The child safety scissors are too small for me, have been for years, so I’m extra careful as I cut a heart from the red construction paper. Satisfied, I twist my waist length hair into a bun at the base of my neck to ensure the dark mass won’t interfere with my work. Using a felt tip marker, I pen a message in the center of the shape.
Will you please do me the honor of being my Valentine?
My lips tug up at the corners. The swirling loops of each letter show just how much I’ve practiced. I trace the edge of the paper with a glue stick and top it with a sprinkle of silver glitter, shaking off the excess. Almost done. I spritz my project with perfume for the perfect finish.
Footsteps sound in the hallway outside my room.
I rise, the concrete floor cold against my bare feet, and brush the remaining silver flecks from my simple, white sundress. It’s a bit young for me, but I know he’ll like it. The doorknob turns and I barely have time to untwist my hair, letting my curls tumble over my shoulders the way he likes.
The door swings open. He’s a grown man now, handsome in a rugged sort of way, but I still see the shy, rejected little boy he keeps hidden deep inside.
“You look lovely.” His eyes meet mine for just a moment, then cut away. “May I come in?”
“Please.” I incline my head in invitation, fidgeting with the bow at my waist.
He steps inside and crosses toward me, stopping a few feet away. Waiting.
My heart threatens to burst through my chest as I place the offering flat on my palms and extend it toward him. “Will you be my Valentine?” The same question he once asked me. I laughed at him in front of everyone.
He inhales, catching the scent of my perfume. “Mmm, lavender.” He leans down to examine my creation.
I can’t stop my hands trembling as I wait for his verdict. Please, say yes. Please. Please. Please.
“Oh, Adrianna.” He straightens with a sigh and points at a tiny tear marring the apex of the heart.
No. No. No. I was so careful. A sob crawls from my throat and spills from my mouth. “Please. I just want to go home.”
“I’m sorry.” He even sounds like he means it. “I’m sure you’ll do better next year.” He moves too quickly for me to catch him.
The door slams closed and several locks click into place.
My Valentine slips from my hands and drifts to the ground, settling next to the others.
I lunge at the door, scarred with years of bloody gouges, and pummel the wood with my fists. “Let me out of here!” I scream and claw and cry until my voice is gone and my nails are torn down to the quick, but it’s no use.
God, why did I have to laugh?
Angela Sylvaine still believes in monsters, both real and imagined, and always checks under the bed. Her work has appeared in multiple magazines and anthologies, including Supernatural Horror Short Stories (Gothic Fantasy Series), Disturbed Digest, and My American Nightmare. You can follow her on twitter @sylvaine_angela and you can find her online angelasylvaine.com.