Happy Valentine's Day!
For only the second time in her life, Olivia Ashwood had her radio turned up as loud as it would go. She wasn’t concerned about a noise complaint. It was a Thursday night, but her dorm was practically empty. Everyone was out. She should have been out. She’d been looking forward to it for three weeks; she’d even found the perfect dress for the evening with the perfect pair of cute matching sandals. Instead of indulging in pasta and sinfully rich dessert at her favorite downtown restaurant, she was stuck in her dorm with Fiona Apple, leftover Chinese takeout, and her flannel pajamas.
The insistent, annoying vibrations coming from under her pillow dragged her out of her pity party. She fished her cell phone out of the tangle of blankets and bedding, scowled at the still-vibrating machine. Her sister’s name flashed on the screen. Irritation sparked. What mess had Viola gotten into this time?
“While I am really, and I do mean really, proud of you for embracing your inner emo, I’ve been knocking on your door for three minutes. Think you can open up?”
Olivia’s fluffy bunny slippers made no sound on the carpeted floor as she stalked across the small room to fling open the door. Viola offered a strained smile; her shoulder brushed Olivia’s when she stepped inside. She carefully dropped her backpack onto the bed and moved towards the stereo.
“I’m cool with Fiona and if you wanna switch to Alanis, that’s fine. You pop a Sarah McLachlan in there, though, and I’m out of here. This is officially a tear-free zone.” Viola skipped to the next song on the CD before turning to her stunned sister. She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before impulsively yanking Olivia into a tight bear hug.
“What are you doing here? Vi… Vi, honey, I need to breathe…” Olivia croaked when her sister’s arms tightened painfully around her ribs. She greedily sucked in oxygen and blinked the clear the spots from her vision.
Viola shrugged, plopped onto the edge of the bed next to her backpack. She busied herself with unzipping the bag and piling items on the quilt. “You didn’t take me up on my offer to chop off Eric Granger’s balls and feed them to him, so this is plan B. You’ve got the angry chick music so I brought the rest of the party favors. Chocolate.” She handed Olivia a large, red heart-shaped box filled with gourmet chocolates.
A small smile crept onto Olivia’s face. “Thanks, kiddo.”
“I’ve got two more. By the end of the night neither of us is going to want to see another piece of chocolate.” Viola pulled a bottle of wine out of the backpack and set it on Olivia’s nightstand along with two plastic wine glasses. “A little something to numb the pain.”
“Viola!” Olivia clucked her tongue disapprovingly. She held out her hand expectantly. “Let me see it.”
“The fake i.d.”
“What fake i.d.?” Viola offered up her most angelic face. As usual, it had no affect on Olivia.
“The one Sebastian had a vision about two weeks ago. I thought he took it away from you.”
Viola grinned. “He did. It’s okay because I didn’t really like the picture on that one.”
“Vi…” Olivia crossed her arms, arched an eyebrow.
Viola rolled her eyes, untied her knee-high black boots, and shoved them under the bed. “It’s not like I’m going to use to go on a bender or anything. All the best bands play in bars and stuff, I just need the i.d. to get in and see them. I swear.”
“And the wine?” Olivia uncrossed her arms and reached for the bottle. It was a surprisingly decent merlot. She retrieved her corkscrew from the nightstand drawer.
Viola’s grin brightened. “Stole it from Sebastian. He bought it for his date with Amy. I left a note on his steering wheel this morning, he’ll understand that it’s for a good cause.” She poked Olivia’s calf with her toes. “Open it up already.”
Olivia eyed her speculatively. “One glass for you and you’re staying the night. The last think you need is a DUI. We just got that social worker off our back.”
“Figured you’d say that. I brought a change of clothes and something to sleep in. Forgot my pillow, though.”
“I’ve got that bag of bathroom stuff you left last time. You should be set.”
Olivia uncorked the wine and filled both plastic glasses. She grabbed the remote for the stereo and settled on the bed with her sister. Propped up by pillows, they were hip-to-hip; Olivia’s bunny slippers looked normal next to Viola’s pink skull-and-crossbones toe socks. Olivia picked an oval-shaped chocolate from the open box balanced on their thighs.
Viola glanced around the room. All of the cutesy pictures of Eric, Olivia’s boyfriend since the previous summer, were gone along with the ticket stubs and mementos that had been stuck to the bulletin board. Her eyes fell on the box of conversation hearts on Olivia’s desk.
“Sebastian dropped off his present, huh?”
Olivia snorted into her wine glass. “Just like every year. You think he’ll ever remember that we hate those stupid candies?”
“Nope,” Viola responded. “I found my box of heart-shaped chalk in my backpack this morning. It is kind of sweet, I guess. Would be sweeter if it was something I’d actually eat, though.”
“You didn’t dump them in the trash again, did you?”
“No way, I learned my lesson last time. He sulked for a week.” Viola giggled impishly. “It took me ten minutes, but I changed my name in the little ‘to’ box so that it said ‘Duke’ and stuck it in Duke’s mailbox on my way home from school.”
Olivia’s jaw dropped. Laughter bubbled in her chest. She set her wine glass on the nightstand and slapped a hand over her mouth. “You mean Duke found a box of candy conversation hearts in his mailbox that said, ‘To: Duke, From: Sebastian’?”
Olivia’s shoulders shook with silent laughter. “I’d love to hear that phone call.”
“Me too.” Viola sighed wistfully. “I’m sure I’ll hear the highlights later, but it won’t be the same.”
They ate and drank without speaking. Viola’s toes twitched in time with the music. Olivia slowly chewed a raspberry crème filled chocolate and stared at the blank spot on her wall where a picture of Eric in a Santa hat had once been tacked. Tears stung her eyes.
“I just wanted a normal relationship, you know?” Olivia swallowed the chocolate and licked a dab of crème off her lip. Her head drooped so that her ear hovered over Viola’s shoulder. “I didn’t use my gift on him; I didn’t want… I wanted to have the kind of relationship everyone else has, one where I didn’t know what he was feeling before he knew he was feeling it. I wanted to be surprised.”
Viola clenched her teeth so hard her jaw ached. She regretted letting Sebastian talk her out of slashing Eric the Bastard’s tires and breaking his nose. As an older sister Olivia was annoying and nosy as hell, but she was also the kindest person Viola knew. She didn’t deserve to be dumped the day before Valentine’s Day in front of her entire Organic Chemistry lab.
Olivia choked back a sob and gulped her wine. “I guess I was surprised all right.”
Viola pressed Olivia’s head onto her shoulder and brushed a loose strand of blonde hair off her sister’s flushed cheek. “He’s a jerk and a moron and should have been grateful you even bothered to speak to him. It’s not your fault he was too stupid to see how wonderful you are.”
“I really, really liked him, Vi. I was falling in love with him.” Fat tears rolled down her cheeks and onto Viola’s black long-sleeved t-shirt. She sniffled, squeezed her eyes shut. “I was… God, Vi… tonight I was going to…”
Viola growled. Not only did she not want to her about her sister’s sex life, but she really wanted to break every bone in Eric the Bastard’s body. She kissed Olivia’s forehead and carefully slid out from under her. While Olivia wiped her eyes and blew her nose, Viola climbed on top of the desk and expertly disarmed the smoke alarm.
“What are you doing, Vi?” Olivia frowned. “Where did you learn to do that?”
“Matt taught me.”
“Which one’s Matt?” Olivia tried to keep up with Viola’s friends, but the younger girl never brought them by the house and rarely spoke on the phone in front of others. The only one she knew fairly well was Viola’s best friend Aaron. “The one with the tongue ring?”
“Nah, that’s Joe. Matt’s the one with the nose ring and the shaved head.” Viola hopped off the desk and dug a cheap plastic lighter out of her pocket. “I borrowed this from him after school.”
Olivia’s eyes widened comically. She knew Viola ran with a different crowd but had always trusted her sister to use common sense. “I’m not smoking with you, Vi! You’re not smoking with you, either! When did you pick that up?”]
Viola blinked, flicked the lighter. “Uh… never. Like I’d do something that stupid. Do you know what it would do to my times? Not to mention Coach would kill me deader than dead. Plus, the smell would make it pretty impossible to be stealthy when Tracking.”
“Oh,” Olivia sighed, feeling like an idiot, “okay. What’s the lighter for then?”
“Grab your big glass bowl. We’re going to burn everything you have that reminds you of the bastard.”
Olivia refilled both wine glasses. She grabbed a bottle of water while Viola prepped the mini-bonfire. She felt a small tear in her heart heal when Viola touched the lighter to the edge of a photograph. They held hands as the flames engulfed paper, photos, and a couple of cut-up t-shirts. By the time the pile was nothing more than ashes, Olivia still hurt but didn’t feel like wallowing in misery.
“Thanks for this, Vi. It was perfect. Very sweet, in a you kind of way.”
“Nada problemo, sis.” Viola shrugged off Olivia’s praise. “Just promise that the next time a guy breaks your heart you’ll let me punch him in the face.”
Olivia grinned, slung an arm around Viola’s shoulders. “It’s a deal.”