Alexandra and the Valentine's Day Surprise

By C. Biswas

It was almost Valentine's Day. Excitement was sky high in the Cummins house because that happened to be the favourite holiday of Alexandra Begonia Cummins, nearly eight. Of course, that was also including her birthday, and Christmas, and Halloween. She had drawn big red crayon hearts across each day on the fridge calendar leading up to February 14.

Ah, Valentine's Day! Pink and red hearts were everywhere Alex looked now. These happened to be her favourite colours, along with purple and sky blue. Alex loved hearts. Now, for most people hearts meant love, and mushy stuff. But for Alex, hearts meant something way better: candy! There were chocolate hearts, gummy hearts, sour hearts, and the little hearts in pretty colours with writing on them. Last year she had enough hearts to last until March.

The most wonderful, exciting, incredible part of Valentine's Day, however, were the valentine cards. Alex loved deciding which cards to give out. Would she make them herself, with sparkly pens and glitter glue and stickers from the sticker drawer? Or would she try to choose from the dazzling choice of cards at the grocery store? There were ones with little ponies who had curly hair; or the fabulous fashion doll ones, featuring 8 different outfits; or maybe the fairy princesses, with real sparkles on them. But while the girls in her class would like all these cards, Alex knew the boys would not. Alex wrinkled her nose as she thought of the cards the boys would like. There were the slimy creature cards (eww! Her little brother liked those); the mutant turtles with colourful capes (not so bad); the monster truck and race car cards (she could add sparkles); and the superheroes (she even liked some of those guys, and she could add sparkles to her favourite ones).

The decision had been so tough that Alex had stayed up past her bed time three nights in a row, thinking. Then her mother found Alex with the flashlight on underneath her covers, thinking with her markers. That was a big no-no, and now the markers were having a long time out on top of the fridge. But Alex's mom had a very good solution. They would make a card for everyone in class, and it would say:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

This is my favourite thing about you!

Then, Alex would write something special for each one, with her mom's help. And she would get to tape a shiny red foil-wrapped chocolate heart to the front of every card. Yes, she could use a different colour marker for each person, but not for each letter. Yes, she could use glitter glue, and jelly pens, and stickers. No, she could not use food colours or nail polish.

Alex was very happy with the cards. They looked amazing. No one had ever seen such sparkly, colourful hearts. They were good enough to be on the six o'clock news! She couldn't wait to see her friends' faces at the class party.

Each year, there were class parties that started just after lunch. Moms sent in special treats, like sugar cookies with sprinkles, or cupcakes decorated with candy hearts. They had fruit punch to drink, and paper napkins with valentines on them. For the whole week before, the class made construction paper hearts, and paper chains in pink and red. Then the teacher would put all the decorations up the day before the party. Last year, someone had sent a dozen red balloons, and they floated up to the ceiling, white ribbons swirling down to the desktops.

In the morning, everyone would get to put valentines into the special Just For Valentine's Day mailboxes they had made in art class the week before. She loved receiving cards, which sometimes had chocolate hearts or little candy bags attached. She even got a pencil covered with pink and red hearts last year. Best of all, that afternoon the whole junior school was going over to the local skating rink for a skating party. Alex didn't think she could wait.

Over the past four nights, Alex had carefully matched which valentine would go to which classmate. She had worked with two completely different packages of valentines: one with unspeakably stylish fashion dolls, and one with popular cartoon characters. She had even made two very special cards with paper doilies and red foil for her teachers. Alex felt that getting the right card to the right person mattered tremendously. Her careful preparation would show that she truly cared. After all, anyone could just put a card in an envelope. Using her vast assortment of gel and milky pens, glitter glue and stickers, Alex addressed and decorated the cards to the point of being outright dazzling.

Two nights ago, Alex had spent the time before and after dinner coordinating her pink, red and white outfit for the big day. This monumental decision required pulling everything out of her drawers and closet in any shade of pink, red or white. Her bedroom was strewn with socks, tee shirts, sweatpants, shorts and even pyjamas. Pony holders, scrunchees, hairbands and clips littered the floor. The winning ensemble consisted of a pink undershirt, the white turtleneck with red hearts on it, the pink sweatshirt with the big red heart, and the red leggings. And the pink socks with individual toes, and two red pony tail holders with plastic hearts.

On the weekend, Alex took her skates, tried them on, put the purple guards carefully back over the blades, and tied pink pompoms to the ends of the laces before putting them back into her skate bag. Then, Alex practiced and performed her gold-medal winning Olympics routine to all the dolls, whom she had carefully seated on the living room sofa. The performance was going very well until Alex's triple skip jump landed her too close to the china cabinet, and right in front of her mom.

Mom had baked the most delicious vanilla cupcakes with confetti sprinkles inside for Alex to bring into class for the party. Together, they decorated the cupcakes with glorious gobs of pink icing, and glittering sprinkles. The final touch was a candy heart perfectly placed in the center of each little cake.

Edward had watched all the proceedings with fascination. He was Alexandra's little brother. Edward found everything Alex did interesting. Even though she didn't like Edward's games, and her fashion dolls would not go out on dates with his action heroes, he loved everything about his older sister, Alex. Edward wished that he could just get Alex to like him more. Maybe this could be his big opportunity. Maybe he could help Alex have the most incredible Valentine's Day by making things perfect. He knew just where he would start.

While Alexandra was away at school, and Mom was upstairs on the computer, Edward found Alex's valentine cards. He knew Alex had really struggled with assigning the cards. Maybe she had made some mistakes and he could make sure the right person really did receive the right card. At four years old, Edward was already able to read and write, sometimes even a little better than his older sister. He switched the card for Alex's best friend, Cassie, with the one for Billy. Then, he gave Austin's to Trevor. He thought Mrs. Bernholtz, the librarian, would really enjoy the fashion doll shoe parade valentine that would have gone to Melissa. But Edward had noticed that Melissa really liked hair accessories, and so he found her a valentine with those instead. On it went until all the valentines had been reassigned.

Mom called down to see if everything was all right. It was very quiet. A little too quiet, infact. “Edward, are you making goop soup again?”

“No, mom! I'm playing with the super action morphers!” Edward called to her upstairs.

“OK. Be good, please! I'll be done soon. Then we can work on your cupcakes!”

While his mom was occupied upstairs, Edward had another brilliant idea. He really was quite clever for a four year old. Alex's favourite colours were purple and pink. No one, not even Alex, knew which she liked better. It alternated on a weekly basis. Sometimes, she switched colour preferences on the same day but that was usually for birthday parties. What if Edward coloured her skates from boring old white to her favourite colours? Oh, it was a great plan! What could he use? He lined up all the choices: paint, glitter glue, crayons, markers, milky and gel pens. Edward tried them all. When he was finished, the skates were a glittering swirl of colours. He thought that Alex would just love them! Carefully, Edward placed them back in her skate bag.

At that point, Mom emerged from the upstairs office, her meeting over. “Let's make those cupcakes!” she called out. Together, she and Edward created amazing cupcakes with gummi worms in cookie crumb dirt for Edward to bring to his JK class the next morning. Edward thought his cupcakes were so awesome that maybe he could help Alex again by fixing up hers. Sure, her cupcakes were pretty, pink and sparkly, but they needed something more: they needed cookie crumb dirt and gummi worms. Boy, would her class be surprised when they saw those.

While Alex worked on her spelling homework later that afternoon, Edward was playing with his action figures. He really did want to find a way to convince Alex that his dolls and her dolls could play together. He found some scraps of discarded construction paper Alex had used and did his best to draw some flower shapes, which he then cut out with his safety scissors. He took some of his lucky string off the ball he always carried in his pocket, and taped it to the flowers. Then, he tied the flowers to the arms of two action men. Very impressive! It looked like the men were holding out the flowers to give them to somebody. He quietly went downstairs with the figures, and placed them inside Alex's purple backpack. What a nice surprise for her!

Valentine's Day finally arrived. Alexandra couldn't stop talking about all the exciting things that were going to happen. Her cards had been carefully packed in her backpack, and the cupcakes were tucked safely in a box. At the breakfast table, everyone complimented Alex on her fabulous Valentine's Day outfit. The day was off to a great start!

At school, Mrs. Munro's Grade Two class got ready to put their valentine cards into the mailboxes. All the desks had been set up into a wide circle, so that the students could walk around them easily. Along the wall to the side, extra desks were set up with plates, napkins, cups and boxes filled with treats for the party. As she put the envelopes into the mailboxes, Alex thought some looked a little different, but she couldn't tell just why. The morning passed quickly, with lessons using Valentine's Day themes. Then, it was lunchtime and class was dismissed. When they returned, it would be party time!

Mom came to collect Alex and Edward from school and bring them home for lunch. At Edward's class party his cupcakes had really been a hit. He still had cookie crumb dirt all around his mouth.

“Gross!” yelled Alex, when she saw his face. Edward promptly laughed, and offered her a bite of the one he was still holding in his hand. “Ewwww!” Alex shrieked, until her mom made her stop. Once they were home, Alex wolfed down her soup and sandwich. Then, it was time for her to grab her skates and they all walked Alex back to school.

In her classroom, Alex went to open the box of cupcakes she had brought in. She lifted the lid and shrieked “Edward !!!!” There, on her lovely pink cupcakes, were dirt crumbs and gummi worms.

“Cool!” declared Billy.

“All right!” Rufus and Janet cheered. Everyone in the class felt the same. Alex just shook her head in disbelief, and went back to her desk to begin opening the cards she had received. She started to open one with a bag of cinnamon hearts attached when laughter erupted across the class. Guffaws and giggles circled the room as Alex's classmates discovered their hilarious valentines.

“Very funny, Alex!” they called to her. “Good one!” “You are too funny!”

“Cassie, what's wrong with my cards?” whispered Alex to her best friend.

“I love how you gave the girls' to the boys and the boys' to the girls!” giggled Cassie, holding up the action man card she had received from Alex. Oh no! It couldn't be possible. Edward had struck again! Yet, surprisingly, no one minded at all. They even liked their cards. Alex hoped there weren't any more surprises in store for her when she went to put her cards away in her backpack. “What?!” she exclaimed when the two action men fell out.

“Oh, how sweet!” cried Jody and Jennifer. Soon, all the girls were over admiring the dolls with the flowers attached.

“You're so lucky your little brother made you these. Mine only makes spitballs,” declared Rachel. Alexandra thought about that. These were definitely better than spitballs.

Mrs. Munro asked the class to clean up and get ready to leave because the time for the skating party had finally arrived. Everyone hurried to put things away, and took their seats. Then, they were all allowed to put on their outdoor clothing, get their skates and stand in line by the door. With the sun shining, and the sky bright blue above, it was a perfect skating day. On the short walk over to the nearby rink, Alex chatted with her friends about what they would do in the Olympics, and their favourite skating routines.

The Grade Twos sat down on the bench area they were shown, and began putting on their skates. Alex unzipped her bag, reached for her skate and pulled it out. The entire rink heard her shriek of surprise as she held up her skate.

“Whoa! Groovy skates! Where did you get those?” asked Jody. Suddenly, a group of girls formed around Alex to admire the crazy skates she had.

“Uh, they were custom decorated,” Alex replied. It was partly true. Only the custom decorator was her brother, Edward. She couldn't wait to get home and decorate him! Still, the skating party was great fun, and having people admire her skates only made things better. Alex was sorry when it was time to pack up and leave. Valentine's Day had been worth the wait, and now it was over for another year. Too bad that Edward had almost spoiled all her fun.

Edward thought about all the Valentine's Day surprises he had made for his sister: the rearranged cards; the redecorated cupcakes; the colourful skates; the action men with flowers. Yet, Edward thought it just wasn't enough. He wanted something bigger, even more special. Bigger than anything else she would receive. Edward had a huge idea. He would make Alexandra the ultimate Valentine.

Grabbing all the red paints he could find, Edward brought them to the front door. He pulled on his ski pants, jacket, hat and waterproof skating mittens. Holding the paints in both arms against his chest, he went outside to the front yard. Then, he jumped off the porch and onto the snow. He dropped the paints at his feet, except for one with a squeeze top lid. Edward flipped the cap open, and then traced the shape of a giant heart on the snow. He was careful to take up the whole front yard. When he ran out, he found another container of paint and used it. The giant heart took almost all the paint he had found. Taking the last container, Edward opened the lid, and wrote “A L E X” across the center of the heart. He climbed back onto the porch to see his work. The result was truly magnificent. Cars driving by actually stopped and even honked their horns in appreciation of his efforts.

Alexandra didn't know what she was going to do about Edward. He had really messed up her Valentine's Day. Even though things had still turned out ok, Alex was really upset at her little brother. What had he been thinking? Maybe he was mad at her! Maybe she had better let his action men play with her dolls more often. Shaking her head, Alex came around the corner and onto her street. She stopped in her tracks because she could see it from there. A heart. An enormous red heart was on her front lawn. She could just make out the letters in the middle: A L E X. Wait- that was her name! That was her heart! And everyone was stopping to admire it. Only one person could have been crazy enough to do that!

The anger and frustration she had been feeling suddenly melted like snow in the sun. Alex ran home faster than she had ever run before. Sitting on the porch, with a smile that stretched from ear to ear across his freckled little face, stood her brother, Edward. “Happy Valentine's Alex!” he proclaimed.

Alex looked at Edward in wonder, then answered back with an equally large smile. “Happy Valentine's Day to you too!”