Valentine's Day sucks.
I, Rupert Manderley, had it all figured out, y'know, mate? Three gfs: one blonde, one brunette, one redhead. One all sweet and solicitous, one bossy but hot (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, you get my drift), and one…well, one that would send you to the moon.
Mary Ann I'd meet on Fridays. Tell her my troubles over a curry, then back to my place for a DVD (my choice) and a cuddle (elbow again). Yolanda, the brunette, was my Saturday Night Special – we'd hit the discos with the low covers, her in something spangly, me dressed to kill and showing off all the moves I'd been practicing in front of the mirror all week. All that exercise is good for the libido, know what I mean? On Sunday, long walks with Ronique that ended at my place, except for when it rained, when we'd just skip the pedestrian foreplay and get right to the main event.
I usually wasn't out more than a few drinks and a couple of meals, and I was living, man, I was living. Then the bleedin' Yanks had to go and export Valentine's Day.
Valentine's Day: a scam invented by card companies and chocolate mongers. You have to send flowers. You have to dress up. You have to take them out. And noplace cheap, mind: fish and chips won't cut it. It's filet mignon and the violins. My pocketbook is aching just thinking about it.
Worst of all, you have to do it all in the one night. Not easy with three gfs, let me tell you. But me ol' da didn't raise any fools, so I came up with a scheme, I did.
First off: flowers. One dozen roses, long-stem, vase (check), all ordered online from the discount place, guaranteed on-time delivery. With a sweet little note from me. 'Thinking of you always.' Yeah. Then over to the other site, and ditto with the chocolates (special rate for large orders, cards included). Then a musical e-card – something with a picture of the ocean and that awful waily thing from Titanic, with the same note for each: 'Whenever I hear this song, I think of you.' Ha. Gets 'em every time. Okay, done, reasonably cheap, the cards were even free. Now for the strategy part.
R-i-i-ng. 'Mary Ann, honey, I've got to go in to work late tonight. Big emergency. Ah, that's sweet of you, to be so understanding, it being Valentine's Day and all. What I was thinking was, how about a nice, romantic lunch? At that place overlooking the river, La Grenouille Fine? We can watch the ducks out the window while we eat…you would?...you say the sweetest things…see you then…'
Ha. One down. That lunch place has a Frenchie name, but it's run by a Mrs O'Grady, and she gives out discount coupons. R-i-i-ng. 'Yo-LAN-da, my queen of desire. Who did you think it was? Never mind, could I interest you in the Valentine's tea dance at the Floppy Disk? You know, I can't stay out late, I promised to visit my maiden aunt, you know, the one with the sciatica, but this way, we could trip the light fantastic, have a laugh…you got the flowers? I'm glad you liked them…yeah, I'm just a romantic at heart, I guess…see you then.'
Last lap. R-i-i-ng. 'Ronique, my honey lamb…I can't get away until late, but how about a 10 pm candlelight supper? My place? I've got champagne chilled, and some roast duck, my mother's special recipe, soft lights, soft music, you, me, forget the world? You would? No, no trouble, honey, I've been looking forward to this all week…see you then, yeah, me, too…'
Ha! The roast duck I picked up at a carvery, a little sauce on top, stick it in the oven, the place smells homey, the champers is on sale around the corner…one more call…
R-i-i-ng. 'Er, Mr Smith? (Cough.) Sorry to call you so late, sir, but I'm afraid it might be bird 'flu…what?...no, I'll be right as rain day after tomorrow. I just need to catch up on my bed…er, bed rest, you understand…yes, I know I've only got two more sick days left…thank you, sir, I appreciate your solicitude.' Rotten beggar. I'll bet he buys his wife gardening tools for Valentine's Day.
Now I had the day off, which I used to finish my plans. Give the flat a quick once-over. Check. Lay in the duck and champers, pick out some mood music, lay out the clothes for the tea dance, check, check, check…
Eleven-fifteen ack emma. Decked out to the nines in my second-best sport coat, the one that says 'offhand elegance'. Brisk walk around to the Frenchy lunch place. On the way in, I glance in the mirror. Looking good, there… I ask for my party from the hostess. (Mrs O'Grady's eldest.) She points.
'The ladies are waiting for you.' She gives me a funny look. I follow her pointing finger.
Oh, my god. It's too late to run. They've seen me.
Mary Ann. Yolanda. AND Ronique. All sitting at the same table. I didn't think it was possible to have three heart attacks at once. But I tried.
I went up to them, grinning. Tried to put a good face on it. 'Hey, girls, fancy meeting you all here…' They said nothing. Merely held up three identical boxes of choccies, with three identical receipts attached, with all three messages, and delivery addresses, and b-loody h-ell, I will kill that online company…
Oddly, the girls didn't seem to be mad at each other. Or jealous. Just mad at me. Go figure.
And that is why, my friends, I, Rupert Manderley, am sitting in my bathrobe on Valentine's Day evening, curled up under an afghan rug, watching Titanic. There's a plate with the remains of duck a l'orange on it, and a half-empty bottle of champers. I'm into the chocolates now, and paying attention while Rose and what's-his-name get it on in the car.
When that Canadian woman starts singing, I'm going to cry.
Valentine's Day sucks.