A/N: I have no rights or affiliation with the characters presented within this piece
He groaned, grabbing a pillow from the sofa he thrust it over his face and yelled into it. It worked, the sound was muffled and Stone Cold didn't come running downstairs to see what was happening, what potential murder and mayhem was going on in his very own living room as he arrived primed and ready for battle, deadly silver weapon already in hand…
"Not again!" he whined to himself, "Not yet again, one year later." It was the day once more and no one, simply no one had remembered. He was okay with not a single soul in Port Charles being aware of his natal day. He would have liked an acknowledgement-a card, a cake, a Porsche-but really, how could they know? "Yet, they never asked," was the plaintive thought that whipped across his traitorous brain blocking his impulse to be forgiving, to be humble, to be happy with his lot.
He tried, he really, really did. He knew when fashion week was, when the continental spring and fall shows were. Maxie's birthday-Halloween-check, the first time they kissed-got that, the first time, well, now he was just blushing. Still, dates-business, personal, anniversary, commercial holidays-he remembered each and every one with thoughtful, appropriate gestures and gifts. He tried to be considerate and he didn't do it to get repaid in kind. No, he did it because he cared. If you didn't go out of your way to show the people in your life that what was important to them was by extension of interest and value to you then what kind of friend or boyfriend were you?
"When the gun show came to Port Charles, did the Jackal not purchase an all access pass for his Master?" He mumbled to himself as he picked idly at the weave of the couch pillow. "Do I not faithfully and consistently build a video album of all the important dates in young Jacob Martin's life and present them anonymously as a disc laying casually on the desk so that Stone Cold need not feel obliged to acknowledge that which he has sworn to deny?" Now he was starting to feel sulky as the grievances against the two most important people in his life started to accrue, began to show him that it wasn't quite the two way street of caring that he had lulled himself into believing that it was.
"Last year, well, that the Jackal understands, tis forgivable. It twas the time for building awareness, for education but now today, he should be reaping the fruits of his labor." He sighed dramatically as he leaned back into the sofa cushions, throwing the pillow up high into the air and catching it.
He knew better, this was-as usual-a case of hope getting the better of his commonsense. If he had just done what he done every year prior, had just made the order well, then at least he could have had enjoyed a private celebration. Yet, because he had put his faith in Maximista and Stone Cold doing right by their loyal Jackal, he wasn't only disappointed, he was sans the means to enjoy the day, the occasion albeit a solitary and sterile observance.
He closed his eyes and tried to conjure up images of what he was missing, tried to trick his taste buds into believing they were being stimulated by the exotic flavors and textures that he would have had on hand and more importantly in mouth-if only…His self-hypnosis was only partially successful when even that paltry recompense was interrupted by a loud knocking at the front door accompanied by Maxie's very recognizable and less than dulcet tones. "Spinelli, open up, I've got something for you!"
Revitalized and with a wide grin on his face he sprang from the couch with alacrity. His trust hadn't been misplaced, his Maximista indeed cared, had come through for him-Damian Spinelli! He regretted ever having a moment's doubt as to her constancy, the depth of her feeling for him as he opened the door and greeted her expectantly. "Maximista, the Jackal was beginning to despair, was in the throes of misery and abandonment but all is well as your presence here today indicates that you recollected the importance of this date."
She grinned broadly at him as she reached up and wrapping her arms around his neck gave him a resounding kiss on the cheek that left a perfect set of pastel pink lips decorating his face. "Of course, I didn't forget silly, how could I?" She stepped breezily into the penthouse muttering an aside under her breath, 'You certainly talked about it enough!"
Spinelli was all puppy dog as he practically pranced around her staring firstly at her empty hands and then with more focus at the oversized hand bag looped over her shoulder. He looked up at her face which wore a teasing expression that was matched by the hopeful gleam in his green eyes. "Well…" he prompted her breathlessly.
"Here you go," she chirped, reaching into her bag and after rummaging around for a moment retrieved a plastic sack that she handed over to him with a flourish of silent trumpets.
Eagerly he received her offering, smiling happily at her and then looking down with anticipation at what she had given him. It took a moment for the expression on his face to alter; it was akin to watching the sun be hidden by sudden cloud cover. "What's wrong?" She asked, not knowing how she could have messed up a simple task like this but guessing there was something that was lacking.
He looked up at her, his eyebrows drawn together in a frown and held the bag out towards her accusingly. "Maxie," already she could sense she was in trouble since he wasn't using her special name. "These are Red Vines."
Reluctantly she took back the proffered package and gazed down at it in confusion. "Yeah, that's right-licorice ropes." She tried to hand it back to Spinelli, now that she knew there hadn't been a mix-up, that she had bought exactly what she had intended. Somehow it was Spinelli that had it backwards or maybe she had messed up on the correct protocol or something…"Happy National Licorice Day," she said this time as she pressed the candy on him.
His only response was a despondent sigh as he put his hands behind his back refusing the offensive package as he turned to go back to the couch where he flopped down lengthwise and covered his face with his only true friend-the sofa pillow.
"Spinelli," Maxie whined as she followed him and placing the Red Vines on the coffee table, sat in a chair next to the couch. "What's wrong? I remembered the date, I brought you licorice." Now she was starting to feel peeved at his callous treatment of her thoughtful gesture. "I mean really," she thought to herself with aggravation, "Who celebrates National Licorice Day-who? Spinelli that's who." she answered her own question, with resignation as she chalked up another one in the endless list of quirks that defined her essential person.
"No, Maximista," he had removed the pillow from his face and was looking at her balefully. "You feel that you have accomplished something simply by indulging what you consider to be a foible of the Jackal. You obviously paid no attention to the fact that I love licorice and that it is a delicacy that is held in contempt and even active dislike by much of the populace. You and much of the feminine gender think nothing of having chocolate cravings-celebrating such desires often with a frequency which is supplemented by the presence of a Chocolatier on practically every street corner. It isn't easy being a licorice aficionado. We are a rare breed and this day that seems so ridiculous and artificial to one of your ilk is a unique annual event wherein we are allowed to come out of the candy closet as it were." His completed his speech, clearly his feelings were deeply injured and to further illustrate his melancholy, he once again placed the pillow over his face.
Maxie was getting more and more angry. Here she had gone and done this nice thing for him to celebrate this stupid, made up holiday and all he could do was rag on her. "That's exactly what I did, Spinelli. I went out and bought licorice specifically for you so that you could have it on your special day." Her voice was diamond sharp with impatience and she was fighting the urge to rip that pillow out of his hands and hit him with it.
This time he spoke through the pillow, not even deigning to look at her. "No, that is not what Maximista did," and for the first time she wished he hadn't used that particular appellation. "You brought me Red Vines, they are not licorice."
She was having a hard time hearing him through the deadening effect of the pillow but she had heard enough. "Sure they are, everyone knows that Red Vines are red licorice…" She had been intending to go on and continue her dissertation secure in the knowledge that this time she was right, that she knew something Spinelli obviously didn't but she faltered when she saw he was out from behind his shield and glaring at her.
Biting off each word, Spinelli didn't allow her to finish. "There is no such thing as red licorice. Licorice by definition is a flavor not a color. The candy is flavored by an extract from the root of the licorice plant and that makes it true licorice. Those," and he waved disgustedly at the bag of Red Vines, "Are simply a misnamed, tasteless confectionery that have absolutely nothing to do with the sublime flavor that is the definitive quality of licorice."
"Eeeewww!" Maxie squealed in disgust, finally understanding what Spinelli was talking about. "You meant black licorice, that stuff is gross! It tastes horrible, how can you possibly like it? They have a day to celebrate that?" She finished incredulously, wondering if she were right to keep Spinelli in her life after this revelation. She was as broadminded as the next person, but really there were limits!
He gazed at her in offense, hurt and taken aback but deep down not really surprised at the vehemence of her reaction. Such was the sad and lonely lot of a licorice devotee. They were glowering at each other in mutual incomprehension when Jason came bounding downstairs. "Hey, Maxie thought I heard your voice." He greeted her, looking curiously at the two as he wondering wearily what they were finding to fight about this time. "Hey, Spinelli got something for you…" Jason headed over to the desk and pulled out a small, patterned cardboard box and threw it at his roommate. "Catch!" He added belatedly, forgetting that a quick reaction time wasn't among the skills possessed by his grasshopper.
Once again Spinelli was smiling while Maxie narrowed her eyes at Jason. "Trust him to upstage her!" She thought furious at the idea that he might have gotten the upper hand in the perennial tug of war they fought over Spinelli's unsuspecting fealty.
"Stone Cold the Jackal is speechless that you would have taken the time out of your busy schedule to remember something that is of import to him but not to others." He took a moment to look pointedly over at Maxie who matched his glare with her own defiant stare. Then for the second time in a relatively short period, Spinelli's happy demeanor was once more deflated as he looked down at the white and purple box in his hands. "Good and Plenty," he said in disbelief, "You bought Good and Plenty to honor the observance of this sacred day?" His voice clearly communicated his lack of appreciation.
"Yeah," Jason felt unaccountably miffed, after all, he'd remembered the God damned day hadn't he? "It's today right, that National Licorice whatchamacallit?"
"Yes, it's today," Spinelli said in dull agreement as he carefully placed the box of readily available candies next to the reviled Red Vines. Maxie smirked nastily at Jason, glad that it seemed he had failed Spinelli as completely as she had. "Well," he continued pulling himself up from the couch and going to the coat closet to retrieve one of his numerous jackets, "It seems as though once again the Jackal will be ordering his own confectionery. Though needless to say it will arrive too late to be consumed on the day in question." With his laptop draped across his chest the disillusioned young hacker left the penthouse without a further word to either Maxie or Jason who were left to stare at one another in mystification.
Spinelli wandered aimlessly for a while before heading for the docks. It was a lovely spring day with birds singing and tulips blooming but he noted none of it for the Jackal was soul sick. He wanted nothing more than to use his trusty cyber companion and order some gourmet licorice from one of the specialty sites he frequented. He was walking down the dock stairs not paying attention to where he was going when he collided unexpectedly with a girl.
They both went sprawling. She recovered first and once more standing, was holding out a hand to help him up. "Many apologies, I wasn't looking carefully where I was going." Her English was good but there was a slight foreign sense to the phrasing and the faintest tendril of an accent evident.
Spinelli accepted her aid and scrambled to his feet. "No, it is the Jackal who must apologize…" His voice trailed off as he got his first good look at her. She was beautiful, cast in the mold that he worshipped. She had long flowing blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes and a peaches and cream complexion. Her lips were curved in a friendly smile framing even white teeth possessing a slight overbite which made him swallow as his pulse raced and he contemplated her with his ever ready romantic heart. "My fault entirely," he insisted gallantly as he took her hand once more and bending over pressed his lips tenderly to it. Looking up shyly at her, his green eyes peering out from under his shaggy bangs, he introduced himself, "Damian Spinelli at your service."
Her smile widened even more as she giggled at his old fashioned manners, "I am Annika, Annika VanHouten."
"Ah, mademoiselle is Dutch, I perceive," he hazarded a guess, suddenly delighted with the turn the day had taken.
"You have it right!" She exclaimed with glee clapping her hands together and issuing a tinkling little laugh that sent chills down his spine. "So, few Americans know that is where I am from. You are quite perceptive, no?"
Spinelli shrugged modestly, "I am perceptive to charming young ladies from the Netherlands, yes." He responded easily as he was once more rewarded by that wonderful laugh.
"Come," she said engagingly as she wrapped her hand confidently in the crook of his arm. "We shall walk and talk and get to know one another and you shall become my first true American friend." She reached into her purse with her free hand pulling out a white paper sack that she held out to Spinelli, "Salmiakdrop?" She asked casually.
He reached in and plucked out a dull black oval and popped it in his mouth. "What is…" he had started to ask when he suddenly clutched at his throat as the awful saltiness of the unknown substance caused him to gag. He stumbled backwards in shock and though Annika tried her best to pull him towards her, she couldn't fight the overpowering yank of gravity and Spinelli fell off the dock into the harbor.
Sputtering and choking, Spinelli treaded water as Annika called anxiously out to him from the dock where she was down on her knees ineffectually reaching out to him, "Damian, Damian are you all right?"
A crowd of onlookers had gathered and people were searching for some way to get the young man back on dry land. Someone called out to Spinelli and pointed to a rickety ladder on the side of the dock. He gamely swam towards it and in his sodden clothes with his ruined laptop banging against his chest he was hauled out of the water by a multitude of helpful hands.
He stood on the dock, shivering in the April breeze; it was a long way from swimming weather in Port Charles. "Oh, Damian," it was Annika her big blue eyes swimming with tears while her lower lip was being bitten in the most entrancing manner by those sharp white teeth as she looked at him anxiously. "It is all my fault, I forgot that most Americans are not used to the flavor of the Salmiakdrop. It is something of an acquired taste."
He waved at her forgivingly as he heaved up another mouthful of salt water that still didn't taste as repulsive as that black whatever it was that he had put unsuspectingly in his mouth. "What exactly is a Salmiakdrop?" He gasped out, determined to know so that he would never, ever make the mistake of eating one again.
"Oh," she said dismissively as she put a supporting arm around his waist and they turned towards the stairs and home in order to get Spinelli warmed up and into dry clothes, "It's what you call liquorice."
National Licorice Day is April 12
A/N Reviews and perceptions are appreciated