‘Tra la la, tra la la, whoopsie, whoopsie!’ The kitten was singing to herself, walking towards the forest. ‘Today’s Valentine’s Day, maybe I will spend it in a nice way, with Pola and Rascal.’
She was close to Pola’s home when the door to her tree hollow opened suddenly and three laughing owls flew out holding red hearts in their claws.
‘Fly after me, I know a shortcut!’ called one of the owls and all three of them flew towards the village.
‘Pola, Pola, it’s me… don’t you want to play with me today?’ The kitten called to Pola, but the owl didn’t hear her question.
‘Oh well… I guess I won’t spend this day with Pola.’ The kitten was a bit sad but then she thought that Rascal certainly won’t have any plans and that they will spend some time together. She turned around and ran to meet her friend. When she reached his backyard, Rascal was sitting under a canopy painting something with a red paint.
‘Rascal, are you doing something for Valentine’s Day?’ she called, surprised by the choice of the red paint. ‘I thought you don’t have any plans for today and wanted to invite you for hot tea…’
‘Not now, Tola!’ startled Rascal glanced at Tola. ‘Get out of here. I’ll drop in later, but don’t disturb me now.’
Tola became even more sad and ran from the backyard.
‘What a day! Everybody has a friend or another person they love and I’m alone… during Valentine’s Day,’ thought Tola. She had been running for some time, and was barely able to see the path in front of her because of tears in her eyes when suddenly…
She ran into someone at such speed that she did a somersault and landed in the nearest snowdrift! In addition, she pulled her victim behind her. The push was so jarring that the stranger dropped the skates he was carrying.
‘Oh, I’m sorry, I hadn’t noticed you!’ called Tola, running towards the stranger and reaching out her hand.
‘I hadn’t notice? What do you need your eyes for if you don’t notice pedestrians on the path?’
The boy released himself from the snowdrift, not paying attention to Tola’s reaching hand.
‘Could you pass me my skates, please?’ he called, shaking the snow off.
Tola took the skates and gave them to the boy without a second thought.
‘Now show me where the path is. And then you can run on…’
‘What? Show you “where the path is”?’ Tola was surprised. ‘But it is right here…’ she looked at the path a few steps away from them.
‘Please, help me reach it and turn me around so that I face the direction of the lake.’ The boy grabbed Tola’s arm as he repeated the request.
‘Of course’ she replied hesitantly. ‘You are sightless, aren’t you?’ she asked once the stranger was standing on the path.
‘You don’t say sightless, but blind’ he replied casually. ‘Yes, I am blind.’
‘And you skate?’ asked the kitten, looking with astonishment at the skates she gave him.
‘Of course! We can skate or even ride a bike better than some seeing people. We just need to know the area.’
‘But… how will you get there? The ice rink is about a half kilometre away and you have to turn several times’ Tola didn’t stop questioning.
‘That’s quite easy’ the stranger replied with a smile. ‘I have to make 200 more steps and when I reach the big oak, I turn right and go along until the smooth path begins to be rocky. Then, I turn left, walk below the branches of the willow and after 30 more steps I reach the ice rink.’
Tola was speechless from astonishment. She would never have thought that one could memorise the route in such a way.
The stranger started to slowly move towards the frozen lake. He waved goodbye to Tola and walked a few steps…
‘Hey! Hey, wait!’ yelled Tola, when the boy was far away from her. ‘Can I go skating with you? I’m all alone today and it’s Valentine’s Day… my friends left me alone… I thought that…’ Tola’s voice began to tremble.
‘Gosh, stop this self-pitying! If you take my hand, we will be able to walk faster. Come here… what is your name, anyway?’ asked the boy.
‘Tola. I’m a kitten’ she replied happily.
‘I’m Frank’ he smiled at the kitten, took her arm and they went together towards the lake. If he hadn’t told her he was blind, Tola would never guess that he couldn’t see.
BY THE LAKE
Frank lent Tola his friend’s skates and they skated together on the separated part of the lake.
‘I make hearts everywhere and finish them with pirouettes. Yay!’ she called cheerfully, as she jumped again and made a beautiful pirouette. ‘It’s a pity you can’t see it!’ she added.
‘I bet they’re cool!’ replied amused Frank. ‘Are you always so talkative, or maybe the atmosphere of Valentine’s Day affects you this way?’ Tola was the first seeing animal that was eager to talk with him for so long and didn’t pay attention to his disability. ‘I can’t focus because of you and measure the distance between the poles. Is it far to the next? I’ve miscalculated the distance and I’m not sure when should I turn’ asked Frank.
‘You mean this pole behind you?’ asked the kitten calmly. ‘Well… you’ve passed it. It’s 5 metres behind’ she added.
‘What? Oh man!’ Frank stopped rapidly. ‘It’s the pole that marks the safe space on the lake. The beavers placed it for skaters to remind them not to leave the safe area, beyond which the ice is thin and may…’
At the same time the ice cracked beneath Frank and the boy fell into the freezing cold lake… His head disappeared under water for a few seconds, but then appeared again.
‘Heeeeeeeeelp! Heeeeeeeeelp!’ yelled Frank.
Tola, without even thinking, skated towards the crack to help, but she didn’t keep a safe distance. The thin ice crackled, a few cracks appeared in it, and its surface suddenly collapsed.
‘Help!’ Tola exclaimed as she found herself in the water right next to Frank. They were shouting over one another, calling for help.
They found getting out of such hole in the ice to be very difficult. Each time they tried to pull themselves up, the ice continued to crack and they fell into the cold water once again.
‘Rascal! Pola! Help us!!!’ Tola was calling at the top of her lungs.
‘Cajetan! Johnny! Help!!!’ Frank was calling.
After a few minutes they were already freezing. In such cold water an adult can stay alive for less than four minutes, to say nothing of a child or a teenager. After two minutes our friends found it difficult to gather enough energy to keep their heads above the water. When they started to think that these would be the last moments of their lives, Rascal jumped out of the forest. He was looking around and running as fast as he could.
‘Tola! Where are you?! Tola, speak to me!’ Rascal called from the distance.
Tola was too exhausted to utter a word, but luckily, Frank struck the ice with his wing and Rascal spotted the two poor animals in the hole in the ice.
Before he ran onto the ice, Rascal grabbed a branch lying beside the fireplace. Pola appeared at the same time with the two owls Frank had been calling. Rascal raised the branch above the water and the owls lifted the soaking wet animals out of the icy water and onto lake’s shore, where they gave them blankets to cover themselves. Thanks to their joint efforts, they managed to pull their friends out of the water.
‘Tola, what did you came up with? How did you find yourself in the water?’ asked concerned Pola, once they reached the shore.
‘Hadn’t you noticed that you passed the pole? You know it’s forbidden to do it!’ called anxious Rascal.
‘Skating on the lake is already dangerous, and skating beyond the restricted area is complete stupidity!’ added Frank’s friend.
‘I’m sorry, it was my fault’ admitted Frank. ‘I was talking to Tola and didn’t pay attention to the poles. Tola was just trying to help me…’ he added, embarrassed.
‘You’re lucky that I have such good hearing’ snarled Rascal. ‘If Tola had been hurt, I would never forgive you.’
Rascal pulled the blanket tightly around Tola and began to make a campfire to quickly warm his freezing friend. Sitting next to the fire, he reached into his pocket and took out the two red hearts he had been preparing earlier that morning. He gave one to Tola and one to Pola…
Frank could not see the hearts, nor could he see Pola and Rascal. Sitting by the campfire, listening to the three friends talking, he realized that without intending to, he met someone special on Valentine’s Day. The kitten he had just met wasn’t afraid of his disability, and what’s more – she was talking to him normally, despite his blindness. She didn’t mind he was of a different race, despite the fact that cats and owls usually treated themselves as enemies. The same kitten was ready to put her life at risk to rescue him, although she didn’t know him well. It turned out it was real and much easier to achieve than anyone could have expected. Listening to Tola, Pola and Rascal, he became confident that such behaviour does not happen once in a blue moon…