1year, 4months, 2weeks, 3days and 16hours… That was exactly how long they had been together She kept track of it mainly because it was like a dream to her. She could never allow herself to trust him completely, in her mind it was only a matter of time before he moved on. The horrifying past relationships she’d had kept her on her toes.
It was the 14th today, the 14th of February. There was no day she dreaded more than this one. A couple of years ago on this same day, she was ditched at a beautiful restaurant where she and her beau were supposed to be having a romantic dinner. The year before that she was dumped via voice note. To be brutally honest, the day terrified her.
Her nervous state soared to a maximum high when she realised she hadn’t heard from him and it was 12pm. The sound of her phone ringing shattered her thoughts. She held her breath and answered. He wanted to pick her up in a few minutes but he wouldn’t say where they were going. She hated surprises, the thought of it coupled with her fear of valentine’s day scared her.
After an hour of driving, they arrived at a school. The name seemed familiar but she couldn’t place it. Her heart sank at the sight when they entered, what in the world were they doing here? Like many others, she had a phobia of the mentally and physically challenged.
A phobia not because of a bad experience but because of the general stigma attached to them and ignorance. “We are spending the day here” he told her.
Why would she want to spend a day with these kids? What could they offer her or vice versa? She felt so uncomfortable. This would just add to her list of bad valentine’s day experiences. There was so much she could be doing with her time. They were lead into a room with about ten kids. The teacher introduced them to the children individually. She sat at the back besides the most ‘normal looking’ child, she just wanted to get out of there. She watched her beau float around the class engaging with meaningless chatter with each kid.
After ten minutes, she decided to try and get involved. She watched the little girl she sat by colour a picture, only then did she notice how good she was. She seemed to be the only student in the class who used colour pencils, as opposed to the scrawny looking crayons the rest had. The teacher noticed her and walked over to them, “Bertha is truly blessed in the arts. She’s only eleven you know”
Eleven? Bertha looked like a six year old! Her beau decided that they should leave as it was almost five. They said bye to the kids and walked out. She breathed a huge sigh of relief, thank God it was over.
“Aunty Arabena” someone called out She spun round at the sound of her name Oh no not Jacob! Jacob was the most severely physically disabled student in the class. He limped towards her and handed her a paper, “for you aunty” It was a drawing he had done for her, a drawing of him giving her his heart. Tears slipped from her eyes like a faulty pipe “No cry aunty. You come to us today, thank you.” Jacob mumbled. The shame that clothed her when she heard those words was inexplicable. She realised how selfish and ignorant she had been throughout, she was no better than most of their family members who had abandoned them.
In those few hours, the children showed more love than she’d received from some people she called friends. This was pure love, not that commercialised lust.
“Aunty, be my valentine” Jacob said
She looked up and hugged him “yes Jacob I’ll be your valentine”