By Adeline Ike
Original artwork by Ashlyn Ike
Flowers…hearts...love. Flowers...hearts...love Flowers...hearts...love.
It was like a punch in the face when Valentine's day came around the corner. Shena couldn't fathom why the world was doing this to her.
It brought the bundle of pain...anger...and worse: longing.
It made her jealous of the couples that still have each other. It made her envy her friends that still have their boyfriends or fiances. No more fun double dates with them, no lazy night drives around town with jazz music filling their souls...this year was just simple, lonely Shena.
Trying to hide the deep emotions from her face, Shena tried to listen to her friend Evie talk about her wedding coming up. The chatter in McDonald's was mixing in with Evie's loud voice. Shena dipped her fries in her leftover sweet and sour sauce, twisting one of her braids in her hand. She felt like crying, not sitting here to help plan a 'romantic wedding' for Evie.
But she was her friend. She didn't wanna hurt Evie's feelings. Not even the pressing headache Shena felt would send her home at this late hour.
A worker stopped at their table, but Shena didn't look up. But her eyes widened at the heart shaped suckers the man put in front of her. Not this again. Valentine's day wasn't easy to get away from.
"Have a good one," he said.
Shena's head snapped up—mid-eating a fry—and her eyes met with her ex's. She tried hard to keep her jaw shut, but that smirk on Darius's face only made her want to slap him.
She could see Evie's smile at seeing Darius and knew she would drag her into an awkward conversation with him. She quickly shot up and stormed out of the restaurant. Shena wouldn't even let him look at her.
But she couldn't wipe that smirk out of her head. The laughing eyes that always looked down at her like he knew every part of her heart, and man, he looked so gorgeous!
Shena scolded herself. What's she doing thinking these thoughts? This man broke her heart. This guy made her miserable when he left her for a job out of the city. But what the heck, she could clearly see that he worked at McDonald's (of all places).
No. This man didn't need to be thought of. He lied to her.
Shena stormed away from the restaurant. Evie brought her there, but Shena didn't want to answer the questions she would end up asking her. Shena would walk home. It didn't matter that it was cold. It didn't matter that the streets were dangerous; nothing mattered at the moment.
She just needed to get away. Shena turned the corner, her thick braids whipping her face. She paused when she saw a big pink arrow pointing toward an alleyway. She suspiciously approached the pointing- arrow, then followed the direction. Her eyes lite up. The alleyway was strung with gold lights, candles lined the pathway, and flower peddles layered the pavement. Shena felt like she was intruding on someone's master plan to propose to their lover. Her smile fled despite the beautiful, romantic setup. She craved this. A special moment this magnificent to share with...
Wait...Darius? He stood at the far side of the alleyway in his ridiculous McDonald's outfit, hands held behind his back.
One of the light strings fell, making Shena almost laugh, but she shut her mouth. What was Darius really up to?
She cautiously walked the path to him, her legs hesitant. What would happen when she made it up to him. More lies?
Shena stopped, not ready to accept him. The distance was what he got.
"Tell the truth." She demanded harshly.
Darius sighed and scratched his neck; his eyes were on his shoes, "I hurt you."
"Clearly." she scoffed.
"Everything I told you before we...split... was true. I had a job offer far away, and I didn't want to hurt you by keeping a long-distant relationship. But then the interview went terribly wrong because I couldn't get your devastated face out of my head when I told you we couldn't be together. And I knew I had to come back, get a job in the city you were in, and make amends..."
Shena's heart lifted with every word that came out of his mouth. He thought about her? She captivated his big old brain at an interview? Well, that sounded about right. But Shena didn't want to make it that easy for him to get her. He needed to fight for what was his.
Shena stubbornly looked at her shoes with her arms folded.
"Shena, please. Evie even helped me set this up. She got you to come to McDonald's: knowing you would storm out when you saw me. Then I would run out the back door and stand in position. Just like this."
Shena glared at him. Why would Evie get involved with this setup? Was it that obvious that Shena and Darius were meant for each other? Shena let that confession slip into her head without pushing it away.
"Though it may be a little cheesy and stupid, I did it because...because I care for you deeply, Shena. I love you. And I mean it."
Shena looked into his deep eyes full of compassion as he stepped closer, but he still gave her space. She admired him for that.
"You capture my every thought, Shena. I can't focus at work while serving fries, and I can't help but feel like I broke you. I came back, Shena, to put your heart back together. So let me in...please... I'm willing to be a better man for you. I'll try harder for you. I'll fight for you if I have to." His face suddenly became serious. Such a warrior!
"I'll take you out to eat for a whole week. It doesn't matter if my paycheck will now be low. I'll spend it all on you."
Shena smirked, "You had me at the 'let's make amends' part. I don't need to be bribed to date you, honey."
It took a second for Darius to process her words, then his own smirk stretched up his face. He closed the distance between them, and Shena sighed as she felt like a part of her heart knocked on the door and arrived...finally.
"So I don't have to take you out to eat for an e