Reader fiction | A valentine mug

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It was a day for lovers, for loved ones to be together but was it going to be a romantic day for her? By Nicola Kearns


He watched as she walked away, her back straight and the red coat swaying against her long black boots which he had bought for her. He waited, but she didn’t look back. So he could go. He stubbed his cigarette out with the heel of his shoe and, head down against the blustering snowy gale, he stepped out onto the road.

Hands in her pockets she repeated, ‘Don’t look back; don’t look back.’

Rounding the corner she blew out the breath she was holding and leaned against the wall. Opposite, Brown Thomas had a beautiful valentine window display which just made tears spring to eyes that she had tried to keep at bay.

‘What to do now? A coffee. He always said she was more attached to her coffee than to him. But it wasn’t true.’

Cafés were thronged with last minute shoppers for cards and flowers, but she managed to find a seat.

Balancing her coffee with one hand, she pulled out a chair with the other. Placing the mug on the cluttered table she unbuttoned her coat and throwing it carelessly over the back of the chair, she sat.

She burned the tip of her tongue and blowing on the hot liquid, looked around the crowded room.

Windows were steamed with the heat of bodies and the floor was littered with tons of shopping bags full of chocolates and teddy bears. Exciting looking parcels peeped out from department store bags and she felt quite naked, without even a handbag to place at her feet.

The bus wouldn’t be going for another 25 minutes. It was too much time to sit waiting. She wanted to get home.

The last few weeks she had been watching him like a cat does a mouse. Call it women’s intuition if you will, but she knew, he had a secret. Phone calls that went silent when she walked into a room, nipping out for something but returning empty handed. It made her heart hurt with fear.

She decided that she had to find out today, on their second Valentines Day together. The first was a year ago, when they met.

She spilt his Irish coffee over a black polo neck jumper that looked too gloomy to be worn in a Dublin pub, on the most romantic day of the year.

Acceptance of a refill and numbers swapped brought them to today. But he rejected her suggestion of revisiting the same pub.

He had something he had to do. It wasn’t her Valentines gift. That already sat at home on his bedside locker, teasing her to open it every time she looked over on her last night he spent there. “Get the bus home yourself,” hesaid, “I could be late.”

Turning the key in the flat she shared with Elaine she saw a shadow pass from the sitting-room to the kitchen in front. Eyes cloudy with tears she blinked, and stepping into the hall she gasped as she realised she wasn’t hallucinating. It was him.

“You’re early,” he whispered.

“How did you get in?” she asked, not understanding.

“Elaine, she was in on the secret,” he smiled. “I wanted to leave something in your coffee mug for the girl who has stolen my heart for a full year.”

He held out the mug. She said yes.