V day, p.1

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  V’ Day.”

  Smashwords Edition


  Anne Holly

  Copyright 2011 to Anne Holly

  No part of this work can be copied without the authors permission.

  Published By: Wicked Nights


  What could one say about Daniel Vouks? He always felt he was a tiger trapped in a nerd’s body. But, sadly, the tiger was very well hidden.

  Tall and lean, having grown too much vertically before his wiry frame could fill out horizontally, he carried very little excess weight. What was there wasn’t bad, he would often reassure himself, sneaking guilty peeks at himself in the tacky 1980s white-framed full length mirror nailed to the inside of the door in his childhood bedroom. He was pleased to notice the hours of practice he was putting in were actually sprouting some newbie biceps and pecks and he was starting to lose that “chicken chest” look. After considering this, he would usually laugh at himself with embarrassment. His one man Mr. Universe competition in front of the mirror took on a comedic air of ridiculousness, in his white boxers and black socks, against the backdrop of the cowboy wallpaper that hadn’t been changed since he was seven.

  Daniel hoped he wasn’t hideous to females. Secretly, aside from his aspirations in school and with his music, his dream of being something less than offensive to the opposite sex was his main goal. He didn’t think he was bag-over-the-head homely (though he did worry about those ears that everyone always told him he’d grow into, and that chin). He had always wanted a lantern jaw, but admitted in defeat his was more like a desk lamp jaw – something much less rugged and outdoorsy than a lantern, that’s for sure. Other than those two weak spots, he did show potential. His body’s leanness translated into artistic intensity in his face, with his light olive skin tone and large, deep set, black and heavily lashed eyes with prominent brows. A thick growth of short curly hair that he was never able to tame and a timeless pair of wire framed glasses topped it all off. Forget about Redford, he sighed; he looked more like an extra from a small town production of Fiddler on the Roof. Great teeth, though, he decided, ending on a positive note. And they should be, the money his parents had put into them.

  “Ssssssssssexay!” he hissed with a self-depreciating grin and wink, having done as much as he could with his wayward pelt, and threw on his cords and a sweater. Somewhere between Franz Kafka and Harry Potter, he guessed he wasn’t likely to cause mass hysteria amongst the fairer sex, but there was always tomorrow.

  Hunching down to avoid braining himself on the slanted ceiling, he slipped on his shoes. Only in the peculiar logic of his family would the tallest member naturally occupy the attic room, making him live a good portion of his life slouched over.

  Living at home during university had been a very wise financial move, he had to acknowledge, but at the cost of other things – especially his sanity and a social life. He’d survived nineteen years as an inmate in his mother’s funny farm so far. Two and a half years left, he sighed. By the end, he would either be brilliantly eccentric or entirely crazy and eating his food with blunt utensils only. Either way, at least he wouldn’t have any student debt.

  “Mornin’, Dad,” Daniel greeted his father, an older, shorter and fatter version of himself who was hardly ever seen without being partially obscured by his omnipresent newspaper. As every day, he received the typical non-angry, yet not overly-friendly, “Hurumpf,” in response and he continued on to the fridge. Orange juice and an English muffin. Just like every day.

  “Hello, Danny, sweetie,” his mom, already dressed to teach music at the local junior high in her constant uniform of pin-neat A-line skirt, blouse and fuzzy, pastel cardigan. Whether an effect of spending nearly twenty years blocking out very bad clarinet solos performed by 13-year-olds or from some natural propensity towards absent-mindedness, Daniel’s mother Judith was in a world where time didn’t seem to pass and bad things just didn’t happen. She was an odd replica of her own mother, who would never really see beyond her stable job and home, with her two children (exactly planned right down to one boy and one girl) who would always remain perfect in her eyes, and her fattened, content husband. As far as Daniel could see, the only hobbies his mother ever had was knitting in the evening and teaching piano on the weekends to “pay for her perms,” as she explained it. She placed a kiss on Daniel’s forehead, for which she had to stand on tiptoes and he had to bend down. It was an old morning ritual, always followed by a request for an update on his life, which mostly consisted of his studies and practice, and this morning she didn’t disappoint.

  “How’s your work coming for your sophomore recital?” she asked, cutting a heart-smart grapefruit in two for his father, who hated grapefruit.

  “As usual,” Daniel sighed. “Brahms’ Third is coming long fine, but the tango medley is kicking my butt.”

  “Well,” his mother chuckled with a shrug, “keep practicing, and I am sure you’ll do just fine – you always do. Besides, who cares about the tango if the Brahms is excellent?”

  Typical of his mother, who was a devotee of the Western canon, she almost always dismissed the less glorified selections as fluff compared to the giants of Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven. Wagner and Schubert were fine, if over-emotional. Tangos, however, were just exercises. However, Daniel couldn’t afford to be blasé about any assignment. This was Leon Pelsner’s senior year, which meant the place of first violinist would be open, and Daniel could feel Daisy Chen’s smug security that she would ascend to the position. A junior, it would be the crowning achievement of her already brilliant young career, and she, quite rightly, assumed sophomores would rank lower on the list. Daniel was gunning to deflate some of that smugness and knock her off the podium. Without conceit, he knew that, aside from Leon, Daisy and himself were widely recognized as the best violin students in the music department – and now was the time for him to set himself as first or second in that ranking. And ignoring the “less important” pieces was not the way to achieve first chair.

  His mother was right, of course – he would do fine. Technically, his tango medley was already proficient enough for a basic pass at the April recital, the performance that would top off his second year. He knew it would be enough to safeguard his scholarship, since his Brahms was perfect. But, as Dr Spicer, his instructor, kept telling him, technically proficient was hardly enough to nail something as personal as a tango.

  Though proud and supportive of his musical talents, his mother would never fully understand his drive for performance. Under her direction, Daniel had focused a lot of his schooling on music education, thus far, and had allowed his mother to happily envision him as a high school band leader in a few years. What she didn’t know was, if he were successful in achieving first chair, he would step off the safety ledge and declare himself a performance major – he would finally go after the spotlight, whether his parents thought it “wise” or not.

  But, that tango… Damn it, if that tango wasn’t killing him slowly this term.

  “Mom,” his little sister Beth’s whine made him cringe. “Are you sure there’s school today?” Thirteen and completely unconcerned with anything but clothes and her social circle, Beth not only missed the musical talent gene, but, also, seemingly, the gene that promoted any kind of sensitivity yet possessed by humans. “Like, there is a lot of snow out there!” Her whine clearly indicated she thought it absolutely unfair that she wasn’t in charge of canceling school due to snow.

  “Beth,” Daniel sighed, “this is Denver – if they canceled school every time it snowed, they’d have to give classes over the radio.”

  “Bite me, Genius,” she hissed with narrowed eyes while pouring herself some disgustingly bright colored teenager chow that claimed to be cer
eal but seemed to consist only of marshmallows.

  “Rather not,” he shook his head and turned towards the window.

  “So, Kirk wants to go eat before the Valentine’s dance,” Beth primped, proud of herself for already landing herself a fine jock boyfriend. “And Kayley’s mom said it would be alright if Maddi and I spent the whole weekend over there, since you and Dad will be away for your Second Honeymoon.”

  The teen snickered, and Daniel couldn’t help but smile behind his glass. The thought of his bus driver dad and teacher mom going off for some Valentine’s Day weekend getaway after twenty-odd years of marriage seemed so unlike them it was difficult to hold the amusement at bay.

  “Now, Bethy,” his mother chimed in, using that “I’m only doing what’s best for you” voice, “you know I already arranged for you to stay with Aunt Sissy. She’s expecting you, and your cousin Jason is already looking forward to seeing you.”

  “But, Mother!” Beth protested, putting an extra dig at the end of the officious term. “Why would I want to spend Valentine’s Day weekend with Jason?” She cut her mother’s next line off. “He picks his nose… and eats it,” she shuddered in deadly seriousness, as if she could imagine no worse crime in the world.

  “Daniel…” his mother turned to him after a moment.

  “She’s right,” he said. “Cousin Jason is a chronic nose picker.”

  His mother gave him that stern look that said she didn’t appreciate his contribution to the conversation. “Then, perhaps you’d like to help your sister out…”

  Daniel’s half smile died on his lips. “No.”

  “If she doesn’t want to stay with Sissy, then maybe she should stay here.”

  “No, Mom,” Daniel resisted the urge to plead. “You really don’t want to do that… I mean, I’m nineteen. Am I really responsible enough to babysit a thirteen-year-old?”

  “I don’t need a baby sitter,” his sister snapped.

  “Besides…” he continued, wracking his brain for an excuse his mother would accept. “I likely won’t be around much this weekend.”

  “Pfft!” his sister snorted. “Hot date, loser?”

  “Well, we can’t all make it all the way around the block before the age of fourteen,” he said in a mockingly pleasant tone.

  “Do you have a date?” his mother asked. He felt mildly offended at her shocked tone. For a few years now, his mother had been dropping hints that she knew it was “OK to Be Gay!” as if she were encouraging him to confess his non-existent homosexuality. He knew that was a pretty good sign he needed a bit more of a social life.

  “I was planning on using the weekend to practice, since everyone was going to be gone,” he said, straight-faced, desperate to not spend the weekend with his sister, but rational enough to see that the date story would never fly with anyone who knew him.

  “Oh…” his mother said, sounding vaguely disappointed, but also oddly relieved. “Well, then… Yes, I guess that’s the best thing for you. Some time alone to work.”

  “So, I can go to Kayley’s?” Beth beamed at her relenting mother, who hemmed and hawed and protested weakly about whether or not Kayley’s mother was aware of Beth’s curfew times, and to make sure Kirk minded his manners, et cetera.

  Daniel, certain now that he and his idiotic sister had managed to put his mom in check mate, sighed in relief and looked over at his dad, who had not once lowered the paper to survey the heated debate taking place on the other side of the room.

  One thing Daniel knew for sure – whatever his life held, it was not going to be like that of his folks. He would make sure he had more going for him than a newspaper force-field against a cluster of bickering people he could barely stand. One way or another, he would be happy. That was a promise he made to himself, and he wouldn’t budge.

  And in the short term that meant his first weekend of solitude in years.


  Daniel retreated to the music room, thankful that he didn’t have a class or a practice scheduled on campus today. He didn’t even have to give any lessons until next week. The weather really didn’t look all that welcoming out there, being the Friday before Valentine’s Day, and he felt blessed that he could huddle inside for warmth as his family bustled off to their various destinations. After school, his parents would be off for the weekend, dropping his sister and her flotilla of luggage off at Kayley’s so the girls could get ready to go to the dance together. And he would officially be on his own until at least Sunday afternoon. Glorious.

  Allowing the noise of their departures to roll off him as he sat absently at the piano, he plucked out a few strains and watched the sun glint off the fresh snow in the backyard. It was really beautiful, when you could view it from a cozy place.

  Blah, he thought. Another Valentine’s Day. His nineteenth one as a single guy, since his one relationship in high school had started in June and ended the following January. And, he thought ruefully, his nineteenth year, it seemed, as a confirmed virgin.

  Jesus, he groaned – even his baby sister had more going on than he did. Like basically everyone else he knew. That One Girl, as he had taken to calling Selby, his girlfriend in grade ten, had been about as close to action as he had ever gotten. Her pathological fear of pregnancy had made it absolutely essential that he had kept his pants on at all times. Other than that, any girl he had ever liked had soon tossed him into the “friend” basket and never bothered to eassess him.

  Kelly, his best friend, had been like that – after he had followed the cute redheaded soprano around for weeks like a puppy, she had finally taken pity on him and explained he was simply too nice to attract her. After that, they had formed an easy relationship through which both had a pal, and, being of the opposite sex, a no-fuss “date” when necessary, and he was almost glad it had worked out the way it did. Almost.

  Now that he had the weekend to himself, he found his solitude depressing.

  Flipping open his phone, he hit Kelly’s number.

  “This better be good,” she grumbled after the fifth ring.

  “Hey, early riser,” he chuckled.

  “Well, if I had my mom bringing me my morning coffee in bed…”

  “Okay, truce,” he winced. “And my mom doesn’t let me drink coffee.”

  “Why not? Afraid it will stunt your growth, Stretch?” she asked with a crystal clear laugh, despite having just woken up.

  “ Something like that…” he said, flecking a flower petal off the top of the piano. “Listen… You’re probably… I dunno… busy tonight, right?”

  “Are you trying again, Danny?” she groaned.

  “Well, no. I just thought, if you weren’t, we could do something.”

  “I have a date.”

  “Right,” he forced a chuckle. “Yeah, I figured you would,” he straightened in his chair. “Being Valentines and all. No problem – just wanted to check.”

  “Ahhh, Danny,” she sighed. “What about you?”

  “I got a hot date all weekend,” he grimaced. “With that frigging tango, I guess.”

  “Danny, do yourself a favor, man,” she said firmly. “Go get yourself laid. I told you that’s what’s missing from your tango.”

  “Well, then,” he quipped. “Support the arts and break your date. I can be there in an hour.”

  “Har har har,” she said, and then laughed for real. “Seriously – go fall for someone. Preferably someone who will fall for you back.”

  “Okay,” he agreed. “For you, I will do my best.”

  Saying goodbye, they both hung up, and Daniel pounded out a few more notes on the keyboard in front of him, contemplating Kelly’s “method music” theory – you could only sing or play what you had experienced. If that were the case, his tango would remain a virginal one if his luck was any indication.

  Without admitting to himself what he was doing, he let his eyes wander through the solarium walls to the yard next door, as the strains of music gained a wistful, misty tone. Bronwyn Everett. The girl nex
t door. Well, hardly a girl, he corrected himself. Woman. Woman, and Bronwyn – the two most beautiful words in his brain. One and the same, and totally unobtainable.

  Bronwyn Everett was pretty much his opposite – sleek and toned, the young physiotherapist who owned the other half of the duplex was as active and healthy as he was quiet and artsy. Plus, she must be well over 25, which accounted for the fact that she treated him like a neighbor’s kid. But he’d been heart sore for her ever since he was fourteen, and he had first caught a glimpse of her shiny auburn hair and quick smile. This winter, he managed to help her shovel out her car after a couple of big snows, and imagined he was building a rapport with her, but had not yet managed to find enough courage to ask her out for a coffee.

  It was the way she looked at him, dismissing him as a male – the look he had gotten so used to from ninety percent of the female population.

  This past week, without intending to eavesdrop, he overheard her having a fight with her boyfriend, a giant side of beef who seemingly went by the name of Warren Bull. That moniker never ceased to crack Daniel up, because he couldn’t imagine a more fitting one for the fading quarterback with the Jarhead haircut and the bovine look in his eyes. They really had it out, and he had distinctly heard her scream, “It’s over, Warren. Go the hell away.”

  The next morning, his mother had primly sniped about wanting stable neighbors who kept their private lives to themselves for a change, but Daniel had been on cloud nine. He was sorry Bronwyn was upset, but he couldn’t help glory a little bit in her finally being available again, and could nearly convince himself the fates had designed it all this way, so she’d be free for him now that he was old enough to win her notice.

  Since then, he had practically knocked himself out trying to “accidentally on purpose” bump into her around the yard, helping with the shoveling or just offering a cheerful greeting. He could see he amused her with his attentions, but he didn’t mind. Amusement was at least something positive.

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