Black Valentine (#115)


About three years before I met Andy, it was A Very Bad Year for Dating. My boyfriends were:

The Cheater

The Emotionally Abusive Dude

Broody, Moody, Emotionally Unavailable Dude

Sometimes, you just have years like that.

Five days before Valentine’s Day, Broody Moody and I went dancing at our usual spot. We knew lots of people, we danced with our friends, and then I looked up. Mr. Emotionally Unavailable was no longer physically available. He’d disappeared, without a word. I hunted around the club. No sign of Broody Moody. No call, no text, no wave good-bye. Just “poof.”

Had he gotten jealous and stormed off? Had I said something to hurt his feelings? Was he sick? Dying?

I had no idea. I drove to Broody Moody’s house. He was fine. He was sitting on his couch. Brooding.

I said, “What the hell?”

He said something like, “I don’t know about us anymore.” I asked for an explanation. I got a shrug.

I said okay, because it’s not like you can make someone stay in love with you. Apparently you can’t even make some men behave with common courtesy and say statements such as, “I’m leaving now, and I don’t want to be your boyfriend anymore.”

I was furious, of course. Hurt. Surprised. We had a weekend getaway planned for Valentine’s Day. I should have berated him, but I didn’t even know what to say. Apparently I am incapable of cutting, brilliant remarks while  in shock.

So I reverted to my childhood ways and vented my feelings by slamming his door as hard as I could on the way out.

I raged to my cats. I dried my tears on their fur as I stayed up late, trying to figure out What the Hell Happened. Some of my gal pals stayed up late with me and theorized pointlessly for hours.

My friend and coworker, CS, caught me crying over the printer at work. CS took me down to the cafeteria, got me a muffin, and made sure I ate it.

“Don’t forget to eat,” she reminded me. “Especially on Valentine’s Day. During the onslaught.”

I must have looked confused. It was my first year working as an assistant in the Entertainment Industry when Valentine’s Day wasn’t on a weekend.

CS, a Valentine’s Day Veteran, filled me in on what was coming: “It’s like a one-day, flower-filled, chocolate-oozing, over-the-top event. Keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, only it’s Keeping-up-with-the-Weinsteins.”

“Worse than Christmas?” The office was filled with gift baskets of chocolates, cookies, cakes, cheese, crackers, muffins, and alcohol during December. I never had to bring a lunch in December.

“Way worse. Because it’s just one day. And it’s not just the execs. It’s every person with a husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Every single one of them gets bouquets, balloons, stuffed animals, and chocolate because no one wants to hear about their love’s desk looking barren. It’s Valentine’s on steroids.”

My boss at that time was the Empress of International TV/ Movie Sales. Her partner ran a major production company at Warner Bros. I whimpered and wondered if I could be sick on Friday. I could say I had a cold, and my nose, stuffy from all the crying, would add credence to my claim.

My gal pals dragged me out dancing the night before Valentine’s Day. They shoved a shot of tequila at me.

I shoved it back. “I don’t wanna be hung over tomorrow.”

“Yeah, you do. Nothing like puking to push romance out of your head.” Their eyes widened at something behind me and they whispered in unison, “Oh. My. God.”

I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turned. It was Broody Moody.

Only he was smiling. “Want to dance?”

And I was in shock again. Unable to say anything as the man led me to the dance floor. What did it mean? Did he want to get back together? Was he sorry? Did he just want to be friends?

Also, would anyone notice if I palmed that steak knife on my way to the dance floor?

Broody Moody continued smiling as he whirled me around the floor. A little part of me hoped it was because I was back in his arms again. The smarter part of my brain, though, KNEW it was because he was free. Motherfucker.

Broody Moody happily announced, “I’m glad we can still dance together. And be friends.”

I ground my teeth and finished the pattern. Faster than I should have. Rage = speed.

Broody Moody noticed. “Oops, I missed your hand there.”

I snarled, “You’ll be missing more than that soon!”

And he laughed. Our whole dance, in fact. He’d make some innocent comment about a pattern, and I’d respond with a double entendre referring to what an idiot he was to break up with me.

Broody Moody escorted me back to my friends, still chuckling, “You’re hilarious. And strong. That was a hell of a door slam the other night. My neighbors thought it was a car crash. Stuff fell off shelves.”

I asked, “Was it expensive stuff?”

Broody Moody: “There was one Lladro sculpture—”

“Did it break?”



He laughed some more and walked away. My friends were all breathless smiles. “Well? Well? Are you back together? He looked like he was having a great time!”

It’s amazing that I didn’t drink any tequila that night.


As CS predicted, Valentine’s Day was awful in the office. The Empress got flowers and gifts from multiple schmoozing international TV stations wanting to buy syndication rights. Every time my phone lit up with the receptionist’s name, my heart gave a traitorous hop. Maybe, just maybe, Broody Moody had changed his mind. Maybe he’d sent flowers with a card, begging me to forgive him. Maybe he’d even show up with flowers, drop to his knees, and tell me he couldn’t live without me.

Instead, the receptionist would bark: “Basket for your boss. Get it off my desk now!”

I’d hurry up to reception, collect the Empress’s gift from an overflowing reception area, and carry it back to her office. Along the way, curious heads would pop over cubicle walls:

“Autumn! Those are gorgeous! Your boyfriend must love you!”

“Oh, those look delicious! Your boyfriend must think you’re too skinny! Hahahaha.”

The first few times I ran the gauntlet, I explained that the gifts were for my boss. Through ground teeth. By the end of the day, I was marching past offices and cubicles dripping with blossoms and giant heart-shaped balloons.

My coworkers stopped asking questions. Their pity was palpable.

The Empress’s office overflowed with Valentines.

My cubicle was bare.

At 3 PM, the receptionist called again. This time she was less brusque: “It’s the most massive bouquet of roses I’ve ever seen!”

Hope springs eternal. “For…me?”

She said, “Yes!”

I ran.

There it was. At least fifty long-stemmed red roses, in an ornate glass vase.

I couldn’t believe it. I asked, “Are those really for me?”

The receptionist laughed. “Just kidding. They’re for your boss.”

Sometimes, I wish I believed people burn in hell.

I hauled freaking Birnam Woods back to the Empress’s office, my heart as heavy as the stupid damned vase. The Empress exclaimed over the ostentatious bouquet from her partner. I slouched back to my desk.

Fucking Valentine’s Day.

CS’s head popped over the cubby wall. “Got a minute?”

I nodded.

She walked around to my cubby entrance, carrying a black velvet bag and a dried, dead rose. As CS handed me the rose, she solemnly intoned, “Autumn, in honor of this, the darkest of all holidays, I present you with The Black Valentine.”

She pulled out a postcard with an old picture of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Diana had a ball gown, a tiara, and sad, sunken eyes. A jagged, black heart encircled the statement: “Fairytale romances end in princely deceptions.”

The postcard was followed by:

A miniature bottle of vodka, labeled “Potion to Forget.”
A chocolate bar, labeled “A Woman’s Only True, Dependable Love.”
A voodoo doll bearing a remarkable similarity to Broody Moody.
A box of fifty straight pins.

By the time CS had laid out all the pieces of The Black Valentine, my giggles had evolved into cackling laughter. I pinned Voodoo Moody to my cubby wall with great ceremony and many, many pins, followed by the Princely Deception Postcard and the dead rose. The other women in the office, including my boss, wound up at my cubby, laughing with me and admiring CS’s creativity.

Valentine’s Day today. Eat your heart out, Empress!

I kept The Black Valentine for years, though dating horrors, job changes, and multiple office moves. (Except for the chocolate, of course, which I ate that night.) CS has since given me shower gifts and danced at my wedding (with her husband). My own husband has never failed to give me red roses and a giant red box of See’s chocolates on February 14th.

But my best Valentine ever will always be black.

Do you have a Valentine Horror Story? I’d love to hear it!

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

42 thoughts on “Black Valentine (#115)”

  1. Your story would be hard to top. I was in my mid-30s and newly divorced. I had never gotten the big deliveries that other woman did but I was used to it. That year there were two guys in my life — one I was sort of dating and the other I had dinner with twice (neither ended in even a goodnight kiss). Neither were Mr. Right but I was enjoying the attention. That Valentine’s day I got two separate bouquets. Both were the humongous vases with a dozen long stemmed red roses, ribbons and all the trim sent to my work office. Showy, ostentatious. It felt so good. Both guys were gone by the next year and it was back to a nice small arrangement with a card.

  2. Valentine’s Day has always been a pretty good day for me [even when I was single as I had my birthday to fall back on! 😉 ]

    However, I must admit watching my husband drink the glass of wine that was included with my meal at the restaurant yesterday wasn’t all that fun. And he seemed to savor every sip. But, on a brighter note, yesterday officially marked the 1/2 point of my pregnancy.

  3. I have never liked Valentine’s day but I never did anything as fun, haha. In fact, I never really celebrated it, but since getting together with C. he always gets me something, haha. Yesterday I got cherries and Godiva chocolates, and before he used to send me roses to the office, to the envy of my colleagues, haha. They never received anything and as they were married they told me as soon as I get married these Valentine presents will disappear xD Let’s see…

    1. Not necessarily. I still get presents. I bet you will, too. Only now that you work at home, you can’t show them off unless you Skype/ We Chat/ Whatever your old colleagues.

      So you should totally do that.

  4. Oh Autumn….!!

    My worst Valentines ever was in fact dance-related too.

    During my best years of dancing, single and fancy-free (aka reclaiming my identity after my Dance Mentor Ex ran off with a singer some 18 mths prior), I met and fell in love with Mr I-Break-Hearts-Because-I-Can.

    This guy just came back from the US a better and suaver dancer (after years of gawking at my Dance Mentor Ex at the clubs). Of course, I didn’t know this at the time and simply got swept off my feet. He provided a much-needed challenge to my dancing, and became a breath of fresh air in our small-ish dance community.

    His leads were featherlight yet he managed to bring out moves I didn’t know I had, and he projected some kind of intense energy during the songs that the rest of the world failed to exist. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. I was utterly and completely besotted. He made me feel like I was the one and only. And I believed him.

    Except he must have done this to a few other girls. It’s funny – some of the most sassy and smart women who were veterans in dance communities all fell for Mr Heart Breaker, and he had us all following him around In public like doe-eyed groupies, ready to eliminate each other to have his next dance. Even my super charismatic Dance Mentor Ex didn’t possess such power….

    And behind close doors he was even more addictive – which I shall not elaborate here. Let’s just say the bench mark was raised. For good.

    For some strange reason, Mr Heart Breaker also show restaurant jealousy whenever I have an enjoyable dance with my guy friends. This gave me a strange sense of triumph, as if it was proof to myself that he cared more about me than the others. Go figure.

    The occasions leading up to Valentines Day had been agonising, to say the least. He never quite make it clear who was going to be his date for the dance that night. Instead, he arranged car pools for all the girls to be present that night at the Valentines dance. So we’d forced to be civil enough to each other.

    Side Note: my dance community was (and still is) very follower-heavy. One decent enough lead can expect to face a queue of upto 3 to 5 follower all waiting to grab his next dance. My Dance Mentor Ex generally had about 6 or 7 waiting, and Mr Heart Breaker here had at least a dozen at any given time. He was in his elements. And he enjoyed having as many girls turn up as possible.

    With that, I also had my own strategy. I brought as many guy friends as I could to the dances, so I was pretty much occupied most nights. Deep down I wanted to have all of his dances, but I put on my best social butterfly Queen-of-the-club impression and it seemed to have worked. He’d come and grab me whenever i just happened to be available. Revenge was sweet. The night was mine. I was going to be the girl he went home with that night.

    But at the end of the Valentines dance, I watched him walking out of the club with this other girl. Something in my broke. And I was almost in tears while a girl friend comforted me. I was drying my tears when she looked up at something behind me.

    Mr Heart Breaker had snuck back into the club and was holding my coat. “Shall we?”

    I left with him. Not with the same sense of triumph I had enticipted. Something dawned on me. I was but a trophy to him. Especially because breaking my heart and toying with all the girls in his home town meant that he “triumphed” over my Dance Mentor Ex – who must have been a threat to his ego back in the days.

    I said my good night and cried all the way home. This was the beginning of a painful “detox” for me.

    That, was a Valentine I’d never forget.

    1. Wow, Shelley. That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing! I love how you stacked your own dance deck. Well done. And detox is a bitch, that’s for sure — at least it was when I went through it with a Dancer named Dick. But at least you recognized Mr. Heart Breaker for what he was. I had to just be grateful that Dick dumped me! 🙂

    1. He did! Andy never forgets the chocolate and flowers. This year he also tossed in the funny card and a new bluetooth headset. But honestly, screw the flowers, I’m happy if I get the big heart box from See’s.

      Did you have a red or black Valentine’s Day?

          1. Too true. And when you’re younger you’re more open minded and less judgmental. Too many divorcees and commitment phobic types in my age group.

            But I enjoy living vicariously though you. 🙂

  5. “But my best Valentine ever will always be black.” Just like a writer, preferring the great story to the beautiful red roses and the See’s chocolates. Really? Even to the See’s chocolates?

    Great post!

    1. Thanks, Nicki! I think it was also the creativity and the caring of CS that elevated her Valentine above the rest. But yeah, a good story trumps even See’s. Unless you’re really, really hungry.

  6. Another great story from you, Autumn. Very engaging, and the whole idea of Black Valentine is something I’ve never heard of. Then again, I’ve never paid attention to Valentine’s Day and each time this day rolls around each year, it really is just another day for me and all the commercialism surrounding the day is not attractive to me.

    Today the day after Valentine’s Day, no one in my office mentioned the day.

    1. Oh, it’s totally commercial and the entertainment industry out commercializes everyone when it comes to holidays. I’ve never seen anything like it.

      Right now I’m seeing Twitter battles about how “patriarchal” Valentine’s Day is because it’s only the men giving gifts. Which is silly. Most couples I know exchange gifts. Andy got bourbon.

  7. Great story as always, Autumn! CS sounds like an awesome lady and a great friend to prepare all of that for you. I hope you pinned the shit out of that broody bastard!

    I loved the card Andy got for you by the way, it’s so cute!!!! It made me smile.

    I have a pretty bad Valentines Day story and it’s VERY Chinese. Basically, my Chinese ex-boyfriend living in Japan said “you think the Prada bag your friend got from her boyfriend was nice? Wait until you see what I’m going to send you!” I told him I didn’t need anything fancy, but he still insisted. I was in mad anticipation, wondering just what he would send to my office on Valentines Day. Roses, candy, perfume? What would be better than a Prada bag? I was going mad.

    Finally, when the receptionist told me to pick up my present, I was greeted to this:

    Talk about culture clash to the max. I was aghast. I also felt like a superficial girlfriend and horrible person since I couldn’t appreciate the mere act of receiving a present. But still, it was ridiculous, and was SO NOT ME! For me, it was a red flag in our relationship for sure.

    Also when I told him that this couldn’t possibly be more expensive than a Prada bag, he said he paid 100 bucks for it. I was truly speechless.

    1. Oh. Wow. A BEAR Bouquet? Tiny bears with tiny tiaras around its-bitsy roses?! I mean, they aren’t even PANDA bears, for crying out loud. (The nice white part of me that always says nice things about even the worst gifts is rapidly losing to the meaner, mocking judgmental part of me. Badly.)

      How. What. Why?!?!

      But ultimately, the dude couldn’t have picked anything less you if he tried.

      1. Hahaha yes, a bear bouquet. With tiaras. And itsy-bitsy roses. I wasn’t expecting a Prada purse, but good god man…! Flowers, chocolates–anything but a bear bouquet!!!

        I feel so judgmental for hating on the bear bouquet (it’s better than nothing..?). But yeah. My heart sunk when I saw it…! I couldn’t help it! I’m shallow! *cry*

        Glad to hear you had a happy V-day! I love your photo with the knife and chocolate box, haha.

        1. I’m glad you liked the picture — though I kind of worry it could trigger a flashback for some women.

          I don’t know that you’re shallow. I think it’s more like your ex built up his gift SO MUCH that you couldn’t help but be disappointed in his clueless choice of baby bear bouquet.

          A five-year-old would have loved it, though.

  8. I absolutely love your writing style and I hope you’ll get to create something that will reach a large audience. A huge movie or something. And make tons of money so you can hire someone to cleanup after Andy’s cooking, and just do what you enjoy.

    1. Thank you, Anna! I’ve been having a tough month of writing rejections, and your compliment couldn’t have come at a better time. It was like a verbal hot toddy — made me feel warm, fuzzy, and hopefully able to sleep.

      Only I’ve never had a hot toddy so I’m just imagining right now. But thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a nice comment.

  9. What a great friend! Love the Princess Di pic and well, all of it. Awwwwww.

    A VD story? Hmmm. Not really. I can’t remember. It’s never been my holiday – to prove it, this year I was sick!

      1. I remember. Hard not to these days…we go out to dinner or do something nice, but I don’t expect anything like roses. If I’m single, I write a snarky post. Hahahahaha.

  10. Okay, you got me. I gotta give you the props. I need to get back to blogging and share some stuff too.
    Also, it feels so good to be able to read your stuff again! This post was hilarious! Especially the part where you asked if the flowers were for you. (Oh, I need to figure out which one was the post I last read. Guhhhh! Either way, keep it up! Keep writing. I shall get to it one day.)

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