Valentine's Day

Meet Grace Conroy, a sweet endearing brunette, as happy and careless as any seven-year-old would be on a summer morn on Falcon Avenue. She believes that she is exceedingly lucky to live the life that she does, without any concern. But what she doesn’t know is how much luckier she will get by the end of the day.
Malcolm Wilson, of number two Falcon Avenue, gets five dollars every week from his parents to spend at his will, which is usually traded in for sour worms, jawbreakers, salty plums and zombie chews at Kirk’s corner store. This week is different. It includes Valentines Day!
Malcolm has strolled along the concrete path towards his house, rather faster than usual, with only one thing on his mind; the wind ruffling his striking blonde hair and stinging his china blue eyes, but he didn’t care. In his hands was a shoebox lined with red paper hearts, pink ribbon and glitter unevenly spilt down the side.
He passed his house and was approaching number four. As he noticed the mailbox, it was only then that he began to shake nervously. His palms were sweaty and his teeth were chattering like old chains clanging together. The sound of one cold metal piece colliding with another grew louder with every step, in time with his increasing pulse. His knees were banging together with anxiety and nervousness because he knew that his biggest fear lay at number six.
Malcolm passed the white picket fence, to the beautifully cut green grass and an upside down rusted old bike frame, which presented itself on the other side. It was clear that it was once the colour of jet black, which had now chipped and rusted away. The bicycle had no evidence of brakes, gears or a front wheel and what was left of the rear rim was crooked behind repair. Perched beneath the wreckage was Grace. Her cauliflower ears could be just seen, hidden under her brown curls while her button nose and hazel eyes were in shadow as her head faced the turf. In her hand, grasped with a deathly grip was a silver spanner, tapping away at where there had once been a chain, as if she were trying to bring the skeleton back to life. She did not look upwards, when Malcolm swayed over.
‘Good mornin’, Grace’, he stuttered, nervously.
Grace went about pattering without changing her rhythm and ignoring him.
‘I got a gift for you’, he carried on, staggering around the lifeless body. He felt as if he were the king of the world, while placing the box next to his queen.
It was only then she planted the spanner to her left, snatched the shoebox while climbing to her feet. Now facing each other, with only the box between them, Malcolm had a wide smile on his face, knowing that she would love it. Grace stuck a thumb under the lid and slowly lifted, to reveal a stunning fluffy precious and delicate grey kitten. It wouldn’t have been more than three weeks old.
‘I don’t like cats. They’re too annoying and loud, they need too much care and the only thing they do for themselves is lick their hair’, she quite easily spat out the insult and dropped the box. Malcolm let out a shocked gasp as the box hit the ground, tossing out the contents (which let out a painful shriek) and broke his heart.
‘See what I mean’, she carelessly picked up the spanner again and continued with the irritating sharp tapping, as if she knew what she was doing.
Malcolm picked up the remains and disappointedly ran home. He felt as if he had let her down and needed to get her an even better gift. After gently nursing the cat to sleep on his bed, he strolled outside to find beautiful red tulips, white roses and yellow daffodils, to his right. Without thinking, he seized a handful of the flowers and raced back to number six. This time when he passed the white fence, he observed that Grace had moved her way to the front of the frame, trying to straighten the handle bars.
‘No! I’m allergic to the pollen!’ she screeched, when she noticed the new gift in his, once again, disappointed fingers.
Malcolm didn’t know what allergic meant or even pollen, but he had realised that he had once more failed. Moping back towards number two, he carelessly hurled the flowers into number four’s yard, prior to getting the best idea all day, which he knew would surely work. Malcolm had received a new bicycle for Christmas, nearly two months previously. Heaving his fresh bike out from the back shed and racing once again to number six, he knew she couldn’t say ‘no’. He was as determined as the first sailors to travel around the world without knowing whether they would fall off the Earth.
Pulling to a halt in front of Grace once more, she wondered what he was thinking.
‘You can use my bike’, he muttered confidently, willing to put her out of the misery of trying to fix her poor excuse for transport.
‘Your bike is purple’, Grace came to the conclusion after she stole a quick glance of the vehicle. ‘I don’t like purple’!
It was a sad conclusion to Malcolm that she was now just making excuses. He took off back home knowing exactly what he was doing. He dived from the bike and scampered inside, allowing the bike to crash into the flower bed, surely waking them from their peaceful slumber. The front door slammed shut with great speed as Malcolm sped past it, towards the top drawer of his father’s working desk. This was crammed with stationary, pens, measuring and marking equipment of all varieties. He dug through like a burrowing marsupial, toward his treasure, a black Nikko permanent marker. The next forty minutes of his day were devoted to what Malcolm was the best at in his third grade class - colouring.
Grace wasn’t surprised to see him back again, but this time on a black bicycle.
Before he could unleash any words, she stood up, slowly walked over to him and innocently pecked him on the cheek.
‘I knew you wouldn’t give up,’ she gloated before Malcolm, being the gentleman that he was, climbed off and helped her on, before he staggered onto the back, behind her.
It was only then that he had observed the brick and the plank of wood on the path outside number eight, forming a triangle or a ramp. It was only when Grace started pedalling that he realised, after what she had just said, that she was being ignorant on purpose, to see if Malcolm was worthy of becoming her Valentine.
Malcolm, with arms wrapped tightly around her waist, eyes closed gently, a pleasing smile on his face, rested his head against her warm back. He hadn’t become aware of hitting the ramp, but he recalled flying on the back of his bike with his well awaited Valentine.


25 was established in 1997, and since then we have successfully completed numerous short story and poetry competitions and publications.
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