Only I could get into such an awkward situation as this. It’s perfection. Complete sitcom gold that should be written up and pitched as soon as possible. At least the extra cash in my pocket from my sold story would ease the embarrassment I feel right now.
I just wanted to get some chocolate. It is Valentine’s Day after all. I know people make fun of girls who go out and by themselves presents, but I wasn’t getting this to make people believe that I had a sweetheart. I simply felt like not moping around, like all the other sad and lonely singles out there. Valentine’s Day honestly wasn’t as brutal as people made it out to be. While it would be nice to have a boo to spend it with, I had made the last Valentine’s Day into a friendly affair. My girls and I had spent the day together, loving on each other. We met up early morning to get brunch together, followed by a trip to the spa for hot stone massages and a mani-pedi secession. We wrapped our girls’ day up with a corny-love-movie fest at my house, where we exchanges gifts. It was agreed between the three of us that the tradition should continue for as long as we were all single. And we all still were, but things had gotten in the way. This year, Lisa had to work full hours at her job, so she couldn’t meet up, and Grace was busy trying to sort out her funds, so she couldn’t tag in for a day of luxury.
So, I was spending the day alone. Instead of pouting and curling up with my cat and a tub of ice cream, I decided to go along with the day of pampering, just with a downgrade on the level of luxury. I dressed to impress (myself that is), and wore a cute little black dress that stopped a couple inches above my knee. It was still a little chilly, in mid-February, but pairing the dress with black pantyhose helped to keep me warm. I accessorized the simple piece with a comfy red sweater, red high heels, and a locket that I rarely got to wear. The locket wasn’t a present from anyone. It was something I saw in the store, and coveted, because it was exactly what I would want my next boyfriend to give to me as a gift. Somewhere further back in my mind, I was hoping that I would have a picture to put inside it one day. Besides my fantasies of its use, I liked the look of it, and thought I could pair it with an outfit or two fairly well. Today was a great day to try it out.
After dressing myself to the nine and doing my hair and makeup, I came up with my agenda for the day. I decided that I would spend the majority of the day down by the pier, taking shots for my collection. It had been a while since I’d gone out with my camera, and while it was a bit cool, the sky was clear, and the day was beautiful. I could probably get some great shots of the water and the people walking. After a few hours of that, I would return home, order from my favorite Thai restaurant, and then run a bath. I’d probably end the day with some reading before bed. It sounded great, even though it was still lonely. On my way to the pier, I had the idea to stop for a small box of chocolates. What’s a Valentine’s Day without chocolate, right?
After entering the store, I found a box slightly bigger than I had intended to get, but hey, this was my day to pamper myself. I got in line at the only register that was open; funny that they wouldn’t open a couple more to help out on that last minute gift rush. I only had the box of chocolate in my hand and it would have been great to have an express line. The guy in front of me had a nice cart load of things, and I’d have to wait while the cashier rung him up and bagged it all. I was a little impatient to say the least. There was one person left in front of him before he turned around to investigate the rest of the line. I almost thought he sensed my impatience growing. He looked down at me and saw that I had one item, so he turned his full attention on me then. “Ma’am you can go ahead of me if…Jas?”
I have a bad habit of not looking at people’s faces. I had only been boring into his back when he was facing away from me, and even when he turned around, I looked directly at his chest until he spoke. Hearing him saying my name – my nickname actually – sent a jolt of confusion into me. I became attentive then and looked into the man’s face then, and my look of surprise was not masked at all. It was my ex.
“Ray…I didn’t know you still lived around here. I mean…it’s good to see you.” I fumbled around trying to find the right words. What were you supposed to say to the last man you had fallen in love with, the man who you were so ready to marry? I hadn’t thought much about Raymond in the last year and a half we’d been separated, mostly because I’d get to thinking about what I could have done different, and it drives me mad. I locked away my thoughts of him to save myself from depression over our break up, and it had worked. He didn’t go to the same places I went around town, and we didn’t have many mutual friends, so I’d managed to keep him out of sight – and therefore out of mind – for all this time. But having him here in front of me, looking just as handsome, put together, and calling me by my nickname completely screwed me up.
“Yeah. I had been planning to move out of town a few months back, but life took me elsewhere. It’s good to see you too.” He smiled a carefully crafted smile. It seemed he was a little uncomfortable as well. “That offer to go ahead of me is still good if you want it.”
I quickly declined. “Oh, no, no, that’s alright. I don’t mind waiting in line.” I pondered over how he would take that. It really was no big deal for me to go ahead. We both knew very well that I would take less time than him. Taking his offer felt too friendly to me. I couldn’t accept it without feeling weird, but it was probably weirder to not take the offer.
“You sure?” I nodded quietly. “Alright. You look nice by the way. Looks like you really got into the spirit with all the red. I’m guessing you have some plans today.” It was the kind of comment that intruded without asking a real question.
“Nothing major, really. I don’t have a date.” I blushed on the word date. “I was going to hang out with Lisa and Grace today, but they both got caught up in other things. So, I decided to treat myself. I was just about to go to the pier to take some pictures, actually…”
Raymond looked at my camera hanging on my shoulder strap. “Oh, you’re still into photography then. That’s great to hear. You’ll probably get some great shots of the fishermen out there today.” Ray didn’t really care about my interest in photography. He always found the focal points I loved to be dull, but today he was trying to make conversation and be polite. It was his turn at the register and since I wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon, I decided to do my part as well.
“That’s what I’m hoping for. You still like to rollerblade down at the pier, I bet?” We talked for the next 10 or so minutes, while the cashier rung him up. I had butterflies in my stomach the entire time; whether from uneasiness or a stranger emotion, I didn’t know. What I did know was that despite my discomfort, talking with Ray was actually really nice. I found myself savoring the nostalgic talk more than dreading it. We were still familiar with each other even in our distance over this year and a half. Ray seemed to enjoy the talk too, staying behind for a second to wait for me to get my chocolate so that we could continue our conversation.
When we reached the door, a woman was approaching us straight on. I moved myself to the side, assuming she was about to enter the store. Instead of her walking around me, however, she made a bee line for Raymond. “There you are. I was worried you got swallowed by produce or something. You said you would call once you were done, but you were taking a while.”
Ray looked apologetic but also amused. “Sorry, hun. The line was crazy. They only had one cash register open.”
The woman look at me then, realizing that I was standing with Ray and not just hovering. Ray saw where her eyes fell and then went to stand shoulder to shoulder with her. “Oh, where are my manners? Babe, this is Jasmine. We’ve known each other since our high school days.” I smiled a little smile. He hadn’t mentioned that we dated, and I knew why. It was because of who this woman obviously was to him.
“Jasmine, this is Mia, my fiancée.” Just when I thought the daggers couldn’t pierce any deeper, he found the word to ram them in a couple more centimeters. Fiancée. I hadn’t noticed the engagement ring on her left hand until he said that. I don’t know how I managed to make such as swift recovery, but I did, and I reached my hand out to shake hers.
“It’s nice to meet you.” I said generically.
“You too.” She flashed me a warm smile. I’d bet anything her smile was one of the things Ray loved about her. She was immaculately dressed (probably for a date later), and she looked lovely, but her smile was the star. “Ray never seems to run out of friends in this town. He’s always introducing me to someone.”
“Yeah, Ray is a real charmer. You’ve got a good catch here.” I say this trying to keep the bitterness out of my voice. Ray looked at me for a moment as if he caught some of it, but he looked away deciding it was nothing.
“Maybe we can meet up for lunch one day. I’d love to hear stories about Ray in high school.” She was obvious to my mood, and was all smiles and friendliness.
“Yeah, maybe.” I assisted.
“Well Jas,” Ray chimed in clearly a little uncomfortable again, “It was great running into you.” Ray started to make his way towards the parking lot, but I called out to him, having a thought.
“Wait! I want to get a picture of you two,” I said holding up my camera slightly for Mia to see. “Mia looks so beautiful in her dress, and I want to get a shot of it for my collection.”
I see Mia’s eyes light up at this idea, and she’s already tugging at Ray’s arm to come and pose with her. I can read Ray like no other. He’s controlling his body language well, still being playful and consenting, but his eyes show that he’s feeling miffed about this. He never meant to run into me with his fiancée and now I’m making a parade of it. But, I don’t care. This is my day.
Mia and Ray settled on a common couple pose, with them snug against each other, their arms around each other’s waists. I count out the picture and snap on three. I even let them look at the product. It’s really flattering; they’re both quite photogenic. After promising Mia I’ll send the picture to Ray through email, I said my goodbyes, wishing them a Happy Valentine’s Day. They went to their car and drove off, but I went to mine and sat there for a minute or two, just looking at the picture. I finally have a photo to put in my locket; a photo of the one who got away.