‘It’s okay for couples,’ Sophie thought, ‘it’s just an excuse to be soppy, declare undying love and have a date night.’ She had noticed a growing trend in SINGLES events booked on the 14th, she couldn’t think of anything worse! No, she’d rather stay in, wear comfy pyjamas and eat tubs of ice-cream, that would make her a total cliché though, she was far more likely to arrive home from work, exhausted. Strip off her clothes, grab something quick to eat, watch some telly and then clamber into bed and sleep it all off. That’s how she had greeted some New Years in, so why should mid-February be any different?
It wasn’t that she hadn’t experienced the most wonderful valentine dates herself, or that she was growing particularly bitter the closer to 40 she grew, it was a problem with envy, pure and simple. She couldn’t stand shopping on weekends, all those couples dragging each other around, faces constricted with misery, yelling at each other, at the best grunting and rolling eyes. How lucky they were to have each other, it made her cringe. No, Sophie’s New Year resolution was to shop online. She only left the house to go to work and to her Salsa Classes every Tuesday. It wasn’t that she had no friends, she was between chapters that was all. Most of her friends had children in tow, husbands, second husbands, many of her girlfriends were no longer single and most people she knew had local family too. The bars and clubs that she frequented in her thirties no longer appealed, she had a belief that anyone she met now would have something wrong with them, which was funny because she was perfectly fine and yet still single. Dating was going to start online this year too.
Thursday the 14th rolled around as it was inevitably bound to, glad that it was at least a workday, Sophie dressed in her grey trouser suit and left her curly, auburn hair down to hide the earplugs she planned to wear all day. What a pity she couldn’t wear a blindfold for the day as well, she’d just have to keep her head down in work and try to ignore the giggles and lust-fuelled gasps as more rose bouquets arrived. Taking the last preparation to survive the day Sophie swallowed two small pink headache pills, ‘I’m surprised they haven’t started selling those in heart shapes and charged twice as much for the packet!’ She thought as she took one last look at her reflection on her way out the door.
Her day at the office was as painful as spending the day having an all over body tattoo, of course no-one in their right mind would undergo such a thing all in one appointment! She hurried home in the dark and drizzly rain, glad that she didn’t have to come out again tonight. Smugly smiling at some of the couples who were already out for the sake of the babysitter with school the next day. Women huddled under umbrellas, providing them a poor barrier against the rain. Sophie ran through the streets, not having to worry about her hair turning frizzy.
Her answer machine was flashing, a message from her hairdresser. In a half conscious state Sophie stripped off and wrapped her fluffy red dressing gown around her, the irony of dressing for the occasion did not pass her by. She warmed up some two-minute rice and chopped up some mushrooms and herbs to go with it. Flicking through the TV channels she decided on a DVD, something completely unromantic, she chose one of Darren’s action films that he’d left behind. She switched the laptop on and went to pour herself a large glass of Pinot.
‘Ding’ her inbox announced, ‘Ooohhhh special delivery’ Sophie thought, it was bound to be work. They didn’t believe she was entitled to a life outside the office. She sat down and to her delight found it was from her friend Justine. Last year she had booked a ski-ing trip to avoid Valentines, she had booked it before Darren came on the scene, typical. Her eyes greedily consumed Justine’s words, she felt her stomach flip over on itself. She re-read the email over and over, elongating the time, avoiding opening the attachment.
There, she clicked on the paperclip icon, accepted the upload, Justine’s smiling face appeared next to the head and shoulders of her gorgeous new partner. She knew it, the title of the attached document had given it all away, so why was there still a lump in her throat preventing her from breathing! ‘Robert and I enjoying the Alps x’ … ‘Robert and I’…. Sophie thought, ‘if only I could have been soppy, honest and brave last year. That should have been me!’
Crying into a tissue, the image of Justine and Robert grew blurry, she hated February the 14th not because of couples, or envy, not because Darren had discovered her secret and done a moonlight flit, not because her parents had all but disowned her, not because she was still stuck in a tiny bed sit at the age of 39. She hated it because it was a concrete reminder that she had let love slip through her fingers, too scared to dress up and speak the truth. She had gone to bed early with her earplugs and blocked out the sounds of the other chalets and the Apres ski of the village. Left Justine alone, with Robert… ‘He should have been mine’ Sophie whispered out loud as she shut the computer down.
Curled up in bed Sophie was asleep within a few minutes, alone with her dreams and hopes. The moonlight shone through the tiny gap in the cream curtains, the silver frame glistened and there in the dark, unseen by anybody other than Sophie, a black and white photograph taken in 2010 of her father and his business partner, Robert.