This week’s installment is a little Valentine’s-themed story that I’d eventually like to turn into a short film script (and then a short film, natch). I wanted to do something similar in tone to Neil Gaiman’s “Harlequin Valentine,” which is the best Valentine’s-themed story in the history of the written word. (It’s available to listen to for free here, in case you haven’t experienced it — but read mine first, please, because it’ll pale in comparison to the master!) Hope you enjoy.
LOVE IN LOVE
The dress had to be perfect. Everything was riding on it.
She examined the fabric of the little burgundy number she was wearing. Too thin and it would show every bump and dimple she hated about herself. Too thick and it would hide every line and curve she loved. Her eyes poured over the places she liked and loathed. The fabric, she decided, would do.
Her eyes traveled to the hemline. Too high and it would make her look like a Halloween Catholic school girl. Too low and she’d look like an everyday Catholic school marm. She raised on her tiptoes, and then she stood flat-footed. She pulled up a stool and sat down, crossing her legs at the ankles and then at the knees. She stood back up, twirled, all the while keeping her eyes glued to the place where the burgundy met the peach of her skin. She stopped and looked at herself straight on. The hemline, she decided, would do.
In all her focus, she nearly missed the flash of gold dart behind her in the mirror. She turned around just in time to see an old man throw aside his cane, take his equally-decrepit wife in his arms, and kiss her passionately. The woman’s brow furrowed. She took one more quick look in the mirror, ripped the tag off, and stomped to the cash register to pay. She couldn’t chance going home to change. She was wearing this baby out of the store.
As the cashier handed the woman her receipt, a bolt of gold flew over her shoulder, whisking her hair forward. Before her eyes, the cashier, a dowdy matron who could be pretty if she tried, clasped her hand to her heart. She turned to look across the way to the cologne department, where, after another barely noticed flash of gold, a balding man turned to face her. The woman watched in annoyance as the two left their stations and met in the aisle, embracing as if they were star-crossed lovers who’d finally sorted the constellations. The woman scowled. She did a little mental geometry, calculating where the darts of gold had originated. And then she set off at a pace somewhere between catwalk and slight jog.
Down the street she went. Another spark of gold to her left, and another match made. She picked up her pace. To her right now, two lovers reunited with tears of joy. She looked ahead, and there she spotted a tall man in a white suit. He saw her, too. And then he turned and disappeared into the rush-hour crowd. She ran after him, thoughts of grace replaced by the heat of the chase, ignoring the shooting pain from her heels to her knees and praying that her brand-new, blown-paycheck heels could hold their own.
She followed the flashes of gold like they were yellow bricks, and they led her to another glimpse of white. She refused to blink, breaking into a sprint now. She gained, and finally, just as the man in white was releasing two golden, heart-tipped arrows from his bow, she caught him. She made to grab for his arm, but he was too fast. Pointed straight at her chest was a dark, pewter-colored arrow. The woman froze. The tip of this arrow was heart-shaped, too, but down the middle of it ran an ominous, lightning bolt of a crack. Her eyes ran along the silver shaft to the crow-feathered fletching, and then up the arm of the man and finally into his steely eyes.
“You can’t,” she pleaded, her voice barely above a whisper. “I’m in love with you.”
She saw the pity in his expression. The bowstring loosened, if only by an inch. “You can’t be in love with Love,” he said.
She shook her head and moved toward him again. The bowstring went taught, even more so than before. “I’m sorry,” he said, and something in his eyes made her believe he meant it. Before she could cry out, there was a leaden arrow in her heart.
And then he was gone.
The woman walked the dark streets, the sun having retired hours ago. The sky opened up and let loose the rain it had been threatening for days. Still miles from her apartment, and the cabs of the city filled with Valentines both new and old, the woman sat down on the curb and stared at the rainwater washing the pavement of its debris. She heard footsteps, but she couldn’t summon the passion to look up.
It was only when the splash of red passed into her vision that she looked up. A well-dressed man, soaked to the bone, walked down the street, a dozen red roses dangling facedown from his hand. She looked at him curiously. And then he turned and returned her expression. He retraced his steps and offered his hand to help her up. She accepted. He held out the roses, and she accepted those, too. And as they looked at each other, whatever heartbreak had befallen them that night was suddenly forgotten.
Neither suspected or noticed a thing when a man in an unblemished white suit passed them by with nothing more than a nod of his head and a wistful look in his eye.
© 2010 Elizabeth Ditty