February will soon be here, and with it will come Valentine’s Day, the holiday that is highly anticipated by all of you warm-hearted romantics. With it comes your chance to win a gift for you and your valentine by entering The Vindicator’s Seventh Annual Valentine Love Story Writing Contest. The contest lets you play Cupid long enough to complete the following fictitious story with a romantic happily-ever-after ending for the main character, Danielle Werther. Using no more than 750 words, give us a clever ending that sets your entry apart from the others.
The room in the community center was ablaze in red for the annual Valentine’s Day dance. Every square inch was decorated with hearts, roses and outlines of Cupid holding his bow and arrow. It was so jarringly red that Danielle Werther considered the possibility that the place could catch fire and no one could tell the difference between the decorations and the dancing flames. “How morbid of me,” Danielle said out loud, chiding herself a bit.
She sat at an empty corner table at the dance. A sound track of songs about love blared from a speaker at the other end of the room, but Danielle felt nothing of the love that surrounded her in the decorations nor other revelry of the event.
When Danielle thought about love, she thought about Kevin. It was three years now since he had passed. When they were kids, Danielle was the tomboy who tagged along with Kevin and his neighborhood friends. Soon, the two became an inseparable duo, and then became something more after a fateful kiss one summer night among the fireflies.
Danielle was grateful, looking back, that she found Kevin so early in her life; it afforded her many wonderful years with him. She relived the happy years the most and tried to forget about the last years, as cancer appeared, reappeared and then got so bad that it took him away for good. The years since his death had been difficult. She had trouble leaving the house in those early days and had become a bit of hermit. In an effort to reconnect with the world again, she had started volunteering at the city community center in a limited capacity.
The center’s director, Stan, had lost his wife 15 years before, and he was understanding. She worked primarily with two very patient and sweet event managers, Cindy and Rose, who let Danielle work mostly behind the scenes. Danielle had grown close with the crew at the center and began to socialize more in the past few months, greeting guests at the front desk and answering phones. Still, it was a surprise when Stan, Cindy and Rose cornered her last week and urged her to attend the Valentine’s Day dance. With a flourish and a “ta-da!” Cindy even presented her with a dress to wear. In all honestly, Danielle’s heart still hurt from her loss, but she couldn’t deny the good intentions shining in the eyes of her friends. She agreed to go.
So here she was at the dance, taking sips of sparkling cider, nibbling at cookies and toying with the edge of the flouncy dress Cindy had provided her, but not feeling truly present. There were plenty of people on the dance floor or chatting and making connections, but Danielle felt lost on how to join them. “Have I become less approachable?” she wondered. Tears began to sting at her eyes and a familiar feeling in her heart, the weight of loss, started pushing down on her. She rose from her chair, her eyesight blurred by tears. She began to run. She let out a gasp of surprise as she ran into a party guest. Not used to the high heels she had worn with her party dress, she teetered back and landed squarely on her butt. And then she started to laugh. A deep belly laugh that felt a lot like a release. The stranger above her started to chuckle as well. He offered a hand so she could get up, and then Danielle ...
• Finish the story above and email your entry no later than midnight Saturday, Jan. 31, to Society/Features Editor Barb Shaffer at email@example.com. • Don’t forget to include your name and phone number. • Our judges will pick their favorite three versions. • The winners will be notified by phone in time to have their pictures taken, to appear with their winning entries Sunday, Feb. 8.
• First-place winner will receive a gift certificate for $100, and second-place winner gets a $50 gift certificate, both provided by Rulli Bros. of Austintown and Boardman. • Third-place winner will receive a 2-pound box of assorted chocolates from Philadelphia Candies, provided by The Vindicator.