It has to be sweet and sincere. Something that says “I like you” but not in a creepy, looked-up-your-address-on-the-teacher’s-class-roll-list-and-stalk-you-on-the-weekends, kind of way. Trying to sum up your feelings over the past 3 years on a tiny candy heart is not an easy task. I grabbed another handful and laid them out on the table, attempting to find the best ones to put in K.H.’s card.
“BE MINE” seemed like a good start, but then again, she might perceive it as bossy and demanding. I wanted her to be mine, but not because she was forced to. I put that one in the “Maybe” pile. “CALL ME” was interesting, but would that mean that I would have to write my phone number in the card? Or did it imply that she should ask me for it? “LOVE HER” didn’t make any sense… why would I want to tell her that I love someone else? It seemed kind of rude, like giving your Mom a Mothers Day card that says “I have the best Dad in the world”. “CUTIE PIE” and “SWEETIE” were a given; I put them in the “Yes” pile without hesitation. They were fairly neutral and vague, which allowed me to put in some of the more serious ones like “TRUE LOVE” or “MY GIRL”. These proclamations by themselves might be too forward, but mixed with a generic yet still heart warming, can’t-help-but-smile compliment like “Hey, I think you are a cutie pie” provided the perfect balance. It even allowed me to toy with the idea of putting in some of the more racy expressions like “LETS KISS”, which I cowardly removed at the last minute before sealing the envelope.
I had a total of 30 Valentines, all with illustrations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on them. Ryan would soon know that I thought he was “mondo to the max”. Jen would soon know that I wanted her to “have a pizza my heart”. John would soon know that I hoped his Valentines Day was “totally radical”. This left one more Valentine to give, but this one was a real card. Lying to my friends, I told them I had homework I needed to catch up on. I rode my bike down to the supermarket and searched through the overwhelmingly large selection of Valentines Day cards there were to choose from. This proved to be even more difficult than picking which candy hearts to put inside.
My selection grew narrower as I started eliminating the options. “Love” was out. If the feeling wasn’t mutual, the results could be disastrous. I needed to find a milder substitute for the word. Cards with pictures of flowers, especially red roses, seemed too cheesy, even for a nine-year-old, and were immediately dismissed. I considered myself to be a funny person, but there was a time and a place for laughs and this was not one of them. Humorous – gone. Cards with cartoon people usually depicted adults, which would have been weird and confusing: “Dear Kelly, Happy Valentines Day from some old guy that is supposed to represent me”. Cartoon people – gone. Cards with more than two sentences usually got too deep and mushy. Cards with more than two sentences that are too deep and mushy -gone. All that remained were cards with a bunch of cute, furry mammals holding hearts and saying some kind of pun related to the name of their species. K.H. would soon know that I thought she was “Beary special”.
I walked to school with a handful of small Valentines placed in plain white envelopes, and K.H’s card. It was twice the size of the others and had a heavy pink envelope around it that was bulging from the carefully selected mint candies I had stuffed in it. In elementary school, everyone had to be included. “There are 31 people in the class so make sure you get enough,” our teacher had warned us. This meant that even Andrew “Douche” Dynam, who talks to himself, eats glue, doesn’t cut his fingernails, and wears the same turquoise windbreaker and grey sweatpants to school everyday, would still get a Valentine. 31 to be exact . Most people just passed out generic cards without even bothering to write the recipients name inside. The girls would place a pink or yellow or red envelope in front of me and mumble “Happy Valentines Day” under their breath, before walking up to the next desk and repeating the process. I carefully slipped K.H’s card underneath the pile that was growing on her desk when she wasn’t looking.
My best friend Nate and I took out our cards after school and read them all while we shoved heart-shaped chocolates into our mouths. “She gave you yours in a yellow envelope, a color she also used for Andrew Dynam,” I told Nate. “Yes but she gave you yours in a PINK envelope, the very same color she used for her best friend Lauren. Perhaps pink means that she sees you as just a friend,” Nate keenly observed. “Besides, she looked me right in the eye when she handed me my card and told me to have a Happy Valentines Day. She didn’t say anything to you” he boasted. I thought about this for a second. “Well, maybe she has a hard time talking to me because she likes me and is too shy or embarrassed to say anything,” I rationalized. We both optimistically opened our envelopes hoping to find some kind of clue that would reveal her secret crush on us. Mine had a picture of a frog holding a red heart. She had gone with a mammal card too! Well, technically a frog is an amphibian: frogs lay eggs, go through metamorphosis and are cold blooded… but still, close enough! I knew this couldn’t possibly be a coincidence; she must have had the very same thoughts I did. “I’m jumping for joy that you are my . . . friend.” My heart sank when i saw that last word. It appeared Nate’s theory was correct. But then, I noticed, just underneath that, written in blue pen, was “Love, Kelly Hensler”. My eyes fixated on her bubbly signature. I clapped it shut when Nate tried to peek over, then quickly opened it back up and looked inside to check and make sure it was still there, as if her romantic sentiment was a one-time gift that would disappear if I ever closed the card or stopped staring at it. I turned it around, indicating to Nate that he could look but not touch. My finger was pointing to the big L word on the bottom and his eyes widened when he saw it. “Does this mean you guys are gonna be like boyfriend and girlfriend now?” he asked. I looked back down at the card and answered “Yea. . . I think so.”