The following is an original piece, written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. The characters and storyline is based off the song “Valerie,” sung by the great Amy Winehouse. Read part one here.
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Kyle laughed. “Damn. It makes me want to address the crowd back at Killian’s. Remember that song we used to sing?”
“Valerie?” Mark asked. “Yeah… ‘stop makin’ a fool outta meeee, why don’t ‘tcha come on over, Valerie.”
Kyle laughed and strung along. “How ironic, right?”
“Well I guess, but I didn’t know any Valeries back then. I’d change the name to some drunk girl in the crowd, remember?” …’Since I’ve come home, well my body’s been a mess, and I miss your ginger hair and the way you like to dress…'”
Hours later, Mark and Kyle had finished a few beers. They’d sung in the garage and jammed for an invisible crowd until the cold air had frozen.
“Kim saw Val at the grocery the other day, said what happened…” Kyle said. “Do you miss her? You haven’t said anything about her.”
“Of course I do. She was here for years, but I guess we just saw things differently.”
“Don’t you want a family? Children are so great, really, you should see Kim with ours.”
“It isn’t that, man. I wanted things to happen in its own time, you know?” Mark said. “Val would just act like everything was cool until I’d step out of line once, then all of the sudden we’d be fighting about marriage.”
“I better get home,” he said. “Maybe we’ll do this again.”
Mark said goodbye. It was quiet. He furrowed his brow and began to shuffle his sock feet through the house. He went through the living room, where she’d screamed at him nights prior. He walked into the kitchen where he’d left a pile of dishes — Valerie always did those.
He opened the fridge, aiming to kill time. He shuffled down the hall where she’d torn their pictures off the wall on her way out. He passed shelves packed with books he’d only read half of. He climbed into bed, hoping he wouldn’t smell her perfume in the bed. He closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep, but his mind was buzzing.
Mark didn’t have serious girlfriends in college. He had several flings, but was often concentrated on music or schoolwork. Mark could see himself marrying Val, but he wanted her to calm down so he could ask on his own time. He didn’t want to force such an important decision. He loved Val and liked the way he felt when he was with her — the old Val, anyway. He didn’t know if those feelings would come back.
When Val left, it was a shock for Mark. He was emotional, but he generally just wanted her to be happy. So, he thought, if that’s what she wanted then so be it. Her calls were puzzling. Mark figured she was just remembering the past and acting on impulse. After all, they couldn’t build a marriage off a fond memory.
The next morning, Mark was uncovering more instruments in the garage and dusting off record collections. Someone knocked on his front door. He crept to the large door, got on his tip-toes and peered through the rectangle window. There she was, in her usual white coat. Her dark hair was pulled back, her eyes were squinting from the sun, and her red lips were pursed.
He walked through the garage to the foyer, opened the door, and stood.
“Hi,” Valerie said. “I heard loud music coming from the garage when I walked up.”
“Yeah, I was just playing some…” Mark paused. “You okay? Or… did you forget something?”
“Oh, well no, at least I don’t think so,” she said. “Can we talk?”
Mark didn’t know what to say.
She drew her hands across her chest. “It’s cold. Can I come in?”
Mark motioned toward the living room. Valerie stepped inside moving toward the couch. Mark stood in the doorway.
“Right here is fine,” Mark said.
“Okay, well, I’ve really missed you. I know we have different ways of showing how we care.”
Mark was silent.
“I mean maybe I can wait longer, I am only 32, you know?”
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Val asked, getting annoyed. “Or maybe you could even sing something since that’s what you’ve been doing since I left.”
“Wow, yeah, okay let me sing you something Val. I don’t think you should wait any longer,” he said. “If you want to get married and have children, then I think you should go do it.”
“What?” she asked.
“Yeah, you told me I can’t commit to anything and maybe you’re right. So I can’t finish a book or a television series, but if it’s something I care about, I do commit, but you don’t see it that way.”
Valerie stormed to the door, throwing her polished red nails in the air. Mark followed her and closed the door. He moved back to his record collection singing the cover song.
“Stop makin’ a fool outta me… Valerie…”