Sweet 16 and desperate for a boyfriend—that’s what I was. Valentine’s Day was quickly approaching, and no matter how many times I re-read the Anne of Green Gables books, the “bend in the road” still hid my first love.
My high school had an annual Valentine’s Day carnation sale, in which we would send each other pink, red, and yellow carnations (for friendship, love, and secret admirers), and subtly compete to see who would get the most. I, of course, looked down my nose at such tomfoolery, but secretly I yearned to get a big bouquet—and not just full of “friendship flowers.”
But, alas, it was not to be.
. . . until I got something better than a carnation.
On the Friday before Valentine’s Day, my chamber choir director called me aside after the rehearsal was over, and gave me a single red rose, telling me that a secret admirer had dropped it off for me.
A rose? For me? I could think of a half dozen guys that were either possibilities or daydreams, and so Katie, Megan, & I spent all weekend debating and dreaming about who it was. I couldn’t wait to go back to school on Monday, eager to find out who my secret admirer was.
Then the snow hit.
The snow didn’t just “hit”—it attacked. We got a week off of school, and no matter how many times I flipped through my yearbook wondering if this secret rose meant I had a date to the prom, the week couldn’t go fast enough. No one called, instant messaged, or e-mailed me to reveal their identity. I began to despair that my choir director had just taken pity on pathetic little me and bought me the rose herself.
Eight days after Valentine’s Day, I was no closer to discovering the mystery. I returned to school slightly despondent that my secret admirer would be a secret forever, but also thrilled that I had such an admirador de secreto.
And then one of my classmates caught up with me in the hall:
“Did you get anything special for Valentine’s Day?”
I turned to see who it was. And my heart skipped a beat. In that instant, I knew:
This was the one.
He was the late one, the one who always arrived to class ten minutes after the bell. He would slump down into his seat, and after a few minutes of looking around the room, would pssssst at me: “Hey, do you gotta pencil?”
I did. I loaned him a pencil every day.
And then a few minutes later he would lean over: “Hey, I think I need a piece of paper.”
Fortunately, I was always prepared.
I don’t know how many more times he would have had to take that class if I hadn’t been there to help him.
It was a sophomore history class. He was 19.
Was he only in school to sell drugs? He certainly wasn’t there to graduate.
The class was merciless to him, repeating his name in a sing-song voice every time he walked into the room. We elongated his name like this: “Stevieeeeeeeeeeee,”* holding on to the final “e” much longer than necessary.
Sitting next to him for an entire year, I can verify that he did not shower.
So when he caught up with me in the hall that day, I glibly said the first thing that popped into my mind:
“What did I get for Valentine’s Day? Oh, you know, the usual.”
He stared at me, wide-eyed, and then squinted narrowly.
“You!” he hissed. “You! You have a heart of ice!”
Happy Valentine’s Day.
*Name changed to protect the innocent. It did, however, end in an “e” sound.