Of course I knew that Jeff liked me. It was kind of a joke around the office. He liked me and everybody knew and would tease us both about it, and that was the status quo. It was fine. I even thought of him as a friend. I just wasn’t interested in him romantically—I mean, who could be? He was such a quiet little guy, I felt like I would just trample over him sometimes. But when he brought me those roses, I sort of felt obligated to accept them.

 They were a little bit over the top. Gorgeous—I mean, so beautiful—long-stemmed red roses, thick velvety petals and in the most unbelievable box—I didn’t think flowers like that really existed outside the movies. But there they were, on my desk, and what could I do? If it had been jewelery I would have given it back, but roses? They’re perishable, right? Even if they cost a thousand dollars, they’d be dry or dead or whatever in a week, it’s not like they take returns on flowers. And they really were so, so beautiful.

 “What do you think?” He was right there immediately. He must have been hovering, waiting for me to find them.

 “Jeff—I don’t know what to say. This is too much. These are—they’re too much. Thank you, but… don’t. Please, never again.”

 “I know it’s a lot, but they made me think of you. Please just take them. It would make me happy if you did.”

 So what could I do? It would have been too mean to give them back. I tucked them under my desk so they wouldn’t stand out too much. I knew the rest of the office would give me shit about it.

 But I kept wanting to look at them. The petals were so soft and thick you just wanted to crawl into one of the flowers and sleep in it. After an hour or two I started to get a headache from constantly bending to look at them under my desk, and once I cracked my head when I was trying to smell them and the phone rang. So I gave in and left them out on my desk. They deserved to be seen. Of course I did get teased all afternoon, but I actually felt kind of smug about it. Nobody else had the world’s most beautiful roses on their desk. I figured they teased Jeff too, but I didn’t see him all afternoon, so I couldn’t tell you.

 I had to pack them back in the box to get them home, but I saw people giving me looks on the subway. Just the size of it was enough to catch somebody’s eye. I can’t pretend it wasn’t nice to get some jealous looks from strangers. For all they knew, the box of roses was just the beginning. They didn’t know I didn’t have a date for Valentine’s Day, they probably thought I’d be taking a helicopter ride to somebody’s private island for dinner and hot tubs—something way more awesome than they’d be doing themselves, anyway.

 But of course I wasn’t. I just went home; not even a black heart singles party. I didn’t have a vase big enough for long-stemmed roses (does anybody?) so I kept the box open on the side table in my bedroom and said a little apology to the roses for not being able to display them the way that they deserved. Then I realized: after accepting the flowers, I hadn’t seen Jeff all day. I resolved to thank him again first thing the next morning.

 I kept one eye trained on the door all morning, but he never came through it. I even went down the hall and checked his office right before I went to lunch, but it was still dark. He must have called out sick—except I was the receptionist. I would have been the one to pick up that call. When Rick, the office manager, started rounding everybody up into the conference room, I felt sick. I think I knew what was coming.

 “Ladies and gentlemen. I have just received some upsetting news, and unfortunately you all need to hear it. I’m not sure how to say this, but the police found the body of Jeff Bristol about two hours ago. They say it looked like a suicide. I don’t know much about the circumstances, but I thought it would be best to make sure everybody knew so there would be no confusion or crazy rumors. I am so sorry to have to be the one to break the news. Jeff will be missed around here.”

 Except not really. Most of the office wouldn’t even notice the difference. It made me so angry at them, that such a sweet, gentle person could have been so ignored by them, that he could have been so lonely that he killed himself on Valentine’s Day—it made me sick. Rick was understanding when I said I wanted to go home early. I was the only one who did, those fuckers.

 I got home and ran straight to the roses, as if they would hold a clue, but there was no note, no card, nothing. I collapsed onto my bed, sobbing. Why hadn’t I noticed Jeff sooner? We could have been so happy together! But then, he was the one who hadn’t given me a chance. If he had only given me a little time to figure things out, we could have been so happy for the rest of our lives, but he robbed me of that. Out of spite. And he made sure I got those roses, to remind me that he had stolen my entire life’s happiness, before I even knew about it. Well, I wasn’t going to keep them around, mocking me.

 Burning, the roses were more beautiful than ever. And I realized that he and I didn’t need to stay apart.