Red Roses


A different kind of happily ever after

I've learned in my life that not everybody has to leave. Sometimes it just happens that way. And, sometimes, you wish it didn't.

It's not that he promised to stick around and then suddenly walked out the door. It's not that we fell in love and dreamed of a wonderful life together before going our separate ways. Maybe we fell in love, but it wasn't a happy-go-lucky kind of love that makes people go weak in the knees and doe-eyed. It wasn't a fairy tale kind of love, and it definitely didn't have the happily ever after.

He was a wonderful man, right from the get-go. He didn't have to say yes when I asked him to dance that night, didn't have to say yes when I asked him if he wanted to dance a little bit longer. I was chasing stars and moonbeams, and I think he was chasing normal. In the end, I guess we both got what we were shooting for.

We only got it for a night.

He was wearing a blue suit, that much I remember. His blonde hair was cropped neatly and tousled beyond any stylish recognition, but his eyes made up for it. Even in the dark of the club, I could see his eyes, and I was sold. Completely sold. I'd say I was intrigued, but that'd be a lie. I was superficial that night. Maybe he was too, because he didn't stick around to know me. But, then again, I didn't stick around to know him either.

Sometimes I wish I had.

I was at the bar for the first time in a long time that night, sophisticatedly sipping a Cosmopolitan and trying to make small talk with the drunks next to me. I wasn't having much success, so I ventured off into another corner of the room, where I found him leaning against the back wall, looking about as out of place as I felt. He wasn't drinking. Instead, he was swirling the liquid around in the glass and watching the couples on the floor as they danced the night away, only to make fools of themselves moments later up on the karaoke stage.

He didn't look as bitter as I felt, but I think he just had a better way of hiding it. It was, after all, Valentine's Day. To some, the holiday is a wonderful excuse to abuse the privilege of public affection. For others, the holiday is a ridiculous mockery of love and a twenty-four hour reminder of what they don't have.

I happen to be one of the others. You know, in case you couldn't tell.

We danced to a slow song first. I don't know what made me brave enough to ask him to dance in the middle of Enrique Iglasias's "Hero". I completely hated the song at the time, and I still do, but I won't change the station anymore when I hear it. Even if I can't stand the melody, I think of the words and it reminds me of him. And then his song will come on, and I'll change the station.

It's funny how cruel and ironic fate can be.

I walked up to him before he saw me. He was actually staring down into his drink and humming to himself when I got close enough to him. When I addressed him, he didn't look surprised or pleased. He looked stoic, as most men do. Of course, I caught sight of a particularly disgusting couple and shot off a sarcastic comment, and when I looked back at him, he was smiling. I asked him to dance, and he walked out onto the floor with me. We spent the entire song swaying back and forth, making fun of the other couples in the room. Well, I made fun of them and he laughed.

Even to this day, I still love his laugh.

We stayed on the dance floor well into the night. He couldn't grind quite as well as he could sway, but he certainly had fun trying. I taught him how to do the electric slide in the midst of "I Will Survive", and he taught me how to waltz to *NSYNC. I taught him how to let go, and he taught me how to smile. When I tried to drag him up onstage the first time, he refused fervently, and we went to the bar instead.

Somewhere around that time I realized that I was having too much fun to want another drink.

Even drunk, he sang a mean duet. Together, we had the entire crowd laughing and cheering--and, yes, even singing along--"The Bad Touch" by the Bloodhound Gang. Granted, it was a slightly twisted way of looking at the love that bombarded up from every side of the room, but between his pelvic thrusts and my gyrations, we managed to pull it off nicely. It wasn't until he attempted to join LeeAnn Rimes in "Can't Fight The Moonlight" that I was laughing too hard to sing anymore. He knew every eighties song ever recorded, and he had no inhibitions about singing them after a few beers and a nice, long chat.

The sound of his voice still makes my heart skip a beat or two.

I pulled him to the bar with the same enthusiasm he had shown on the dance floor. We were both bitter, cynical, and slightly intoxicated--in other words, die-hard romantics in the wrong place at the wrong time. He spoke about his hopes and his dreams, his mistakes and his faults, and I think I liked him more after every second. When he had exhausted himself, he asked the questions that no one else ever dared to ask, and I actually answered. I told him more about myself than I thought I knew, and he listened with drunk intensity. I'm not sure anything got through to him, but I can't forget those things he said. It wasn't long before I got tired of soul-bearing and asked him again to go onstage with me, just to show up the other lovesick couples in the room. To my surprise, he agreed.

It wasn't until our second soul-searching chat that I found out he was a star.

When he was too drunk and too giddy to sing anymore, we made our way to a table in the back where we could watch the other couples and talk about nothing. He chewed thoughtfully on a burger before telling me all about his life and the craziness of it. I hadn't expected to hear anything of the sort--in all honesty, I really hadn't the idea that he was anyone special--but I was glad to listen. When he was finished, he looked me straight in the eye and asked if I wanted to go to bed with him. I looked at him with the same matter-of-fact expression and told him no.

He leaned back and smiled at that point.

I left the bar that night with a smile on my face and a little sigh of happiness. I had stayed until closing time, and we parted ways at the door. He was somewhat sober by that point, or at least coherent enough to ask for my name. When I told him it didn't matter, he said it did.

I still wonder sometimes if he even remembers me.

After our chat at the back table, he got up to go to the bathroom. I was content for a moment to watch the stumbling couples dancing across the stage as they warbled along to the greats like Frank Sinatra and Diana Ross. Someone's convincing Elvis impression soon had us all on our feet, and I was having too much fun to wonder where he was. When the song was over, I tried to sit, but couldn't. He was sitting in my chair with a huge smile, arms outstretched for a friendly hug. I sat in his lap, and his arms eased around me. We continued to watch the couples singing until closing time, talking to each other occasionally over the music. When we weren't talking, I could hear him singing in my ear.

Even half-drunk, he has a beautiful voice.

He told me his name after I told him mine, and we shook hands formally. It seemed so odd to meet someone that you already know, but his charming smile was enough to convince me. I was looking for another excuse to be close to him, and he pulled me into a friendly hug and thanked me for a wonderful night. I told him that he had nothing to thank me for--that I needed the company as much as he did--and he laughed. He handed me a red rose, kissed my cheek, and took a deep breath.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Jo."

And then he walked away.

I heave a sigh and lift my head up, prepared to walk into the club. I'm not used to being alone, and I love to dance. The music is already drifting through the entrance, and I flash a smile at the bouncer as I enter. He knows me well, as I come here often.

The room is dark and dim, full of couples dancing to a soft, sweet love song that makes my insides churn. I've never been the romantic type, and I can't bring myself to be happy for them. Instead, I scan the room for others like myself. In a small burst of hope, I check the back wall for a lone figure, but he's not there.

I don't know why I looked. I knew he wouldn't be.

I make my way to the bar and order a Cosmopolitan, my usual. There's a man beside me in a blue suit who asks softly for a glass of Jack Daniels. I roll my eyes and curse myself for even thinking to remember as I turn towards the stage to watch the drunk couples begin their destruction of any remotely good music.

He used to drink Jack Daniels.

I bite my lip as the couple before me begins to butcher "Nobody Wants To Be Lonely". The petite blonde is a dead ringer for Christina Aguilera, but her poor mate is a far cry from Ricky Martin. I already stand in fear that he might shake his bon-bon for effect and send the stage crashing to the floor. At the end of the performance, I find myself wishing he had as a far more disgusting site unfolds before me.

The couple kisses.

I make no move to mask my disgust and am fully prepared to unleash it at the person behind me when I feel hot breath on my neck and the scent of cologne fills my nostrils.

I do not allow my memory to comment, but his voice fills my head as familiar rose petals brush my cheek.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Jo."

With the ridiculous joy that follows a happily ever after, I feel my cheeks flush crimson as I turn and smile, offering a red rose of my own.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Nick."

inspired by "My December" by Linkin Park and "Sometimes It Be That Way" by Jewel