February 2013 Writing Contest- Valentine’s Day ThemeE


Woman with a roseIt’s that time again for another monthly writing contest.  As you probably ascertained from the title, it has a Valentine’s Day theme.  Don’t let that fool you, though.  It doesn’t have to be sappy.  Have fun with the stipulations and be creative.

For those who are new to the contest, or haven’t participated in a while, pay close attention to all the details. The stipulations and rules are listed below.  For further information, stop by the Monthly Writing Contest page to see the complete listing of rules and other information you should know (along with who the previous winners are).

You will have until February 10th at midnight (EST) to submit your entry. On February 11th, I will announce the finalists for the contest and open up voting for three days.  There are typically three finalists, but if more than ten entries are submitted, I may select four.  It will remain my right to use assistance from outside sources in the selection process, if I cannot decide easily. Those who judge will have no stake in this contest or its outcome.

*As a reminder, the first and second place winners will each receive a prize.  First place will receive a $20 Amazon gift card, and the runner-up will get a $10 Amazon gift card.  Both will be announced after voting is over on February 14th. First place contestants (who are authors) are also eligible to have their book cover advertised on the front page of this blog.

Now, here are the stipulations and rules.  Follow them closely or you will be disqualified!

Stipulations:

1) Premise- It’s Valentine’s Day and your character has no one to go out with.  How does he/she deal with that?  Do they find someone, stick with friends, or stay home?  Your story should give an answer to that.

2) The following words must be included in some form in the story:

a) Heart
b) Ice cream
c) Toe nail clippers
d) Black
e) Flower

3) Word count requirement: 600-1200 words

*Note- Be sure to proofread your story before posting.  Make sure it is broken up into easy to read paragraphs (approximately 3-5 sentences each) with no large walls of text.  You must have a title as well.  These elements work in your favor during the selection process.

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General Rules:

1) No extreme language. There are people here who do not want to see it and I prefer we not have anything that might be too offensive to the average reader. Light profanity is acceptable.

2) Making me laugh will gain you favor in my selection, though it isn’t a requirement. All genres of writing are welcome (if you are erotica, try to keep it mild please).

3) Post your story in the comments section of this post. Do not email it to me.

4) Ensure you include your name (even if it is only a first name or nickname) and a title for the story. Neither of these go toward word-count.

5) Anyone who has won a prize in any of the last three months is not eligible for a finalist position. They can submit a story if they wish, just for fun, but they cannot win.

6) Any story submission posted here can be posted elsewhere AFTER the competition is over. The only thing I ask is that you put a disclaimer saying that it was written for a contest on this blog (a link back here would be nice).

7) Must be your original writing that has never been published or posted elsewhere prior to this.

8)You are allowed one edit where you can fix one sentence in your story after it is posted.  Contact me prior to the contest closing date/time and specify exactly what it is you want changed.  ***New Rule***

9) Anyone may enter the contest  but must be able to receive an Amazon gift card from an Amazon site that is in English (they are not transferable).  I will convert US currency to the currency of the Amazon country site requested, based on current exchange rates.

10) In the event of a tie during the finalist voting round, I will ask (at a minimum) three previous winners who are not involved in this round of the contest to vote anonymously (via email to me) and use the majority of their votes to make the decision on who will win.

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That is everything you need to know.  Come back on Monday (February 11th) to see who the finalists are and vote in the poll for your favorite candidate (or maybe even yourself).   The poll will stay open until midnight (EST) Wednesday, February 13th.  That is approximately three days for voting.  On Thursday, the 14th, I will announce the winner and runner-up.  They will both receive their Amazon gift cards at that time via email.   Good luck!

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~ by Suzie on January 22, 2013.

106 Responses to “February 2013 Writing Contest- Valentine’s Day ThemeE”

  1. A Dark Path Sonnet for the Mistress

    [Yes, I know it is way too short and will be disqualified. I can count. But I’m not a very obedient bear.]

    Shall I compare thee to an ice cream cone?
    Though thou art tasty and drip when it’s hot,
    In your heart you are cold, so I’m alone
    And I pine today o’er my sorry lot

    Oh, how I’ve worshiped you from my dim lair
    From that that you trim with toe nail clippers
    To the black flower clip clasping your hair
    Oh you who should fit those lost glass slippers!

    All that is left is your loss to bemoan!
    This day past the ides of February
    I shall sip champagne by myself, alone
    During my read of a bestiary

    Although sublime, you will never be mine
    Alas, you would not be my Valentine!

    [Note: No ravens were harmed to create this sonnet.]

  2. Interesting, I will be back to see who wins … being as it is “Valentines Day” I seriously doubt if it will be a guy. This holiday isn’t set up for men.

    Hahaha

    DS

  3. Ice Cream John

    a 1200-word (exactly, with title :-)) short story

    by Tim Greaton

    “Tell her to go screw herself!” John said to the pale boy. “My price is my price, and I ain’t taking ten cents off for nobody, not even for the mother of a gimp.”

    Eyes wide and lips quivering, the little boy struggled to move his crutches away from the ice cream van.

    A beautiful redhead sidled up to the stainless steel counter. The black flower clipped in her hair might have been a rose, but the petals had a ragged look, almost as though they had been chewed. The girl could easily have passed for early- to mid-twenties, but something about her suggested late-teens instead. She leaned in suggestively to peer at the menu on the further wall. John’s eyes slid down to her ample cleavage.

    “You were tough on that kid,” she said, leaning away abruptly.

    His attention snapped up to meet dark eyes with amber glints, like a cat John used to have…in another life.

    “Ain’t nothing easy in this world, missy.”

    “Rosie,” she corrected him.

    “And it won’t hurt that kid none to get the message early. ‘Sides, his welfare mother was probably pitching that ‘can’t afford’ crap long before he was born.”

    Two young girls rode up on their bicycles.

    “Do you have slushies?” the brunette of the two asked.

    “Yeah, pink ones…for Valentine’s Day,” the blond added.

    “I got ice cream,” John snapped, “just like it says on the truck. Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla. That’s it.”

    “No slushies,” the brunette said.

    John glared at the pair of them, then reached down into the cooler and pulled out three paper-wrapped treats. “Do you want ice cream or not?”

    “Not, not, not,” the two girls chimed, riding away.

    “You’re not exactly a people person, are you,” Rosie said, pursing perfect red lips.

    “I try not to let my winning personality stray too far,” he said, dropping the snacks back in the cooler. His eyes scanned the prim houses that lined his side of the street. An attentive observer might have noticed how he focused on a blue house with black shutters longer than on the others. His gaze shifted back to the pretty teen. “So, what’ll it be?”

    Rosie flipped red curls from her forehead and glanced at the menu again. “How come there are a dozen treats listed but you have only three to choose from?” Her hands went to nicely curved hips.

    He refused to let his eyes linger.

    “Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla?”

    Rosie ran a graceful hand across the counter. He should have pulled away, wanted to pull away, but his hand remained where her fingers just missed his.

    “How long you been driving this truck?” Rosie asked, a grin playing across her face.

    “Long enough,” John said. “Now are you here to buy something or are you just a loiterer?” He glanced at the blue house. The shades were still closed. Not surprising, given there was still an hour to sunset.

    “It’s Valentine’s Day,” she said, “and I just…ended things with my last boyfriend.”

    “Poor slob’s probably crying in a corner someplace,” John said, “so how come you don’t look too broken up about it?”

    “There is a difference between boys and men.” Her eyes traveled up and down his athletic frame. “I could never give my heart to a boy. Are you a man, John?”

    *I never got the chance,* he thought, wondering how much interest the girl would have had had she seen the masses of scars hidden beneath his clothes. He reached into his pocket and rubbed the toe nail clipper that his mother used to short across an electrical outlet to start a fire, a fire that had scarred him but had ultimately also saved his life.

    “Missy, you are probably all the rage with the local school boys, but I’m not a boy and I’m not interested so how about you choose something and go. You’re interrupting my business.”

    Rosie gave him a knowing smile. “And what is that business, John? We both know you can’t make a living selling only three kinds of ice cream.”

    Her eyes scanned the inside of the van.

    He forced himself to remain calm. The wooden stakes and crosses were safely hidden behind the passenger seat, and the Holy Water was in standard water jugs on a shelf beside the cooler. There was nothing for her to see.

    A teen boy with a mild case of acne approached. He loped like a rapper in a music video.

    “What’s up, homes?” he said to John. Then after a sideways glance to Rosie, he added, “Yo, mamma.”

    “T’cha eyes off me!” Rosie snarled.

    “Tricks must be hard today,” the boy said with a wink to John. “What you pitchin, man?”

    John pulled out all three flavors of bars and spread them across the counter.

    The teen slid the strawberry his way. “Beautiful, just like this fine thang’s hair.” The boy reached over to stroke one of Rosie’s orange locks.

    For one split second, John was tempted to intercede, but Rosie’s face had already twisted into a look that said there was no need. She reached out to grip the boy’s cheek. His eyes bulged and veins swelled along his forehead. She leaned close, as if to kiss him, and stared deep into his eyes.

    “Go play in traffic, now.”

    Like an automaton, the boy turned and strolled away, toward what in three blocks would be a busy intersection.

    John suddenly realized that Rosie wasn’t just some alluring teen, she was a bodyguard for the nest of vampires he had come to destroy.

    “Stop him,” John said.

    The redhead stared at him with eyes that may have been hundreds of years old. He now recognized the flecks of brimstone for what they were.

    “Why would I do that?”

    “So we can be together,” he told her, “forever.”

    “You know,” she said.

    John nodded.

    “Boy,” she called out.

    The halting teen turned. Shoulders slumped and mouth hanging open, he stood there.

    “Go home and forget you ever saw me.”

    The boy changed directions and trudged slowly away.

    John pointed toward the blue house where a family of vampires nested. They had killed his parents and two brothers when he was just seven years old. It had taken this long to find them.

    “You’re protecting the suckers?”

    “In my way,” she said with a flirtatious pout. “But that doesn’t change anything. You and I do still have a deal, don’t we?”

    “That we do,” John said, moving to the back of the ice cream van and opening the door for her.

    She climbed in, but before she could touch him he drove a silver knife into her slender stomach. She slumped against the wall, where he tied her wrists and ankles behind her with Holy Water-soaked rope.

    He left the knife in place.

    “You can’t kill me, you know,” she croaked.

    “I know.” He took one last glance at her gorgeous, pain-filled eyes before grabbing his bag of stakes and other vampire-killing equipment. The vamps were weakest just before sunset. “I’ll be back.”

    And he meant it. There were worse ways to die than in the arms of a succubus on Valentine’s Day.

    THE END

  4. Passing Time
    By Stacey Roberts

    My watch still works, so I know it’s Valentine’s Day. It means I’ve been stuck on this island in the middle of nowhere for sixteen days. Don’t get me wrong: I feel good about spending three hundred bucks on my timepiece. The waterproofing worked like a charm when the ship went down, and it has kept time with atomic precision. It is how I know that in the rest of the world people are going around in pairs today while I sit in the sand. I’d trade the watch in a heartbeat for anything that might be useful: toe nail clippers, a helicopter, a can opener, or a flush toilet. The last thing I need is to know what time it is.

    The genie I let out of the bottle is hovering a few feet off the ground. Show off. No sand in his unmentionable areas. He doesn’t look eighteen hundred years old. In fact, he’s dressed a lot like me – shorts, T-shirt and a baseball cap. His skin is a deep mahogany brown, unlike my pink, flaky, blistered flesh. He looks like a frat boy on vacation, which is what I was until my ship sank.

    Jaclyn James, my favorite porn star, is sitting a few feet away, her smooth, supple back turned away from me. She is watching reality TV on the black 80-inch LCD TV that, like the genie, hovers a few feet off the ground. Its power cord dangles from the back, plugged into nothing. She is a shrill, cranky bitch. Also, she hates my guts.

    Two wishes down, one to go.

    ***

    I’ve made it this far thanks to the supplies that washed ashore from the downed cruise ship. The few trees on this island have dented cans arrayed around their trunks like the primitive religious artifacts of a pagan tribe. When I needed a can opener, I had wished for a TV instead.

    Island Survival Tip #1: Don’t make wishes when blind drunk.

    Me: “I could wish to be somewhere else.”

    Genie: “And what of Jaclyn?”

    Jaclyn doesn’t notice us talking about her. Probably because Jaclyn isn’t her real name, or the Kardashians are so engrossing that she doesn’t hear us.

    Me: “I don’t care what happens to her.”

    Genie: “You brought her here.”

    Me: “I was drunk, man! Don’t you have some kind of hardship clause or something?”

    If I didn’t starve, or get beaten to death by an enraged, coconut-wielding porn actress, I was going to law school. I knew all about clauses.

    Me: “Being here is good for her. It’s probably the first time in her life she’s watched the news.”

    Jaclyn James had been on set, clad only in whore’s makeup, high heels, and a short towel when she disappeared. She spent some of her considerable free time on my island watching the news for any sign that she was missed. The lack of notice from the world was breaking her heart. She covered it up by being an utter harpy.

    The helicopter wish sounded good for a while, but then I realized I didn’t know which way anything was. Or how to fly.

    Me: “How about a helicopter with endless fuel, autopilot, and GPS?”

    Genie: “That’s three wishes.”

    Me: “The wish is the helicopter. The other things are accessories. Accessories!”

    The genie, floating serenely, shook his head.

    ***

    I would be in the same boat if I wished for a boat. I didn’t know how to drive one, or even what direction to go in, other than the classic “away from the island.” Also, as it turns out, boats sink.

    Me: “I could wish to be teleported somewhere.”

    Genie: “You can’t wish for technology that hasn’t been invented yet.”

    Me (triumphantly): “You teleported her here.” I would be a whiz in law school, if I didn’t die of exposure, get eaten by a shark, or cut my finger on a rusty can of beans.

    Genie: “You wished for her, I got her.”

    Me: “So tell me how you got her here without teleportation, then.” Permission to treat the smug, levitating witness as hostile, Your Honor.

    Genie: “It helps to be an all-powerful magical being.”

    Me: “Cram it up your ass.”

    Genie: “Is that your third wish?”

    Me (panicked): “Noooooo!”

    The genie smiled, and gazed at the ocean.

    ***

    Can’t teleport. Can’t fly. Can’t sail. It turns out that my expensive education hadn’t prepared me for anything. I should have taken Wishes 101. I’m sure they cover pointless electronics, sex workers, and wishing for more wishes on the first day. That self-satisfied, gravity-defying bastard probably teaches the class.

    Me: “Can I wish to be rescued?”

    Genie: “By whom? When? By what method?”

    Me: “The Jamaican Navy, today, by helicopter.”

    Genie: “That’s three wishes.”

    Me: “Asshole.”

    ***

    Leaving the island was a death sentence. The most complicated thing I could wish for that I knew how to operate was a rowboat. I could roam the seas like Captain Bligh until I died of thirst.

    Genie: “Maybe you should think about being happy with what you have. You’re on a tropical island with a beautiful girl on Valentine’s Day. Why not wish for a lifetime of food and just stay here?”

    Me: “You’ve got to be kidding. With her?”

    Genie: “You asked for her when you could have had anything.”

    Me: “Drunk! No girlfriend for six months! Recently shipwrecked!”

    Genie: “You make a lot of excuses.”

    Me: “I could wish I never went on the cruise…”

    Genie: “Can’t change the past.”

    Me (inspired): “Hey! You don’t go free until I make my last wish, right?”

    The genie sank a few feet until his butt scraped the sand. He looked at me sharply, his tanned arms uncrossed, his mouth open.

    Me: “Aha!”

    Law schools would be clamoring to get me, if I wasn’t struck by lightning, washed away by a tidal wave, or killed by pirates.

    Me (smugly): “Maybe two wishes are all I need.”

    Genie: “Asshole.”

    ***

    I spent a couple hours thinking over the idea: wish for a lifetime of food (hopefully drink would be included, you magical douchebag), build some sort of shelter, move the TV inside, and find a way to win Jaclyn over. I could start by learning her real name, or why the Kardashians mean so much to her.

    Me: “Hey, Jaclyn.”

    Jaclyn: “I wish you would just die.”

    I looked quickly over at the genie, who shook his head. Apparently I was the only one who could make wishes around here.

    Me: “It’s Valentine’s Day. Maybe we could commemorate the occasion. Dinner, candlelight, some ice cream (her website said she was addicted to it), a walk on the beach…”

    Jaclyn: “Really, jackass? You think I’ll just roll over for any guy who wines and dines me?”

    Me: “Or has a video camera.”

    Jaclyn: “Asshole.”

    Me: “Fine! Whatever it takes! We could be stuck here for a long time, so if you need the full romantic treatment, then I’ll do it! Wine! Music! Hell, I wish this stupid sand spit had some flowers!”

    Flowers pushed up through the sand at the base of the trees. The dented cans I couldn’t open rolled away.

    The genie disappeared.

    Me: “Oh, shit.”

    ***

    • Ouch! That poor guy really had a bad run of luck, Stacey. You have me wondering what becomes of him and the porn star. It’s times like these I wish I’d put a higher word count 🙂

      • Ah, but wishes are dangerous, Mistress…. 🙂 Your contest inspired this story. I think I may just expand it and see where it goes – Robinson Crusoe and the Porn Star.

        • You wouldn’t be the first to expand on a story after the contest. Charity has done that twice now for two of her entries! If you do, let me know because I’ll want to read it 🙂

    • Given the ‘almost’ name of the pornstar, Stacey, I wonder if Tiger Woods didn’t just get a dose of literary justice 🙂 Great story.

    • LOL!

    • Loved it Stacv!

  5. I’m not eligible this month but I thought it would be fun to play along.

    Cooking up a hot date
    609 words

    “That can be right,” Ella muttered to herself as she leaned closer to the calendar. Closing one eye, she tilted her head to the right in hopes of changing the date that was staring back at her. No matter how she looked at it, the numbers refuse to change. It was Valentine’s Day again.
    A heartfelt sigh escaped her lips, as she thought of another year alone. Most of the time, Ella’s single status wasn’t an issue, but for one day a year she really wanted that special date. It was busy work training to be a full-fledged witch and she didn’t have time for a man in her life. She mentally assembled a list of eligible bachelors before discarding each choice. The guy at the coffee shop was cute but too short. The one at the bank had a good job, but he talked too much about himself. She knew that she was, most likely, too choosy, but why waste her time on someone? After all, she wasn’t ignorant of the fact that she could be more than a little high-maintenance when she set her mind to it, but she also knew she would work hard to keep a man happy if he was worthwhile. Almost to the point of despair, her eyes landed on the row of pots hanging above her stove, and a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Pulling down the largest one, she set it on the stove, and turned the eye on high. The heart of any good spell was the ingredients. All she needed to do was decide what she wanted in the perfect date and she could conjure him up herself. Jumping up and down, she let out a girly squeal as she considered the possibilities. She wanted a cool man, not some dork with zero prospects. Using the first thing that came to mind, Ella dumped a pint of ice cream in the pot, since that was cool and sweet. Next, she added a pinch of spice, for obvious reasons, and a hyacinth, because how else could she ensure that his eyes were blue? It took her a moment for her to think of anything else. Well-groomed, that was a big one, as well, but the only thing she could think of to add to the mixture in order to ensure that quality was a huge pair of toenail clippers. As she dropped them inside the bubbling potion, it turned an ominous black. Oily smoke rolled from the top and a hint of panic began to worm its way into Ella’s mind. She tried turning the heat down, and waving off the fumes, but it was too late. The brew had taken on a life of its own. Backing away slowly, Ella almost made it across the room before a giant fireball shot out and blew her off her feet. Her body slammed into the wall behind and her head spun as the room plunged into darkness. She tried hard to stay conscious but the blackness pulled her under. Luckily, it didn’t claim her for long as she felt someone shaking her. It took a couple of tries in order to pry her eyes open as they refused to obey her mind. Her throat burned and her stomach churned at the horrible smell that hung in the air. The smoke detector squawked loudly, reverberating off the walls, and causing her head to pound. She absently noted that several people were scattered throughout the room wearing official looking outfits, but Ella’s gaze remained locked on the man attempting to keep her awake. The gorgeous fireman with the blue eyes.

  6. Cupid Pricked by Debra Dunbar– 872 words

    Every Valentine’s Day it was the same thing. Mother would grow panicked at the rumors of a legendary beauty, obsess over whether her own looks paled in comparison, then send him off to take care of the situation. Women. No wonder her altars were empty and neglected. If she spent more time being a goddess, as opposed to comparing flowing locks and flashing eyes with every mortal alive, then he’d be making his sweet sixteen picks over a pint of rum raisin ice cream, and not off on this stupid errand.

    Cupid stomped through the perfectly manicured flower gardens, wings tight against his back. Heaven forbid he accidently knock over one of the precariously perched marble vases, or statues of his mother in various states of undress. She’d have a fit. He’d never hear the end of it.

    Finally he reached the two fountains, sweet water bubbling up from one in golden ambrosia, the other choked with a bitter black sludge. He filled one bottle with each, checked his arrows and set forth. Should be a quick job. Dump the bitter water on the girl, nick her with an arrow, nick some ugly bloke with the same arrow, throw the sweet water on the pair, and voila! Nuptials. And the beauty safely married off to a troll of a man. Although that last one seemed pretty happy with the minotaur guy. They actually made a nice couple. He’d gone to their wedding. Gave them a matching set of engraved toe nail clippers.

    In a flash, he stood over the woman. She was rather attractive, but they usually were when they were sleeping and not talking. Invisible, he crept silently over to her and carefully placed the bitter drops against her lips, freezing when she stirred in her sleep and moaned. She opened her mouth slightly, running her tongue along her full bottom lip.

    Okay. That had never happened before. He’d better wrap this up quickly in case she woke up. After all, he had to get his picks in before Artemis. She always beat him in the office pools, but not this year. No way.

    Cupid pulled the arrow from his quiver and aimed it right for the woman’s heart. There. Now remove it, find some homeless guy in an alley, and wedding bells would be ringing. Grasping the arrow, he tugged. And tugged. What in Hades was it stuck on? With a mighty pull, the arrow came free, ripping the woman’s lacy nightshirt with it and sending Cupid flying backwards. She shrieked, sitting upright and instinctively covering her breasts with her hands. As if he cared.

    “Who. . . who is there?” she asked, her voice laced with fear.

    Cupid bit back a laugh. He was invisible. She’d never see him. He’d just sneak out, and a week later he’d be toasting the happy couple. Her eyes darted downward to his hand, and instinctively, he followed her gaze. Drat! The stupid night shirt dangled, fully visible, from his arrow. Without thinking he thrust it behind him. And jabbed himself in the leg. With a growing sense of doom, he looked down at the spreading red on his invisible thigh. Could this go any more wrong?

    “Who is there?” she demanded again, her voice stronger.

    “Cupid,” he told her, stepping closer to the bed. She was more beautiful than his mother, than any woman he’d ever seen. Her hair was like a raven’s wing, her skin like alabaster, her lips sweet berries on a summer’s day. His eyes drifted lower, all thoughts of double elimination grids flew from his mind. Oh such lovely breasts, soft and round. If only she’d move her hands, so he could see them in their entire glory.

    “Cupid? The fat baby with wings, Cupid?”

    He felt a surge of anger. Those animations had gone viral on YouTube within seconds. He’d kill Apollo if he ever got his hands on him. Jerk.

    “No. That’s a different Cupid. I’m very good looking with six pack abs. I’m rich. And I’m a skilled lover whose brooding, and sometimes violent, demeanor hides a sensitive and caring soul.”

    “Why can’t I see you?” She looked about, her hands still stubbornly covering the parts of her he was longing to see.

    Oh. He’d almost forgot the last part. Leaning over, he sprinkled her lovely bosom with the sweet water, before emptying the rest on himself. A golden glow lit the room, the birds sang with joy, the woman’s eyes slowly examined her suitor from head to toe.

    “Nice,” she approved. “You did say you were rich, didn’t you?”

    “Yes, my beloved Psyche.” Her name was Psyche, wasn’t it? Or was that the woman last year, the one with the minotaur?

    She smiled, and he breathed a sigh of relief that he’d gotten her name right.

    “And now I will sweep you away, my darling bride. You will dwell with me and my mother in the beauty of Olympus.”

    “Your mother?” she asked, her brow creased with doubt.

    But it was too late for second thoughts. Gathering her into his golden arms, Cupid made off for the heavens above with his lovely Psyche. And the three of them lived reasonably happily ever after.

  7. HAHA!! Of course, he had to be rich.

  8. Harry Alston – The uneaten bowl of ice-cream
    The first rays of a rosy red sun blazed up from above the corner shop across the road, the speckled light falling across the bed covers, casting shadows like the morning glow on distant mountains. Dust mites hung in an air that was heavy with the scent of warm beer and spilled Vodka; strewn across the floor was evidence of last night’s endeavours, from torn off trousers to cracked bottles and smashed glasses. Beside the motionless figure of a man, his arm flopped across his face, like he was crumbling underneath the suns glow, was the figure of a woman, face upturned and black hair falling across a slightly lopsided and dribbling mouth.

    The perfect Valentine’s Day.

    The man groaned and unravelled himself from the tangle of limbs and bed covers; the world span as he sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on slightly damp trousers, still rich with the scent of alcohol. Looking back at the crumpled figure of his late night mistress, picked up whilst adventuring the lonely clubs of Valentine’s Day Eve, he gave a small snort and shook his head. The things he’d do to feel loved.

    With a small scrawled note, a few details and a rough sentence telling her to text him, although he was sure she didn’t have his number, he left the house with a resolute determination to make something of the day.
    The world outside was crisp, with promise on the air: sleep cleared from crusted eyes and with a few tugs of the gloves around his fingers, he was met with a certain pleasurable feeling of comfort, albeit one masked with the hazy afterthoughts of the night before.

    Two hours later, he sat with the same clothes on and a few sprays of aftershave across an unshaven face in a coffee shop on the high street. The glass was fogged with the perspiration of love as because everyone in the shop was glued to someone else, either by the hand or by coffee stained lips.
    The day meant nothing and he knew it, but the world didn’t seem to agree with him.
    The time slogged past with an infatuated lull: the deepest, darkest recesses of the man’s mind scowled at the couples, wrapped up in each other’s embrace, giggling like children at play on the street. With an absent mindedness reserved for the lonely, he began to browse his phone, half hoping for a text, half laughing at himself for becoming so weak.

    Scrolling through his contacts, the man’s finger fell upon her name.

    It throbbed slightly under his touch.

    A million thoughts and scenarios raced through his head.

    “It’s Valentine’s Day, why not?”

    The feeling of regret instantly tickled his mind as soon as he sent the text message. It hung heavy over his heart; he strived to distract himself with the cold coffee on the table in front of him, but his brain had other intentions: the past is a cruel mistress. Lurking in the dark, she has the numbers of all your future lovers and is poised ready to call them up and snatch away happiness at the last moment. The insidious ex-girlfriend that plays on your soul, causing the feelings of love and attraction stumbling around like new born lambs, crying for your attention, to be pushed aside and hidden away by the darkness of lost love; a history of rejection and pain that hunts your trust and confidence, ripping and tearing at your emotions until you collapse in dejection like the last summer flower.

    Still, it was Valentine’s Day.

    The anticipation clawed at his brain like a blind man wielding a pair of toe nail clippers; he went up to the counter and ordered a small bowl of ice-cream, half grunting and gesturing towards vanilla with his one free hand, the other hidden away in his pocket, grasping at the phone with sweaty tension.

    On the way back to his lonely seat, the phone vibrated and the bowl almost slipped from his fingers.

    The text was simple, but it was all he needed to see.

    “Sure, where do you want to meet?”

  9. Onions and Rendered Butter
    by Mark Gosson

    Jacek had time to make pierogi because he got out of work so early. Mr. Caudill had closed the butcher shop at four o’clock and Jacek received two hours off with pay. Mr. Caudill planned to take Mrs. Caudill out to dinner at a restaurant that overlooked the city and the Ohio River. He wanted time to stop and buy flowers on his way home.

    Jacek situates his plate and fork onto a drying rack on the counter near the sink. The kitchen remains clouded with the thick fragrance of onions and rendered butter.
    Jacek stretches plastic wrap across a bowl containing the remaining pierogi. He puts the bowl into the refrigerator next to several cuts of meat wrapped in brown paper. Other than a few root vegetables and cans of beer his shelves seem empty.
    He stares inside the refrigerator for a moment; the icebox door has grown over with frost. Somewhere in the back, he thinks, are a quart of ice cream some frozen peas. Neither is still good. Even before it looked like a remnant of the ice age he did not use the freezer much.

    He sits at his desk and Jacek takes off his shoes and socks. He rubs his feet. The tough calloused heels are like sand paper. Often times as he lays in bed, Jacek uses his brittle heels to scratch his legs. This work surprisingly well.
    He opens a long rickety drawer from his old desk and pulls out his toenail clippers. He handles the clippers awkwardly despite being a man who spends his days cutting meat. He wrestles with each toe trying to pin it in the best position. He forces the stainless steel deep into his nail bed without regard for discomfort. He clamps the device down and fractures off each nail in turn.
    One by one, he places each fractured clipping on this desktop calendar; he gathers them up within the box labeled “14”. Why does this day mean so much, he wonders. Not just to Americans, even back home. Before Wałęsa came to power, it meant nothing. Of course, Jacek was only a boy then. Maybe he has forgotten. Anyway, there is no point being sour, his mother had often told him this.
    Jacek rolls up his left pant leg and examines his calf. He looks for signs of discoloration. The leg appears to be normal. He wonders if the rash on his leg will flower again or if he has finally cured it. No woman wants a man with a rash on his leg.

    His bare feet drag along the wooden floor as he walks to the couch. He eases himself down, shifting his weight onto the flat cushions. Jacek pulls an old blanket over his feet. He turns on the television without thought and idly thumbs the remote.
    Jacek’s hands ache from the dull February cold. Although the furnace is running, the room is 63 degrees. Jacek sees no reason to heat his apartment any more than this. He has clothes – he knows to layer. The blood has moved to my stomach to digest with the pierogi, he tells himself, it will return to my hands when it can.

    He wonders if Mr. Caudill is enjoying his dinner with Mrs. Caudill. Are they be able to see the beautiful river, or is the city too much like the night sky: distant lights in a field of black?
    Mr. Caudill must be happy, he thought, he has Mrs. Caudill. Jacek has no one. He does not meet many woman. He tries to think of anyone he might court.

    Once while he was at the department store a woman had spoken to him for a few minutes when they were both looking at frying pans. She had green eyes and spoke with a lisp. He knew about the frying pans but he could not find the words to ask her on a date. In any case, his leg had the rash on it then so he knew there was no point.
    He remembers that the nurse in the hospital was nice to him. She had brown curly hair and gentle smile. He met her the day Mr. Caudill had sent him to the hospital when everyone thought Jacek was having a heart attack. But nurses are always nice. It meant nothing.

    How many times had Jacek mistaken a nice woman for a something else? He knows not to trust himself when this happens. Jacek has learned it is important for a man to know when to trust himself. He trusts his blood will return to his hands soon. He squeezes his fists hoping to find that some color will arrive in his knuckles.

    At work, he spoke to people – if Mr. Caudill was busy. Maybe the old women had daughters. Why not? Then he thinks of the woman who buys sausage every week. Yes. She had smiled at him from time to time. When she did he felt like a little boy.
    Maybe that, he thought, might become something.

    Back in his homeland, Women’s Day was only three weeks away. On that day, the men of Krakow would bring flowers to their sweethearts as they have done for so many years. His father brought flowers to his mother. It was fitting.

    Maybe the woman who buys sausage would like some tulips for Dzien Kobiet.

    • I’ve known a few men like Jacek, Mark, who struggled with loneliness and their inability to socialize. One of them actually built a shortwave radio to listen to neighbors’ cell phone calls. Whenever husbands and wives set up illicit meetings, he would drive to those locations and spy on them, apparently living vicariously through their affairs. Great internal view of a maladjusted man.

    • I must agree with Tim, Mark. This was certainly a different perspective than what is popular, but leaves a reader thinking and feeling bad for Jacek’s lonliness. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the act of clipping ones toenails ever described so vividly!

    • What a heartbreaking story. Reminds us that most people actually lead lives of quiet desperation.

  10. “Valentine Surprise” by Janet Creighton 1-31-2013 829 wc

    Marcie was not in good humor and it was quickly noticed by her mother who was contently sipping her coffee and reading the mornings news at their kitchen table.

    “We out of tea bags?” Grumpily remarked Marcie as she searched the appropriate cabinet in a rude manner which allowed for some obnoxious clattering of spice jars.
    “No. Check the stove top. I set the box out for you already. Who put a tack in your shoe?” asked her mother humorously.
    “Have you ever seen so much hoop and holler over nothing in your life?” Marcie flopped down sideways in a kitchen chair. Already she had forgotten about fixing tea. She was that upset.

    “Over what? Don’t know what you are talking about.”

    “Valentine’s Day! That is today.. and still its nothing but a money maker … and they can’t just leave it at that. Its.. ‘Perfect gifts for your Valentine. Sweeten her heart with chocolates. Did you forget? It isn’t too late.
    All over the internet.. on the TV… probably in that paper you are looking at.. Valentine gifts for that special person…. And pictures of happy couples and even dogs who get gifts today… it’s like a virus!”

    Marcie moaned. “And it won’t be over tomorrow either… my so called friends will be showing off their bears, and jewelry, and talking about how many boxes of candy they have but can’t eat.”
    She jerked her sweater sleeves down to the tip of her fingers. “It’s disgusting!”

    “Oh,” replied her mother.

    “Can I borrow your toe nail clippers?”
    “Well of course. About time you bought your own, don’t you think?” Her mother put her paper down.
    “With my part time job? Do you know how much my class books cost? And gas, and I have to have money for my cell phone.” Marcie had conveniently forgotten that her mother paid for the books, but her mentality at the moment was in high gear for complaining.

    “So, you don’t have a boyfriend, at this particular time of this year. It isn’t such a big thing,” said her mother. “You’ll survive. Go talk to your friend, Roselyn.”

    “Oh yeah… my good friend, Roselyn, who also happens to have broken up with her Valentine last week, just proudly informed me she has received three Valentine gifts from ‘secret admirers’…. And had the nerve to ask me how many I had received.”

    “Oh! What did you say?”

    Marcie’s shoulders fell forward, “None….. zero…. Yet.” She sighed. Three boxes of chocolates, a darling teddy bear, and six roses….all with cute cards. She implied she could not eat all that candy and wondered what to do with it. I suggested she give it to some lonely friend.”

    “Good idea,’ replied her mother. “Could you have suggested me as one recipient?” She grinned.

    “She is bringing me a box! I …. am her lonely friend. The nerve.” She cast a mischievous eye at her mother. “I then asked her for one flower also.”

    “And?”
    “Her mother had claimed them.” Marcie slouched down in the chair. “I hate Valentine’s Day.”

    At that moment a loud yowl sounded at the back door.
    “Guess Ralph is ready to come in. He doesn’t find much entertainment in his fenced in yard,” said Marcie’s mother as she went to open the back door.

    As soon as the door was barely cracked, a black muscular tom cat moved like a curving snake around the door edge. He was a cat with a purpose. He spied Marcie, and powerfully he trotted toward her.
    Marcie’s mother noticed a thin long tail hanging from his mouth but before she could warn Marcie, he dropped the dead mouse at Marcie’s feet. He sat on his haunches and looked up at her with his big green loving eyes.

    Marcie sat up straight. Her first desire was to scream but she managed to close her mouth; she loved Ralph and she knew he was offering her a gift. “Awwww,” she said. “Is it dead?” “Ohhh. I believe it is.”
    Her mother laughed, “Bet Roselyn hasn’t gotten one of those!”

    That did it. The very idea struck Marcie silly and she gave in to a burst of uncontrollable giggles. Ralph did not know if he should run or stay; he prepared for both.
    Marcie reached down and put her hands gently under his front shoulders; she raised him up to her neck level and hugged him close to her.

    Her mother quickly scooped up the ‘gift’ with a paper towel, placed it in a plastic bag, and deposited that under the sink.
    She turned to Marcie who was now telling Ralph what a brave and generous Valentine he was.

    “Guess we’ll have a somber private funeral tomorrow,” said her mother.

    “Yes,” replied Marcie. “For now let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day with a bowl of ice cream for the three of us!”
    Ralph agreed. ‘Ice cream’ was one of the human phrases that he recognized.

  11. First time I have entered… not because I haven’t been tempted, but the competition is amazing. I just couldn’t resist joining in on this Valentine contest….
    thanks … 🙂

  12. Her First Day by Sarah Fredricks. (w/c 1107)

    He sat in their bedroom chair and watched her as she slept. He’d sat there every night for the last six months. Until he’d started this ritual he’d kind of forgotten how serenely beautiful she was. He hated that he’d taken her for granted, hadn’t told her enough that he loved her.

    She stirred. He glanced at her clock – seven a.m. – waking up time. Today was another first for her. She’d got through her first Christmas, her first birthday. And now it was Valentine’s Day. He felt his heart crack. It startled him, because it was impossible. How could a heart already broken crack any further?

    Tears fell silently from his eyes as she opened hers. She stared up at the ceiling. He knew what she was thinking – she was wondering how she would get through this day.

    He’d always been a glass half full kind of guy and until six months ago he’d never cried. Now, he couldn’t stop, but then, he’d never had the opportunity before to be an observer of others. Not only did he feel her pain, he absorbed it. His tears were her tears – that was the only explanation he’d been able to come up with. How otherwise had he cried so much when she had cried hardly at all?

    He closed his eyes against the bleakness on her face. That bleakness hadn’t changed in six months. In these few moments before she took a deep breath and started her day, her eyes always looked so vacant. He felt the darkness swirl around him, saw the velvet black as it swamped him. He tensed against its effect and waited for it to squeeze him hard as he journeyed through its vortex.

    His eyes flew open. The blackness had slunk away. He glanced over at her and saw life shimmering in her eyes. For the first time in six months he breathed more easily. Today was the first day her bleakness had cleared on its own. Up until now, it had taken the presence of their son to chase away the deep, dark shadows.

    As she stretched out he continued to watch her, with a tender smile on his face. He was proud of how far she’d come in six months. Proud of how she’d stood up to everyone and everything. Proud that she hadn’t caved in to her parents’ demands to go home.

    Just as she started to move the quilt back a little body barrelled into her and pushed her down into the mattress.

    ‘Mum! Look what I found on my pillow!’

    The little body waved something at her. She sat up against her pillows and stilled the waving hand. She couldn’t believe what she was looking at.

    He grinned. He’d known that would surprise her. He’d left it to give her hope, to let her know he was there for her. He’d wanted his son to give her this gift of love.

    Tears poured down her face now as she recognised the tiny red flower in her son’s hand. It was the single rosebud that had blossomed on their rose bush – the rose bush they’d planted the day they’d married.

    The day it had opened its heart to the sun he’d picked it for her and presented it to her on a tray filled with her favourite food. She’d dried it out, and six months ago she’d left it with him as a symbol of her love.

    He held his breath, waiting for her wracking sobs to subside. His fingers touched his own cheek. There were no tears. He smiled. She’d finally taken ownership of her own grief. Now, her healing would begin.

    She hiccupped as her overwhelming emotions subsided, and she stared at the rose. She reached out and stroked its petals. ‘Where did you get this?’ she whispered.

    ‘Daddy gave it to me.’

    She looked her son in the eye. So many times in the last six months he’d said that. It had started with the toe nail clippers. She’d found them on the bathroom counter and asked her son how he’d managed to climb up to the cupboard and remove them. It had been five months ago and she was certain they hadn’t spent a month on display. There was nothing on show in the bathroom; everything had a place in the cupboard. There had been other moments in the months that followed but nothing since the ice cream last month. She’d gone into the kitchen to see why her son was so quiet and found him stuffing his face with it, the empty tub sitting by the sink.

    At that moment she’d felt as if she might collapse under the weight of it all until something had strangely held her up, made her feel lighter.

    As she lay in her bed, she closed her eyes and prayed for assistance in helping her son through their loss. Just at that moment she sensed the comfort of an embrace, an embrace that felt so much like her husband’s. She leaned into its warmth, a sense of peace enveloping her.

    She felt the small, soft body of her son snuggle in beside her.

    ‘Hello Daddy.’

    She tensed, until the warmth of the embrace seemed to massage her shoulders. She sighed. Her husband had always known just where to apply the pressure.

    She imagined she heard his voice whisper in her head.

    ‘Happy Valentine’s Day darling. You’re ready now. Know that I loved you deeply. Know that my heart broke over and over as I kept watch over you. Know that you’re strong enough now to move on. You’ll find happiness again, I promise you.’

    She shuddered as a soft breeze swiped around her and caressed her face.

    ‘Bye Daddy.’

    She sat up and stared at her son. ‘Why do you say that sweetheart?’

    He pointed to the window. ‘Look Mummy. He’s waving goodbye.’ He waved as his daddy’s spirit floated away.

    She turned and looked out the window, confused that the curtains were open. In the blink of an eye she saw a swirling of puffy cloud blot out the early morning sun. She smiled. In that moment she caught the face of her beloved man.

    A stillness, a peace, settled in her heart.

    He’d been right. She was strong enough now. And maybe her little boy really had been able to see his daddy’s ghost. She held him to her heart and breathed in the innocence of her child.

    He was her Valentine for now and she’d relish every moment of this wonderful day with him. The first, bright day of their future.

  13. Forget Me Not
    by Anthony Bellaleigh (830 words)

    His heart beat furiously against the rough-spun fabric of his shirt as if it was trying to fling itself out of his chest. Above the trench-line, the sky was a swathe of angry black-grey clouds tinged with a barely visible hint of amber that might be from the distant fires but was, more likely, from the pending dawn. Another day was starting: February 14th.

    With one trembling hand he reached inside his jacket – his fingerless woollen gloves had done little to hold back the frosty cold of another French winter’s dawn and his fingertips felt as if they had been planted in a tub of ice cream – but he was relieved to find her letter was still there: tucked into an inside pocket. Despite his icy-digits, he could just make out the well-thumbed edges of the scented parchment and, for a second, he felt warm inside.

    ‘I wonder how Lucy will spend Valentine’s,’ he thought to himself as something whistled overhead, streaking away into the far distance, heading inexorably in a direction that he really didn’t want to travel but knew that he’d have to follow soon…

    “Look sharp!” a deep booming voice barked out through the half-light from somewhere to his left, “Keep your eyes peeled!”.

    Oh, how he longed for the chance to be at Lucy’s side today! How he longed to be able to return to the so-called trials and tribulations of his earlier life. To days when looming exams made you think that nothing could get more stressful. To days when the worst you could expect for failure was a whipping from your father. To days when…

    “Hodgkins! Look alert, I said!” The booming voice demanded his attention. “Jump to it you miserable Toenail! Clippers, get the ladders up!”

    Another of his fellows – he knows only too well that he has no real friends here; just those who shoot at him, or don’t shoot at him – moved in front of him as he quickly straightened up and readied himself: pulling shut his jacket to cocoon its precious paper contents close to his chest, and buttoning the fastenings tight as if in some crazy way this fabric could offer shielding from what was to come.

    Clippers glanced back at him. Nicknamed after his role as make-do barber for the squad, and generally a quiet and softly spoken soul, this other man’s wide eyes now betrayed only mortal fear and terror. He guessed his own would look much the same. Neither of them smiled.

    “Ready?” Clippers asked.

    He grimaced and nodded, but could not speak.

    Oh, to be back in the schoolyards, to be stealing glimpses of her beauty across classrooms, to be running hand-in-hand across the muddy lanes, and into the meadows. To be grabbing handfuls of wild flowers to present to her whilst hot blood rushes to warm cheeks. To be feeling; not fear, but an animal flush of lust and desire. To be kissing her soft lips…

    The last remnants of night vanished in a sudden blaze of white light which turned the trench wall before him into a hard line of black-haven and the sky beyond into a fiery glimpse of Hell. A rippling concussive boom ripped through the air, pounding at his stomach and blasting at his eardrums. And now more blazing lights. And more concussive booms. Until it all became an endless, awful, roar of noise. And the white light became swathed in red, and yellow, and even black as huge handfuls of earth are grabbed by monstrous invisible hands and thrown skyward…

    “Get ready now!” yells the voice.

    He places one, unexpectedly steady and supportive, hand on Clipper’s trembling shoulder, and leans forward so he can be heard as he whispers into his comrade’s ear, “We’ll be okay, mate. This push’ll be the one. Just you wait and see. The barrage will clear the way this time…”

    “It didn’t before,” Clippers whimpers.

    He knows that Clippers is right. It’s never worked before…

    Not in 1914, nor 1915, nor yet in this year…

    A piercing whistle strikes up from somewhere in the distance. Then another. And another. The chorus builds and the alien sound moves ever closer…

    This is it then.

    “Now!” yells the booming voice and his own Captain’s penny-whistle joins the piping throng.

    Clippers starts up the ladder in front of him, legs shuddering and bouncing the rickety wooden frame as he climbs fearfully toward the reaper who waits patiently for them all: bare inches inches above, bare seconds away…

    And he pushes his own reluctant limbs forward and starts to follow as fizzing and whistling sounds and small plumes of dirt announce the arrival of machine gun rounds.

    In the distance the barrage continues.

    Screams begin to rip through the air.

    Clippers disappears over the top.

    Disappears into Hades.

    And now he is following.

    And he wonders as he climbs, how his Lucy will spend Valentine’s Day…

    • Great job, Anthony. I love the way you snuck ice cream and toenail clippers in there. The story overall reminded me of an episode from Blackadder Goes Forth. If you’d included a plump and juicy pigeon, I’d have been convinced!

      • Thank-you, Mistress. And I’m not surprised at the mysterious avian-threat that your reply subconsciously reveals… Hugs, ABP (Authors against Birds in Pots)
        p.s. think you’re going to have a tough-old time selecting your shortlist this month! Don’t envy you…

    • Whoa! Good job, Anthony!

    • You left me hanging…. a scary situation…. did he get home for Valentines on the following year?
      I am going to pretend he did….. very vivid visuals…. !!

  14. Terrifying scene, Anthony, and one that has occurred countless millions of times over the centuries. Nicely done.

  15. […] February 2013 Writing Contest- Valentine’s Day Theme (mistressofthedarkpath.wordpress.com) […]

  16. The Valentines Day Mishap. By Morgan Franks

    Missy Mcgoo was a very popular girl. She always had at least 3 friends with her. And of course her boyfriend. Nigel Northrop. Unlike her sister Madi Mcgoo. Who also had bright purple hair, but hers were in pony tails. She had a huge crush on Nigel
    You see the kids in Wack-a-Waville had the strangest looks and names. Missy had a bright purple Mohawk with orange polka dots. Nigel had an orange Mohawk with bright purple polka dots.
    There was Ella Extraction, the girl with green hair that looks like an octopus, Gertrude Gorzicki the girl whose shiny electric blue hair was always piled on her head with not a single hair out of place. And of course, Little Lucy Lou.
    Missy had wanted to bring a prince to the dance. She always had poor Madi do everything for her. Missy told Madi to go look for frogs that might be a prince.
    Madi said ok but didn’t look for frogs for her sister. But instead for herself. Madi eventually found one. She looked directly at the frogs beady little red eyes. And she said “I am going to kiss you ok. And when I do you better not break my heart for my sister.”
    The frog croaked what sounded like a yes. Madi kissed him and he became quite a cute fellow. He had shiny brown hair and brown almond shaped eyes. His teeth were straight and he was perfect. But I guess being a frog doesn’t let you clip your nails.
    When Madi got home she snuck the prince into the bathroom and used her sisters toe nail clippers to cut his nails. When she finally finished his mani-pedi she asked his name. He pointed to his throat and shook his head. “Your throat’s sore? Ice cream will fix that!”
    She got him the ice cream and once he gulped it down he spit up something black. Madi shrieked and her sister came running down the stairs. “EEEKK! What’s that and whose h- well HELLO GORGEOUS!” Missy exclaimed. “My name is Prince Jeremy II.
    “Hey Jeremy what’s that black stuff you just kind of threw up there?” Asked Madi. “That was the witch’s poison that I luckily never swallowed.” ”Oh. Wow” said Missy whose head was obviously somewhere else.
    Next to walk in was Nigel. Nigel saw Missy staring at Jeremy and the first thing out of his mouth was “Listen here Prince! I better not see you messing with my girl here! Oh who am I kidding she does not love me anyways and I am in love with someone else.”
    That brought Missy’s head back to Earth! “EXCUSE ME! AND WHO IS THIS OTHER GIRL!” Shrieked Missy. “Madi. I am in Love with Madi.” Said Nigel. Madi practically fluttered off the ground.
    “WHAT!” Yelled Missy “YOU ONL- YOU KNOW WHAT! I LOVE THE PRINCE! JEREMY LETS GO!” Her yell getting louder. Later that night was the Valentines Day Dance. So after they had all cooled down, they decided to all meet at Missy and Madi’s house. Jeremy is going with Missy and Nigel is going with Madi.
    Later that night Jeremy showed up first. He brought Missy flowers and wore a white tuxedo. 10 minutes later Nigel showed up in a black tuxedo and also had flowers and chocolate. 20 minutes after they showed up they all went to dinner.
    For dinner they had burritos. At a very popular restaurant called El Pico Chicka. It was 6:30 ands the dance started at 7. So to kill time they went to the park and took a walk.
    The walk was very romantic. When it was time to go Nigel leaned in to kiss Madi. When he did, Missy got very jealous. She slammed into Jeremy trying to kiss him. But he wasn’t expecting that and since he was very tall. Missy’s forehead slammed into Jeremy’s chin. Missy got knocked down and almost became unconscious. Madi rushed over. Missy was taken to the hospital. She got better at 6:59. Perfect timing.
    They rushed to the dance. They danced the night away. They would switch partners then switch back. Love was in the air. They all had the time of their lives. Madi and Nigel kissed once more before he dropped her off at their house. This time Jeremy leaned in and kissed Missy. This time it was perfect.

  17. My name is Vanessa von Mollendorf.
    What the cat dragged in: a modern fairytale

    It was that time of year again, February the fourteenth. The dreaded Valentine’s nightmare had begun and once again Myrtle had no date. Zilch, zip, zero in the handsome male department. The tinny sport’s announcement echoed through the building of Newbury and Sachs, attorneys at law:
    “Myrtle scores a goose egg yet again ladies and gents, and in the opposing corner the pretty girls’ scores reach epic heights.”
    In her imagination, a rich one I might add, she could even hear the crowd booing and hissing when her name was called; certain rotten fruit even found their mark. Myrtle rubbed her arms gingerly in the hope of warding off imaginary bruises. Of course they were ecstatic for the pretty girls’ victory, whistling and hurrahing. Ironic wasn’t it? They would, wouldn’t they? It was the way of the world.
    Myrtle was no beauty queen and she knew it. The mirror on the wall told her every day that she was never going to be the fairest of them all. Behind thick, Coke bottle lenses her eyes stared myopically at the world. A bulbous nose, slightly too full lips and a double chin rounded off her facial features. Thin, dirty blonde hair covered her knobbly skull. Her large upper body was inelegantly carried by twig like legs. Her father called them Wednesday legs, as in, “When’s they gonna break?” Hardly funny in Myrtle’s opinion, yet he seemed to enjoy it ad nauseam. Small things amused small minds after all. Sadly there would never be a fairy godmother to transform and beautify what genetics had deemed fit for our heroine, Myrtle.
    She struggled through the workday with a heavy heart, feeling green around the gills at the flirtatious talk and petty decisions involving dresses, hair do’s and yes, even lingerie. Why couldn’t they all wear serviceable, white cotton? It breathed for goodness sake! During lunch she kept her significant nose buried in the new Ken Follett novel, thereby avoiding inane small talk. Promptly at four she tidied her desk; cleanliness being next to godliness after all, collected her large, canvas carry bag and left the building, striding purposefully to the employees’ parking space in sensible, brown oxfords (sadly no glass slippers for our Myrtle). She unlocked her trusty, pumpkin yellow Volkswagen and took to the streets. On the way home she stopped for her favourite comfort food; a two litre tub of blueberry and cheesecake ice cream and two large slabs of chocolate….heavenly perfection.
    Once home, she lavished her attention on Marshmallow, her four year old black and white cat. He reminded her somewhat of Puss in Boots, dashing and daring, even looked like children’s book renditions of the character in a certain light. He peremptorily demanded affection, insinuating himself between her legs and arching his back in blissful expectation of a scratch. Once Marshmallow had settled down, his tail curved neatly around his body, his nose and mouth firmly buried in the soft mounds of Friskies’ salmon and sauce, Myrtle helped herself to a large bowl of ice cream generously topped with sprinkles. She carried the bowl and spoon to the tiny living room and settled into a suede armchair. She sent her hands on an expedition inside the cavernous interior of the canvas bag, scrabbled around for a few minutes before holding her novel aloft triumphantly. The two slabs of chocolate duly appeared and Myrtle sank back in the chair with a contented sigh. Who needed a Valentine’s date after all? She was perfectly happy scoffing the ice cream and allowing the chocolate to melt in her mouth…. uninhibited bliss. She was vaguely aware that Marshmallow, the Don Juan of the cat world had left the building through the cat flap. Lucky cat, she sniffed.
    Within half an hour Myrtle was snoring gently, her head tilted to the side, the novel open and forgotten on her chest. She dreamt of being awoken by a prince; of riches and beauty rarely bestowed on the common people and of fairytale endings to unhappy beginnings. The intrusive banging of the cat flap and an odd drawn out screech from Marshmallow brought Myrtle crushingly awake. She muttered under her breath. To the unseen observer it sounded like she was asking a dream prince to kiss her again and complaining that she hadn’t yet slept for a hundred years. Bewildered, she looked around for the cat and found him sitting on the Turkish carpet with a huge grin on his face. Myrtle insisted on calling the richly hued carpet her magic ride to the chagrin of family and friends alike.
    Marshmallow was sitting on the very edge of said carpet grinning idiotically at her. Later, Myrtle would swear to any judge and jury that the cat winked at her lasciviously and gestured to an oddly shaped, olive green ball that sat in the exact centre of her magic ride. The ball said: “Ribbit”, as frogs usually do, having no human speech mechanisms. Myrtle, suffering from Ranidophobia and believing that frogs were a bad omen, shooed the croaking ball away. She was afraid that if she dared get out of the armchair, the croaker would leap upon her and her body would be covered in warts within the hour.
    “Stupid cat, why on earth would you bring this monstrosity inside? Couldn’t you find a nice female cat instead? “Marshmallow merely grinned in an all too intelligent fashion. Myrtle was sure she had gone to sleep and had awoken in an alternate universe in which cats were intelligent and frogs watched you with their beady eyes, looking for the entire world like superior, royal beings. She shook her head in an attempt at clearing the vestiges of sleep that still clung desperately to her mind.
    “Ribbit,” the frog voiced his opinion on the matter. Myrtle looked at it closely. On the dimpled head sat a tiny golden crown, decorated with emeralds and tiny diamond slivers. Over its back, a gossamer mantle of golden silk, fluttered breezily.
    “Ribbit,” it said once more, this time holding a set of jewel encrusted toe nail clippers in one webbed, pseudo hand. Myrtle gingerly reached for it, being careful not to touch one single millimetre of the frog’s coarse skin. She held the tiny toe nail clippers close to the lamplight, marvelling at the fine craftsmanship and the dazzling array of jewels. Surely, she was still stuck in a dream reality? This couldn’t be happening……or could it? She had to admit that toe nail clippers were not an acceptable, normal gift, except maybe in frog world. To her untrained eye, however, the jewels were real enough at least. Myrtle decided to pinch herself, hard, only to find that she was very much awake. To get her attention the frog croaked insistently. This time it held out an exquisite flower carved out of a single, large pearl. It even nodded wisely at her as she audibly exclaimed at the singular beauty of the gift. Frog and human looked at each other for what seemed like ages, but must in fact have been but a minute. The frog puckered up its fleshy lips and made a rude smacking noise. Myrtle realised it had just asked for a kiss in the only way it knew how. What if this was indeed her long lost prince changed into a frog for pissing off the local witch? Maybe a soft kiss on those slimy lips wouldn’t hurt and it would be transformed into an elegant, handsome male. Just what the doctor ordered for Valentine’s Day.
    It took Myrtle a while to gather the courage to put thought into action; meanwhile the frog waited patiently. Slowly she got out of the armchair, walked over to the frog and kneeled beside it. There was no way in hell that she was going to pick it up. She leaned closer and touched her lips to its cold skin for merely an instant. Myrtle sat back on her heels and watched the frog intently. Nothing happened for a full five minutes. She kissed it again just to make sure that she would not be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. The only observable changes were those taking place in Myrtle’s own body. Her skin contracted, became coarse and dimpled; her eyes grew bulbous and popped the black rimmed glasses she wore off the end of her nose; between her fingers and toes webbed skin grew at an alarming rate. Fairy tales never seemed to get the facts straight. This is what you got for believing in them so fiercely, Myrtle du Toit, she scolded herself. The only audible sound was a hesitant, female, “Ribbit” that popped out between her now fleshy lips. The Frog Prince spoke to her in soft croakings that calmed and soothed her frayed senses. She understood Frogese perfectly. He had chosen her as his bride; had sent his best spies to watch her and had obtained a magic potion from a slant eyed witch who lived in a gingerbread house. He and the cat had an understanding. Marshmallow knew how lonely his mistress was and together they had planned the event as a romantic Valentine’s Day surprise. Myrtle shuddered in as far as her new amphibious body would allow. This was a nightmare!
    Thus Myrtle and Walter, for this was the frog prince’s name, became queen and king in their own right after the passing of the Prince’s parents. They ruled less happily ever after than the fairy tales proclaim as Myrtle still hankered after her lost humanity. The slimy, dark palace depressed her endlessly and on every fourteenth of February thereafter she would take to her bed such as it was and weep for lost and forgotten things. Marshmallow was later changed into a tiny frog pet and became his mistress’ sole solace in times of need.
    What is the moral of this convoluted tale, you ask? Be careful what you wish for on Valentine’s Day and never ever believe a single fairytale. I bid you adieu as Myrtle croaks from under the rosebush; spewing forth sage, frogly advice in my midnight writer’s world.

    Word count: 1694

    • Another great twist on the frog prince tale. Though your word count is too high to qualify as a finalist, I’m really glad you contributed it, Vanessa. I like that you showed fairy tales aren’t all they are cracked up to be!

    • Great frog prince twist, iread! Sorta like Shrek.

  18. A fascinating story, Vanessa. I particularly liked the “knobbly skull” description and the sardonic narration. Reminds me a bit of Daniel Handler’s Lemony Snickett. Nice! 🙂

  19. Ashen
    by Paul Venderley

    This is not how I had anticipated I would spend my Valentine’s Day: abed in a sterile white and chrome hospital room.

    It’s my sixth day trapped in here. Last night the doctors decided to slather my extremities with Lubriderm to keep my skin from sloughing off any further, then wrapped me head to foot in gauze. It’s laughable – they say it’s for me, but I know it’s really so nobody accidentally touches me again.

    Outside the door I hear the muffled voices of my nurses as they change shifts. It’s always the same: laughter when they learn that I caught this affliction while trimming my toenails. Then concern that if my disease could be transmitted so easily by something as innocuous as toenail clippers, could they not catch it as well?

    The new shift comes in – polite, courteous, frightened as hell – I can see it in their eyes. The primary nurse wipes the whiteboard clean to write her name on it, while a candy striper follows behind carrying a tray with a carnation set in a plastic heart-shaped vase and a serving of that god-awful ice cream in a cup — a Valentine’s Day treat, she says. I smile. The gesture’s cute in spite of her fear. She leaves the tray on the chrome counter next to the bed, checks the water, then hightails it out of here.

    I want to tell them that it’s not a disease. It’s blood magick; a curse. Like what befell Sleeping Beauty when she pricked her hand on that spindle. But I’m no beauty, and I wasn’t cursed with a sleeping sickness. So the doctors ignore my protestations that this isn’t something medicine can remedy, and they won’t let me leave quarantine until they understand my sickness and cure it, or until I die.

    Clever one, that wife of mine. Cursing me with this affliction, then turning me over to science for a cure.

    The primary nurse dons a surgical mask, snaps on a pair of latex gloves, and unwraps my right leg. The gauze falls apart as though it’s come off a thousand year old mummy. That’s new.

    Skin comes off with the gauze – gray, ashen, flakey. Particles hang in the air. My nurse’s eyes widen. Her surgical mask caves in a little bit, betraying her sudden intake of breath. She takes a step back to wait for things to settle.

    For a moment it looks as if the nurse intends to replace the tattered remains of the gauze on my leg, but instead she places it on a tray, removes a clear plastic bag from beneath the sink, places the tray in the bag, then seals it. Another puzzle piece that will provide no clue to the doctors who will later study these artifacts beneath their microscopes and within their centrifuges.

    The nurse disposes of her gloves in a hazardous waste container before notating her findings on a clipboard. She asks me if I’ve had anything to eat today. I whisper that it all turns to ashes in my mouth. She motions to the ice cream cup, and asks if I would like to try that.

    I would. God knows I would, but…

    I push myself onto my right side and lean over the bed to pull the ice cream cup off the tray – the nurse won’t risk contagion by helping me. I clutch the plastic cup with one hand and the wooden spoon with two insensate fingers in the other. Gauze dissolves in my grasp, littering the bedsheets with a fine dust. I clumsily shovel a teaspoon of the ice cream into my mouth.

    A flight of chemical sweetness dances on my tongue, then…

    …ashes.

    I roll back onto the bed, letting the cup fall to the floor.

    The nurse, all heart, silently notates this event on her clipboard. She sweeps the cup into a dustpan, which she then disposes into the hazardous waste container.

    The nurse asks if I want the television back on, then turns it on without waiting for my response. Divorce Court blares tinnily through the speaker beside my ear. I bemoan the loss of daytime soap operas. The nurse leaves me to fend for myself.

    I play back in my head the events of six days ago in yet another attempt to discern what traps my wife had set to invoke this malady. Where were the sigils? Where did she place the poppit? By now my doctors’ medical teams have combed through our house in search of clues to this disease, but their bumbling efforts have no doubt effectively erased any evidence of the tools and talismans she’d used. However, if I could cull even the slightest clue from the recesses of my memory, perhaps I could give them some medicinal equivalent for a cure.

    But there’s nothing for me to draw on. I had not been paying attention. Who’s going to be watchful for magick when they’re trimming their toenails?

    I reach out and with one trembling finger, caress the flower the candy-striper had brought me, turning it black. I may just die from this curse. I wonder if I’ll have time to arrange a revenge first.

    868 words

  20. I wrote something I’d like to submit to this contest, but my character has a date which she chooses not to go on. That disqualifies the story, right? Probably a silly question, but I just want to make sure 🙂

    • Well, it depends, Christie. If your character has a good reason for breaking off her date, then she really doesn’t have a date to go out with. You are welcome to post it, regardless. If I think it qualifies you may have a chance at a finalist spot, assuming it hasn’t been posted anywhere else prior to this 🙂

  21. The Opposite
    by Christie Stratos
    1,197 words

    Valentine’s Day. The beginning of the end of my relationship with my most significant other thus far. I can never forget what he put me through. A three day breakup starting on a day we should have been expressing our love for each other. Instead, he was dead drunk and the façade had fallen away. It turned out he was an alcoholic, and the man I’d fallen in love with had never existed. The alcoholic who showed himself was the truth. And our relationship had been fiction.

    They always tell you in all the movies that eventually you run out of tears. That’s not true. I wish it was. I cried for a month straight, and to this day – four years later – I haven’t run out of tears.
    I wouldn’t wish on anyone the anxiety he’s caused in my life since then: my newfound fears of trust, love, being blindsided. That’s what happens when perfection is betrayed by reality.

    So now I tend to choose guys who are wrong for me. That way, at least I know where the relationship is going: to a definite breakup. I never have to worry about trust, love, or being blindsided. Those things are impossible when you know you’ll be leaving soon.

    So here I sit, in my office on Valentine’s Day, four years later. I’m staring at the flowers my current boyfriend has sent me. They’re red and pink roses in a red vase with a puppy dog stuffed animal stuck to it. The puppy holds a note in the shape of a heart, and the note says that he loves me – a sentiment I haven’t yet returned – and he can’t wait to keep learning more and more about me. I should appreciate this, but instead, it’s only brought on a panic attack. One I had to run to the bathroom to deal with.

    I can’t concentrate on anything but the ice cream waiting for me at home. Double truffle fudge with fudge nuggets. You can always depend on ice cream – the taste never changes.

    The day goes by, minute by minute, and it feels like a year. I get a text from him saying he can’t wait to see me later for dinner. I had been looking forward to the dinner part, but I really didn’t want to get soppy with him. Words are words, and we all say the same words in one relationship that we say in the next. That’s not very special. Or very sweet.

    When 5:00 finally comes, I pack everything up and head home, even though everything isn’t finished. I’m supposed to meet him at the restaurant at 7:30. All I want to do is take a shower and eat my ice cream and watch some mindless TV. Maybe finish up some work.

    I walk into my apartment and kick the door closed. I take the ice cream out of the freezer for it to soften while I take a shower. The hot water always soothes me. I always feel like I’m taking a break from the world while I’m in the shower. I dry myself off and put on my favorite pair of PJs: a soft black cotton t-shirt from college and blue patterned fleece pants. I turn on the TV, turn on my computer, and grab a spoon for my ice cream. I can’t find the scissors to get that ridiculous piece of plastic off of the top, so, in an ultimate bachelorette moment, I use my toenail clippers.

    6:30. I can fit some comfort in before I go out to dinner. Only…there’s nothing that fits my mood on TV. Since when does TV let you down when all you want is a mindless show? And my computer is freaking out, blue screening on me. And when I take a huge spoonful of ice cream to quell my disappointment, they’ve apparently started using some sort of cheaper chocolate to make it. The whole thing is chocolate, so now the ice cream sucks.

    Curses fly through my head. And out my mouth.

    7:00. I text my boyfriend and say I can’t make it to dinner, that I’m not feeling good, and can we postpone it until another night? It’s only a Hallmark holiday after all. I know that will probably disappoint and maybe even hurt him a little, but I can’t say I care much at this point.

    I take some work out of my bag – just a bit of paperwork that I might as well get out of the way.
    I try one pen. It doesn’t work. So I try another. Nothing. One more. What the f-

    There’s a knock at the door. I freeze as if I’ve been caught in the middle of committing a crime. I’m afraid of making a sound, hoping if I’m quiet, whoever it is will go away.

    Another knock. I get up very slowly, trying not to make any noise, and tiptoe over to the door. I look through the peephole. It couldn’t be…

    My alcoholic ex. I don’t know what to do with myself. Then I see the doorknob start to turn…and realize I forgot to lock the door when I came in earlier in my distracted state. I quickly slide the chain into the lock towards the top of the door.

    “I know you’re in there. I saw your car outside. Just let me in. We haven’t talked in a long time and…I just need to talk to you,” he says in his deep, beautiful voice. I hate that voice now. Tears start to well in my eyes. I back away from the door, my fingertips lined up on my bottom lip, still not making a sound.

    “Please,” he says softly, and I lose it. I start crying uncontrollably. He says my name. I wish he wouldn’t. He’s pulling and pushing the door and I don’t know what to do. But suddenly, he stops. I’m afraid to say his name, afraid he’ll answer. I stand there, completely unmoving, for an entire minute. That’s a long time when all your fears are culminating right on the other side of your apartment door. I hear nothing. I sink to the floor and cry, tears streaming down my face. I can’t stop my sharp, loud breaths. I haven’t cried like this since we first broke up.

    A hand on my shoulder.

    I gasp and turn around quickly, startled. My boyfriend. He must’ve come in through my window.
    He doesn’t say anything. He just kneels in front of me and holds me, one arm around my waist, one hand clutching my head, holding it to his shoulder.

    “Is he gone?” I ask between sobs.

    He takes me by the shoulders and eases me away from his body, looking me in the eyes. “He won’t ever be gone. But I’m here. You don’t have to trust me. You just have to know that I’m here. And I always will be, even when you push me away.” He strokes my hair and wipes the almost-dried tears off my cheek with his thumb. I hadn’t realized I’d stopped crying. I hadn’t realized…

    “I love you,” I whisper.

    “I love you, too.”

    • Nicely done, Christie. Very emotional.

    • Great story, Christi. I’m so glad you entered it. As Tim said, it’s emotional and you really managed to convey that to the reader.

    • I loved this story; I really felt its emotional impact. You have a wonderful way of making the reader feel everything you’re describing – you truly paint pictures with your words. The breakthrough at the end is so poignant, it brought tears to my eyes. Really well done.

  22. Suzie–I find it interesting that your lonely on Valentine’s Day contest is flooded with entries, while your erotica contest received few. What does that say about your fans?

    • Urs, I can never tell what prompt will grab people’s attention and make them want to enter the contest. The one for Valentine’s Day last year did well too. I have something really fun planned for the St. Patrick’s day theme next month. It will be posted on the Monthly Writing Contest Page soon.

      • Ironically, I had an idea for a story for the erotica competition, but figured there would be a lot of entries and I’d be out of my league …

  23. Clipping Nails
    By B.B. Stoevsky

    I really hate clipping nails.
    Not the actual action of it, but the endlessness. The fact that nails never stop growing, and before you know it your toenails are getting caught on your pants as you fumble in the pitch-black, predawn morning to get dressed, or chip when you stub your toe under the counter while trying to brush your teeth. It’s one of those things that make you really hate life, like pop quizzes and hair in your food.
    But why am I dragging you into this? Maybe it’s just me. Makes sense anyway, I’m not really one to commit. Nail-clipping is just one more thing that nags at me- begging for the constancy that I can’t give it.
    Or is that my boyfriend?
    Who can keep track anyway, everybody wants some kind of commitment, whether it’s Tim, the-guy-you-met-at-Starbucks, or the shiny silver nail-clippers you just bought because you lost the other million pairs you bought this month. Regardless, I should probably stop referring to Tim as “my boyfriend,” and start remembering to put that “-ex” before it.
    Before I go on, I’d appreciate it if you would get the yoga-pants-wearing, mint-chocolate-chip-ice-cream-eating, The Notebook-watching stereotypical ‘breakup-girl’ out of your head.
    It went more like-

    “Sam!”
    “Hey Toni.”
    “. . . Its Tim.”
    “Right. We need to talk.”
    “Sure, something wrong?”
    “Yeah, this isn’t working out.”
    “Sure it is!”
    “No. . .”
    “No? Did I say something?”
    “No. . .”
    “Did I do something?”
    “No. . . Toni-”
    “-it’s Tim.”
    “Right. . . Well, really sorry about this, have a good one!”

    -and then I went home, made some macaroni, and tried not to let myself think of that flower Tim had behind his back.
    Before you judge me too much, I should probably let you know that I did know his name. It’s just a habit I have; pretending not to remember a guy’s name when I reach the end of my tolerance of a relationship. I like to think it helps me let go, but really when I get to that point I know I’ve already let go. When I’m in a particularly self-loathing state I’ll sometimes let myself realize that I do it for him, whoever that may be at the time. I do it because I know that he’s a good guy (why else would I be interested in the first place?) and I don’t want the way I treat him to make him think of himself as anything but. I’d rather end the relationship and have him become ‘the guy that was dumped by that bitch for no reason’ than ‘the guy that’s not good enough.’
    I guess I do feel a little bit bad about Tim, but that’s only because I broke up with him the day before Valentine’s Day and we’d only been dating for 5 weeks. Normally I make it at least a few months, but I was starting to get anxiety attacks every time some guy at Kmart would say-

    “You’re a girl! Would my girlfriend like this card? How about this kind of chocolate?”

    -At which point my boss would always pop up just in time to prevent me from making some sardonic remark and give me that ‘if they don’t buy, you don’t get paid’ look. So I’d say something like-

    “Why sir, I’m absolutely positive she’d love them! The Hershey’s chocolate however . . . not a good pick. I’d go with Godiva; after all, it’s Valentine’s Day not Halloween!”

    Then he’d blush, looking embarrassed and I’d feel bad for the poor sucker for the rest of the day.
    Regardless, Tim’s a pretty attractive guy, and it’s not like I broke his heart. I’m sure he’s found a nice girl to take out tonight. After all, what else are you supposed to do on Valentine’s Day?
    Certainly not tear apart your house in search for those pink toenail clippers your mom got you when you were twelve just so you could use them on the day of loovee and laugh to yourself about the artificial irony.
    But that’s what I’ve been doing since eight o’clock.
    And sooner or later my roommate would come home- black hair tussled and blouse undone because “the bus was just so crowded!” (right . . . )- and ask me why I wasn’t out with “Tom” with a face that gave away her contempt. She’d then assume he dumped me, and continue to prep for her second date and I’d try not to laugh thinking about the irony of her literally putting on her “second face” of the night.
    Thinking about this made me realize just how much I didn’t want to be awake when she gets home, so I threw my bowl in the sink, logged off Tumblr, and went to bed.
    After all, the best time to sleep is when you should be doing something else, right?

    • Lol, B.B. I like the candidness of your character. Plus the great sense of humor. Thanks for sharing your story and entering the contest!

  24. Super character display 🙂

  25. I’m just going to let everyone know now that it may not be until tomorrow night before I can narrow all these entries down to just a few for voting. There are enough in already that I can select four finalists, but even that is going to be super hard with so many awesome stories (seriously, ya’ll are killing me). Please don’t expect the announcement for who made it early in the day. I will get it up as soon as I can, but I choose not to do any deciding before the contest ends because there are often last minute additions and it wouldn’t be fair to them.

  26. […] the writer.  As before, everyone is welcome to comment on the stories as they are posted (see here as an example).  I think it’s nice that entrants can get feedback on their work.  This […]

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