For Lovers Only

Hey gang, welcome back.
Not too much set-up this time.
But I should say I had set a target date of Feb 10th to post this so it would have been slightly more timely, so please don’t hold it against me.

Much like the main character, I have always hated this “holiday”.
This is just my funny little way of showing it.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy For Lovers Only…

I have never liked Valentine’s Day, even going back to when I was a kid.
Even back then, I could see that it was a greeting card manufactured celebration created solely to boost profits between Christmas and Easter.
I can’t tell you how many great relationships were ruined simply because of my intense dislike of this so called holiday.
Meet a great girl, have a few dates, form a decent bond, then she’d bring up V-Day and drop me like a dumpling into broth.

But my wife was different.
8 years ago when I met Emily, she got it.
She never agreed with my distaste for the day, but she accepted it and loved me anyway.
We came to an agreement before we took the plunge, that for my sake and sanity her sacrifice would be that we wouldn’t celebrate or even acknowledge the existence of Valentine’s Day.
My sacrifice for her was that for the rest of the year, no matter what, I had to watch any schmoozey romantic crap movie she wanted every Thursday night.
Now, if I’m honest, it wasn’t all that tough for me.
Most of those movies got her so fired up I’d end up getting laid anyway.
It was a hard sacrifice to make, but I’m just that much of a loving husband.

But that all changed last year, when on her birthday (January 7th) we got an invitation to a Valentine’s Day party from some client she’d handled at work.
The invitation read

***For Lovers Only***
You and your sweetheart are cordially invited to a special costume party on St. Valentine’s Day.
You and a few others have been selected from dozens of Mr. Vincent’s associates to attend this exclusive gathering for a night of romance you and that special someone are not soon to forget.
The Night: February 14
The Time: 5:00 pm

The final line gave an address up in the hills and the number to RSVP.

We’d never gotten into arguements as heated as we did over this, it took Emily until January 30th to finally wear me down and convince me to go with her.
She called immediately before I could change my mind.

The big day came, the costume she picked was a breath taking kitten costume (that I couldn’t wait to rip off of her, again) and went as a lion tamer (which was basically just khaki cargo pants, a plain button up shirt, and a whip) just to stick with her theme.
We drove the hour and a half up the hill to this mansion that looked straight out of Clue or something.
Huge wrought iron gates that had an ornate stylized V in the center, beautifully manicured lawn and hedges, a giant fountain in the middle of the driveway, clearly Mr. Vincent was insanely well off.
We drove up to the little speaker box, pushed the button, there was a buzz, and the gates parted.
We were let in without a word.
We circled the fountain and climbed out of the car, there were 3 more ahead of ours.

Enormous pillars framed the great oak door that had lion’s head knockers that we used.
The little 5×3 inch peep hole on the door swung open and a shakey old voice said “To enter this home you must prove your love.” we glanced at each other then back at the pair of eyes staring at us through the hole in the door.
I shrugged and kissed Emily on the cheek, she giggled.
“No, not good enough.
Prove your love!” he replied.
I looked at him again, she turned to me and kiss her right on the lips, she even kicked her left leg up behind her for emphasis.
“Not good enough.
Final chance to prove your love.”
By this point, I was frustrated and snapped back “Jesus christ, do you want me to fuck her against the fountain so you can watch you old pervert?”
That earned me a playful slap on my half bare chest.
This time I grabbed her arms, closed my eyes, and pushed my tongue into her mouth.
She slid her hands into my shirt and scratched her nails across my ribs, a little moan rumbled in her throat.
The peep hole slapped shut, snapping us immediately out of the moment we’d been forced into and gotten lost in.
We stood there in silence for nearly 10 seconds, my frustration and anger at even being there was building to a breaking point when finally the door slowly started to swing open.
We were greeted to a man who looked older than some mummified corpses.
He swept his arm out, inviting us in.
As we stepped over the threshold, I glanced at him and said “Get your jollies there, Jeeves?” earning myself another slap.

As we waited for him to close the door and show us where to go, we stopped to take in our surroundings.
The foyer was dark, lit only by a giant candle filled crystal chandelier, with walls that were dark wood with intricate carvings I couldn’t make out.
The floor was black marble, veined with streaks of white.
And the staircase was intimidating as hell in it’s grandeur.
The thought crossed my mind that Em may have undersold Mr. Vincent’s wealth.

Lurch’s great great grandfather shuffled up behind us and started herding us into another dimly lit room off the right side of the foyer, a dining room that looked like a mini version of the foyer with a long table surrounded by high backed chairs set for 11.
3 couples were already seated across from each other, in costumes ranging in effort.
We were instructed to do the same before the withered old fellow left us with these 6 strangers.
We all sat there with our hands in our laps in a painful silence, occasionally broken by an awkward throat clearing.
I glanced at my watch, 7 minutes past 5.
Soon after, the lights slowly came up and I looked at Emily, who shrugged.
She’d told me Vincent had a flair for the dramatic and theatrical, but this was really getting to be a bit much.

There was a barely audible little “Kssss” sound and one of the wood panels sunk back into the wall and slide away revealing a middle aged man in an expertly tailored black suit with a near blindingly red tie standing at the bottom of a hidden staircase.
He stepped out, leaning on a black cane topped in a crystal handle as the panel closed behind him.
He walked to the head of the table.
Clearly he didn’t need the cane, but it was a good prop for his entrance.
Emily stood up and said “Mr. Vincent, what a pleasure to see you again.
You have a beautiful home.”
Everybody else stood as she was speaking.
He smiled at her, looked at everybody in turn, extended his arms and indicated for us all to take our seats.

Another “kssss” as his chair at the head of the table slide back and he sat down.
A third, louder, “Ksssss” filled the room as all of our chairs, including his, slide up to the table, practically pinning us all in our seats.
Mr. Vincent placed his hands, palms down, on the table and cleared his throat.
“Only 4?
Tsk, such a shame.” he said with a smile after a long pause.
I was getting the feeling the others were just as uncomfortable as I was getting.
Heads were swiveling more regularly now, looking for any hint of understanding in the other guests.
“Mr. Vincent, I’d like to introduce my lovely…” one of the other men started, he trailed off as Vincent slowly shook his head.
“I know all of you and your spouses quite well, I assure you.
What I don’t know is just how well you know them, but more on that later.
First, food, drink, then we can get to the fun I have planned for you all.” Vincent said as he rang a bell.
That sense of unease in my stomach was only growing.

Responding to the bell, a flurry of activity exploded around us as servers brought out our meal.
Each of us was served something different, all looked to be soups or stews, and none of it looked particularly appetizing.
What I’d gotten looked like some sort of cross between beef mushroom soup and chocolate pudding.
Mr. Vincent and his staff all stared on expectantly, waiting for all, or any, of us to try our dishes.
“Please, enjoy your meals.
They’ve been specially prepared for each of you.” the head chef strangely proclaimed.
Emily looked across to me, smiled, and got that intense look in her eye that told me to follow her lead as she picked up her spoon.
Seeing us, the other couples did the same.
Em broke the surface of her bowl first and took a big slurp, followed by an equally big “Mmmmm”.
As the room filled with more slurps, I took a little sip of mine.
My tongue was assaulted by an acidic bombardment of some of the strangest flavors I’ve ever had the misfortune of tasting, that ended with the oddest tingling burn.

Vincent sat unmoving as a statue, his bowl still untouched while we all ate.
He looked to his chef and nodded, the entire staff cleared the bowls, whether they were emptied or not, and left us to sit again in the painful utter silence.
Occasionally there was the clearing of a throat, but mostly we all awkwardly looked at each other, and I was wondering in what way this was supposed to be romantic.
“So, Mr. Vincent, how has business been, sir?” asked one of the other husbands, clearly desperate to break the incredibly strange silence.
Vincent’s head slowly turned to the man and his lips parted “Let’s not talk shop, let’s talk about the purpose of this day, romance!
You know, my dearly departed wife loved this holiday…” I rolled my eyes “…she would always tell me “It’s a day for lovers only, pumpernickel. To put aside everything else and love deeply”.
She felt every couple needed a day like this to themselves, a day to be together and appreciate one another.
It’s a nice thought.” he finished.
The wife of the man who’d spoken before uttered the strangest question I could imagine “That is so sweet, Mr. Vincent.
How long has you wife been gone?”
“27 years ago, she was murdered on the evening of Valentine’s Day.” he told her with a pained expression.
“In our own bed, by a mad man.”
Looking back, I realize that question was probably the turning point, the moment we all should have quietly left and not looked back.

That brought back the awkward quiet for a few moments.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.” the woman whispered after a long pause.
“How could you?
You don’t know me at all, I’ve only had dealings through work with your husband.
Think nothing of it.” he reassured her.
The husband of another woman asked to be excused to the restroom and pushed his chair back with that strange “Kssss”.
Vincent said we’d continue when he rejoined us, and he quickly, the same sound accompanied his chair butting back up to the table, clearly some hydraulic mechanism at work.
Vincent turned to Emily’s side of the table and asked “Why are you all here?”
They looked at each other and all replied at the same time with some form of the same answer of “Because you invited us”.
“Ah” he said, nodding.
“Up until our very last year, my wife and I spent every single Valentine’s Day together, expressing our love for one another.
Every year.
Then that final year, there was an emergency at work, I had to leave early at 7 in the morning.
I didn’t want too and she didn’t want me too, but she understood the gravity of the situation.
So I left, I spent 13 grueling hours fixing the problem and finally was able to come home.”

At the time I thought I’d imagined it, but while he was talking all of our chairs pushed even closer to the table, this time literally trapping us in place.
He continued “I got home at just after 9 that evening, and the house was as silent as the grave.
The entire staff must have gone home for the evening because none answered my calls.
I walked upstairs to still more silence.
I crept apprehensively down the hall toward our bedroom, once I reached it I heard soft indistinct music from behind the door.
I reached down, turned the knob, and saw a most horrific sight.”

He stopped to take a sip from his glass, letting his words hang in the air.
Owning the room.
Finally one of the other wives piped in “is that when you found her body?” and Mr. Vincent buried his head in his hands.
His shoulders slowly raised and lowered, it looked like he was sobbing.
He stopped, and after about a half minute he slapped his hands on the table.
“I opened the door and found her flat on her back, legs in the air, with our gardener between them!
They didn’t know I’d entered until I slammed the door shut and locked it.
He jumped up and started running around grabbing his clothes.
I walked to the dresser, grabbed my revolver and went back to the door.
She tried feeding me some bullshit story about it being an accident, but I wasn’t hearing that.
I looked at him and then to her and told them, quite simply and calmly, “finish”.
They tried to refuse, until I put the gun against his skull.
Again, I simply said “finish”.
I sat in a chair next to the bed with my gun trained on them and watched as they nervously continued.
I could see his breath quickening and told him I wanted to see him finish.
He looked over at me with a mix of fear, desperation, and humiliation.
I stood and cocked the gun and told him “do it”.
He did.
And as soon as he did I pulled the trigger, firing 2 bullets into the right side of his head, my wife screamed a blood curdling scream.
I shot her in her left knee, this time she screamed “WHY?!?!?” as blood poured from her leg.

We all stared on in horror as he told us his chilling tale.
“Why would you commit such a disgisting act?” Emily asked him, clearly pained and disgusted.
“Have none of you been paying attention?
I’d known she’d been sleeping with him for months, that wasn’t the problem.
No, but the fact that she would sleep with him in our own bed on Valentine’s Day was too much.
I was a fool and left for work, and I’ll soon be punished for it.
But Valentine’s Day is for lover’s only!
No distractions, no interference!” he spouted, his voice escalating.
He pointed his old bony finger at Emily’s side of the table and bellowed “YOU FOUR ARE NO BETTER THAN MY WIFE.
TODAY, YOU SHOULD ALL BE HOME WITH YOUR SPOUSES…” he jerked a thumb to my side of the table “…BUT INSTEAD YOU’RE HERE, IN HOPES OF FURTHERING YOUR CAREERS.” he stopped and gathered his breath before finishing.
“And you’re all going to be punished for it.”

We all tried pushing our chairs back and found we were indeed trapped, Mr. Vincent cackled a harsh gaspy laugh.
“You’re not leaving yet.
You’ve put yourselves above love just like I did, and that can’t be allowed today.”
He tapped a button on his chair and everybody on my side of the table began shaking, we were being electrocuted.
It was without question the most physical pain I’d ever felt.
When it stopped I could hear screams mixed with sobs from the other side of the table begging for it to stop and that gaspy laugh again.
“Silence, all of you.
There is still time for redemption, but you must earn it.” he wheezed.
He looked to the side of the table his associates were sitting on and told them “Each of your soups were prepared with a different type of poison which will take effect in less than…” he glanced at a clock behind him “…40 minutes by my count.
In that time, you must prove your love to survive and leave my home.”
The screams from both sides of the table were deafening.
Vincent pressed his button and we were all shocked.
“Your anger will only hasten your collective demise.” he said as he took his finger off the button.

Over the next 20 minutes he asked us all manner of questions in a twisted bout of Match Game.
It was sick and unreal.
Matching answers got each couple closer to getting their antidote.
The couple closest to him didn’t get a single question right, the husband ended up choking on his own vomit while Vincent electrocuted his horrified wife.
The couple next couple got 1 question each wrong and got their antidote served to them on a silver tray.
The couple next to us were split, the husband gave wrong answers to all of the questions posed to him, while the wife got all but 1 correct.
She got her antidote while he got shocked to death.

It was our turn, and panic was setting in for me.
Em and I were both sweating when we locked eyes.
Vincent asked us question after question, we both were doing pretty well until about halfway through our turn when my beautiful wife’s nose started to bleed, a sign of the poison beginning to work.
That was when she lost her train of thought and started answering wrong.
My heart broke watching her lose her mental footing.
Her breath quickened and I knew she was slipping.
Please, just give her the antidote and take me.” I screamed at Vincent as she started coughing blood.
“Those aren’t the rules, boy.” He told me.
“If she had only cared more for you than her career, you’d both be free.”
He asked her 1 more question, she looked at Vincent then at me, a single tear rolled down her cheek as she started to shake, foam forming at the corners of her mouth.
“I love you.” were her last words as she began to choke.
Foam poured from her lips and down her neck, eyes and nose bleeding…she died.
I cried out as her head slumped, face slamming into the table.

The final couple didn’t get any questions, the one on Emily’s side died painfully just after she had and Vincent shocked the one next to me.
I don’t remember much about that couple because I was in shock.
Vincent looked at us survivors, while poking at the right arm of his throne like chair, and said “You survivors, you remaining few…you’re free to go.
But do remember the lesson I have tried to impart here tonight.”
“You’re dead, Vincent.” I stated coldly.
He opened a little compartment on the right arm of his chair while he pressed a button on the left arm, that tell tale “kssss” sounded as all of the chairs pulled back from the table, and he looked at me.
“I know, boy.” he said as I stood up and started towards him.
He pulled a gun from the compartment and placed it under his chin.
Before I could get to him, he pulled the trigger.
The top of his head exploded in a red mist.
Eyes, nose, and mouth all gushed fountains of blood as his hand and shoulders slumped, head rolling to to the side.
One of the women screamed and ran to her car, I tamped down my anger at him and ran to Emily’s side.
The next thing I remember the mansion was crawling with cops and EMTs trying to figure out what had happened.

All of us and Vincent’s staff were interviewed, most of the cooking staff admitted to their part in the horrors of the evening and were charged.
Myself and the other survivors sued Vincent’s estate and got a sizable settlement, which, though it helps, hasn’t dulled the pain one bit in the last year.
I really didn’t like it before, but since last year, and every year until I draw my last breath, I will hate this day.
My beautiful Emily…I love you, and miss you…always…

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Special thanks to @nomi28572, @Fitzman73, @_13Chris, & @BatKat37 for reading, providing inspiration, notes on this story.

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