Jake and Dana’s St. Valentine’s Day Extravaganza
It was late afternoon on St. Valentine’s Day. Now that school was out, Jake and Ralph sat on the floor in front of the couch and played a video game.
The game, specifically, was a port of Magical Girl Rumble for the Nintendo Ultimate. Although not a bad fighting game, it didn’t compare to the arcade version: it had only twenty playable girls instead of thousands, and somebody had decided not to bother taking advantage of the Ultimate’s motion sensor technology, so they had to play the old-fashioned way with handheld controllers.
“Boom!” Ralph shouted as he executed a devastating triple combo with Razor Urchin’s monomolecular filament. “You’re dead, dude. Just a few more hits, and—”
Jake mashed buttons until his Pretty Dynamo avatar jabbed and slashed with her spear, finally pinning Razor Urchin against a bombed-out building. Once Urchin’s health bar slid down to zero, she bounced into the air in slow motion before slamming hard into the pavement.
Jake dropped his controller. “Thank you, thank you. I’m here all night.”
“Ah, you got lucky! Where’s your stash?”
Jake reached behind himself, grabbed a plastic grocery bag off the sofa, and tossed it into Ralph’s lap.
“Ya gotta admit,” Ralph said as he dug through the bag’s contents, “going back to fifth grade has its perks.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“Are you kiddin’? Just look at this haul. I haven’t seen this much obligatory chocolate since—”
“Since fifth grade?”
“Pretty much. So, did you get some for all the other kids, too?”
“Of course. I even bought one of those big packs of Valentine’s Day cards with the cartoon characters on ’em, and I made one out to everybody.”
“See? You like elementary school more than you wanna admit.”
Jake grunted. “Whatever. We’re going to convince the superintendent to let me into high school. Seriously. Any day now.”
“The year’s more than half over, dude.”
Ralph pulled out a candy, unwrapped it, and tossed it into his mouth. He chewed for a moment and then nodded. “Peanut butter. Nice.”
“Yeah. Just be glad I’m sharing.” Jake patted Ralph on the head. “Poor Ralph, didn’t get chocolate from a single girl—”
The doorbell rang. Jake jumped to his feet, padded to the front door, and threw it open. Chelsea stood on the porch in a flowery, eggshell-blue dress and a blue windbreaker.
“Oh my frickin’ Princess, I’m freezin’ my jugs off out here. Let me the frick in.”
She stomped inside, tossed her jacket on the floor, and peeled off her UGG boots.
“I swear,” she said, “whoever’s idea it was to put a holiday about romance in the middle of frickin’ February needs to be shot.”
“Yeah,” said Jake, “I think it was some religious thing originally, like some guy got martyred on that day, so—”
“Whatever. Ralph, is that you?”
Ralph, from the other side of the couch, raised a hand. “Yo, Chels. C’mon in and have some of Jake’s hoard. He’s got a year’s supply of obligatory elementary school chocolate over here.”
“Like, eww. That’s probably had little kids’ dirty, snotty hands all over it.”
“Still tastes good.”
Chelsea sighed. “Doesn’t matter. Jake an’ I got a date.”
Jake blinked. “We do?”
With a fist on a hip, Chelsea rounded on him. “Uh, yeah? Cuz it’s, like, frickin’ Valentine’s Day?”
“Oh … um …”
Chelsea slapped her forehead. “Let me guess—”
“You brought Jake chocolate, right, Chels?” Ralph yelled.
Jake cleared his throat and tugged at his collar. “Well, I mean, I was figurin’ you’d maybe, y’know, possibly bring me chocolate, because—”
Chelsea raised an eyebrow. “Why would I bring you chocolate?”
“Valentine’s Day? I mean, girls usually give boys chocolate on Valentine’s Day, so—”
Chelsea rolled her eyes. “Jake, what do you think this is, Little Kyoto? You’re supposed to give me chocolate on Valentine’s Day.”
“In Japan, traditionally—”
“Do I look Japanese?”
“Uh, no, but—”
She rapped her knuckles against his chest. “Seriously, you are so frickin’ lucky that I’m low-maintenance. Next year, you better have”—she counted these off on her fingers—“one dozen long-stemmed red roses, a corny heart-shaped box of chocolates that plays Elvis tunes when you open it, and dinner and a movie. Got it? And don’t get any of those nasty raspberry crème-filled chocolates either or I will frickin’ disown you. They taste like cough syrup.”
“Good boy.” She marched toward the couch. “I can’t believe you didn’t get me anything. Boys are supposed to give girls stuff on Valentine’s Day.”
Jake sighed. “That’s not really fair. Boys have to give girls stuff all year round.”
“That’s how it is, Jake!”
“Then what about White Day?”
“What the frick is White Day?”
He sighed again. “Never mind.”
Chelsea plopped down on the couch. “Hey, is this Magical Girl Rumble?”
“Yeah,” said Ralph. He tossed the grocery bag into her lap. “Have some chocolate.”
“It’s all in tinfoil and stuff. You’ll be fine.”
“Still eww.” She reached into the bag, grabbed a piece, and popped it into her mouth anyway. “Hey, this isn’t bad.”
“What did you expect?” said Ralph. “It’s chocolate. You want some of mine, too?” He tossed her his controller, leaned over, and found his backpack, which he’d earlier wedged between the sofa and an end table.
“Wait a second,” said Jake as he sat down next to Chelsea. “I thought you didn’t get any.”
Ralph handed Chelsea a prettily wrapped package in red and gold cloth, tied up with a pink bow.
She raised an eyebrow. “Seriously, Ralph, that’s nice, but I don’t have feelings for you. That would be, like, practically incest.”
“I’m not confessing to you. I’m just sharing. All my sisters gave me chocolate.”
“Gross,” Chelsea said as she tossed the package against Ralph’s head. “That is practically incest.”
“It is not!”
“What have you got in here?” Chelsea asked as she returned to Jake’s bag. “Looks like mostly store-bought stuff, but … what’s this?”
She pulled out a little box in red tissue paper with purple, green, and pink ribbons tying it up.
“This is elaborate,” she said as she turned it in her hands. “What kid went to this trouble?”
“Oh, that,” said Jake. “That’s from my teacher, Miss Percy.”
“She gave one to everybody?”
“Yeah, of course … actually, most of ’em weren’t that elaborate—”
“There’s a note attached. Did you read it?”
“Uh … no, but, I mean, it’s a note from my teacher. Probably just says ‘Good job!’ or ‘Keep working hard!’ or something like—”
The note was a little heart-shaped tag, folded over. Chelsea flipped it open, and inside in cursive red ink, it merely said, “CALL ME.”
The three of them stared at the note in silence for a full minute.
“Okaaaay,” Chelsea said at last as she gingerly set the package on the floor.
The front door burst open and Dana, still in her school winter fuku with its matching pea coat and a satchel over her shoulder, marched in.
“Oh, look,” said Chelsea after a disdainful glance, “it’s the brat. Still freeloading off my boyfriend, half-pint?”
Dana merely made a growling sound in the back of her throat and stomped flat-footed to the couch. Once she stood in front of Jake, she said, “I need to talk to you.”
She growled again. “Now.”
Jake heaved himself upright. “Just a minute, guys.”
Dana stomped through the kitchen, out the back door, and into the garage. He followed.
The garage was chilly, and it was dark. His parents’ car took up most of it, and what little space was left was given over to his father’s tools. Wedged between the car and a shelf holding coffee cans full of nails and screws, he crossed his arms and stared down at Dana, who tapped her index fingers together and gazed at the floor.
“What’s up?” he asked. “Why are you late? Were you—?”
She muttered to herself for a moment before she said, “Monsters.”
“Oh, Princess, really? Where?”
“East side of Little India. I was gonna come straight home, but the boss called—”
“I know. I understand. Sorry I wasn’t there. You didn’t get hurt, did you? Tesla okay?”
“He’s fine. I’m fine. Little India’s fine.”
She growled again. With one hand, she reached up and tugged on her hair, a nervous gesture he usually only saw her perform when she was Magical Girl Pretty Dynamo. “Y’know, um, yesterday, I mean, I made all that chocolate—”
“Yes, and I was very proud of you. I’m really impressed that you decided to give everyone homemade. I mean, most of the kids bought theirs at the store. I know I did.” He laughed.
Her ears were bright pink. She rubbed her neck, looked in his eyes for a moment, but then turned her face up to the ceiling. “So, anyway, I made too much—”
“Too much. I made too much. And I couldn’t eat it, so—”
“What do you mean you couldn’t eat it? You eat anything. You’re like a human garbage disposal.”
Her ears went from pink to bright red, and she clenched her teeth. “Jerk!”
“Okay, okay. Calm down. What are you trying to tell me?”
Grumbling, she reached into her satchel and pulled out a little bag of thin blue cotton tied up with a yellow bow. Staring resolutely at the shelf of nails, she held it toward him. “You eat it. So it doesn’t go to waste.”
“Aw, Dana, are you giving me chocolate?”
She ground her teeth, and the hand reaching toward him shook. “Only so it doesn’t go to waste! I made too much!”
“Right, right. I get it.” He took it from her hand. “And you even wrapped it up for me.”
She clenched her fists, stamped a foot, and after shaking for a second in apparent indecision, finally kicked him in the shin.
“Jerk!” she shouted as she marched back into the house. “Creep! Weirdo! I hope you choke! I hope all that chocolate poisons you like a dog!”
Limping slightly, he followed her inside, but she quickly ran pell-mell up the stairs, and a moment later, he heard her door slam.
He shrugged and joined the others on the couch.
“What was that about?” Ralph asked.
Jake sighed. “Who knows? Just Dana being Dana. You guys want some chocolate?”
Chelsea raised an eyebrow. “Did the brat give you that?”
“Yeah. She made too much. Want some?”
“Frick no. Who knows what she did to it? Probably spat in it or something.”
“Well, you’ve already eaten it. That first piece you grabbed was hers.”
“Yeah, I had one from her in my bag, just like I had one from every other kid in my class.”
Chelsea leapt to her feet. “Eww! Eww! The sawed-off little twerp had her grubby fingers all over something I ate? Gross! Nasty! I need a frickin’ stomach pump!”
“Ah,” said Ralph, as he tore into the package from his sisters, “now that’s romantic.”
He popped a piece into his mouth, chewed for half a minute, and said, “Hey that’s not bad. They’re raspberry crème-filled, my favorite. Jake, you want some? It’s had Lex and Barb’s grubby fingers all over it.”
“Nice,” said Jake as he reached for the open package. “I’ll gladly eat anything from Barbara’s fingers.”
“Don’t get any funny ideas about my sisters.” Ralph nodded toward the gift from Dana. “So you gonna read the note?”
“Dude, pay attention.” Ralph pointed. Dana’s gift, too, like the one from Miss Percy, had a folded-over heart attached to the ribbon.
Jake flipped it open. Inside, in a child’s scrawl, it said, “This is just obligatory and because I made too much so don’t go all weird on me but thanks for having my back. —PD.”
“PD?” Ralph asked as he peered over Jake’s shoulder. “What does that stand for? Shouldn’t it be ‘DV’? Y’know, Dana Volt?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jake replied. “It’s just something between her and me.”
He pulled out a chocolate piece and bit into it.
It was very sweet.