"’Ey, Mungo!" Rumpleteazer poked her brother. "’Ou’re starin’ again."
Mungojerrie blinked and refocused on his sister, who was smirking evilly at him. "Oi am not!"
"Roight..." she grinned. The calico glared at her. Below their perch on the car trunk, a tri-colored queen giggled, and Mungojerrie instantly twisted around to see her.
"Soire ya don’ loike her," Rumpleteazer mocked. "Soire... soire..."
Tantomile giggled again at the Rum Tum Tugger’s antics. "Isn’t he funny?" she hissed to Cassandra.
The Burmese looked at the Maine Coon critically. "You know, I think he’s trying to be seductive."
"It’s not working!"
"I’m thinking he wants a date other than Bombalurina or Etcetera for the Valentine Ball," Cassandra said cynically. Even though Valentine’s Day was a human celebration, the Jellicles took it as an excuse to dance and try and find a mate. Most cats were fond of sending anonymous notes or tokens to the queen or tom they were attracted to.
"Not likely," Tantomile replied, equally cynically. The reminder of the holiday dance killed her good mood quickly. She had absolutely no hope of either a date (to use the human term) or a mate to take to the Valentine Ball.
"Sorry..." Cassandra said apologetically. "Forgot that you... don’t really like the Valentine thing..."
"I might like it better if a tom ever asked me to it. Your date is assured, at least judging from the amount of flowers you’ve gotten so far."
Cassandra’s tail twitched. "Well... I could admit to having a preference..."
"’Ey, ‘Teazah," Mungojerrie whispered. "’id ya ‘ear wot she said?" The light in his eyes told his sister that the calico’d heard something quite important to him.
"Wot?" Rumpleteazer whispered back. "OI’M nat the one who coin’t stap talkin’ ‘bout a certoin queen..."
"She soid ‘at noboidy ‘as askin’ ‘er t’ th’ dance!" Mungojerrie was nearly dancing in place himself.
"’Ell, go oisk ‘er then," the calico prodded impatiently.
"Oi... Oi ‘an’t..."
"Dan’t tell moi ‘at ya, ya, moi ‘an bro, is shy..."
"Oi’ll... Oi’ll ask ‘er loiter... ‘Onest."
Tantomile returned home wearily. *Yes, indeed... This Valentine season is going to be even worse now that Cassandra’s gotten attached, or as good as... It’s embarrassing to the both of us when Cori takes me to that stupid, stupid ball...*
She blinked at the single white rose on the shredded blanket she used for a bed. Very carefully, she picked it up. No note or signature, not that she expected one. Tantomile cradled the thornless rose in her hands, in acute shock. *Who...?* was her immediate thought, but the scent of the rose overwhelmed any scents that could have been left by the sender. Her second thought was, *Where can I put it?* She finally decided on an old, cracked fishbowl, half-filled with dirt and rainwater.
Harsh reality reasserted itself. *What if it wasn’t for me? Cori gets a few (very) tokens... Likely from the mystery queen who just sends them to be nice, but he does. I’ll bet it wasn’t for me at all...* She shrugged. *What the hell.* But her enjoyment of the rose had faded with the realization that it may not have been for her. "Who am I kidding?" she said aloud. "Of course it wasn’t."
The next morning, Tantomile awoke to the scent of roses. Her eyes snapped open to regard a pale yellow rose, right in front of her nose. This one had a simple note attached. "Tantomile ... A queen as beautiful as yourself deserves far more than this token- from an admirer," it read, barely legibly.
Without removing her eyes from the rose, she reached over and tapped Coricopat’s shoulder. "Tell me if this says what I think it does..."
He inspected both the rose and note. "That my dearest sister has an admirer?" he asked.
"That’s... what I thought it said."
"About time a tom figured it out," her brother responded acerbically.
"Figured what out?"
"That you’re a wonderful person, in and of yourself, and more than worthy of any tom," Coricopat said matter-of-factly.
Mungojerrie kicked the side of a trashcan viciously, muttering obscene curses under his breath. *I am going to find who sent that white rose, and I am going to *hurt* them... That’s not FAIR! Whoever they are, they shouldn't have approached her before I did!* He glared at the brick wall for lack of any other targets. *It’s not FAIR.*
The next day, Tantomile was as serene as the moon outwardly. Inwardly, she could not wait until she could find Cassandra. When she did, she pulled the Burmese over to the side. "Cass, come with me. I’ve got something to show you at my house." The streaked queen bounced in place, looking rather like Etcetera.
"What? Show me," Cassandra demanded. "You look ‘nipped, you’re so keyed up!"
"Well, it’s about time," Cassandra said, addressing the rose.
"That’s what Cori said, too," Tantomile told her. "Ah, you wouldn’t happen to recognize the handwriting, would you...?"
"Sorry. I have no clue who it may be... They were pretty precise with it, though."
"How can you tell? It looks sort of scrawled to ME..."
Cassandra pointed. "He wrote it in pen; look. See how the ink’s in such a dark line? If it were scribbled, it wouldn’t be so heavy."
"Hey, that’s right..." Tantomile exclaimed. "How did you figure that out?"
Cassandra stifled a giggle. "Drawing so much..."
"That explains it..."
Alonzo stared at the blank scrap of paper in front of his nose. Steeling himself, he raised a blue pen. "Cass" he wrote. *Should I put her full name?* he wondered. *Or just her nickname?* He finally filled in the rest of the Burmese’s name. Now what? he thought desperately.
Eventually, his note turned out to be short and direct. "Cassandra - I know that you receive many flowers and notes around this time of the year. All are for good reason; you’re the most beautiful queen in the world. Would you be terribly offended if I asked you to the Valentine’s Ball? - Alonzo."
He reread it countless times. *Should I? Should I just throw it away? What’ll she say? What’ll she do? What if she says no? What if she says yes?*
Alonzo shook his head. *I’ve written this thing, and I’ll be cursed if I don’t deliver it...* Keeping that thought in mind, Alonzo discreetly left the note where he knew Cassandra would find it.
Cassandra and Tantomile walked sedately toward their usual hideout. Once there, Tantomile noticed a carefully-folded piece of paper. It was addressed to Cassandra. "Hey, Cass... This’s for you."
Cassandra accepted the note, opened it, and read it. "Whahoooooo!" she shouted, leaping up into the air at least a foot. Tantomile yelped, but Cassandra paid her no attention whatsoever. "Yesss!" the Burmese cried, breaking into an impromptu dance. She kissed the paper. "Yes, yes, YES!"
"What?" Tantomile demanded. "What on earth---"
Cassandra bounded back over. "Look!" She showed Tantomile the note, and the streaked queen read it quickly.
"I’ve got to find him!" Cassandra exclaimed. "Got to go---"
"Get," Tantomile told her, and watched as the Burmese took off running.
Cassandra dashed into a clearing in the Junkyard, startling the singular resident. Alonzo flinched backwards, tail flicking nervously. It was obvious that she’d gotten the note, but she was moving too fast for him to read her expression.
The Burmese catapulted into his startled arms. Alonzo yelped in shock, staggering backwards a few paces before catching his balance. Without a word, Cassandra kissed him full on the mouth.
Alonzo carefully put her down, never breaking the kiss. Cassandra only pulled away when the both of them had run out of breath, and even then they were only inches apart.
"I take it you wouldn’t mind if I took you to the Ball?" the splotched tom asked rhetorically.
"You could say that," Cassandra said flippantly.
Mungojerrie glared at the sheet of paper, batting the pen absently between his hands. He’d meant to write another note to Tantomile; had gotten as far as "Tantomile-" but somehow he’d wound up writing some sort of poem instead. The calico considered ripping it up, but he couldn’t stand to. Finally, he crumpled the poem into a ball and disdainfully tossed the wadded paper away from him.
Then he looked up, only to see a pair of tri-colored feet that were not Rumpleteazer’s. Tantomile knelt down and picked up the paper. "Hey, ‘Jerrie," she greeted casually. She started to unfold the paper, curiously.
Mungojerrie lunged to his feet with a yelp. "Nothin’!"
"It doesn’t look like ‘nothing’ to me." Tantomile didn’t relinquish her hold on the paper. Desperately, Mungojerrie grabbed at the paper, and got a good grip on it. He tried to pull the sheet away from Tantomile, but she yanked back.
The paper ripped in two, and Mungojerrie and Tantomile both fell backwards with a half of the paper.
Tantomile recovered first, glancing at her half of the paper. Mungojerrie scrambled to his feet, staring at her as her gaze flicked down the paper.
Beauty of a different kind;
totally herself though she has a twin.
Am I the only one who sees her, then?
Is everyone else blind?"
With a start, Tantomile recognized the same handwriting that had written her the note. Her head snapped up to regard Mungojerrie, who seemed frozen in place. "You wrote this?" she asked huskily.
The calico nodded stiffly. "Oi meant to tell ya... Na much point now, i’ there...?" he asked with morbid humor.
"Well..." Tantomile began slowly. "I could pretend I didn’t read it?" She glanced up at him, a strange, tentative smile turning the corners of her mouth.
Mungojerrie blinked at her. Then, the same small smile quirked his lips. "’ould work..." Carefully, he offered her a hand up. Tantomile took his hand, steadfastly refusing to look him in the eyes and blushing furiously.
Once she was standing, impulsively, Mungojerrie dropped to one knee, not relinquishing her hand. "Tant’mile, ‘ould ya go ta the Valentoine’s Ball wi’ me?"
"I - I - " Tantomile stuttered. "Of course I would -!"
About a week later, Macavity dismally surveyed the Valentine’s Ball in full swing. Literally. Coricopat, not having a date, had been appointed DJ, and he apparently had a thing for the Big Band era.
The ginger cat glanced across the dancers currently swaying to "The Bottom of My Heart." Immediately obvious were Victoria and Plato, near the middle of the dance floor and lit up by the red spotlight. Cassandra and Alonzo glided around them, never taking their eyes off of each other.
But Macavity wasn’t paying much attention to them. He sighed as he watched a calico and a grayish queen dance together. *Well, what about it? If you didn’t even sign your name, then obviously she wouldn’t hold out for you...* the ginger cat thought bleakly. *Not that I could take her to this anyway. She’s much better off with Mungojerrie...*
Tantomile and Mungojerrie swirled by Cassandra and Alonzo, neither of which seemed to notice them.
A different song than the usual came on as Coricopat gave his sister and her escort a thumbs-up.
"Your eyes... Can’t get them out of my mind..."
Out of the corner of her eye, Tantomile could see Cassandra and Alonzo drift out of the dance floor, clearly preferring to cuddle on the sidelines.
"Looks loike they’re ‘aving more fun ‘n us..." Mungojerrie suggested.
"Does, doesn’t it..."
But before they could bow out of any more dancing, Coricopat’s voice issued over the speakers. "And now, in honor of Valentine’s Day, will everyone please regard our own dearest Tantomile and Mungojerrie as they dance?"
"I’m going to kill him..." Tantomile whispered fiercely as all the gathered cats turned and looked at the two. She tried to hide her blush, and failed miserably.
Mungojerrie waved cheerfully at the crowd. "Oi moight thank ‘im," he muttered impishly back, as a slow, sultry waltz came on.
Coricopat stifled a smirk as Tantomile and Mungojerrie finished the waltz, to great applause and more than a few catcalls. *I am hot stuff... She just might kill me after this, but it’d be worth it...*
eMeow the author
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