Valentine: A Cautionary Tale
The story you are about to read is not one that should be taken lightly, dear reader. If you thought, perhaps, that you would find a comic delight to tickle the senses or a romantic romp to flutter the stomach, you have stumbled across the wrong words. What follows, my most dear reader, can only be described as a tragedy. Woe unto the two brothers who quarrel and fight amongst themselves! Woe unto the misguided affections they both possess for the mysterious lady in the park! Can any good come of a love shared by another but reciprocated not? Nay, a tragedy only, and a sorrowful one at that. So read on, read on if you desire a tale of misery and woe on this otherwise auspicious day. But do not say I didn't warn you.
Our story begins on a cold day, blustery and wintery as it is wont to be during the month of Awakening. The scene? A park in Neopia Central, one of many and each much the same. The details of the park are not important, save that the entire thing is cast as a winter wonderland, dazzlingly white and frosty. There could be skaters on the lake, sled rides down the hill, or even muffled lovers strolling the icy paths. There are, however, none of these things, for this is a story of utmost despair, and the only thing in sight on this brutally cold day is a lone Ogrin, red, dressed as though he were attending the most fashionable ball in Neovia. He has set himself a picnic.
See, reader! See the pathetic figure he casts! His top hat askance, his tie impeccable, his soup freezing over by the second, the Ogrin sits and waits, not daring to touch the food before him until he is joined by a certain someone. But... this is not my story to tell. I shall let his brother tell it, an Ogrin much the same, but yellow rather than red and outfitted as might be appropriate for the clime. Here he comes now, down the path, eying his brother with no little disdain and laughing heartily at the absurdity of the situation.
"What in the name of Fyora are you doing, Nat?"
The red Ogrin sighs, rolls his eyes as high as they will go, and swivels his head to face the newcomer. "I do wish you wouldn't call me that, Reginald."
"Alright, Nathaniel, what in the name of Fyora are you doing?"
"Right, so you've gone absolutely loony is what you're doing."
Nathaniel laughs and stirs the soup in an attempt to break up the pieces of ice. "Ah, me, if you could but see the brilliance of what I'm doing. Have you any idea what month it is, Reginald?"
"Reggie. And it's Awakening."
"Precisely! In not two weeks, it will be Valentine's Day, and oh, how love blooms! How it practically skips and sings, flittering and flying through the breeze with lilac-scented ch-"
Reggie holds up a hand. "I'm gonna have to stop you at lilac-scented. But I'm, ah... noticing a problem with your picnic here."
Nathaniel cannot help but laugh as he tries to sip his tea. As he flips the cup over and palms the brown ice that comes out, he says, "And what would that be, oh dearest brother?"
"It's the middle of winter."
Oh, reader! How poignant Reggie's remark! While we may sit here and weep for Nathaniel's picnic, omniscient as we are, the pathetic nature of the situation is lost on that thrice-blinded Ogrin. "So?" he says. "There is love to be found even in the most desolate of times! Here, come closer." He draws his brother nearer and sniffs the air. "Do you smell that?"
"You forgot to take a shower today?"
"Love! Love is in the air, dear Reginald! In the last hour alone, I've seen not one, but two fair ladies walking by themselves through this park!"
"And they aren't eating with you now because...?"
A sudden gust of wind flares up, and Nathaniel busies himself with weighing down the corners of the groundcloth with egg and cress sandwiches. "I hallooed them, brother! I hallooed until my throat was raw as the pangs of a broken heart, but they must not have heard me. The wind, perhaps, took my voice."
"And your sanity..."
"What was that, brother?"
And so they sit, dear readers. The two brothers sit in the midst of a desolate park, waiting for a love that is like not to show at all! O cruel fate! O injustice in the extreme! Would it not be kinder to upend the picnic, to scatter the sandwiches to the four corners of the world and let these brothers be done with it? The next weeks will be filled with turmoil and trouble and it is all because of what is to happen next. Nathaniel uses his opera glasses to scan the horizon for fair maidens and, woe of woes!, his gaze happens upon the door of a house just beyond the bounds of the park.
"Oh!" Struck by the arrow of love, Nathaniel emits the only sound his pierced soul can make, transfixed as he is by the view in the glasses. "Oh!"
"What is it this time, you nutjob?"
Reggie rips the glasses from his brother's hands and turns his own eyes towards the house across the park. The whistle that escapes his lips is naught but the steam of a heart fired in the furnace of true love! "Now that's a fine head of hair."
"But her face, Reginald! Can you see her face?"
"Nope, she's turned around. Definitely a Bori, though. Annnnd now she's inside. Shame." He tosses the glasses back to Nathaniel. "She sure seemed pretty."
Alas, Nathaniel! He clutches his chest and falls back upon the cold, unforgiving ground. "Oh, Reginald, I'm in love!"
"...You're in what now?"
"Did you not see her? Oh, what beauty! Oh, what charm and grace!"
"She was hundreds of feet away and you only saw her from the back."
"Do you think she saw me?"
"I'll refer you to my last statement."
"Oh, she's the one, Reginald! She's absolutely, positively the one with whom I'll spend that joyous Valentine's Day!"
"And how, exactly, are you going to bring that one about?"
"With a Valentine's Day card!"
"Wow. Okay. Hope springs eternal, I suppose."
"Oh, I hope spring's eternal, too, my dear brother! We'll frolic and play in the flowers and walk with parasols in our hand!"
"That's... that's, ah... not actually what means." Reggie receives no answer from his brother, who remains staring at the house through his opera glasses. "You know what? Fine. If you're so desperate to send her a card, I think I'll make one for her too."
It is as if Reggie has suggested that they give themselves up unto Dr. Sloth and begin plotting the domination of Neopia. Nathaniel gasps and fairly falls over into the potato salad. "You wouldn't dare!"
Reggie smirks. "If that head of hair is anything to go by, I wouldn't mind having her as my Valentine either. And besides, it'll be worth it just to watch another one of your meltdowns."
There could be no greater tragedy, dear reader! Two brothers, bound by blood, now forced to each other's throats by the mad desire for a Valentine! O unjust fate, O fortune unfavorable, how could you design such a course for these two who are perhaps the least deserving of all?
The picnic is taken up, the route home walked, and before long, each brother is hard at work crafting what he feels is a Valentine's Day card to best all others. Nathaniel bedecks his in lace and feathers and gold leaf, crafting the entire card lovingly into the shape of a heart. Reggie makes his out of simple white paper, folded once into a rectangle, but filled with words writ in red ink.
"And... so... with... great... longing... and... affection..." Reggie speaks aloud as he writes, "I... would... like... you... dear... ah... what's her name?" The horror! Reggie writes to a nameless entity, a ghost of a woman, a recipient who cannot possible receive! Quickly, quickly, in his mind, he devises a plan. He must best his brother, of that he is certain, and surely Nathaniel cannot know the woman's name either. He must be sly and quick, figuring out the Bori's name without giving a hint to his infernal brother. Deception is called for.
The days pass, reader, as they have for years past and will continue to do into eternity. Neither brother dares speak of the terrible drama unfolding within the confines of their own home. Life goes on seemingly as normal, but ah, we know the terror lying just beneath the surface! We know that no good can come of this! But still Reggie plots to discover the woman's name, to solve the final piece of the puzzle and come away the victor. It is a week later that he makes his daring move.
A return to the house where it all began! Reggie espies the house and makes for the bushes by the door, launching himself into them and tangling himself where he might have reasonable use of his arms. The plan? When the mail is to be delivered, he shall leap out of the bushes, accost the noble post officer, and demand the name of the occupant of the house. Oh, how the madness of love drives us to the brink of insanity! Oh, but could Reggie see his own depravity!
There! Down the road comes the jolly postman, whistling a tuneless tune and carrying the sack of his profession upon his back. He is an Ogrin, red. Reggie rubs his eyes in disbelief.
"There is actually no way." He removes himself from the bush and dashes in front of the mail carrier. "There is no possible way that you are as mental as you seem to be."
"Oh, Reginald! Why were you hiding in the bushes?"
"What have you done with the real postman?"
"I... persuaded him to take the day off?"
"So you paid him off."
"It was worth it, my dear little brother. I now have the name of my darling Valentine!"
"Give it to me."
Nathaniel laughs his chirping, high-pitched laugh. "Ah, tut tut! You have to play the game, dear Reginald! And if I helped you cheat, where's the fun?"
"I'll push you down and throw the mail everywhere if you don't give it to me."
O cruel Reggie, your words are like a dagger in your brother's side! "Fine," he says. "It's Jamie. I haven't the foggiest how to pronounce the last name, but Jamie... ah, like a summer's breeze with the scent of lilac hov-"
"There you go with the lilac again. Come on, let's get out of here."
"I... er... I have to finish my route, Reginald."
"...You have got to be kidding me."
"The postman made me promise to deliver all the mail! As an Ogrin of my word, I simply cannot break that in good faith."
"Right, you have fun with your delusion. I'm going to finish my card."
Accursed card! Foul paper with poisoned words! Though each brother finishes with pride and joy, the 14th of Awakening will be their doom. The morbid day arrives, and together they mount the steps to the house. Nathaniel carries his card in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other. Reggie has stopped to buy a bouquet of roses. Each desires more than anything to outdo the other. The knocker is knocked, and time seems to stand still as the door creaks open.
"Yes?" At the door is a Bori with a luxurious mane of black hair tied back in a ponytail, a luxurious mustache waxed and curled at the corners, and a luxurious beard, braided and knotted in intricate patterns. His voice is the thunder of a thousand storms.
"Ah. Hello." Reggie's voice is the squeak of a single Miamouse. "Is... um... is Jamie home?"
"Oh." The card falls from Reggie's limp fingers. "Is... er... do you live alone here?"
"Just me. Are those flowers?"
Alas, Reggie! You have forgotten the very instruments of desire you now clutch in your paw! "Oh, these?" He throws them blindly over his shoulder. "These were just weeds I found growing in your garden! I thought I'd... ah... pick them. For you. As a favor."
The well-groomed behemoth turns to look at Nathaniel, still frozen with a smile on his face but fear in his heart. "And you... are those chocolates?"
"Wait a second..." A grin begins to form on the hairy face. "Did Emma send you guys? She said she might be doing one of those silly singing telegram things! Is that you two?"
"Yes," Nathaniel says. O treacherous syllable! O weak minded-simpleton who would utter it!
The details of the song are too horrible for me to pen, dear reader. I cannot do justice to the spectacle, from the weak opening strands of "Meet Me in Shenkuu" to the final, heart-wrenching chords of the timeless duet "Don't Go Baking My Heart (A Soufflé of Sadness.)" Suffice to say that by the time the ordeal was over, the Bori had relieved the poor brothers of their burdens and slammed the door in their faces.
"Well, Nat. Looks like we're alone again on Valentine's Day."
As they walk back, Nathaniel wrings his hands and sighs as though every breath were his last. "Ah, we were so close, Reginald! That mane of hair... how could it belong to a man such as that?"
"To be fair, though, he did have a very nice mustache."
"So he did... so he did."
And so now we leave you, dear reader, to celebrate your own Valentine's Day. Be wary, though! Do not fall into the same tragedy of Reggie and Nathaniel! Be careful to whom you give your heart on this day, for it may turn out to not be the one you expect.