This is What Happened on Valentine’s Day (Short Short Story)
He bought me fresh roses which, at first sight appeared to have been very expensive. We didn’t have enough money to cover dinner the night before and I had all but taken out the very last N500 left in my account so we could have dinner. I remember being so thankful to the ATM Machine for dispensing N500 notes instead of the usual N1,000 notes. It was the most thankful I had been this week.
Onions, Peppers, one cucumber and five small tomatoes was what I spent it on.
“At least we can make concoction stew for the remaining rice,” I had said to him when he apologized for not having enough money to spare for dinner.
“It’s nothing, You make it seem like I am complaining,” I was stroking the graying beards on his chin.
“We are in this together, these times are only as hard as we are supposed to become. So they are not hard at all, they are only indicators of how tough we can get with ourselves if we decided to try. To push again, and I’m here to push with you.
To push we must apply effort. Energy. Energy is needed to push.”
He was nodding along with me.
“And all is energy.” He said.
“Exactly! And all is energy!”
There was a smile on my face and we had spent the rest of the evening talking about energy, and the universe, and law of attraction and the Bible as I cut up the vegetables for the concoction stew.
That was last night.
Now here he was on Valentine’s day with that stupid boyish grin, holding roses. Roses?
I wondered what else we could have done with the money he had spent on it. Perhaps we would have been able to buy some plantain for the rice and concoction stew for last night.
He was kneeling beside me now, holding the roses to my face.
Was he expecting me to sniff it? Am I suppposed to bury my face into this and sniff it like the women in movies do? My mind was having a laugh.
I smiled at him and took a whiff.
His face lit up like light bolts. It was as though he was thinking in his head, “It’s working! The Valentine’s day surprise is having it’s expected effects.”
Truthfully, it wasn’t.
I stared at the roses again and for a brief moment, I couldn’t decide if they were real plant and tissue petals. They suddenly looked to me like the synthetic non-living, roses from fabrics, sitting idly on the glass centre table in my mother’s house. The type that didn’t need water to survive.
The Sunday after she brought one home the first time, I had, with genuine kindness of heart, taken a half cup of water and poured it into the vase.
My mother had stared down at me, her lips unmoving, as though she was stopping herself from saying, ‘You of all people should know better than to water synthetic plants.’ I was six years old at the time.
“I love you,” he was saying, his hands on my shoulders now. “I wanted to make this Valentine’s day Special for you.”
It was special already, I wanted to say but chewed the words back in my mouth with the shamelessness of a goat chewing cud.
He reached for my mouth and kissed it, stroking my cheek with his fingers.
“Do you like the roses?” He asked, his breath cooling the side of my face.
‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with them..’ I wanted to say truthfully, but instead I said, “They are so beautiful, thank you.”
He straightened himself now and began to walk towards the bathroom.
I had silently hoped he would go in there, but I wasn’t quite prepared for his reaction.
“Babe! What have you done?” His voice was half a whisper and a yell. It was full of surprise and maybe admiration?
He was walking back to where I sat now, holding the wrapped box in his hand.I wanted to make sure it was the first thing he saw if he walked into the bathroom.
His face was aglow with excitement like a child with presents at Christmas.
“This girl what have you done?” He was saying now as he began to tear out the wrapper impatiently.
I wondered if he noticed the delicate care that had gone into my presentation. I doubted that he did. He hadn’t even seen the little handwritten note I attached to the base of the box with clear tape.
“Wow! Thats a gorgeous looking watch.” He was holding it up against the light, admiring as the dark steel caught onto the light and sparkled.
“I thought you might like it,” I said, trying not to ask him directly if he liked it.
“Like? I love it! Never had anything like this before. Come here,” he pulled me into his arms, kissing my forehead and letting it rest on his chest.
“You are so sweet,” he whispered, “And I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Happy Valentine’s boo boo,” he cooed.
“Are you hungry?” I asked, half hoping he would say no, as we had nothing left in the house to cook.
“Naahh babe, I am only hungry for you,” He turned my head to face him squarely now and began to plant kisses all over my face.
My mind was wandering again. I remembered her face, it came seeping into my mind like a blurry image at first. I saw the smile, The smile that had wrinkled the sides of her flabby face when she said “Ah your oga will like this watch oh, he will enjoy it. Na just say money kill am.”
I wasn’t sure if I had bought it to prove a point or to genuinely show I cared about him.
When the woman had swiped my card and my phone vibrated in my pocket with the debit alert message, I didn’t bother to read it.
There was nothing left in my account after paying for that watch.
I wondered what else I could have done with the money, perhaps we would have been able to buy some food for dinner on this Valentine’s night.
He was eating at my flesh now, and I just lay there soundless.
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