By Joseph Sloan
You buy too many flowers. You have to. They are luscious, spilling out of their vases in the center of Griffin’s Market, and you gather them in your arms until you can’t hold anymore. You imagine the other shoppers watching from behind their grocery lists, smiling and thinking: “Now there is a young lady with a Valentine!”
Even Mrs. Griffin seems pleased when you wobble over in your high heels to check out, although you know that she secretly hates you. You cost her hundreds of dollars each year, selling your produce for cheap just two blocks away. It’s not your fault that your garden produces the fattest tomatoes, the most succulent cucumbers, the firmest and brightest peppers. No one understands how a little, poorly lit plot behind an apartment building can produce such bounty, and no one cares when it’s so good and costs almost nothing. You just like to see your customers happy.
And now you are happy. It is a rare feeling, and you wish you could tell someone why. But how do you say it without sounding strange? That for the first time in your twenty-five Valentines Days you have someone? Someone special, someone of your own, just for you. They would laugh. Just like those Dominican boys laugh when you walk by after dark and won’t look at them. Just like the people at the office laugh at you by the water cooler but stop when you come over.
You won’t think about that today. You won’t let it spoil your mood. You make your way down the street, bathed in Brooklyn’s fading light, and you decide that you need to have wine as well. It’s an extravagance, given what you just spent on flowers. But it’s Valentine’s Day, and you have a Valentine, and you suddenly know that you must have rich, dark red wine.
The liquor store is where you start to feel nervous. You’re not sure what he likes; you don’t know him that well. It’s precipitous to have him at your apartment. Dangerous, your mother would have said. A man you don’t know well. A single woman. Nighttime. Your mother was horrified by New York. You hope for the best, make your choice, and hurry back outside.
Now your arms are full and you are almost two hundred dollars poorer than you were this morning as you turn up the walkway leading up to your building. You fumble with your keys and the outer glass door greets you with a pleasing image: freshly cut raven hair, and the lipstick you were never allowed. You shoulder the door open, twist inside, and pull it closed before anyone lurking behind you can grab it.
Your third-floor apartment is very cold. The cat rubs your leg before bounding back to her usual spot on the edge of the couch. You unpack your belongings and spend a full fifteen minutes arranging the flowers in your tiny living room and tinier kitchen, setting out the wine and two (two!) glasses, starting the water for pasta. You wish you could afford steak for him.
Finally, it’s time to turn to the bedroom and now your nerves are back in force. Because there are a number of things you hope will happen tonight that have not happened in twenty-five years. Not when your mother was alive and watching, and not since she’s been dead either, because in a very real way she is still watching.
But tonight will be different. He’s the one. The mailman, of all people! Blonde and handsome with a charming Canadian accent and a shy smile. Broad shoulders and a strong jawline. Perfect. Your heart beats faster just thinking about him and all the possibilities for the evening. You put a hand to your chest, breathing deeply and feeling like one of the heroines in the movies you would secretly watch as a child. Julia Roberts, maybe.
You push the bedroom door open and the light falls on his face. His eyes open wide, staring at you. You close the door and let yourself acclimate to the dark. You can hear his mouth pulling at the tape, words struggling to break free. The sound of cords straining at the four corners of the bed. The smell of sweat, and other things. You walk over to the dresser and survey your implements.
How many times did you offer him a cup of your special herbal tea before he accepted? Every Tuesday and Friday (your days off) for almost four months. And he finally said “yes” on February 13? Fate.
None of the others worked out, which is why they are in the garden. One piece at a time, fertilizing the soil, pushing up Brooklyn’s most delicious vegetables. But not this one. Not yet, at least. This one is going to work out perfectly. It will be just as you always imagined it would be. None of the others, after all, had been on this very special day. He is your Valentine, and tonight is your night.
Thank you for the story. I intend for the following to be constructive. The piece is written in 2nd person which for me is one of the least interesting POV’s. Along with that, I counted the word “you” or some variation of “you,” approximately 75 times. Perhaps you had a reason for repeating yourself – pun intended – but it did not work for me. I have more things to consider but I found your piece awkward to read and not even the clever ending could salvage what could be a good piece. I’d encourage you to write it again and put some pace into it. In a short piece, every word, sentence, and paragraph should in some way build upon each other and be able to stand alone. In my opinion, words, sentences, and paragraphs serve greater levity than in a novella or novel. If I were to write this I might write it from the woman’s POV and really get inside her head. She’s an evil woman so paint her that way. She could be the woman in Stephen King’s, Misery. If it were possible to write it, you might consider a way to make this newest gentleman sense that his days are numbered also, even though she’s happy with him now.
I just wanted to comment to say that I enjoyed your story. You build the suspense well and I could tell there was something not quite right about this woman and she seemed more and more mentally unhinged as the piece went on which I enjoyed.
I agree that the second person POV was an unusual choice but I didn’t find it too problematic. I felt that perhaps the reference to the previous victims being in the garden was taking it a bit too far, but others may disagree!
I enjoyed the story and, had to admit that while I was reading it, I didn’t have a clue until the end what was coming. You grabbed me in the beginning and brought me along word by word and then, the bizarre twist. It was creatively written and, in my opinion, well done!
Creatively written with a great ending. Really liked it.
Much enjoyed. You kept me in suspense, and the ending was fun. I think the second person emphasizes this woman’s disconnect with reality.
In Joseph Sloan flash fictions story ” Valentines Day” a young lady is preparing for Valentines Day celebration because she has a ” Valentines” for the first time in her twenty five years of life. She shops for flowers from a vendor down the street, who also is a competitor in fresh produce. She first describes her garden as a poorly lit plot behind her apartment building and how it produces the fattest tomatoes, cucumbers, and the firmest and brightest peppers. This is the first time she talks about her garden, but will have a bigger significance later on in the story. While continuing to shop, she thinks back to her mother and how she would not approve of her freshly cut raven hair and lipstick shew was never allowed to wear. She then goes into details about her apartment and then plays over in her head what’s to come from tonight. She then describes her date, the mailman, as being charming, handsome, and Canadian. Just to open the door to her bedroom to find his mouth taped closed and tied up. She then talks about her garden again and states her garden is as great as it is becuase the other dates fertilize the soil, pushing up Brooklyn’s most delicious vegetables.