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“V’ Day.”

Smashwords Edition

by

Anne Holly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2011 to Anne Holly

No part of this work can be copied withoutthe authors permission.

Published By: Wicked Nights

www.afterdark.wickednights.info

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What could one say about Daniel Vouks? Healways felt he was a tiger trapped in a nerd’s body. But, sadly,the tiger was very well hidden.

Tall and lean, having grown too muchvertically before his wiry frame could fill out horizontally, hecarried very little excess weight. What was there wasn’t bad, hewould often reassure himself, sneaking guilty peeks at himself inthe tacky 1980s white-framed full length mirror nailed to theinside of the door in his childhood bedroom. He was pleased tonotice the hours of practice he was putting in were actuallysprouting some newbie biceps and pecks and he was starting to losethat “chicken chest” look. After considering this, he would usuallylaugh at himself with embarrassment. His one man Mr. Universecompetition in front of the mirror took on a comedic air ofridiculousness, in his white boxers and black socks, against thebackdrop of the cowboy wallpaper that hadn’t been changed since hewas seven.

Daniel hoped he wasn’thideous to females. Secretly, aside from his aspirations in schooland with his music, his dream of being something less thanoffensive to the opposite sex was his main goal. He didn’t think hewas bag-over-the-head homely (though he did worry about those earsthat everyone always told him he’d grow into, and that chin). Hehad always wanted a lantern jaw, but admitted in defeat his wasmore like a desk lamp jaw – something much less rugged andoutdoorsy than a lantern, that’s for sure. Other than those twoweak spots, he did show potential. His body’s leanness translatedinto artistic intensity in his face, with his light olive skin toneand large, deep set, black and heavily lashed eyes with prominentbrows. A thick growth of short curly hair that he was never able totame and a timeless pair of wire framed glasses topped it all off.Forget about Redford, he sighed; he looked more like an extra froma small town production ofFiddler on theRoof. Great teeth, though, he decided,ending on a positive note. And they should be, the money hisparents had put into them.

“Ssssssssssexay!” he hissed with aself-depreciating grin and wink, having done as much as he couldwith his wayward pelt, and threw on his cords and a sweater.Somewhere between Franz Kafka and Harry Potter, he guessed hewasn’t likely to cause mass hysteria amongst the fairer sex, butthere was always tomorrow.

Hunching down to avoid braining himself onthe slanted ceiling, he slipped on his shoes. Only in the peculiarlogic of his family would the tallest member naturally occupy theattic room, making him live a good portion of his life slouchedover.

Living at home during university had been avery wise financial move, he had to acknowledge, but at the cost ofother things – especially his sanity and a social life. He’dsurvived nineteen years as an inmate in his mother’s funny farm sofar. Two and a half years left, he sighed. By the end, he wouldeither be brilliantly eccentric or entirely crazy and eating hisfood with blunt utensils only. Either way, at least he wouldn’thave any student debt.

“Mornin’, Dad,” Daniel greeted his father,an older, shorter and fatter version of himself who was hardly everseen without being partially obscured by his omnipresent newspaper.As every day, he received the typical non-angry, yet notoverly-friendly, “Hurumpf,” in response and he continued on to thefridge. Orange juice and an English muffin. Just like everyday.

“Hello, Danny, sweetie,” his mom, alreadydressed to teach music at the local junior high in her constantuniform of pin-neat A-line skirt, blouse and fuzzy, pastelcardigan. Whether an effect of spending nearly twenty yearsblocking out very bad clarinet solos performed by 13-year-olds orfrom some natural propensity towards absent-mindedness, Daniel’smother Judith was in a world where time didn’t seem to pass and badthings just didn’t happen. She was an odd replica of her ownmother, who would never really see beyond her stable job and home,with her two children (exactly planned right down to one boy andone girl) who would always remain perfect in her eyes, and herfattened, content husband. As far as Daniel could see, the onlyhobbies his mother ever had was knitting in the evening andteaching piano on the weekends to “pay for her perms,” as sheexplained it. She placed a kiss on Daniel’s forehead, for which shehad to stand on tiptoes and he had to bend down. It was an oldmorning ritual, always followed by a request for an update on hislife, which mostly consisted of his studies and practice, and thismorning she didn’t disappoint.

“How’s your work coming for your sophomorerecital?” she asked, cutting a heart-smart grapefruit in two forhis father, who hated grapefruit.

“As usual,” Daniel sighed. “Brahms’ Third iscoming long fine, but the tango medley is kicking my butt.”

“Well,” his mother chuckled with a shrug,“keep practicing, and I am sure you’ll do just fine – you alwaysdo. Besides, who cares about the tango if the Brahms isexcellent?”

Typical of his mother, who was a devotee ofthe Western canon, she almost always dismissed the less glorifiedselections as fluff compared to the giants of Brahms, Mozart andBeethoven. Wagner and Schubert were fine, if over-emotional.Tangos, however, were just exercises. However, Daniel couldn’tafford to be blasé about any assignment. This was Leon Pelsner’ssenior year, which meant the place of first violinist would beopen, and Daniel could feel Daisy Chen’s smug security that shewould ascend to the position. A junior, it would be the crowningachievement of her already brilliant young career, and she, quiterightly, assumed sophomores would rank lower on the list. Danielwas gunning to deflate some of that smugness and knock her off thepodium. Without conceit, he knew that, aside from Leon, Daisy andhimself were widely recognized as the best violin students in themusic department – and now was the time for him to set himself asfirst or second in that ranking. And ignoring the “less important”pieces was not the way to achieve first chair.

His mother was right, of course – he woulddo fine. Technically, his tango medley was already proficientenough for a basic pass at the April recital, the performance thatwould top off his second year. He knew it would be enough tosafeguard his scholarship, since his Brahms was perfect. But, as DrSpicer, his instructor, kept telling him, technically proficientwas hardly enough to nail something as personal as a tango.

Though proud and supportive of his musicaltalents, his mother would never fully understand his drive forperformance. Under her direction, Daniel had focused a lot of hisschooling on music education, thus far, and had allowed his motherto happily envision him as a high school band leader in a fewyears. What she didn’t know was, if he were successful in achievingfirst chair, he would step off the safety ledge and declare himselfa performance major – he would finally go after the spotlight,whether his parents thought it “wise” or not.

But, that tango… Damn it, if that tangowasn’t killing him slowly this term.

“Mom,” his little sister Beth’s whine madehim cringe. “Are you sure there’s school today?” Thirteen andcompletely unconcerned with anything but clothes and her socialcircle, Beth not only missed the musical talent gene, but, also,seemingly, the gene that promoted any kind of sensitivity yetpossessed by humans. “Like, there is a lot of snow out there!” Herwhine clearly indicated she thought it absolutely unfair that shewasn’t in charge of canceling school due to snow.

“Beth,” Daniel sighed, “this is Denver – ifthey canceled school every time it snowed, they’d have to giveclasses over the radio.”

“Bite me, Genius,” she hissed with narrowedeyes while pouring herself some disgustingly bright coloredteenager chow that claimed to be cereal but seemed to consist onlyof marshmallows.

“Rather not,” he shook his head and turnedtowards the window.

“So, Kirk wants to go eat before theValentine’s dance,” Beth primped, proud of herself for alreadylanding herself a fine jock boyfriend. “And Kayley’s mom said itwould be alright if Maddi and I spent the whole weekend over there,since you and Dad will be away for your Second Honeymoon.”

The teen snickered, and Daniel couldn’t helpbut smile behind his glass. The thought of his bus driver dad andteacher mom going off for some Valentine’s Day weekend getawayafter twenty-odd years of marriage seemed so unlike them it wasdifficult to hold the amusement at bay.

“Now, Bethy,” his motherchimed in, using that “I’m only doingwhat’s best for you” voice, “you know Ialready arranged for you to stay with Aunt Sissy. She’s expectingyou, and your cousin Jason is already looking forward to seeingyou.”

“But, Mother!” Bethprotested, putting an extra dig at the end of the officious term.“Why would I want to spend Valentine’s Day weekend withJason?” She cut hermother’s next line off. “He picks his nose… and eats it,” sheshuddered in deadly seriousness, as if she could imagine no worsecrime in the world.

“Daniel…” his mother turned to him after amoment.

“She’s right,” he said. “Cousin Jason is achronic nose picker.”

His mother gave him that stern look thatsaid she didn’t appreciate his contribution to the conversation.“Then, perhaps you’d like to help your sister out…”

Daniel’s half smile died on his lips.“No.”

“If she doesn’t want to stay with Sissy,then maybe she should stay here.”

“No, Mom,” Daniel resisted the urge toplead. “You really don’t want to do that… I mean, I’m nineteen. AmI really responsible enough to babysit a thirteen-year-old?”

“I don’t need a baby sitter,” his sistersnapped.

“Besides…” he continued, wracking his brainfor an excuse his mother would accept. “I likely won’t be aroundmuch this weekend.”

“Pfft!” his sister snorted. “Hot date,loser?”

“Well, we can’t all make it all the wayaround the block before the age of fourteen,” he said in amockingly pleasant tone.

“Doyou have a date?” his mother asked. He felt mildly offendedat her shocked tone. For a few years now, his mother had beendropping hints that she knew it was “OK toBe Gay!” as if she were encouraging him toconfess his non-existent homosexuality. He knew that was a prettygood sign he needed a bit more of a social life.

“I was planning on using the weekend topractice, since everyone was going to be gone,” he said,straight-faced, desperate to not spend the weekend with his sister,but rational enough to see that the date story would never fly withanyone who knew him.

“Oh…” his mother said, sounding vaguelydisappointed, but also oddly relieved. “Well, then… Yes, I guessthat’s the best thing for you. Some time alone to work.”

“So, I can go to Kayley’s?” Beth beamed ather relenting mother, who hemmed and hawed and protested weaklyabout whether or not Kayley’s mother was aware of Beth’s curfewtimes, and to make sure Kirk minded his manners, et cetera.

Daniel, certain now that he and his idioticsister had managed to put his mom in check mate, sighed in reliefand looked over at his dad, who had not once lowered the paper tosurvey the heated debate taking place on the other side of theroom.

One thing Daniel knew forsure – whatever his life held, it was not going to be like that ofhis folks. He would make sure he had more going for him than anewspaper force-field against a cluster of bickering people hecould barely stand. One way or another, he would behappy. That was apromise he made to himself, and he wouldn’t budge.

And in the short term that meant his firstweekend of solitude in years.

 

***

 

Daniel retreated to the music room, thankfulthat he didn’t have a class or a practice scheduled on campustoday. He didn’t even have to give any lessons until next week. Theweather really didn’t look all that welcoming out there, being theFriday before Valentine’s Day, and he felt blessed that he couldhuddle inside for warmth as his family bustled off to their variousdestinations. After school, his parents would be off for theweekend, dropping his sister and her flotilla of luggage off atKayley’s so the girls could get ready to go to the dance together.And he would officially be on his own until at least Sundayafternoon. Glorious.

Allowing the noise of their departures toroll off him as he sat absently at the piano, he plucked out a fewstrains and watched the sun glint off the fresh snow in thebackyard. It was really beautiful, when you could view it from acozy place.

Blah, he thought. Another Valentine’s Day.His nineteenth one as a single guy, since his one relationship inhigh school had started in June and ended the following January.And, he thought ruefully, his nineteenth year, it seemed, as aconfirmed virgin.

Jesus, he groaned – even his baby sister hadmore going on than he did. Like basically everyone else he knew.That One Girl, as he had taken to calling Selby, his girlfriend ingrade ten, had been about as close to action as he had ever gotten.Her pathological fear of pregnancy had made it absolutely essentialthat he had kept his pants on at all times. Other than that, anygirl he had ever liked had soon tossed him into the “friend” basketand never bothered to eassess him.

Kelly, his best friend, had been like that –after he had followed the cute redheaded soprano around for weekslike a puppy, she had finally taken pity on him and explained hewas simply too nice to attract her. After that, they had formed aneasy relationship through which both had a pal, and, being of theopposite sex, a no-fuss “date” when necessary, and he was almostglad it had worked out the way it did. Almost.

Now that he had the weekend to himself, hefound his solitude depressing.

Flipping open his phone, he hit Kelly’snumber.

“This better be good,” she grumbled afterthe fifth ring.

“Hey, early riser,” he chuckled.

“Well, if I had my mom bringing me mymorning coffee in bed…”

“Okay, truce,” he winced. “And my momdoesn’t let me drink coffee.”

“Why not? Afraid it will stunt your growth,Stretch?” she asked with a crystal clear laugh, despite having justwoken up.

“Something like that…” hesaid, flecking a flower petal off the top of the piano. “Listen…You’re probably… I dunno… busy tonight, right?”

“Are you trying again, Danny?” shegroaned.

“Well, no. I just thought, if you weren’t,we could do something.”

“I have a date.”

“Right,” he forced a chuckle. “Yeah, Ifigured you would,” he straightened in his chair. “Being Valentinesand all. No problem – just wanted to check.”

“Ahhh, Danny,” she sighed. “What aboutyou?”

“I got a hot date all weekend,” he grimaced.“With that frigging tango, I guess.”

“Danny, do yourself a favor, man,” she saidfirmly. “Go get yourself laid. I told you that’s what’s missingfrom your tango.”

“Well, then,” he quipped. “Support the artsand break your date. I can be there in an hour.”

“Har har har,” she said, and then laughedfor real. “Seriously – go fall for someone. Preferably someone whowill fall for you back.”

“Okay,” he agreed. “For you, I will do mybest.”

Saying goodbye, they both hung up, andDaniel pounded out a few more notes on the keyboard in front ofhim, contemplating Kelly’s “method music” theory – you could onlysing or play what you had experienced. If that were the case, histango would remain a virginal one if his luck was anyindication.

Without admitting to himself what he wasdoing, he let his eyes wander through the solarium walls to theyard next door, as the strains of music gained a wistful, mistytone. Bronwyn Everett. The girl next door. Well, hardly a girl, hecorrected himself. Woman. Woman, and Bronwyn – the two mostbeautiful words in his brain. One and the same, and totallyunobtainable.

Bronwyn Everett was pretty much his opposite– sleek and toned, the young physiotherapist who owned the otherhalf of the duplex was as active and healthy as he was quiet andartsy. Plus, she must be well over 25, which accounted for the factthat she treated him like a neighbor’s kid. But he’d been heartsore for her ever since he was fourteen, and he had first caught aglimpse of her shiny auburn hair and quick smile. This winter, hemanaged to help her shovel out her car after a couple of big snows,and imagined he was building a rapport with her, but had not yetmanaged to find enough courage to ask her out for a coffee.

It was the way she looked at him, dismissinghim as a male – the look he had gotten so used to from ninetypercent of the female population.

This past week, without intending toeavesdrop, he overheard her having a fight with her boyfriend, agiant side of beef who seemingly went by the name of Warren Bull.That moniker never ceased to crack Daniel up, because he couldn’timagine a more fitting one for the fading quarterback with theJarhead haircut and the bovine look in his eyes. They really had itout, and he had distinctly heard her scream, “It’s over, Warren. Gothe hell away.”

The next morning, his mother had primlysniped about wanting stable neighbors who kept their private livesto themselves for a change, but Daniel had been on cloud nine. Hewas sorry Bronwyn was upset, but he couldn’t help glory a littlebit in her finally being available again, and could nearly convincehimself the fates had designed it all this way, so she’d be freefor him now that he was old enough to win her notice.

Since then, he had practically knockedhimself out trying to “accidentally on purpose” bump into heraround the yard, helping with the shoveling or just offering acheerful greeting. He could see he amused her with his attentions,but he didn’t mind. Amusement was at least something positive.

The music swelled underhis talented hands, thanks to his mother’s early training on thepiano. He yearned to catch sight of Bronwyn heading off to work.Her car was still in the drive, so perhaps she had the day off. Orwasn’t home, he considered…Oh God! What ahorrible thought! Perhaps she already had anotherboyfriend.

The music stopped abruptly, and he shook hishead clear of the silly thoughts. Whatever Bronwyn did had nothingto do with him, as the chance of her ever seeing him as anythingmore than a 19-year-old with a crush was exactly zip.

Damn Valentine’s Day, anyway, he sneered,closing the piano with a snap. Commercial nonsense built up to makesingle people feel like wastes of flesh.

He briefly considered retiring to theshower, consoling himself with the notion that he could alwayscheer himself up with a quick jerk off, but the thought only madehim feel more like a loser, and he stood quickly to dispel the darkclouds over his head.

He very nearly pulled a Scrooge and shoutedbah humbug at his gloom, and moved to the glass. There must besomething enjoyable he could do with his weekend that didn’tinvolve girls.

Well, if sex wasn’t a realistic goal, andmasturbation was only depressing, he finally decided comfort foodwas his only option. He was just about to mope into the kitchenwhen he heard a clatter of equipment and cursing coming from hisneighbor’s driveway. Sliding open the sun porch door, he steppedout into the brisk air, and there she was.

Bronwyn Everett.In a tight red and black ski suit put on thisearth for the sole purpose of driving him insane.

And she was mad as hell.

“E-excuse me!” he spoke up, raising a hand,seeing her struggling with a ski bag and a back pack, and not doinga great job of it. “Can I help?” Lopping over the drift betweentheir halves of the lawn, he was immediately set upon by Goldfish,who was possibly the world’s worst guard dog, and generally lovedeveryone. Laughing and patting the retriever’s shaggy coat, Danielturned from the dog to its owner. He took the long nylon duffelcontaining her skies and poles from her, and she gave it up withouta protest.

“Are you okay?” he hazarded. She certainlydidn’t look it – the weather was cold enough to raise roses in thecheeks, but the twin spots of red in her face spoke more of highemotion than weather, as did the sheen in her huge green eyes.

“About as well as can be expected,” shefinally admitted with a watery chuckle. “I… I think I can assumefrom the glares I got from your mom the other day you guys heardabout my break up with Warren?” He gave an awkward little shrug inresponse, and Bronwyn took another big breath before continuing.Reaching into the car, she hauled out two bags of groceries, whichhe quickly relieved her of with his free hand, and she anxiouslypushed some stray wisps of hair out of her face.

“Are you still that upset over him?” Danielasked. “I mean… It’s been, what? A week?”

“Yeah,” she laughed. “To a kid, that likelyseems like forever.”

Her voice wasn’t really kind, but he forgaveher. Clearly, she wasn’t having a great day.

“No,” she finally said. “I’m not really allthat broken up – in many ways, he was an asshole.”

Daniel figured his total agreement was notexactly something she would appreciate, so he remained silent asthey took her provisions and equipment up to her back porch.

“Have you been away?” he asked.

She gave a funny sort of wry laugh. “Kinda,”she said with a puff of breath. “See, Warren – my boyfriend…ex-boyfriend – and I had booked a cabin for the weekend, you know –for a ski break. Anyway, I had the time off work already arrangedwhen we broke up, so I decided to go anyway.”

“Hey, that sounds like a good idea,” heoffered.

“Yeah, well…” she turned and unlocked theFrench doors leading into her half of the duplex. “It would havebeen, had Warren not had the same idea.”

“Oh wow…” Daniel cringed for her.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “Only, I guess hefigured he may as well bring a friend.”

“Ouch,” Daniel hissed under his breath.

“Yep,” she released a breath that expressedembarrassment, hurt and pissed-off female.

“Are you okay, though?” he asked, reluctantto leave her there after such a lousy morning.

“Yeah, thanks,” she dismissed his concerns.“It was a long drive there and back today, so I just want to goinside, eat four quarts of ice cream, and forget everything thatreminds me that it is fucking Valentine’s Day this weekend.”

Dumping her backpack on the floor andturning towards the backyard, she spread her arms and called out,“Hear that world? Valentine’s is officially canceled!”

Daniel couldn’t help but chuckle – he neverknew a girl could be so cute when so upset.

“I guess your mom won’t like that, huh?”

“No worries,” he smiled. “She’s away for theweekend.”

“And left you home alone?” Bronwyn lifted aneyebrow.

“Thanks, thanks,” he rubbed the back of hisneck self-consciously. “I am an adult now, you know?”

“Ah yes,” she laughed. “All of what?Twenty?”

Nineteen, he mentally corrected. “Somethinglike that, yeah,” he said aloud.

“Time flies,” she focused her pretty eyes onhis face. “When I first got here, you were just a kid. Peeking atme through the hedges.”

“Ah, yeah – for the record, I never didthat,” he laughed nervously. “I just used to trim Mrs. Bonhauser’sbushes there… you know, for money. It’s not like I was staking theplace out…”

“Don’t worry about it, kid,” she laughed. “Iwas joking.”

“Well, good,” he said, not sure what to saynext. “But can you call me Daniel? Or Dan? Really, anything but“kid,” really…”

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