Happy Valentine’s Day!
Celebrate with this free story that features my couple from PSL, Jenny & Scott.
He’s given up his royal title as Prince of the autumn kingdom in order to live with Jenny in the human world. But even madly in love, not everything has been a walk in the woods for the two.
This valentine’s day, Jenny has something important to tell Scott that will change their lives forever.
The office’s local busybody and self-appointed guardian of social norms caused me to freeze in place. Damn it, that was your first mistake, Jenny. Too late. Sharon sidled up to me, her arms around a massive bouquet with mini teddy bears impaled on sticks. That always struck me as macabre, unless the receiver preferred their stuffed animals with eviscerated intestines.
Giving up any hope of slipping away like the rest, I turned to face her and our usually post-modern office swamped in reds and pinks. A janitor gritted his teeth while trying to vacuum up the fallen petals crushed into the carpet. Sharon twisted her head, putting me in mind of a crow waiting for the chance to nick a peanut.
No. That was too mean. Crows are intelligent animals.
“Don’t tell me the honeymoon’s already over,” she sputtered as if I should be slinking home in shame without a Valentine’s bouquet in my arms.
“Flowers aren’t…they’re not Scott’s thing,” I said, hoping that’d diffuse the situation. It wasn’t a complete lie, the concept of gifts didn’t come naturally to the ex-prince of autumn. I learned that the hard way his first Christmas, on top of having to convince him that Santa was not an actual elf. And we didn’t need to worry that Father Christmas would abduct the children waiting to see him.
“That’s such a shame,” Sharon said. “Here.” She yanked one of the dozens of carnations from her bundle and passed a pink and white one to me. “No one should be empty-handed on Valentine’s Day.”
I twirled the knotted stem in my fingers, forced on a smile, and said, “Thank you. Good evening.” Before she could get another barb from her hooked tongue into me, I ducked out the door. Crisp February winds rolled in from the river, causing me to cinch up my scarf.
The autumn fairies were all slumbering this time of year and it sure felt like the winter ones were hard at work. I glared at the flower, trying to not think about the seven-foot-tall, blue-skinned one my husband was once engaged to. Damn it, Sharon!
She pried her way into my brain and filled it with poison. Sitting in my car, I tossed the flower to the dashboard and pulled out into traffic. Instead of heading home for a nice but calm dinner, I merged onto the interstate.
My stomach rumbled, famished for food I hadn’t eaten all day. Why did Scott have to insist we spend the weekend out in the woods? Sure, he loved our little weekend and autumn cabin. And I did too. As much because he’d walk around in the trees wearing that little leather vest from his fairy days so nearly all of his chest was exposed.
But this was winter. Cold, miserable, jet black by five PM. Who wants to venture into the woods in this weather?
“Call Scott,” I ordered my car, watching the mile markers tick by. When he picked up, I said, “Hey dear, I’m about a half-hour out.”
“Sounds good,” he responded his voice distant as if he put his phone down somewhere and couldn’t reach it.
“There’s…” I clenched my fists around the steering wheel, trying to keep focused on the road, “there’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Silence passed, causing me to wonder if I lost him, when he said, “Okay. I have a surprise for you too.”
“Can’t wait,” I said, assuming that’d be the end of it and waited for him to end the call.
“She’s going to love this,” Scott continued talking softly, “I pray she does.”
“Hon,” I called out, hearing a fairy curse word, “you forgot to hang up.”
“I keep doing that,” he said, cursing once more before the line went dead.
No goodbyes, but those were as difficult to explain to fairies as the concept of gifts. Or maybe it was the royalty part. Regardless, I chuckled to myself and sighed. That was my husband.
The drive was smooth, thank God. My stomach only grew more incensed with each passing mile, constantly drawing my attention back to it, but I made it in twenty-nine minutes. Walking through the front door of the cabin, I began to unwind the scarf off my neck, when hands caressed against my waist.
“Welcome home,” Scott murmured behind me as he nuzzled his cheek against my neck. He brushed his palms up and down my waist, tipping me back against him. I felt myself falling into his arms when he got a grip on my coat and tugged it off.
“It’s nice to be here,” I said, shrugging my arms out of the sleeves and turning back to find him dressed in his arboretum apron. He didn’t wear a shirt under it, not at home, leaving my eyes peeling down his biceps as he bundled up my coat to hang behind the door.
“Oh my god, what is that smell?” I gasped. A heavenly scent floated through our small one-bedroom cabin. I peered around a fallen tree log to spot steam percolating from the stove.
“It is roasted squash glazed with honey, the leg of a pig cured until pink that was fried in its own lard, and a sprig of greens,” he said proudly.
“That sounds so…” Heavy was my first thought, but my stomach gurgled in anticipation. It knew what it wanted better than I. Famished, I took a step for the kitchen when Scott caught my hand in his.
“Wait, my love. Before we eat, there’s something I wanted to show you.”
“Ugh.” I stared at the feast just out of my reach. My soul pleaded to tuck into it with wild abandon, but I glanced at my husband and gave in. There was still the matter of what I had to tell him.
After. It could wait until after dinner. Not a big rush on these things.
“Okay,” I said, folding our hands together. Scott tugged me close, drew his narrow slope of a nose from the bottom of my jaw up to my cheek, and kissed me. I held onto his arm, my fingers cinching around his bicep, which he flexed to distract me. One hand drew up my cheek while the other circled around to my ass.
“Wait, wait,” I said, breaking away from him. “That comes after dinner.”
Scott glanced to the kitchen, then turned to whatever he wanted to show me in his workshop. The pressing decision seemed to weigh on him as he danced on his feet, but decided to stay the course. “This first. I can’t wait… I’ve been working on it all day. Well, the past two days. Okay, technically longer than that, but…you’ll see.”
His words flitted about like a butterfly and he damn near leaped in the air in excitement. With our hands locked together, he pulled me into his greenhouse bigger than the living room. Flicking the switch, the grow lights turned on over hundreds of seedlings resting in the soil in preparation to one day be trees or vegetables for our garden. He preferred the trees but always left space for starters in my vegetable garden.
Scott guided me around the piles of pots stacked haphazardly on the ground, past the bags of peat moss and fertilizer. We paused before a small plant in a terra-cotta pot. Green leaves with jagged edges and hard stems bearing thorns, I didn’t even need to glance at the bud to know it was a rose.
“How did you…?”
“Wait.” He licked his finger, coating it in gold sparkles, and tapped the fairy saliva against the bud. In an instant, the petals began to unfurl as if summer appeared on the horizon.
I watched transfixed as the solitary rose opened its tight close to reveal itself. “They say this is a holiday of flowers, so…” Scott said, his smile brightening.
“You got a rose to bloom, in February, for me?”
“Watch,” he said, laying his head on my shoulder.
The first two rows of petals were a dusky pink, but as the rose continued its veil dance, they began to shift hue. Another layer was a soft orange reminiscent of the sunset through the clouds. Next was the yellow of sunlight right after a rainstorm.
Autumn. Of course. A smile wound about my lips, shaking off the stress I’d been knotting my body into all day. He put in who knew how much work for his gift to impress me. “It’s beautiful,” I said.
“You like it!” Scott declared. “I was worried you’d think it a bit too…desaturated. Most roses on this day of holy love are that crimson red, but it—”
“Scott.” I cut him off, pressing a finger to his lips. Curling my hand with his, I said. “I love it, and I love you.”
“I never questioned it,” he responded, cupping my chin and placing a kiss on my lips. I ached to return the heat. To forget dinner and pull him into bed. To prove to him how grateful I was for his marvelous gift.
But there was something else I had to do first.
He caught on instantly as I shrunk away, my eyes canvassing the ground. “There’s something, something I need to tell you.”
“So you said on the connector.”
“The pho—” I began before catching the gleam in his eye. He was messing with me. Laughing at my fairy prince husband, I bundled both of his hands in mine and tried to calm my heart. “I know we haven’t been married long.”
“Not even a season,” he said. “Most fairies would have devoted the fullness of one to only each other this close after the wedding. Three to five months of mad lovemaking, traveling across the kingdoms, sipping the sweetest wines, reclining beside the ocean waves, and more lovemaking on the return home.”
That sounded wonderful. But the best my job could afford was a week in Europe, and it had to be in winter due to his.
“But I love this human tradition too,” he raced to say as if I was offended at the idea of spending three months naked and alone with only him.
You’re avoiding it again, Jenny. Just like at breakfast. And last night’s dinner.
“There’s, I need to tell you,” I said, raising my eyes to him before slipping away. Lacing my hand behind his, I placed his palm over my stomach. “We’re going to have a baby.”
In the hours I’d obsessed over telling him, I imagined numerous different reactions. Concern. Regret. Excitement. Joy. At no point did I expect a simple ‘Yes, and?’
“You…how do you know? I just found out myself.” With a test taken over my lunch break because once the thought entered my brain I needed an answer.
Scott drew his hand over the rose still fluttering open from his touch. My gaze danced from his gift back to him waiting for an explanation. Lips twisting in a small smile, he said, “A rose blooming in the dead of winter announces the arrival of a royal babe.”
I glared at the blabbermouth plant. To think I’d been tying myself up in knots for a day, worried he’d panic over this unexpected detour in our lives. But no. He took a simple stroll through the woods, spotted a rose and… How did he feel about all of this?
Scott smoothed a finger over the waxy leaves of my baby rose. “The moment I saw it, I felt… I knew I had to bring it to you. To protect it from winter’s demanding fingers and pot it so it will continue to bloom safely in our home for as many years as possible.”
He paused in caressing nature’s pregnancy announcement and the proud prince who abandoned his throne for me stared in concern. “Was this not the right move?”
I rubbed a hand over my belly, more or less flat save the winter weight from Christmas. That’d change. It’d all change. Our entire lives jumped the track from cozy newlyweds nesting away in the forest to new parents. And his first instinct was to shield the rose of our baby from any harm.
Gliding my arms around his waist, I pulled myself into Scott’s embrace. Nuzzling against his chest, falling into the protective warmth that’d one day hold our baby, I said, “It’s perfect. Our baby can grow with this rose bush.”
“Oh, I will plant an entire forest for her!” he shouted in jubilation, his lips plunging to mine. I gave in to his touch, ready to drag him to the couch before the fireplace and copy what knocked me up in the first place. But my mind played back the pronoun he used, and I yanked back to stare at him.
“Her? Did another sign tell you our baby is a girl?”
“No,” he snickered. “The only way to know that is when the child is born. I merely guessed. Hoped.”
I smiled at the earnestness radiating off of him. Scott was the most sincere man I’d ever met. No games, no subterfuge, only honest love and joy from the fairy prince who settled down into a happy gardener in the woods. Why did I fear for a moment he’d waver at this new challenge? Running my hand along his arm until both locked behind his neck, I said, “You’re going to be a daddy.”
“That is…” He snorted as if he hadn’t considered what a baby would fully mean for him. “It will be a learning experience.”
“For both of us,” I said, tugging his lips to mine. Just before they touched, the always lingering fairy magic zapped across my skin. A new thought of panic landed on my brain. “Scott, will our baby have…wings?” I’d been too focused on the essentials: crib, changing station, car seat, bottles. I’d never stopped to consider what a baby with magic would mean for either of us.
“Our child,” he said, knotting our fingers together and pressing them to my stomach, “will have whatever we can give her. The rest is up to nature’s hand. Now,” he declared, and in one quick move, hoisted me up onto his shoulder. “To the bedroom!” His hand lightly slapped my ass and Scott dashed in the direction of our bed.
I laughed, kicking my toes at his exuberance when my stomach rumbled in a complaint. “What about dinner?”
“Oh yes, dinner first, then consummation,” he said in a voice that’d give orders to a great general.
“Someone seems sure of himself,” I said while slipping back to my feet. Truth be told, I was sad to lose such a perfect perch.
Scott locked a hand around my waist, his lips grazing my ear as he whispered, “It’s a very good meal.”
“I love you,” slipped from my lips, shattering the bantering air with my sentimentality.
He barely blinked from the change, his smile softening as he cupped my cheek. “And I you, forever.”
As we kissed, my Valentine rose finished opening to reveal a blush pink center. Its perfume wafted around the room, reminding me of sliced apples on a summer day, sweet hay piled in the slumbering garden, and a hint of baby powder.