by Ryan Walraven

It’s was a dark day. A day of sorrow and a day of loneliness. A day when villains prospered and good men faltered. A time for introspection and melancholy reflection. It was Valentines Day.

The sky that day was an emotional mess, a mash of all the seasons garbled into one. Somewhere faraway a groundhog had prophesized six more weeks of winter, but today the prophecy failed. The February clouds were gray and heavy, but the temperature was cool and autumn-like and  leaves tumbled in Valerie’s stead as she rushed down the sidewalk. The morning was fresh, but already things were going awry.

Out of breath and running because she had fallen asleep over her journal in the cafeteria, Valerie was late for the day’s first class. Sweat was pooling in the armpits of her rave shirt and her black hair was tangling in the wind. Whatever small hope she had nurtured about having a good morning was being dashed by her carelessness. And her chances of getting a date that night? Not so good now that she smelled of sweat and cafeteria french fries.

At that moment, however, luck smiled on her: she managed to slide through the back door into literature class without rousing the teacher’s attention. Valerie immediately opened her journal and prepared to jot down notes. Not about Hamlet, which Mr. Stephens was outlining on the board, but on other topics.

He’s as good a place to start today as any, she thought. She adjusted her Zelda hoodie, switched to a purple pen, and set to work.

Roderick Stephens

– 6’1, 31, muscular, but bearded.

– Wears glasses, reads, and makes good money.

– Heads the track team

– Smart, but probably not into good music.

– Definitely doesn’t dance, drop acid, or smoke weed.

– Too old for me.

– 7/10

“Late again, Miss Takeda?” the voice of Mr. Stephens said, breaking her concentration. The rest of the class was staring.

“Uhhh, rough morning,” she said as she sunk into her chair.

“Hmm. These rough mornings seem to be happening quite often this quarter. See that it doesn’t happen again.” He turned back to the board and began droning on again.

Definitely too old for me. Valerie tapped the end of her pen on the page, musing as she gazed out the window.

“Whatcha writing?” a voice whispered to her left. It was Glenn Calvin, an “A” student, red-head, and major piece of eye candy. He’d have a place in her list – her “concordance,” she was calling it – but towards the end. She smirked and tried to block his view.

The work had been months in the making. When she had grown tired of filling her class journal with poetry and drawings she decided to try her hand at something new. It took a week to pick out the right journal, then another to think of a title to inscribe the first page with. Many hours afterward were spent at coffee shops, finishing up the old journal so she had an excuse to switch and decorating the inside of the new one while she listened to Stereolab on her i-pod. At this point, it was hard to believe how far the book had come.

“Hey Val, comon’,” Glenn pried. He leaned over further, risking calling unwanted attention to them. If he hadn’t been so cute, Valeria would have been annoyed.

“It’s secret,” she replied and slid the book a little further away. Luckily she was left-handed and her arm blocked his view.

“Better not let Stephens see.” He arched his eyebrows and finally turned back to face the board. Valerie recoiled. Did Glenn know what she was recording? She chewed on the end of her pen as her heart fluttered. Ugh. Her armpits had just begun to dry, too.

Ok, including Stephens was a bad idea, she admitted to herself. Especially since the journal is technically for his class. I must still be half asleep.

Blinking her eyes several times, she tried to get herself to rip the page out, but couldn’t To damage such her journal in such a way was blasphemous. For now, she whited out Stephen’s name and started again, this time with Patrick, a boy sitting in the front of the room.

Patrick Daniels

– 6’6, 16, skinny.

– Black hair, worn long

– Wears thick-rimmed glasses, black band shirts

– Smart and good with computers – knows C++, Python, and java

– Probably hacks into government websites for fun on the weekends and does Kung-Fu

– 6/10

I could get into dating a hacker nerd, but this guy is too weird, she thought, nodding to herself and tapping her pen on her chin. Who’s left? She only had a couple of names left to fill in. She let her gaze drift around the room until it settled in the back corner. Ah yes, she had saved the best two for last.

Jared Morrison

– 5’9”, 17, blonde, but buzzes his hair down to nothing

– Has a lazy eye.

– Draws and paints with a sort of neo-impressionist style.

– Listens to trance and dubstep

– Smokes weed

“Miss Takeda…”

What else to write about him? She hadn’t quite spied on Jared enough yet to write a full profile, though she knew he was boyfriend material.

“Your thoughts, Miss Takeda?”

Valerie’s reverie was broken. “Uhhh…”

Mr. Stephens smiled and gave her that ‘gotcha!’ look.

“I was asking for your thoughts on Polonius’ comments to Hamlet in this scene?” he said, crossing his arms. Glenn was grinning and staring in her direction. So were the others. Again. “I’ll give you a hint,” Mr. Stephens went on. “Act 1, scene 3.”

Valerie glared. Who does he think I am?

“This above all to thine own self be true,” she quoted. “And it’s to Laertes, not Hamlet.” She crossed her arms and glared.

Mr. Stephens beard twitched. “Very lucky.”

Lucky, sure. Haven’t I convinced him to leave me alone, yet? She rolled her eyes as her teacher turned back to the board and launched into a reminder about their next essay assignment.

“I want your thoughts on the first act, due Wednesday,” he said, then let the chalk drop and slipped into his desk chair. “You can start now while we wait for class to finish.”

Good. Maybe I can get some peace and quiet to write. She brought pen back to paper and scriggled a purple line beneath Jared’s character sheet.

“Psst. What are you writing, dork?” Glenn again.

She stuck her tongue out at him and hunched over further to block his view. It was time for the day’s last entry. Heck, it was the last entry for her entire lit class. Next, she would move on to chemistry, though there were definitely some overlaps. She might not have enough material yet to search for the perfect mate, but she was getting there.

Glenn Crocker

– 6′ even, 16, red-head, lots of freckles.

– Plays soccer, acts in the school plays

– Awesome at math and science, gets straight A’s

– Plays guitar, drives a beatup old truck, and definitely dances

– Probably a future astronaut

She chewed on the end of her pen and tried to imagine him floating in space, adjusting a valve on the international space station while the stars sparkled behind him.

– Definite boyfriend material – 9/10

She finished just as the bell went off, slammed her journal shut and stood to go.

“Hey!” Glenn grabbed her arm, his hand surprisingly cold. “You never told me what you were writing.”

“So what?” Her eyes crinkled and her lips began to curl. This was only the second time he had touched her.

“Let me see!”

She turned and began to strut away, but he caught her again and spun her around. He’s losing points fast, she noted, the smile disappearing from her face as her lips tightened.

“Why not? Is it about me?” He snatched the journal away.

“Hey!” she screeched.

“This is your lit journal?” he hooted, holding it above her head and looking inside. “Duuude! You’ve got a list of everyone in here. Man, you’re freakier than I thought.” As his eyes darted back and forth between her face and the pages she couldn’t help but blush.

“Give it back,” she growled as students rushed by them in the hallway and opened and closed their lockers.

“Yeah man, lay off,” Patrick said, slouching out of the classroom doorway. He was always slow to leave.

“You’re in here too Patrick,” Glenn giggled, pushing Valerie away as she leapt for the book. His freckled face twisted into a grin. “Whoa. You’re only 16 and a master programmer? I knew you were a nerd, but wow.”

“Dude what the hell. Lay off already.” Patrick stepped forward but Valerie pushed him away.

“Last warning Glenn,” she growled, her eyebrows furrowed.

He laughed and shook his head. “What are you gonna do?”

I didn’t want to have to do this. She cocked her leg back, then swung it straight up between his legs. He dropped the journal and collapsed to the floor.

“Minus five points, Glenn.” She clenched her fists and stared at him. It seemed her evaluations might need some work.

He groaned and rolled over to get up as one of his friends from the soccer team stopped, pointed, and burst into laughter.

She snatched up the journal and stormed down the hall, aiming for the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee. Then something stopped her and she turned to make one more comment.

“Plus two for Patrick.”

He laughed and made his way down the hall.

“Hey Patrick,” she called.

The bell rung. They were already late for algebra 2 and it looked like he hadn’t heard her. “Hey,” she called again, running after him and trying not to spill her books out of her half-opened backpack.

“Oh hey. What’s up?”

“If you don’t think I’m too weird or anything…”

“Well, you are keeping points for people,” he said. Nervously, he adjusted his glasses and shifted on his feet. “That’s pretty weird.”

She sighed. Boys. She was sweating again. “What I’m trying to say is, do you wanna grab a cup of coffee after school today?”

“I don’t really like coffee.” He glanced at the clock.

“Fine!” she threw her hands in the air and started to storm off down the hall. Valentines day is always a nightmare.

“I could go for a cup of tea, though.”

She stopped in her tracks without turning around. “Four o’clock. The place near the movie theater. Don’t be late.”

But maybe this year will be different.

© Ryan Walraven 2016

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