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FROM THE HEART by By Kitty Bucholtz

February 22, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Not too many Valentine’s Days ago, John and I were broke and in love. No, we weren’t in college – in fact, we’d been married about ten years already. But we were still lovey-duvvy enough to want to go out and celebrate. Since Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday that year, John came up with a great idea: we’d go to the dollar theater for a double feature!

I love movies! Any kind of movie – action, drama, romantic comedy, you name it. So I didn’t care what was playing. We just needed two films that could be watched more or less back to back. Sounded like a lovely way to spend a Saturday.

Except that I’d forgotten one little detail. John loves movies, too – but only some movies. He loves movies with lots of action and fighting. (I was so embarrassed when he laughed out loud during the heads-being–off battle scenes when we saw Braveheart opening weekend!) The only way he’s going to see a chick flick is if it’s a guy’s dream come true (movie star chases regular guy in Notting Hill) or if there’s an actor he really likes in it (Kevin Smith in Catch and Release this past weekend – which, by the way, I’m going to consider my Valentine’s Day date this year; you’ll see why soon).

We drove to the theater and stood there reading all the show times. It wasn’t a great line-up for Valentine’s Day, but hey, it’s the dollar theater.

“Hey, we could see Aliens 3, go have lunch, then come back and see The Replacement Killers,” John exclaimed with delight. (Reading over my shoulder, he says he did not exclaim with delight. Only women exclaim with delight. Trust me, he was excited.)

So I’m standing there thinking, it’s Valentine’s Day, the day you show the one you love that they’re the number one person in your life. And I love movies.

“Sure, why not?” I said with forced delight.

Two hours later, we took a break and walked over to Burger King for lunch. (Yes, Burger King.) “What’d you think?” John asked.

What I was thinking is that Sigourney Weaver was bald and saying the f-word on the most romantic day of the year. “Not as good as Aliens,” I said.

We walked back over for the next part of our date. I have to admit, I was kind of dreading the next movie. Maybe the people will have some redeeming qualities in the end, I thought, trying to be optimistic.

Um, well, kind of.

At the end of the movie, as we walked out to our car, John said, “Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetie.”

I just looked up and him and shook my head. “What part of this day had anything to do with Valentine’s Day?” I asked with a half-laugh.

“Well,” John began. “Sigourney Weaver loves her family and friends so she protected them from aliens. And in the other movie,” he paused to think. “There was a lot of blood and blood is red, so there you go!”

I heard someone snicker behind us. John flashed his fabulous grin at me. I couldn’t help it. I caved and started to laugh as he gave me a huge hug and kissed the top of my head.

I’m sure I’ve had some pretty sad Valentine’s Days in the past, but only with people I didn’t love like I love John. The fact is, when you love someone, you can choose to enjoy anything if you’re together.

Still, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I took some precautions this year. I bought the Trojan Pleasure Pack today. Regardless of what movie we see or whatever else we may do, I know the day will at least end well!

Kitty Bucholtz is an OCC RWA member, a 16-year veteran of the marriage wars, and currently writing a chick lit novel about a married woman who discovers she has a super power.

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What A Man Wants by Dana Diamond

February 21, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

“Okay boys,” my professor addressed our stadium seating Human Sexuality 101 class, “What is romance?”

Like the first kernels of Jiffy Pop, one by one the boys slowly popped out with, “Naked.” “Warm.” “Being close.” “Being together.”

“Yes! Naked, warm, and being together,” my teacher repeated, smiling because they’d played right into her hands. “Okay, now girls. What is romance to you?”

Like the boys, we were slow to warm, “Chocolate.” “Candlelight.” “Flowers.”

“Yes!” my professor exclaimed with the same orgasmic enthusiasm as Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally…

“You see the problem here?” she asked. “We are different. We see romance differently.”

She went on with another of her legendary funny-yet-informative lectures, but I don’t remember it. Great as she was what I remember most of her class was what I learned in that one “ding-ding-ding” moment.

Maybe because it was reinforced later that week…

See, me and my then-boyfriend/now-husband were celebrating our first Valentine’s Day. And he wanted it perfect because he knew how sentimental I was.

And though he doesn’t like Italian food, he even ordered in from a fancy Italian restaurant because that was neutral ground for a vegetarian like me and a heathen, I mean, carnivore like him.

Long story short, it didn’t go well.

That lovely Italian place he ordered from just for me? They took over two hours to get us our food. Cranky and hungry, it was all we could do to not bite each other’s heads off, much less get all lovey dovey and sentimental.

When the food and wine came, we were thinking, “Great. It can only go up from here.”


Now, I’m not a big wine-o and I was ravenous so it took me a couple bites before it hit me that my eggplant parmesan wasn’t…right.

Did I mention I was pretty hardcore vegetarian at the time?

So I took another bite, chewing carefully. “Uh, I think this is veal parmesan.” (I might’ve dry-heaved around here.)

“Nuh-uh,” he said in total disbelief. “Here, let me try,” he speared a bite. Swallowing, his face fell.

“It’s okay. I’ll eat around it.”

He rolled his eyes, “You can’t eat around that.”

“Sure I can.”

But it was nothin’ doin’. We switched plates so I could at least pick the pasta out of his shrimp dish.

He was so bummed. “I just wanted to make this special for you.”

“But you don’t have to. What makes tonight special is us being together.”

Being together.

Hmm…where had I heard that before? Oh yeah! The Romance lecture!

“You know what would make tonight really special?” I asked.

“No,” he says, eyes on the floor, the picture of disappointment.

I took my top off.

That got his attention.

“Tonight’s special because we’re together. The other stuff doesn’t matter.”

And it didn’t.

Wait! Do you hear that?

That was our door slamming.

Let’s just say, I got my romance…and he got his.

Dana Diamond is Co-Media Director for OCC/RWA, a contributor to OCC’s e-zine A Slice Of Orange, and hard at work on her next book. For past interviews visit the Orange Blossom section of OCC’s award-winning website.

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The Worst Valentine’s Day Ever by Mary Castillo

February 20, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

It was the worst of Valentines and the best of Valentines because I learned never to settle for a man with a small manhood.

I was a twenty year-old USC student and on the rebound from the break-up with my high school sweetheart. Oh the pain, the torment, the black yawning loneliness. Thank God I threw out that journal because if I reread it today, I’d only annoy myself.

So after the big break up I met Smallness. He was charming and not as smart as I was and off we went. However, I wasn’t smart enough to realize why Smallness had a tendency to talk about his horrible, evil ex –girlfriend. I thought that I was so amazingly wonderful that Smallness couldn’t help but compare her to me. The week before Valentines Day he broke up with me, over the phone, for her.

Again the pain, the torment, blah, blah, blah. But then I went to Sedona, Arizona on a road trip and on Valentine’s Day, walked into a kitschy gift shop for a map of the vortexes. I was hoping a vortex would suck out my misery.

But the store happened to have a huge display of Pueblo Storyteller Dolls. Some are quite elaborate and they had one that stood almost four feet tall. But they also represent the storyteller sitting with her eyes closed and mouth open, passing along the stories of her people to the tiny children she holds in her arms. At the time, I was a pre-med hoping that one day I’d make enough money as a doctor to retire early and follow my true passion of writing novels. However, I was failing Chemistry 101 and so there were signs that this plan wasn’t going to work out.

That Valentine’s Day, when I found my Storyteller doll (she was the least expensive at $10.95!), I heard the call that I was a writer. Like the Pueblo storyteller who is chosen to bear the responsibility of keeping the myths and stories of her people alive, there was nothing else for me to do but follow my calling. Nothing else mattered, especially men with such a small sense of manhood that they didn’t know a good thing when they saw it!

Ever since that day, I’ve managed to make my living as a writer and now as an author. There are days when the writing and I make passionate love, and then the days when we can’t stand each other. But man, not a day goes by that I’m not grateful to have met one of my Great Loves that Valentine’s Day in Sedona.

Mary Castillo
Read a sneak peek of NAMES I CALL MY SISTER (HarperCollins Avon May 2007)
For all of Mary’s books & blogs please visit www.marycastillo.com

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The Valentine’s Day Scale: Great, Good, Not So Good, Ugly and Get Off Me by Jennifer Crooks

February 19, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Life is simply too short not to laugh as much as possible. I have a girlfriend that makes me laugh harder than any person I know. I call her my “portable party” and try to see her as often as I can, though she lives two hours away.

Every year, the day after Valentine’s Day, she calls me and we compare notes – no romantic detail is too small to share and no male faux pas escapes our scathing dissection.

After twelve years, we’ve developed a shorthand for these conversations, rather than a simple scale of one to five (five being the worst). We have: Great, Good, Not So Great, Ugly and Get Off Me.

Our question when the experience is not sounding so romantic: “Was it not so great?” Our question when it is sounding like a nightmare: “Was it worse than Get Off Me?” This is the code name for the worst Valentine’s Day that either of has ever heard of.

Unfortunately my girlfriend had to endure a harrowing experience some years back for us to develop this code. In the interest of protecting the identity of the not-so-innocent, we’re going to call her “Hopeful” and him “Clueless.” Here’s what happened…

It was the year 2003 and Hopeful was having the best Valentine’s Day ever. She’d been dating a man named Clueless for about a year and a half and she, the perennial Single Girl, was enjoying a slow slide toward The Big Love. Sometimes her man was a little stodgy but he was funny, handsome, dependable and, most amazing of all, had none of the “Baby Mama Drama” she’d endured with her previous two boyfriends. She was becoming convinced that this guy was The One.

Clueless told her, days in advance, to expect a huge Valentine’s Day surprise. She had only two things on her agenda for that entire Friday: go to work and then go to his house to be spoiled, that night and through the next day. He had the day off and told her he wanted to give her a nice intimate evening at home. He stressed the word “intimate.” Hopeful was over the moon with excitement.

Before she left work, she did everything she could to ensure a speedy trip home. It was raining, which turned Southern California’s freeways into a gridlock of enraged motorists, so she checked the traffic on the Internet and mapped out her route. She also removed her undies and tucked them into her bag, freshened her makeup and gave herself an extra spritz of her favorite perfume, just in case he ravaged her the moment she arrived. Hopeful could hardly wait and she cursed every pocket of rain-soaked traffic she hit on the way home. She exited the freeway with her adrenaline pumping.

At last, she sped up his street, pulling into the driveway as fast as she dared. She got out of the car, enjoying the fluttering in her stomach and wondering how long it would take for her to get Clueless naked. He opened the door as she walked up his steps and Hopeful’s heart took a leap when she saw that Clueless was in his robe and half naked already!

As he opened the door in welcome, she saw that the room glowed red behind him from a Valentine’s bulb and there were rose petals scattered across every available surface. The scents coming from the kitchen were amazing; the smile on her lover’s face was mouth-watering.

He took her overnight bag and handed her a glass of wine; she watched the red lights dance against her glass. He led her to the table, which was set with a Valentine’s Day theme of white linen napkins and deep red plates. White tapers were already lit and a waft of vanilla whispered through the air. Hopeful’s heart melted like marshmallows in hot chocolate.

Clueless watched Food TV faithfully and he chatted throughout the meal about each recipe he served and where he’d found it. He started with authentic Louisiana crab cakes, followed by a spinach salad with home made dressing. His pot roast had slow-cooked all day and the beef was so tender Hopeful was able to cut it delicately with her fork. She sipped her wine while she ate and thought about jumping his bones.

When Clueless pushed back from the table, she assumed he was going to bring out dessert. He’d made her favorite, caramel cheesecake. Instead, he detoured to the couch about twenty feet away. Hopeless began vibrating with excitement…who needed cheesecake?

She wasn’t quite finished with her meal, but she stood up and took their plates into the sink. She filled both their wine glasses, unbuttoned the top two buttons of her sweater and went to join him on the couch. As she drew close, she heard his light snoring.

He was sleeping? Hopeful stood still for a moment, worrying over the idea that having dinner with her put her man to sleep. She set the wine on the coffee table and looked down at him.

He looked so peaceful. She smiled at him, thinking he’d worn himself out trying to give her a great day, and sat on the edge of the couch. She slid her hand up his arm and leaned over him to kiss the side of his neck where he liked it best, thinking she could wake him up and move him into the bedroom.

“Get off me,” Clueless said.

Hopeful reared back, almost falling off the couch. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, stop playing.” He yanked the edge of his robe from under her leg.

Maybe he was trying to be coy, Hopeful thought, and kept her tone playful. “Aren’t I even going to get one little kiss?”

“No. I’m tired. Stop.” His tone wasn’t even remotely playful.

“But it’s Valentine’s Day,” she said.

“I cooked you dinner,” said Clueless.

Hopeful’s teeth snapped together like a mousetrap. She glanced at her hand, still on his shoulder, and saw that it was bunched into a fist around the white terry cloth of his robe. The glow from the special Valentine lights looked eerily like blood against the material.

She was imagining the satisfaction of smashing the bulb against his skull when he said, “Seriously, you need to stop.” Clueless shrugged her hand off his shoulder and rolled over to face the back of the couch.

Hopeless jumped up and glared down at him.

Clueless began snoring again.

She wanted to kick him, to just drill her sexy spiked heel right up his. . . Hopeful spun around and hurried out of the room, before she did him any bodily damage.

She paced in the dining room, in circles around the table, engaged in an internal tirade about how dogs were better than men – at least they kissed you every time you spoke to them.

She’d gone years at a time without a man. What were they good for anyway? Sex and large insect disposal. She wasn’t even getting any sex! And it was Valentine’s Day. Wild jackals were better than men.

His snoring grew louder.

She paced faster, through the dining room, up and down the hall, avoiding the kitchen and its butcher block of knives. Her pacing took her by the door to his bedroom. It was like a car crash; she couldn’t not look. There were rose petals strewn across the white duvet. There were no Valentine light bulbs here but she was seeing red.

She moved purposefully to the kitchen, taking a deep breath as she passed through the doorway.

She opened the refrigerator, took out the cheesecake and arranged it on his best platter – the one she’d bought for their first anniversary. Hopeful covered the whole thing with foil then calmly buttoned her sweater all the way up.

She held the platter in one hand as she moved into the living room and slipped back into her shoes. She picked up her overnight bag and sailed out the door, cheesecake and all. The sound of his snoring trailed behind her like a dirty rag.

The next day he called her and asked why she’d left. She broke up with him.

Immediately afterward, she called me to share this life-altering V-Day dish. All I could say as she told me her sad tale was, “He actually said, ‘Get off me?’”

Jen Crooks writes women’s fiction, chick lit and short stories as Jenny Hansen. She has been a member of OCC since 2001 and has served on OCC’s Board of Directors as Newsletter Editor, Membership Director and Program Director. She is currently the Contest Coordinator for OCC’s 2007 Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers.

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With Love from Pandora on Valentine’s Day by Carolyn Williamson

February 18, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

A Slice of Orange is rerunning this contest entry because when it was first posted, part of the blog was accidentally cut off.

I’d never seen a box of candy so big. Dressed in blue satin with an enormous lace ruffle, the box practically covered one side of my husband’s desk at his office.

I smiled, remembering the first time Jack gave me candy on Valentine’s day. He’d handed me a small box in a paper sack. “Thought you’d know what to do with this.”

Now, as I looked at the blue heart-shaped box, a warm feeling spread over me. Not a man to talk much or pay attention to special days, he’d remembered Valentine’s Day this time.

I slid my finger over the shiny white satin bow, wanting to tear it off and bite into a luscious chocolate morsel.

Jack had mentioned having dinner out. Maybe afterwards he’d invent some reason to drive by his office and surprise me. I wouldn’t spoil his thoughtfulness by unwrapping it now.

My reluctant fingers slid from the lace-ruffled box. I remembered he’d asked me to pick up a check. His tall slim partner, Joe Burke, breezed into Jack’s office. He pointed to the box. “Isn’t that obscene? And to think it was won in a drawing,” he said as he retreated to the outer office.

Gripping the check, I left and drove past snow-dusted lawns. The moon glistened like a lemon frosted cream. Licking my lips, I wanted to bite into something rich and sweet.

Later, at the restaurant, the sizzling steak was juicy and tender. I could hardly wait until Jack gave me the candy. I’d give my strong silent guy a kiss and a big hug.

Jack excused himself to make a phone call and returned to the table. Soon afterward he escorted me out into the chilly evening. Hunching his big shoulders into his jacket, he seemed lost in thought.

As we neared his office, I found my mouth watering, but he drove right past without stopping. Had he forgotten the candy?

Later I mentioned we needed milk, hoping he’d offer to go. He settled down in front of the TV and got caught up watching the Dallas Stars play the Detroit Red Wings.

“I’m going to the store,” I said.

“See you later–oh damn, the Red Wings scored again.”

On the way to Krogers I wondered why he hadn’t said a word about the candy. Then I remembered the phone call.

He’d been working late a lot. Could that candy be for another woman? I squeezed my eyes shut for a second. I didn’t want to think about that. At least he’d won it in a drawing–he hadn’t gone out and bought it for someone else–or was his partner covering for him?

A hard knot grew inside me. Jack came home every night. He couldn’t be having an affair, could he? Maybe I was living in a fool’s paradise. I clenched my hands into fists. My heart beat in a staccato rhythm.

Would I be abandoned to pay the mortgage like my friend, Betty? I swallowed. I’d do it if I had to, but I didn’t want to face the future alone.

Sure, I had a job, but that wouldn’t bring in enough to live as we had before. I shut my eyes tight against the disappointment, then opened them quickly. I couldn’t afford to have an accident now.

I wasn’t looking forward to coping with the single scene after being married so many years. I’d forgotten how to flirt, and besides I’d feel silly doing it at my age.

Looking up at the bright lights above Kroger, I brushed the tell-tale wetness from my cheeks. I didn’t want anyone asking questions.

After paying for the groceries, I managed to keep the tears at bay until the store doors swung shut behind me. Then tears came in earnest. A brisk wind chilled my wet face. Barely seeing the road, I drove with tears streaming down.

When I carried the groceries inside, Jack was still watching television. I hurried to the bathroom to wash my face. He hadn’t seemed to notice my red cheeks. But I bet he’d noticed the fifteen pounds I’d gained since giving birth to twins. No wonder he was attracted to someone prettier.

I went in the living room to say good night. Jack was engrossed in a western novel and gave me the briefest of good night kisses. Lying in bed, I blinked back tears. I didn’t want to ask him about another woman. That might be just the chance he was waiting for–to say he wanted a divorce. If I asked about the candy, I might shame him into giving it to me instead, but I wouldn’t enjoy it. At least some other woman wouldn’t scarf it down.

Or I could just let it pass and say nothing. I tossed and turned, dampening the pillow with tears. No. That was the coward’s way out. My marriage was more important than chocolates or another woman. I’d fight to keep my marriage, but if I couldn’t, I’d manage somehow.

Facing the frightening ordeal of divorce would be hard, damn hard, but it would be better than living a lie.

Jack entered the bedroom and undressed in the dark. I wondered how the other woman had touched him when they made love. My eyes burned. Bracing myself, I took a deep breath, then decided to wait until he finished showering. I tried to think what to say. Nothing I thought of seemed right. Too soon he came out of the bathroom. Even in pajamas, he looked handsome with those broad shoulders and dark hair. Why was I even thinking about his looks when he’d treated me like this?

The bed dipped as he slid in beside me. He didn’t even try to kiss me. Maybe he really didn’t want to any more. He snuggled under the blankets with his back to me.

Heart pounding, I cleared my throat. “Jack,” I began.

“Thought you were asleep.” He sounded drowsy.

I gritted my teeth. How could he fall asleep so easily? Had he no conscience?

“Jack, what are you going to do with that box of candy on your desk?”

He switched on a light and turned to face me. “What box of candy?”

He sounded surprised. Was he really–or just a good liar?

“That huge box of candy on your desk at the office?”

“I don’t know anything about a box of candy at the office.”

“Joe said you won it in a drawing.” Let’s see how he explains that.

“I haven’t heard about winning anything, but if I did, I’ll bring it home tomorrow.”

I looked into his blue eyes. They seemed as true and calm as always. In spite of my suspicions, I believed him. Slowly I let out the breath I’d been holding.

Jack put his arms around me, pulled me close and kissed me. “Love you,” he murmured. My heart overflowed with relief. Mustn’t let him know what I’d thought.

The next morning Jack called from the office. “Honey, you must have misunderstood Joe. I didn’t win that box of candy. He did, and took it home to his wife. Don’t know why he set it down on my desk. Maybe he stepped in there and the phone rang.”

I didn’t care how the box got on Jack’s desk. I wouldn’t miss the candy. I had the best valentine of all, a loving husband.

Carolyn Williamson

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