from the chocolates, I figured one drink wouldn’t be so bad. I was single on Valentine’s Day, why not treat myself? While I sipped, I scrutinised the dancers for tell-tale signs of aliens or monsters. Despite the blue lipstick, gold hotpants and glittery green body powder sported by some of the dancers, beneath the glitz they all seemed to be human. I guessed I wouldn’t be meeting strange creatures after all.
An upbeat dance song came on and, feeling a little freer of my inhibitions, I decided to get up and have a dance. The lights flickered over the dance floor to the pounding beat of the music. I threw my hands up in the air and shook my booty for all it was worth. A woman with a purple afro came up to bump and grind beside me. Her orange body suit cut away in strategic places to reveal smooth brown flesh.
“You’re cute,” she said.
“Thanks.” At least I thought it was a compliment.
“This ain’t a place for cute. You’re out of your league, sweetheart.” She shimmied around me. “If I were you I’d go back to Kansas, Dorothy.”
“But I like it here in Oz,” I quipped back.
She grinned. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
She spun around and grabbed hold of the closest male so she could grind against him.
I shrugged her off. I could handle myself well enough. I’d been to the pub enough times to know a thing or two about fending off unwanted advances.
A cute gay couple wearing nothing more than spangled hotpants pulled me in between them to dance. It was easy to forget the words of warning as I giggled and joined in the over-the-top dance moves of my new companions.
“Thanks for the dance, doll,” the taller of the two said as the song ended. “Gotta go. You were a blast.” They both blew kisses at me before dancing off through the crowded dance floor. They sure knew how to move those hotpants-clad hineys.
I downed another cocktail and returned to the dance floor. A new song started and I lost myself in the high tempo rhythm. I was actually having a really good time until a pair of fangs scraped lightly at my neck.
You can read the whole short story in Beautiful & Deadly: A Fantasy Collection.
Or stay tuned for the novel Out of the Shadows due out in March 2020.