Writing Challenge: Valentines Day

Something that belongs to you

August 8th 2014

This was the day that Nora Mason’s life changed irreversibly. This was the day that her husband, Aiden, died in a tragic accident. She never had the chance to say goodbye.

February 2015

It had almost been six months since Aiden died. Nora knew that this month was coming, it was the busiest time of the year at her florist shop, she had considered taking time off and hibernating and giving her assistant Sarah the responsibility, but Sara was getting married on the 7th February and truth is, she couldn’t afford to lose trade.

She missed Aiden all the time, but the pain seemed to be more pronounced now. Christmas had been hard, but her family rallied around her and she wasn’t left alone to stew. She had survived it, but this would be different. Valentines day was always special to them, Aiden always pulled out all the stops, doing something romantic to celebrate and for the first time in 15 years, she was dreading the date that had always so special to them both.

Nora was busy, a regular stream of customers came and went, many of them were her regulars and despite the whole in her own heart, she enjoyed the fact that she was making a difference to her customers.

It was on the 4th of February, when she first saw him. He stood outside the front window looking at the flowers on display, when their eyes met, just for a second. He hurried away. Nora just laughed it off, she imagined he was like many men who came to the shop, wanting flowers for their wife or girlfriend, but being embarrassed about it..

The next day he was back and as she watched him, he looked like he was talking to himself, he even reached for the door a couple of times, but again he seemed to think twice and disappeared.

He did this for a few days and Nora started to look out for him, it always happened close to closing time, she had no idea who he was, but there was something about him that she felt drawn to. She made a promise to herself to speak to him on Monday if he came again.

That weekend she attended Sarah’s wedding, it was a bittersweet event. She was so pleased for her friend, but being surrounded by so many couples was hard. Nora had been praised for the flowers that she had provided and she had to admit that they had really worked. The lilac flowers were a nice contract to the white dress for the bride and the simple and elegant black dresses for the bridesmaids, the groom and his best man wore simple black suits with lilac waistcoats.

The service and meal was an intimate affair. Nora knew how hard Sarah had saved for the big day and she felt honoured to be included for the whole day, a small part of her ached knowing that Aiden had been invited too. She had considered leaving early, but she knew that Sarah would never forgive her. The room they had enjoyed their meal was soon transformed into a dance floor, the tables moved to the side and a DJ was busy setting up their mixer and lighting system to provide the music and entertainment. Nora nursed a drink and smiled at those who chatted around her whilst the room filled out.

The evening reception guests had started to arrive just before six in the evening. She wasn’t sure how many more were due, but the room was now quite full. The first dance had happened and Sarah had thrown the bouquet and there was now a mixture of people chatting at the various tables and a handful were dancing to the music, it was getting close to the point where she could comfortably make her excuses to go. That’s when she spotted him, the man who kept coming to her shop. The one too nervous to come in.

Nora watched him from a distance, he hadn’t seen her. She still has no idea who he was, but she couldn’t help but stare at him. She looked away, when she saw Sarah approaching.

“I have to say you look stunning in that dress, it’s been a beautiful day.”

Sarah leaned down to hug Nora, she couldn’t help but grin.

“I didn’t think we’d get a chance to speak before I went, you’ve been stuck to Mike’s side all day. Not that I am complaining, you two make a wonderful couple.”

Sarah grinned and subtly wiped away a stray tear, her eyes were a little glazed and Nora was pretty sure that it wasn’t just the emotion of the day, Sarah had spent most of the day drinking.

“Thanks for coming, Nora.” Sarah gushed.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, you look stunning.”

“Thanks. The flowers were amazing, everything seems to have gone so smoothly. I’m glad you came, I know it must be hard for you, what with Ai…” her voice trailed off.

Nora felt her chest tighten and she sighed.

“It is hard, but Aiden would be so cross with me if I didn’t carry on trying to live.”

Nora glanced over to the mystery man and noticed Mike chatting to him, they looked like they knew each other well. Nora paused for a moment the made some small talk about various parts of the day, she had another quick glance and spotted Mike still chatting with the mystery man, she then wondered if Sarah was the reason he had been coming to the store, perhaps he wasn’t such a mystery after all.

“Sarah, who is Mike talking to?” she asked timidly.

Sarah searched the busy room for Mike and smiled brightly when she saw who he was with.

“That’s Mike’s best friend, Simon. I’m so glad he made it, you know there was a time we thought he’d never make it this far.”

Sarah’s expression confused Nora.

“This far? Did he have to travel a long way?”

Sarah smiled and shook her head.

“No!, it’s not that. Simon had been ill for such a long time, he was close to death last year, we thought we’d lose him, but he had an operation and is doing much better. Mike wanted him here all day, but I think it’s still a bit too much for Simon, so he just wanted to stick to the evening.”

Nora studied him closer, she had never seen him before, yet he seemed so familiar. The way he stood and tapped his foot to the music and the way he kept running a hand through his hair, she couldn’t help remember Aiden.

Nora was lost in her memories when Simon looked over to her, their eyes locked for a moment and she blushed and felt embarrassed. She soon realised that he was at the other side of a dimly lit room and he’d not be able to see her blush, but that Sarah would. She composed herself quickly and flashed a smile. He returned the favour, but quickly looked away.

Nora felt a barrage of emotions wash over her. She felt a little giddy with his attention, she felt attraction, but then she felt guilt. It was much too soon to think of anyone like that. She knew that Aiden would want her to be happy and not spend her whole life alone, but it was much too soon. Fighting tears, she engaged in some more small talk with Sarah and made an excuse to go home as soon as she could without offending Sarah.

– – –
On Monday, he was back again, like before he hovered outside and hurried away whenever he saw she was looking. Finally Valentines day arrived and the day was busy, by the afternoon, she had almost sold out of stock.

It was about five minutes before closing time when she spotted Simon. Her heart began hammering in her chest, but she was torn in two, she was pleased to see him and felt a small flush of excitement, but she also felt guilt. How on earth could she think like this about anyone.

She expected him to disappear any minute, but today was different. Today he came inside. They shared an awkward smile and Nora felt her cheeks warm as she blushed. He stood awkwardly near the door and scanned to see if anyone else was in here. Noticing that it was empty he flipped the sign to show she was closed and locked the door. In any other circumstance, this behaviour would worry her, but right now in this moment, with him, it felt right.

In three short strides he was right in front of her.

“Hi” she choked out.

“I’m Simon” he replied, “I saw you at the wedding, but you left early and I never got the chance to speak to you. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

He held out his hand and Nora shook it, the moment they touched a surge of energy shot up both of their arms and it clearly took them both by surprise as they immediately let go.

His face surely had to be a mirror of her own, she could see his expression change as he dealt with a wide range of emotions, much like she was.

He looked away towards the door, like he was planning his escape, then faced Nora again.

“I’m sorry, this is so strange. I’m not quite sure what I am doing…”

Nora smiled awkwardly, she opened her mouth to say something, but instead chewed at her bottom lip as she tried to compose herself.

“I feel strange, I don’t know you, but I feel like I do… ” she managed to say before clamming up.

“I do to.” he replied softly

“What are you doing here?” Nora asked, grimacing as she realised how blunt it sounded.

“…sorry, I didn’t mean to snap like that!”

Simon smiled warmly and shook his head.

“It’s okay, that’s a good question. Truth is I don’t know, but ever since I got home from the hospital a few months ago I have felt different and the first time I started to do a little bit of walking, I found myself drawn to this place. I passed it several times, but each time I went to walk away I felt drawn back here. The first time i saw you, my heart hammered in my chest, I thought something was wrong, but it was a pleasurable feeling, so I kept coming back. Everytime I see you, my heart starts to flutter and I feel like it’s going to jump out of my chest, i’ve come close to coming in to speak to you a few times, but I guess I am just a coward.”

Nora felt strange, she couldn’t understand why. A part of her was yelling at her that this was wrong, but a larger part was telling her that this felt right. There was clearly some sort of connection. She smiled timidly and simply nodded.

“I think we need to talk…”

She beckoned him over to the small table and chairs in the corner and they sat in silence for a few moments.

“So where do we start…” Nora asked.

Simon frowned, he had been picturing this moment for weeks, but now he had no idea what to say.

“uhm…”

“How about you tell me what you meant about an operation. Sarah mentioned you were really ill last year?”

Simon absent-mindedly stroked his chest with his rind hand. He closed his eyes and sighed deeply.

“I was born with a congenital heart defect. I have always had to be careful. I’ve spent my life taking medication and taking it easy. No running around with my friends, no playing football. I could manage that though. When I turned 35, things took a turn for the worst. My health deteriorated further and I was put on a waiting list for a heart transplant. I had been on the list for a while and essentially in the summer of last year I was told that there was nothing else that could be done for me and a transplant was the only hope, I had all but given up hope. Wrote my will, not that there was much to give and wrote my goodbyes. I had accepted I was going to spend my final days in the hospital, where I had been for five weeks.”

Nora listened intently. A tear forming in her eye.

“Well the improbable happened, just as I had given up hope, I was suddenly being prepared for a heart transplant, I had my second chance. The operation was a success, it took time, but I soon got out of the hospital and my strength has been coming back all the time, but on the other hand something has felt different.”

Simon stopped speaking abruptly, clasped his hands together in front of him and looked down, Nora watched as tears spilled from his cheeks. Without hesitation she reached over and put her hand over his and felt that same strange energy spike, but this time she didn’t pull away.

“In what way do you feel different?”

“It’s hard to explain, my counsellor says it’s common for transplant recipients to have strong emotions following a transplant, but I feel like it has changed me.”

“In what way?”

“Well there are small things. Suddenly have this thing for chocolate digestive biscuits and like dipping them in my tea. I didn’t even like tea before, I preferred coffee.”

Nora laughed, Simon shot her a quizzical look.

“Sorry, my husband, Aiden loved dipping his biscuits in his tea. What else.”

“My music tastes have changed, I find myself tapping my feet to music I never used to know. I used to be teased for my lack of rhythm, but suddenly I can keep a beat and, had you stayed to the wedding longer, you’d have seen me dance.”

Nora bit her bottom lip, remembering how he reminded her of Aiden with his toe tapping. He was always so good with his sense of rhythm. He’d been a musician for a long time.

“… I’ve even started to play the guitar.”

Nora froze.

“Did you not play before?”

“I tried, but I couldn’t do it, suddenly it seems natural.”

Nora didn’t trust herself to speak, so she just smiled.

“By far the strangest change is the fact that I keep finding myself walking in the general direction of this store. I walked this street for days and days, sensing I needed to be here, but understanding why, then I crossed over to this side of the road and I felt like I was going in the right direction. It was about 3 weeks ago when I first looked through this window. I spotted Sarah and wondered if I just knew about this place because Mike had mentioned where she worked. Then I passed here another time and saw you and that was the first time my heart began to go crazy. I swear I thought something had gone wrong with the heart at first, but it calmed down and I hurried home. Then the next day it did the same and I started to get used to it.”

Nora felt light headed, her ears started to ring and her head felt clammy. Simon looked concerned.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m not sure… I..”

Nora leaned back in her seat, the moment she moved her hand away from Simon’s it felt wrong, but she needed a minute to get her head straight.

“Simon, can I ask a question?”

“Anything.”

“When did you have your transplant?”

Simon answered without hesitation, the date was etched in his brain forever.

“8th of August last year.”

Nora gasped, her hands shot to her mouth and she fought a wave of nausea. She stood up and backed away, shaking her head.

Simon stood up cautiously and stepped towards her tentatively.

“Nora.. What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure, it might just be a coincidence, but… “

“but what?”

“Which hospital were you in?”

“City.”

Nora’s breath hitched.

“What time was your transplant?”

“It was late at night. I don’t know anything about the donor, my transplant coordinator wouldn’t divulge that information, but I overheard some of the nursing staff saying there had been a fatal car accident.”

Nora lost her strained grip with reality, she felt herself on a collision course with the ground, but firm hands shot out and steadied her fall. She started to recognise the tingling feeling whenever he touched her, it was the way she felt whenever Aiden touched her. Simon began to fuss at her, his cool hands felt at her forehead.

“Nora, what’s wrong, tell me.” Simon murmured.

“Did Mike and Sarah tell you about Aiden?”

Simon hesitated before answering.

“Your husband? The one who passed away last year.”

Nora simply nodded.

“They didn’t go into any detail, but they said it was sudden and that you’d never been the same since he died. It wasn’t my place to pry.”

“Simon, Aiden died in a car accident.”

Simon hugged her tighter, but didn’t say anything.

“A car accident in the early evening of the 8th of August last year.”

Nora felt Simon freeze, he seemed to stop breathing.

“He was a donor and I consented to them using whatever they wanted to.”

The moment she finished speaking. Simon connected all the dots, he finally felt like he could make sense of all of the strange things happening to him. The changes to his personality and more importantly his obsession for someone he didn’t know before and the fact that she was now the centre of his world. He sensed that Nora was having a similar epiphany, her body was relaxed against his.

Soon the silence began to feel heavy and wrong, Simon hugged against Nora, who was still nestled in his arms and kissed the top of her forehead. Sitting up and gently manoeuvring Nora so she was faced towards him, he looked directly into her eyes and leant towards her for a kiss. Just before their lips touched, he paused. He heart Nora’s breath hitch. He laced his hand in hers and pulled her hand to his chest, so that she could feel the heart beating.

“Well Nora, It appears I have something that belongs to you.”

Nora felt the strong heavy beating of the heart in Simon’s chest and for the first time since Aiden died her world started to feel complete again. Her mind raced with a million and one questions and She could think of dozens of reasons why this was right as well as dozens of reasons why this was wrong, but right now, the only thing that mattered was that she felt no tinge of regret as she pulled Simon towards her and kissed him hungrily.

As time ticked by, neither Nora or Simon were in any rush to move, so as the sun dipped in the sky they simply stayed embraced on the floor.

Nora wasn’t sure what the future would bring, but for now she felt like she was in the right place, with the right person and a smile filled her face when she realised that for another year valentines day was still special.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *