Valentine smelled cigarette smoke. Her stepfather must have come home last night. Not surprising. He always made it home for Valentine’s day. Tina would have a fit if he didn’t. Tina was Valentine’s Mother.
Valentine had heard the story about how she got her name many times. Her Mother and Father had been romantically involved in High School. They were going to get married. He left Tina very pregnant and said he needed to think. She got word that he was killed in a car accident in Texas. She cried all night. The next day, two whole months early, Valentine was born. On Valentine’s day, Tina had called her Valentine. She never allowed Valentine to call her Mom. She taught her to call her Tina.
Valentine pulled her purple comforter over her head and groaned. Tina was in her doorway. “Wake Up, Wake Up! We gotta suhprise for you!” Tina said. Valentine put one foot on her bedroom floor. She pulled the comforter down and smiled at Tina. She raised up fast. “What do I get Tina! “said Valentine. “Come on, come on” called Tina as she went down the hall.
Valentine stood up and stretched her arms out. She slipped on some sweat pants ran her fingers through her hair and headed down the hall. She was sure they would out do themselves. They always tried to. Tina was in the kitchen lighting candles with Bo’s lighter. There was a pink cake, a big strawberry stuck on top and three lit candles around it. Bo, Tina and a strange man were sitting in the kitchen. “Who is he? Valentine said.
“Hold your Horses “Bo said. Tina was laughing and smiling. Bo kept grabbing at her. They were whispering back and forth. Valentine blew out her candles and Tina and Bo sang “Happy Birthday”. Valentine grabbed a fork and scraped a little bite off the edge of the cake. Tina said “Okay, you know how they said your Fawtha was killed in a cah accident right?” Valentine said “Yeah, so”
Valentine was looking at the man. He looked like a business man. Clean cut, salt and pepper hair. About 50 years old. Dress shirt and tie. Dress pants, dress shoes. Those little reader glasses that you see people wear. “Well Valentine! this is Mistah Smith, he says your Fawtha is alive and well! He is also very wealthy and Mistah Smith has brought ten thousand dollahs for me as back child suppawt! Isn’t that great Honey! The best pawt of it all is Mistah Smith is taking you to live with your Fawtha!”
Valentine was shocked, she stared at her Mother, then Bo to see if it was a joke. Valentine felt like her heart would beat out of her chest, she said “I am not going with him”. Tina yelled “Yes you will! That is the agreement we made, Your Fawtha can take care of you bettah than me, besides, we can talk when I get back from Bahmuda“. “Are you kidding me Tina? Are you kidding me? I am not going with him! screamed Valentine. Tina reached out for her daughter and said “Just try it, Please, for me, When I get back if you don’t like it you can come back home, okay?” Fine I will go, Fine!” Valentine screamed and she stormed off toward her room. Tina yelled behind her “Just take a little, they are sending for your things latah“.
Valentine held back tears. She turned around and stood against the wall in the hallway to catch her breath. This didn’t seem real, she wanted to go back to sleep and wake up again. This was her “Sweet 16”, didn’t her Mother love her at all? A million thoughts rushed through her mind. Her Mother came over and sort of halfway kissed her cheek and said, “You will see Baby, It will be bettah, Bettah than this, and besides, Mama needs a break”. She laughed and sauntered back to Bo. Bo said “What no goodbye kiss for me”
Valentine looked at Tina with her over bleached hair and bad clothes, Bo with his beer belly and halitosis. They were hanging on one another, Tina was licking icing off the end of the big strawberry as Bo held it above her face. Mr. Smith looked at them with disgust. Valentine was embarrassed, Valentine was hurt. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, maybe it would be cool she thought. She went to her room and dumped her book bag on the floor. She got her cell phone from the night stand. It was dead, she had forgotten to charge it. She shoved her cell and her charger in her bag. She dumped out the laundry basket by her bed and hastily shoved her clothes in the bag. She pulled her hoodie over her head and slipped her socks and tennis shoes on. She tried to zip her bag.
Mr. Smith was in her door. “Anything I can help with? We need to get going” he said. “Yeah, here” said Valentine and she shoved the book bag at him. “Zip it” she said. She ran to the bathroom to pee and brush her teeth. She shoved her tooth-brush and acne cream in her hoodie pocket and looked in the mirror, her black, curly hair was a mess. She used her wide toothed comb to pick it out and placed it in her pocket too. She grabbed a pony tail holder off the sink and pulled it up into a messy bun.
Tina hugged her on the way to the car. He drove an Audi. She got in the front while Mr. Smith put her bag in the trunk. Tina and Bo were on the stoop and Tina was waving hysterically. “ Bye Bye Mistah Smith, I love you Valentine, Don’t faghet to Cawl me!she yelled as Mr. Smith man shut the door. Valentine turned and watched until she couldn’t see Tina and Bo anymore. They turned the corner. She said “So Mr. Smith, when did my Dad send you to find me?” “We will talk about that later “he said. “For now, how about a drink to celebrate your special day”.
This is unreal Valentine thought as the man handed her a silver flask with little symbols all over it. She opened it and took a drink, it tasted fruity, good. She took another and handed it back to him. “Don’t you want any? ” she said. “No’ No, I am driving” he replied as he smiled. “I should probably eat something” Valentine said to the man. She suddenly felt funny. Her eyelids felt heavy. She was sleepy. “Whaat wuzz in that drink? Valentine slurred. As they headed down the exit ramp to the interstate, Valentine realized He had put the bag with her cell phone in the trunk.