At the age of eleven, Valentine’s Day could have been synonymous with groundhog’s day. I simply didn’t see the significance. All day, I was surrounded by teddy bears, roses, and chocolate. "Is this what love is?" I wondered vacantly. I ran down the seventeen stairs and felt a shock of nausea at the sight of my grandparents cuddled on the couch, kissing. gross. My aunts were making my uncles’ plates of food and hallmark cards with red hearts, and black couples were laid across the old-fashioned, floral table cloths in Nana’s dining room. My grandmother's foster daughters’ Krystal and Champagne were on the phone grinning from ear to ear with an abnormally high pitched tone in their voices. There must have been testosterone on the other end of the phone line. This hoopla made me want to avoid the bottom of the stairs all together.
I knew I could count on Christina to escape from the ruckus downstairs. Out of the three foster daughter’s in Nana’s house, Tina intrigued me the most. Her hair was jet black with a faded, green streak in her bangs that Nana made her cover with cheap, drug store, hair dye. Somehow, the green still peaked through the oppressive black color. Her ear lobes were stretched 'cause Nana made her take out her ear gages too. She had a hole in her nose where her silver ring used to be. She always said that no one understood her. “Stevi, what’s up niece?” she said, pinning up a rave flyer to add to her collection. Tina always snuck out to raves through the back window and down the balcony. Those fliers were blatant slaps in the face, undermining my nana’s strict reign. “Tina, what’s the name of the cute Backstreet Boy again?” I said, looking at the poster on her wall. “Lance!” she laughed, “You know, you don’t have to like him just because I do. You can like whichever one you want.” I blushed.
“Christina!” my nana yelled from the bottom of the stairs.
“Excuuuuuse me?” said my grandmother with her accent rising.
Tina sighed, “Yes Mom?”
“Adrien’s down here to see you.”
My stomach sank. Once again, I was an awkward outcast as a result of Valentine’s Day. Adrien was just like Tina. He had tattoos at the age of sixteen and dark hair that was spiked up into some weird entanglement. I stuck my head outside of the door to see Adrien’s eyes light up as Tina hugged him. My nana walked away and reminded Tina that she was on punishment and her boyfriend couldn’t stay long. Tina rolled her eyes and gazed at me from downstairs, “You can watch TV in my room until I come back.” Without waiting for my reply, they walked outside. I was furious. I couldn’t believe that Christina gave into all of the commercial-chaos of Valentine’s Day.
Twenty minutes later, I heard Tina’s keys unlocking the door downstairs. Like a typical eleven year old, I had forgiven her and I just wanted someone to hang out with me. I peered down the stairs to see her walking up, grinning harder with each step she took. I thought about what she could possibly have to grin about? What did he do? Get her a teddy bear? Did he buy her jewelry? Did he give her chocolates? She hated chocolate. Tina glided into the room. Out of a plastic bag, she pinned up a picture that Adrien drew of a bleeding heart. By the looks of the drawing, I assumed he was devastated or something. Apparently not. “Look Stevi, Look!” she carefully placed a dozen blackish-red, dying roses on her wooden dresser. Two dark, crisp petals fell from the bouquet and she caught them quickly, still beaming. I smiled . “This is love,” said Christina quietly. I silently agreed.