On her first Valentine’s Day, Jasmine Shaw takes in a breath and lets out a single sound — a squeak, according her mother; a quack, according to her father — in the brightness of the delivery room. Already, she has wisps of white atop her head like dandelion fuzz.
(Jasmine had the courtesy to be born at 3:01p.m. after a short labor. Had her parents known she’d arrive two days early, they may just have named her Valentine.)
On her second Valentine’s Day, Jasmine sits in her mother’s lap and stares at the moving colors on the TV. This marks not only her first birthday, but two other firsts: a movie (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and seeing someone smile and cry simultaneously (her mother).
On her fourth, Jeremy corners Jasmine in the classroom’s cardboard box fort. “King Valentine commands a kiss,” he says (he is, after all, wearing a plastic crown). She closes her eyes and puckers her lips, but he screeches “Ewww” and reverse-crawls away.
On her fifth, Jasmine — while assembling cards for her first grade class — eats a candy heart inscribed with “Be Mine.” Then “My Cutie.” Thirty hearts later, she stealthily takes closeup selfies of her Technicolor tongue with her father’s phone.
On her seventh, Jasmine’s heart does a drumroll when Samantha Oakes gives her a small, red envelope at recess.
On her ninth, Jasmine and the other girls at the slumber party stare in horrified fascination at the mirror through which Robin just vanished. The incantation was a joke, they thought; it takes a full three minutes of processing before their five mouths scream in unison for the parents on hand.
On her tenth, Jasmine stands in her own bathroom, in case Robin returns there. It’s never the same mirror — everyone knows that part, just as they know the exact length of time vanished — but Robin will be back somewhere, possibly now allergic to strawberries.
(Robin in fact tumbles back through a Taco Bell bathroom two counties away, definitely allergic to strawberries.)
On her twelfth, Jasmine clutches a sweaty envelope. She stayed up past midnight making sure the handcrafted card looked as close as she could get to perfect; now she slips it between the slots of Erica’s locker, and scurries away.
On her thirteenth, Jasmine interviews her grandmother for a school assignment. The woman’s voice quavers only once, when talking about her late husband’s death in the war before Jasmine’s time. “My biggest regret in life?” she answers her granddaughter. “That I couldn’t have one more conversation with him.”
(Jasmine knows from her dad that grandmother spent so much money visiting oracles and mediums, that he had to take control of her finances “for her own good.”)
On her fifteenth, she lets Rodney hold her hand in the movie theater. His fingers are slick with sweat and/or popcorn butter; he keeps shifting in his seat as if his pants are on crooked.
On her eighteenth, she bleaches her dumb, dark eyebrows so they’ll match her white hair instead of looking like twin mustaches. Subpar idea.
On her nineteenth, on a raucous street corner, drunk Jasmine kisses a girl who wears angel wings and a camisole.
On her twentieth, she and her roommate Zoë pack up the contents of their dorm suite. Occasional cockroaches are one thing; an active poltergeist is a bridge too far.
On her twenty-second, Jasmine comes out to her parents during her birthday dinner. Later that night, she lies atop her childhood bed as her mother says, “I must’ve done something good in a past life to have a kid like you.”
On her twenty-third, Jasmine shouts out the winning trivia answer — “Valentinus!” — over the din of the Irish pub.
On her twenty-fifth, she stays indoors as advised by the government broadcasts. The laws of physics return to normal two days later.
On her thirtieth, Jasmine cashes out her Visa points for a plane ticket to whichever exotic land is next on the airline’s schedule. Providence, Rhode Island it is — in February, no less.
On her thirty-third she reads to her father after his operation, the first of four.
On her thirty-fourth, she falls blazingly in lust with Gene, the man in front of her in line at Starbucks. Their sudden, feverish gropings — along with those of all other people within a ten-mile radius — are traced back to a malfunctioning C.U.P.I.D. and undone.
On her thirty-eighth, Jasmine just can’t.
On her fortieth, Jasmine marries Melissa in a judge’s chambers before honeymooning on the lunar surface. Melissa giggles while Jasmine inwardly grimaces at every Honey Moon™ company logo they see.
On her forty-fourth, though she doesn’t know it then, Jasmine sees her father for the last time.
On her forty-ninth, Jasmine’s face is a mix of smile and tears when her wife leads the staff of the candlelit restaurant in a rendition of “Happy Birth-Valentine’s-Day-To-You.”
On her fifty-fifth, Jasmine drinks an entire bottle of vodka while researching cloning labs on Yelp. She won’t actually go through with it — Melissa would’ve been horrified at the prospect — but she simply isn’t ready to say goodbye. Why does life have to be such an asshole sometimes?
On her sixtieth, a dozen roses and a box of See’s candy arrive from Mark. She really should have a talk with him.
On her sixty-first, she sleeps with Mark. He seems so grateful, which reminds her what it’s like to feel something.
On her sixty-eighth, Jasmine just can’t.
On her seventy-second, she glimpses — for a blink, a moment — a flickering, helmeted figure in the yard with her. Did someone travel back in time to watch an old lady gardening? “What a waste,” she mumbles. On her seventy-ninth Valentine’s Day, Jasmine Shaw takes in a breath and lets out a single sound — a squeak, perhaps, or a quack — in the dimness of her bedroom, before her eyes close for good.
Kevin Sharp’s writing has appeared online at The Weeklings, 100 Word Story, Fiction Attic Press, and others; and in print in the First Line, Bookmarks magazine, and the anthology Nothing Short Of… He curates the comic book creator interview series “Between The Panels” at Fanbase Press, as well as covering various comic industry topics via news and podcasting.