Valentine's Day Rant
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DarkArrow's angry thoughts about shopping on Valentine's Day
I hate February 14. This day, and the ones I have to pay taxes, is the worst. Valentine’s Day is such a scam anyway. The advertising companies shell out millions in stuffed animals, chocolates, obnoxious commercials, sappy cards, roses, and the other so-called romantic garbage contaminating the shelves the second New Year’s is over.
And all of it for happy couples to stroll around hand in hand, giving each other flowers and chocolates while the single look on in nausea or envy. Hate this holiday, I seethed, glaring at a box filled with heart shaped chocolates.
“Daddy,” the sound of my three-year-old daughter’s angelic voice pulled me from my angry musings. I glanced down to meet a concerned pair of emerald eyes identical to my own. Every time my eyes fall on this girl I felt a thrill run through me. It was humbling to recognize features from my unworthy self in this sweet, wonderful, caring girl that had brought life and light back into my existence.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” I promised, tweaking one of her white braids. I was used to hiding my opinions and my emotions from others, and wouldn’t allow an impressionable three-year-old to see how bitter her father felt about this particular holiday.
Désirée giggled and clutched at my hand. I curled my fingers around hers as we walked down the cereal aisle. She’d woken me earlier that morning to say she was hungry. I’d rolled out of bed and headed into the kitchen to make her some breakfast, only to find that our food supply was critically low. To feed her I’d decided to brave the frantic last minute shoppers, sappy couples, and the decorations.
Surprisingly I had yet to encounter obnoxious couples. That thought was squashed as I saw a young man and woman standing near the chocolate heart display. She had a white teddy bear covered in pink hearts clutched to her chest, fawning over it as if it were made of gold. “Oh, darling, it’s so adorable!” she squealed in a high-pitched voice that set my teeth on edge.
“Just like you, angel,” he replied tenderly. His loving expression as he brushed a lock of blonde hair behind her ear made me cringe.
“Daddy, can we find the teddy bears like the one she has?” Désirée asked. She loved stuffed animals and it was difficult to resist her requests for new ones. Mostly because she’d discovered my weak points: piteous begging and pleading eyes.
“Not now, we need to finish our shopping first. Once we’re done I’ll take you to the teddy bears.” There was no need to tell her that I’d already purchased her roses, a Valentine’s bear, and a box of chocolates. As much as I hated this holiday I wanted Désirée to be happy.
She nodded, content with my answer, and didn’t bring up the subject again. Instead she helped me load groceries into the cart. I’d hand her a box and she would stretch as high as her little frame could go before dumping the item into the cart. I passed her a box of cereal, smiling fondly as my little helper deposited it into the cart.
“Alright, we’re done with this aisle. We just need milk and… oh da-,” I cut the curse off since I’d resolved to clean up my language around Désirée.
“You should have written a list,” she said, laughing as she ran up to me and caught my hand. I tousled her hair, ignoring the strange looks we received. People stared at her bone-white locks before turning their gaze to my jet-black hair. How strange, their eyes said, that a child would have white hair at such a young age. Everyone assumed I dyed mine, which was irritating.
I pushed the thought away. Focus. “I think we just need the milk.” The other item we were supposed to get had slipped my mind entirely. Knowing my luck I’d recall it as soon as we were home.
“And bread,” Désirée reminded.
Damn. She’s right though… I should start using grocery lists. Prove that I’m a responsible father.
“We just need bread and milk, then we’re set.” Unless I’d forgotten something else. I assumed I hadn’t since Désirée didn’t correct me. She merely nodded and skipped along at my side, white braids bouncing against her coat as I pushed the cart down the aisle. Eventually I scooped her up, supporting her with one arm while she clutched at my coat. “How about I carry you for a while?” I had no problems letting her walk when we were in the aisles but merging into the main stream of foot traffic worried me. She was so small… what if someone didn’t see her and ran into her with a cart?
Adjusting my grip on Désirée, I let go of the cart once we’d reached the milk. I opened the door and reached for a carton of 2%, but stopped as I recognized the head of familiar silver hair a few feet away from me. “Silver?” I asked, sounding surprised as he turned. My brother wasn’t the type who would neglect his family’s Valentine’s Day gifts until the last minute. Nor would he shop on a holiday like this since it meant less time was spent with his wife and twins.
He looked equally astonished to see me. My hatred of Valentine’s Day was not a secret. “Hello, DarkArrow. What are you doing here?”
“Just getting groceries.” I set Désirée down and took out the milk, watching as she rushed over to Silver and threw her arms around him.
“Uncle Silver!” she said happily. She adored my brother and he smiled, kneeling down to wrap his arms around her.
“Hello, Désirée. Are you having a good Valentine’s Day?”
“Yes!” She loved shopping. That would become a problem when she was a teenager. Ugh. Teenagers. I shuddered at the thought.
“So what are you doing here?” I asked Silver.
“Getting a few items. Ril and El expressed a craving for quesadillas,” he explained. The twins were nine and they’d be turning ten in four days. “I know you’re probably busy but could you watch the twins from five-thirty to seven tonight? I have reservations at Xune’s favorite restaurant but we haven’t been able to find a babysitter. Everyone else is going out to eat tonight.”
“Sure. Just make sure you’re back by seven though.” I indicated Désirée and mouthed, ‘taking her to dinner.’ My reservation was at seven thirty so if Silver showed up on time, which he was since he was quite punctual, we’d have plenty of time to reach the restaurant in time.
“Of course. I’ll tell Xune and the kids that you’re coming over.” He gave Désirée one last hug before picking up his basket of groceries. “I’ll see the two of you later,” he said, waving as he walked away. After his departure I picked up Désirée again and took her over to the bread aisles.
“Can we get raisin bread?”
“Sure.” I took a loaf of raisin bread off the shelf and put it in the cart before fetching a loaf of wheat. Now all I had to do was pay for the items, then I could take Désirée back home and give her the Valentine’s gifts. And feed her.
“Ready to go home?” I asked. She nodded and I set her in the cart seat before pushing it towards the checkout line. As I unloaded the groceries onto the conveyer belt I noticed the registers had been decorated in red and pink ribbons. Heart-shaped balloons hovered near the bags. Worthless holiday, I seethed. My bitterness on this holiday grew with every passing year.
This particular Valentine’s Day was especially difficult. It was my first Single’s Awareness Day as a parent. I’d won full custody over Désirée back in September. For the first few weeks guilt had constantly torn me apart. How could I have been unaware that I had a daughter? And worse, that her mother was the cruel woman that had ripped my life to shreds.
* * *
“Close your eyes, Désirée,” I said. She cast me a curious look but obeyed. We’d just finished eating a late breakfast of French toast. The dishes were taken care of, the groceries had been put away, and it was time for her to receive her Valentine’s gifts. “Keep them closed until I say open,” I added as I started to back out of the living room. She nodded and I checked to make sure she wasn’t cheating before disappearing into my room. Her gift basket was on a high shelf in my closet. I pulled it off the shelf. Inside were some new games, a box of chocolates, and a dark red teddy bear with a white heart embroidered on its chest with ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ embroidered in red.
I hooked the basket over my arm and went into one of the guest rooms to take out the bouquet of red and white roses I’d bought yesterday. Armed with Désirée’s gifts, I returned to the living room. “You can open your eyes now.” She did and shot to her feet as she saw what I carried.
“Thank you, Daddy!” she said, rushing over to hug me. I grinned and knelt in front of her, handing her the basket. She hugged the teddy bear against her but the action didn’t fill me with irritation, unlike when the blonde woman had clutched a similar bear. Nothing Désirée did could ever disgust me.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Désirée,” I said. I leaned over to kiss her forehead, setting the wrapped bouquet in her basket. For her, I would be happy instead of bitter on this day.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Daddy.”
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