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 â€œportable partyâ€ and try to see her as often as I can, though she lives two hours away.
Every year, the day after Valentineâ€™s Day, she calls me and we compare notes â€“ no romantic detail is too small to share and no male faux pas escapes our scathing dissection.
After twelve years, weâ€™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: â€œWas it not so great?â€ Our question when it is sounding like a nightmare: â€œWas it worse than Get Off Me?â€ This is the code name for the worst Valentineâ€™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, weâ€™re going to call her â€œHopefulâ€ and him â€œClueless.â€ Hereâ€™s what happenedâ€¦
It was the year 2003 and Hopeful was having the best Valentineâ€™s Day ever. Sheâ€™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 â€œBaby Mama Dramaâ€ sheâ€™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 Valentineâ€™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 â€œintimate.â€ 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 Californiaâ€™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 Hopefulâ€™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 Valentineâ€™s bulb and there were rose petals scattered across every available surface. The scents coming from the kitchen were amazing; the smile on her loverâ€™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 Valentineâ€™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. Hopefulâ€™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 heâ€™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. Heâ€™d made her favorite, caramel cheesecake. Instead, he detoured to the couch about twenty feet away. Hopeless began vibrating with excitementâ€¦who needed cheesecake?
She wasnâ€™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 heâ€™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.
â€œGet off me,â€ Clueless said.
Hopeful reared back, almost falling off the couch. â€œAre you serious?â€
â€œYes, stop playing.â€ 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. â€œArenâ€™t I even going to get one little kiss?â€
â€œNo. Iâ€™m tired. Stop.â€ His tone wasnâ€™t even remotely playful.
â€œBut itâ€™s Valentineâ€™s Day,â€ she said.
â€œI cooked you dinner,â€ said Clueless.
Hopefulâ€™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, â€œSeriously, you need to stop.â€ 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 â€“ at least they kissed you every time you spoke to them.
Sheâ€™d gone years at a time without a man. What were they good for anyway? Sex and large insect disposal. She wasnâ€™t even getting any sex! And it was Valentineâ€™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 couldnâ€™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 â€“ the one sheâ€™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 sheâ€™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, â€œHe actually said, â€˜Get off me?â€™â€
Jen Crooks writes womenâ€™s fiction, chick lit and short stories as Jenny Hansen. She has been a member of OCC since 2001 and has served on OCCâ€™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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