Sunday morning and all students, boys and girls, were gathered in the church of St. Paul, where almost the majority of them were attending the mass with extreme difficulty keeping their eyes open, mostly from drowsiness but also from boredom of the weekly routine at the church attendance.
An exception was neither Candy, which although in the past she had mocked Terry that he very often was falling asleep normally the time of the mass, now inside her felt very grateful to her luck that today he was lacking and he won't tease her later. Not only she had fallen asleep but she was almost certain that she had drooled, because when Annie nudged her to wake up, she offered her also a handkerchief.
Of course that wasnít her fault that she was so sleepy, but last night's surprise party they had for celebrating Terry's birthday along with her cousins and her friends. In a rather magical way, they had become a kind bizarre group all together by the end of summer. Stear and Terry looked as they had found several codes of communication and a friendship had begun to develop. In ArchieĎs case of course, things were slightly colder, but especially Terry seemed to make tremendous efforts not to oppose the other.
Candy had understood of course that most likely he did it for her sake, and inside her couldn't fail to feel flattered, but also proud that Scotland made them all a group. Even a weird one.
After their return from their summer vacation, she really didnít understand how the time had passed like running water. When she returned back on college , when she had to start studying again, when Christmas time came.... and what Christmas! Although initially aunt Elroy had requested from Candy to return to America for the holidays, finally she decided to take with her only Neil and Eliza. What a bliss indeed!
She along with Stear and Archie, they would spend the holidays in college. In these happy news they were added Annie and Patty, where with a little begging eventually, the two girls persuaded their parents to spend the festive days with the rest of the guys. However what made the great difference for Candy, was Terryís surprise.
Although he said that he would be away for Christmas, eventually and like almost every time, he surprised her when he showed up on Christmas Eve. Even that very moment, Candy remembered that, her heart pounded like crazy, just as like beating every time in his presence or simple when hearing his name.
It was a fact that after summer they had come closer, mentally, spiritually and physically ...? Apart from that gentle kiss on her forehead back then in Scotland, Terry hasnít tried to kiss her again, at least not until Christmas and the accident under the mistletoe! But once again he chose to give her a warm kiss on her cheek.
"Maybe because we were in front of the others....." thought to herself to justify why Terry had not tried to kiss her again on the lips. A single kiss on her lips, that she had felt rather than for a few moments under the perfumed air of May. A kiss she wasnít ready back then to feel.
A kiss that had stayed intense and alive in her memory, as vividly Terry's lips on her mouth. With this thought her cheeks took fire! Something that was happening more and more often lately. In the slightest thought that Terry would even accidentally touch her, she felt that her head was ready to explode!
Yet another finding was that she felt this change also on her body. The first time she noticed it was a day when they were sitting together on the elusive the hill of the orphanage, sharing that common habit that they had developed, to sit leaned under the large tree, with their shoulders lightly touching, while enjoying the serenity.
But one day Terry did something that he hadnít ever done before.
She felt him nearing closer to her, almost felt his breath within her hair. His warmth caused her to daze and she remained completely still, and then she felt his breathing so close to her ear that she thought she would faint."Candy ...." he whispered with a deep voice and his hand passed slowly through her ringlets. A warm sweet burning came on her stomach. Although she was wearing her coat, she felt every pore in her body tightened. Before she even knew it, Terry had untied her two pigtails and he was holding in his hand the pink ribbons. "Terry ...." she stammered dazed. She felt him stepping away and turned to look at him in question. He was smiling widely, with that gorgeous smile of his, that made his sapphire eyes filling up with millions of sparkling stars and she gasped.
Astonished she saw him wrapping one ribbon around his neck like a necktie while putting the other in his trouser's pocket.
- "Why are you looking at me so surprised freckles?! You thought that you alone got the right to possess my tie ?"
As if she came out of a slumber, she jumped up finding herself slightly.
- "Terrence it's not the same! How would I go back to the dorm looking like that?"
- "I canít see whereís the problem ....."
- "My hair is a mess without the ribbons! Moreover they might ask me why and how my hair became like this!"
- "There are many reasons why a girl might have tussled hair ....." he told her softly approaching slowly, "why don't you tell them the truth ....?"said teasingly.
- "And what is it may I ask?" she asked him in spite.
- "The truth is ... that ..." , his lips were now up to her ear making her shiver from the touch and his whisper, "the truth is ... that ... your boyfriend likes you more this way! "Terry added and gave her a peck below the lobe of her ear.
Later on Candy remembered that she had arrived like a hypnotized to her room, with her cheeks bright red and warm, her body trembled absurdly as if to raise a fever and the only thought was that she needed to throw cold water on her face to recover.
So far like the cold water, the harsh voice of Sister Grey as the mass ended, strucked Candy taking her abruptly from her daydream.
- "I am aware that you all look forward to leave today which is your fifth Sunday, but I would like to talk to you about an event that would take place in our college this month and which has many years to become."
The mutterings from students began to sound causing an intense hubbub.
- "Quiet!" shouted Sister Grey and instantly the voices fell silent. "Several years ago on the day of the celebration and in an honor of our great St. Valentine ..." on hearing the name of St. Valentine the hubbub resumed stronger.
- "Silence!! At the next noise that will be heard, you will be staying all here for twenty minutes praying, delaying your outing!"
Deathly silence prevailed inside the church.
- "The ritual that will happen, has its roots in the early years of our Christianity and started as to honor annually the memory of our Saint Valentine, who has been sacrificed in the name of our God and of His love.
The names of young girls were written down into small pieces of paper and were placed in a wooden box -a lottery box, then under the supervision of a monk or a priest, young boys at the same age, randomly choose the name of a girl.
Mission of the boys was to keeping secret the name they received, from the rest of boys, but also and above all, from the young ladies.
On the eve of the celebration of Saint Valentine, every youngster revealed his secret only to the girl he had her name on his paper. Mission of the girl was the very same day of celebration to offer almond blossoms to the boy, just like Juliet has done when she found about the death of Valentine and planted an almond tree above his grave. The ritual custom-topped with a ball. "
It would be superfluous Sister Grey asking her students to be quiet, since all the eyes were staring astonished with what they heard and seemed to them unreal! Eventually Sister Grey ended her speech without any delays.
- "Finally, I would like to tell you that next Sunday after our mass, it will take place the draw. Note that anyone who tries to distort the lottery will be automatically excluded from the events and will spent the day in isolation. Have a nice day."
One hour later Candy with Annie and Patty sat in the empty entertainment lounge while drinking tea and chatting about what the Mother Superior had said .The day was quite cold, thatís why the three friends have chosen to spend it inside the school.
It was also the only day the fifth Sunday, that was allowed for the students - both sexes- to spend time together in the same places.
The girls hurried to catch up before Archie and Stear would come, so they were talking all at once practically one on top of another. Inside her Candy was wishing Terry to make his appearance too , but she could never be sure of his mood.
- "I still canít believe it! They thought to celebrate Valentineís Day this year!" said Patty excited.
- "Ah! It is so romantic! Along with the chocolates that will make for Archie, I will also give him flowers!" Annie added dreamily.
- "Annie I don't wish to upset you, but didn't you hear what Sister Grey said ?! It's a lottery !" said Candy a little terrified.
The other two girls looked at her and landed suddenly from their pink clouds.
- "Oh!, Then ... that is ... if ... it might be not Archie the one to choose my name!" Annie stammered.
- "Nor mine Stear ........"
- "For this they call it lottery girls!" said to them Candy teasingly .
- "Candy besides that you are starting tremendously to sound like Terry with your comments, why and how that you are so calm?! You don't mind if someone else draws your name other than Terry?!" Patty asked curiously.
- "Yeah true! What if it's someone really ugly?! .... What if Neil is the one that draws your name ?" asked Annie panicked.
- "..... Or worse ... That mean friend of his with the pimples!" Candy said through her mouth.
- "Here! You said it yourself already!!! Ahh .... What do we do?"
- "Girls calm down! It's not as we have to kiss them! A branch of almond flowers we will offer to them, as might have a dance or two with them at the ball after ...." Candy replied like always optimistic.
- "Who will be kissing who ? " the mocking voice of Terry sounded at the edge of the door and the three girls became as red as beetroots.
- "Terry ....." started Candy to say when another familiar voice didnít let her finish.
- "Grandchester, when will you quit the nasty habit of eavesdropping young ladies?" Archie asked ironically, just behind Terry.
- "Pfff," Terry made haughtily and went threw himself in a comfy armchair near the fireplace.
- "Come on Archie as if you don't know what a teaser Terry is, ...." added Stear always in a good mood, as he did his appearance last, "So girls, can we hang out with you for tea?"
- "Of course Stear!" Candy said with a huge smile of joy and stood up to serve tea to the three boys.
- "Not to sound nosy, you were chatting about the lottery ha?" Terry asked with a sly wink.
At that moment Candy was standing in front of him, about to give him his cup. Although her initial reaction was to become red, afterwards she eyed him annoyed.
- "Terrence! Good to have your question! How did you learn on the lottery since you were snoring in your room?! And yes you are being nosy!"
There was a muffled chuckle from Archie. Oh, how much he enjoyed it when Candy put the arrogant duke in his place! .... On the other hand he had to admit to himself, that he would prefer Candy to look at him, the way she was always looking Terry.
- "Well, that wasn't very tricky to find out ....the inventor over there," he said pointing Stear with his eyes, " literally rushed to my room raving about it and his new brilliant idea, and cutting out the wonderful dream I was having! "
All eyes in the room turned towards Stear who seemed to have become red and he was looking for a corner to hide.
- "If you don't open your mouth, you can't stand it, right?!" said Archie pissed to Terry.
- "What's going on here?" Candy asked suspiciously.
- "Nothing!" answered all three boys together.
The girls looked stunned. Oh! Yes definitely something was wrong here and Candy wouldnít let them get away so easily.
- "Stear what else have you told Terry except the news for the lottery draw?! In what idea is he talking about? " she asked him looking at with her green eyes in examination.
- "Um ... yes ... hmm ... this is not what you think Candy ..." stammered the Stear.
- "Stear please tell to us too ...." Patty said in a small voice .
- "Uh ... to ..... I had the idea ...."
- "Well..." Candy insisted.
- "To make an invention that the draw will not be so random!" blurt Terry out and took a sip of his tea casually.
- "Grandchester!" cried Archie.
- "Steaaaarrr!" Candy cried. The other two girls placed their hands in their mouths from surprise.
- "I told him that if he does something like this, he is asking for trouble!" said Archie pissed, "and the Duke through here, had the idea of supporting the madness of my brother!"
- "Terryyy!" Candy cried again.
- "Yes please?!" said Terry with a supposedly innocent style. "I just said it's a good idea not to obtain Eliza's name! Unless you don't mind Candy, then I will become her Valentine with your blessings!" added mockingly.
Candy froze. Her Terry Eliza's Valentine ?!! And just in the thought of it, her stomach stirred. But what they could do? Sister Grey was very clear, whoever tried tampering the lottery and been discovered, would be punished. And Candy surely knew about punishment! No, this wasn't time risking it, neither she nor any of her friends and miss the entirely festival.
- "You all have heard what Sister Grey said , its not ... you can't tamper the lottery! Stear I wonder how you even thought it!"
- "But Candy this invention will succeed, I'm sure!"
All the guys were staring Stear speechless in horror. Oh! Yes they knew how successful Stear's inventions were!
Then Patty spoke.
- "Stear ... we don't think that is such a good idea ....and if you get caught and be punished?! Then ... then we will have to spend the entire festival ....without you ...." completed with little voice and bright red face.
Eventually after some time of conversation among the caustic comments of Terry and the ironic answers from Archie, they ended up let things roll. In any case they couldn't do anything. They will stoically accept the outcome from the lottery and wait for spending a couple of hours hanging out at the ball, at the end of the festival.
In the meantime they were all together going back to their rooms Candy stopped, turned backwards and noticed in surprise that Terry was gone! "He left without even a word ..?" she wondered to herself disappointed, when suddenly she felt someone dragging her and shutting of her mouth with its hand.
She was found in a pitch dark small room and she was ready to bite the hand of her kidnapper when she noticed a well known scent, something between lavender and cinnamon, but fresh as the blossoms of lemon tree.
- "From what did you recognize me and haven't bitten me yet, Freckled Tarzan?!" Terryís voice sounded too softly, as if he had guessed Candyís thoughts, while freeing her mouth without letting her although from his hands.
- "Terry! .... Where are we?! Why do ...." she started to ask but Terry interrupted her.
- "Ssshh ....They will hear us ...." whispered again, "... in a storeroom with cleaners, but I asked you something ..."
- "You're totally gone crazy Terry?!" she asked him as softly as she could.
"You're driving me crazy every day more and more!" He wanted to answer her, but preferred to stick to his question.
- "I asked first ..." told her slowly and passed his hand up to her warm cheek. He couldnít see her very well, but he could feel her little shiver and imagine the pink color that her face would got.
- "E. .. Simply figured it out .." Candy stammered.
- "From what ....? " his fingers began to trace the outline of her face slowly. From her soft cheek at the edge of her temple, went at her chin and very slowly his thumb stopped on the curve of Candyís lips.
Terry felt her breathing coming out sharp and warm on his hand when she half opened her mouth and with extreme difficulty held himself not to kiss her furiously. "No, not yet." he said to himself reminding him the oath he had given. He will try to kiss her again when he will see that she is truly ready, and to make it have more importance, he would attempt it on Valentine's Day and only then.
Of course it wasnít easy being abstinent with her and he felt many times reaching his limits. What Terry hadnít predicted, was that Candy was the same impulsive as him.
Instead of replying to his question, Terry felt Candyís lips gently letting a tender kiss on his thumb making him escape a sigh and sending the beats of his heart in heaven.
Before even himself knew it, he lifted her in his arms and was ready to claim these lips when, they heard the school's bell ringing .Terry curse to himself and before he would release her he said too slowly.
- "I will not let anyone else be your Valentine than except me!" Terry opened the door of the small storage room and the minute he was coming out he added playfully, "Oh, and you owe me an answer, my little Juliet!" and disappeared from the bright red face of a breathless Candy.