This story was picked up for publication in Telegram Magazine and was carried them in serial form (much as Charles Dickens work used to be) from October to February 2017.
[The Action of this story took place about three years after that of “The Ladies Man”. Life at Midgard-Caledonia was drawing to a close; boys proposing to girls and being accepted was far more common than on that eventful day when Aviator Dolman had thrown down the gauntlet to Taryn K., and there was scarce a chap in that old Scottish Castle who hadn’t, at some time or another, admitted to having gone sentimental about a girl.
It was also significant for me in the sense that this was my first story with a conventional arc. Build-up, climax, twist.
When I first posted it one of the comments contained possibly the nicest compliment ever – it spoke of how she had shown my story to her colleagues at her office and how they had followed it with much appreciation and cheering. Unfortunately I no longer remember who had posted that comment.]
Links to other chapters:
Links to other chapters:
Chapter One - The Girl
The Saint Valentine, after whom the day in February is named, was a Priest in Rome, possibly a bishop. He was imprisoned for giving aid to martyrs in prison, and while there, is said to have converted the jailer by restoring sight to the jailer's daughter.
There are several theories about the origin of Valentine's Day celebrations. Some believe the Romans had a mid-February custom where boys drew girls' names in honour of the sex and fertility goddess, Februata Juno; pastors "baptised" this holiday, like some others, by substituting the names of saints such as Valentine to suppress the practice.
|The Roman Goddess Februata Juno|
But this isn’t a treatise on the origin of the Festival that has made billions of dollars for Greeting-Card companies. It’s just a Valentine Day story from the Midgard-Caledonia Chronicles.
Arabella Radeyevna was one of those girls it was impossible not to like – especially if you were a red-blooded male. She was friendly, intelligent, had no ‘airs’ whatsoever (though she well might have, given the adulation she excited), sensible – which is quite a different thing – and a delightful, if sometimes dangerous, disrespect for authority.
Though I doubt most of her ardent devotees were much bothered about any of these sterling qualities – they rarely looked beyond that fact that she bore a striking resemblance, from head to toe, to Kylie Minogue. Add to this her uncanny ability to make anything she wore, including the drab, grey, school skirt, look like something out of a Versace Catalogue, and you can see why it wasn’t unusual to find lovesick swains trying to scribble verses dedicated to her in the quiet nooks and crannies of Midgard-Caledonia High School.
|Actual photo of Kylie Minogue. Copyright vests with original content owner.|
Besides, ever since she had, at the previous year’s Christmas Bash, been discovered passionately kissing Apollonia Gogol, another acknowledged beauty, her alabaster skin flustered red and Appollonia's jet-black curls attractively dishevelled, on two separate occasions, in full view of the school, her stock had risen to stratospheric heights among all right-thinking men.
Given all this it’s hardly surprising that a certain Elver named Jormund found himself quite ecstatic when ensconced with her on the picturesque hedge of the picturesque garden that bordered the picturesque heritage building where we had our classrooms.
What we spoke about for the first half-hour is…ahem…immaterial, and has no bearing on this story. Suffice to say that I had been on the verge of saying something devastatingly clever when she cut me off by saying,
“I’m worried about Joshhound. He seems to be terribly depressed these days.”
I thought this was a most unwelcome change of subject.
“This is a most unwelcome change of subject, Arabella,” I said accordingly.
Like legions of women were to do after her, Arabella ignored my objection and continued,
“I wish you’d talk to him.”
“I hardly know the feller!” I protested.
“Yes you do. I saw you walking with him after school last week.”
“Well he's in MacGregor, the house adjacent to Haddow, and we have the same political rhetoric class, so we may have walked together. But I don’t really know him!”
“Nonsense. You must go and find out why he’s so down. He won’t talk to me so it must be a guy thing.”
“I don’t see why you’re SO concerned about a silly chimp like Joshhound anyway,” I muttered resentfully.
“He’s not a chimp. My best friend in the whole world, Rita Stringthing, likes him very much. She can’t bear to see him like this. But poor Rita is so shy she won’t talk to him. And so she wants me to talk to him. But he won’t talk to me. I tried to talk to him when we were putting up the decorations for the Valentine’s Day Party in the Biology Lab. He insists nothing’s wrong. But I know something’s wrong. He has such a moony look about him,” she spouted out in a breathless soprano.
“But I don’t see where I come into this!”
This objection met the same fate as the earlier one.
“You’ll do it won’t you?”
Of course I said yes. It was against my finer judgment, no doubt. A little voice in my head told me that nothing good would come out of it. Another one – I must’ve been borderline schizophrenic – told me I would be best served by keeping my fingers out of this particular pie. But when someone like Arabella looks up at you out of her earnest grey eyes, with her hands clasped in appeal and her cheeks aglow with excitement, you tend to say yes. It’s a law of nature.
“Right now, I mean,” she added.
“What? Now?” I protested, “I don’t even know where he is right now!”
“I mean after school, Jormund. You have political rhetoric today, don't you? You two can walk to your Houses together and share confidences!”
“Yes yes all right, I’ll do it,” I said, as the bell rang to announce the end of the lunch break and the commencement of Geography Class (for me) and English Literature (for her), and we walked our separate ways.
“The things a chap will do for a woman with a figure like that!” I muttered to myself as I entered the classroom.
“Did you say something?” asked Mrs. Bentinck, our Geography teacher, a fearsome woman with the face and build of a rhinoceros and ears sharper than a CIA bug.
“Nnnno, ma’m, nothing ma’m, I was just memorizing the figures for rainfall requirements for the kharif season, ma’m.”
“Good,” she said with a cruel smile, “then you can share with the class your observations thereon. Please take the floor, Mr. Elver…I think this will be very interesting.”
I threw up my hands and took my place at the centre of the platform. This was going to be a long 40 minutes.
|A common sight in Mrs Bentinck's class|