A Valentine’s Day Horror Story
The room went black, and the shower blasted me with cold water. The fucking power is out again! I thought. I gave myself a mental pep talk. I thought, Aiden and I are celebrating our six-month anniversary dinner tonight, and it is February 14th. I focused on a three-layer cake with pale purple flowers on it and, of course, the little plastic bride and groom on top.
I toweled myself dry and struggled to shine my phone light onto my face as I looked into the mirror. I cringed at the puffy dark rings under my eyes. To my dismay, I noticed that I had a text from my boss, a boney biker chick with bleach blonde hair named April. She, of course, wanted me to come into work tonight to deal with the rush of lonely people looking to drown their singledom. I was not about to spend my night babysitting horny drunk dudes and listening to 50-year-old women cry about how they “Wasted the best years of their lives and ignored all the red flags.”
I slipped into my favorite pair of blue jeans and a black sweater before chucking my iPhone onto the bed.
Aiden was standing outside the apartment to meet me. We walked to this little Bistro downtown he had been talking about all week. His coworker, Jordan, thought this place had amazing burgers and, of course, a bar with a selection to match no other.
When we arrived at the restaurant, it was a little hole in the wall, with one of those chalkboard signs that said, “Sweeney’s: classic comfort foods, made with meat like no other.”
Aiden’s smile widened. “Babe,” he squeaked. “Take my picture! I have to post a picture on Instagram for Jordan.”
I rolled my eyes. But I was struck by how handsome he looked that night. My man was wearing acid-washed jeans and blue and white flannel. I was secretly jealous; I always wondered how he could look so amazing without even trying. We took the picture with the light flashing brightly.
When we entered the place, it was strangely dark. I glanced over at the open sign for reassurance and I wondered aloud, “How are we going to read the menu?”
Aiden just smiled at me and pulled out my chair. He gestured toward the streetlights shining in just enough to illuminate the table. I was relieved that there was a light shining down on a statue of a man wearing a chef’s hat and long white coat.
Between loud sipping, I could hear the woman across from us talking about how she was told she would never have a baby. I winced; the woman in me wanted to hug this stranger. The overworked bartender in me, however, just wanted to leave. Still, I knew how badly Aiden wanted a bacon cheeseburger, and I had no desire to go to Burger King. The last thing I wanted to do was have to tell people about how my husband proposed to me over Whoppers and onion rings. That horrible story would be dinner conversation for the next 80 years.
Aidan shot me a questioning look, noticing my discomfort. I just smiled at him and picked up a menu. The choices were pretty basic: cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, spaghetti and meatballs, ground beef tacos, cheeseburger mac, and beef stroganoff.
The sad woman put her arms around my neck from behind, and I wrinkled my nose. She smelled like whiskey.
“Would you still love someone if they couldn’t give you a child?” the woman asked as she began to sob onto the sleeve of my favorite sweater.
“There’s someone out there for you,” I said reassuringly.
I felt her pain. In high school, I had a miscarriage; the pain of knowing you won’t be a mother can be unbearable. I turned around and held her hand in mine.
“You’re going to be okay,” I said.
“Come sit down, Misty,” a man in a gray jacket said while attempting to guide her back to the table gently. We could still hear Misty sobbing from a few feet away.
I tried to brush off the strange encounter and go back to my increasingly bizarre Valentine’s dinner. Aiden didn’t surprise me when he was staring at his phone. Throughout the six months that we dated, I noticed he had a weird habit of escaping difficult situations by scrolling through his phone.
“That’s weird,” Aiden said.
“Something even stranger just happened?”
“Remember that Instagram photo we took?” His voice sounded alarmed.
“I tagged to Jordan in the photo. His mom commented on it. She said that he decided to come here a couple of nights ago. No one has seen him since.”
“Did you see him today?” I asked.
“No, but we’ve been working on different projects. Honestly, I just thought he was busy. Jordan and Amber just got a puppy, and they’re moving into a new apartment.” Aiden’s voice shook.
I skimmed the menu with a frown. “You know what the doctor said about my cholesterol?” As the man wearing the chef’s hat and white coat came over to the table, I said, “Babe, I shouldn’t be eating a lot of red meat.”
“Good evening.” The man’s melodic English accent walked into my ears.
“What can I get for you?”
“I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger.” My date smiled. “And my girlfriend, she’ll probably want spaghetti minus the meatballs. Oh, and an extra sprinkle of cheese.”
My boyfriend shot me a puppy dog look.
“No problem. Sir, please be patient,” the beautiful English accent was music to my ears. “The meat that we serve needs to be freshly harvested.”
Those words made sent a shiver down my spine. My man grabbed my hand and looked at me apologetically again.
“Look, I wanted to surprise you,” Aiden said. “Which is why I brought you to such a creepy, weird little place.”
He smiled “But I think you already know what I’m going to ask. I talked to April the other day and asked her if she would help me throw you off the scent. Violet, I want to look into your big brown eyes forever,” Aiden said before pulling a small red box out from under the table. “Will you marry me?”
I nodded my head as tears of pure joy streamed down my cheeks.
When I looked up, I noticed that Misty and her date had left the room, their purse and wallet still at the table. The chef at the front of the room appeared to have red splotches on its snow-white apron.
My heart skipped a beat. Things were getting super weird. I was getting dizzy and fell face first onto the checkered tablecloth.
Then I woke up.
As I felt around for my phone, I noticed Aiden lying next to me.
“Hey, babe. I hope it’s okay your landlord let me in. I got worried when you didn’t come down for dinner.” He smiled.