DISCLAIMER: I don't own The Facts of Life or any of the characters represented in the show. They're owned by someone else who isn't me. No copyright infringement is implied/meant/deliberate in any way, shape or form, and no money is changing hands/no profit is being made, etc.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Won't You Be My Valentine?
By Del Robertson
"You can put them right over there with the rest," directed Mrs. Garrett, ushering the deliveryman inside. "And, help yourself to a cookie."
Natalie and Tootie sat on the sofa, cutting hearts and cupids out of construction paper. They had a myriad of glitter, glue and ribbons spread out on the coffee table in front of them. Both women stopped and stared at the deliveryman's backside as he passed by.
"Mmm-hmm." Natalie whistled. "If all the guys at Global Express look that good in shorts, we're going to have to start doing all our business mail-order. He can deliver his package to me anytime."
Tootie giggled, playfully slapped Natalie on the arm. "Girl, you are sooo bad!"
Jo sat in a plush chair, feet pulled up beneath her, reading a magazine. She peered over the top of her magazine, barely glanced in the delivery guy's direction. Glancing back at Natalie and Tootie, she rolled her eyes. "Will you two grow up?"
The deliveryman smiled as he jockeyed the vase of roses around, attempting to make enough room to place them on the already overly crowded dining room table. This was his fifth delivery to this address today. But, he didn't mind; the nice lady who answered the door offered him a heart-shaped cookie every time he came by.
"Oh, those must be for me!" A delighted voice flittered down from the stairs. The deliveryman looked up to see a stunning woman with blonde hair and brown doe eyes. They'd gone through this song and dance each time he delivered. He brought over a dozen roses, she feigned surprise that they were for her. Of course they were for her. They were always going to be for her. He'd seen her roommates. And, although they were cute, none of them were in the same league she was. Hell, he'd been tempted to buy a dozen roses himself just for another chance to see her.
Each move down the steps was carefully orchestrated, designed to show off her long, stocking-clad legs. She stepped off the last stair with a flourish, flipping her blonde hair back in the process. With a dazzling smile, she greeted him.
"Ted," she said, reading his nametag. "Do I need to sign for those?"
"Oh, yeah!" He smiled dreamily, handing the clipboard to Blair without ever taking his eyes off her.
She reached out, taking his pen from his shirt pocket. Clicking the end, she searched the clipboard for her name. Puzzled, she looked up. "There must be some mistake."
"What?" Ted blinked rapidly, snapping out of his daze. "Oh, right here, ma'am." He instructed, pointing to the clipboard. "Flowers from Peekskill Floral. Line 68."
"I know which line." Blair sounded suddenly irritated. "But, that's not my name."
"What?" he asked, turning the clipboard around. When he'd seen the address, he'd just naturally assumed Frowning, he stared at the name. "Is there a Jo Pulo ?"
"It's Poniachek," Jo growled, easing herself up from her chair.
"Oh, Jo!" Natalie exclaimed, looking up from her artwork. "You got flowers!"
"How romantic!" Tootie chimed in. "You've got a sweetie!"
Jo came to stand between Blair and the delivery driver. Deftly, she reached, plucking the pen from Blair's fingers. Speechless, Blair stood beside the table, hand still poised in the air as if to sign her name.
Red faced at his error, Ted patiently waited while the brunette scrawled her name across the delivery manifest. As soon as she handed him his pen back, he hastily clipped it to his pocket, tucked his clipboard beneath his arm. Without even grabbing his customary cookie, he swiftly retreated out the front door.
"Who's it from?" Tootie asked.
Jo shrugged. "I don't know." She checked the vase, found the envelope inserted into the card holder. She opened the envelope, pulled out the card. As she began to read, she suddenly felt several bodies jostling her from behind. "Do you mind?" she growled, glancing over her shoulder, seeing Natalie, Tootie and Blair crowding around her. "You're smothering me, here!"
With an irritated scowl, Jo stepped away from the trio. She felt three pairs of eyes following her across the room. She leaned against the wall nearest the entrance to the kitchen, opened the card, began rereading it. The three women watched as her scowl slowly turned into a smile.
"Who's it from?" Tootie pressed again.
"Ah," Jo shrugged, "No one you guys know."
She folded the card, stuck it in the back pocket of her jeans. Grinning, she backed through the kitchen door. Blair, Natalie and Tootie exchanged shocked looks as they heard what suspiciously sounded like whistling coming from the kitchen.
"I'm telling you, it's got to be Blaine Gorden!" Tootie repeated.
"For the tenth time, Tootie, it's not Blaine!" shouted Blair.
"How would you know?" Natalie folded her arms over chest. "You didn't see what was on that card anymore than we did."
"Because Blaine Gorden comes from money," stated Blair haughtily. "He wouldn't be caught dead sending roses to someone below his social standing."
"Is that just sour grapes because he didn't send you flowers, Blair?" questioned Tootie.
"I've gotten plenty of roses, thank you very much, Tootie. Certainly enough to not get excited over - " At that moment, Jo waltzed into the room. Her walkman was clipped to her jeans, the headphones draped about her shoulders. The sounds of Madonna's True Blue followed Jo as she flopped down in her favorite chair. " - Oh, turn blue!" Blair shouted, casting a withering look at Tootie. She flipped her hair once, glanced at Jo dismissively before storming from the room.
"What?" asked Jo, noticing both Tootie and Natalie staring at her.
"I'll bet it's a secret admirer!" exclaimed Natalie.
Laying on their beds, reading magazines, Tootie and Blair rolled their eyes. "What makes you think it's a secret admirer?"
"Because, if she was dating, we'd know about it by now," concluded Natalie.
"Not necessarily. She doesn't keep a diary like Blair does - " Tootie's eyes went wide as she hurriedly clamped a hand over her mouth.
"Don't worry, Tootie. I already know you're a snoop." Blair closed her magazine, suddenly interested in the direction the conversation was heading. "Which, is why I now keep a lock on my diary. And, moved its hiding spot," she declared proudly.
Tootie didn't have the nerve to tell her she'd found the new spot last week. And, for someone who had been a snoop all her life - well, that lock just didn't stand a chance, did it?
"Still, if Jo was dating, we'd see signs of it," persisted Natalie. "Spending extra time on the telephone. Variations in her routine. That sort of thing. It's a secret admirer, I'm convinced of it."
"Except - " Blair's voice trailed off. The other two watched her expectantly. "I walked in on her yesterday when she was in the kitchen pantry, supposedly getting a case of pickles for Mrs. Garrett. She had the cordless. And, when I came in, she just hung up."
"You know, come to think of it," Tootie added, "She was late for her shift yesterday. And, she forgot to pick me up after class this morning."
"Jo's never forgotten an appointment in her life." Blair's eyes narrowed to tiny slits.
"Exactly. She definitely has - " Tootie's voice trailed off as Jo came into the room.
She was carrying a single rose clasped between her fingertips. She flopped down on her bed, tucking one arm behind her head. Laying there, she languidly brought the rose to her nose, inhaling its aroma.
With a huff, Blair flung herself off her bed. She stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. With a bemused smile, Jo glanced towards the still-rattling doorframe.
"What are you doing?" Blair asked, stepping into the living room.
Natalie and Tootie were seated on the couch, a pile of yearbooks and school newspapers covering the top of the coffee table in front of them. They were randomly rummaging through the monstrosity, leafing through one book, then discarding it for another.
"Looking for Jo's sweetheart." Tootie said, not even bothering to look up.
"What? Have you lost your minds?"
"Come on, Blair, think about it. Jo had to have met someone at school." Natalie stopped, glanced at a picture of a jock. Dismissing her selection with a shake of her head, she glanced up at Blair. "Therefore, his picture must be in one of these yearbooks."
"But, how do you know which one he is?" asked Blair. "And why, are you still obsessing over this at - " she glanced at her wristwatch " - five o'clock in the afternoon?"
"All we have to do is narrow it down by who's her type."
"Jo has a type?" Suddenly interested, Blair sat down on the arm of the sofa, peering over Natalie's shoulder.
"Sure." Natalie shrugged. "We can rule out all the jocks right away."
"And the science geeks," chimed in Tootie.
"And the band."
"And, any of the guys that are already involved with someone else. Jo's not a cheater. And, she would never put up with a cheater."
"Which, only leaves - " Natalie counted on her fingers " - all the guys who take woodworking."
"And metal shop."
"And the outsiders."
"In other words, you have nobody," chimed in Blair.
"Not true. We have an extensive list of suspects that we're narrowing down." Natalie looked defensively at Blair. If there was one thing she couldn't stand, it was when someone made fun of her powers of deductive reasoning. "And, the reason we're doing this, even now that Valentine's Day is almost over - " she paused dramatically. " - is because it's not over till it's over."
"Yeah," agreed Tootie. "The kiddy, cutesy-stuff happens during the daylight hours. But, come the evening, the holiday belongs to the adults." At Blair's incredulous look, she elaborated. "If Jo's love interest is serious, she'll be going out on a date with him later. That gives us another opportunity to figure out who he is."
"Hey, guys!" Jo called out as she walked in the front door. She dropped her keys and motorcycle helmet on the coffee table. "What are you doing?" she asked, taking in the monumental mess.
"Uh, just looking at yearbook pictures. Trying to decide who's date worthy," stammered Tootie.
Natalie shot her a shut-up-before-you-spill-the-beans look. "Yeah. You know, just for fun. So - " Nat drew out the word " - who do you like, Jo?"
"Well - " Jo picked up a book at random, leafed through it. " - I suppose if I had to choose - "
The three women leaned forward expectantly as Jo hesitated. The shrill ringing of the phone made them jump. "I'll get it," Jo offered, tossing the book back onto the table. "It's probably for me, anyway."
Tootie covered her mouth, coughed loudly.
"Really? Okay, I'll meet you there." Jo spoke into the receiver, thinking it was strange that all three women were sitting crowded together on the sofa at such odd angles. "Fine. Let me change clothes first."
Natalie elbowed Blair, nearly knocking her off the arm of the sofa. She glared at the two younger women. Covering their mouths, they tried to hide their smiles as Jo approached.
"Hey, guys. I'm not going to be able to catch that movie with you. Something came up - "
Her words trailed off as Blair flung herself off the sofa. In a stride that would have made a greyhound proud, she launched herself up the stairs. Frowning, Jo watched her retreat.
"What's up with her?" she asked, turning to Natalie and Tootie.
Both girls uncovered their mouths, setting the laughter free. Giggling and snorting, they leaned back on the sofa. Clutching their sides, tears of laughter began to roll from their eyes.
When Jo entered the bedroom, Blair was laying facedown on her bed, face buried in her pillow. Jo threw her jacket across her mattress, intently watching Blair's form. Her shoulders were heaving, her hands clutched at her pillowcase, wringing the linen beneath her fingers.
"Blair?" A tiny sniffle was the only answer. "Are you crying?"
"No, of course not." Blair immediately sat up on the side of her bed, brushing stray locks of hair out of her face. "I've just got something in my eye, that's all."
Jo's eyebrows shot up at the blatant lie. Blair's face was red, tears were streaking down her face. Her shoulders heaved as sobs continued to wrack her body. Reaching out instinctively, Jo moved towards the bed.
Abruptly, Blair stood, knocking Jo off balance. She hurriedly pushed past the brunette, head still lowered. "Sorry. Just going to go check my eye in the bathroom mirror."
Jo stretched, grabbing a tissue off Blair's nightstand. With a flourish, she passed it to Blair. "Ya ain't got nothing in your eye, Blair. What's wrong?"
"It's nothing. Really." Blair briefly glanced at Jo, flashing her usually brilliant smile. If it hadn't been for the red-rimmed eyes and pink nose, someone other than Jo might not have caught the act. She abruptly changed directions, heading towards the bedroom door.
Jo got there first, stretching her arm across the exit. Blair ran into Jo's extended arm, trying to break her grip on the doorframe. Jo swayed, but held her ground. "Where are ya goin' now, Princess?" she asked.
"My allergies must be flaring up on me. I need to get a glass of water."
"You need to get away from me, you mean." Jo growled. "Look Princess, I'm not stupid. You've been avoiding me all day. Obviously something's bothering you, so spill already."
Blair shrugged, attempted to push past Jo. "It's nothing."
"I thought we were friends. We are friends, right?" Blair half-heartedly nodded in agreement. "Then, as friends, we can tell each other anything, right?"
"Yeah, I guess," mumbled Blair without looking up.
"You've been acting squirrelly all day. What's wrong with ya?"
Frustrated, Blair finally leveled her gaze, looking Jo square in the eyes. "You got a dozen roses today."
"I - I didn't like it," Blair admitted.
"Why?" Jo asked, a look of confusion on her face. "You must've gotten twelve dozen today. Why didn't you like it that I got one?"
"Because." Blair shrugged helplessly.
"Because." Jo folded her arms across her chest defensively. "Because you're used to getting all the attention?" she guessed.
Blair lowered her gaze, shook her head.
"The girls have been trying all day to guess who they're from. Is that it? You're upset because they're paying more attention to my one dozen roses than they are to your hundred and forty-four?"
Gaze still lowered, Blair again shook her head.
"That's it, isn't it?" Jo pressed. "Princess Warner got her feelings hurt because she's not the center of attention for one Valentine's Day!"
"That's not it!" Eyes flashing, nostrils flaring, Blair looked at Jo. She inched closer, invading Jo's personal space. Staring her in the eye, she shouted, "I don't like you getting flowers from anyone who isn't me!"
Jo's eyes went wide. Blair's followed suit as soon as she realized what she'd just admitted to. Jo's look of shock suddenly dissipated, replaced by a sudden smirk. "You like me," she grinned. "You find me attractive, don't you?"
"About as much as white after labor day."
"I'm not sure what that means," Jo frowned. "But, I know you like me."
"Fine! I like you and I don't want you going out with anyone else!" Blair shouted. "Go ahead and go tell Nat and Toot and everybody else and get a good laugh out of it!"
Jo reached out, gripping Blair's upper arms in both her hands. Blair looked down, focusing on Jo's hands. Her grip increased, forcing Blair to look at her again. "I'm not laughing," she breathed huskily, leaning in, kissing Blair. Her tongue danced along Blair's upper lip, seeking, demanding entrance. She deepened the kiss, increasing the intensity. Gradually, she lessened the pressure, ending the kiss. When Blair's eyes fluttered open, she breathed, "I like you, too, Princess."
Batting her eyes, Blair leaned against Jo, settling against her strong frame. Wordlessly, Jo wrapped her arms around Blair, holding her. Blair let out a deep sigh against Jo's throat.
After a few moments, Blair extricated herself from Jo. Leaning back, she looked up into beautiful blue eyes. "Listen, I know this is going to sound silly - " Blushing, she focused on her shoes. Two fingers caught her beneath her chin, forcing her to meet Jo's gaze again. " - It's just that," she shrugged, "Will you be my Valentine?"
"Sure thing, Princess," Jo laughed, leaning in, placing a quick kiss on her lips. "Just let me grab my jacket and we'll go catch dinner and a movie."
Jo reached for her jacket, dragging it across the mattress. She swooped it up, draped it over one arm as she gently wrapped her other arm about Blair's waist. She ushered the blonde out of the bedroom, steering her towards the stairs. Reaching back, she flipped the light switch off, closed the door.
Neither of them noticed the paper that fell out of the pocket of Jo's jacket, landing on the floor. It landed on the carpeting face up, revealing the printing on the receipt. Peekskill Floral. One dozen roses - paid in full.
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