Roses are red/ violets are blue/ this Valentine’s I’m going out with you/ you, you, you and you.
Tanya smiled sleepily, hearing the sounds of cooking creep beneath the door and into the cosy bedroom. Luxuriating in the purple satin sheets, she stretched cat-like for a moment before sliding out from between the bedlinen and padding to the door. Pulling a loose top on, she grinned as she entered the kitchen. White tiles cool on her feet, she tip-toed over to Tobias, who was standing over the stove while enticing smells emanated from the frying pan on the hotplate, and slid her hands over his eyes.
"Guess who?" She laughed as he started in surprise.
"So the ninja master is awake at last!" His voice was light, like honey in the sun, sweet and syrupy and brilliant.
"Is that a crack at my ethnicity?" She teased, slipping her arms down to drape over his shoulders and resting her chin on his shoulder so she could see what was cooking.
"You got me. Everyone knows the best ninjas come from Africa.”
"Mm-hm. Asia's just a cover story. Are those pancakes?"
"Chocolate chip pancakes, even." Kissing his freckled cheek, Tanya tousled his already messy sun-streaked hair.
"You are definitely my favourite person. Have I told you that I love you?"
"Not recently." A cheeky smile played across Tobias' lips as he slid the pancakes onto a plate. Tanya laughed as she carried one to the table, bare legs swinging as she sat languidly on the wooden bench.
"Well, I love you."
"Love you too, Tan."
"Oi! Over here!" Tanya waved frantically as she spotted Liv among the crowd, long dark hair bobbing amongst the press of people. "Liv! Hey!"
The two embraced, Tanya's hot pink jacket clashing terribly against Liv's orange and white striped halter neck top. Liv smelled of lemons and roses, small silver studs flashing in her ears as she giggled and pushed Tanya's dreads away from her face.
"Got your hair done?"
"Nice, isn't it? Check out the beading." She flicked a braid at Liv, who caught it and examined the butterfly shaped decoration at the end.
"Ooh, sparkly!" A passerby bumped against Tanya's elbow and she snorted ruefully.
"We certainly picked a terrible day to visit the lake, huh? So many people." The lake in question was a couple of hundred meters away, fringed by willows and happy couples. A few swans glided serenely across the placid surface, which reflected the clear spring sky above.
"It's Valentine's Day, you moron. Of course there are people here." Liv rolled her eyes and grabbed Tanya's hand, tugging her into the swirling crowd. "Come on, let's go feed the swans and do couples things! We can pick flowers!"
"Betcha I can find a four-leaf clover," Tanya grinned as she and Liv wove through the crowd towards soft grass and warm contentment.
The short spring shower which had crashed into town was beginning to let up when Tanya got to the cafe, leaving the air outside steamy and sticky. She glanced around quickly; was she late or - nope, there he was! Smiling as Bartholomew waved frantically, she made her way over to the table.
"God, good thing you made a reservation, Tan. Who'd have thunk it'd be so packed here on Valentines?" He kissed her on each cheek and she did the same as they hugged before sitting down. The table was pleasantly situated, along the wide glass windows, although mostly what you saw was people strolling past and the ebb and flow of traffic. Not exactly picturesque by any stretch of the imagination, but better than staring at a peach-coloured wall.
"I honestly didn't think so many people'd be here," Tanya agreed, taking one final glance around the pub's packed interior. "I've seen fewer people in here on grand final day."
"Pft. A bit of an exaggeration. Since when do you come here for grand finals, anyway?" Bartholomew snorted as he rummaged in the bag at his feet. "Ah-ha!"
Grinning triumphantly, he pulled out a pair of ornate silver candlestick holders and thumped them down on the middle of the table. "You got the candles, right?"
"Oh! Yeah, but I just grabbed a box of tea-lights. We needed more at home, anyway. Didn’t even think about it; oops."
"We can just balance them on top."
"And try not to breathe too hard." Tanya grinned as they carefully positioned the tiny tea-lights atop the silver pillars. "I did, however, grab a bottle of bubbly and... These!"
She threw a handful of faux fabric rose petals at him, leaving pink and red ovals scattered on his shoulders and through his spiky blond hair.
"Haha, brill Tan! Hey, they're even scented!"
"And perfectly fine for your allergies, too." Bartholomew grinned and flicked a few petals from his drink before passing Tanya a menu.
"Here. My shout today, love."
The cinema lobby was surprisingly deserted, a refreshing change of pace from the heaving public-holiday crowds heaving outside. Still slightly damp from the earlier showers, Tanya breathed a sigh of relief at the calm. Over by the faux velvet ropes delineating an imaginary queue by the concession stand, Rosalie waved two tickets, her other arm laden down with a shopping bag. Tanya grinned and heft her own shopping bag, wincing slightly as the chips crinkled loudly, probably due to the sudden shifting of the two-litre bottle of Cascades ginger beer.
“Hey, babe,” came with a kiss on the cheek and awkward dance as the two women tried to arrange their bags for a hug without taking out the back of anyone’s knees.
“Heya, Rosie. It’s surprisingly deserted?”
“I know! Apparently ‘Fury Riders: Raiders of the Lost Dark’ isn’t most people’s choice of Valentine’s movie or something?”
“Ridiculous! Who could say no to ridiculous wire-stunts and explosions?”
“Philistines,” Rosie smirked, shoving the tickets between her teeth so she could grab Tanya’s hand unencumbered. “But that means we’ll have the cinema all to ourselves.”
“Yesssss! We can do extra sound effects!” Cackling, ignoring the curious looks from the usher and the concession stand employee, Tanya and Rosalie vanished into the dimness of the theatre.
Tanya sprawled contentedly on a beanbag, hand dipped into the bowl of buttery popcorn as Liv and Tobias bickered amiably over what movie to watch.
“Didn’t you have enough popcorn at the movies with Rosie?” Tanya stuck her tongue out at Bart, pretending to ignore his subtle tug at the bowl cradled in her lap.
“You can never have enough popcorn.”
“However, if you don’t hand it over, I might not get any popcorn, and that would just be a tragedy.” Bartholomew wiggled a long-stemmed glass containing a distressingly neon-coloured liquid in her direction. “Trade you?”
“Well, if you put it like that…” Shoving a last handful of popcorn into her mouth, Tanya grabbed the glass and relinquished the bowl, sinking sideways as the beanbag shifted beneath her. “Little help?”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have anything more to drink?” Liv glanced up from the teetering stacks of DVD boxes, biting back a giggle at the sight of Tanya, glass held straight up in the air, one leg perpendicular to the floor and her face smushed against the hardwood floor.
“Oi! I haven’t had anything to drink yet! Fight me.” A sudden muffled thumping noise came from the kitchen as the stereo system switched to one of Roaslie’s heavy metal covers, the lady in question poking her head round the doorframe.
“Who am I fighting? What are the weapons?”
“I am not fighting anyone, Rose! Someone needs to help me up.”
Tobias snorted and grabbed Tanya’s flailing foot, eliciting a shriek of dismay and a convulsive twitch that sent sticky, alcoholic liquid sloshing over the side of her glass and over her arm. “Noooooo! Not my foot you evil!”
Fingers stroked the sole of her foot as Tanya struggled to free herself from the twin embrace of Tobias’ hands and the depths of the beanbag without a sudden deluge of cocktail. Bartholomew collapsed onto the couch next to Liv, laughing, and alternated between examining DVD cases discarded by Liv and tossing pieces of popcorn at Tobias and Tanya.
“Oh yeah, there is a fight! Sweet!” Rose swanned into the room, snatching up Tanya’s precariously held glass. Muffled by the beanbag, Tanya struggled to get enough breath to protest between giggles. “I’ll fight the winner?”
“Sure, Rosie. I’ll take you on.” Tobias made a mock scary face, releasing Tanya’s foot and choosing to collapse on top of her as she raised herself out of the beanbag. Hitting the ground with a breathless ‘oof’, Tanya kicked ineffectually for a moment before surrendering and settling for directing a rude gesture in the general direction of Tobias.
“I’ll choose the weapon. Karaoke!”
“Oh God no, Rosie. I'm not drunk enough for karaoke.”
Bartholomew began digging through the pile of plastic cases, muttering something about ‘I’m sure I just saw it’. Liv pulled a face and buried herself into the couch cushions. She pulled a throw rug over her head, her knees pulled up to her chest.
“It's not physically possible to be that drunk.”
Gasping and red-faced, Tanya wriggled mostly free from Tobias’s embrace and gestured at Rosie to hand her the glass.
“I’m not drunk enough to listen to Toby singing Disney songs. Hand it over.”
Rosalie raised an eyebrow.
“Please, love of my life, don’t make me listen to Toby’s off-key karaoke.”
“Sorry, Tan, it’s mine now,” Rosalie smirked as she took a swig. “There’s more in the kitchen, though.”
Bartholomew emerged from the pile of cases waving a silvery disc. “Found it!”
Tanya squawked as Tobias readjusted his position. “Too bad I’m comfy here, Tan. You’re just going to have to endure it. Love you.”
“Love you too, you tone-deaf scrub.”