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The Case of the Sneaky Valentine

by ScattySue 01/24/15

Welcome, dear reader, to my entry for the 2015 Valentine's Day Story Contest.

By way of a warning, I have to say that this is a long story - the competition rules do not permit splitting it into multiple parts, so please forgive me and I hope you find it worth reading all the way to the end. I would add that there is a long build up before any sex, so please be patient.

As this is a Contest entry, please take the trouble to cast your vote at the end. Feedback is also always very welcome.

My thanks to Winterreisser for his diligent editing, encouragement and support and to Kat in her role as "Romance and Hotness Consultant"

Thanks also to the Anonymous improver of my Spanish (who provided 'La Gata' in place of 'El Gato') and to Andie's inner editor for a very insightful suggestion that I have incorporated.

I hope you enjoy the story.


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CHAPTER 1 -- Mystery

Tuesday 14 February

I turn the card over, looking for any clues on the back but there is nothing there. I bite my lip, wondering. For the third year in a row, a Valentine's Day card has found its way into my handbag somewhere between leaving home and arriving at work.

The first year had been a surprise and I wondered if my partner, Roy, had unexpectedly and uncharacteristically decided to put some effort into our almost non-existent love. However, when he again came home late, very late from work with no flowers, chocolates or even a kind word, I decided that the card sender wasn't him. So, at thirty-two I had a secret admirer: how intriguing! At least, I hoped I had and that it wasn't a mistake and the card had been intended for someone else. The handwritten inscription read:

'To the darkly golden girlie
With the gorgeous dove grey eyes.
I see you each day early
But you do not know my sighs.
'


'The darkly golden girlie with the gorgeous dove grey eyes' seemed to fit me; my eyes were grey and my once golden blonde hair had darkened considerably since the birth of my twin girls, Tina and Chloe, eight years earlier. Someone fancied me; what a thrill!

Last year I had wondered whether the same might happen again. Okay, I'll be completely candid and honest: I hoped it would happen again. Things had really started to deteriorate between Roy and me, going from bad to worse and, while I had made some effort to maintain the relationship, I was getting to the point where I was beginning to feel it wasn't worth the effort and it was simply inertia keeping us living together; that and the iron chains of a shared mortgage. My parents had never particularly liked him, not since the day we moved in together. That my parents had provided the deposit on the house and stood as guarantors for the mortgage probably didn't help us form an equal partnership in that first year, particularly as my parents made sure Roy knew how much we were beholden to them.

Letting myself become pregnant and the birth of our twin girls (not that twins were what I planned!) should have brought us closer, or so I'd thought, but the opposite had been true. I know many new parents fight: the combination of tiredness, stress and having your world turned upside down by one, or in our case, two tiny people taxes any relationship. By the time the girls were in school our lives had settled into routines, with Mum picking up the childcare at each end of the day. However, no matter how settled and safe the routines seemed, Roy and I gradually drifted further apart. Worse still, Roy had less and less to do with the girls: out too early and home too late to see them during the week, golf and football at the weekends... I was their only real parent, with the help of my own parents.

So on Valentine's Day last year I had resisted checking my handbag until I was in the office, my heart hammering as I opened the bag. Yes! A shiny red envelope, that had not been there when I left the house that morning, was tucked against one side where someone had slid it in. With trembling fingers I took it out and opened the flap, glancing around to be sure no one was watching me. The card was a typical bright red with a cute cartoon teddy holding a heart on the front. The handwritten inscription inside was... unexpectedly intense:

'I don't know
if you feel a spark,
but I feel FIREWORKS
whenever I see you!
'


The handwriting was the same as last year's I was certain; rounded and with only a few letters joined up, the dot on the letter 'i' was a tiny heart, also as last year. The effect was youthful and feminine, quite girlie actually, but it must be someone determined that the handwriting would give no clue as to their identity.

And now this year as I shake my head partly in amazement and partly in frustration; I had been keeping an eye out this time, tracking every bloke that came close enough to try to put the card into my bag, but the sneaky bugger had still managed it. I suppose, given the crush on the train and the jostling on the platform, it wouldn't have been impossible despite my vigilance; I had deliberately carried my bag as normally as I could, not wanting to scare the guy off attempting the card delivery. I felt I needed the reassurance that I was still attractive after Roy had finally walked out at the beginning of January, having just managed to stick it out through Christmas and New Year "for the girls' sakes" apparently. They did miss him, a bit; I certainly didn't by then and in just six short weeks, even Tina and Chloe seemed to be reasonably happy with just their Mum and Granny and Granddad as their family.

I look at the card once more. It is pink and red, unsurprisingly, with a Hello Kitty holding a heart on the front saying, 'Hey there Pretty Girl, Will you be my Valentine?' I open it and re-read the inscription inside for the twentieth time:

'My beautiful, curvaceous,
golden haired Ishtar,
Always so seductive
in the swaying railway car.
Each day you lift my spirit,
should you sit or stand;
Oh I wish that I could win
your love, your heart, your hand.
'


I'd had to Google 'Ishtar' who, it turned out, was the Mesopotamian goddess of sexual love, fertility and, curiously, warfare. My admirer was certainly ramping up the intensity and passion and had also told me that he was a fellow rail commuter... and one who saw me regularly... hmmm.

I always board the third carriage of the train on the basis that it is reasonably close to the front of the train, and hence the exit at the London Victoria terminus, but also gives the possibility of obtaining a seat two or three days out of five. I'm not the only creature of habit when it comes to the daily commute and there are a number of fellow travellers whom I have come to recognise over the years. We never speak, of course, save in the extremities of snow, gales, signal failures or industrial action that can trigger the traditional British 'Blitz Spirit' of bonhomie and comradery in the face of adversity. This means, naturally, that I know no names and instead these regular characters have acquired nicknames, at least in my head.

There is Makeup Woman, who spends the whole journey on the process; Loud iPod Guy; Mr Umbrella with his ridiculously outsize golfing umbrella, rain or shine; Body Odour Boy; Loud Tie Man; Aging Hippy with his CND badges and kipper ties; Dimple Girl; Mrs Knitting, clicking away with her needles; Sci-Fi Bookworm; Mr and Mrs Cycling, always sitting together chatting in their cycling Lycra, and Crossword Man. The names have changed from time to time: Loud Tie Man became Mr eReader when someone took his taste in neckwear in hand and, presumably, bought him an eReader instead of a tie for Christmas. The girl with the spiky pink hair and punk-style clothing was actually nicknamed Dimple Girl (named, obviously, for the cute dimples she showed when she occasionally smiled) but became Vanilla Dimple Girl after I stood next to her and found she used the most gorgeous-smelling vanilla perfume or body lotion. Anyway, these are my cast of suspects in 'The Case of the Sneaky Valentine' as I begin to think of it, after abandoning 'Mysterious Valentines on the 7:48 London Victoria semi-fast train' as being a silly name.

So, some seven or eight men as the most obvious potential culprits for the Valentine, and two of them I really hope aren't the sender! That leaves the question: what to do? All I can come up with is to watch and see who's paying me extra attention.

Thursday 16 February

Okay, this is day two of the investigation into 'The Case of the Sneaky Valentine' and so far... zip, nada, nothing! None of the men seem to be staring at me, no blushes or hastily averted eyes when I look at them. The only man who seems to look at me at all is Loud iPod Guy but, watching him, he seems to stare at all females under forty more or less on a rota, his gaze jumping from one to the next till he cycles back round.

I can see two possibilities. The first is that it actually is Loud iPod Guy and he gave Valentine's cards to lots of the women. This seems unlikely, given the work involved, but the only way to disprove it would be to ask one of the other women. Vanilla Dimple Girl is the obvious choice; with the way she looks she must have every man she knows sending her a card. However, how do you go up to an attractive woman in her early twenties and ask her if she received a Valentine's card without sounding either like a nutter or a lesbian stalker?

The second possibility is that I'm only looking at a few of all the men on the train on the basis that I know they travel every day with me. However, these are only the ones I've noticed, mainly because there is something distinctive enough about them to nickname. What about the others, the nondescript and unmemorable? They could have stood next to me last week and I wouldn't have given them more than a glance... It is time to expand my surveillance.

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