I’ll admit it. I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. The pressure began back in first grade, when I stayed awake all night, worrying that I’d be the only kid who didn’t receive a card at the class party. The entire holiday could, in my opinion, be renamed “Unimaginative Consumer-oriented, Entirely Arbitrary and Manipulative, Shallow Interpretation of Romance Created by the Greeting Card, Florist, and Candy Industries to make you feel miserable Day.”
Now, I believe in romance. I couldn’t have sustained a career for twenty-five years writing romance novels if I wasn’t a sucker for happily-ever-afters. But there’s so much pressure to have the most romantic night of the year that it’s almost always bound to fail.
True romance, in my opinion, comes from those little unplanned gestures that remind you why you fell in love with the guy in the first place. But I do have one evening that will forever shimmer in my mind as a perfect Technicolor romantic experience.
Back in 2001, nine days after 9/11, my sweetie and I traveled to Italy for a long-planned vacation. Really, really long-planned. When he’d proposed to me, he promised that some day he’d take me to Rome. Which he knew was my dream city. (I think I’d watched Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday a few too many times!)
The problem was, he was in graduate school and we only had enough money for a weekend honeymoon at a nearby lake. But the dream of going to Rome persisted through two marriages — yes, I did marry him twice — and although the companies he ended up working for sent us to many wonderful foreign places, Italy never turned out to be on the itinerary.
So, although many of our friends and even our son advised against us taking the trip at that time, we weren’t going to allow terrorists to destroy our dream.
The two week trip — which also included visits to Venice and Florence — was everything I’d ever dreamed of. And more. Until I got sick our last night in Rome. Which wasn’t all that surprising given that I’d written for thirty-two hours straight in order to make my deadline the day before our flight took off. I kept shrugging it off, but by the time we got to Venice, I couldn’t manage to eat even pasta or ice cream. When I could no longer – yikes! – drink wine, I threw in the towel. The hotel clerk called a doctor who, although it was Friday evening, agreed to extend his office hours to see me.
We walked the two blocks to his office, which didn’t do much to instill confidence. The waiting room was so small there was only space for two stools, and if a third person had shown up, he’d have had to wait outside on the street. The examining room, which included the standard table, the doctor’s desk, and a skeleton standing in the corner, wasn’t much bigger.
After diagnosing me with something called “Mediterranean Fever,” the very sympathetic put me on a dose of antibiotics and a bunch of other drugs. I didn’t understand what all they were — because the labels were in Italian — but I was desperate enough not to ask questions.
Except on those occasions when my sweetie would wake me up to make me take another pill, I slept around-the-clock, for a full twenty-four hours. Then woke up cured. And really, really hungry.
Unfortunately, Venice is a pretty bustling on Saturday night, and I still wasn’t up to the hard partying taking place in all the restaurants we kept passing while searching out food. Then, at the far end of one street, we saw this nearly deserted café.
When Jay asked if they were open, the cook welcomed us in as if we were family. Which, as it turned out, everyone else in the place was. Apparently they’d closed to have dinner with relatives visiting from the States. But, being Italian, no way would they refuse to feed a guest. So, we sat there beneath the stars and the lights strung over the outdoor tables, listening to the sad, sweet weeping of a violin drifting on the summer night air, eating spaghetti and drinking local Chianti. It probably wasn’t the best meal we’ve ever had. But it was, hands down, our most romantic night. In fact, we both agreed that we felt exactly like that most romantic of all movie couples.No, not Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Lady and the Tramp.
So, the questions of the day are, what would you consider the most romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day? And do you have a personal special romantic memory? Enter my FreshFiction.com February contest, TEN lucky winners will receive an autographed book of their choice from my backlist (subject to availability), along with assorted bookmarks, covers, and a Freefall special dark chocolate bar. They’ll also be entered in a drawing for a traditional South Carolina sea grass basket filled with scrumptious Lowcountry treats. The winners of the baskets will be announced on my website, http://www.joannross.com/ on March 1.
As a bonus feature I am also running a ONE DAY ONLY Blog Contest today. Two lucky winners will receive an autographed book of their choice from my backlist (subject to availability), along with assorted bookmarks, covers, and a Freefall special dark chocolate bar.