A Good Start

Violet walked into Cooper's office and announced, "I hate Valentine's Day!"

"Okay, I'll bite." Cooper laid down his pen and joined Violet on the couch. He propped his feet up on his coffee table and asked, "What could you possibly hate about a holiday that gives you carte blanche to eat chocolate?"

"It's not a holiday," Violet argued. "The banks are still open."

Cooper laughed, "Semantics."

Violet leaned forward and helped herself to the bowl of sweets on Cooper's coffee table. She unwrapped a piece of dark chocolate, popped it into her mouth, and ranted, "Society dictates that once a year, in order to be a whole person, you need to have a significant other. God forbid you're alone on Valentine's Day." She stuffed another candy into her mouth and said, "It re-enforces the notion that people are incomplete without a partner and that's very unhealthy-"

Cooper interrupted her, "Have you always been this cynical?"

"It's one of my more endearing qualities," she deadpanned. "Or it's the crazy talking."

Cooper smiled and proudly exclaimed, "Well, I love Valentine's Day."

Violet was incredulous. "But you just broke up with Charlotte -- You're alone."

Cooper took immediate offense and insisted quite forcefully, "I'm not alone. I love the single life." When Violet didn't look convinced, he expounded his plans for the night, "Drinks at Moon Bar are half-price and lonely women are desperate. It's like shooting fish in a barrel."

"That's disgusting."

"It's the ugly truth," he told her, completely unapologetic for his lifestyle as of late. "The women are consenting adults and I deserve a little fun after the crap I've been through."

Violet recognized the fact that Cooper was devolving by leaps and bounds. All the progress he'd made during his relationship with Charlotte had been tossed out the door when he'd tossed her things out, and now, he was back to his old, emotionally handicapped self with a nasty temper to boot. Violet didn't want to start another argument, so she let his behavior go unchecked yet again. She opted to joke, "Well, at least you don't have to worry about buying flowers or jewelry."

Cooper's entire demeanor changed in an instant. He scowled and swore underneath his breath, "Son of a bitch."

"What's wrong?"

"Charlotte, of course!" He snarled, "It's always Charlotte." Cooper berated himself for a few seconds, then admitted, "I sent her flowers."

"What?!" Violet frowned. "Why?"

Cooper put his head into his hands and explained himself, "I pre-ordered Valentine's Day flowers months ago." He swore again. "I forgot to cancel the order after we broke up."

Violet couldn't help but find a little humor in the situation. "So, your ex-girlfriend is going to get a bunch of roses from you?" She snickered, "That won't send the wrong message at all."

Cooper stood up, resisting the overwhelming urge to kick the coffee table. "Damn that woman," he swore. "Damn that frustrating, difficult woman!"

"Calm down." Violet didn't have the emotional wherewithal to deal with hateful Cooper, so she tried to quell his temper. "Maybe she hasn't received them yet."

"You're right," Cooper realized. "Her office is down the hall. I can intercept them and she'll never know." He tore out of the office like a shot and after a minute, Violet thought better of letting him go alone. She walked out of the office and was greeted by a curious sight; Cooper was transfixed in front of the break room with a scowl on his face.

Violet walked up beside her friend and looked through the window. Charlotte was fussing over an extravagant bouquet of red roses. She had a silly, besotted smile on her face as she plucked the card out of the arrangement and gingerly tore open the crisp, white envelope.

"Cooper!" Violet shoved him toward the door. "Get in there! She's going to read the card!"

But Cooper didn't move. He stood rooted to the spot and watched Charlotte open the card. She mouthed the words to the love note as she read it to herself. Her little grin transformed into bright, beaming smile. She closed her eyes and leaned down to smell the sweet flowers, then exhaled a blissful sigh.

Violet was confused. She looked up at Cooper and asked, "What just happened? Why didn't she react?"

Cooper's angry scowl was replaced by poorly-concealed displeasure. "I had the florist sign the card from 'A Secret Admirer' as a joke. She must actually think the flowers are from an admirer."

Violet looked at her friend and felt enormous pity for him. Judging from the crestfallen look on his face, he was getting his first real slap of reality. Violet tried to be gentle with him as she pointed out, "You've treated her terribly. She has no reason to think you'd send her dozens of roses."

Cooper wrestled with his obvious disappointment, then fell right back into anger. "I should go in there and take them back!"

Violet was appaled. "Cooper, come on." All of the pettiness and the nastiness suddenly became too much, and she decided that Cooper needed someone to set him straight. "Look at Charlotte!" Violet pointed through the window. "Look at how happy you've made her!" She turned back to her friend and demanded, "Do you really want to go in there and hurt her? Because that's what you'll do -- You'll hurt her."

"She hurt me!" Cooper looked startled by his own outburst and struggled to regain his composure. He looked at the floor and whispered, "She hurt me, okay?"

Violet took advantage of her friend's high-emotional state to say her peace, "You love that woman. You love that woman more than you want to admit -- and you're running scared!"

"I'm not scared! I'm furious!"

"You're furious with yourself!" Violet retorted. "You're furious with yourself because you've fallen in love and it's forever, and that scares you." She pointed an accusing finger at Cooper and said, "You used her marriage as an excuse to pick a fight because fighting was comfortable." Violet realized they were attracting the attention of waiting patients, so she lowered her voice. "I don't know what was said, but I'm guessing that things got out of control. You both said things you didn't mean and now you're both too hurt and angry and proud to make the first move."

Cooper wasn't prepared to admit anything, but he didn't deny it either. He looked at the ground and quietly conceded, "I guess I could let her keep the roses."

Violet patted her friend on the shoulder. She was proud of him. "That would be a nice gesture -- the first of many-- but still, a good start."


A/N: REVIEWS ARE LIKE CHOCOLATE-COVERED KISSES! HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!