By ChicagoTunnelKid



Jamie was on her way to relieve Leo on sentry duty. She would be very early, but she figured Leo wouldn’t mind. It was Valentine’s Day. Jamie hated Valentine’s Day. All that schmaltzy stuff about romance, being with your ‘sweetheart’ looking goofy-eyed at each other just wasn’t her. She didn’t have a sweetheart to look goofy-eyed or not at her.  ‘Stuff and nonsense!’ as Father would say. So why stick around watching others pair up and have a good time?


Her feet scuffed along the tunnel path. Toeing a rock and then kicking it along, she kept her head down and didn’t see the figure in the distance throwing something down in disgust and kicking it for good measure. Long gone by the time she got there, looking down afforded her the chance to spy something lying on the floor that someone left behind. She knelt down and saw a crumpled piece of paper, and a box of chocolates with the lid kicked off and pieces scattered about. Only two pieces remained in the box.


She sat down where she was to better investigate. She carefully smoothed out the paper to find it was a note. She scooted closer to the torch lighting the tunnel so she could make out what was written:


“Meet me at midnight and you may see

the person most wanting your love to be.”


Below the lines was written: The Mirror Pool. 


Curious. No names. No way to know whom this was meant for or who penned the note. The box of chocolates was a basic assortment offered in any department store. Nearly everyone Below loved chocolate, so that was no help.


Why did someone dump the note and chocolates? What would make someone do that? She held her wrist up toward the torch and saw the time: 9:30. She had two and a half hours to figure this out so that the person this was meant for would be able to keep the appointment. Even if she didn’t believe in Valentine’s Day, something made her want to see two people have a happy ending. Looks like Leo was going to work his full shift.


She studied the note carefully: not very distinctive. She was familiar with many of the children’s handwriting, and quite a few of the adults. But there were many she had no idea what their handwriting resembled. It was not overly neat or precise and medium in size. She thought she saw some smudges where something had been erased. Ah ha! It was written in pencil!


Not very sure of yourself, were you, Cupid. Cupid: as good a name as any to give to her mystery swain. Perhaps that ruled out older residents who were more certain about choices and living their lives to the fullest.


She looked again at the paper. It was white, or mostly white. There seemed to be a faint brownish stain on one side. Actually, it was a ring. A coffee stain! Someone had put a coffee cup down on this paper. Closer inspection showed that it was thicker than normal paper. Hmm… The edges, although smooth, were not quite perpendicular to one another. Someone cut this paper out of something. A paper bag. That was it!


What kind of stores used white paper bags? She thought about the stores surrounding the area around the park entrance. Actually, that brought to mind some of the street vendors who used small white bags to contain the goods. So perhaps the swain did not venture far to get the paper for his love note.


Jamie blew out a breath that lifted her bangs. She wasn’t making much progress. Her watch said 45 minutes had passed. About to decide there wasn’t much she could do, she leaned her head back to rest against the tunnel wall and as her head lifted, she saw scuffed footprints on the floor next to where she found the note. Of course! Follow the footprints!


She stood up renewed. This was going to take a flashlight because the footprints went off in a direction of the tunnels that was not well lit. She dashed back to the closest chamber and hollered as she entered, “Rebecca, can I borrow your flashlight?” Rebecca looked at an earnest Jamie and decided handing over the flashlight with no conversation was the best bet. Jamie tore back out with Rebecca’s smile following her.


It was easier in the few movies she had seen. Here, the footprints faded out and disappeared; only reappearing several feet away. To make matters worse, there were intersections where she had to go down several paths before finding the one that was taken. Her watch said ’11:30’ by the light of the flashlight. She had 30 minutes to find the person who wanted to send this to his valentine, and see it delivered by his hand. She knew that Cupid only needed a little encouragement.


Her head was bent down following the tracks, so once again she missed the figure sitting dejectedly ahead on a stone. As the tunnel opened out into a cavernous area, there was the Mirror Pool and Mouse, seated on a rock.


“Mouse!” Jamie exclaimed. “Did you write a note and leave a box of chocolates in the tunnel by the park sentry?”


“Maybe. Maybe not.”


“Why didn’t you deliver the note? What happened? Maybe I can help so you can still have your Valentine’s Day surprise.”


He shrugged his shoulders. “You help?” He looked up at her with hope.


“Sure I will.” She wasn’t as happy about it as she had been before she knew it was Mouse.


“Read it.” He asked. She read it silently.


“Aloud,” he corrected. She complied. She was just about to say how lovely she thought it was when he asked her what time it was.


She looked at her watch and up at him and said, “Midnight.”


Mouse smiled at her and bounced a bit on the rock where he sat.


“Happy Valentine’s Day!”