Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! I hope everyone is having a great day, whether you celebrate the day or not, I hope you are happy.
Inspired by the adorable penguins below, I wrote a short ficlet for Valentine’s Day, nothing too fancy or erotic (if you’re looking for Fifty Shades of anything, you won’t find it in this story.) It’s just a sweet high school meet-cute. 🙂 (And I wrote most of it while still sick so please don’t get too harsh on grammar, etc. I was just glad I was able to finally get it up *snicker, snicker* and on time.)
I am part of a special Valentine’s Week Blog Hop with a TON of other great authors. By visiting each blog through the rafflecopter at the end of this post, you will get entered to win a brand new Kindle and free books from every single one of us! I meant to get this post up earlier in the week but got waylaid with being sick for a while, but the contest runs until the 16th so if you hurry there are still a couple of days and plenty of chances to enter! Click the link at the bottom that says “A Rafflecopter giveaway.”
All of the authors are listed after the story, with links to their blogs.
Dylan scowled at all the red and pink filling up the hallway. Cutout hearts, balloons, envelopes with cutesy cards, mini boxes of candy, flowers—anything that could be taped to a locker. The normal wall of sound of high school students, yelling and laughing and chattering and slamming lockers now also included high pitched squeals and shrieks and “OMIGAWDs.” He winced visibly as Jackie Paluzzo shattered his eardrum with an obnoxious squawk.
It was Valentine’s week. And at Parkview High School, there was a long-standing tradition of “Secret Valentine’s.” It really wasn’t so “secret,” because it was honestly just an excuse for those who were already dating to shower themselves with cutesy little gifts and notes. All. Week. Long. The boys in the school secretly hated Valentine’s week and groaned about it amongst themselves for weeks beforehand. But those with girlfriends begrudgingly went along with the tradition, to keep their girlfriends happy and putting out. Cause really what other reason was there to have a girlfriend?
Occasionally though, some brave souls, (usually girls) would take the week to heart and use it as an opportunity to reveal their secret crush on someone. There were a lot of new couples come February 15. And a lot of new break-ups by February 21st.
“Awww, whatsamatter pookie, why you look so sad?” Before Dylan had a chance to respond his cheeks were squished between a vise grip and his whole head shook back and forth. It was just how his sweet old Great-Aunt Mabel would greet him. If he had a Great-Aunt Mabel.
But no, Great-Aunt Mabel in this case, was really his petite, flannel shirt-wearing, purple-haired lesbian best friend Jules. Her face was all scrunched together as she looked up at him, lips pursed in a kissy-face. With a final jerk she let him go, and he rubbed his jaw tenderly.
“Ow, that hurt!”
Jules rolled her eyes. “Oh grow a pair already. Come on. Let’s go! I’ve been waiting forever. What took you so long, anyway?”
Dylan groaned. “It’s all this damned Valentine’s crap. Worse than the line for a Supernatural meet and greet at Comic-Con.”
Jules’ face twisted in a grimace. “Ugh. Yeah, sickening. On both accounts.” She banged her hand against his locker. “Quit wasting time then so we can get the hell outta this pukefest.”
Dylan quickly spun the combination on his lock and jerked open his locker door. As the metal creaked, something flat and square and red fell right into his hands.
He blinked as he and Jules stared at it like it was something from an alien planet.
After the shock wore off, Dylan sighed and looked accusingly at Jules. “Is this some kind of joke?”
She looked at him blankly before her eyes grew wide. She gestured to her chest. “Me? You think I did this? Sweetie you know I love you but I think we’ve already established that our species don’t intermingle that way.” Dylan was as gay as Jules was lesbian. However while she—in her words—”doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks about me being a dyke,” Dylan was a bit more reserved in shouting to the whole world, “I’m here, I’m queer, Get over it.” In fact, only Jules and his parents and older sister knew he was gay. And since Jules was his only real friend, that meant no body at school knew. He was a pretty quiet, unassuming, typical scrawny teenage geek who did well in his classes and spent his free time reading comic books and watching Avengers movies. He wasn’t anyone special or important in the high school social web so he was more than content to just hang out in the background with Jules and bide his time till graduation. He didn’t have any outward traits that screamed “gay,” so as far as he knew everyone at school—well anyone who might even give him a second thought, which weren’t many—assumed he was straight. Which meant that whoever left this envelope for Dylan…was probably female.
Dylan and Jules both looked silently back down at the envelope, then Jules looked up at him. She started sputtering and her face contorted and her eyes twinkled. Laughter burst forth and she clamped a hand over her mouth in a faux attempt to contain herself.
“Oh. My. God!” She leaned closer to him. “Dylan’s got a girlfriend!” she sing-songed.
Dylan smacked her with the card. “Shut. Up!” Jules doubled over cackling. Dylan threw his books into his locker, grabbed his history and English textbooks, backpack and slammed the metal door hard. Jules was finally slowing and catching her breath, but started to bubble over again when he looked at her. “You suck!” he said, as he strode past her.
Dylan made it all the way outside before Jules finally caught up with him.
“Hey! Hold up, asshole, short legged person here!”
Dylan slowed to a stop, and she appeared at his side. “All right, all right, geez. I’m sorry.” Her face sobered. “Actually, I’m sorry for the poor girl who’s gonna get her happy little heart broken when she finds out you will never be interested in her boobs.” Suddenly her eyes lit up. “Although I might be…maybe I can console her after you crush all her dreams, and I can convince her how icky you boys are—”
“You’re sick Jules!” Dylan whirled around and headed across the lawn.
“Oh come on, D!” Jules caught up to him again. “At least open it!”
Dylan glanced down. The offending red square was still in his hand and starting to get crumpled. He glanced around quickly then pulled Jules over to a nearby tree. Putting his backpack down on the grass, he took a deep breath and stared at the envelope.
“It’s not going to jump up and bite you, now come on, just open the damn thing so we can leave and I can mock you some more.” Jules smiled sweetly at him. Dylan narrowed his eyes at her but turned the envelope over and slipped his finger under the crease.
He pulled out a white card with a simple red heart on it. Inside, it said:
“Great job on the English essay for Miss Carter’s class. It deserves to be entered in the contest.”
Neither Dylan nor Jules knew what to say. He flipped the card over, looked at the envelope again. Nothing. There was no name on the card, but obviously it must have been from someone in his English class. Miss Carter had given an assignment to write an essay about a high school student’s view of the world today . The New York Times was running a national essay contest and Miss Carter was going to enter the best essay in the contest. Today in class she had read Dylan’s essay and announced that his was the one she was going to submit.
“Hmmm,” Jules put her index finger on her chin in an exaggerated pose. “So someone in our English class…maybe Heather Nelson? Or oooh—” She jerked on his arm so hard he nearly tipped over. “Jackie Kozlowski!” Jackie Kozlowski was the homely, brainy girl of their class—stereotypical straight, nondescript hair, braces and heavy framed glasses.
Jules’ huge grin showed she was enjoying this entirely too much. Dylan wished she had never been around when he found the card. He pulled his arm out of her grasp and started walking.
“Oh come on!” She continued yelling after him but he kept moving forward.
~ * ~
When Jules finally caught up with him, she wisely shut up on the topic and started babbling about something else. He stayed silent as they found his car and drove uptown. They were going to hit Spin and the Book Nook. Spin was the local indie record store and Jules would spend hours in there if Dylan let her. Dylan, on the other hand could spend hours in the Book Nook. The Nook was a small independent bookstore run by great lady named Eva. She had shelves and shelves and shelves of new and used books, and she even had a small comic section. And every time Dylan stopped in, she had a new supply of “special” books that she got just for him.
The first time Dylan had been browsing through the store and came upon a label on a shelf that read “LGBT Literature,” he’d nearly died. He broke out into a sweat and looked all around—even though there was no one else in the store but Jules and she was way over in the Music section—before stepping closer and reading the titles. There were a lot of non-fiction titles like, “My Child is Gay. Now What?” or “How Do I Know I’m Gay?” or the infamous “It’s Get Better” book. There were some history books like the story of Stonewall and biographies of famous Gay people like Harvey Milk. But then…on the next two shelves were fiction books. About gay men—and lesbians, although Dylan had no interest in those books. All sorts of stories and tales in every kind of genre—from mystery to science-fiction to horror, hell there were even romance books—all written about other gay men and boys just like him.
It took him three weeks of walking by the section before he got up the nerve to finally take one of the books off the shelf and just look at it. And then he put it back so fast he barely got to read the title.
It was another three weeks before he stayed still long enough to hold the book in his hands and actually read the blurb on the back cover. Then he would put it back and look at another, his hands shaking the whole time.
“There you are Dylan. Did you finally find something you liked?” Dylan jumped and the book tumbled out of his hands. He grabbed for it and shoved it back on the shelf as quickly as possible, before turning to see Eva smiling at him.
She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Really? In all the weeks you’ve been browsing this section, there’s nothing you want to read? Nothing?”
Dylan’s face heated up and he couldn’t speak or move.
Eva smiled wryly and walked over to the shelf. Concentrating on the titles, she pulled three different titles off the shelf, placed them in the plain brown paper bag she was carrying, then unzipped the top of his back pack and placed the books inside. She leaned closer. “Those are on the house. Bring them back when you’re done.”
And then she turned on her heel and walked away. She never said anything about the books in front of Jules, she never said anything when they left the store and she waved goodbye.
Dylan couldn’t believe it. And he still couldn’t believe it when he got home and opened his book bag after carefully closing and locking the door behind him. He quickly pulled out the bag to see what she had picked out for him.
He devoured all three long before his and Jules’ next weekly visit to the shop and he was all antsy and excited to return.
Once again, Eva never said a word, other than to ask if he liked the books, when he gave them back to her. He simply nodded, and she picked three more books off the shelf and put those in his backpack. And so was the beginning of their weekly ritual.
On this particular week, Jules had taken an entire hour browsing at Spin and Dylan had to finally drag her out of there so that they could still hit the Book Nook before they to get home.
As usual the store was quiet when they walked in, some nondescript background music playing softly. Eva greeted them with a hug and told them to look around; she was tagging some new books at the register. They were doing just that when the sound of books falling made them turn.
“Hey Jay-Z, what up?” Jules called out. “Jay-Z” was Jace, Eva’s son and he worked part time at the bookstore. He was also in their grade at school. He was one of the band geeks although he was definitely not what you thought of when you heard the words, “band geek.” He was really cute, had reddish-blonde hair kept a little long in the front, green eyes and a very warm smile. He had a calm, confident yet humble air about him. If it weren’t for the band thing he probably could have been a popular kid. But he never seemed to care one way or the other, just did his own thing. He liked being in the band. Dylan and Jules didn’t really have much chance at school to interact with him—he was in their English class and Jules’ history class—but they saw him all the time at the bookstore, usually as he was today, on a ladder, shelving books for his mom.
He turned smiled at them. “Hey guys.”
“Klutzy klutzy, Jay-Z, better watch out the boss is going to can you.” Jules pointed to the pile of books he’d just dropped.
Jace grinned, “Yeah she’s a slave-driver, she’ll probably send me to bed without supper.”
“I heard that!” came the call from Eva at the front of the store.
Dylan stepped forward and quickly picked up the books Jace had dropped and handed them to him, so that Jace wouldn’t have to come back down the ladder.
Jace smiled slowly, and paused, looking down at Dylan before holding out his hands for the books. “Thanks, Dylan.”
Dylan flushed but he wasn’t sure why. “No problem.”
The next day, Dylan trudged as slowly as he could to his locker at the end of the day, fearful of what he might find. Sure enough there was another square red envelope. This one held something hard inside though. When he flipped it over he saw a silver CD through the round window with some writing on it.
“OH Mi Gawd, like, she made you a mix CD! I bet it’s just full of gooey songs about how much she loves you and wants to be yours 4-eva!” Jules voice was so loud some of the kids standing near them looked over at the two of them.
Dylan elbowed her hard. “Shut. Up,” he hissed through his clenched teeth. Jules just rolled her eyes in glee. He started to shove the thing in his backpack and she stopped him. “Now, wait, don’t be in such a rush! Don’t forget to read the love note that’s attached!” Dylan glared at her but paused and pulled the CD closer.
There was a small orange Post-It note attached:
I liked your Blue Turtle shirt yesterday, they’re my favorite band too. Thought you might like this.
Now Dylan paused to check out the CD a little closer. It was a burned copy of one of Blue Turtle’s first CDs, one of their most popular but one Dylan didn’t have yet.
Jules peeked over his shoulder. “Oh hey, isn’t that the CD you were looking for the other day at Spin?”
“Yeah.” Dylan was still staring at the CD.
“Cool, at least you’re getting some good stuff outta all this hearts and flowers shiz.” She grinned. “Come on, let’s get outta here.”
~ * ~
The third day, Dylan found a small bag hanging from his locker at lunch time. Inside were a couple of Hershey bars, some trail mix and a pack of Oreos. The red envelope inside held a card with picture of Cookie Monster on it and inside, his secret admirer had simply written, “enjoy your lunch,” with a smiley face underneath.
On the fourth day, the gift was the latest installment of his favorite comic book, Star Robot. There was no note, just a paper heart slipped inside the front cover.
“Dude, okay so, seriously? I know you’re all bummed that some girl likes you but she’s pretty damn cool. I’m serious about taking her off your hands once you break her heart.” Jules clasped her hands in front of her and mouthed a constant stream of “Please, pretty please” at him.
“Stop it. She’s just trying to get me to like her, it doesn’t mean anything. Doesn’t mean she likes this stuff.”
“But she did say she liked Blue Turtle—”
“She could still be lying.”
Jules quieted for a moment. “I wonder how she just happened to know your favorite comic?”
It was a weird coincidence. If he didn’t know 100% for a fact that Jules was definitely a lesbian, he would have guessed it was her, since only she was the one who knew so much about him. And thankfully he didn’t have to worry it was her because, well…that would just be too weird.
When Friday dawned, Dylan was nervous and anxious and sick and dying for the day to just be over with already. Jules chattered and taunted him all the way to school and he tried to just ignore her. Every time he stopped at his locker during the day he expected to find something, but there was nothing. He was relieved but knew it was all just a temporary reprieve. He knew there would be something waiting for him at the end of the day. When the final bell rang and the whole school erupted in noise and bodies, he contemplated making a run for one of the doors without even stopping at his locker. Yeah, that would work! Except not really…whatever his secret admirer had left for him would still be there Monday morning. Not to mention he would disappoint—and probably piss off—whatever girl had been sending him the cards and presents all week. He was still going to disappoint her, but probably it was best to just do it now, rather than put it off. Still his heart was pounding as he headed to his locker. He saw Jules was already there waiting for him. And he saw the little piece of red peeking out from his locker. It buzzed in his brain like a warning bell. “Danger! Danger!!”
“Hey lover boy!” Jules was standing in front of his locker when he finally reached it. She grasped his arms tightly and looked solemnly up at the red envelope, then back at him. “The time has arrived. Are you ready, Dylan Michael McKenzie? Are you ready for your life to change forever?”
Dylan didn’t react in anyway; he just shoved her aside and opened his locker. The simple little envelope fell into his hands, and he stared at it for a moment before he ripped the paper to shreds to get to the card inside.
“Whoa, be careful there, Cujo.” Jules warned.
On the front of the card were two cartoon penguins with rainbows chests, holding hands. Between them a red heart hung in the air. The inside was blank except for a note:
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Dylan. No more hiding. I am outside waiting by the big tree, if you want to meet me.”
Dylan started to sweat. He could do this, right? He’d just walk out there and tell whoever the girl was, thanks, but no thanks. That he wasn’t really into dating anyone right now. That would work. He set his jaw and started throwing books into his locker.
“Lemme see, lemme see!” Jules practically ripped the card out of his hand. She read the inside then looked at the outside again. “Dylan, did you look at this?”
Expecting all kinds of snarky comments about how cute it all was, Dylan was surprised to see how serious she was.
“It’s two penguins—”
“With rainbows on their stomachs.” When Dylan still looked clueless, she rolled her eyes and tried again. “Rainbows. And I’m pretty sure they’re both male penguins.” She raised her eyebrows for emphasis.
Dylan’s stomach turned, but he refused to acknowledge what she was saying. “Jules you are reading way too much into a cutesy little card.”
“No I don’t think I am!” She was all excited now. “Those silly card-makers only do hetero straight lovey dovey cards. One of these penguins would have a stupid bow on her head and silly eyelashes or something, to make sure we all know one of them is a girl.” She waved the card in his face. “But not these. No girly markings in sight. And they’ve got rainbows! Rainbows Dylan! I’m telling you, they’re gay penguins!” Jules’ voice was so high now she sounded like she could be one of those girly penguins she’d been describing.
Dylan grabbed the card and stuffed it into his backpack. “I think you’re taking the rainbows a little too literally, Jules. They’re just rainbows. Meant to look cute. Nothing more.”
“You don’t know that—”
She continued as they walked toward the front door. Dylan had a different fear now, a fear that this was all some big colossal joke to someone. That someone had found out he was gay and was going to out him.
When they walked outside, there were still tons of kids milling around. But only one person standing by the big tree at the edge of the yard.
Jules grabbed Dylan’s arm so hard he feared she would draw blood. “Oh. My. God!” she whispered. “It’s Jay-Z!”
Dylan’s mouth dropped open, because yes, sure enough it was Jace. He was sort of aimlessly pacing back and forth toeing the ground, checking his watch. Jace was definitely not a prankster or mean, at least he had certainly always been pleasant to them at the bookstore.
“Go!” Jules hissed in his ear. “Go get em’ tiger!” She let go of his arm and gave him a shove so hard he nearly lost his balance. That would be just great, to face plant right in front of Jace.
Somehow his legs moved him forward until he was standing in front of Jace.
Jace smiled sheepishly. “Um, hi, Dylan.”
“Hi…?” Dylan made his mouth move until this weird strangled version of the word came out, trailing off into what sounded like a question.
“Listen, I, um, I hope the card and gift thing all week was okay. Not too cheesy?”
Dylan just shook his head.
A relieved smile crossed Jace’s face. “Oh cool. I…well, I’d been wanting to ask you out for a while and well…I seem to chicken out every time you come in the store.” He grinned and his face turned a little pink.
Wait a minute…did he just say what Dylan thought he just said?
“You…you want to go out? With…me?”
“Yeah. I mean, if you want to. The new Avengers movie is still playing at the theater downtown,” he paused and when Dylan didn’t say anything, his face fell a little. “Or you know if you just want to go as friends that’s cool too. Or—”
“No!” The word burst out of Dylan’s mouth in a rush and he wanted to fall into a pit of embarrassment. “I mean, no, I’d love to go out. With you. I’m just…surprised that’s all.”
Jace smiled but still had a question on his face.
“I mean, I…” Dylan sighed. “I’ve been expecting it to be a girl all week, I…I didn’t even know there was anyone else like me in school.” The last part was whispered; although by this time most of the kids were gone and there was no one near enough to them to hear.
Jace cocked his head. “Like a girl would have been cool enough to get you the latest copy of the Star Robot?” His lips quirked.
“Yeah, well, Jules was hopeful. She was going to swoop in once I broke the poor girl’s heart.”
Jace threw his head back and burst out laughing. “She’s hysterical,” he finally said when he could breathe again.
“She’s…something, that’s for sure.”
They both stood there for a few moments, silent, looking at each other. Dylan still couldn’t believe a guy as cute as Jace wanted to go out with him.
“Okay then,” Jace finally said. “I’ll pick you up about six? We can grab some pizza at the Shack first?”
“Sure. Sounds great.”
Jace broke out into a smile that lit up his whole face. “Great, see you then!” He turned and left but Dylan was still rooted to the spot. Until he got smacked back to reality by a slap on the back of the head.
“Shut. Up! Dylan’s got a boyfriend! Dylan’s got a boyfriend!”
“We’re not—” he started to say, but she was ignoring him, babbling on about love and romance or something. Dylan really wasn’t paying attention. His face muscles were twitching and he realized it was because of the big cheesy grin on his face. At the beginning of the week, when he’d received the first card he never would have dreamt in a million years that the week would end up like this. He had a real date. With a cute boy.