He had never celebrated Valentines day before. There was never much reason, although he’d made several girlfriends angry with his lack of Valentine ambition. He’d made the speech he always made, how it was a false holiday only meant to make people buy needless things and how you didn’t need to show someone you loved them one day a year, you should do it every day instead.
Of course he wouldn’t give the women he was involved with candy or flowers on any other day either, well birthdays and on special occasions but not unless he had to.
They were needless things.
But this year was different. Everything had changed. He was in love for the first time in his life. Really head over heals in love with another. He would sing it from the top of the highest mountains, and buy all the flowers in the world if it would make her happy.
He wasn’t ashamed to admit that he would do anything to make her happy, anything at all. If she just let him take a whiff of her hair or let him kiss her.
He dreamt of that moment and she had made hints, she would be willing to let him touch her lips with his. He lay in bed far longer than he had to just imagining their first kiss. A kiss that hadn’t happened yet but would, on that special day. He searched in his memory for the delicate outlines of her lips and the colour of her eyes so he could conjure up a moment in his mind of the two of them meeting in a soft, delicate kiss.
He had met her for the first time by the sea in the fall. She had been walking a white dog that looked old and tired. She wore a long white skirt, a knitted sweater striped in many colors, she had on black military boots and thick socks that reminded him of Pippi Longstocking. He had managed to spy that the socks came up over her knees.
She had long, curly red hair and eyes green as emeralds. Of course he had learned about the colour of her eyes later. There had been no time on the beach to notice a detail like that. She had simply looked his way as they passed each other on the beach. She had been walking closer to the sea than he, but there was a sandbank separating the ocean from the cabins that stood higher up closer to the forest so the space between them hadn’t been to great.
He had loved her instantly. He had known it right away too. Like there was nothing else to do but to turn back and follow her. Find out who she was and how he could make his life perfect, or learn that his life had ended there and then on a Sunday afternoon on the beach.
He had never been a brave man so he hadn’t turned to talk to her but instead secretly followed her to a house close by the beach. She had gone into the house with the dog, and through the windows he had seen her kiss a man on the cheek.
A fit of jealous anger had almost overpowered him then, but he had stayed behind the tree watching, hoping to catch another glimpse of her. He was there the next day again and he soon learned that she walked the same route on the beach each morning and afternoon.
So they started to meet on the beach. Quietly at first but then exchanging a few words. Her name was Angelica and she was a semi successful painter.
He had hated himself for not studying art more thoroughly. He knew nothing of art, nothing at all but he tried to learn, tried to learn how to impress her, talk to her. But he soon realised that he wasn’t going to impress her though art. He didn’t have an artistic bone in his body, he was a man of science, a man of numbers, and the only way for him to impress her was for her to be impressed by something he was already.
So he talked to her. They walked together on the beach and he tried to hide his love for her. He knew his love for her was sudden, strange and perhaps a little silly, and he didn’t want to scare her away. Not this one.
He learned a thing or two about her. She lived in a house by the ocean with a man she had been with for just a few months. They weren’t serious, she claimed, but he had lost his wife two years back and needed someone to pick him off the floor and breath some life into him.
He hated the man with with all his heart. Of course it was tragic that the man had lost his wife, but why did she have to console him? What did she see in him?
Of course he hadn’t even met her if she hadn’t moved into the house by the beach where he happened to be walking one Sunday afternoon, so it was a blessing in disguise he guessed.
“It won’t last” she had said and he clung to those words. He heard them echo through his head when he saw her walk into the house and kiss the other man.
Always on the cheek, and that too consoled him. It would have been much worse if she’d kissed him on the mouth, more intimate and much harder to break in two.
When fall turned to winter she talked about moving again. Said she was tired of the ocean and wanted something else. She was tired of the status quo and she longed for change.
So he had offered her one. He had a house in the country. She could stay there as long as she liked. It was near a small forest and there was a little community not too far away.
She had sized him up and down and asked why he was offering her this and he had come clean to her right there and then. Standing on the same beach. He had told her that he loved her and that he didn’t want to lose her.
“You can’t lose something you never had” she said and smiled a smile that could have made him move mountains.
“You can’t have something if you never reach out for it” he had told her and the words seemed to stick with her. She had touched his chin, a touch that he always felt on his chin if he just closed his eyes.
She had agreed and she had moved from the man by the beach and to the cabin in the country.
It had been more of a change than he had hoped, he didn’t see her every day anymore, but at least he knew were she was. She wouldn’t just fly away and he went there each weekend to visit.
They drank white wine and sat by the fire, talked about books they had read and she told him about her project. She was painting the countryside, trying out new things, revelling in the winter and the snow. He hated the snow, but he loved it through her. He loved the entire world through her.
“You know this won’t last” she had told him under one of these conversations.
“You will at least let me kiss you before it ends, won’t you?” he had asked and she had smiled, nodded her head and leaned forward and for a moment he had thought she would kiss him but she hadn’t. Instead she had reached for her wine glass and taken a sip.
“Be my valentine” she had said one day in January. “show me your heart belongs to me” she had said.
And he felt an emotion so strong that he couldn’t describe it, even for himself. It was more powerful than the few touches that had gone between them, a hand on his thigh here, a finger stroking his chin there or a brush of lips on his chin when he left.
It was never a kiss, he noted that. She had kissed him on the cheek just as she had kissed the man in the beach house. A soft brush of lips on his chin and then she was gone again.
He didn’t quite know how to impress her on Valentines day. Normal women liked perfume, roses and chocolates but she wasn’t a normal woman, she was something extraordinary.
So his mind started thinking of what he could do. Could he take her places? Paris perhaps? Or was there something very specific she was hoping he would do?
When the day finally came he was prepared, but also so nervous he could hardly swallow his own spit. He had a bag with him in the car, a bag with things he would need for the perfect date with Angelica.
She would let him kiss her and she would be impressed by him and she would become his and he would never let her go. He wouldn’t be able to. She wouldn’t be able to.
He didn’t take her places but instead he took a few things to her. He laid out a plaid on the floor in front of the fire. He had roses and a fine white wine even though he knew that these things in themselves didn’t impress her. He had a baguettes and tomatoes, cheeses and pastry. They ate and she looked lovely in her white summer dress. And when he leaned over to kiss her she hadn’t moved away like she had before.
Instead she leaned forward and kissed him back, let her lips touch his in the softest kiss of is life. A short, wonderful kiss he would cherish. He would remember the way the tip of her tongue had touched his lip even if he became the oldest man in the world.
Even if there were a thousand kisses after this one, he would never forget.
And then she had whispered those words to him.
“So where is my valentine?” she had asked and he had looked into her eyes and taken the knife out of the bag.
She had just nodded her head, shrugged her shoulders and kissed him again.
They made love on the floor, fiercely, like two creatures who haven’t known fondness or caress in a long time. He revelled in her beautiful body. She writhed underneath him and the way she moaned at the moon as if her pleasure was the worlds to know, and not just his, almost made him crazy.
Afterwards she had taken a large sip from the wine bottle and looked at him.
“You know I can’t let go of you” he told her.
“I know” she said and smiled. “I understood that the moment I saw you on the beach that day” she said, “you had that look in your eyes”.
“Like a puppy that’s been lost for a long time, but finally found his way back home”.
“I’m not a lost puppy” he told her.
“I know who you are” she had said. His hands had clutched the knife then. He would never let her go. He couldn’t. She was more precious than any one of them. She was more precious than any of the others. He’d had girlfriends before but she was the love of his life. The single human being that could, that would, be responsible for his happiness, or lack there of.
“I’m like the birds” she said.
“Birds can be caged” he told her.
“You would never love a caged bird” she said and he knew she was right.
“There are two ways to do this” she said. “You know what they are and to be truthful, I don’t care which one you pick. I love you today. I might not tomorrow”.
He had kissed her again, they had made love on the plaid again, and he had found himself groaning, loosing control in a way he hadn’t before, tears rolling down his cheeks.
And then he felt the knife in his chest.
“I give you my heart” he tried to tell her and he hoped she understood. He saw her stand up, naked beauty with his blood on her breast. She took another sip from the wine bottle and then she leaned down to kiss him again.
“My funny Valentine” she sang as he breathed his last breath with the memory of her first kiss echoing through his mind. He was hers forever, but she had been his for only a few precious moments.
“You’re my favourite work of art” she said and watched him for a while, the blood oozing out of the wound. Then she packed her bags, dressed in warm clothes and left the cabin in the forest.