Be My Other Valentine
Copyright 2014 Jennifer Skully.
The magic of Valentine’s Day comes alive in a very special holiday story.
Five years ago, Grace was given a sacred duty by a woman dying of cancer: Every Valentine's Day, Grace must deliver a special cake to a girl named Valentine, addressed from the girl's mother in heaven. But this year, Grace's van gives up the ghost before she delivers her cargo.
His daughter Valentine is all Brian has left of his wife, but he’s forgotten the cake Valentine receives every year, and they’ve moved to a new house with no way to contact the baker who follows his wife's wishes.
In their quest to fulfill a dying woman's last request, can Grace and Brian find their own Valentine?
Be My Other Valentine is a sweet contemporary romance of approximately 10,000 words. Also published in the 2014 anthology Love, Valentine Style.
Be My Other Valentine Copyright 2014 Jennifer Skully
“But how will Mommy know where to leave my present?”
On the way to drop her off at school, Brian Pierce glanced at Valentine in the rearview mirror. His five-year-old daughter was seated in the child’s booster seat on the opposite side of the car so that he could see her. Her cherubic face, so like Marilyn’s, was adultly earnest.
And damn, he’d forgotten all about the present, though God only knew how. Tomorrow was Valentine’s Day, the single most important day of the year. It was her birthday, for which she’d been named. That had been Marilyn’s idea. At the time she’d chosen it, Marilyn hadn’t realized the painful reminder it would be. Neither of them had. If he could go back, change the day, the name, change everything… But he couldn’t.
For Valentine, it was her birthday, the best day of the year, all hearts and presents and adoration.
Yet he’d forgotten the damn present. Maybe he’d wanted to, because it was both a blessing and a curse. Maybe he’d been hoping Valentine would forget. They’d moved over the summer, to a bigger house in a San Francisco Peninsula neighborhood with a highly regarded school district, and she’d made all new friends. But for course, she’d never forget her birthday, just as he’d never forget it was the day Marilyn had died.
“Mommy’s an angel, sweetheart,” he said to the mirror’s reflection. “She can see everything from heaven, and she knows where we live now.” Yeah, Marilyn knew, but the mystery benefactor who delivered Valentine’s birthday cake in Marilyn’s name most likely didn’t.
“Are you sure, Daddy?” Valentine was not a whiny child, but her voice was slightly plaintive. The special birthday cake was her only connection to her mother. It kept Marilyn alive for her, and it kept the pain of Marilyn’s death alive for him, forever reminding him of those hours spent pacing the hospital halls, waiting to hear, the fear that he could lose either of them, both of them.
But those were things he needed to stop thinking about. This was about Valentine. About her special day.
“Of course I’m sure.” But Brian wasn’t sure at all. The gift was anonymous, magically appearing on the doorstep first thing in the morning on Valentine’s Day every year. He’d been up for a very early flight one year, but the cake had been there even at four-thirty. The plain pink bakery box displayed no name and contained nothing but a specialty cake. Animals, girlie shapes. Last year it had been a lamb with a garland of flowers around its neck. The lamb’s wool was made of pink marshmallows, and the cake melted in his mouth, filled with the sweetness of whipped cream and strawberry jam.
He didn’t have a clue who to call to redirect the cake. To make matters worse, he had a nine-thirty flight to Portland for the company board meeting. He was division controller for a San Francisco manufacturing facility. He didn’t have time to call all the bakeries in the area, and his return flight wasn’t until six o’clock tonight. He’d have to ask Valentine’s after-school sitter to make the calls. Hannah would make dinner and stay with Valentine until he arrived home. He’d never put Valentine in daycare; with his schedule, it wasn’t practical. Hannah was a widow with kids and grandkids living in Texas, and Valentine filled in the gap between visits, giving Hannah all the little-girl love she could ask for.
He pulled into the line of cars forming outside the school. Most were moms, but there were a few dads as well. He climbed out and rounded to Valentine’s side. She’d already unbuckled herself. “You be good, sweetie.” It was automatic; Valentine was always good, the darling of her teacher. “I’ll call you when I get to the airport tonight after work.”
“Okay, Daddy.” She held her arms out to him, trusting, loving, open. His heart contracted. She was the best part of him. She was the only part of Marilyn he had left. She was everything.
And he would find that cake for her. Even if he had to order another and get up at five tomorrow morning to put it on the doorstep. He wouldn’t fail his daughter.