Bombalurina watched the snow falling on the Junkyard and sighed. "Almost another Valentine's Day, and I still don't have a mate or any prospect of one," she commented to Demeter. "Is there something wrong with me? Like I'm not attractive to toms or something?"
Demeter looked at her like she was crazy. "Uh, Bom? Remember how many toms were drooling over you yesterday?"
"Well, yeah, but... I don't know. None of them seem to really care about a life-long relationship." Bombalurina stretched and sighed again, then changed the subject. "So, do you and Munkustrap have anything special planned for tomorrow?"
"He hasn't said anything about it," said Demeter, frowning slightly. Though Munkustrap wasn't her mate yet, she thought they were definitely heading in that direction.
"Maybe he has surprise or something for you," suggested Bombalurina.
Demeter brightened. "Could be!"
*If only there was someone to do that for me,* Bombalurina thought gloomily as Demeter chattered cheerfully about Munkustrap.
*Your fur is red, your eyes are green, if you'll be my Valentine-* Munkustrap stopped writing and sighed. "Stupid," he muttered, crumpling up his attempt at poetry. "Very stupid."
"Huh?" asked Tugger, opening an eye. "Did you just call me stupid?"
"Not you, Tugger, me," Munkustrap replied.
"Oh. Why're you calling yourself stupid?"
Munkustrap hesitated, not exactly sure to tell his friend how he felt. "Well... you know that Valentine's Day is tomorrow, right?"
"Oh, you're trying to think of what to give Demeter, aren't you?"
"No! That's the problem! Everyone thinks I'd be thinking something like that?"
"I think I'm missing something... what's going on?"
"Well... I don't love Demeter. I mean, she's nice and everything, but she's really just a paranoid kitten." Munkustrap's tail started twitching in agitation.
"Still missing something..." Tugger sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"Ever since I rescued her from Macavity at the Jellicle Ball, everyone expects us to become mates. That's not why I rescued her!"
"So the all-powerful leader bit is finally getting you into trouble, eh?"
"I didn't rescue her to show I was an 'all-powerful leader!'"
"Then why did you?"
Munkustrap looked around to see if anyone else was listening. "Promise you won't tell?"
"This is getting good... I promise. Now tell!" said Tugger, eagerly leaning in.
In a low voice, Munkustrap said, "I rescued her to impress Bombalurina."
"Can I believe my ears? Did Munkustrap just say he rescued Demeter to-"
"Ssh!" hissed Munkustrap. "Not so loud!"
"Sorry, sorry!" said Tugger, more quietly. "But you're serious about the Bombalurina thing?"
Munkustrap nodded and blushed. "You're not angry?"
"Why would I be angry?"
"Well... you and Bombalurina..."
Tugger snorted. "We tease each other, that's it. We both know we aren't serious at all."
"Oh." Munkustrap's relief was evident.
"So, you really like her, huh? Don't know what you see in her... but want me to help you out?"
Tugger grinned. "Stick with me and she'll be hanging all over you by tomorrow night."
"'Emeralds are green, so are your eyes, I hope you like this Valentine's Day surprise,'" Bombalurina read aloud. She looked at the package which accompanied the letter that had been next to her head when she had woken up that morning. "I wonder who it's from..."
"Looks like you've got a secret admirer," said Demeter. "Come on, open it!"
"Okay, okay!" Bombalurina carefully took the lid off the box and gasped. Inside was a cat-sized emerald necklace, almost certainly made from human castoffs, but still beautiful. "Wow! Help me get my collar off, would ya Dem? I can't wait to wear this!" As she lifted the necklace out of the box, another piece of paper fluttered out. "From your Secret Admirer" was written on it.
"Looks like I was right!" said Demeter as she helped Bombalurina with her collar. She stepped back to admire the green and gold necklace against Bombalurina's red fur. "Someone really knows what looks good on you," she said. "I wish Munkustrap did things like that."
"Don't worry, he'll do *something* for you," said Bombalurina, twirling.
*I sure will,* thought Munkustrap from his hiding place. *I just wish I didn't feel so guilty about it...* He pushed the thought from his mind and smiled. *But Bombalurina likes the necklace! Maybe Tugger was right!*
Throughout the day, Bombalurina tried to guess which of the toms was her secret admirer. "So, Rumple, did you and Mungo get anything interesting on your last stealing expedition?" she asked, thinking the necklace might have come from Mungojerrie.
"Mm, not really, just a few little things," said Rumpleteazer. "Noice necklace, boy the waiy. Is it new?"
"Yep," said Bombalurina. *Okay, so it's not from Mungojerrie. So who is it, then?*
"Bom!" squealed Demeter, running over to them. "You got another note! Here!" She shoved a neatly folded piece of paper into Bombalurina's hand.
"Wot's this Oi 'ear bout a note?" asked Rumpleteazer.
"I have a secret admirer," said Bombalurina, unfolding the note. "That's where I got the necklace." She read the note and grinned.
"Does it say who it is?" asked Demeter eagerly. "I bet it's Tugger!"
"Oi bet it's Pouncival!"
Bombalurina shrugged. "Could be either of them. It still doesn't say. But he asked me to the Valentine's Day party tonight!"
"So you'll know who he is by tonight?"
"Calm down, Demi, I think you're more excited about this than I am!" laughed Bombalurina. "But yes, I will. He says to leave a note with my answer where this one was. Where was it?"
"Same place as the last one," answered Demeter.
"Okay. Paper, anyone?"
"Oi've got some in 'ere," said Rumpleteazer, rummaging through her bag. "And a pink marker!"
"Great, thanks!" said Bombalurina. She took the paper and marker, wrote "See you tonight!", and put the note where the other two had been found. "See you tonight," she whispered.
"Yes!" crowed Munkustrap as he read Bombalurina's reply to his invitation.
"What?" asked Tugger.
"She said yes!"
"She? Oh, you mean Bom... great! So when're you gonna tell her it's you?"
Munkustrap thought. "Um... when the valentines are being handed out, I guess. I can send her one that says I'm her 'secret admirer.'" He paused. "But before that, I need you to help me with something."
"Something you probably have a lot of experience with."
Tugger narrowed his eyes. "Either I'm going crazy, or you're asking-"
"You're going crazy," said Munkustrap quickly.
"Good. Then what do you need help with?"
"How do I dump Demeter?"
"You think that's something I have a lot of experience with? I'm insulted!"
"I've never dumped Demeter in my life!" finished Tugger with a grin.
Munkustrap groaned and shook his head. "That's not what I meant, and you know it!"
"I know, I know. But I couldn't resist!"
"Just help me, would you?"
"Okay. Just tell her, gently but firmly, that you don't want to be with her anymore."
"That's it?" asked Munkustrap doubtfully. "It doesn't sound like much..."
"Trust me, you don't need much. In fact, the less said, the better. If you keep on talking, you'll probably never escape and you'll be stuck with Demeter for the Valentine's Day party. Possibly longer."
"Oh. I guess you're right. Well, wish me luck!"
"Good luck!" said Tugger as Munkustrap left to find Demeter.
"Munkustrap!" said Demeter, her face breaking into a smile. "Where have you been? I haven't seen you all day! You haven't forgotten what day this is, have you?" she asked teasingly.
Munkustrap sighed. *This is going to be harder than I thought...* "No, I haven't forgotten what day it is. Actually, that's sort of what I wanted to talk to you about..."
"I'm all ears," said Demeter, leaning in closer.
"I'm not really sure how to say this..."
"Just say what you think."
"I'm sorry, Demi, but this whole 'us' thing just isn't working out. In fact, it's practically nonexistent. I never even wanted it to start in the first place."
"But you...I...we..." For a few moments, Demeter was speechless. Finally, she took a deep breath and asked, "Is there...someone else?"
"Well, not yet. But yes, there is someone I have in mind."
"Is it okay if I ask who?"
"It's okay if you ask, but I'm not going to tell. You'll find out soon enough. And...that's all I have to say. Good bye, Demeter," said Munkustrap. He walked calmly away, trying not to let his great relief show.
"Good bye," echoed Demeter. She curled up into a ball and sadly thought about the Valentine's Day party.
*Poor kid,* thought Tugger, who had been secretly watching the whole time. *It almost makes me feel sorry for her...* His lips twitched as he got an idea, one which would certainly make the rejected queen feel better and, more importantly, annoy Etcetera. "Hey Demi," he said, coming out of his hiding place.
"Oh, hi Tugger," she said glumly.
"I hear you don't have a date for the party tonight."
"Wanna go with me?"
Demeter looked up. "Really? You mean it?" *Guess he's not Bom's secret admirer!*
"Of course I do! Don't I always mean what I say? Don't answer that," he said as he remembered that Demeter was Bombalurina's best friend and would therefore know all of his broken promises.
"This is it!" whispered Bombalurina excitedly as she and Demeter waited for the valentines to be given out. "And I'm sure glad it's not Tugger. I can't believe you're going to the party with him!"
Demeter shrugged. "Well, Munkustrap dumped me, and I didn't want to go alone."
"He did? Really? Why?"
"He said that it wasn't working out, that he had never wanted it to start in the first place, and that there was someone else he liked."
"Oo... sorry, Demi. Ssh! Here come Bustopher and Jenny!"
The Jellicles all hushed as Bustopher Jones and Jennyanydots mounted the stairs to the tire. Then the giggles started. Bustopher was dressed as Cupid, complete with wings and a bow. "You realize I'd only do this for you," he grumbled to Jennyanydots.
She grinned and shifted the box of valentines to her other arm. "Oh, I realize. And you look *adorable*!"
"Shush. Of course it's happening. And you're the cutest little Cupid ever to hand out valentines!" Jennyanydots cleared her throat and addressed the crowd. "Welcome to the Jellicle Junkyard Valentine's Day Party, everyone! My charming assistant here will be handing out your valentines. When you hear your name, go up!" She held out the box to Bustopher.
He sighed, reached into the box, and read the name on the valentine he grabbed. "Bombalurina, from Pouncival."
"Oi knew it was 'im!" whispered Rumpleteazer as Bombalurina came back with her valentine.
Bombalurina glared at her. "It's not him, he just sent me a valentine. Okay?"
More valentines were called. Bombalurina went up quite a few times before the one she was waiting for surfaced. "Bombalurina, from- oo, a secret admirer!" said Bustopher.
Bombalurina snatched the valentine from his hand and ran back to Demeter and Rumpleteazer. She opened it and read the name, then quickly folded it again. "Heavyside!"
"'oo is it?" asked Rumpleteazer.
"Yeah Bom, tell us!" said Demeter.
Bombalurina caught the eye of a nervous-looking silver tabby and smiled. "Munkustrap." She blew him a kiss.
"Munkus- you were the one he was talking about! I don't believe this!" said Demeter, but Bombalurina didn't notice.
"Hi," said Munkustrap softly as Bombalurina approached him.
"Hey," she replied, fiddling with the emerald necklace he'd given her. "So, you're my 'secret admirer?'"
"Yeah. I hope you don't mind."
"Mind?" Bombalurina laughed. "To tell you the truth, the only reason I didn't asked you out before is because you were with Demeter. I only mind that you didn't do this sooner!"
"Really?" asked Munkustrap. "I wish I'd known."
Bombalurina leaned forward and kissed her secret admirer. "Well, now you do."
Munkustrap looked stunned for a minute, then smiled. "I guess you're right."
They would have kissed again, but Jennyanydots interrupted. "Everyone, the party is officially beginning! Come on, start dancing!"
"Looks like someone's desperate for attention..." Bombalurina muttered. "So, wanna go see how weird a dancing Cupid looks?"
Munkustrap glanced over at Bustopher, who was attempting to dance without stabbing Jennyanydots with his arrows. He grinned. "Sure. But we'll continue this later, right?"
"Naturally," said Bombalurina as they took their place among the other dancers. "Happy Valentine's Day."
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