Hi, all. Here I am with just a little Valentine's Day fluff...even though I'm not a fan of the holiday. Oh, well, I am a fan of love so I figure that works. This could probably be rated K/G, but I'm going with PG just in case there's something I missed that would upset people. I really don't think there is anything, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.
Anyway, huge shout out to my beta Bethaboo. Everyone, go read her V-Day story, The Transcontinental Love Letter. You won't be sorry you did.
Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, Little Brown, and Summit. I own nothing.
(For the interested, a link to a picture of the necklace is in my profile.)
Now on with the show...
The first valentine appeared when I was six years old and in kindergarten.
Every day after lunch was a thirty-minute naptime, where we would all lay on our little pallets and try to sleep. I think the time was more for the teachers to catch their breath and relax a little after trying to teach a bunch of five- and six-year olds. Though some of the kids would kick up a fuss over it, claiming to be too old for naps or not at all tired, I always enjoyed the peace and quiet of those thirty minutes. I'd always been a quiet child, which made me different than most of my classmates, and being around fifteen or so children who weren't was exhausting.
After naptime, I returned to my assigned seat at my table. The valentine was placed in front of my little plastic chair.
Someone had obviously spent a lot of time making it. It was shaped like a big red heart, with a smaller pink one and an even smaller white, lacy doily one pasted against it. In the center of these three hearts were four words written in glittery glue. Bella, Be My Valintine.
The heart opened to reveal a handwritten statement.
You are the most pretty girl in class.
The words were written neatly and with care. It was left unsigned. I remember looking around, trying to see if anyone knew anything about the valentine and its sender. There was no sign that anyone had. All the other students were taking their seats and babbling with excess energy after their enforced calmness.
When I got home, I put the Valentine in the box where I kept all my treasures.
The great unanswered mystery of my kindergarten year was that of my Secret Admirer.
By the time Valentine's Day rolled around in first grade, I was sure I no longer had my Secret Admirer. It had been an entire year and I still didn't entirely understand why he would be admiring me. I was the quietest, clumsiest girl in class. Not a day went by that I didn't hurt myself or someone else. No, I was certain he was no longer interested. But I still hoped.
The entire class exchanged valentines and there were no special handmade cards in the little Valentine's mailboxes we'd made in art class. I still felt a bit sad, even though I had expected just this to happen.
When I came back from recess later that day, there was another handmade Valentine sitting in the center of my desk. Another heart in the customary Valentine's colors, only this one a bit more ornate than the one from the year before. It was trimmed in the lacy part from the heart doilies and there were glitter hearts over it. On the front was my name and on the inside…
Your still the prettyest.
Another search around the room, looking at the other students still yielded no results. I still had no idea who my Secret Admirer was. I couldn't figure out why he wouldn't sign his name to the beautiful cards. Maybe he was afraid of girl cooties? There was, of course, no such thing as girl cooties but boys were weird.
That Valentine, too, went into my Treasure Chest.
Second grade followed the pattern of the year before. Nothing during the class valentine exchange, but after recess, my Secret Admirer's card held center stage on my desk. It wasn't shaped as a heart and instead like a regular rectangular card, but there were hearts impeccably drawn all over the front. A collection of hearts made up my name.
In the English portion of our schooling, we'd been writing poems. That was what was on the inside of this third Valentine.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
But there isn't a flower,
As pretty as you.
I didn't bother looking around for the sender; I knew I wouldn't be able to find any clues. Instead, I couldn't wait to get home and put it with the other Valentines, which I pulled out and re-read often.
My best friend Edward came home with me after school and watched as I put the Valentine among the others. He was the only one I let see my treasures or know where I kept them. I remember how his lower lip jutted out into a pout when he saw the small collection of Valentines and even then I thought the expression was cute. He was jealous that someone was sending me things and I put them in the Chest, though to be fair, many things in the chest were things he'd given me. A shell from a trip he'd taken to the beach with his family that I was supposed to go on with them but ended up getting sick and a get well card from the same time, a drawing he'd done of the two of us together, a pretty, sparkly rock from the playground he'd given me the day we'd met…
I thought it was funny he was jealous of someone who wasn't even brave enough to sign his name to a card.
In third grade, the mysterious card held another poem
B is for the beauty of your smile.
E is for your eyes of chocolate brown.
L is for your laugh I love to hear.
L is for your loveliness, more than any other.
A is for adoration I will always have for you.
Edward again watched that afternoon as I placed it with the rest. If anything, he acted worse than the year before, wondering why I even bothered with saving them. I told him it was because my Secret Admirer liked me and thought I was pretty. My Secret Admirer liked me and the valentines were proof.
The last said on the topic was Edward's grumbled, "Well I like you, too. I liked you first."
Every year, either on Valentine's Day or the day of school just before the holiday, my Secret Admirer's valentine would make an appearance, sometimes with a small present of candy or little trinkets. They were all always made with painstaking care and with each year they became more personal; sometimes everything was drawn in painstaking detail—drawings of me or my favorite things or various Valentine-related paraphernalia—and sometimes there were beautiful works of art crafted from construction paper and glue. Though I never knew who sent them, he held a special place in my heart. I wished I knew more about him; I wished I knew who he was.
He'd been giving me a card every year for the past twelve years, surely that must mean that he cared for me, even if he lacked the confidence to tell me who he was. It was currently our senior year of high school and, presumably, this year would be the final valentine. School ended in just a few months and we'd all be going off to college in different states. I couldn't believe that he would have chosen to go to the same school as me.
After the Fourth Grade when Edward had a childish reaction to the valentines—and my reaction to them—I'd stopped sharing their existence with him, though I think he knew I still got them. He was my best friend and an especially observant person. He couldn't help but notice how anxious I was on Valentine's Day until I got my card. Bless his heart, though, he never mentioned it. Whether he did it because he was in denial or because he didn't want to make me uncomfortable, I didn't know, but neither did I care. I didn't need to listen to him have another hissy fit about me liking my Secret Admirer more than him. As much as I appreciated my admirer, I could never like him more than Edward. Edward was my best friend and had been from the first moment we'd met on that very first day of kindergarten.
I'd never been to any type of preschool, so it was my very first time in anything even remotely resembling school. I was excited, but terrified at the same time. I hadn't known what to expect and I hadn't known any of the other children. None of the neighbors had kids my age and Renee was a stay at home mother, so I'd never been to daycare. The lone park we'd gone to was secluded and largely unknown.
After Renee had dropped me off and I'd put my jacket and little backpack in the cubbyhole with my name on it, I'd gone to sit at one of the round tables. There had been other kids there, but they'd all seemed to know each other and I had been too shy to introduce myself. I remember keeping my teary gaze on my pink-and-white sneakers, studying the Pink Power Ranger more in those few minutes than I ever had before or since, when I saw a scuffed up pair of red-and-white Power Ranger sneakers enter my peripheral vision as someone sat in the plastic chair next to me.
The sneakers had a voice and it spoke to me. "Are you okay?"
I'd taken a deep breath and looked up at the owner of the Red Ranger sneaks and locked eyes with a small boy with reddish-brown hair that stuck up every which way and very green eyes. He'd looked nice, but even so I'd had trouble finding my voice. I'd nodded my head in response to his question.
I still don't know whether he'd believed me or not—in the twelve years we've known each other, he's never given me an answer—but he hadn't pressed the issue. Instead, he'd beamed brightly at me and introduced himself. "I'm Edward. What's your name?"
"Bella," I'd answered softly, my voice just barely above a whisper.
"I've never seen you before," he'd continued, not at all fazed by my barely-there response. "Do you know anyone else?"
I hadn't had to look around to know the answer to that, so I shook my head.
One of my most cherished memories is of that day we met and his next words to me. "That's okay. You stick with me and I'll take care of you. We can be best friends."
I'd liked the sound of that and tentatively smiled at him. "Okay. I'd like that," I'd said, my voice much stronger than when I'd introduce myself.
We'd been best friends ever since that day and I couldn't imagine my life without him in it. Not that I wanted to; I think that was one of my biggest, most terrifying nightmares. It was no secret to me that he was the most important person in my life, that he possessed a large portion of my heart. If not the whole of it.
So Edward had no reason whatsoever to be jealous of my Secret Admirer. Not that I could tell him the reason why. I just couldn't risk baring all to him and him not feeling the same way. It could change our entire friendship, and certainly not for the better. I'd rather have him in my life just as a friend than not have him at all.
How long I'd been in love with him, I didn't even know. Maybe it had happened the first day we met or maybe it came later. Or maybe I fell for him so gradually that it was impossible to pinpoint when it happened, exactly, but it wasn't really important just when I fell in love, just that I had.
The soft purr of an engine came from outside, a familiar sound I was used to hearing every day for the past couple years. Quickly, I slipped on my jacket and picked up my backpack before leaving the house and crossing the driveway to slide into the passenger side of the silver Volvo S60R. It was his baby; he cared more for that piece of machinery than just about anything in his life.
"Happy Valentine's day, Bella," Edward greeted with his customary crooked smile. He held his hand out, "For you."
I looked down and in his hand was a round box, wrapped in glittering red paper with a shiny white bow affixed to the top. "Oh, Edward…why did you do this? I didn't get you anything." I looked back up to his smiling face.
"I did it because I wanted to and I didn't expect you to get me anything," he replied easily with a shrug of his shoulders. He lightly shook the box. "Come on, aren't you going to open it? You know you want to."
Sighing, I reached out and took the box out of his hand. Unless I accepted his gift, he'd be insufferable. Removing the shiny wrapping paper, I looked at the box in my hand, a smile curving my lips. Chocolate. And not just any chocolate, but Choxie Champagne and Strawberry truffles. "My favorite."
"Oh, like I'm going to get you something you hate," Edward jokingly scoffed as he pulled away from the curb, taking us closer to school.
"I know," I replied. Leaning over the center console, I gave him a peck on his cheek. "Thank you very much…but you do know Valentine's Day really isn't until tomorrow, don't you?"
He chuckled softly and nodded his head. "I know, but I wanted to beat out your Secret Admirer and give you the first valentine."
I looked at him in surprise. It was the first reference he'd made to my Secret Admirer in years. "Edward…" I breathed. I knew him well enough to recognize the undercurrent of jealousy in his voice. "You're my best friend; you have nothing to worry about. You always come first with me and you know it."
"Yeah, but I see how happy those valentines make you and, I don't know…I don't want to lose you." He made the admission almost as though it was an embarrassing secret. He hated to make himself vulnerable, even in front of me, and I wanted to roll my eyes. Boys—even adorable ones I was in love with—could be so stupid sometimes.
"Like you ever could," I replied with a shake of my head. Reaching out, I pulled his right hand off the gear shift and intertwined my fingers with his. "Face it, Edward; you sealed your fate back in kindergarten. There's no getting rid of me now."
He chuckled a little and squeezed my hand before taking his away to turn into the school's parking lot. "I like the sound of that."
So did I.
He parked the car in his normal spot at the far end of the lot then turned to me again, a smile back on his beautiful face. "Come on, let's get to class."
The day went off as any other day, with no appearance of any valentines other than Edward's. On the one hand, I was glad of that. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep from letting Edward know that I'd gotten one; he knew me better than anyone else. I could hide little from him. Yet, on the other hand, I was a bit sad I hadn't yet received a token of my Secret Admirer's affection. What if he'd lost interest? What if he'd found someone else?
At lunch, I gave myself a mental talking to. The day was only half done and so what if my Secret Admirer had lost interest? It wasn't as if I was expecting mystery valentines every year for the rest of my life. We had no future together; I didn't even know who he was! I had no business being sad.
And there was a part of my mind telling me that I would find it in Biology, the lone class I had with Edward. I don't know why I so steadfastly believed that it would happen there. Maybe because they upset my best friend so much and made him feel unjustly insecure in our friendship. Or maybe just because, even when he wasn't in the exact vicinity when I got one, he was always nearby and would show up shortly.
And, sure enough, when we stepped into Mr. Banner's Biology classroom, my valentine was there on the lab table in front of my usual seat, along with a small wrapped present.
"Looks like You-Know-Who has been here," Edward remarked crankily.
"Edward," I gently admonished, "remember what I told you this morning. You come first. Always."
"Well, go on. Open it," he sighed, rolling his eyes as he did. He could be such a baby sometimes!
We were the first to reach the room, so we had some privacy for a few minutes; most of the other students waited until the last second to get to class.
As I took my seat, I looked at my Secret Admirer's valentine. As usual, the card was handmade. On the front of the white cardstock was a beautiful freesia, painted so realistically it was difficult to believe it was only a painting. Somehow, he knew that freesia was my favorite flower. This wasn't the first time he'd done something like this. He's quoted my favorite books, movies, and music and replicated some of my favorite works of art on the front of my valentines. How he learned his information was always a mystery to me, like so much about him.
I opened the card up to read the neat handwriting, wondering if he'd given me another quote. It wasn't.
My dearest Bella,
I would be honored if you would join me for dinner tomorrow at 6 pm at Sully's Drive-In. Please accept this gift as a token of my affection. Wear it today if you wish to meet me tomorrow.
Your Secret Admirer
"Well, what is it?"
I turned my head and met Edward's emerald green eyes, only inches from my own. He'd obviously been reading over my shoulder. Rolling my eyes, I turned my attention toward the pink and red wrapped present. It was a small-ish and square. And it wasn't that heavy, either, I realized when I picked it up. I quickly tore off the paper to reveal a black, velour jewelry box. My heart instantly leapt up into my throat. I hoped he hadn't spent too much money on me. I hated when people bought me gifts. I would've been delighted just with a card, an added present, as always, was unnecessary.
I slowly lifted the lid, gasping at the beautiful necklace that was nestled within. From a delicate gold chain hung a beautiful ruby-colored glass heart with golden flecks throughout; it was absolutely gorgeous.
"You're not actually going to go out with him, are you?" Edward questioned, eying me with a 'get real' expression.
I didn't answer for a few moments, studying the glass heart. Sully's Drive-In was my favorite restaurant in town; it wasn't anything fancy, but the food was good and there was always someone else there, so I'd certainly be safe enough. "I think I have to," I finally replied as the rest of our class began to filter in.
"No, you do not have to."
"Edward, I do. I think I have to meet him. If I don't, I'll always wonder who he was. I'll never be able to thank him for the valentines. Don't you understand?"
"I guess I do," he replied grudgingly. "Though I wish you wouldn't. He could be a complete psycho. Or worse. Who knows, maybe it's Vile Mike Newton."
I burst out laughing at his pouting. "Trust me, it's not Mike. If it were, he would've given up after I told him off in freshman year."
That got him laughing again. "That was great. I never thought you had it in you to make someone cry."
"Come on, help me put this on," I ordered as I lifted the necklace from its resting place. He took it from me and fastened it around my neck as I held my hair out of the way.
"I hope you're right and have a good time," he whispered as Mr. Banner entered the room and called the class to order. "But promise me that you'll call me if there's even a hint of any trouble."
"I promise," I replied happily. At least he wasn't going to throw a temper tantrum.
The entire next day was spent nervously trying to decide what to wear. I thought about calling Alice, but wasn't desperate enough for her to come over and play Barbie Bella. As much as I loved the little pixie, I would never be that desperate.
Edward had called me and asked again if I was really going to meet my Secret Admirer. I took the opportunity once again to reassure him that he was my best friend and would never be replaced. My promise of calling him if there was any trouble or I was just uncomfortable was voiced again before he let me get off the phone and get ready for dinner.
Eventually I'd decided on wearing a simple, blue wrap dress and my Secret Admirer's necklace. I knew I looked nice enough; Edward always said that blue was my color. After letting Renee fuss over how "cute" I looked, I climbed into my big red Chevy and started the drive to Sully's.
My fists clenched around the steering wheel so tightly my knuckles turned white. Butterflies swarmed in my stomach, so strongly I felt that they surely must be mutant butterflies with the wingspan of a golden eagle. But I couldn't turn back now. I had to know who my Secret Admirer was. I'd end up regretting it if I turned back now.
Pulling into a parking spot in front of Sully's, I cut the roaring engine and took a deep breath. It was time.
I hopped out of the cab and entered diner, inhaling the numerous, mouthwatering scents of the diner's specialties. Just stepping into the building could make you instantly ravenous. I looked around, searching for anyone around my age, but couldn't see anyone. With a sigh, I walked over to an empty booth and slid in.
A warm pair of hands covered my eyes and a shudder trailed down my spine; the touch was familiar. "Guess who," a masculine voice whispered into my ear.
"Edward?" I questioned, my heart beating double-time. "You're my Secret Admirer?"
He removed his hands from over my eyes and slid into the booth across from me, a bright smile quirking his lips. I couldn't believe it; how could he be my Secret Admirer? He'd always been a big baby whenever I'd get a card or gift.
I lifted my hand and pinched the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger, an affectation I'd gotten from him. Looking back on it, I supposed it made sense. It would explain how he knew all my favorite things and was able to slip his cards to me every single year. Though I hadn't seen him draw or paint for years, when we were younger, he'd always been brilliant at it. Even the handwriting had been familiar to me, though I knew Edward had to have taken great pains to disguise it enough that I wouldn't immediately know it as his. How had I missed all the clues?
"Bella? Are you alright?" he asked, leaning across the table and looking at me in concern.
I realized I hadn't spoken in a while and I nodded my head. "Yeah, I'm alright. Just surprised. I mean…you?"
"Yes, me," he replied, frowning. "Are you disappointed?"
Shaking my head, I laughed. "Not at all. I'm just…I never expected it was you."
"That was the point. I would hardly be a Secret Admirer if you knew it was me, now would I?"
"I suppose not," I chuckled softly. "But…what is all this?"
It was his turn to remain silent for a few moments. I could see that he was trying to gather his thoughts and I kept quiet, allowing him to do so. Collecting himself, he reached across the table and took my hand in his; his crystal clear eyes locked with my own. I felt my heart stutter as he began to speak.
"Bella, I've been in love with you since the day I first met you. I'd never met anyone so kind and generous and the more I got to know you, the deeper I fell. I wanted to tell you how I felt, but you were my best friend and I didn't want to ruin anything between us, so I became your Secret Admirer."
His reasoning was the same as mine; I could understand exactly where he came from. "Why did you choose now to tell me this?"
"I wasn't sure how you'd take it before, but I finally decided that I couldn't go another day without you knowing how I feel about you. Without you knowing just how ardently I admire and love you."
Tears came to my eyes as he quoted one of my favorite lines from Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth had absolutely nothing on Edward. The words sounded infinitely sweeter in Edward's velvety voice than they ever could in anyone else's.
His eyes darkened in concern once again as he saw my tears. I quickly raised myself up and leaned across the table, pressing my lips to his. They were soft, yet firm at the same time. I'd imagined kissing him a million times, yet none of my fantasies had ever come close to this reality. It was magic.
His hands came up to cup the back of my head as he hesitantly deepened the kiss, tracing my lips with his tongue until I parted them and he slipped inside. I moaned softly in my throat; he tasted like heaven.
Slowly, the kiss came to an end and we parted. "I take it you have no objections."
"None at all," I laughed. "I've loved you for years; probably just as long as you. I never want to live without you in my life."
"Good thing you'll never have to," he replied.
He met my lips once again, the promise of forever in his kiss.
It was a promise I'd make sure he kept.