JANDIE is the top winner of this week's writing contest.


Here is the story she submitted:

A Different Valentine.

I sat in the dismal little town house looking at the ugly brown carpet. A deep cold loneliness that seemed more than I could bear ravaged my whole being, stretching endlessly like the carpet. The room was bare except for the horrible brown carpet a table and two chairs. The old blinds were dirty because I hadn't had time to clean them and the landlord refused to change them. A smell of mould from something that had leaked for weeks seeped slowly into my nostrils. When I first moved there a few weeks ago I gave the only bed to Irma, who had helped me move into the little town house, so I had slept on some blankets on the floor. Now Irma had gone back to Australia; but being upgraded to a bed only meant that I had no companion. The brown carpet seemed to reflect the quality of my despair. How could anyone with any aesthetic sense choose such an ugly brown?

Under the circumstances it was the only house I could get. I had had to leave. There was no choice. The marriage was over. I had thought it would work. He was so charming - and sexy too. But that was the surface. The real person became a nightmare to be with. And yet I loved him. It's funny isn't it how you can love someone even though he is a complete bastard? Somehow you reach the soul - which is always beautiful. That makes it more painful - seeing the beauty trapped and unable to manifest. How long do you wait for it to manifest when the person himself sabotages it at every turn? I couldn't wait any longer.

However, he did send me flowers. Yes, last Valentine's Day he sent me beautiful roses. But I would not get any flowers this time. No roses. Suddenly I desperately wanted roses. It was Valentine's Eve as I sat gazing at the ghastly brown carpet. That fact seemed to make the brown carpet even worse. I ached for the aesthetics of flowers, of real love, and perhaps a white carpet or a soft pink one. But I knew no one was going to send me a valentine this year and the carpet was definitely brown.

Yet that didn't mean I couldn't send a valentine myself. Yes, I decided, I would write him a valentine and take it to his house early in the morning on my bike. Then I would bike back and take the bus to work. I had bought a card earlier that week just in case.

So at 1.30am on Valentine's Day I found myself writing to my estranged husband all that was in my soul about how I felt about him, the marriage, the separation, the loneliness and the inevitability of divorce. My pen rattled away as I told him many intimate things that I had never said. "Why am I telling him all this?" I thought, "Just as we are getting divorced?" I didn't know. I felt a desperate need for real communication, truth between two beings. I missed it so much and my loneliness traveled infinitely across that friendless brown carpet.

I hated the carpet.

The unmatched chairs and battered table with glaring stainless steel legs jarred my artistic senses. But the tablecloth was pretty - a happy Hungarian flower design that my mother had given me gave the only brightness to the room along with two pots of impatiens which demanded that I notice them! They really wanted to live under the window rather than on the table. They told me so, so I let them stay there.

I mused over the impossible situation I had created with my husband as I told him that I loved him. "However," I added, "I still think we should get a divorce." I sealed the letter and looked out into the silence. The sadness was like a physical pain, but I knew I was saying the right thing.

I propped the red valentine on the table and walked slowly upstairs to the bedroom. "Remember the roses?" I had said. I thought about the roses and wished once more that he would send me a rose, although I knew he wouldn't.

Would anyone remember me for Valentine's Day? Probably not.

I slept uneasily and got up early to take the valentine to his house. When I got there he was out. I was glad. I didn't want to see him. I propped the card against the back door so that he would see it when he came home. I was glad I had written the letter.

I rode my bike to the bus station, locked it up and walked over to my bus stand. The day was cool and wet with a light drizzle of rain falling. The bus station was as drab as bus stations usually are. The dirty concrete was littered with bits of garbage. A couple of ragged homeless men sat on a bench. A short tubby cleaning lady was sweeping.

Suddenly my eyes locked together with the grey eyes of the cleaning lady. She smiled. For one intense moment two beings were in silent communication.

"Do you need a hug?" She asked quizzically cocking her head to one side with a little smile.

"Yes." I said. Though a little surprised; I really did need a hug!

She very tenderly put her arms around me and the love that flowed from her dissolved my loneliness.

Who needs roses when someone flows you love like that?

"God tells me who needs hugs," She said, "and I go and give them!"

"Thank you," I said, "That was the best Valentine!"

My bus came and I hopped on with a lighter step waving to the smiling cleaning lady.

The rest of the day was enchanted by the living Valentine I had received from her. Even the carpet looked better when I got home that night. Rustic brown perhaps?


Jancis Dienes 2004-2007

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