Ruby was wearing a cherry red coat, the hood trimmed with white fur, the skirt full from the waist, red boots, berry-bright against the snow. It was lying unusually deep. You might have thought it Christmas, not Valentine’s. A few flakes were still falling as Joe came out of the church door. Young children were pitching snowballs at each other and then ducking behind gravestones to avoid the rebound. One smacked Joe’s cheek as he passed, leaving an angry red kiss mark, but he just ignored it, intent on catching Ruby up by the lych-gate. He paused at one of the graves, dusted the snow off then carried on.

“Hi, Ruby,” he called and she turned into the snow and blinked as it landed gently on her long eyelashes. Seeing Joe dashing towards her, she waited. He skidded up to her. “Are you walking home?” he asked, then blushed. Stupid thing to say. Stupid. She wasn’t riding a camel to Siberia… He half expected some such rejoinder and he stood there with his hands behind his back, blushing hot in his muffler to the roots of his red hair.
“Yes,” she said.
“Can I walk with you?”
“If you like.”

That was all the encouragement he needed. “I saw you in church,” he said for want of anything to say.
Ruby looked at him as if she expected there to be more. Her face pale with the cold accentuated the line of her crimson lips and a few golden-blond curls escaped from beneath her hood. Joe looked into those sapphire eyes and was more lost in the warmth of her.
“You saw me in church, and…?”
“It’s unusual for you to be on your own,” said Joe, but he really wanted to say, I love you.
“Oh, I wasn’t,” said Ruby. She turned and indicated a group of women trudging behind between the snow filled ditches. “Aunt Bethan was there too. She’s the one in maroon.”
Joe wasn’t quite sure what maroon was but he was sure it wasn’t very far behind. He nodded. “I like your coat,” he said.
“Thank you,” she cooed, swishing the skirt of it to show it off. “It’s new.” Her cheeks flushed with pleasure and her smile glistened at him.
He wondered what she would do if he leaned forward and kissed her, but she turned and kept walking and the chance was gone.

Joe had one more card left to play. He brought his hand forward. “I wanted you to have this,” he said, offering her a red rose as if he had magicked it out of frost.
“Oh.” Ruby took it and held it to her delicate nose but it had no odour, being a hothouse rose.
“For Valentine’s Day,” he added.
“How sweet. Where on earth did you…” Ruby looked at Joe and then back towards the churchyard and reality dawned. “Ugh!” she said and threw the rose onto the snow.
It stuck upright like a dagger in the ditch bleeding its petals onto the crisp surface.
“Ugh! You took it from a grave!” she shrieked. “Men! You’re all the same,” she said, using the exact tone of disdainful womanhood. “Joseph Wylie, I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on Earth.” And off she marched without him.

Joe thought it unlikely their parents would have approved anyway at the age of eight but he felt, as he looked at that rose bayonnet-red in the snow, that no other could pierce his heart as she had.

Oonah V Joslin’s first piece on Valentine’s Day was a rant against the injustice of being a fat teenager in The Braid, her school magazine. It was a poem. She has softened since. Married someone who wouldn’t trust a thin cook!

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Every Day Fiction

  • I love that he’s eight years old! Nice one, Oonah.

    • Sarah Ann Watts

      What a lovely story – love the detail and especially the ‘maroon’!


  • Oonah V Joslin

    Thank you early-birds 🙂

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    Ah the pangs of first love! Lovely story.

  • Peter Rowney

    Lovely little story, with plenty of evocative images; Thank you

  • GMoney

    Hope he has better luck when he’s older!

    Enjoyed the use of colours, and despite a few earlier hints, a well-hidden fact about their ages for the twist.

  • Jim

    I thought Joe was pretty smooth for an 8-year-old boy. He actually tried to speak to her. Fine story.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Thank you all for your comments. My husband thought 8 was about right. Any older, he wouldn’t have spoken, any younger he wouldn’t have been that interested – he told me. I reckon given ten years or so he’ll try again and she’ll melt. 🙂

  • gay degani

    Great color play and tone. Being from SoCal, I thought snow on Valentine’s felt just right as a real element.

  • Jennie

    This is such a cute story – I can picture it perfectly in my mind. And the twist is perfect for the short story format.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Thank you Gay and Jennie. 🙂

  • I don’t get it. Good comments but the story is sitting at at 2.4 / 5 in the rating system?? If you like the story, please vote for it! It’s the group of five stars right above the comments.

    Note: One person did say they gave this a story a “1” by accident. We’re fixing this, but please vote!

  • Also, keep your eyes on this space on the 15th. Oonah’s our “most-read author” interview. Great stuff!

  • Nice slice of life with the kids and the snow. Next time he’ll get it right.

  • John Allen

    A lovely story, Oonah. I remember this one – and it gets better with each re-reading!

    And most read author!! Brilliant!


  • mark dalligan

    Good reading.



  • Oonah V Joslin

    Thank you DJ, John and Mark. And thank you too Jordan. THE BIG INTERVIEW EH? They all can hardly wait. Thanks for the plug. 🙂

    There’s still time to vote folks.

  • lovely use of color.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Thank you Steven. I liked that Valentine palate. I almost sawe this story if you know what I mean before I wrote it and I think that visualisation was what came through to people strongly. That pleased me. I’m glad so many of you saw it too. 🙂

  • Rosiedlm

    Lovely Oonah. It left a smile on my face.


    • Oonah V Joslin

      Thank you Rosie. Glad you liked it.

  • HiFi

    Fantastic Oonah, Love the ending!! they are getting better every time. HifI

    • Oonah V Joslin

      My, my, what a compliment. Thank you for reading my work. 🙂

  • Margaret Reid

    Loved this Oonah, your humour never fails to amaze,
    Jet sat showing interest when I read it to her. Or maybe it was the mention of your name and the hope of a treat !

    • Oonah V Joslin

      I’ll pop next door with a bonio soon. Tell Jet. Thanks for reading and for the photo, Margaret x

  • Pamela Tyree Griffin

    Fabulous read-just what we have come to expect and appreciate from Ms. Oonah!


    • Oonah V Joslin

      Pamela, thank you for that generous comment. I appreciate it. 🙂

  • Celeste Goschen

    I loved the rhythm of your story. It really had flow, without making the reader feel rushed. A charming story. Well done! (OK, so ‘well done’ sounds patronising, not meant to be)

    • Oonah V Joslin

      Not patronising in the least, thank you. All ‘pats on the back’ are welcome 🙂

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  • Sarah

    I really enjoyed this, but from the start I thought they were children, so no surprise ending for me.. but lovely all the same 🙂