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Every year on February 14th, Red City Middle School holds a Valentines day Carnival. There were rides, and games and all the other things you see at normal carnivals, except that the Middle School students operate everything. The money they earn is used to improve their school. In addition to the carnival, the School holds a party on Feb. 13, during which students by pink or red roses for their crushes. Although the 14 was her birthday, Molly hated this time of year more than any other. She was in seventh grade, though the year was almost over, and being the beautiful princess she was, Molly had many admirers. She refused them all, however, because she had seen with her very own eyes the pain love causes. This was not to say, however, that she didn't feel an attraction for anyone. She felt a very strong attraction for one man, and it was this reason she was so miserable.
Valentine's day had come, and the Pryce girls' birthday party was approaching. It was Friday, but there was no school for the holiday. Holly, Polly, Lolly, and Ben were all working hard, getting the party set up. There were a lot of kids coming, but Molly's closest friends were already there...except for Rupen.
"What are you going to do with these roses, Molly?" asked Julia now, picking one up off Molly's bed.
"Oh, I don't know," Molly replied, "Burn them probably. Unless you want them."
"I didn't get any myself," Julia replied, straightening the Christmas Tinsel in her hair, "I don't care about the boys, but the flowers are pretty." Molly always had trouble keeping a straight face when Julia played with her tinsel. No one knew why she wore it, year round (swapping colors every so often), but everyone said she was crazy. Molly was the only popular girl she had as a friend, besides Fay.
"You can have them, Jules," Molly told her, "Just don't forget them here, or they'll be trashed."
Julia seemed to think for a long time about something before finally shaking her head.
"I don't want them," she said at last, "I didn't keep any Valentines, either."
"Yeah," said Fay, "It's really pointless...where's Rupen?"
"I don' reckon he'll be here," Vitani replied, looking around, "He's still with that Mary gal."
"Oh," said Molly, disguising her hurt, "they've been together for a long time...are they engaged?"
"That's what everyone says," Julia answered, "But I've never actually asked him."
"We hate Mary too, Hon," Vitani told Molly, "I'm the only one brave enough to tell him she ain't no good, though."
"You told him, then?" asked Molly, smiling. Vitani always had been the bravest of them. But then, she was two years older, and in High School.
"Yeah, I told him," Vitani said with a shrug, "He reckons he don't care what happens between 'em, though."
Molly didn't say anything, but Rupen's supposed engagement to Mary hurt her very deeply. He was the only person she had ever felt truly understood her. They got along perfectly, and though she knew from stories her father had told her how hard Rupen's childhood had been, she felt he had gone through everything she had. Maybe it was just because he had always been around their house when she was growing up, but he was close to her, closer than family.
When the party actually started, Molly followed everyone else outside, and opened her presents. The ones from her friends she kept, but the ones the other boys had sent her she did not even pretend to show interest in. When that was done, they took to playing party games. Fay and Vitani joined in, but Molly and Julia didn't. Mike Sanders, who was obsessed with Molly, and did his best to stalk her, spotted them and came over.
"Hey Molly," he said with a grin, "Want to dance? Play spin the bottle?" He pretended Julia wasn't there.
"No thanks," Molly replied sweetly, "I don't like those games." And she and Julia attempted to walk away. Mike blocked their path.
"How about twister?" he persisted. "Molly, you can't avoid me forever."
"How 'bout if she tells Vitani you won't leave her alone?" said Julia, sidestepping Mike and pulling Molly after her.
"That won't work," Mike replied, grabbing Molly's other hand and attempting to pull her back to him, "I'm not afraid of a girl."
"Maybe you're afraid of Rupen?" asked Julia, smiling, "He's headed this way, Mike. You don't want him to catch you harassing his best friend's daughter, do you?"
Mike let go instantly, going pale with fear. He had harassed Molly enough once before to get her to tell Rupen, and the result had not been good. Rupen had a way of scaring people when he talked to them man-to-man.
"Hey Molly, Julia, Mike," said Rupen, walking over with Ben just then, "Everything ok?" He smiled at Julia, who had secretly signaled him when Mike came over.
"Yeah," said Mike, shaken, "Just-just talking." and he walked away.
Ben laughed and clapped Rupen on the shoulder.
"He nearly wet himself when he saw you, Rupen." he said, wiping tears from his eyes, "Oh, I wish I had that affect on kids...then maybe they'd listen when I come talk to them about Health and STD's and all that."
"You still do that?" said Rupen, laughing, "Maybe you should bring me along sometime. Then I could quiet them down for you." Ben nodded, and Julia giggled.
"So, Rupen," said Molly, looking around for any sign of Mary, "Did you come alone?"
"Yeah," Rupen said, "Mary went off with some of her friends. I came to wish you a happy birthday and give you your present. Plus Nigel and Chloe's car broke down, I gave them a ride."
"Yeah," said Ben, "Which reminds me, I have to go talk to them...they won't want young Natalie playing in this crowd." and he walked off. Julia, too, left, saying she was going to get something to drink. Now Molly and Rupen were alone.
"So what are you doing for Valentine's Day?" Molly asked him.
"Oh, Mary and some of her friends are bringing me to the carnival with them." he replied, making a bored face. Molly giggled. "What about you, Molly?" he asked.
"Oh, Um..." she blushed, "I don't know...dad's making us all go, but I don't know what I'll do there."
"No date?" said Rupen.
"Nah," said Molly, "You know how I feel about that stuff."
"Your mother was a strong believer in love, Molly," Rupen said quietly, "And she knew just about everything there is to know."
"Yeah," said Molly, "But she's not here to talk to me."
"I am," he said, putting his hands in his pockets, "Why don't you come with me tonight?"
"I can't," she replied, "Not if Mary's there." They were silent for a moment. When next Rupen spoke, in was in a tone Molly had never heard him use before. A quiet, dark voice.
"Be honest with me, Molly. Has Mary ever hit you?"
Molly was caught off-guard, and was certain her face must have betrayed her. The honest answer was yes, but she couldn't tell him that. He really thought he loved Mary. But Molly had never lied to Rupen before, and it hurt her terribly to do so.
"No, Rupen, she never hurt me," she answered at last, "Why do you ask?"
"I noticed how you and your sisters don't get along with her," Rupen replied, "And I've seen you with red marks on your face more than once."
"Me and my sisters were roughhousing," Molly lied quickly, "That was all."
"Well, ok," said Rupen, though he didn't sound too convinced. "I have to get going, Molly. I left your presents on the porch."
"Ok," said Molly, hugging him briefly, "Good bye."
"Take care, Princess." Rupen said, and left.
Later that Night, at the Carnival.
Ben drove Molly and her sisters to the carnival, accompanied by a girl his age named Fawkes, whom he was attending the carnival with. He had no intention of dating or remarrying, but felt it was best if his daughters thought he was in love. When they arrived, Holly, Polly, and Lolly went off together, then Ben and Fawkes. Molly went off to find Julia, Vitani, and Fay. They were supposed to meet with Constance and go off together, but she found them at the snack bar, and took a seat by them.
"What are you guys still doing here?" she asked, smiling at them.
"Waiting for Constance." Julia replied, straightening her red tinsel, "Why don't you come with us, Molly?"
Molly shook her head. "I don't want to," she said, "I'm going to spend some time alone."
"Not if Sanders finds you you won't." said Vitani with a grin.
Molly laughed. "Oh, he won't find me," she said matter-of-factly, "I'll be hiding...sort of. I'll be in an unnoticed place." Vitani chuckled to herself.
"No offense hon," she said, "But y'all don't seem to bring much attention to yerself anyway, an' he still finds ya." Molly shrugged and said that she would find a way. Then Constance came to get Fay, Julia, and Vitani. They asked Molly one last time to join them, but she declined and went off on her own. The sky was a deep black, the stars and moon shining brightly. The Carnival was full of brightly colored lights, mainly signs indicating What was what. She heard fireworks going off somewhere to her left, but could not see them. She knew they were just boys showing off, anyway. She walked on through the carnival, looking at each booth as she passed. They were all run by Middle School Students or Teachers.
She walked quickly through the masses of students and adults alike, trying not to draw attention to herself. At last she reached the Fortune Telling booth, which was covered in Shadow, the last booth in the Carnival. She sat down in the grass behind it, and leaned against the back of the booth. She thought about Rupen, and Mary. How awful it would be if they got married. She wondered if it would change Rupen's friendship with her. After about ten minutes, she was brought out of her reverie by the sound of approaching footsteps. Then she heard Mary giggle.
"Come on, Rupen," Mary was saying, "Let's go on the swan ride."
"Nah," came Rupen's reply, "That's not really my thing."
"Why not?" Mary sounded angry. By now they had come to a stop in front of the booth, and Molly could see them...just barely. She held her breath and prayed they couldn't see her. But Rupen glanced up and saw her.
"Come on Mary," he whispered, as he payed for his fortune to be read, "Let's invite Molly to come with us."
"No!" said Mary firmly, "This is our night. Why are you getting a fortune? You know they're just stupid hoaxes." Rupen smiled at the girl running the booth, who was shuffling the little slips of parchment with fortunes written on them.
"Maybe," he told Mary, "But...you never know, do you?" The girl handed him his fortune, and he thanked her, and started off slowly, reading his fortune as he went.
"Wait!" The girl cried out suddenly, "You payed me too much!" Rupen must not have heard her, because he kept walking.
"Lemme see your fortune." Mary commanded, yanking it out of his hands. "In the shadows you'll find someone who needs you above all else." She read aloud, and tossed it away. "You see how stupid that is?"
"Maybe not," said Rupen, his eyes on Molly, who had hidden herself by scrunching up against the booth more, and turning her back on them, "But you never know. Come on, let's go see Molly."
"No." said Mary, crossing her arms in front of her chest. Rupen nodded and started toward Molly.
"Wait!" Mary called out, making him stop and turn around, "If you go over there, Rupen, then we're through."
"Ok," said Rupen, "Then we're through." And with that, he walked away. Mary was incredulous, cursing Rupen and his family and then storming off angrily.
"Hey there Molly," Rupen said when he reached her. Then he pulled her to her feet. "What do you say, Molly? Wanna be my Valentine?" He was smiling, just as he always had done when he teased her, only this time was different. Molly looked up at him, with tears in her eyes.
"Oh, Rupen," she said, hugging him, "I heard everything! Why did you do it? You were so happy with her!" Rupen looked around, embarrassed, and tried to free himself from her grip. In the end, he submitted, and patted Molly's back.
"I wasn't happy, Molly," he said, "Because you weren't. How can I be happy if you're not? We are practically family."
Molly giggled. "I guess you're right." she said.
"Of course I am," Rupen said simply, "Now come on." Then they walked off together.
Neither of them knew it, but Rupen's fortune had slowly floated to the ground, face down. On the back was scrawled: 'What you do tonight will affect the rest of your life,Depending on the decision you make. If you choose the right one, you and your loved ones will be one step closer to eternal happiness.' Rupen never knew of his second fortune, but it came true, nonetheless.
It was late on Christmas Eve. Rupen, tired of the stress the Holidays always brought,
left for his secret retreat...his private second home on CC that no one knew about. And that is where it began.....
Rupen sat alone in the living room, watching the fire burn with sadness in his eye; for it was late on Christmas Eve, and he was alone.
Then there came a knock at his door. He cursed the visitor. Who had found him here?
When he answered the door, he saw Fay standing on his porch.
"Can I come in?" she asked weakly.
"Well...I am waiting for someone..." Rupen replied, "The Lord Jesus promised he stay here tonight."
Fay was an atheist, thus skeptical was she. "I don't think you need worry about company..."
"Fine, you may come in. It is the season to care, after all."
Several hours passed. Fay was in bed asleep. Rupen remained vigil, all the while pondering the Christ and God.
Presently there came another knock at his door, and he rose.
"Who is it?" he called from the in of the house.
"Open the door," came the reply, "it's cold out here."
"I can't let you in til I know who you are!" Rupen was irate by now.
"Just a weary old woman, who's nowhere to go."
Rupen stepped aside, and let her in. He found on his face a silly grin.
That's when it happened; in the dead of the night. Rupen's ice heart melted, and then he was kind.
He fed and clothed the old woman, and allowed her to stay as long as she pleased.
"Only an hour or two, and I will take my leave."
When midnight came, the old woman was gone. Rupen read from the Bible, and then asked aloud:
"Lord Jesus, why did you lie? I waited all night and you never arrived."
A voice responded, "Rupen, I did. A humble old woman, whom you gave room and board."
Rupen fell asleep then, and had a wonderful dream...When he woke he realized; not all problems...can be solved by the sword.