Valentine’s Day

Here is a Valentine’s day extravaganza, in the form of flash fiction.

Roman tapped his fingers against his knee. He licked his lips, and watched the pastor out of the corner of his eye. <We’ll stand for the hymn, soon.> The ceiling fans made a shallow shushing in the too-hot hall.

He studied the two dark curls that turned over, like soft rosebuds, at the nape of her neck. <I’d like to kiss her there;> Roman blushed, and looked down at the heavy stone floor.

A shuffle of noise rose over the silence; hundreds of feet scraped against the floor. Roman jumped to his feet, and sidled past the women to his left. He gained the aisle; <good, I’m almost there.> No one was looking; there was a long hum from the organ, and hundreds of hymnals rustled.

Roman ducked his head, and walked swiftly, silently up the aisle. He passed a pair of toddlers who were playing on the floor beside a bench; a little girl stared at him with accusing blue eyes.

<Gosh, I’m so slow!> Roman skipped a little; his lady was very near. He ran the last three steps, and slid into the row where Liz lay ensconced, like a delicate chocolate wrapped in white tissue.

“Sorry, so sorry,” Roman muttered. A man cast a beady glance his way, and two old women glared, their hymnals pressed to their chests as Roman squeezed through.

“So very rude!” he heard a biddy mutter to her neighbor. He swallowed back a smile.

At last he arrived. Liz cast a steely glance his way. What? her eyes asked, sternly. Roman stopped breathing when he saw her velvet eyes. <God, you’re lovely. Sorry!> Roman shouted in his mind. Roman told himself that the Lord would punish him for swearing in church, even in his thoughts.

“Have you got a minute?” Roman asked, under the shout of the forceful hymn. Liz turned her eyes towards her hymnal. Her eyebrows lifted gently. Roman grinned. “I want you to marry me,” Roman said, leaning closer.

“Not today,” Liz said at once. Roman studied her face. A gradual reddening, like the creeping of pink into the morning sky, was showing on her dewy skin. Roman’s heart slowed, and then stilled entirely. He smiled.

“Tomorrow?” Roman asked lightly. <I’m going to die, right here. Gosh!> He turned his eyes to the hymnal she held, and hummed. <Thank you for the loud music,> Roman thought fervently towards the sky.

“Maybe in a month,” Liz said. She was no longer looking at the hymnal.

“Why so long?” Roman demanded. He glanced at the head of the large hall; his mother would come back when the song was over. Liz caught his glance.

“What are you going to do when she finds out?” Liz asked. Her eyes took on a mischievous gleam.

“I wanted to find out what you would say first,” Roman murmured. He took a deep breath. “Do you say yes?”

“Conditionally, yes,” Liz said. Her voice was quiet; Roman gazed with ardent desire on the finely-drawn curve of her lips.

“Conditional upon what?” Roman asked huskily. Liz turned the full power of her gaze on him; Roman’s knees quivered.

“What about your heinous mother?” Liz asked. The old woman next to Roman shushed them both loudly; Roman ignored her.

“She’s out; I’m finished with her,” Roman said. Liz’s beautiful eyes narrowed. “How shall I prove it to you?” Roman demanded. “I’ll do anything.”

The lady in front of Roman shot him a dirty look; the boys behind him snickered.

“They’re laughing at you,” Liz said.

“I don’t care, as long as you’ll marry me,” Roman said, quite loudly. A number of faces turned towards him; whispers sprang up in a circle around their two forms. Roman’s body flushed.

“Someone’s going to tell your mother,” Liz said.

“I’ll do anything to marry you,” Roman said. Liz gazed at him; he returned her look steadily.

“Take me away from here, and never speak to me of your mother again,” Liz said. Roman felt a rush of terror and euphoria  throttle in his chest.

“Done,” he said. He reached out, his heart thundering like death, and wrapped his fingers around her hand. Her skin was like the side of a young fawn; her palm was a bed of new rose petals. Liz let the hymnal fall; it made a quiet sigh against the stone floor. Roman kept his eyes on hers for a long time; Liz looked, he thought, near tears. Only if you mean it, her expression said. I mean it, Roman’s eyes replied. When her brow softened, with the kind of look that spelled the end of a long thing waited for, he turned, and glared majestically at the two old women, and the gentlemen who filled up the row.

“Excuse me!” Roman roared, and he drew Liz through the narrow space, a knight bringing his lady from a den of vipers.

She was laughing, and crying by the time they broke into the aisle; Roman twisted as soon as Liz was free. He bent, and tucked his arms under her knees. Her Sunday finery swung around them both.

“What are you doing?” Liz whispered, her face vivid with blushes.

“Rescuing you from all this,” Roman whispered back. He settled her against his chest, and ran.

The sonorous tones of the vibrant hymn shivered apart as the congregation shouted, turning to point and laugh at the fleeing pair. As Roman gained the first set of doors, he heard the organ cease, and the last voices raised in song crumbled into confusion. Roman pressed his shoulders to the doors; he burst through, and a keening wail rose over the hall like a crimson banner. It came from the organ at the head of the church hall, where his mother had been playing the hymn.

“Roman!” his mother shrieked.

The firm impress of Liz’s arms made a cloak of protective armor over Roman’s heart as he descended the outer steps of the church at top speed.