Be My Valentine (Again)?

Ashleigh fell for Brody and they had an intense relationship that collapsed. Five years on, has time healed her wounds?

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“Come on, Ashleigh, it’s Valentine’s Day and I’m not going to go on my own again!” my friend Kelly shouted up the stairs. I was in my room, listening to Barber’s Adagio for Strings and trying to forget about Valentine’s Day altogether. Every year since Brody, I’d spent it in my room or out at a local pub getting drunk by myself. Kelly, meanwhile, went to all the clubs and tried to find ‘The One’ in the bottom of a martini glass. Being single sucked for both of us, but Kelly couldn’t stand being single. Something to do with attachment issues and being adopted, but she never really talked about it.

“Kelly, you know I don’t want to go clubbing with you, it’s too noisy and there’s too many sweaty horny guys! Take Alex with you, I’m sure he’ll go.”

“He has plans with his new girlfriend. Come on, Ashleigh, one night and I won’t ask you again. Please?”

“Fine… but only if we hit the pub for an hour first.”

“OK.”

I sat on my bed, head in my hands. Clubbing had never been my thing, and to be honest I could never understand why people do it. All that loud music giving you a headache and the sweaty men trying to cop a feel… it just seemed illogical. Why not meet people somewhere where you could at least talk? Still, one night didn’t sound too bad, and since we’d be hitting the pub first, that made it bearable. After all, a few pints would do me good.

Kelly came bounding up the stairs, glee written all over her face. “We have got to get you in a dress and heels tonight! And you’ll need to do your makeup, too, and your hair…”

“Whoa, whoa, Kelly!” I protested, raising my hands. “I’ll do my own hair and makeup, thanks, I know what happens when you do makeup.”

“OK but you have to let me choose your outfit.”

I laughed and flopped back on the bed, defeated. Kelly walked over to my wardrobe and rummaged through my clothes, finding nothing but the baggy T-shirts and jeans that I wore on a daily basis. Sighing, she went through my chest of drawers and eventually found a little black dress that I hadn’t worn in years.

“What about this?” she asked, triumph written on her face.

“I haven’t worn that since Brody… you know.” I mumbled, staring at it as all the memories came flooding back. Five years ago, on Valentine’s Day, Brody had taken me out to a fancy restaurant and broken up with me in front of about a hundred other people. To say I was destroyed would be an understatement – I went into shock and didn’t eat or drink for a week. Kelly was the only one who could get through to me, and she was the only one who saw how much I cried over the split. I moved on and so did he, but I was still hopelessly in love with him.

“Well, perfect opportunity to meet someone new in it then! Come on Ashleigh, you can’t mope over him forever. He’s not coming back.”

“You don’t know that…” I tried to sound defiant but it ended up coming out as a question. Kelly sighed and threw the dress at me before walking out of the room and returning with a pair of black stilettos. I raised my eyebrows and laughed a little when she stuck her tongue out at me. Standing up, I reluctantly started to change, only for Kelly to gasp in horror when she saw my underwear.

“Girl, you cannot be serious! No way are you going out in that underwear!” she all but screamed.

“Why does it matter? Nobody’s gonna be looking.”

“Sexy undies make you feel sexier, thus attracting more sexy men.”

“Riiiiiight… well I don’t really own any ‘sexy’ underwear so it’ll have to be this or nothing.”

“At least wear matching colours.”

Shaking my head in mock despair, I rooted through my drawer and grabbed a black bra and some black knickers. When I was finally changed, Kelly all but dragged me into her room and sat me in front of her mirror, where she dumped her makeup bag and various combs.

“So what are you going to do with your hair?”

“Probably just straighten it and leave it, it’s not that important. I’m thinking black eyeliner, mascara and red lipstick for my makeup. Simple but classic.”

Kelly shook her head and grinned at me, knowing full well that was the way I’d looked when Brody and I got together. Wisely, though, she didn’t say anything – instead she hugged me and left me to it while she got dressed. Twenty minutes later, we were heading out the door. I felt a bit strange in Kelly’s heels, but that was mostly because of the height – 6 inch heels were not my staple shoe! We walked into the pub and ordered our drinks, then looked for somewhere to sit… and then I saw him.

Brody Firth, my ex, was sitting in the same pub as me. He was alone, staring into the bottom of a pint glass as if he thought it would save him, a few tears shining on his cheeks. Kelly saw where I was looking and nudged me gently. I turned to her, my eyebrows slightly raised, and saw her smiling.

“Go and talk to him, I know you want to,” she said softly. I kissed her cheek in silent gratitude and clunked over to where he was sitting. He looked up and went pale when he saw me, before hastily standing up and running a hand through his hair. He looked exactly the same as I remembered – blonde hair that just touched his shoulders, deep green eyes like emeralds and cheekbones like razors. It was like we’d rewound time to our first meeting, when he lent me his jacket and walked me home before kissing me softly under the stars.

“Ashleigh,” he said. “I… I didn’t expect to see you here. How are you?”

Still in love with you. “I’m fine. How about you?”

“I’m fine. Sorry… do you want me to leave?”

Only if I can come too. “No, I came to talk to you. I have something I want to tell you.”

“Oh, OK.” he said, sounding surprised. We sat back down at the table, me gripping my glass of wine like it was a lifeline. Nervously, I took a gulp of wine and felt my nerves steady slightly. Brody looked at me, reflecting my fear in his eyes. After a few moments of silence, I started to tell him how I felt. How I still loved him and always would, even though it had been five years. How every day without him had felt like an existence, rather than a life. How I’d wanted to call him so many times, but hadn’t felt able to because I knew I’d cry if I did.

When I’d finished speaking, I turned my eyes to his face and was amazed to see tears running down his cheeks. He reached out and gripped my hand tightly. I felt tears well up in my eyes as I looked at him, wondering whether he felt the same. A few more moments of silence passed, during which we stared at the table and I drank my wine quickly, not caring about how it made me feel. Eventually, Brody looked at me and cleared his throat.

“It’s been five years, Ashleigh.” he started softly. “Five years of waiting for you, so I could tell you I loved you and how much you meant to me.”

“I’m sorry.” I whispered.

“It’s OK. I’m just so glad I decided to go to the pub tonight, and so glad you’re here. I never thought I’d be asking you this, and I never thought it would happen here, but I’d like to ask you to be my Valentine again.”

I stared at him, my jaw dropping. Had Brody Firth seriously just asked me out? Surely not.

“Um… are you being serious? You seriously want to date me again?” I stammered, feeling butterflies start to kick in. He nodded, never taking his eyes off me.

“I want to give us another go, properly,” he said, his tone serious.

“I’ve waited five years for you to ask me,” I told him, feeling tears run down my cheeks. “Of course I will.”

Brody smiled at me, tears beginning to run down his cheeks, and then we were both laughing and crying. We stood up and he pulled me into his arms, my head against his chest. Kelly came over to congratulate us, her eyes shiny with tears.

“I’m so glad you two did this,” she said. “Took you long enough though, didn’t it?”

We laughed, and Brody took my hand. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Ashleigh.” He smiled. I smiled back, feeling my heart lift.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Brody.”

Mother of one, mental health carer and author. Jess loves books of all kinds, and does her best to bring worlds to life.

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