Last February, I entered a short-story contest, requiring a Valentine-themed story of no more than 1,000 words. I wrote Web of Love but when I tried to submit it, I saw the contest was for US citizens only. Bummer. I then published it on Writersky, a platform similar to Wattpad, and for months it was the most-viewed story there. As a way to wish to all of you “Happy Valentine’s Day”, I’m publishing a new, retouched version of Web of Love. Three PoVs, a spider and a sprinkling of magic in a little over 1,000 words. I hope you enjoy it.
Web of Love
Lorelai strode to the door and yanked it open, ready to pounce on whoever dared mess with her blissed-out state of mind.
No one was there. She looked down. The fine hairs on her nape stood on end.
“No, no, no. Please don’t let that be from Hank.”
Smart, sexy, gorgeous Hank who, last night, after worshipping every inch of her body and turning her into a puddle of goo, had said he loved her.
Not that she hadn’t beaten him there. She’d known she was in love for quite some time, and she was ecstatic he felt the same way, but by now, he should have known that Lorelai Pierce, the best-selling dark fantasy author, and heart-shaped, red velvet boxes did not mesh well.
Please, don’t let him be like my ex! The guy whose sole goal in life was to “girl her up”. They’d broken up two years ago, but still, every Valentine’s Day, he’d send her…
Wait. What’s the day today? Of course. The cheesy gift might not have come from Hank after all. With her heart kicking her ribs like a wild stag, she picked the box up and tugged at its too pink ribbon, bracing herself for a flower scent overload.
Her shriek put even Tabitha, her demon-hunted heroine, to shame.
“Didn’t you have a pet spider here?” asked the old lady in a distinct Italian accent.
Mike stabbed the Styrofoam block with his shears. “Yeah, she’s … gone.”
Gone, as in hand delivered to Rory, disguised as a Valentine’s gift. Way to go, Mike! Really mature to freak Rory out by sending her his gargantuan tarantula in a heart-shaped box. Maybe his impulsive act of vengeance had temporarily soothed his boiling anger, but now his heart was clenched as tight as the twenty-piece pink roses bouquet he’d just bound with … black ribbon? He rolled his eyes. With a flick of his wrist, his shears snapped the ribbon, and the roses spilled on the counter. He looked at them feeling helpless.
The biggest money-making day of the year, and he felt like storming out of his own shop. But how could he feel any different when Rory–his sweet, loving Lorelai–was cheating on him? How was he supposed to keep his wits together when he had gone to her house to see her laughing in the arms of a tall, muscular man? The man who had visited his flower shop earlier, looking for the perfect Valentine’s gift for “the love of his life”. Rory’s giggles and her “Oh, Hank, stop” cries had carried through her living room window. And all this time, he was standing like an idiot outside, holding the perfect purple hydrangea and lavender rose bouquet, its color blending into his chilled hands.
The bouquet ended up in a trashcan, but he’d made sure she got her Valentine’s gift all right. With her insect phobia, he bet that by now the entire neighborhood had a pretty good idea what it was.
A customer entered, and he looked up, locking eyes with … Rory! Cheeks pink from the cold, a dazzling smile stretching her full lips, that girl was the farthest thing from freaked out; she was a Valentine’s Kodak moment!
“Mikey!” She skirted the counter and threw herself at him. “Oh my God, Mikey!” Pulling back, she placed her hand in front of her face, making him take a step back. “The answer is yes!”
“What?” He held her hand away to take a better look. She was wearing a diamond ring. His diamond ring. The one he’d meticulously removed from his perfect bouquet. The one he’d made sure not to include in the heart-shaped box he’d delivered the spider in.
Rory was ready to burst at her seams with excitement. “When you didn’t show up and never answered my calls, I thought maybe you’d somehow seen me with Henry and came to the wrong conclusion.”
The nerve. “You with Hank,” he said through gritted teeth.
Rory bobbed her head. “Yes. Hank, as in my brother Henry Johnston, Lieutenant Commander of the U.S. Navy. The one you’ve never met? The fleet is back from South Korea and he popped over before he went to see his girl.” She threw a hand over her head. “Ooh, he’s a goner! I’ve never seen him so in love. I think very soon yet another Lorelai will join the family.” Her plump lower lip curled. “I wish you’d come over to meet him, though. Only Hank and you can make me laugh so hard.”
“Oh,” was all Mike said.
Jesus almighty, that guy was her brother? How could he have been so stupid … acted so impulsively? Now he’d ruined… But wait a second, Rory was beaming at him and wearing his ring. He ran his hand over his heart and didn’t feel the ring in his breast pocket. How on earth…?
And now she was crying. “Mikey, I love you.” She took a look at the ring and threw her arms around his neck.
Mike held her soft body against his and inhaled her lemony scent. He had no idea how disaster had been averted, but he wasn’t spoiling anything for them. Ever again.
“I love you too, baby. So, so much! Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Hank’s mind drew a blank at the image before him. Lorelai looked ecstatic. No problem there. That was the reaction he was going for when he’d planned his surprise. What was totally out of place was that instead of his beautiful flower arrangement, she was holding a crawly, hairy beast! And instead of screaming bloody murder, her face was a picture of bliss.
“How did you know?” She beamed a huge smile at him. “I mean, I don’t remember mentioning it, but I had a pet tarantula in my teens. I had even named her. Tabitha. That’s who I named my series’ heroine after. When I lost her, I cried for days. This one,” she gazed at the spider adoringly, “looks exactly like her.” She placed the insect—whose size alone should qualify it for an animal designation—in a large glass container. Swirling around in a manner too girly for Lorelai, she looked at him with bright, sparkly eyes.
“When I saw the red box with the pink ribbon, it looked like a sappy Valentine’s gift, and I thought no, not him, too.” She went up to him and curled her arms around his neck. “But you do get me. Like no one ever did. I love you, Henry Johnston.”
Hank decided to let the mystery of how his beautiful bouquet turned into a hairy monster go for now, and he held her close. She was the most fascinating woman he’d ever met. Independent, mysterious, unconventional. But also so refreshingly genuine.
“Looks like I still have a lot to learn.” He pulled back and gazed into her dark, moist eyes. “But I promise you this. When I’m done learning, you won’t know where I start and you finish,” he said and took her mouth in a searing kiss.
“I’d better pay for this and let you two lovebirds enjoy your day.” The old lady placed a small gardenia pot on the counter. Mike reluctantly removed his mouth from Rory’s and turned to her.
“It’s on the house. Best day of my life!”
“Why, thank you, young man. That’s so generous. Here’s the address I want this delivered to.” She slipped a piece of paper across the counter to him.
“Right. You haven’t signed it though. Who shall I say it’s from?”
“Just jot down my first name. Everyone knows me by that.”
Mike raised his brows. “Which is…?”
Her smile was surprisingly youthful.