Valentine's Day in Retrospect Prompts

Midwestern blizzards, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day–no matter how you feel about it all, here’s to hoping yours went/are going well.

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WRITING PROMPT: A Day of Valentines
Feel free to take the following prompts home or post your responses (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, feel free to e-mail your story to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and
I’ll make sure it gets up.

Take your best–or worst–Valentine’s Day experience, and reveal it in scene.


It was Valentine’s Day. You took your date to a movie–only it wasn’t the Valentine’s Day epic you had imagined, and what happened in the seat in front of you only reinforced that.

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16 thoughts on “Valentine's Day in Retrospect Prompts

  1. alton

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  4. Karen McGrath

    It was Valentine’s Day. You took your date to a movie–only it wasn’t the Valentine’s Day epic you had imagined, and what happened in the seat in front of you only reinforced that.


    “SHHHH… I told you to be quiet!”

    “Excuse me? What did you say?” Jan clipped me a good one in my side.

    “I didn’t say anything.” Whine

    “What was that then? A ventriloquist?”

    “How should I know…? Sheesh!” The popcorn wasn’t buttered enough, but then was it ever? No wonder people stayed home with rentals.

    “SHHHH… will you stop it?”

    “What? I haven’t done anything! You are the one jabbing me with that killer elbow, Jan”

    Jan leaned closer, stealthily pointing to the couple in front of us. They were hunched down in the new and roomy seats and hard to see in the dark. The woman had a gun pointed at the head of the man half-way concealed by her scarf. She glared at him furiously while he stared straight ahead, sweat beading on his temples.

    We froze. I’d heard of reverse domestic violence but this took the cake. I watched Jan out of the corner of my eye and tried to hand signal her to move. She sat deathly still and motioned “no”; palm flat, facing down, moving back and forth.

    “I said SHHHHH….!” The woman whispered loudly, menacing.

    We didn’t move. We didn’t breathe. I still had kernels in my mouth now dry and I tried to swallow them, quietly, but failed.

    There was a flurry of movement in front of us and I thought we could run. I grabbed Jan’s sleeve and almost fell over my feet trying to make a break for it.

    “SHHHHH!” I heard louder than before and froze again. Jan barrelled into me and we toppled to the floor, popcorn flying everywhere.

    Instantly the man jumped over the seats to come to our rescue. I stared horrified into his concerned face trying to shove my cell phone into his hand.

    “Are you alright, son?” He asked.

    “Please, please, call the cops. Now’s your chance!” I pleaded. “Tell them we need an ambulance, anything! Save yourself, man!”

    He grabbed my jacket pulling me to my feet as Jan stood brushing off her coat. A child ran over crying out.

    “I got ‘em, Daddy! I got the robbers!” He trained his toy gun on us ferociously.

    “I told you they were robbers, Daddy!” He shouted.

    The man smiled sheepishly at us and shrugged his shoulders.

    “No sitter… Sorry folks. Don’t point that thing at anyone, you got it?”

    We nodded and stared at our feet, looking around a bit, hoping there was no one we knew in the theater.

    “Well, Jan, I need some more popcorn. How about you?”

    “I’m with you. Let’s go.”

  5. Zac

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for the Valentine’s Day stories! It always amazes me how many different emotions can spawn from the roots of one idea.

    And Patricia, I was wondering about you just the other day. That’s great about the poetry collection. Congratulations. And I’d love to read it — I remember your poems here well. Would you be up for e-mailing me a prompt that could work for prose or poetry, and we’ll use that in the giveaway post, then choose a random commenter?

    Looking forward to it!

  6. Dorraine

    Hope Everyone had a magical Valentine’s Day. Zac, I have some chocolate left over if you want it.:-) Okay, the story.

    Dear John

    Dear John, here are a list of happenings which made my Valentine’s Day memorable.

    1. I’m short of stature and you were tall as a glass of Texas tea. When you sat in front of me, your long, coiffured hair was immediately blocking my view of the movie screen.

    2. I know your name is John because your significant other said it every time you fed her fluffy popcorn. The bucket was monstrous. I never knew eating popcorn was supposed to be sexual.

    3. Passion is great but certain body parts are off limits in the movie theater, even on Valentine’s Day. I don’t care if your woman is just a fling. Please refrain.

    4. I thought I glimpsed two fangs gleaming and imagined you might be a vampire. You did have glossy black hair, buggy eyes and a black trench coat. My imagination thanks you.

    5. In general, females don’t need their hair stroked during love scenes.

    6. You are the first professional toucher I’ve ever seen.

    7. I’m positive the show in front of me was better than the movie.

    8. Even though I don’t know you, nor ever want too, thank you for making my Valentine’s Day so special. Please don’t take this personally, John.

  7. Mandy Hartley

    The marquee had read "Amour" hadn’t it? Here in the darkness of the theater settled beside Jenny from Accounting, he was starting to wonder. A foreign film had sounded like such a good idea this morning, just the thing for a Valentine’s Day date. The dreaded Valentine’s Day of the single man. The stakes always felt high to Tim, but the day of roses and chocolate could turn even the most reasonable girl into a tapping foot of expectation.

    The screen was filled with the jarring confusion of French-speaking voices and a blank space at the bottom of the screen where the subtitles should have been. What was wrong with this place? They were in Chicago after all, not Paris. For the first several moments Jenny had looked amused, but now there was only irritation and a note of concern in her profile. High school French was buried far below the mountains of nonsense he had learned in college, so making sense of this movie was hopeless. He did remember amour though. It meant love, didn’t it?

    As he looked around hoping to find a confused kinship in the faces of his fellow theater goers, the pieces crashed into place. He was the only guy in sight. It was so dark when they made their way through the aisles that he hadn’t noticed. The other word in the title was "Femme". French for woman. He had brought Jenny from Accounting to a French lesbian movie without subtitles. As the action unfolded on the screen he understood that this film had never needed subtitles. It wasn’t that kind of movie.

  8. Patricia A. Hawkenson

    Sorry to have been ‘out of the prompt loop’ here at Promptly, (although I have been reading!) I have been busy with the release of my poetry collection, and it has hit the presses! Magnetic Repulsion, 100 Poems From Desire to Disgust: I have two signed copies waiting, one has your name on it, and the other I would like you to give away as Promptly Swag! I know how much fun that is to receive. Email me with a mailing address, and I will get them out to you. Thanks again for providing this platform.

  9. Cheryl

    Stupid twitter. That’s the last time I follow some randomly retweeted suggestion, sulked Max as he sipped his pop and waited for Charlie to return from the washroom. Part of him hoped she’d never come out because he had no idea what he was going to say to her. How do you explain that?

    He took another pull and cringed as the sweetly bitter syrup clung to his teeth. The afternoon had started so well. He’d convinced Charlie to skip algebra class to see ‘Jersey Diaries,’ a movie he assured her was a rollicking chick flick. Damn twitter, why can’t people spell?

    They’d grabbed their popcorn and whoppers and rushed into the darkened cinema, dashing toward the back row as quickly as their gangly fifteen-year old bodies could navigate the poorly lit stairs. They were thrilled to discover they had their choice of seats, and settled in for an afternoon of teenage tom-foolery. They giggled in anticipation as the theatre filled to capacity.

    He kicked sullenly at the base of the condiment counter and wagered on the odds of his friendship surviving this mess. About as good as that guy noticing the gummy bear stuck to his ass, Max thought. Maybe I should slip away and avoid the awkward break-up.

    “That was, um, different,” said Charlie as she sidled up behind him.

    Max whirled around and was relieved to see a hint of a smile on her dark lips. “Uh, yeah,” he replied. He offered her the last of the pop. “I am so sorry. I had no idea. I mean, I never would have—”

    Charlie laughed. “It’s okay, Max.”

    “No, it’s not. I should have checked the listing more closely.”

    “At least it was educational,” she quipped, trying to keep a straight face.

    ‘Jersey Diaries’ turned out to be ‘Jersey Dairies,’ a documentary about the treatment of cattle, and the couples they had planned to mock—mostly the guys who sat through chick flicks in the hope of making a move—turned out to be avid animal rights activists; except the couple in front of them.

    He shuddered at the memory.

    “I totally understand if you don’t want—”

    “Want what?” Charlie interrupted. “Want to be your friend anymore?” He nodded. “Max, come on. It was a mistake!” She raised her eyebrows and shook her head. “A colossal mistake, but it’s not like you planned it.” She paused. “Did you?”

    “No!” He lowered his voice as people turned. “No.” If he’d known what that woman was going to do to that man—he had no idea someone could contort themselves in a seat like that—he’d gaped in horrified fascination as she—

    “I thought stuff like that only happened in music videos,” said Charlie, seemingly reading his mind. She grabbed Max by the arm and pulled him toward the exit. “Next time we see a movie, I get to pick. Deal?”

    He shook his head; he wouldn’t be picking a movie any time soon.
    “Deal.” Stupid twitter.

  10. Mark James

    Martha, wow. Good job.

    When I got home, Addie was waiting, wearing a red dress, red heels and a neck line that plunged all the way to her navel. “Who the hell are you and where’s my wife?”

    You think bill collectors are relentless? Try making a bet with a woman with your credit card on the line.

    “Say the magic words,” she turned around, touched the top of her zipper, “and I’ll show you what’s not under my dress.”

    Her dress was all clingy and tight. I knew what wasn’t under there. I wanted to pull the zipper, fling her dress over my shoulder, and carry her up to our bedroom. Damn.

    The clock over her head was at two minutes to the hour. “We have to go. Your present starts at seven thirty.”

    She slipped into my arms, softer than rose petals. “I’m not feeling magical.” She rubbed that silky smooth dress against me. “Don’t you want me to feel all tingly and special inside?”

    I pulled away, laughed. “After midnight, I’ll be your magic man right up till morning.”

    Every year since we got married, we had a running bet that she could get me to say ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ before midnight. She always won.

    She slid her tongue over her red lips, ran her fingertips down my chest. “I don’t know if I can wait that long.”

    I caught her hand before it slipped any lower. “Cinderella waited, and look what she got.”

    She saw it wasn’t happening. “A pumpkin, six rats and a glass shoe that slipped off.”

    I kissed her hand. “You don’t like pumpkins?”


    I didn’t know what the movie was about. I picked up the pink tickets two weeks ago. I figured heart shaped pink tickets for a premiere called “Her First Time” had to equal chic flick, right?

    It was a dinner theater. We slipped onto the pink couch with our number on it. Place was packed.

    “Vaughn, how come everyone’s wearing black?” Her blue eyes turned dark. “Is this one of your jokes?”

    I couldn’t tell her I didn’t know what the movie was about. She’d think I sent my secretary out to buy the tickets, and no magic for me tonight. I tried to look like I was remembering something. “I think she wears black when she gets married.”

    The waiter came with our dinner hidden under silver domes, poured the wine. The lights went down right after he left.

    “Look,” the woman in front of us said, “I think I got a real heart.”

    I was about to pull a small velvet covered box from my pocket, tell Addie she was the best thing that ever happened to me. But just then, the opening credits scrolled across the screen, “Her First Time”. Then in small letters underneath, “Cannibalism. Is it for you?”

    A woman came on screen. “Cannibals have been with us since we first ran out of food on the hunt.” The camera pulled back for a full length shot of her dress. “I always wear black when I dine on others. It’s just the polite thing to do.”

    The shot went wide angle, showed a long dinner table with an unmistakably human form on a silver tray. An apple was in his mouth.

    Addie reached under the table, grabbed me and squeezed hard. I was pretty sure that even if there was any magic left tonight, I wouldn’t be up to it.

  11. Martha W

    Zac, that completely explains why I hate the bowler hat in "Meet the Robinsons"… LOL!!

    Hope you guys all had a great day!

    And well… you did say worst. So, you’re all warned.


    One more and she might make it.

    Em watched the amber bottle settle on the table, condensation slid down the glass to pool at the base. She shifted slightly, tried not to draw his attention.

    "Hallmark holiday." Jay pushed out of his chair at the kitchen table, swayed, caught himself on the edge. "Who the hell needs ’em."

    She knew he wasn’t talking to her. But the now closely guarded sarcasm practically burst to be let free. Em clamped her lips shut, one more drink and she’d make out.

    He turned deep blue eyes in her direction, his lip curled in disgust. "Still here?"

    "My apartment, remember?" Inwardly she cringed. Damn it. Almost. Not anymore.

    Anger became a living thing inside him. He stalked toward her, rage overtook drunk in two seconds flat.

    Em stood to run, not fast enough.

    One swing and she was off her feet again. She knew better than to fight. Curled tight in a ball on one end of the couch, she took the blows, each and every one. This time was worse.

    The heat from her own blood burned her vow in stone.

    Never again.

    An eternity later, he tired of his game. Jay sank on the couch and tugged her close. "Don’t egg me on like that, Em. You know what it does to me."

    It never ceased to amaze her how incredibly stupid he sounded. For the first time, Em pulled away. "Not my fault."

    His fingers tightened in her hair. "What?"

    She sucked up every ounce of courage, braced herself. "Not my fault. Not this time." If ever. She knew that. She did.

    He flung her to the other end of the sofa. Perfect. She lay there with her arm slung over the end, for all the world looked the helpless girl he’d come to know.

    "Not so damn feisty now, are you?" He advanced, one step, then two more.

    "Actually-" Em pushed off the couch in much the same manner as he had the kitchen table earlier. But this time… this time she held the Louisville Slugger he kept beside the door.

    He laughed. One more step.

    She took a deep breath, swung.

    The only thought in her mind as the business end connected with his skull was that playing softball was a little like riding a bike. It always came back to you.

    She stood over him as her chest heaved in fright, in relief.

    Never again.

    She looked like crap – bruises, blood, and torn clothing. But for the first time in months, she smiled. "Happy Valentine’s day to me."