Valentine’s day sucks.
She thinks that over and over as the days preceding the holiday have her friends turned into materialistic, love clouded idiots who can only talk about that one stupid day as if it’s the only thing that matters. And okay, maybe she’s being bitter and resentful from seeing everyone else so happy. But this day is just another jarring reminder that she’s alone. Even her own mother has plans.
Cordelia tries not to let her fragile mood teeter too far over the edge as the day approaches. It’s easier said than done when the school erupts into a sea of hearts and deep red. They infiltrate every classroom, the locker room and lunch hall in a sickening display that makes her feel a combination of guilty and enraged.
She should be happy for other people’s love.
But she’s not.
She feels it as stares with longing in her dark eyes are Nan and Luke snuggle together during lunch, or how Queenie gets a box of chocolates left in her locker for her. And each time, she walks away with a heavier heart than before, counting down the days until the holiday is behind her, until next year of course.
At least she’s not alone in her torment.
“This is so fucking unfair!” Madison seethes over her salad, spitting profanities and complaints all over the bed of lettuce.
“I’d hate to say I told you so but – "
Her head snaps in Cordelia’s direction, moving so fast that she panics it might not stop and Madison will do a wonderful impression of the girl from the exorcist. “Don’t.” A sneer climbs onto red lips. “You might be happy being alone for Valentine’s day but I had plans.” She pushes her food away in a huff. “Why does his girlfriend have to come back into town? What have I done to deserve this?”
Misty, who had been more preoccupied with scooping the chocolate pudding scraps from the cup, suddenly looks up and that and readies herself with a retort. “Well, for start – "
“Shut up, trailer trash.”
Eyes narrow and her jaw sets. Cordelia is sure that Misty is about to launch herself over the table and land a full blown punch at Madison, but she anchors herself at the last second. A testy “go fuck yourself” follows from her lips, the muscles in her neck straining.
She catches Cordelia’s eye, who just rolls her own dramatically.
The older blonde takes a bite of her own salad. “Maybe you’ve still got time to find someone that isn’t dating somebody else,” she starts in what she thinks should be a helpful suggestion, though definitely comes across as a jab at her.
“Not likely.” Misty mutters into her cup, only loud enough for Cordelia to catch who hides her smile behind her hand.
In true form, Madison glares daggers at the both of them and then begins to pointedly ignore the pair in favor of her phone. It pings and vibrates respectively as she desperately tries to maintain her social status as what she thinks is HBIC. Cordelia isn’t so sure she was ever that. Still, she doesn’t want to burst her bubble so she remains quiet and enjoys the peace that her distraction brings.
As her attention returns to the friend that gives her far less of a headache, she suddenly smiles in earnest and scoots forward. “You’ve got pudding on your face.”
Misty straightens in her seat, tugging at her sleeve and using it to wipe haphazardly at her face. “Is it gone?” She inspects said sleeve with a thoughtful frown, then moves bright blue eyes back up to Cordelia who is wearing a fond half smile in retrospect.
She shakes her head no and reaches up a hand. It slows near Misty’s cheek, their eyes locking, as she silently asks for permission that Misty’s lack of an answer gives. With the lightest of touches, her thumb grazes against where the small bit of food lingers, just tucked in the corner of Misty’s lips. The movement is slow and efficient as she removes it, then she moves her focused eyes from that back up to those of her friends.
And instantly feels like she’s been punched in the stomach.
For Misty’s eyes are wide and clouded over, glistening with unreadable emotions under the fluorescent lighting of the cafeteria. The way puzzlement swims in those spheres makes Cordelia’s stomach twist further under an invisible force, and she all too quickly pulls her hand away from Misty like her skin scorched her own.
To her surprise, Misty frowns at that, shoulders slumping with Cordelia’s retreat before she mutters a half-hearted “thanks” out to her.
Cordelia turns her attention back to her food and, unfortunately, at the girl who’s sitting across from them. The first thing that meets her gaze is a shit eating grin. Madison’s eyes then peer, threateningly, over toward Misty while Cordelia counters with her own glowering look. More of a warning, one that Madison chooses to ignore.
“So Misty,” she begins in a sickly sweet tone. “What are you doing for Valentine’s day?”
All intentions behind the question are picked up rather quickly by the Cajun, whose features become far more stoic than the soft way they’d regarded Cordelia moments ago. “What do you care?”
She scoffs. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”
Misty hesitates at that, causing Cordelia to bite back a laugh.
“We seem to only be friends when you want somethin’.”
“Jeez, it was just a question.” Madison begins to back down when she realizes she isn’t going to get the pleasure she so desperately wants from Misty’s response.
Surprisingly, Misty does answer.
“I’m not doin’ anything, if you must know.” She offers. “And no, I don’t want you to set me up with anyone.”
“Your loss. I know lots of guys and gals that would be into this hippie shit.” Madison gestures the full length of Misty’s body with a growing smirk. And Cordelia only shakes her head at the suggestion, knowing that Misty would never in her right mind let anyone like Madison make decisions about her dating life. Surely, she could never pick someone who could work for the kind and gentle girl, seeing as most people she knows can only be described as fuckboys.
Even though she’s on the cusp on amusement at Madison’s suggestion, having long ago learned to humor her rather than get annoyed, she senses a shift. It’s confirmed when brown eyes slowly drift over to where Misty is sat like someone has just stuck a metal road down her spine. She twitches nervously, licking her lower lip in thought and confusion and -
“Girls?” She accuses, her accent growing heavier as the strain tugs at it.
Madison’s indifferent expression seems to perturb her even further, and all Cordelia can do is watch on as if spectating a car crash that she can do nothing about.
“Yes. Girls.” Madison deadpans. “What’s your problem, swampy?”
“I’m not . . .” She blinks, eyes darting about the room like a nervous deer before she leans closer across the small table. When those frightened eyes meet Cordelia’s, her ears burn red, and she tears them away all too quickly to glower at Madison. “I’m not gay.” She whispers harshly.
That it is. Madison knows that she’s cut Misty open and got under her skin, and on the rare occasion that she has the upper hand on the Cajun, Madison clearly intends to milk it. She bends over the table too, smugly so, and rests her chin on a perfectly manicured hand. “Yeah?” Her eyebrow arches neatly. “You seem pretty gay to me.”
Cordelia sees storm clouds brewing in Misty’s eyes, her hands moving into tight fists, but she doesn’t pounce. Self-restraint seems to be hidden somewhere, even when she hisses out the next words with anger and ire that frightens Cordelia. “You don’t know shit about me.” She angrily shoves the rest of her lunch in Madison’s direction and storms away from the table without giving her a chance to respond.
To her credit, Madison seems somewhat unfazed and simply returns to scrolling through her phone while Cordelia finally finds her words. “Are you kidding me, Madison?”
“She’s going to realize one of these days,” she shrugs, not taking her eyes from the screen.
The older blonde swats it out of the way, forcing attention in her direction. “You gotta stop this.”
She huffs then, lips pursing into a firm line. “I’m just helping her, you know? It isn’t good to repress feelings like that.” Even as her words spout bullshit of benefit, a smirk hides in the corner, and Cordelia has to summon all of her strength not to wipe it away. “Besides, don’t you want her to be gay?”
Cordelia reels, seeing red at the blasé way she speaks. “She’s my friend.” she insists. “I want her to be happy with whoever she is.”
“Jesus fucking Christ, you two are unbelievable.” She smiles as her phone begins to buzz invitingly. “And I have finally saved my valentine’s day. Catch you later, Cordy.” Madison leaves with the phone pressed firmly to her ear and her small handbag thrown over her shoulder.
She remains at the table, wondering if she’d even be friends with Madison if it hadn’t been for Zoe, quickly deciding that’s the least of her concerns now. A particular blonde comes to mind, and she knows just where to find her. She dives through the crowds in the hallway, moving from a bustling scene to eerie quiet when she steps into the shadowy classroom.
Reaching up, she turns on the lights and fills the room with artificial yellow, nowhere near as pretty as the yellow of Misty’s hair that she’s staring at the back of. Apparently having not heard her come in, Misty jumps upon being bathed in light, only to grow sheepish as she notices the company. “Delia.” She sighs in relief, like she’s been waiting for her.
Offering a weak smile, she steps further into the room and sits next to Misty where she’s watering the geraniums with the uttermost care. “You’re gonna be late for next period.” Cordelia smiles softly next to her, knowing the bell had rang not that long ago.
Misty gives a weak shrug. “Don’t really care.”
“Oh, but you love English.”
A wry grin follows, amusement hiding in the way her ears crinkle at the corners. “Don’t,” she warns with her expression never wavering. The watering can is ignored to one side and she casually leans her head in her hand. “You know I hate that shit.” She bows her head slightly. “I used to skip it all the time at my old school.”
She stirs in surprise, not having pegged Misty as that kind of student. “Why don’t you now?”
“’Cause I wanna go to College.” The Cajun insists, “and to do that, my dyslexic ass has gotta at least pass.” She follows with a set of self-deprecating laughter that dies before it reaches Cordelia, and worry shows through in the way her idle hand fidgets with the hem of her shirt. “I probably should go to class.” Misty decides after a moment. Turns out, she does care.
But she doesn’t make a move to leave, nor does Cordelia, even though she’s hardly ever been late to a class in her life. While the idea would normally have her trembling with anxiety, she struggles to worry about herself in that moment.
And her quick appraisal of Misty tells her that something isn’t quite right. She won’t meet Cordelia’s eyes, her legs bounce against the stool leg with untapped energy, and she has red stained around her pretty blue eyes. “Madison is just trying to stir the pot, you know. She likes to get a rise out of people.”
Misty stiffens before her, breath strong and forced. “I know.” She nods curtly, unconvincingly. “She just pisses me off.”
“You can say that again.” She chuckles, just enough to make the ghost of a smile on Misty’s lips.
The Cajun does succeed in looking at her now, eyes searching every crevice of Cordelia’s face while her own epitomes the meaning of vulnerable. “You believe me, right?”
Cordelia frowns, head tilting in confusion. “Believe what?”
“That I'm not gay.” She chokes out, just as nervous and uncomfortable as she had been with Madison, and it harks back to a similar conversation they’ve had in this classroom.
She watches her, ready to agree and comfort as she always has done because it’s Misty. Her best friend. A friend who she'll always be cheering on from the corner for no matter what the situation, but there's a wobble in her lips, a rawness in her gaze that unsettles Cordelia. Just seeing it feels like a strike to her heart. And she finds herself asking . . . does she believe her? Her lips separate though the words are too timid to come out, only causing Misty's brow to furrow into a thicker line and expression to flood with dread.
She's scared. No, she’s terrified.
In that moment, Cordelia really doesn’t believe her, not for a second. And the idea that Misty could be not only lying to them all, but to herself, causes her heart to crack and split into thousands of pieces.
She can’t bear to say that, or maybe she’s not brave enough, so she plays the facade of faith and nods. “Of course I believe you.” She reaches up, cupping her chin and holding her gaze steadily into the depth of her own. “But Misty, there’s nothing to be ashamed about if you are. You’ll be my best friend no matter who you’re attracted to.”
“But I’m not.” She reiterates, voice taking on some of her lost confidence, even if she’s displaying more of a grimace than anything else.
Cordelia feels her smile flicker once more, the conversation leaving more questions than answers. “Okay.” She places a hand on Misty’s bouncing leg and stills it with her touch, then speaks with the uttermost tenderness. “Come on, let’s go to class.” Though reluctant shows in her sluggish movements, Misty does stand and reach for her backpack. She walks with sunken shoulders a couple of steps ahead of Cordelia.
All the older blonde can do is absentmindedly reply to her conversation, nodding and smiling where appropriate. Most of all, she finds herself letting thoughts take over and Misty’s sexuality to be questioned, even if she hates herself for doing it without the inclusion of her friend. To make matters worse, the hundreds of stupid, red hearts that surround them only serve as a mocking display.
The dreaded day comes and goes about as well as she’d expected. She reminds herself that things could be worse, that this time last year she was still dating Hank and his idea of romance had been trying to convince her to blow him off at the movie theatre.
Still, even he has a date for Valentine’s, and she trudges through the hallways with a permanent scowl attached to her lips. It remains there all the way through classes, as Coco hands out roses to students from the Secret admirer scheme she’d set up to “spread love” around the school. The thought is only met with more distain when she has nothing to show for it, and she feels awfully unwanted in that moment.
Cordelia tries to lose herself in her studies, but even they grow tiresome as the day dredges onward.
Her spirits only lift when she spies Misty walking in the direction of her car with Mallory, the two of them giggling in hushed voices. “What are you two laughing about?” she questions coyly when they halt in front of her, though she feigns less interest than there actually is.
“Oh, Misty got – "
Misty quickly jabs her in the ribs and turns to Cordelia with a forced smile, then the soft shake of her head. “Nothin’ important.” She eyes the car. “You ready to go?”
At the strange response, Cordelia feels her insides sinking like quick sand, though quicky swallows against her constricting throat and nods. They bid goodbye to Mallory, whose eyes volley between the pair before she leaves, and climb into Cordelia’s car.
To say she’s still irked is an understatement, but then Misty is telling her about her art class, and giggling and snorting with such childlike glee that she feels her frosty heart begin to thaw. “Sounds like you’ve had a good day.” She says softly, glad that at least someone could enjoy it.
“Yeah. It won’t last long though.”
Cordelia frowns at her. “Why not?”
“’Cause Sylvia has a date comin’ round.” She winces. “Her room is next to mine and the walls are really thin.”
Her eyes grow wide with horror at the thought of poor Misty forced to endure that. As if that idea isn’t bad enough, she continues with her head bowing further and further.
“And Tommy is gonna be pinin’ all night ‘cause of that girl. Plus, last valentine’s day Daddy drank so much that he hurled all over the bathroom.” She sighs, eyes closing in the distant memory. “It’s gonna be a fun night.”
Teeth tug at her lip nervously, and Cordelia finds her tiptoeing around the right thing to say. “Was that . . . it was the first one since your mom died?”
Misty nods, eyes wet, then takes to staring out of the window in a quiet moment, gaze and mind seemingly astray. The houses and buildings all too quickly transform into woodland, trees boring shadows over the car, the same once that frolic over their features. She feels the makings of a pressure headache behind her eyes and now she seems to have even dismantled Misty’s good mood, she’d all but ready to put this dumb holiday behind her.
A sigh flows from her lips of its own accord, loud and wistful enough to catch the attention of the Cajun.
She presses her lips together in a sad smile, downcast eyes lifting to meet Cordelia’s for the briefest of moments. The darkness seems to seep out of them, then, like she’s willed it from her soul; she twists in the seat, moving to turn down the music so it’s only her voice that Cordelia gets the luxury of hearing.
“What are you doin’ tonight?” she poses curiously.
She toys with her options, then raises a brow as she smirks wryly. “Hmm, probably ordering chinese, drinking wine from Fiona’s stash and swearing off men altogether. They’re not worth the trouble.”
Her joke goes by unfiltered, and it’s only as she says it that she thinks about her conversation with Misty the day earlier. Color draining from her cheeks, she dares a glance in her friend’s direction, only to find her responding with a crisp snort and a half smile. “Sounds better than my night.”
Cordelia’s nose wrinkles in disgust. “You’re not really gonna have to listen to your sister have sex, are you?”
Another guffaw. Misty’s eyes sparkle like the night sky is trapped inside there, and she shakes her head while teeth keep a firm lock on her lower lip. The older blonde has to keep her eyes glued on the road ahead and not stare in a trance at that. She recognizes as the trees become denser. Though they all look the same at first glance, subtle differences separate the expanse of brown, and other foliage landmark the road.
“I was actually gonna go to my cabin.”
A frown tugs away with great force. “You’re gonna spend the night alone?” she asks, as if that isn’t exactly her plan, too.
Misty seems less bothered; in fact, the promise of solitude seems to warm her expression. “I’ll have Stevie.”
“Right.” She breathes. “Guess you’re not totally alone.” Even so, her heart clenches as if she is. Maybe It's because she understands that feeling all too well.
She gets the sudden urge to ask Misty to come to her house, despite being so close to hers by now. The idea springs in and out of her head so quickly that she barely has time to register it. As a result, the question hangs reluctantly on her lips. What if she takes it the wrong way? What if she doesn’t want to spend the day with her because it’s Valentine’s day and people might get the wrong idea? Such fears grab her words and drag them back down into her throat where they lie painfully in her lungs.
Misty squints her eyes are her in confusion, though her grin tries to keep Cordelia at ease. She’s pulled a pack of candy out of her bag and idly munches on them. “You okay?” she asks between mouthfuls.
Hurried nods follow, doing little to diminish Misty’s uncertainty.
As if unsure what to say next, she offers out the packet. “Do ya want one?”
Cordelia huffs out a small laugh. “No thanks.”
Soon, her tyres hit the familiar dirt drive and she slows to a stop, turning to Misty with a reluctant smile. “Have fun at the cabin.” She offers.
“Hmm,” she empties the last of the candy into her mouth with a grin, “gotta get the chance to sneak off yet. But thanks.”
As she reaches for her bag, Cordelia spots a flash of red from inside, knitting her brows together thoughtfully. “What’s that?”
Misty’s head snaps down to the bag. She falters, if just for a moment, then reaches to pull out a flower that Cordelia instantly recognizes as the ones handed out by Coco that very same day. “Just someone’s idea of a joke, I’m sure.” Misty laughs over the red carnation, though still holds it tenderly in her fingers. All the while, Cordelia experiences a coldness inside of her that spreads like ice on a winter’s day. The ice cracks and breaks, shattering with little care for her feelings.
She inwardly reprimands herself at the response. Sometimes, saying nothing is better than that. And now Misty seems to have caught her contagious awkwardness, clearing her throat and shifting from foot to foot in the doorway. “Like I said, probably just nothin’.”
And once again, although Cordelia prides herself on a boastful amount of language, all words fail her in that moment, which only sends Misty sinking deeper and deeper into her shell. She watches Cordelia as though one would a ticking time bomb, her chest frozen with a lack of breaths.
The older blonde attempts to relax her muscles, only managing to further lock them in place. With her teeth clenched into a line so tight she might need some serious dental work after this, she manages what could be considered a wince in the costume of a smile. “I’m sure it wasn’t.” She insists.
That very thought causes an inward spiral that she fears may never stop.
Misty grows demure under her admiring gaze, still twizzling the stem of the flower in her hands, and face catching the fading rays of sun as they move through the trees. She’s beautiful. Who wouldn’t send her a flower?
Someone who isn’t too scared to tell her the truth.
“See you tomorrow.” She says in the sweetest of hushes.
Cordelia has no choice but the match the nature of her tone, knowing that she can’t take her frustration of the day out on her best friend. “Yeah. Goodbye, Misty.”
But she doesn’t go straight away. She lingers, and Cordelia doesn’t quite mind. Her smile grows timid, trepid, like it shouldn’t be on there while she looks to Cordelia with a gaze that makes her gut wrench. Cordelia is somehow both besotted and winded by its presence, until Misty begins her retreat to the house.
She puts the volume on the radio up to a deafening amount on the drive home, if only to chase out her thoughts that are most certainly not welcome.
And, as she walks into the house, she’s met with her mother rushing her way. She’s in the sleek, black dress that she always wears when she wants to impress a man, and she barely notices Cordelia as she steps through the door. When she does, it’s only because the girl breaks her from her thoughts first. “Are you going to be back tonight?” she asks quietly.
“Hopefully not.” Fiona smirks as she lips on another layer of dark red lipstick. Her age lines are hidden behind a multitude of makeup, hair styled neatly atop her head, and she slips onto a pair of stark black stilettoes. “There is money on the side if you want to get food.”
“Thanks.” She mumbles dryly.
She begins to carry her things to her room with dwindling enthusiasm, only to be stopped by the rare moment of Fiona calling after her with something akin to genuine interest in her life. “Are you not doing anything tonight, Cordelia?”
“With who?” she shrugs. “I broke up with Hank weeks ago.”
“No, don’t be stupid. I meant that other one. That girl, the skinny thing with a bird’s nest of hair.”
Eyes narrowing at the description, she holds back a sigh. “Why would I do something with Misty on Valentine’s day?”
“Jesus, I’m just asking you a question. I could do with less of the attitude.”
“Attitude?” she gapes.
“Yes.” Fiona’s face grows in exasperation. “You’re so difficult these days, Cordelia.”
She bristles. “You’d have to be a part of my life to notice things like that, Fiona.”
“Here you go again, with all your woes and complaints. I give you a roof over your head, don’t I? Food? A car to drive to school?” she places a freshly lit cigarette to her lips. “And when I ask you about things, this is the thanks I get.”
The words play like a broken record of their last argument, and she all but resists the urge to rip her hair out. But engaging Fiona in her own game is something she’s learned long ago that she’ll never win, so she pulls her school bag closer and keeps the tremble from her body long enough until she’s out of sight. “I’m going to my room.” She insists, then spits out. “Have a nice night.”
Her mother calls after her, but clearly doesn’t care enough to take it any further, and she’s left to slam her bedroom door behind her in an act of defiance. She angrily throws herself onto the bed, unsaid words bitterly sticking to the roof of her mouth and terrible thoughts plaguing her mind. A part of her wants to call Misty, to vent and grumble all of her troubles away.
The only problem being that the biggest of those troubles involves Misty herself. She thinks about the carnation, how she’d smiled happily at it, how her gaze had eased into something else, and she wonders who on earth had sent it to her.
At first, she tries to bury those thoughts under schoolwork until everything becomes so sloppy that she’s actually embarrassed of it, then she lets her mind rot away in front of the television. Every so often, her chest heaves with a broken sigh.
Valentine’s day is the fucking worst.