Rita dreaded Valentine’s Day. It was the worst day of the year. Every year, she would wake up on February 14th and say, “Mommy, I’m too sick to go to school today.” Her mother always knew why she wanted to stay home. “Come to breakfast. Daddy and I have something for you.”
This year, Rita was not ready to leave her bed even when she knew her parents had bought her a wonderful gift. She had seen her father trying to hide the large box that contained the set of books she had been asking for. There were pictures of her favourite characters on the box.
“Get up!” Mommy called out for the fifth time. Rita got up. She went straight to the living room where her father was waiting. “See what you have here,” he said with a smile. Rita opened the box and ran her fingers over the books. They were so shiny. She wanted to stay home and read all day. Then her mother handed her a bright pink envelope. Rita knew what was inside. It was a Valentine’s Day card. She didn’t want it. She wanted a card from a boy who liked her, not from her parents who felt sorry for her. Still, she didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so she opened the envelope. It was a cute card with a teddy bear saying Happy Valentine’s Day. Her parents had written: Lots of love to our little girl. Rita said thank you and went to get ready for school.
The day could not end fast enough. Every class seemed to drag on and on. Rita and her classmates wanted it to be 3 o’ clock. That’s when the last bell rang. That’s also when the teacher, Mrs. Gupta, would distribute the Valentine’s Day cards. There was a shoe box for each student, and they all had the whole week to buy cards and place them in each other’s boxes.
Rimi had asked Rita if she was giving anybody a Valentine. Rita shook her head, making her ponytail hit her face. “No! Valentine’s Day is silly.” Her friend tried again. “Rita, remember how Arjun gave you chocolate once? Maybe you could give him a card.” Rita laughed. She knew that Arjun didn’t like her.
The bell finally rang and Mrs. Gupta started distributing the boxes. “Class, please be patient,” she said because Partho was standing up excitedly. He was the most popular boy in class so he expected many cards.
When Rita’s box was sitting on her desk, she did not open it immediately. She wanted to go home. Mrs. Gupta walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Go ahead.” Last year, her box had one card from her best friend Ruby. This year, Ruby had moved to Delhi, so her box would be empty.
Everybody started going home. Rita decided to get it over with. She took the lid off her box as if she was uncovering a creepy lizard. There was one card from Rimi. It had a picture of a clown and said that Rita was a great friend. Rita put the card into her bag.
As she walked toward the school gate, she saw Preeti showing off her valentines including one from a boy. She continued walking to the gate, looking down at the ground to avoid talking to anybody. Suddenly, she heard a boy say, “Rita, wait!” Rita turned around. It was Arjun!
“Hi,” she said. Rita wondered if she should ask him about his new pet dog. They were neighbours, so she had seen his father walking their pet. Arjun interrupted her thoughts when he said, ” I have something for you.” Rita asked, “What?” He held out a chocolate. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Before she could say thank you, he ran out the gate. Rita had a good Valentine’s Day after all!