Drew Payne’s Website

The Language of Love

February 14th

When he reached work that morning, Jude found a white envelope with his name on it, waiting for him on his workbench. Jude sat down and just looked at it. St Valentine’s Day wasn’t his favourite day of the year; he hadn’t been looking forward to coming the workshops today. Finding the envelope had already put him in a bad mood.

“See you’ve got yourself a secret admirer,” Ted said as he walked into the room. Ted was one of the two craft people Jude shared this workshop with.

“It’s nothing,” Jude said as he put the envelope down.

“Looks like a Valentine Card to me,” Ted laughed.

“It’s nothing,” Jude said, not looking at Ted.

“Come on Jude, open it. Let’s see who it’s from,” Ted said coming over to Jude’s bench.

“No!” Jude snapped.

“Hey boys, what’s the matter,” Beth said from the doorway. She was the third person who shared the workshop.

“Nothing,” Jude said.

“Jude got a Valentine Card but he won’t open it,” Ted said.

“Open it Jude. Let’s see?” Beth said, coming over to Jude’s bench as well. Suddenly he felt the two of them closing in on him.

“No,” Jude said.

“Stop being a bore,” Beth replied. “I got a Valentine Card from Charlie this morning. He gave it to me at breakfast. It was tacky as hell but it was the thought that counts.”

“Yeah, come on Jude,” Ted was almost breathing down Jude’s neck.

“All right, if it’ll shut you two up,” Jude said.

“Of course it will,” Beth answered him.

Jude ripped open the envelope and pulled out a very sentimental card. The front of it was covered in red roses and bows, a large and bright red heart in the middle of it. He opened the card and the only thing inside was a scrawling, hand-written message:

          “May your heart’s desire always be true,

          Jude,

          Your one true love.”

He felt physically sick simply looking at it. He wanted to rip up that stupid card. It was horrible. It showed all that was wrong with the whole situation.

“It’s rather sweet. A bit OTT though,” Beth said. “Whoever it is has it bad for you.”

“What does she see in him?” Ted said.

“It could be another man. Don’t assume anything,” Beth replied.

“Will you two shut-up, I’ve had enough of this,” Jude snapped. “I’ve got loads of work I need to be getting on with so will you leave me alone?”

“Yeah Jude,” Ted muttered as he backed away, “take it easy mate.”

“Okay,” Beth added, moving to her own bench.

The three of them worked on for most of the morning, in almost silence. Occasionally Beth and Ted would whisper to each other, but they ignored him. The atmosphere in the workshop remained tense; the unease hanging heavy in the air, Jude could actually feel the others ignoring him.

****

Maria was late getting into work that morning; another bus that had broken down in the High Street blocking all the traffic and delaying her bus. She'd sat on the bus, nervously fidgeting, her impatience mounting with the time she was wasting there. Maria hated being late for anything, especially work.

When she rushed into their office, half an hour late, Maria found Victoria, the Senior Admin Worker, prowling around in a state of near panic.

"Thank God you've arrived Maria," Victoria almost shouted at her.

"I'm sorry I'm late. My bus was late because..."

"Don't worry, you're here," Victoria interrupted her. "James is off sick, again, and today of all days. Bob's downstairs trying to get that photocopier working. James is the only person who can get that stupid thing working. Plus we've got a mountain of work."

"I'll get started," Maria said, as she pulled off her old, green duffle coat and slipped behind her desk. Victoria had dumped the morning's post all cover her desk. As always, with everything, she slowly ploughed her way through opening all the post.

She liked her job but some days it could be a madhouse here. She worked in the Admin Department for the Community Workshops. They collected the rents, arranged the leases made sure the maintance was done and the thousand and one other jobs that went into running the workshops. Today seemed to be turning into one of her madder days, today of all days.

As she sorted through the post, trying to divide them into circulars and bills, she came across a letter addressed to her, handwritten. Quickly she ripped it open and found a Valentine's card inside it. It was a plain white one with a drawing of a large bunch of red roses on the front. Inside all was written:

                       "To Maria

                                    ?"

With a quiet sigh of relief Maria held the card. There was only one person it could be from. All her waiting and hoping, her patiently tending to him, all her watching and observing, carefully arranging had paid off.

Jude was a furniture builder who shared one of the large workshops at the rear of the ground floor. She'd seen him the first week she'd started working here, like the classic story it had been love at first sight. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. It had been the same ever since, at every chance she got she searched him out. She had to see him at least once every working day.

She knew, from listening to other people around the workshops, especially Victoria and James, that Jude was seen as scruffy and a loner. His style wasn't "neat" but that only attracted her more. He was tall and lean, but even his cheap or second-hand clothes couldn't hide his handsome body. His thick, rich, curly, dark hair he usually wore tied into a ponytail. Maybe his goatee beard was a bit scruffy but it perfectly matched the rest of his image. The eight earrings in his left ear (She knew because she'd counted them) and the one through his right eyebrow only added to his image of an artist. He was the most attractive man she'd ever seen.

Around him she felt shy and awkward. She'd never had the chance to even hint at any of her feelings for him. She was sure he didn't know how she felt. But this card meant Jude had finally noticed her. Maria felt so happy.

****

Jude also knew who’d sent him that horrible card.

He was a self-employed furniture maker, building items to order, mainly for a handful of suppliers. He rented space in the community workshops. To save money Jude shared his workshop with Ted and Beth. He had met them through the workshops.

He knew he had a reputation around the workshops for being different and even difficult. Long ago he had stopped even trying to fit in with the people around him. Even around the artists and craftspeople at the workshops he stood out as different.

At lunchtime Beth and Ted went off to a local café were most of the other people there went. Jude stayed behind, as he usually did. He went out to the patch of grass at the back of the workshops. Some called it the “garden” but all it was just a bit of waste ground were wild and patchy grass had grown, plus there were a couple of old benches there.

It was a mild February, so with only his jacket on Jude could easily sit out there. It was empty so he could enjoy his lunch on his own. He always made his own lunches, it wasn’t just to save money.

He was eating his salad when he heard someone call his.

“Hello Jude, mind if I join you?”

He looked up and saw Maria, wrapped up in her thick green duffle coat, walking across the grass towards him. Jude took a deep breath and swallowed his mouthful of salad.

“No problems,” he said.

Maria herself dropped down on the bench next to him.

“How’s your day going?” She asked.

Maria was a plain looking person. Her hair hung lankily down both sides of her podgy, round face. Her body, round but not fat, seemed bigger because of the frumpy, fluffy clothes she always wore. (Beth often said how pretty Maria could be if she “made something” of herself. Jude kept away from such discussions.)

“The usual,” he said. “Lots of work to do and all that.”

“I’m glad to hear you’ve got plenty of work to do. It must be a very uncertain living being self-employed. I’d hate for you not to have enough work.”

“Thanks,” he said.

“We’ve been very busy today, as well. James is off sick again, so we’re down to three of us. So we’re stretched covering everything. But that’s enough about me. Did you get any Valentine Cards today?”

“No, none.”

“Oh, I heard you did.”

“Beth and Ted making up gossip again. They’re only doing it to wind me up.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry. I always ignore Beth and Ted.”

“No, I meant about not getting a Valentine’s Card. It’s Valentine’s Day and everyone should get a Valentine’s Card. I even got one this morning. It was from my dad, he always sends me one each year, but everyone should have one. You really should have one, someone as nice as you.”

“Thanks,” he said.

“I got another card this morning, waiting for me on my desk. It was lovely, romantic one. Really tasteful. It made my morning just getting it. Of course I don’t know who sent it to me, but I’d love to know. Do you know who it was?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’d say if I did.”

“Oh,” the expression on her face fell into disappointment.

They fell into an uncomfortable silence. He felt very unpleasant, as if his whole body squirmed with embarrassment. All he wanted to do was get away from there. Maria was looking at him with such a hurt and soulful expression. He didn’t know what to say to her.

He closed up his box lunch.

“I’ve got to get going now Maria. I’ve got to get back to my work. Pay the bills and that,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” Maria said, “but I understand that you have to make your living.”

****

Maria fled back to the Admin Office and to her relief she found it empty. She sat down into her chair, behind her desk, and pulled off her old duffle coat, just dropping it on the floor. Her lunch, still in the plastic bag her mother put it in each morning, was on her desk but untouched. The last thing she felt was hungry.

She felt such a fool. So foolish she could cry. She'd waited patiently, the night before, for Jude to go home so she could slip into his workshop and leave her Valentine card for him, unnoticed. She had so carefully chosen that Valentine card; she wanted it to express all her feelings for him. She loved him. In the end it had all been for nothing.

She had wasted everything and got nowhere. She felt so stupid and embarrassed. What had possessed her to talk like that with Jude, quizzing him about his Valentine cards, he must have thought she was crazy. She was such a fool.

She stared down at her desk, hoping the floor would open and swallow her up. She wanted to be a million miles away from here.

The door crashed open and Victoria stormed into the office.

"Maria! Thank God you're here," Victoria almost shouted at her.

"Yes?" Maria said as she lifted her head.

"I need you to go and find Gary and tell him there's been a delivery of old computers for him and they're blocking the back entrance," Victoria said as she hurriedly prowled around the office again.

Maria wanted to tell her to go and take a flying jump but instead said:

"Yes, I'll do it now."

She quickly got up and left the office before Victoria could ask her to do anything else. Victoria, in her present mood, could start giving her all kinds of jobs to do.

She walked quickly down to Gary's workshop. She wanted to get this errand over with quickly. She couldn't go back to the Admin Office, Victoria was sure to be still there, but she could find somewhere else to spend the rest of her lunch hour, alone.

Gary's workshop was, as usual, untidy. There were bits and pieces of computers everywhere. He re-conditioned them and then sold them on. He always seemed to be busy; he always seemed to be stripping several different computers on and putting them back together. Maria also know that his work paid him well - Gary never had lean periods were he was late paying his rent.

Maria found Gary sitting at the back of his workshop eating a burger. As she neared him she told herself not to stare at his lip. Gary had a thick, dark scar running from his top lip to the corner of his nose, it seemed to dominate his whole face (James had told her Gary was born with a cleft lip and only had it repaired as a teenager).

"Hello Gary," Maria said - she gave herself a mental kick for looking at his lip.

"Hi Maria," he said, looking up at her. "What can I do for you?"

"You've had another delivery of computers."

"Great. I'll get them after me lunch."

"I've been sent to warn you. They're blocking the back entrance and Victoria's going mad about them."

"Thanks, I'll get onto it."

As she turned to leave he asked her, his voice more hushed:

"Did you get a Valentine card this morning?"

"Yes," she said.

"Did you like it?"

"Yes," she said.

"Do you know who it's from?"

She hesitated, why was he asking her this?

"No," she said.

"I sent it," he said as his face blushed a deep red.

It was Gary, her mind screamed, not Jude. Gary was no Jude. He didn’t look like Jude. He didn't speak like Jude. He didn't dress like Jude. The two were so totally different. She felt so deflated. Why was it Gary the computer guy and not Jude the artist? It was so unfair, she wanted to cry out but instead she smiled back at Gary.

"I was wondering," he said, his face still an almost painfully bright red. "Would you like to go to the pictures with me? Maybe tomorrow night?"

There was something familiar about his expression, the look in his eyes.

****

Back in his workshop, Jude finished off his salad. Beth and Ted weren’t back from lunch and probably wouldn’t be for a while. Jude found himself enjoying the quiet.

He knew the Valentine’s Card had been from Maria even before he opened it. He recognised her handwriting on the envelope. The moment he saw it he wished it had never been there. When he opened it and read that message he wished he’d ripped it up, unopened.

Jude had known that Maria had a crush on him for so long. She didn’t actually go weak at the knees at the sight of him, but she might as well have done. She would always be looking out for him, wherever he went in the workshops he would run into her. Some days it felt like she was everywhere. Always, when she saw him, she’d talk to him. Whenever he saw her, her whole face would light up. It was so odious; people around the workshops had begun noticing and passing remarks.

The worst part was it was all one-way. He felt sorry for her but also uncomfortable around her, but that was all. He wasn’t attracted to her. She was gawky, plain and ten years younger then him.

He’d tried not to do anything to encourage Maria. He didn’t want to lead her on. He didn’t want to hurt her – no one deserved to be hurt. But he didn’t know what to do, so he did nothing. He hoped that Maria would loose interest in him, he gave her no encouragement, and he barely showed her any interest. But this strategy wasn’t working. Each day Maria seemed just as in love with him as the one before. It was wearing him down.

People would say being in love with someone who doesn’t love you is hell, but he’d never heard them thinking about the person being loved. It was torture being on the receiving end of all that love when he can’t return it. Every time he saw her he felt the weight of Maria’s love pulling him down. It always made him feel depressed. When he saw her eyes light up, just because she had seen him, he felt guilty. Jude simply wanted it all to end, but he can’t say anything to her because it would crush her.

The Valentine Card was the worst yet. Maria had never gone that far before.

Jude pushed the card, still in its envelope, to the back of one of the drawers in his workbench and went back to his work.

"What?" His face creased with concern.

"I don't have any real clubbing clothes."

"That's easy. I promised me sister, Kay, that I'd go shopping with her on Saturday. Come with us. Kay's got brilliant taste."

"Are you sure that's all right?"

"Yeah. Kay loves buying clothes, doesn't matter for who. Also helps me out. I don't know nothing about women's clothes and Kay's always asking me what I think."

"Thanks."

Then he leant over and they kissed.

****

 

Part 1