Author's Note: Here is one chapter of the Valentine's Day thing I wanted to do. It's the longer story coming from a bunch of one-shots intended for V-Day, but like I said, this is a bit longer (not as long as One Bird, Two Stones or even Before Sunrise for that matter) so it might be completed post-V-Day. Only because I have very little time to sleep let alone write.
It's also based on the feedback I got from The Scene (though not a continuation of it),I noticed people liked the earthly cynical approach to Raven so I thought I might expand on that.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans.
A single unifying theme occurs through out human history:
It seemed like a good idea at the time
Ahhh… Herbal tea and a good book on a quiet Sunday morning.
Good Lord all mighty, why, in the name of God do people call just when you're about to fall into relaxation. Why? I sat there, holding my open book on my lap, eyes closed, trying to drown out the sound of th-
Crap. Concentration broken, I trudged over to my kitchen counter and picked it up.
"Hello?" I said monotonously, not a hint of apprehension in my voice. Nope, not one little bit.
"Friend! Glorious news!" Kori Anders. The absolute last person I wanted to talk to. Ever hear the expression, "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?" Well, Kori is like my spoonful of sugar. Except, she can seem like a bucket at some days, far more sugar than is required and definitely bad for your health. And sanity. But she was, after all, my best friend. Lord knows how or why, but she was.
"I am brimming with glee, I simply must tell you!" And she speaks like a dyslexic 3rd grader. Growing up at some country ending in –akistan, not quite sure if it's Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan, will do that to you. Don't know exactly where she picked up her English either but it sounds a lot like "Phun with Phonics".
"So tell me Kor, I'm just dying to hear the news."
"Oh, please do not, that will certainly dampen the mood." Did I mention she was foreign and completely oblivious to the English language? "But I cannot tell you now, Raven, it must wait until I am to see you?"
"When will that be?" I asked, impatiently tapping my fingernails on the linoleum countertop.
"Oh, I was hoping right now."
"Yes, I am at your lobby." If I had been drinking tea I would have spit it all out. At my lobby? What the hell was she thinking? This must be urgent if she's already here.
"Uh… ye-yeah, sure. Come on up." I stumble through my words as I race back into the living room, picking up stray bits of newspaper and crumpled up balls of writing pad paper. My apartment was a little messy, so sue me. But Kori was an absolute neat freak. I must I'm fairly clean myself but Kori was a monster with a vacuum. If she saw my house in this condition she'd take it upon herself to stay longer and clean it for me. And that ruins my entire afternoon plan of reading and doing nothing.
"Uh, Kor? Call me back from the lobby phone and I'll buzz you in." Swiftly hanging up the phone, I took all of the scattered papers and tossed them into my room, closing the door behind me. After that was done, I ran to the kitchen to grab a towel and wipe the coffee table. That's when the phone rang again; I picked it up, held down 7 and hung up. She'll be here any second now.
Doing a complete 360 of my small cramped living room, I heard a knock at the door. Wow, just in time. I walked over to the door, took a deep breath and turned the knob. I was greeted by the happiest green eyes I've ever seen on a woman and the tightest hug known to man. My eyes shut swiftly in pain and my lung collapses with the lack of oxygen. Well, today's hug was especially tight. Must be really good news.
"Raven! I am so happy!" She slowly let go and I led her into the living room while my breathing returned to normal. She sat, prim and proper, in the edge of my couch as if my entire apartment were crawling in bacteria. Her eyes darted through the living room as her hands fidgeted on her lap and I sat beside her.
"I'm ENGAGED!" She suddenly blurted out, thrusting the back of her left hand in my face. The rock shone like a hundred watt light bulb, probably came close to the size of one too.
"Oh my god, he finally proposed? Let me see that you lucky bitch!" Yeah, it was bit much, but I had to exaggerate. She was my best friend who just got engaged, I couldn't just say 'congratulations, call me before the wedding, I'll see you later' now could I? I grabbed her hand and did my best to look at it with dumb fascination.
"Richard proposed last night at the Moonlight Lounge." Typical, the Moonlight Lounge. Everybody goes to the Moonlight Lounge to propose, I think my grandfather went to the Moonlight Lounge to propose. Of course, this was Richard Grayson we're talking about. He's the richest person since Rockefeller but creativity was not his strongest point.
"It was the most magical moment of my life Raven…" Now, this is the part when I should be describing how she went on about what they ate, what they wore, what they talked about and a word-for-word, play-by-play of what he did exactly when he got down on one knee and did the deed. But I'm not going to. I'm sure even Dick himself, who's probably getting ribbed by all the guys, does not want to hear all those details; Lord knows I had enough trouble staying awake through it all.
"Oh friend! Is it not the most marvelous of news?"
"Yes, Kori. It's absolutely great, but don't you have somewhere to be? Maybe lunch with Dick?" I got up and glanced over at the clock then did a double take, it was already 11. I answered the door at 9:30.
"O yes, I must get going. I do have lunch with my fiancé." With that she squealed, jumped up and grabbed me into a tight hug. And they said bears could kill.
"Uh… Ok, Kor." She released me from her grasp and bounced, actually bounced to the door. I quickly opened the door and she smiled at me and walked out. I closed the door with a sigh then leaned up against it, totally exhausted.
"I nearly forgot Raven, you will be joining us at Toni's?" A muffled voice asked through the door.
I sighed again, "Yes, Kor. I'll be there. 7:30 sharp."
"Excellent!" And with that I heard her walk away down the hall as I slid down against the door, landing on my butt. So much for a quiet day of reading, it's going to be a long day.
Sundays were supposed to be my off days. The only days in which I get mostly to myself, save of course for the weekly get together. Monday to Saturday, I'm a freelance writer which means I usually get stuck with the sappy holiday feel-good articles at the major newspapers like the "Star" or the "Post." Once or twice a year I'd get an offer for a permanent position writing stupid crap in sections like the "Community" or "Life Style". I just couldn't imagine myself sitting at a big corporate office, writing schmaltzy home economic articles for the domestic housewife, or husband, on how to get your kids to eat the green vegetables or how to get those nasty wine stains from the carpet for the rest of my life. Needless to say no offers ever appealed to me.
What I really wanted to do was write. I mean like seriously write novels, plays, poems; anything creative that requires the use of more than half my brain. I've written a few things, poems, novelettes, maybe a play or two, and been told I was pretty good; but I could never really trust the opinion of my friends, they're always out to not hurt your feelings and tend to be biased. At least, I didn't trust them enough to quit freelancing and dedicate all of my time and effort to writing a book. I suppose that constant fear that I'll totally suck, get rejected a few times then have to come crawling back to the superficial but secure world of writing sugar-coated holiday fluff pieces. Not to mention the fact that it doesn't guarantee a paycheck after an article or draft.
I currently lived with the hope that I'll accidentally drop one of my pieces on a café table, all of which have my name, number and address on them, and have a big-time publisher pick it up and call me saying how great it is and how he wants to have me published. Yeah, fat chance.
This week's poison was unfortunately Valentine's Day which was this coming Sunday. By now I've written about 7 of these things and they were all really starting to sound the same. About two years ago, I'd found out that nobody really cares about the holiday pieces. Sure, they'll pick it up, read it, have a good laugh or maybe even have a momentary instant of revelation on what to get that difficult person on their list of what their party was really missing, but that's about it. No one really cares so I've recently started to just resubmit some of my old articles with a few alterations and the editors, or the readers for that matter, were none the wiser.
That is until this recent V-Day assignment. Last week, I had a meeting with the editor a new free newspaper called "The Voice", it was all free speech and all that. They wanted to hire me to write a non-conventional Valentine's Day piece, and I had full creative liberty. I could write about anything and everything I wanted while of course still pertaining to the V-Day theme. I couldn't believe my ears, I was getting full creative license and it was going to be the cover article. Obviously they couldn't pay her much since they were a free paper, the mere fact that they even offered was being extremely generous; they mostly had student journalists on co-op. Just the appeal of being the cover story in any widespread paper in the city was more than enough, especially this being a free paper, making it more accessible to the alternative audience.
But now I'm here, stuck with nothing in my noggin about what to write. I ran all of the ideas over in my head, the satirical point of view, the statistical research article, the serious sad depression piece. None of them were quite what I was looking for. So this Sunday, instead of reading a book, meditating, maybe slipping in a nap or two, I would be working m butt off to cone up with a creative original article idea for that damn over-played Hallmark holiday.
It was seven when I left my apartment for Toni's, it was only three blocks from my building, and I think I'll make it in time. Toni's has been a longstanding tradition between my 'girlfriends' and I since the old college days. God, saying that makes me feel so old.
I suppose it all started when Bee, Karen Beecher, first discovered Toni's and his exceptional thin crust pizza. It was Thanksgiving and the four of us really had nowhere to go, none wanting to go back to their families or spend Thanksgiving alone, we all went to Toni's and had pizza. At first it was a strictly Thanksgiving tradition, but when we all found each other once Sunday sneaking away take out, we decided to make it into a it's-the-end-of –the-week-so-let's-bitch-about-our-pathetic-lives event. And so it was written that we would always meet at Toni's on 7:30 on Sundays.
Today was no different. I was always the earliest one there and the one to order due to the massive crush the girls have had on our waiter who incidentally started working when our tradition started, and unfortunately still does. I got to Toni's at 7:15 and nodded to John, the waiter, to give us our regular seats.
"So Valentine's Day is coming up? I should I be looking out for one of your famous articles?" he asked. He was just being sweet, we all knew the boys wouldn't pick up a newspaper unless it was rolled up and used to hit his dog.
"Well," I shrugged, "I'm writing one for a free paper so you could watch for that?"
"Oh?" he continued while laying out the girls' usual drinks. Diet Coke for Bee, Nestea for Kori, Dr. Pepper for Tara, Perrier with lime for me, and a Pink Jinx for Jenn. Jenn was the only one that drank alcohol during our shindigs, and she's had her mix of Grenadine, lemon juice and gin since that first Thanksgiving, so why mess with tradition. I took a sip of my Perrier as John gave me a wink.
"I'll be back when they get here." I smiled back politely and leaned back on my chair, looking out the street-facing window that adorned what was 'our' table. The circular table we'd been sitting at for ages was officially made 'ours' after Toni himself recognized as us as his most loyal costumers. Eight years and neither sleet nor snow has stopped us from gathering here. Toni's itself was relatively small and has improved over the years, probably due to our weekly 'donations.' It had a cozy Tuscan ambience now as opposed to the stereotypical Italian pizza place that it had before. Now Toni's had a lounge area with a fireplace and two couches as well as more business-casual dining areas.
I sat back as I saw Tara enter, led by John. She winked at him flirtily as he walked away and gave him a playful pinch in the butt. He shook his head and went off to the back. I met Tara Markov at my geology class, now you may be asking what I was doing in geology. During my first year in college, I wasn't really sure what I was getting to so I took all of the sciences including geology, halfway through the semester I decided that science wasn't my strength so I switched my major to English Literature, but Tara remained friends. We weren't always friends mind you, for the first couple of months we both decided that we hated each other. I thoughts she was a ditzy, brainless, blonde stereotype and she thought I was a pretentious loner, we were both pretty satisfied with our judgments. That is until Kori came along and insisted we get to know each other, lo and behold we find out that the others wasn't so bad as we had thought and decided to call it a truce. We weren't best friends but we were one step away from mortal enemies.
"Must you do that?" I asked her.
"Aww come on Raven, you know Johnny's a cutie."
"Sure he's cute, but come on, look at the guy. He's worked here since college."
"You know what your problem is? You're too picky. Sometimes you just need to let loose and live little." She leaned back with a smirk, her arms crossed triumphantly across her chest.
"Yeah, Rae-Rae, you're so tight you squeak, girl." Bee. Karen walked in like she always did, with attitude and commanding respect. We had decided long ago that Bee was the most likely person to lead us five into combat in the event of war. She glowed with that kind of air about her, the confidence and wit to go with it. You know, the kind of people you hate to work with 'cause they always make you look bad and lazy but in the eventually learn to love. Yep, that was Bee.
"No I do not!"
Tara and Bee exchanged looks as Bee took her seat taking a sip from her Diet Coke, looking over the rim at me.
"What? I don't, I've gone out with plenty of guys."
"Raven, seeing a hot guy down the street and him smiling at you does not constitute for going out," Tara blurted. Her and Bee burst out laughing at what I knew must have been my face.
"For your information, I've dated a number of guys."
Bee caught herself and said, "Yeah, the blow up kind," and they began again. I rolled my eyes and I plucked out my lime from my drink and squirted it at them.
"Geez, relax Rae-Rae, we're just teasing," Bee said, wiping the lime juice out of her eye.
I cocked an eyebrow at Bee and said, "I told you not to call me 'Rae-Rae'."
"Aww, come on. It's cute."
"Cute is for little kids and puppies."
"And kittens, can't forget kittens." It was Jenn. Geez, was everyone coming in unannounced today? Jenn gave everyone a kiss on the cheek and sat beside me. Jenn, aptly nicknamed Jinx for her favorite drink and accident prone nature back in college was the last person to join our group thus making us the 'Fab Five.' We met her after the Sundays at Toni's rule was established but she quickly fit in with us and we all became instant friends. Jinx was probably the most delinquent of us all. Coming in from the other side of town, Jinx grew up at an orphanage/correction school with four other boys in her ward. She was a good girl in a bad situation and did some things she's not too proud of so we never speak of them.
Johnny walked in with our regular thin crust deluxe pizza and set it on the table. He smiled at us and said, "The gang's almost complete. Where's Kori?" Everyone looked around shrugging and shaking their heads until a left hand popped out from the plant behind John. It donned a diamond ring on its ring finger but enough to put out an eye.
"Oh my GOD!" Tara shrieked and ran over to the hand and its owner screaming and hugging. Then all hell broke loose as the rest of the group rushed over to squeal and congratulate the new bride to be. They were going to spend all night talking proposal details, wedding arrangements and of course, arguing over who the maid of honor was. I watched them wail and screech and I reached for my drink, then about mid-grab I changed my mind and grabbed Jinx's drink, then motioned for John to get me another one. He laughed as he walked away, wiping his hands on his apron and shaking his head.
I sat there, relatively bored, eating pizza until I felt like vomiting. Not that I didn't want to anyways when they started talking about Valentine's Day.
"Girl, I don't even know what to do for V-day. I just hopin' Victor doesn't forget or he's gunna get it," Victor Stone was Bee's longstanding boyfriend who she met at school. They had both been taking one class with a particular professor they both hated and love blossomed from there. Though, they haven't been going out since college, it took Victor about 5 years to work up the courage to ask Bee out even though she'd been dropping hints since the day they'd met.
"I'm sure he's got it under control," said Jinx, "Wally on the other hand, he's always in so much of a rush that he probably can't even stop for dinner even if he remembered." Wally West, Jinx's boyfriend, truly did live in a flash. Even their relationship had moved so quickly that within 3 weeks of dating they had moved in together, this was 2 months ago. He was some sort of business executive who graduated from Princeton on a track scholarship. Jinx had joked a few times that it wasn't only is brain and legs that moved fast.
"Well then, I am most happy to inform you that you need not worry. Richard has asked of his uncle to lend us the cottage for next week end!"
"That sounds awesome Kor!" exclaimed Jinx. It truly was. Old Bruce Wayne never let anybody into his cottage. His cottage was bigger than my building and larger than most extravagant houses. It wasn't a cottage, it was a mansion. This engagement must've really meant a lot to him.
"Yes, he said it was to celebrate out engagement and all of you were to join us. We shall drive up to it Friday morning and return Sunday evening." Chatter began around the table, things like, "What am I going to bring?", "Is there still snow up there?" and "Hot chocolate for everyone!" This coming from the people that think Valentine's Day constitutes for a three-day week-end.
"Wait," said Tara, "What about us single gyals?" She asked waving a finger between her and I.
"Dick said you must bring dates," said Kori as if it were the most naturally obvious thing in the world.
I just stared at her, "Must?"
She nodded, "Must."
Tara shrugged and leaned back again, "well, we all know I can get a date. But it's Raven here who's gunna need some help."
"Hey!" That was it. I had snapped. No more cracks about me being an antisocial loner, me not having had a date since the swings in kindergarten, not being able to get a man even if I ran outside naked, this was it.
"For your information, I have been seeing guy for the past couple of days."
Tara rolled her eyes skeptically, "Yeah, well you can see guys everyday."
"That's not what I meant. Me and this guy's have been dating." As soon as the words left my mouth I regretted them. What was I thinking? I wasn't dating a guy. I haven't even had a casual conversation with a male since Christmas, and that was just to be friendly.
"You have been dating? Why did you not inform me?" asked Kori, obviously a little hurt.
"Well, I know how you guys make such a big deal when I go out, I just didn't want to go through all that."
Bee leaned in, she hadan inkling for gossip, "Well, does this guy have a name?"
Jinx nodded, "Yeah, and are you serious?"
"Yes he has a name, it's… Mark, Mark Graham. And we're pretty serious." Lying was easy enough, when you're a writer, lying comes to you like second nature. The problem was the complications that it brought along.
"Where did you meet?"
"What does he do?"
"How old is he?" Questions berated me left and right at lighting speed so I raised both my hands in a gesture to stop.
"We met at the groceries, he bumped into my cart and almost toppling over a display of toilet paper. He caught one about to fall on my head and we started talking. He was a nice guy so when he asked me to dinner I said yes…. This was last Tuesday. He's my age and he's a … Botanist."
"A botanist?" I received a look from Tara, she wasn't buying it.
"Yea, he studies plants, trying to uhhh… find a cure for cancer." That hit the spot, as soon as I said cure, they all started 'awww'ing, except of course for Tara.
"He sound's great Rae-Rae," said Bee.
"Yeah, what are the chances of finding a nice guy in the city?" asked Jinx. Oh yeah, they were putty in my hands. Mark had completely won them over. I did feel kind of bad for lying to my friends, especially about something as important to them as my love life. But hey, think of it as an unconventional means of teaching to butt out of my business, however immoral it may be.
Tara leaned in and shrugged, "then I don't see why you shouldn't bring him to the cottage next weekend?" She smirked at me and I boldly smirked back.
"Yes Raven, bring this Mark to the cottage."
"Well, I don't' know. Don't you think it's a little soon to be inviting him to over-nights with my friends?"
Tara waved a hand away, "Nah, I'm sure he'll be fine with it. And if he's not. Then I'm sure we can convince him." She was onto me alright. But I couldn't back down now, not when I had the advantage.
"Fine." And with that, I bought the shovel I was gunna use to dig my own grave.
A/N: In case you've read my other stuff, you'd notice a difference in the wayI write, as in the tenses I use or in which POV (point-of-view) the story is portrayed. The 1st person POV used in this story is not my preference but I wanted to try it out.You might have also noticed the variety of waysI title my chapters.This timearoundI've decided to have no actual title but a quote underlining the basic gist of the chapter. I will post clues as to the content of the next chapter here using said quotes.
CLUE: Never underestimate the importance of that first impression...