She was really bored. This is what happens when you listen to friends who insist that Valentine ’s Day is about celebrating all forms of love. Sure she loved Lizzy but attending this party at her flat was going above and beyond the call of friendly love. It was just another party where you ended up meeting the same people, doing the same old things, and sticking out like a sore thumb because you didn’t have a boyfriend.
She looked at the makeshift dance floor in the middle of the large hall. Lizzy and her boyfriend were dancing. Actually boyfriend was incorrect. He had proposed formally to her this morning and now she wore his ring. It was a real sparkler. They looked so happy together. They would be married in June. It was barely a few months away.
That would be another occasion she would have to paste a smile on her face and pretend that everything was okay. That everything was normal and she fit right in with the rest of their friends. It was difficult to fit in when one felt like a round peg in a square hole. She wasn’t jealous of Lizzy, she was happy for her, but marriages were events that brought back painful memories of what could have been. She caught herself before her mood soured, why dwell on the past?
She carefully made her way across the room through the revelry. The flashing disco lights that Lizzy’s fiancé had strung up combined with the crowd in the room was making her feel sick. She dashed into the bathroom as soon as she reached the door. With the door shut she could block out a large portion of the noise. She put her purse down on the washbasin’s counter and opened the faucet. The water rushed out drowning the rest of the sounds from the party.
She took some water and splashed her face. The cool liquid helped her nausea dissipate. She pulled out a paper napkin and wiped her face. She turned to look at herself in the full length mirror to her right. The severely cut maroon dress suited her. She had long outgrown frills and bling. Was she getting a paunch? She turned sideways to get a better look. Maybe she should join a gym. So far the years had been kind to her, but that wouldn’t always be the case.
She turned her attention to the maroon dress. It brought back memories of another dress she had worn eight years ago. That dress had also been maroon. It had been sparkly and pretty. She had worn it on what she had hoped would be the perfect night. She had wanted to be beautiful for him. She had wanted him to have eyes for no one else. And he had obliged. He had complimented her, spent time with her in the party and then walked out of her life with a hurried goodbye. Never to return.
At first she was bewildered and hurt. Then she had taken herself in hand and embarked tirelessly on what was now her highly successful career. There had been others over the years who had tried to get close to her but she had known pain and decided to wall herself in. She sighed, it was not a choice she usually regretted.
There was a knock on the door. Someone else needed the loo, she would have to lose her safe spot. As she left her sanctuary she saw Lizzy outside the door with a worried expression on her face. The music was softer now, and so were the lights. She clutched her purse tightly in her hand and smiled as normally as she wondered just how long she had been locked in the loo. Lizzy seemed a little nervous. Maybe she thought I was up to something more sinister, a genuine smile threatened. That was when she thought she saw a ghost from the past.
It looked like him. Was it really him? What would he be doing here? Why would he be speaking with Eliza’s boyfriend? She was following Lizzy without realizing that they were headed right to them. She saw him turn towards her and suddenly her knees jellied. He smiled at her that familiar, half tentative, smile and she nearly sank to the ground. She tumbled into the closest chair with him helping her into it.
She felt the blood drain from her head and was speechless. His face showed his concern as he studied her pale face.
“I shouldn’t have sprung up on you like this.” He rubbed her hand between his. “I should have listened to Eliza. You are in shock.”
“Eliza?” her frozen brain seemed to thaw. “Lizzy called you here?”
His ears began to go pink, as they did when he was embarrassed. “Yes. Well not exactly. She allowed me to come here. I didn’t know how to get in touch with you and Eliza decided to help.”
She turned her head to look at Lizzy who was looking rather guilty now. “I’m so sorry.” Her fiancé slipped his arm around her shoulders providing moral support. “I just wanted you to be happy. I never thought it would hurt you, and he was very persistent.”
Persistent, ha! That was not a word which would apply to this man kneeling before her chair, staring at her. He looked at her with some unfathomable emotion in his eyes. It made her uncomfortable, which made her feel foolish. How many nights had she wished that those eyes would look at her with love and longing? And here he was looking at her, just her, and she was feeling uncomfortable. She turned her head back to Lizzy.
“Why didn’t you tell me anything?”
“I wasn’t sure how you would react. And I promise I did not plan his coming here tonight.”
That he had come had its own significance. She left oddly light headed, but she hadn’t been drinking. She looked at the three anxious faces looking at her and smiled. A genuine smile, not the fake ones she had been practicing all evening. Lizzy’s sigh of relief was audible.
She looked at the man who now smiling back at her. “I want to dance.”
“May I have the pleasure of this dance” he said with a flourish rising up and offering her his hand.
She stood as she put her hand in his and looked into his eyes. Suddenly this Valentine’s Day looked promising. They still had a lot to talk about, but for now it was enough that he was there and that she was in his arms on the dance floor. It was a time to look forward to new experiences and to forget the lonely past. She moved in his arms like she belonged there and hoped that this time it would be a new beginning that would last.