Valentine's Day Flash Fiction Contest: Baked with Love

Baked with Love

Cloudy dreariness envelopes the streets outside. The sun hasn't dared to crack the iron curtain in the sky which threatens an assault of raindrops at any moment. For the time being, it's holding off, as if in a standstill with the day that's unfolding in the town below. Sarah Jane stands in her kitchen watching her old pear tree swing in the breeze as the final two leaves are pulled off, tumbling in the wind. She glances up at the sky, hoping the rain won't start for at least an hour or so as she carefully ties red ribbon on each cellophane bag that has been decorated with tiny heart stickers. A yawn escapes her mouth and she's forced to admit she stayed up too late the night before baking treats. She smiles as she puts the final touches on her homemade gifts.
Loading them in a large basket, she calls for Jasmine. As she hears her padding down the stairs, she grabs an umbrella just to be safe and bends down to clip a pink bow in Jasmine's hair. Happily, they bound out the door and into their SUV.
Jasmine sits quietly in her seat and stares out the window as Sarah Jane navigates through the traffic. It's been a while since she's planned anything special. Gosh, she thinks, it's probably been almost a year, but it's been a tough year, she sighs. It's been filled with too much heartache, too much divorce. It feels like they've finally turned the corner though. They've stopped watching the door at six o'clock waiting for Bill to walk through it. They've stopped looking at the empty side of the bed wondering if they should venture over there or not. They've  stopped waking up at seven in the morning when his alarm would have gone off. It's taken a while but they've finally accepted that Bill isn't coming back and it's just going to be the two of them from here on out. Just because life's taken a detour, Sarah Jane is determined to put the past behind her and start focusing on the good things in her life...starting today.
As she pulls into the parking lot at the park, she glances up at the thick, dark clouds above. She hurries out of the car with her basket while Jasmine bounds out the door. As they enter the gate system to get into the park, Jasmine starts to prance and whine a little, as if urging Sarah Jane to go faster. All of her friends race up to the fence, wiggling and dancing while they wait for her to join them. The adults sitting on benches and in chairs reading books or checking their cell phones glance up at the commotion going on at the park's entrance. 
“Hey, everyone,” Sarah Jane yells out as she and Jasmine are mobbed entering the park gate. She holds the basket up high as wet noses sniff the air and hungry eyes yearn to get a better look at what she brought. She laughs and then orders them to, “Go play!”
“What do you have there?” asks Marissa, curiously.
“Just a little Valentine's Day treat,” she says smiling. 
“Oooh,” croons Marissa.  “Is it for us or the little monsters?”
“How can you talk about our babies that way?” Sarah Jane ask playfully. 
Marissa doesn't say anything; she just smiles and points. Sarah Jane follows her gaze and sees a pile of dirty, filthy “monsters” that are wrestling the ball from each other and knocking each other down for a turn.
“Okay, okay,” Sarah Jane concedes. “Our babies are monsters!”
“Now come on. They're not monsters and they're not babies either,” says Jack pointedly. “They're acting just like they should because they're dogs.”
“Ah Jack,” Sarah Jane sighs. “You always call it like you see it.”
Jack shrugs his shoulders and lobs a ball for the pack of dogs, including my sweet yet dirty furbaby. He doesn't say much, but you can tell he thinks the bows and fancy collars are a bunch of hooey.
“Well, whatever you want to call them, I have homemade doggy treats for them,” Sarah Jane says, smiling and waving her basket. Even grouchy Jack's eyes perk up a little. He may call his dog a dog, but everyone knows he's his best friend.
 Sarah Jane happily walks around with her basket handing out treats and wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day. She heads over to Derrick last, the rugged guy in the cargo pants and sweatshirt. He's engrossed in a book as usual.
“Hey,” she says sweetly, waiting for him to look up at her. 
“Hey,” he says, smiling and closing his book curiously.
“Um,” she stammers as she notices the amber flecks in his eyes. “I baked some dog treats and wanted to share them with Jasmine's friends for Valentine's Day.”
“Thank you,” he says sincerely, taking the bag from her hand. His fingers brush against hers and she blushes.
“It was nothing,” Sarah Jane says as she studies his angular jaw and scruffy face.
“No, it was something,” he says. “It was really kind of you.”
“Well then, you're welcome,” she says.
“You know,” he says and pauses. “We should go out sometime.”
“Yes, we should,” Sarah Jane replies. It's been ages since she's had this butterfly feeling. It's slightly intoxicating and makes her happy and nervous all at once. Baking dog treats was the best idea she's had in a long time. Not only has she made the dogs happy and their owners happy, but now, she's also scored herself a date. 
“I have a date,” she mouths to Marissa as she walks back across the park, trying to restrain herself from doing a little happy dance. A drop of rain falls from the sky and Sarah Jane couldn't care less.