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Jude McLean Author

The Reluctant Valentine

00:00 / 05:09

Ah! Valentine’s Day. Pink and red hearts, chocolates and teddy bears, Cupids and kisses, right? Wrong. It’s February again, and with it comes blistering cold, endless dark skies, and Valentine’s Day. The most romantic day of the year. What. A. Crock. My editor is either cheering, laughing, or sitting in horror, wondering, “How are we ever going to publish this? She just attacked Valentine’s Day and offended countless people.” Yeah, well, that’s just another day for me, so I’ll roll with it. Like many of you, I’m married. I’ve been with my husband for seventeen years. This is how we began.

My cousin, Liza, got engaged and invited me for a visit so I could meet the new man. Meet him. I did. Ethan seemed nice enough. No warning bells went off as I sat and observed him casually drape his arm over my cousin’s shoulders and circle his fingertips over her arm. He was attentive, kind, and a good sport. However, there was no question he was more straight-laced than Nancy Kerrigan’s skates. But hey, opposites attract, and they were crazy for each other. There was one problem. His family didn’t care for my cousin. She was not straight-laced. She was not quiet-mannered or shy. Which meant she was not the ideal picture of what they felt a wife should be. Liza felt like a red-headed stepchild each time she was with her soon-to-be in-laws. Her solution? “Jude, if you married Ethan’s younger brother, I would have an ally in the family. Everybody likes you. If they like you and you like me, then they will like me.” “Uh-huh,” I said dryly as I looked over at the brother.

He was tall, medium build, not an athlete but no slouch either, mildly handsome with his green eyes and the longest eyelashes I’d ever seen on a man who wasn’t in drag. He turned my way, smiled, and waved. I turned away, utterly uninterested. “Not a snowball's chance in hell!” I declared. She persisted, and eventually, I agreed to go on a date with him. I would’ve done anything to get her off my back. I called the brother and invited him out for ice cream. I don’t care much for ice cream, but it’s what people here do. When in Rome… He was nice enough and was smitten with me. I can’t read minds, but I know when a man finds me attractive whether they say it out loud or not- which he did not. Liza was over the moon. I helped with her wedding preparation, and all the while, her mind was on a different prize- transforming me from her cousin to her sister-in-law. She was practically salivating when she saw me dance with her new brother-in-law at her wedding. I wanted to see if he had any rhythm. Nope. But he was a good sport. I could feel her hungry eyes watch every move we made. I turned, flashing her a look, expecting to find her wringing her hands together like a TV villain whose evil scam is coming to fruition. Instead, what I saw was her giving orders to the band to play something slow. The meddling… sigh. I digress.

Well, less than a year after her wedding, I was engaged to the brother. We were married less than six months after that. Her evil plan worked. The new in-laws liked me. Although our mother-in-law wasn’t my number one fan, she tolerated me. As for the rest of the family, I was in, and I dragged my cousin with me. We were a package deal. They learned to like it. I confidently surmise that the family has times they would like to run away screaming. Liza and I kind of turned that family inside out with our over-the-top humor and bold personalities. To give you a proper visual, think “Frick and Frack”. Seventeen years later, Liza, Ethan, me, and the brother are the best of friends. We vacation together, we party together, we cry together and depend on one another. When I got married, I got more than I bargained for in my vows. Liza and I were always friends, and this brought us even closer together. And I wouldn’t trade my brother-in-law for the world. As for my husband, Luke, I won’t candy coat things like those sickening candy hearts that say “Be Mine”, “Always” and “OXO”. There are days I hate the very sound of his voice. Even more so with him working from home, but that’s another story. All I know is at the end of the day; I have a marriage that an atomic bomb couldn’t destroy. And that, my friends, is what I will celebrate on Valentine’s Day. That’s something Cupid would approve. Cheers to lifelong friends, family, and a little scheming.

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