55: Valentine

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Autumn and Adrian walk together to school, like any other day, not making much conversation. She doesn't say anything about her suspicions about Jayson, knowing he would just laugh as if she were joking, and knowing herself, she would laugh it off like it was meant to be a joke. So she just stays silent. 

She tries to put the whole thing behind her. It wasn't possible. He was dead. 

But she just can't forget it. 

*~*~*

February 14th. 

What does it mean to you?

This is their writing warm-up prompt for Power of the Pen, the writing club at their school. In most schools, Power of the Pen is a try-out-to-get-in club, but in their puny school, there weren't many writers to begin with. There were only eight of them. 

Autumn poises her pencil above her paper and taps it against where she'll start her first letter.

She's not sure what to write. Best to be honest, she thinks, I'm the only one who's going to read this, and it's just a warm-up. It isn't being judged. 

So she writes. 

To be honest, yes, February 14th is Valentine's Day or whatever, but that doesn't make this random winter Thursday any more special than last Thursday or next Thursday. I'm not saying 'Oh, woe is me, I'll always be alone, boohoo,' or anything stupid like that. I'm just being honest. 

She stops, not sure what else to say. She doesn't have a crush on anyone, and is 99% sure no one has a crush on her. She just thinks of Valentine's Day as an excuse to buy chocolate on sale. She likes it that way. 

At the end of the day, they've written love letters to fictional characters, analyzing their personality and make then want to date you. She writes to Sirius Black, complimenting his motorcycle-flying skills. 

Back home, she hasn't yet set her things down when the doorbell rings. It is five o'clock; she isn't expecting anyone. 

She looks through the window, but can't distinguish who it is. Whoever it is is wearing a black suit and has a tall and stiffly straight posture. 

Curious more than she is cautious, she opens the door. 

It's Adrian. 

"Oh, uh, hi!" she says awkwardly, welcoming him in. He smiles at her, his hair tousled just enough to make his tuxedo seem more casual. He pulls from his pocket no fancy chocolate, but two Hershey bars. 

"Care for one?"

She smiles and takes one from him, and he unwraps the other. They enjoy some chocolate, talking about life in the living room, and being mostly casual. The Valentine-ness of the day makes it only to the back of their minds. 

The sun starts to set at seven, and Autumn gets up. "I should really do my homework and eat. I'll see you tomorrow?"

He stands, too, his face flushing as he stares at his feet. 

"Wait! I, uh... there's something else I wanted to... say before I left..."

Autumn tries to meet his eye, but he stares at the floor. She looks at him expectantly. 

"I know it's... not for a while, but... ah..." He scratches the back of his neck, a nervous habit he has. 

"Yes?"

"Will you... go to prom with me?"

She blushes furiously. He is a friend, not a boyfriend. It makes her embarrassed to think he likes her more than that. 

"I... can I think about it?"

He finally looks up, which is somehow a relief. "Sure. Yeah. Take your time. No rush. Just let me know, okay?"

She smiles at him, trying to relieve the awkward tension the question left. He smiles weakly in return. 

Silence fills the room. Adrian slaps his hands together. "Well, I should let you get to your homework. I'll... see you tomorrow."

He leaves through the front door before she can respond. 

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