Fiction: The Valentine Fool

February 2016 Blog Challenge: Blog 15 of 29

As a child I was happy to create stories and loved the escapism that they offered.  As an adult, I have now returned to the fiction form and have embarked on writing my first novel (of a trilogy). It is a blend of semi auto-biographical and fantastical elements, which feels to me like arranging a giant patch work quilt of my life: There are some favourite scraps of my own old clothes, which I am adding to, embellishing and turning into a brand new pattern.

Part of my blog challenge this month is to boost the content of this first fiction book.  Each excerpt, which will stand alone on this blog – will eventually be woven into the larger fabric of my book design.

The Valentine Fool

valentine_fool
Picture by claypupperton of Deviant Art

“Just say it to me once” Ariel insisted “and then you can go.”

There was, as ever, an awkward pause, but then he came out with it: “I never understood it, I suppose, but when I think about it, I do love you”.

“My goodness, that was painful and not exactly romantic, but thank you for admitting it. I can make my peace with this now. Have a nice life and a farewell hug, before I kick you out of course” Ariel replied.

Jay clung to her and then she pushed him off and out of the door. “Good bye you daft egghead. May love go with you in your life.”

As the days, weeks and months passed by, she pondered on this strange affair of theirs and what an odd state of affairs it had all been. They had made their decision for all the right reasons. He had an opportunity to have a new life with a family, and she of all people, understood about arranged marriages. They had weighed up all their options, gone over the pros and cons and just couldn’t find a compelling enough set of reasons to stay together.

She’d always known that he loved her in his own understated way, and now he’d said it – that of course would have to be enough for her ego.  And he had been very generous to her in so many ways – she could now treasure the expressed sentiment as his parting gift.   They were never a romantic match any way. It had always been a matter of convenience for both of them, so now they had made a sad and sensible decision, together.

As time went on though, the feeling that she had been rejected began to gnaw at her. Their conjoined logic hadn’t saved her, after all. Their feigned friendship with benefits had been born out of a hidden desperation and an unsightly loneliness, which somehow had grown into a dependency she didn’t even know she had, till now.   For all this time she had kept him at a distance, kept their togetherness as an arrangement, and never really wanted to be with him in any significant way. Now she grieved his loss in her life and still she knew he cared for her – out in the dark ether of incommunicado.  He hadn’t wanted to go after all, she made him. Though no doubt – her nagging, gnawing thoughts dictated – he was having a rare old time getting to know his young prospective bride.

With the new year a depression of spirits settled upon her, but she got on with her day to day living with energy and determination. Soon, she reasoned, she would come out of the other side of this resolution and move on to better things.

Jay had sent her a Christmas card and then in January a postcard from his latest business trip, so she knew she was on his mind. These communications were always bitter sweet. Ariel was simultaneously delighted that he had reached out and yet frustrated that his rare contacts with her were tepid rather than torrid. Neither did they give her any news of his impending nuptuals, so she could cut that particular tie from her heart too.

As February came and the calendar clicked down relentlessly towards Valentines Day, she found that she felt it was a simple, sweet inevitability that he would get in touch. She knew that he would somehow just have to make contact with her on that day of all days. It was an easy certainty, so she didn’t need to run the ‘will he / won’t he?’ spin cycle around her head and just got on with her life.

When the 14th of February arrived, she rationalised it into ‘any other’ day… And sometime, around 11.30 am, he did get in touch, with a rare text: “Are you busy today? Would you like to go out?”

He was late as usual when he finally knocked on her door. She flung it open to behold that he held his walking shoes in his hands, rather than a Valentine bunch of flowers. Yet he was there, just as her intuition had predicted. She wondered in a whisper to herself, where it all might lead…

She banished any notions of the future from her mind.  Today, she decided was a day for simple silence and acceptance. She would let him say whatever it was he had to say.

So she put on her coat they set off for walk.  And because she gave him the space of silence, he filled it with his words. She simply responded just enough to let him know that she was listening and was on his side.

He prattled on about his plans and his work. He complained about his colleagues. “He just needs to get it all off his chest” she thought, “and then he can really speak to me.”

As time passed and their footsteps squelched over the muddy fields of their favourite walk, still he prattled inanely on. She realised suddenly that there would be no lover’s reunion and shut down upon herself, wishing that the walk could be over sooner, rather than later. She even wondered whether to plead illness and turn back. But still her heart hoped and still her feet moved, one in front of the other. And all the time they kept their physical distance – just out of hand’s reach from each other.

They walked and walked and so he talked. She knew having a listening ear wasn’t an opportunity he often had, and that no one knew and understood him as she did, so she let him waffle on. At one point he paused and asked her if she was alright. “I’m OK” she lied.

They made their way back to her house and he asked if she was hungry. She wasn’t, but said she would make him lunch, so that finally he could confess in confidence his love for her or else confirm his wedding date…

Back in doors, he did neither. She fussed and cooked and served to keep her nerve.

When they’d eaten, he put his fork down and said “how are you doing?” She found it hard to respond. Finally she struggled out “I’m a 5 out of 10. But more importantly, how are you doing, have you set a date yet?”

She was angry to learn that he hadn’t even met his prospective bride again yet; he just hadn’t got round to it. She ruminated that it had been over 3 months, since he had left her all alone and yet he had done nothing to move his situation on.

But when she spoke all that came out was “Happy Valentine’s Day”.

“Well, you know that for me, that’s just a date on the calendar” he replied. “It doesn’t hold any special significance.  It was a nice sunny day, I thought it would be good for a walk.”

“Right, like it didn’t hold any significance last year when I told you I didn’t want to go out on Valentine’s Day, because we didn’t have that kind of relationship. Why are you lying to us both? Who are you trying to kid? I knew you would want to see me today of all days.”

“Well you let me off the hook then” he laughed.

“Look, I suppose that’s nervous laughter, but right now, it sounds like a sneer” Ariel said. “Tell me truthfully – have you missed me?”

“Well yes” he said and finally her heart lightened. “I’ve had no one to go on walks with or take to my favourite restaurant. I really fancied a Thai meal last week and had no one to go with.”

Now Ariel’s heart tightened and her breathing constricted. She had thought this man was different from most other men; but here he was, coming out with that ridiculous male bravura that they all pull out on occasions like these. He wasn’t going to propose… anything other than a bloody walk and talk.

She glared inwardly.

“I think I should go” he said.

“I agree” she responded and waited impatiently while he faffed around getting his coat on and finding his keys.

“Good bye” she said, stepping away and opening the door as he tried to awkwardly hug her. He stepped out, then turned and tried to hug her again. She pushed him out of the door and made a careful effort not to slam it behind him.

Of course she cried when he left. She felt deeply despondent and incredibly stupid. She been rejected – again. Nothing in her life was going to change. Having felt just a vague grief that he had passed out of her life and would soon return, now she was plunged into the depths of painful despair.

“This is unendurable” she raged. “I can’t go on like this.  I can’t go on feeling such pain.  This is just insane cruelty. He’s stupid and cruel and yet I’m crueller still. I keep living and breathing through all this agony, again and again. I even try to protect myself from the hurt and still it happens. I can’t do this any longer. I just have to stop trying and failing, over and over again.”

She searched out the hiding place for Martrucio’s dagger and sharpened it purposefully. She placed the point against her heart and judged the thrust and angle it would require to sever her heart swiftly, before she would get scared and change her mind again.

But it was a sharp moment of solitary drama. Snorting angrily, she put the knife safely away and opened a bottle of blood red wine instead.

After several glasses of ruby balm, she ripped out his contact details from her phone book and then sat down to compose her final letter to him:

“Hello Jay (I simply cannot use the ridiculous formality of ‘Dear’ Jay)

Well that was a Valentine Day that felt more like an April Fool…

Today you were cruel. Maybe not deliberately (?) but regardless – insensitive, stupid and very, very cruel.

Our time together today has highlighted our myriad differences – again. We just keep coming back to each other, because we are all the other one has. But that just isn’t good enough, for either of us.

Don’t be in touch again – OK. Just leave me to rot. As you’ve appreciated I’m not worth anything other than the occasional lousy fuck or someone to go on a bloody walk with, just because you want sex or don’t have any other close friends.

Look – I thank you for all you have done for me, really I do and I don’t forget that, but your weak niceness is just part and parcel of the problem.

So do me a favour, if you do actually, really care for me, in any way – just fuck off and leave me alone now. Go get a new life with your young wife and a whole pack of children. I wish you well: enjoy the sleepless teething nights in your 50s, school runs in your 60s and University graduations in your 70s; oh and that is if  your babies don’t have geriatric genetic abnormalities which mean you will have to nurse them until you die (you will have a combined age of 87 years between you don’t forget). But at least you get to have the bloody chance to be a parent and to have a future. I have never denied you that, even though all of those particular options in life have always been denied to me.

Somehow, after all the time we have known each other – I assumed that since I’m the only person who really knows you and just loves you because of who you are and what you do, might mean something. But no, a juicy young wife and family pressure are clearly bigger draws.  It’s only the rest of your life after all and being a mummy’s boy has to be easier than being a man!!!

But you have my permission and instruction to go ahead and desert me now. Instead, just go on and please those who are related to you, but don’t have a clue about who you actually are and what you really want from life. Compare their love to mine and continue with it. You are after all, as we both know, a clueless, childish fool when it comes to emotional matters.

Life, through no fault of my own, has robbed me of everything I ever wanted and despite all my best efforts, it continues to do so. Just as you get under my skin, and into my heart – this!!! And after everything I’ve been through lately Jay, today’s little visit from you was just a cruel, sick joke. I can only hope that the joke was only on me and that one of us, at least, goes on to get some real happiness. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, or should that be February Fool’s Day – a new celebration I hereby institute for the emotionally insane.

Good bye Jay.

Good luck and please just bugger off in to the wide, blue yonder – now and for ever.

Never yours,
Ariel.”

Her letter written, she folded it up and put it into a pristine unaddressed envelope. She downed another glass of wine and wondered if she would actually go ahead and post it. “Happy Bloody Valentine’s Day, indeed…” She thought, raising a glass to the universe, and then throwing and smashing it soundly on the kitchen floor.

“That’ll save on the washing up” she slurred, before crawling upstairs to her ever empty bed.

~ Sandra Peachey ©

PS: This blog post is a fiction and yet I also write about my own experiences.  In fact a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, exploring all the facets of my ‘real’ life in all its’ badness, banality and beauty. This is love seen in every aspect of the life that I live.  In it you will find the dark and the light of love, in a way that will make you think, entertain you and let you know that you are not alone in life, whatever it holds for you… It is of course the perfect Valentine gift. You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ by Sandra Peachey, from book websites anywhere in the world, including on Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

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