♥ ♥ ♥
Rubbing her eyes whilst simultaneously ignoring her mother's voice in her head ("Do stop, sweetheart, you'll get wrinkles"), Jasmine glanced at the clock. It read 02:43. It wasn't uncommon for her to stay up until too early in the morning, wrapped up in a book, but Jasmine knew she shouldn't have done so that night. Maybe it was the date that got to her; all the happiness and festivity. Or maybe it was simply a storyline that had absorbed her. She decided to go with the latter.
After having a nightmare again, Sophie couldn't resist quietly pushing open her son's bedroom door. She'd spent the last few weeks wanting to do so when she awoke, startled and, although she didn't like to admit it to herself, scared in the early hours of the morning and this morning she gave in. She simply stood in the doorway with not too much light peeking in. She watched Jack's shoulders rise and fall slightly, his eyelids acting as a quilt as they protected his gorgeous green eyes, his thick black lashes that he inherited from his father making her heart smile.
At twenty, her son was everything she'd hoped he would turn out to be. Though, she regretted the circumstances as to why he was home. He wasn't living the life he should be right now. She'd change that in any way she could.
Lost in the beautiful sight of her son, Sophie gasped when he opened his eyes. "Mum," he croaked with a tired but happy smile.
"Sorry, son. Night." He closed his eyes and she left, hoping that he wouldn't remember in the morning. She wouldn't know how to answer his questions and worried expression.
Pulling on her coat, willing herself to wake up, Jasmine ignored the clock that was unforgivingly telling her the hour. With a lecture to attend and a free afternoon (a day she would definitely rather keep busy), she was sure that she wouldn't be able to escape the mood of the day.
It was Valentine's Day. Jack felt like kicking himself as he remembered, watching his mother over breakfast as the presenters on the radio chattered about the gifts they had exchanged before they left for work. His mother was reading the newspaper but he watched her eyes and they weren't moving - confirmation that the day already had the better of her. Making a note to himself to buy her flowers on his way home, Jack put both of their dishes in the dishwasher and fell into the routine of the day.
Despite her late night, Jasmine had managed to stay awake and even gain knowledge from the morning's lecture. She was, however, thankful to walk into the comfort of a bookstore, vouchers in hand from Christmas that she was eager to spend. She loved bookstores. She loved picking up crisp, new books, stroking unbroken bindings of books and finding books she'd never heard of, as well as marvelling over books and storylines that she had looked at many times.
She forced herself not to roll her eyes as she passed the pink and red display of "Perfect Valentine Reads".
Of course, she was not averse to romance novels; in fact, she rather liked them. Today was not a day for that, she knew. She wasn't feeling particularly festive. Heading straight to the classics section, she decided she wanted to buy one of the notoriously fabulous novels that battle serious issues such as class and social struggles and then she would find a book her sister had been almost begging her to read before she would go on her adventure to find a book she hadn't looked at before. It was the perfect distraction.
She ignored the voice telling her that soon, the distraction would be gone, replaced with the emptiness she already felt, only much worse.
Sophie had felt her son watching her over breakfast that morning. She was fine, she wanted to tell him. It was true, too. Of course, the date made her heart ache a little - but no more than usual. She was fine.
Although she wouldn't tell her son later that evening, the date had been throwing her off guard a little all day long; watching people more in love than usual and lots of hand-holding and love hearts on every shop window. But she was okay.
She hoped the reason Jack was staying in tonight was not for her, but for him. She saw the way girls looked at him when the two of them went out together. He was far from having no offers. In fact, that morning Leila had called, asking him if he'd like to go out but he had declined, politely, of course.
Sophie couldn't help feeling a pang of guilt at his refusal of going out.
That morning, when worry was sure to be etched on Jack's face while she pretended to read the newspaper, Sophie had been thinking of a Valentine's Day more than ten years ago when Jack had woken her up with a cooked breakfast he claimed to have made (it was most definitely his father's doing - the heart-shaped tomato ketchup proved it) and a Valentine's card. That, he did make. He had made it during a lunchtime at school, a teacher told her during the following week. While the other children played, he stayed indoors making it for her. Her heart was as delighted that morning as it was all of those years ago.
She smiled at the knowledge of one of the many reasons why she loved her son and the person he is. His knowledge of her. His thoughtful ways. His selflessness. Her heart ached suddenly as she realised how not okay she really was.
Sat, raptly reading the back of a book, Jack couldn't help but smile at the girl about his age, maybe a year younger, a few tables away. If it wasn't Valentine's Day, he may have made a cliché comment as he walked past in a tone that would suggest irony, but the day could not be ignored. Anyway, he had no doubt that, a girl with passionate eyes like hers and a mouth that, although she may not know, twitches happily as she reads, this day was a good day for her.
After paying the bill and leaving a tip, Jack looked for a moment at the girl as he passed and left before he could consider saying anything.
He kept his head down as he walked through the busy streets of London, partially hating how festive London is at any occasion it can claw onto and partially admiring the spirit of it all. Heading into a flower shop, he prepared a story he was sure to be asked as he purchased flowers for his mother. Yes, they're for my beautiful girlfriend. We have a special night planned, he would repeat later on and ignore the urge to yell, They're actually for my grieving mother.
Reading aloud a blurb whilst being conscious of being outdoors, Jasmine suddenly stopped. Then she sighed. "It's a surprisingly warm day, actually." She sighed again. "I know, I'm talking about the weather. I can feel your glare telling me to stop." She laughed. Crouching down a bit more, Jasmine said, "I have a copy of that book you were always talking about. I'm excited to read it." She frowned sadly and stroked the stone in front of her. Daughter, it read. Sister and Friend of all she met was also engraved. It read: April 22nd, 1992 - February 14th, 2012.
Her eyes began to feel warm while the rest of her felt cold. Not bothering to stop her tears, she whispered. "I miss you, Alice. You're the best sister and I love you so much."
Her heart ached as she heard a young girl pour her heart. It was all she could do to not go over to her. Instead she found her spot easily and placed down some flowers, a card and brought out her flask, ready to read the newspaper to her husband. She was sure he'd enjoy it.
Half an hour passed and Sophie realised she was hungry and would have to go to the car to eat before returning. Getting up and finding her way back, the girl was still perched at the gravestone, still crying. She noted that she looked like a heartbreakingly beautiful picture in an ugly scene; her long blonde hair like a flower among the grey stones and her pretty pale skin attacked by unforgiving tears. Ignoring the instinct telling her not to approach her, she did, a tissue at the ready.
"Hey lovely," she said.
The girl turned, a pre-planned smile ready for her. It was a warm smile, nonetheless.
Sophie held out a tissue and the girl took it, "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Today is rubbish, I know." Sophie watched the girl. She seemed to appreciate her words. Sophie was in the same position as her, after all. "It will be over soon."
"It will be over soon," the girl repeated, as if to comfort Sophie too.
Watching a woman with a pushchair, brushing her sweet daughter's hair, she couldn't help but feel a pang that was a mixture of endearment and screaming sadness. The mother beamed and the daughter fidgeted. The mother bent down to put the hairbrush away and everything stopped.
Panic racing through her body, she went to stop the girl.
Toddling forward quickly, closer and closer to the edge of the underground platform as the noise that signified an oncoming tube drilled through her brain, Jasmine felt her throat tighten.
Shouting "Help" in an attempt to get the attention of her mother and others, Jasmine ignored the pictures of that day years ago racing through her head.
As she reached the edge, little toes peaking over the top, her mother seeing with panic written across her face, a man swooped her up into his arms as the girl giggled. "Hey," Jasmine heard him say in a warm voice. "Don't do that sweetie."
The woman approached him quickly, looking embarrassed and thankful, but more so scared for what could have happened. The woman uttered repeated apologies to her daughter and words of thanks to the man.
"Don't," the man said in a way that made sure she knew he wasn't evaluating her parenting skills. "You're all right, aren't you?" he tucked the girl under the chin and she grinned at him.
Unable to take her eyes off of him as the man joined the swarm of people waddling onto the tube, Jasmine, after admiring his actions and manner, noted his strong but sweet build and looks that made her blush when he caught her staring.
Shuffling onto the tube when it arrived, she, of course, found herself stood next to the man and tried her best to compose her thoughts. "It's the hero of the day," she felt herself tease, hoping it would be received well.
"And you'd think I'd have a seat reserved."
"So I suppose I should ask for your signature," Jasmine said.
"Oh no," he pretends to be confused, "I'm not famous," he feigns embarrassment. "Just the looks of a movie star." He waves a hand dismissively.
Jasmine felt herself grin and she forced herself to look up. She could tell he was unaware of how handsome he is but as he grinned, she was certain he'd been told before. As public transport did so well, it brought people closer - geographically speaking and Jasmine accidentally brushed her hand quickly across his chest as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. She hoped she didn't blush. Unable to keep their eyes locked due to the lack of distance between them making it slightly too close for comfort between two strangers, Jasmine revelled in the picture of his piercingly green eyes that was tattooed in her memory.
As they stepped off of the tube together, Jack made no attempt to keep his eyes from quickly enjoying how parts of the girl's blonde hair were tucked under the strap of her bag and parts over her shoulder. She looked accidentally beautiful. She had a happy redness to her cheeks that was endearingly sweet and a few freckles spread across her cheeks. Her crystal blue eyes seemed content but there was a slight sadness in her expression. The happiness he saw earlier in the café was still there. The panic he had seen on the platform had gone but she seemed tired after the day and he wanted to tell her that it was okay. For what, he didn't know.
While he was standing on the platform before, he had to double to take, seeing the girl again that day. It was her panicked expression before she voiced a worried call for help that caused his eyes to avert and see the toddler. When he'd returned the toddler to her mother, it was all he could do to not take the girl in his arms and take away her worry.
As a couple passed with teddy bears and chocolates and flowers in their hands, Jack accidentally laughed.
The girl smiled at him, "It's been a bit overpowering today." He wondered why and wondered also how earlier he bounced easily off of her wit and was unable to stop a smile that would take over his every feeling when she spoke and how now he couldn't think of anything to say if his life depended on it. She stopped slowly, "This is me."
Jack felt his stomach sadden and as the girl continued to grin at him, Jack nodded, feeling a smile play on his lips.
Smiling handsomely, Sophie couldn't help but feel like a teenager as her husband's eyes joked with her across the dinner table. With her perfect little family joined for a Sunday roast dinner and a movie ready to watch afterwards, she was for ever grateful that she had the life she had always wanted.
Then it disappears.
Suddenly the doorbell rings and a policeman is telling her something but she can't quite hear over the thudding of her chest.
Her husband had been in an accident.
A bad one.
The policeman was sorry but there was nothing more the paramedics could do.
Breathing heavily, sweat across her forehead, Sophie winced as she woke up on the sofa. Looking at the clock, Sophie was confused as to why Jack wasn't home. It was 6 o'clock and he was meant to be home an hour, if not two before. Picking up her phone, concerned, she read his message:
I bumped into someone on the tube. See you soon. Love you.
She smelt the flowers beside her that Jack must have dropped back home at lunch before he went back out. Sophie hadn't meant to fall asleep for so long. Re-reading Jack's text and smiling, Sophie put the phone back down and drifted into a sweet sleep.
♥ ♥ ♥
Happy Valentine's Day!
Bookshops & Crystals,
The Girl in the Moonlight.