Roe took several steps into the mall and waited for her eyes to adjust to the change in lighting. Compared to the fluorescent daylight inside, the February sun on the snow outside was almost blindingly bright.
‘Age,’ she thought with a sigh. There was no way she could deny that time had made some changes. Her eyes were still the same, almost impossible, Aegean blue of her youth but they no longer focused as fast as they once had. Her hair had lost the golden radiance of years gone by and was now the color of moonlight. And while her skin was still perfect in tone, there were tiny wrinkles framing her eyes and laugh lines around her mouth.
She had felt tired and old this morning and knew she had to come here today. It was important.
A smile played at the corners of her lips as she entered the main concourse and saw all the pink and red hearts festooning the ceiling. Heart-shaped balloons were being offered for sale at several of the little kiosks. Roe started her slow promenade around the shops. Her gray suede pants made a soft swishing sound as she walked. If Roe could have her way she would never wear anything but long flowing skirts, but that was not practical. So she comforted herself with wide-cut pant legs that moved softly around her ankles instead.
She wandered for a bit in one of the gift shops watching people picking out Valentine’s Day cards; then drifted over to the chocolatier to watch them dip strawberries into the rich fudge coating. “Sad day,” she mused, “when a lady has to buy her own sweets.” But she treated herself to a few anyway.
She sat down opposite a jeweler’s with a large cupid in the window and watched as several men shopped for presents. Some went for lavish diamonds; others picked more affordable tokens of their devotion.
Continuing her stroll, she passed a young couple kissing. The girl stared back defiantly. “What are you staring at, granny?”
Roe smiled and gently caressed the girl’s cheek. “Sweet child, what you feel is but the first slight flickerings of desire. I have known such passion that has burned hot and bright enough to consume the world in its flames.” The girl stood there opened-mouthed. Roe moved on, smiling as memories of young men with thighs of steel and loins of fire warmed both her heart and her pulse. She was walking a little quicker now, feeling energy pulse through her.
She stopped at a lingerie shop. The clerk glanced at her and pointed her to the plus size section. Roe shook her head sadly. Her figure had changed very little over the years but others’ perceptions of it had. Once, her full curves had been considered voluptuous and she’d been the object of every man’s desire. Now women starved themselves until they looked like pre-adolescent boys and then paid doctors to splice on what should have been there naturally. Roe chose a black lace teddy, barely held together with red satin ribbons, and made her purchase. She knew there were still some men who wanted a woman to be soft and round in all the right places. Roe knew that all over the city, the world even, lovers would be exchanging gifts and secret words of love. Touches would lead to kisses and then to more. Her heart beat quicker with the pleasant images of romance.
From one of the side corridors Roe heard a whimper. A young woman, tears streaking her face, tried to pull her wrist away from the man confronting her.
“You are hurting her.” Roe stepped up to them.
Shocked, the man dropped her wrist and Roe took the girl’s hand in her own. “No one deserves to be hurt because they love someone. There is a better man for you. You just have to let him find you.” The girl looked into Roe’s eyes and it was as if a door to a different, better world was suddenly opened. She hugged Roe and ran off. The abandoned man cursed Roe as she headed for the exit.
It was time to leave. She stepped out into the gathering twilight and knew he was behind her. “You have no idea who you just messed with, old lady.” Roe turned to face him. His fists were clenched but he took a step back as the black Hummer pulled up behind her. The driver was past his prime but he still moved with the grace and power of a predator as he came to join her.
“You have one chance to live. Take it!” he ordered, and the younger man took off running across the parking lot.
“Oh Ari, you so love being dramatic.”
“I don’t bluff. You know that” He smiled at her. “You are radiant.”
“I always feel better after watching people celebrate my holiday.”
“It isn’t your holiday, my love. It belongs to some Christian saint.”
“Nonsense. They can call it whatever they like, any celebration of love belongs to Aphrodite.”
He leaned over and nibbled her ear as they headed home.
“Ares, why do you think we are still here, when all of the others have been gone so very long?”
“Simple, we will always be here because we are at their very core. It doesn’t matter that they no longer believe in us. Their actions keep us alive. They are full of hate and violence.
“And love. Love is part of them too. It is what gives them strength to fight on, against life itself, to prevail.”
Ari smiled and squeezed her thigh. “Now, what is in that pink-and-white-striped bag you have there?”
Her voice was low and throaty: “You’ll find out…” She wiggled a little closer and rested her head on his shoulder. It was indeed a night for love.
Evonne Gayle is a member of both Liberty Hall and The Notebored writing groups and balances her writing with her job, her family, way too many hobbies and servicing the needs of her feline masters.
This story was sponsored by
Pearl Cards: a creative, collaborative storytelling game. Play free online or purchase decks to play in person with your friends and family!