Authors Note: This story is for the Valentine's day contest. I hope you enjoy. Thank you to MrsWolf for coming on board as a beta/proof reader for me. ~ellie
Kristy groaned, true to what the weatherman had predicted the last week of January had been hot enough to melt a person caught in the sun leaving them in a puddle on the sidewalk. She struggled to come to terms with the fact that, going by what had happened in recent years, the heat wave would last at least until Valentine's Day. Two more weeks she grumbled. She didn't care really all that much; she would rather be too hot than too cold; she reminded herself of the news last night where she had seen extreme blizzards closing down towns in Canada and the States. She had always wanted to visit Canada, but not at this time of the year she grimaced.
It was too hot to stay in bed even though it was Saturday so she got up and had breakfast before tackling some of the usual weekend cleaning that couldn't wait, like her laundry. Once the main things were done, she showered thinking that it might be nice to take up the offer of lunch and a movie her friend had made earlier in the week. She knew it was a mercy invite, but the thought of sitting in air conditioned comfort rather than cleaning her apartment in the stifling heat held a lot of appeal. Her friends tried consistently to get her out of her small apartment and back into some sort of normal social life, but she hadn't felt ready to face the world until recently.
She had been single for six months and had only, started going out again with her friends since New Year's Eve when they dragged her out to party and despite herself she had a good time and no one mentioned the disastrous end of her engagement to Damian. It was her resolution so-to-speak, to start accepting social offers from that night on.
She had taken the break up with her long term boyfriend badly and after three years why shouldn't she have been devastated when his pregnant 'other girlfriend' appeared on her doorstep asking Kristy to leave her man alone. The horror of the moment still haunted her dreams at times. The girl had not been pregnant, and Damien had claimed it was nothing more than a drunken one night stand, so she had tried to work it out with him and save all the work she had put into planning their wedding. In the end, though, she no longer trusted the man she had planned to marry and broke off their engagement moving out of the house they shared in favour of a small apartment and a fresh start. Here she was months later finally making that fresh start, she chided herself.
She picked up her phone and called her friend, Tabitha, and asked if the invitation to lunch and a movie was still open. Tabitha was thrilled to hear from her and told her where to meet the group of girls who were also going. Tabitha would come and pick Kristy up, so she didn't have the chance to back out at the last minute as she did so often. Kristy laughed and agreed. Hanging up she went to get dressed. She wasn't known to be a trend setter, but she had always been seen as having a sense of style. She took pride in having a versatile wardrobe that to others seemed bigger than it actually was because of her ability to mix and match and accessorise well. She enjoyed dressing up and lately it seemed It was only for work that she bothered to put on make-up anymore.
She had just finished putting the final touches to the barely discernable make-up she favoured when there was a knock at her door. Checking her watch she found it hard to believe Tabitha had arrived so quickly, so she hurried to the door to find out who it was.
Kristy found no one there, but a small box sat before her door. She picked it up reading the label, she hadn't ordered anything recently that she could remember, and she looked at the box curiously as she went back inside her apartment. Sitting on the sofa she tore at the packaging eager to find what it held. She must have ordered something, but this was like getting a surprise present she grinned happily. The plain white box was about the size of a cigar box, and she frowned looking for a label of some sort to show where it had come from.
Sliding the lid off the box, she found a card and a sheet of glow in the dark stickers in the shape of stars. She remembered having some when she was a little girl. Her father had fashioned them into constellations for her that told of her favourite fairy tales. She had been trying to find another set for years and thought they didn't make them anymore. She smiled at the precious memory of special times spent with her father in her childhood as she looked at the card. It was a print of Van Gogh's Starry Night and gave no indication why it had been sent to her. She opened the card scanning to the bottom but rather than a signature she found only the line. "From your Valentine."
Going back to the top she read the short message carefully:
"Two Weeks Notice. February 1st Star light Star Bright First star I see tonight I wish I may I wish I might Have the wish I wish tonight I wish you would be my Valentine."
Kristy burst out laughing, just as Tabitha walked through her still open doorway. "It was you wasn't it," Kristy accused.
"Of course it was," Tabitha said blithely, "So what exactly have I done now?"
Still laughing Kristy handed her the box and card, "I am just gonna grab my bag, and I'll be ready to go." She walked into her bedroom leaving her friend with the stars and the short note.
"Ooooh," Tabitha called from the living room, "You have a secret admirer. I am so jealous!"
"Pfffft," Kristy made a derisive sound, "If it's not you then it's probably someone playing a joke on me for becoming a hermit.
"I dunno, it looks like a man's writing to me. Big strong hand, pressing too hard on the pen," Tabitha teased her.
"Let's go," Kristy said rolling her eyes at her friend.
The lunch carried on through the afternoon as the small pub they went to slowly filled with friends and acquaintances of the small group of girls. It had started with Tabitha wanting an extra glass of wine that she worried would put her over the limit, and she called her brother to see if he would come and drive her car home.
Darren, or Jumpy as they all called Tabitha's brother, wasn't a drinker. Having been a binge drinker in his younger days, he had since sworn off all alcohol claiming he had developed an allergy. He arrived with his mates and the place filled up from there. They gave up on the idea of a movie and stayed at the pub right through dinner time. Surprising herself, Kristy had a great time, and it was after midnight when Darren helped her up the stairs to her apartment and made sure she was okay.
"You're such a sweetie, Jumpy. I don't know why some lucky girl hasn't taken you off the market already," Kristy slurred.
"I'm fussy," he shrugged. "I like what I like, most girls aren't what I like."
Kristy frowned at him, "Hey, speaking of like. Who was that hunky dude Tab left with?"
"Greg, they have this on again off again thing when they get drunk. Convenience of proximity I think," he grinned helping her to get into bed. "Where is your spare key so I can let myself out and lock the door.
"Margie has it, number three," she mumbled waving her hand around, "just close it, it will lock itself," she added before rolling over and falling asleep.
He left a large glass of water and two headache tablets he had found in the bathroom beside her bed before he left, locking the door on his way out.
Kristy was the type of girl Darren liked. She was smart, independent and easy to look at but still needing someone to look after her now and then, she wasn't fierce like his sister and he often wondered about their friendship. He had secretly been happy that Tabitha had called him and told him she had managed to get Kristy out of her apartment to party. He had seen her slowly come back to life at the new year's eve party they had all attended, once she realised no one cared about what happened with her ex.
Darren had been waiting wondering how long he should wait before asking her out, having seen her shoot so many others down in their attempts over the last couple of weeks. As he drove back to the house, he shared with Tabitha he considered that she also thought of him as an older brother and that could create problems in itself. They had grown up together ; their parents had been friends, and they had all gone to the same school and he had looked out for her as an extension of Tabitha. While he could see her for the grown up beauty she was, he worried that she wouldn't see him as more than just an adopted big brother who would take her home and put her to bed when she was drunk without trying anything with her.
He considered asking her out for Valentine's Day. "What's the worse that could happen?" he asked himself. "She could freak out and give you the brother for life kiss of death, that's what" he gave himself the answer. He called himself a chicken and gave himself more advice as he arrived home and stalked through the house to his room.
The following morning Kristy awoke to the insistent ringing of her phone. Pulling a face, she swung her legs from her bed and looked around for the source of the noise. He eyes landed on the glass of water and headache tablets silently thanking Jumpy as she gulped them down and finally stood when her phone began to ring again.
Finding her bag where she had dumped it the night before, she grabbed up her phone and answered it with a croaky, "Hello mum."
"Yes I am alive.... No, I am quite well. I just went out with the girls last night and didn't get home til late... Just some girlfriends nothing exciting... No, I don't want to come over, I will be fine without air conditioning... Yes, I will call if I change my mind... I still have some laundry to do and a movie I want to watch.... Yeah, I will still come for dinner Wednesday night... Okay... See you then."
Kristy threw the phone to the coffee table without checking her messages and curled up on the lounge closing her eyes once again. When she woke again, the sun was high in the sky and her apartment felt like a sauna making her feel sticky with sweat. In an effort to cool down, she went and stood under a cold shower before slipping on a light cotton dress and sitting in front of a small fan as she watched an old movie she had bought some time ago and never got around to watching.
As the afternoon turned to evening, Kristy finished her laundry and after eating a light snack checked the messages on her phone. Jumpy had called. He really was a sweetie Kristy thought to herself. He is probably just checking on my hangover, she sent him a text to say she felt dreadful and was going to bed early. Laughing as the return message just said, "good". He probably meant that it was good that she felt dreadful, and she poked her tongue at her phone. She went to bed early with her book promising herself never to drink so much again.
Kristy's week started off like any other week. She ran the front office and show room of a small firm that imported marble and stone from Italy. There was a small workshop behind the building where artisans and masons would shape and polish the blocks for use in kitchens or bathrooms and on some occasions, though not often enough for Kristy's liking, sculptures and fountains. She loved the cold feel of the marble and granite blocks even in their raw state but more than anything she loved the myriad of colours and patterns they held. The guys in the workshop would often polish up small pieces from the off-cuts to create pebbles for her and Kristy had amassed quite a collection both at work and home.
On Wednesday, she had been inspecting several blocks of rose-coloured granite with the owner when the buzzer sounded letting her know someone was in the show room. She hurried back in to find a courier who handed her a parcel and just as quickly left. Kristy took the box to her desk and sat down. Opening it, she found a smaller object wrapped in bubble wrap within the cushion of packing beads. Opening this second layer she stared at the glass orb within it lay a beautifully crafted glass bird. The hand blown bird was predominantly white with shades of grey swirled into it, and she set it carefully on her desk rummaging in the box for some kind of note to say who it was from. Eventually coming up with a card, she looked at the front; it was an Asian style ink and brush illustration of a bird soaring like you might see on Chinese porcelain or the like. Opening the card she read.
"5th February. Day 10 Following signs from birds is a practice made from ancient times, probably since Greek and Roman times. But according to the myth, the sight of the first bird by an unmarried woman on Valentine's Day decides the character of her husband to be. This means that if a young girl saw a particular bird on Valentine's Day, then she would marry a particular type of man! This idea most likely generated in the middle ages, when it was believed that birds chose their mates on Valentine's Day leading to the idea that boys and girls would do the same.
Be my Valentine"
Unable to stop herself Kristy pulled up Google and did a search. She laughed as she read some of the information she had found. Finding a seemingly credible folklore site in the UK she read through a few of the bird definitions: Bluebirds were men of laughter; Blackbirds denoted men of the cloth, robins meant a man of the sea. She looked again at the white and grey glass bird wondering if it would translate to the birdlife in Australia. A gull meant the man would travel a great deal for work; a dove equaled a man of kindness; a pigeon was a man who would return to his childhood home. It was so hard to tell what the little glass bird actually represented but going by colour it did not look all bad to her. It wasn't a goldfinch denoting wealth, but she could live with the definitions she had found of white and grey birds. She liked the final words of the webpage, "Another myth, related to this one is that if a young girl sees a hen and a cockerel together on Valentine's Day then she will marry soon. No wonder farms were popular places amongst young girls on this day!!."
"No trips to the country on Valentine's day for me," Kristy thought. She laughed at herself puzzling over the mystery gift rather than the actual sender. As she worked through the afternoon she realised she had been so long in self-imposed exile she had no clue who it might be. Packing the globe carefully at the end of the day Kristy went as planned to her mother's for dinner. As usual the dinner conversation went onto Kristy's lack of a love life and her mother's despair that she would never settle down again.
"Did you hear Daniel has come back home?" she said with the hint of a smile. "I ran into him up at the shops the other day, he asked about you..."
"Wow, I didn't think he would ever come back," Kristy said. Daniel had been her high school boyfriend. A true athlete, his family's contacts in the States had enabled him to attend university there and follow his dream of playing baseball. It wasn't a very well recognised sport here and to play it with any skill meant moving, so he left breaking her teenage heart. "Does he have an American accent now?" Kristy giggled.
"A little," her mother laughed, "He hurt his knee or some such and can't play anymore. So sad, he was doing so well by all accounts. Still very handsome though," her mother encouraged, "Even with a limp."
"Oh, mum! That was high school, puppy love. I am sure we are both quite different people now," Kristy continued to laugh, this time at her mother clumsy attempts at matchmaking.
"Well I invited him and his family over for a barbeque Sunday afternoon. I expect you to be here and to play nice. He doesn't know many people in the area anymore since most of you kids moved away," her mother said.
"Sure that would be fabulous. I would love to catch up with him but don't hold your breath on rekindling any fires," Kristy warned, "Memories tend to colour things the way we would have liked them to be rather than the reality." She turned to her father, "Speaking of memories, I was given a packet of those stars that used to decorate my ceiling, you remember the one's Dad..." Kristy's father smiled and nodded, star gazing has been their special time together. "I was wondering of you would come and help me put them up one day."
"Sure I will come over after work tomorrow afternoon, and we can have pizza," he grinned at his wife who threw her hands up.
"I knew you would find an excuse not to come to see my mother with me," she scolded her husband who looked quite pleased with himself.
Kristy had been on the verge of putting it off until next week when her mother spoke but decided to let her father have his escape. Assuring her mother once again that she would be there on Sunday afternoon Kristy finally went home laden down with leftovers and her mother's baking. Once home she put everything away and found a place to put the beautiful bird placing the two cards and packet of stars close to it still wondering over the gifts and not sure anymore if it was a friend playing a joke or if she really did have a secret admirer.
Darren tried to talk to Tabitha as he cooked dinner for them. He liked to cook so they did the trade-off of his doing the grocery shopping and cook, and she would do the laundry for them both. He tentatively asked a question that he hoped would lead into a broader conversation where he could find out more information about what was going on with Kristy. "Kristy seemed to have a good time on Saturday. How'd you convince her to go out again?"
"It's her resolution, so I am holding her to it," Tabitha smiled. "She realised at the New Year's party that facing all our friends again wasn't so scary 'cause they all think Damien is a douche bag now and in the division of friends she won the bigger share by far."
"She thought people wouldn't like her for leaving him?" Darren asked incredulously.
"Something like that," Tabitha nodded. "yeah, I know, but he messed with her mind a lot when it was ending and he realised it. Didn't wanna lose her I suppose, made her feel like shit and said some really nasty stuff. I guess that's why we all just let her be until this year; she needed some time to feel herself again."
"Probably explains why she is shooting down any guy that comes near her faster than a gunslinger," Darren smirked.
"Yeah," Tabitha laughed, "But you know maybe this secret Valentine of hers will change her mind." Darren felt inexplicably jealous and said nothing rather than too much letting Tabitha run with what she was saying. "He sent her some stickers for her ceiling, you know those glow in the dark stars?" She waited until he nodded before continuing, "Cute note too, something about two weeks' notice and then that poem when you wish upon a star. It was cute. Well I thought so anyway," she laughed, "I dunno what Kristy thinks I haven't spoken to her since she got it."
The next day was bright and clear, and work had been a steady stream of inquiries about sculpture rather than building supplies, this in addition to it being Thursday, had put Kristy into a great mood. On Thursday afternoons the owner's wife came into the showroom ostensibly to check over the book work and do any banking necessary but Kristy often thought it was more to check up on her husband and sons who were part of the crew in the workshop behind the showroom.
In a rush to meet an old school friend for coffee, Kristy had made it to her car before one of the guys from the workshop called her name and ran after her out onto the street. He had another man with him, and he grinned as the other man handed her a single red rose that had been tied to a large wooden spoon with a flourish.