And the romance of the holiday continues today... If you missed the Morning Glory Valentine's Day Outtake on The SubClubBooks blog, I have that outtake as well as 2000 words of never seen before fun and romance here. Read along as Nick makes Hayley's Valentine's Day the best one ever.
Running my fingers through my hair to push it out of my eyes, I catch my reflection in the store window. I’m trying really hard not to be that typical self-absorbed L.A. guy, so I look away, refusing to be the one who checks himself out whenever he passes a mirror, or the one who only wears the latest fashion, even if that fashion sucks. I may have chosen to work in the TV industry, but I will not let myself get sucked into narcissism.
I eye up the large brass doors in front of me. I’ll get in. I’ll get out. No problem.
When I open the door, and step inside the large two-story department store, I see people everywhere. I gulp, and go in anyway, blending into the flow of all of the other aimless boyfriends and husbands seeking that gift that will win their women over on Valentine’s Day.
“May I help you?”
I turn to my right and see a leggy blonde with a wide toothy grin smiling at me. “Nah, that’s okay.”
“Shopping for the wife?” she asks more persistently while glancing down at my left hand ring finger. She steps closer when she sees it’s bare.
“Girlfriend?” She sounds anxious, and it makes me uncomfortable.
I shift out of some suit’s way, and say, “Yes, a Valentine’s Day gift.”
“Oh, too bad.”
This isn’t awkward at all. I just walk away, and start to question if she even works for the department store. I don’t dare look back. It’s best not to make eye contact sometimes. That can encourage unwanted attention.
“May I help you?”
My eyes meet another salesgirl’s wide eyes, and she smiles. She’s twenty-one tops. Way too young to be dressed in that short of a skirt, and she’s too flirty to pull off the ingénue image she’s going for.
Get in and get out. Focus on the mission. “No, thank you. I’m good,” I reply.
“Yes, you are very good, very good looking indeed.”
I keep walking, not interested in the least, and mutter, “Thanks.”
I know I’m decent looking. Women… they can be obvious just like men when they see something they want. The difference is, I’m not open to the invitation. I’m not the guy who dates multiple women at once, and I’m not into games. I’ve wasted enough of my life with all of that.
Hayley means everything to me. She’s my heart and soul, and I waited seven years to be the one who gets to buy her something for Valentine’s not just as her friend, but as her boyfriend. No woman is going to make me forget how lucky I am that I get to ask her to be mine tonight.
“May I help you?”
For fuck’s sake! Without turning to face the saleswoman, I huff in frustration and start prattling on. “I need a gift for my girlfriend, but I don’t know what to get her. I was thinking jewelry, but I don’t know. Then I thought maybe perfume, but she smells good just as she is. This place is too crowded and the sales people are too friendly. My mind is blank and I just want to leave.”
When I turn around, I see an older woman, maybe mid-sixties, pull her reading glasses from her nose, and then she lets them drop to hang from a beaded necklace. A kind smile spreads across her face, and she says, “Maybe I can help.”
Relief washes over me at her offer and the sincerity in her tone. This Valentine’s Day shopping really is pressuring. I’ve never cared this much about it before, but for Hayley—she deserves thoughtful and effort. “I’m sorry. I’m a bit frustrated and lost in here. I’m way out of my comfort zone, and I don’t want to screw this up.”
The lady tries to reassure me. “I understand. It’s important. She’s important to you. Hopefully, I can help.”
“Thank you. That would be nice.”
“So you said no perfume and no jewelry?”
“Actually, I wouldn’t mind getting her jewelry, but… this probably sounds cheesy. I was thinking about…” I went on to explain how Hayley’s exes since college all gave her red roses, lingerie, and jewelry on Valentine’s Day. Hayley found out later that two of the guys had slept with the salesgirl who sold them the gifts. “… So it has to be original. She hates the holiday how it is. I just want to give her an amazing day, and remind her of the sentiment behind it.”
The saleslady has her hands clasped in front of her face and her kind smile in place again. “Tell me about her.”
“She’s beautiful—stunning actually. The first time I ever saw her was at freshman orientation at our university. She wore a white sundress, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.” She had long blonde hair that was in this loose braid as if she’d just whipped it up like that. It was messy and yet, perfect with the strands hanging near her face. I look up embarrassed, realizing I had escaped into my own memories. “I paid a guy ten bucks to let me have the seat next to her.”
“She sounds lovely. Your girlfriend sounds like she likes gestures from the heart, something thoughtful.”
With that memory lingering in my head, I look up, realizing I’m not in the right place. There’s nothing in this store that I can buy that will express how much I’m in love with her. “I know exactly what I want to give her.” I’ll give her our memory, our first meeting, that moment—back to her.
“From the heart means the most,” the lady says, backing my intuition on the matter.
“And she has mine firmly in the palm of her hands. Thank you for helping me.”
She gives me an all knowing look, well aware I’m not going to buy anything. “Go. Let that girl know how much you love her.”
It’s strange how we fall into patterns of what we are supposed to do as opposed to maneuvering around tradition to come to our own thoughts entirely. Valentine’s is set up as buy, buy, buy, but Hayley doesn’t want something cheap and easy. She deserves mind-blowing and considerate, something as special as she is, and more. Standing in the middle of this department store, and talking with this saleslady who is losing a commission when I walk out that door, reaffirmed what I already knew. I can’t buy Hayley’s love and affection, but I can give her all of mine.
I smile, and say, “Thanks for helping me find the perfect gift.”
She lightly taps my chest, right over my heart, and replies, “You knew all along. You just needed to be reminded.”
“Yes, I did. Thank you for that.” Hayley and I were never about stuff. We run deeper than mere possessions. We may have tried to fill our lives with careers, friends, and other lovers for seven years, but we ended up exactly where we were always meant to be—together.
So today, although I had no intention of doing so, I’m going to propose to the love of my life. I’ve had the ring for awhile, confident in our relationship, but I wanted the moment to be perfect and not cheesy, not over the top, and not something we aren’t. When I woke up next to Hayley this morning, I didn’t know I was going to ask her to marry me. But that’s what I want to give her—my love for a lifetime—and if I have my way, beyond that.
She’ll never expect this from me on such a predictably romantic day, and I have to admit, that makes it more fun.
Leaving the store, my mind is set on my real mission. The burden is lifted from my shoulders as soon as my feet land back on the sidewalk. I tuck my hands in my pockets to fight the chilly day, and once I get in my car, I make the call to the drama department. I finally get a hold of the right person and make all the arrangements.
Back at our apartment, I scrounge through my drawers looking for two T-shirts. They must be old and they must be well-worn. I find a blue one with our college logo on it and I a faded Orange Crush on the front—two of my favorites.
I kneel down to the bottom drawer, and dig under the stacks of shirts until my fingers feel the box buried in the back, and I grab it out. I’ve always been curious how much Hayley snoops through my stuff. If she has been snooping, she hasn’t admitted to finding anything, and she’s horrible at keeping secrets. That makes me smile.
After a quick text telling her where to meet me and what time to be there, I clean up to look my best.
I drive over to the university, and walk across campus. Finding the right building is easy, my memory of going here for four years still fresh in my mind. I’m greeted at the door by my contact, and say, “I appreciate you doing this for me.”
He holds his hand out as he says, “No problem. I’m a romantic.”
I want to roll my eyes, but he’s doing me the favor, so I contain my sarcastic reaction and slap the twenty onto his palm.
“Two hours tops, Buddy,” he says, wadding the bill up, and shoving it into his pocket.
“Whatever. Just leave the place as you found it and all will be good.”
“Good luck,” he says, and walks down the hallway toward the offices.
I enter through the double doors on the left and walk in like I did so many years earlier. Almost seems like a lifetime ago, but really it was the start of this lifetime, the life I’m living now.
Carrying the small bag down the aisle, I count five rows from the front and seventeen seats down. A heavy breath escapes me as I sink into the chair where it all started, where we started.
I lean my head back, and close my eyes. A vision of Hayley comes back to me so clearly. She was scooting across the aisle to her seat, her braid in one hand as she played with the end, her large purse in the other. My body moved of its own accord and I was there, needing to talk to the guy following her, his eyes on her ass as she walked past him. I tapped him on the shoulder, and when he turned, I nodded. “That’s my seat.”
“No way, dude. I’m sitting next to the hot chick,” he said, a smug smirk on his face.
“I know her.” I lied, but I was willing to try anything to get closer to her. “We’re friends from our hometown.”
“Lame-oh. Not falling for it. Find a different seat.”
“What will it take to get you to give up that seat?” I looked over his shoulder, and saw Hayley digging a notepad out of her purse.
“Seriously.” He crossed his arms defiantly over his chest and waited.
Everyone around us had settled in and it was now or never. “Fine.” I gave him the ten and slipped past him, flopping down in the seat right next to the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen.
She looked at me with a soft smile. I smiled, leaning forward, and whispered in her ear, “You’re hot. You want to go out tonight?”
She laughed, and something in that moment connected us together forever, and it wasn’t the lame pickup line.
“Hey there, handsome.”
Startled, I open my eyes while lifting my head up. Hayley is standing there in all her usual beauty, making me want to kiss her and smile, making me happy. “You’re here early.”
“I missed you.” She sits down next to me.
“What?” she asks, her eyebrows rise in curiosity.
I sit up, and point to the seat on my right. “You sat here.”
“Oh, did I?” She gives me a sly smile then gets up and sits in the right chair.
“Yep, you sure did. I’ll never forget.”
Leaning over the armrest, she kisses me lightly then asks, “So why did—”
I cut off her question with a deeper kiss, one that shows her how much I missed her.
When our lips part, her breath is shaky and my heart is racing.
We feel so much, always have, but showing our true emotions intensifies with every act shared between us. Staring into each other’s eyes, the silence is a pull, drawing us near again. With our lips barely touching, I whisper, “Loving you is the only option.”
“The only. Always.”
“Always,” I repeat, and press my mouth fully against hers while weaving my fingers into her hair.
When Hayley pulls back, she slumps into her chair with a huge grin plastered on her face. Her chest is rising with each deep breath she takes in, and she giggles. “You leave me breathless every time.”
“I’d waited years to kiss you like that, so I’ll make every one of them count.”
“You say the sweetest things to me.”
“I’m making up for losing seven years to stupidity.”
“Ha! In that case…” She leans over and kisses me again, my breath becoming hers and hers mine.
When our eyes slowly open, she drops back in her seat, and I slide down in my chair, leaning my head against the back. I readjust myself, uncomfortable in these jeans from my growing affections. “Is it bad that even though I planned this that I wish we were home in bed instead?”
She brings her hand over and runs her fingertips through my hair. “I love being here again though,” she says, looking around. “It’s comforting in the memories.” She tugs lightly on my earlobe. “Bed would be nice, too.”
With the release of a big sigh, she continues. “I love that you brought me back here and you know what seats were ours. But I really love how ruggedly handsome you are and that you have a soft center.”
“Like an M & M?”
That makes her smile. “I do love M & M’s, but I mean more that you have this caring, romantic side to you.” She twirls her finger at me. “I like the contradiction. You, my love, are a mushy-pants.”
I sit forward, and feign offense. “Mushy-pants? No, that won’t do.” I lean on the armrest between us, prepared to lay it all out for her. “You cannot call a man mushy-pants. There’s just no coming back from that—”
“But I mean it with love.” She winks at me.
“My macho ego can’t take the hit. I spent time at a women’s department store today. That about did me in how it is, so being called mushy-pants… just no with that.”
She knows I’m teasing, and strikes back in true Hayley style. “Your macho ego gets plenty of hits that you take rather well when I’m clothes-less.”
“You mean naked?”
“Clothes-less, naked. Tomato, tamahdo.” She shrugs.
“I’ll take you however I can get you as long as it’s naked or clothes-less. Deal?”
“Deal. So what other secrets you hiding?” Her gaze shifts down to the package at my feet.
Picking it up, I hand it to her. It’s wrapped in magazine paper I found in the apartment and duct tape. I shrug because I’m a guy as if that explains the awful wrap job.
“I can’t possibly destroy the wrapping to see what’s inside. You did such a lovely job.” Her sarcasm is in full effect.
“I did a shitty job, but it’s wrapped. Now, open it.”
She rips into it, and pulls out the two T-shirts. “You gave me your used shirts as gifts?”
“Nick?” she asks with a raised eyebrow.
“Fine,” I say, explaining, “I wanted to give you stuff you liked, stuff that made you happy and feel good. I remembered that you used to wear my shirts when I wasn’t around—”
“You knew about that?”
“I only knew because I found one on your bed once like you’d just taken off and then several other times I noticed they were missing from my drawer when I knew I had left them there.”
Holding the shirts up to her chest, she smiles. “Thank you. I wore them when I missed you. They gave me comfort. You don’t think I’m a creepster, do you?”
“No. You’re too pretty to be a creepster.”
She laughs. “I love that being a creepster is defined by attractiveness.”
“It’s not to you?”
She punches me in the arm, and I realize I thoroughly wound her up that time. I reach into the bag and pull the last piece of the plan out—the velvet jewelry box.
Her breath catches, and the T-shirts are now covering her face as she cries.
I touch her arm, pulling it down, so I can see her face again. “Man, I’ve really set you up for disappointment.”
She cracks a smile, although her face is a bit red and tears fill her eyes.
After kicking the bag out of the way, I get down on one knee while holding her hand. I take a deep breath, looking her straight in the eyes, and say, “You’re hot. You want to go out tonight?”
Her head tilts back, and she releases a most boisterous laugh, which makes me laugh too.
“I’m kidding you. What I really wanted to say is… You’re hot, and will you spend the rest of your life with me? Will you marry me, Hayley Girl?”
She throws her arms around my neck, and says, “Yes, yes. Of course.”
Realizing I have the ring still in my hand, I add, “Oops, here you go. If you don’t—”
“I’ll love it because it’s from you.” She opens the little hinged lid, and smiles, tears in her eyes sparkle from the light shining from the stage in front of us. “It’s perfect.”
“It’s a forever band.”
“Forever—just like us.”
“Forever,” I say, sealing it with a kiss.
Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did writing it. It was wonderful to spend time with these two again and watch as Nick made Hayley is forever valentine.