As many of you know, my monthly newsletter is called Dev's News Flash and consists of a bit of news and an original piece of flash fiction (if you're interested in signing up, you'll find a form for that on the right hand bar of this page). I thought I'd offer up last year's Valentine's Day flash. Enjoy.
The Valentine Fairy
The only thing more pathetic than being single on Valentine’s Day, was being a queer guy in his thirties in charge of the mixer at a local nursing home. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my job. But as much as the seniors I worked with busted open my heart on a regular basis, I was in the market for someone a little closer to my own age. It’s just that the Valentine’s Day Fairy hadn’t ever showed up for me.
There’s a myth out there that after a certain age, people are just done with the whole sex, love, romance part of life. That’s true for some, but plenty of the folks I know are still chasing that elusive something right up until the end. And maybe it’s because they’ve lived a long time and seen a lot of heartbreak and joy, but it seems to me that old people truly believe in love. At least more than most guys my age. Maybe even more than me.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Mary Jane approached me after the first V-Day Dance planning committee meeting. I was collecting the used coffee cups when she sidled up beside me, wearing her signature pale pink sweater.
“Joe, is there a special sweetheart you’d like to bring to the party?” She smiled up at me.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d met someone who qualified as special, much less was sweet enough to enjoy dancing to the oldies with a bunch of octogenarians. Most of the guys I knew got turned off when I even mentioned my job.
But I didn’t need to go into all that with Mary Jane, so I just beamed down at her and said something inane like that she should save a dance for me.
She patted my hand. “That’s what I thought. I’ve got a surprise for you, someone I think you’re really going to like.”
I stared down at her, trying to figure out what to say. While I stood there gaping, she gave me another wide smile and a brisk pat, then swung her walker around and walked away. When she was almost out the door, she turned and waved. “Wear that blue shirt. It really brings out your eyes.”
And with that she was gone.
Mary Jane was setting me up. That couldn’t be good. For one thing, letting her go all matchmaker on me wasn’t very professional, and for another, while I’m not exactly in the closet, I’ve also never made a thing of broadcasting my sexuality to the clientele. In my experience, the older generation wasn’t always on board with the whole gay agenda. Half my own grandparents were cool with it and the other half thought I was heading to hell, so I figured it was just easier not to deal with the issue at work.
On the other hand, the fact she wanted to find me a date was sweet as hell and I didn’t have the heart to shut her down. With any luck, whoever it was she had in mind would have better things to do on Valentine’s Day than come to an oldies but goodies party. I decided to hope for a no show.
I’d almost forgotten about it by the afternoon of the party. I took one last look around the community room and had to admit that we’d done a pretty good job on a shoestring. It’s amazing what you can do with balloons, crepe paper and a few well-placed tea lights. I straightened the collar of my best blue shirt.
Then my heart fell as I spotted a tall young woman standing in the doorway. I really hoped she was a new nurses’ aide or social worker come to join the festivities and not Mary Jane’s phantom pick for me. She was a good ten years too young and definitely on the wrong team.
A voice called, “Miranda.”
The young woman turned at the name and I recognized Mary Jane’s click-step tread coming down the hallway. I schooled my face, not wanting her to see how awkward and awful I felt. I really hoped Miranda and I wouldn’t have to have that conversation. With any luck, Mary Jane hadn’t clued her in on the plan.
I busied myself with a balloon bouquet and tried not to listen to their conversation. Mary Jane sounded peevish, though. I hoped there wasn’t a problem with the food preparation. I gave the air a surreptitious sniff but nothing smelled burned. Miranda bent down close to Mary Jane. They whispered back and forth while I fussed with the decorations, staying as far away from them as possible. It was unbelievably embarrassing. All I wanted to do was get out of there.
“Joe.” Mary Jane waved me over.
I put on my best professional smile and crossed the room, bracing myself for the awkward introduction. Which didn’t come. Instead, Mary Jane waved toward the foyer.
“My granddaughter left a tray of cookies in the car. Could you go get them, please?”
An escape. Relief coursed through me. I didn’t even stop to wonder why the granddaughter couldn’t get the cookies on her own, or try to figure out Mary Jane’s plan, but bolted from the room like it was on fire.
Outside the sun bathed the surrounding fields with a lovely late afternoon gold. The air was brisk, but not cold, and I wondered just how long I could linger before I had to go back in. I scanned the parking lot, realizing I had no idea what I was looking for.
Until I found it. A tall dark man leaned against the hood of a compact. The sunlight hit the smoke from his cigarette, lighting a halo around his head. My breath caught. He was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.
I must have made a noise because he glanced over. He paused, as if startled to be seen. Then he smiled.
He stood and stubbed out the cigarette.
I walked a few paces closer.
His smile grew. “God, I hope your name is Joe.”
Simon, Miranda’s brother, turned out to be even sweeter than he looked. That was just the first of many holiday dances the two of us attended. Who knew the Valentine’s Day Fairy was an old lady who only wore pink? It’s never too late for love. Clap your hands if you believe.