This “Worst” story is from Loveswept author Shelley Ann Clark.
It’s not easy being romantic when you’re a broke college student.
I met my husband in my first class on my first day of college, so our second Valentine’s Day together came when we were both still only sophomores, both living in a dorm, both under twenty-one.
Still, I was determined that lack of money wouldn’t mean lack of romance. I bought myself a matching bra-and-panties set at the same discount store where I usually purchased my ramen noodles and my pens and notebooks. I stood outside the off-campus liquor store in the February cold until I found a character sketchy enough to buy an underage woman a bottle of wine—for a ten dollar bribe, of course.
I picked up a loaf of nice bread and some cheese from the deli of the local grocery store, and even bought a few contraband candles that I snuck into my backpack before heading back to my dorm.
My dorm, which was coed and generally lax on rules, had only two very strict regulations: the entire campus was dry, so even if you were over twenty-one, no alcohol was allowed in the dorms, ever. And as a historic building without sprinklers, no candles or smoking were allowed in our dorm, ever.
I invited my husband (then boyfriend) over after his shift at work. I lived in a single room, a rare luxury for any college student, and I’d spread my blanket out over the floor, lit the candles on my dresser, and set up a picnic for us indoors. When he arrived, delighted, I knew I’d pulled off the perfect romantic Valentine’s Day for him.
Until we tried to open the wine, and I realized that I didn’t have a corkscrew.
Neither of us had a corkscrew, because we weren’t twenty-one, we weren’t really wine drinkers, and we weren’t actually supposed to have wine in our dorm anyway.
Ever the problem-solver, my boyfriend set off on a mission. Propping my door open, he headed down the hall, knocking on each of my hallmates’ doors in turn, asking to borrow a corkscrew. Since it was Valentine’s Day, a number of my hallmates’ doors were opened by their boyfriends, many of whom were only partially dressed and none too pleased by the knocking. At the last room at the end of the hall, a corkscrew was finally acquired, and my boyfriend returned, triumphant.
Our romantic indoor picnic resumed. I didn’t have wineglasses, so we drank straight from the bottle. Eventually we abandoned the wine for each other. As we grew more enthusiastic in our attentions, a flailing limb knocked the wine bottle over, spilling wine all over my blanket and the floor. “Leave it,” I remember saying, as I was a bit distracted at the time.
And then someone knocked on my door. Thinking it was my neighbor wanting her corkscrew back, I tossed my bathrobe on, grabbed her corkscrew, and opened the door.
Where I found my Resident Advisor standing at my door, holding a DVD of Breakfast at Tiffany’s that she had borrowed from me earlier in the week. “Oh, hey!” she began. “I was just returning—“
And then she saw my room, behind me: wine spilled all over the floor, candles burning. She looked down at my hand, holding the contraband corkscrew.
“You know I have to write you up.”
“You couldn’t, just, turn around and go back to your room?”
“I have to take the candles, too.”
We traded. She gave me my DVD and a write-up; I gave her my candles and turned in my neighbor’s corkscrew (sorry, Sarah! I never did buy you a new one).
My husband and I got married not long after that, and moved out of the dorms and into our own apartment. But we kept up the tradition—and celebrate every Valentine’s Day with an indoor candlelight picnic.