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 Valentines Day SB

“Morning! Where an earth did all this snow come from?” Val asked, as she stomped her way to The Book Shelf bookshop, kicking the snow off her boots before opening the door.

“Morning. Yes – I certainly wasn't expecting to see snow when I opened the curtains,” Val's colleague and friend Madge replied.
After a rained soaked January, it had been good to greet the start of February with crisp blue sky and heady sun.
Then out of nowhere, heavy grey clouds gathered and soon the skies were falling with the big soft dancing flakes that were more associated with Christmas.
Luckily, both Madge and Val lived within walking distance of work.
After the duo had peeled off their coats, gloves, boots, hats and scarves, they made a coffee and donned their special 'Bookshelf' fleece cardigans .
Val's was light blue, Madge's was bright orange.
“Did Mr crime fan call in yesterday, Madge?” Val worked part- time and her shift ended at lunch-time on Thursdays.
“Yes,” she said. “He bought the new Peter Robinson.”
Like any other shop, The Bookshelf had their regular run of customers. Mr Crime Fan was one of them.
Around Val's own age, he was tall and rather good- looking, and he often found time for a friendly chat. As he ran a book club at the local library, he was always on the look out for reading recommendations.
Val was an avid crime fiction fan herself. Madge too, enjoyed sharing book talk with him.
“He is rather dishy, isn't he? In fact, I'm going to give his book club a try,” Madge said.
***
Time seemed to drag. Because of the heavy snow, customers were scarce.
Val sighed. Although she loved her job, at home, she felt stuck in a rut.
Every weekend was the same - Saturday mornings were spent at the supermarket.
After lunch, her husband Ken trotted along to his allotment while Val tackled a week's worth of ironing.
The next day, Val made a big Sunday lunch. Then she and Ken snoozed the hours away with the papers.
She'd thought that a new hobby could help lift her spirit.
Yet when she'd asked Ken to try ballroom dancing classes, he'd scowled.
So reluctantly, she'd left it.
***
It was still snowing on Valentine's day.
At work, Val found the sight of girls and women struggling through dreadful weather to buy cards and gifts, very touching. (The shop sold greetings cards and gifts too).
Val and Ken never bothered much with this occasion. Well, after decades of marriage, romance wasn't exactly a high priority for them.
“Did you receive any valentine's cards?” Val asked Madge.
After all, Madge was a single gal.
“Yes, I did actually! I found this on the mat when I opened up.” She showed Val a pale pink envelope.
The handwriting in biro said: 'To the beautiful lady in the orange cardigan.' The card carried an image of a cute teddy clutching a heart- shaped cushion.
Inside, the enigmatic one line message was: 'I'd like to get to know you better. Andrew.'
“What a lovely surprise,” Val murmured.
'Andrew' could be any of their male customers. Was he Mr crime fan? A stab of unexpected envy pricked...
At 4pm, they decided to close. Val was tidying up when she heard the door fly open. She spun round to see a florist standing there, clutching a big bouquet of flowers. Oh, Val thought, this must be a valentine gift for Madge!
But no – the bouquet was for Val. There was a valentine's card too – it simply stated: 'Lots of love' in capitals. This time, there was no sign of the name Andrew.
Was this from Mr Crime Fan? Val suddenly recalled that one particular week, she'd borrowed Madge's orange cardi because her blue one was in the wash.
Her pulse quickened.
Had Mr crime fan meant Val to receive his card, instead of Madge?
“Well well! Looks like we've both acquired mystery admirers!” Madge quipped.
Then another thought sprang to Val's mind. How the heck was she going to explain the bouquet to Ken?
***
As Val walked home, she decided that tonight she was going to talk to Ken.
Things needed to change. And if he wasn't willing to inject energy and colour in their lives, Val intended to go ahead by herself.
For a start, she could join that book club with Madge.
“Had a good day?” she kissed Ken when he arrived home from work. To avoid questions, Val had kept the flowers and card at the book shop.
“Not bad. Listen love, I've got some news.” He led her to a chair. “The company's down- sizing. I've agreed to work less hours.”
“Oh. We'll be alright financially, won't we?”
“Of course – there's no worries there. In fact, I decided that today I had enough in the kitty to buy my gorgeous wife a card and some flowers. Where are they?”
“That was you?” She was astonished.
“I wanted to treat you,” he smiled. “After all, it is valentine's day.”
“Thank you darling.' She hugged him tight.”I left them at work – it was awkward carrying them and dodging the slush underfoot at the same time.”
He nodded and took her hand. “I've been unfair to you. Pushing you away when you suggested taking up a new pastime... I've been a bit run down, caught up with fretting about work rumours. I'm sorry love, but I really couldn't bear the thought of swirling around a dance floor. Now a decision has finally been made at work, I feel as if a weight's been lifted.”
“Good.” She was pleased and relieved.
“Listen, why don't we change our routine? We could shop for our groceries online instead of spending most of our Saturday queuing up at the supermarket.”
“I never thought of doing that,” she said.
“As for Sundays - why don't we go out for lunch and make it a regular weekly date? I've seen a lovely little pub near the allotment. The lads at work say it's got a smashing menu.”
He heart soared.
This was turning out to be the best valentine's day ever!

 

***
“Oh Val, you'll never guess!”
Next morning at work, Madge was bursting to share her good news.
“Hmm -Let me see - Mr Crime fan turned out to be Andrew. He spotted you walking home from work yesterday, he asked you out on a date and you've agreed to go?” Val ventured.
He face fell. “How did you guess?”
“Elementary, my dear Madge. I read detective novels too, you know. Speaking of which, is he looking for new members for his book club? Me and Ken would like to join.”
“You and Ken? I didn't know Ken had any time for reading.”
“It's his new hobby. Mine's growing veg.”
“Growing veg?” Madge spluttered.
“Yes.”
Last night, the couple had eagerly created a list entitled 'Things we'd like to do.' A hobby swap seemed a good way to begin.
Madge studied her colleague keenly. “You seem much more chirpier today. Is it this new hobby business?”
“Aha - that'd be telling.”
“Well, whatever it is, it's certainly brought back your sparkle.”
“It must be a touch of Valentine magic,” Val grinned.
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By Sharon Boothroyd.

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