New Theme

Not sure if I like it as much, but I didn’t really have of a choice. The old one had decided to stretch out every other picture in the earlier chapters 😐 So Ya this is the new one. The only thing that doesn’t sit right with me is the fact, that the next post / previous post is all the way at the bottom, underneath the comments, but I would much prefer that to the horribly stretched out pics.

To my dear… an Epilogue of sorts.

Disclaimer: If you have not read the finale. Don’t read this!

If given the chance to know where your decisions could lead you and the ones that you loved. Would you be able to make the needed sacrifices? Now think for a moment, that you chose to take this route. Knowing everything you were about to do was meant to happen in a certain order. Not being able to confide in another soul your hardships or angusih. What would you do? How would you cope? How could you possibly get through the days carrying such a heavy burden? Some use a journal to, spill out all their emotions, crying into it’s pages, begging for salvation. Others write letters. Letters to family, friends, Someone incredibly special in their heart.————

Letter #1

To my Dear Cherry Blossom,

I’m not sure where I should begin. I guess I will start with an introduction. You don’t know me yet, but I know you very well. Better than anyone at this point, in fact I am the only one who knows of your existence. I guess I should explain a bit more. Your mother and I are friends, dear friends, and though I do love her with all my heart, sadly that just isn’t enough. She and I are meant to travel two different paths. Side by side, but never meaning to cross. Ah but that is where you come in beautiful darlin. You will bring us together at our crossroad of destiny, forever binding us. Sealing an endless line of light and love in your sweet smile. Sadly, your mother and I will only have our memories and you, to cling to. Her more than me. I mostly have the memories. That’s why I have decided to write to you. My chance to talk to you, the way I wish I could. It may not make much sense, but it is a way for me to get through the days. Someone to listen and you of all people deserve to hear what I have to say. If only I could actually send them…

I like to think that maybe in some way you will know deep in your heart, but that is probably my foolish heart wishing for far too much.

Your mother and I spent the night together last night. My one opprotunity to show her just how much I love her. One night isn’t enough. I can feel it already. Tugging at every fiber in my heart. I miss her already, knowing what is to come… Only makes it harder. Everything has been sent into motion now. You will be on your way to us soon. All I can do now, is sit back and play my part. I eagerly await to meet you, hold you for a few brief moments, again not nearly as long as I want or should be allowed, but you can take ease knowing that every minute, every second I get to see you, will fill me with a needed sense of validation for all that I am attempting.

I love you so much baby girl and I will see you very soon. Until then, I will be here patiently waiting for your arrival.

Your loving father,

Merlot~

 

Letter #2

To my dear Cherry Blossom,

Your mother told me about you today. Her beautiful eyes sparkling with excitement, as she spilled the news for me and your Auntie Blushberry to hear. Even though I knew it was coming, I couldn’t help but catch the infectious energy she was illuminating. We both hugged her, congratulted her and Bubbie on their fifth bundle of joy.

Your mother doesn’t realize that you are mine just yet. In due time she will. A day I can honestly say I am not looking forward to. But if I think about that now, I will slowly drive myself insane. For now I bask in her happiness, capturing those true genuine smiles of hers in my mind. Gentle hands caressing an ever growing belly thoughtfully, dreaming of you. What will you will look like, what will she name you. She has a name picked out already, but she won’t share it. Not yet. Cherry Blossom, just like the lovely pink buds that blossom so carelessly in my dreams. Pink like your stepfather. It’s a beautiful name, and I couldn’t imagine you with another.

I guess I will take some time to tell you how I am feeling. I’m nervous baby girl, we are getting closer to the day where everything falls apart. It is a double edged sword, of heartache and joy. I will finally get to see your beautiful face, one short year filled with brief encounters, before you and I will part for many years. But I signed up for this knowing full well, what I was getting into it. It doesn’t make it any easier though. I want to apologize to you. None of this is fair, but I promise in the long run it will be worth it. Hopefully next time we speak I will have better news. I keep hoping things will get easier. It hasn’t happened yet.

I might stop by the house this evening, check in, see how my two favorite girls are doing. Until then I will say goodbye.

Your loving father,

Merlot~

 

Letter #3

To my dear Cherry Blossom,

Happy birthday angel! Today is the day, everything is about to come out. The truth will be told, and your mother and I, our lives will be forever changed… I don’t know if I can do this. I’m terrified. I don’t usually let things get to me, but it is way too late for that now. I let you and your mother get to me a long time ago. Just thinking about not being able to see you anymore is ripping me apart, piece by piece.

Your poor mother, so blissfully unaware. I feel like a monster sometime. Doing this to her. I wish I could tell her the truth, I wish I could tell her everything. It would make life so much easier on us, but I can’t. It will destroy it all. It has to be done. You have some pretty amazing people who will fill your life in my absence, and one day, I will come back to you. When you are ready.

I am having a hard time writing this one. My hands are shaking and my nerves are shot. Somehow I have to pull this off. Pretend to be just as shocked as everyone else… This really isn’t fair. I curse the great berry above everyday for putting this burden on my shoulders. You are worth it though, so is our family. I just really wish you didn’t have to be in the dark about it. I better go before I mess up this paper further, but what matter does that make really? You won’t ever see it… I, I love you angel. Happy Birthday again, you will be the only one who is happy by the time it is over.

Until we meet again…

Your loving father,

Merlot~

 

Letter #4

To my dear Cherry Blossom,

It has been a while since I have gotten a chance to write to you. Life has been busy, keeping my mind on other things. Dealing with the fallout at home, not to mention how the rest of the world now sees me, I haven’t had much time for myself, nor do I find myself alone very often. Fairy seems to find comfort in attaching herself to my hip, to ensure nothing else happens. Nothing will ever happen, but there is no way for me to explain that, so it is something I will have to live with, till she is comfortable again. It has been many years, since that fateful day. You and I have gotten to hang out several times. Time I will cherish till… my final breath. I regret falling out of the habit of writing to you, but getting to see your sweet face has made up for it ten times over.

However I found the need to write to you today. You called me this afternoon. We have a date to meet up at the park in just a few short hours. I- I will not be returning home after it. I knew this day would finally occur, but for reasons I probably don’t have to explain, I didn’t keep very a close watch on it. Fearing death is just one thing I didn’t need to add to my list. Again life isn’t fair and you are about to learn it the hard way. The only thing on my mind at this point is saying goodbye to your mother. I’m not sure how the berry side layer works, but I sure hope I will get to keep an eye on you guys once I’m there. I’m not scared. Not anymore, but I miss you already. I hope I have done everything right, taken all the needed to steps. It is hard to remember everything. If not my work has all been in vain, but I do truly believe in my heart I have done this right. I’m not even sure what I will do with this letter. All the others are safe. Hidden away from the world. I guess I have a few moments to decide that one before I go.

I love you Angel. Take care of your mother for me.

Your loving father,

Merlot~

Finale Part 2

It seemed as if we had walked for miles. It was probably wasn’t nearly as long as it felt, but we did walk deep into the forest sitting just over the hill from Mara’s home. It was amazing how untouched the land was around the little village. Nothing for miles and it didn’t look like that would be changing anytime soon. The grass was so incredibly green and the moment we closed in our final location, I recognized it immediately. I found it Tilly! Rocks I had seen only once before, sprinkled the ground before the open mouth of a large gate. A gate that was hidden beyond the wall that had kept me out in my dream. I stopped for a second. Now that I was there, I wasn’t sure if I was ready. Tulipes ruffled the back of my hair. “Are you scared?”

“No. Just nervous.”

“I think you will like what you see.” Mara grinned.

Framboise, grumbled to herself. “Sure I have been asking to come here for years, but nooooo two strangers pop up and it’s lets go.”

“Hush Framboise.”

Mara pulled a key from her pocket and unlocked the large gate. The door swung wide on its hinges, coming to stop as hit on the other side. She stepped out of the way and placed a frail hand in the small of my pack, pushing with her might to move me forward. “Blanc jardin.” She grinned.

I could already see a bit as the door opened wide, but it was hard to take in what I was actually seeing.

“They’re statues.”

“Oui. Go inside. Take a closer look.”

Crystal statues, lined  the perimeter in a neat circle. They were all so beautiful. The glass was so slick and clear, it looked almost like ice, it would not have surprised me to reach out only to find its icy touch reaching back.

All of the statues were in pairs.

Friends…

Lovers…

Each carved in an incredibly moving fashion…

I wasn’t sure what they meant, but it was so lovely. It didn’t really matter. I felt honored to be in it’s presences. My breath weighing heavy at the back of my throat.

“This is incredible.”

“Mara? Did you build this?” I asked looking back over my shoulder.

“Oh no. It has been here, forever. Long before my time.”

“It’s beautiful.” A joy unlike I had ever experienced filled my entire being, there was so much love infused in the picturesque statues before me.

Some had long been grown over with the trees and shrubery, but the feelings of intensity only increased as I made my way down the line. I got a little sidetracked which was pretty normal for me, about two statues from the end. I started to make my way back to the first, when a small inscription set at it’s base caught my eye.

I knelt down to study it closer, my knees gently dropping into a tuft of bright violet colored flowers. Everything was so vibrant you could see the care that was given here, just by looking at all the beautiful colors surrounding us. To my surprise the plaque was not in french, so I was able to read without issue. At first, I read it only in my head, but then Tulipes called out as she made her way to stand beside me. “What does it say?!”

I spoke a little louder so everyone could hear. “Two hearts divided, can finally be one. Always in my heart, and never forgotten.”

Framboise and the others walked across the grass, closely inspecting the other statues. I pushed myself to standing and dusted a little dirt off of my hands. “This is truly amazing, but I don’t quite understand what it all means. Or what it has to do with us.”

A small gasp escaped Tulipes’s lips as she stepped up beside me. “Tosca? Look.”

I wasn’t sure how I missed it before, but there it was now clear as day. The statue nearest the one I had knelt down to read. It took only a moment to realize what I was seeing…

“That’s you.” I choked.

“Yes.” She grinned.

“And that’s… me.”

“Oui.”

“How can that be? How could something that has been here for so long possibly have us here?”

A small hand reached out, gently brushing my palm with her fingertips.

“I don’t know…”

Mara trudged across the grass, her cane sinking deep into the earth below our feet. “Many years ago. Long before my time. Long before my mothers time. Eh, it was a long time ago.” She winked. “A strange man arrived on my great of many removals grandmothers door. Her name was Mara too. It is how I got my name. She was a gardener, a beautiful woman and believer in love. The man pleaded with her to make a garden. One that would symbolize love in it’s truest form. She was very taken with the man, but it took some convincing for her to finally agree. He regaled her a story, a story of lost love, devotion and heartache. It was very moving, because it brought her to tears. Sadly the story died when she died and was never told to another soul. I remember as a little girl, making up storied for each other couples. They were all happy by the end, except the first. There is a sadness there. Much sadness.”

“That still doesn’t explain how we are there.” I looked from statue to statue. Suddenly a few more faces looked a whole lot more familiar. “It’s my family…. every generation from the beginning, but how could he?” I scratched the back of my head. This was all very confusing to say the least.

“He never said. They worked on the design for several months, his coming and going, he sketched out the statues and she brought them to life. She was very talented.”

“So it would seem.”

I spent another hour or so just looking in awe. Studying every statue over and over again. There was my mother, my father, grandmother, grandfather. It seemed so surreal. Wait until Tilly sees this, I thought to myself. “Tilly!” I had to call Tilly, she had to see this. I recommended we go back to the house, but Mara held up a hand, giving her niece a forceful glare. With a huff, Framboise pulled a phone from her back pocket and handed it over to Tulipes. It took some doing, but we were able to track the pair down. Mara sent Framboise back to the house to wait for Tilly and Valencia to arrive. She wasn’t happy about it, but she did everything Mara asked of her. Though she made sure everyone knew how much she hated it.

Tilly’s reaction was quite reminiscent of mine. She pulled her signature sunglasses from her face, just to fully take in the awe inspiring view around her. She totally lost it when we pointed out our statue and made an off hand joke asking where she was. “Probably in another garden.” I teased.

We stuck around until the sun went down. Paying homage to the beautiful lives and loves depicted before us. We were in for a surprise as the sun headed over the horizon, a bright orange glow brought them all to life, it almost seemed if they were slowly moving in its light. “I wish mom and dad could see this.”

“They wouldn’t beleive it.”

“Or would they.”

“You had family here once. I almost showed them.” Mara walked to my Grammy and Papa’s statue. “Here. They stayed with me for several days, but I never got the chance.”

Once the sun had gone down, a cold breeze pressed through the trees. We wanted to stay forever, but that just wasn’t possible. The photos we had taken with Tilly’s camera were going to have to do the trick. We thanked our lovely hostess and bid our goodbyes, heading back to our rental car that was still sitting in a ditch a couple miles up the road. Valencia brought with him a small canister of gas, that was just enough to get us to the station outside the city. The village disappeared into the night air, along with our adventure. Tulipes was crashed out in the seat beside me, sleeping peacefully, her head gently bobbing every time we hit a small bump. Though I had found a pretty nice souvenir. The thought of leaving her crushed my soul, but that wasn’t to happen for several weeks. Instead I enjoyed every moment we had with her. Hopefully a few more kisses to be found in between.

We arrived home about the same time, both pairs making our way to our hotel room door. It was far too awkward to have both us and our “friends” stay the night, so we both said our goodbyes and promised to meet one another first thing in the morning.

Oh berry how I wanted her to stay. In just a few days time, she had found herself a niche deep inside my heart. The fact that she felt the same, to any extent at all, still had me reeling. I wanted to say it right there, confess my undying love and devotion, but decided I wanted the moment to be a little more private and special, not with my sister and her guy beside us, it definitely wasn’t right. Still I held her close, refusing to let go. I know it would only be over night, but I wanted her with me always. As cheesy as it sounded, I could no longer imagine life without her. I wasn’t sure if she felt as strongly as I did, but only time would tell.

“Goodnight sweet Tulipes.”

“Goodnight sweet Tosca.”

“Awww aren’t you guys cute.”

“Shut up Till.”

The room seemed a bit smaller after that. Even though we had not spent much time together, it felt as if our already strong bond had been added another coat of sealant. Passing along triumphant grins every time we caught each others gazes, we settled in for the night, telling each other stories of our days adventures. Hers mostly consisted of her and Valencia, kissing in every possible location in the city, but I didn’t care. I closed my eyes and listened intently, occasionally tossing in an “awwww” or “that is so sweet” now and again.

It was a job well done, but I was most excited to see Tulipes when I woke, more than anything else. Soon I was dead asleep, waiting for my dreams to come once more.

Sunlight caught me by surprise. It filled every corner of the park, I rarely saw it in the day. Not since I was a child, it was easy to forget just how beautiful it all was, but seeing it again brought all my childhood memories back to the forefront of my mind. I smiled softly at the swing sitting alone, carelessly swaying in the breeze. Wait till I tell Orange she was right. The thought brought forth a chuckle, which spilled onto the grass.

Soft steps across the grass caught my attention, but it wasn’t until I heard my name, that I actually turned around. “Hello Tosca.”

I was greeted by four figures. Two I recognized, two I did not. The man at the front seemed to be the one addressing me. He looked familiar, but it took a moment or two, to throw it all together in my mind. He was the one in the picture. The one in the folder. The clues. “Hello.” I ventured, thoughtfully.

“I don’t know if you recognize us, but we know you very well, especially this little lady.” The man put his arm around the woman on his right bringing her forward a few steps. “Say hello darlin.”

Crystalline eyes of aqua glinted in the sunlight as she smiled. “Hello sweet baby.”

I paused for a second. Wait… “Grammy?”

“And you said he wouldn’t recognize you!”

I blinked a few times. “Orange?”  I asked, pleading to the one person I knew well. Other than Grammy, but Grammy didn’t look like Grammy and I was lost in a sea of thoughts. “Who are all these people?”

The man laughed. “We are all dreamwalkers, like you. The family is chalked full of them you see. Merlot, that’s me.”  He said with a wink. “Saffron, Orange, Miracle and you. Well, and your sister, but you knew that already.”

“Right.” I surveyed the grounds. Speaking of my sister…

“No she isn’t here. We came to see you.” Merlot explained.

“You sent me those clues. The fountain, the garden. It was you… but why? Why so cryptic. You could have just as easily spelled it out for me. I wanted to rip my hair out at one point.”

“I could have, but that doesn’t seem like very much fun for a boy with a heart for adventure does it?”

“Well, no.” He had a point there.

“Besides, you would have missed out on meeting a certain little lady if you had taken the easy route. We wouldn’t have wanted that. Now would we?”

The thought ripped my heart to shreds. “No. But, how? How do you know all this? How is it possible to see so many lives before they happen?”

“Ah I can’t tell you that.”

I narrowed my eyebrows. “Of course you can’t”

The quartet shot glances all around, a slyness to their behavior.

“Look kiddo there is a reason we are all gathered here today before you. There is someone who is dying to meet you.”

“Me?”

Merlot nodded. “Oh yes, it took some doing but we pulled many a string to get her here.”

“Oh, where is she?” A small tap on my shoulder, caused me to spin full circle. A woman all in white standing before me.

“Tosca may I present your great grandmother of many many many generations. Chantilly Lace Chiffon.”

“Hello Tosca dear.”

Her loving sweet energy pulled me in immediately. She was adorable, her nose was just about the cutest thing I had ever seen. “Hello.” I smiled. Allowing myself to fall into her open arms, I was enveloped in a hug, a hug like no other. It felt like a barrage of them at once. Like my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister and Tulipes all wrapped in one. It was incredible. I buried my face into her shoulder, just as I had done with my grammy, since I was a child. She smelled like vanilla and sugar, like a sugar cookie come to life.

“You have come such a long way my love.” She spoke soft and low, stroking my hair. “I am so very proud of you. You are the tenth generation in a line of a beautiful family, one that I had wished for from a very young age.” I sadly never got to meet my grandchildren, but I always envisioned them to be a lot like you, full of love and adventure. Thank you Tosca. My life’s mission seems a little more complete.”

“You are welcome, but there is so much I want to know. So much to ask.” I turned back to Merlot, but he was gone. Everyone had disappeared. Only Chantilly Lace and I remained.

“Our time is running short.”

Another voice seemed to boom from the sky. “Hey sleepy head. Wake up~” The voice was sing songy, and pulled at me quickly yanking me from my peaceful sleep.

I looked to my hands, they were slowly fading away. Fading as Orange had done so many times before. “Wait!! What’s happening!? I don’t want to go yet! I want to stay with you! Please just a little while longer! Please!”

“Please don’t forget me! Don’t forget us!” She pressed, an urgency hidden beneath the surface. “I love you.”

“I love you too! I won’t forget! I promise! I couldn’t if I tried!” Those were the last words we spoke, before I was ripped fully from my sleep, back to reality.

I opened my eyes to a brilliant white light. It looked as if someone was shining the sun directly into my eyes. The voice from before still beckoning me to wake. I blinked a few times before I closed them again completely. This time squinting slowly I allowed the sun to enter my eyes from the glaring bedroom window at a much slower rate.

For a second I didn’t recognize her. I didn’t recognize anything. The room and everything inside it felt foreign. Long forgotten. Then suddenly it all sank in. “Fairy?”

“Yes. You dork. Who else would I be.”

“I don’t know.”

“I thought you were going to sleep forever.” She teased walking to the far side of the room. Still wrapped in a towel, small droplets of water still speckled her shoulders.

“What time is it?” I asked, looking to the window again.

“Almost noon.” She informed me, opening the dresser.

I rubbed my eyes and looked to the clock. 12:05… “That’s it?

That’s it? You slept half the day away! I have to leave for work now and you aren’t even out of bed yet!

A feeling of dread stabbed me deep in my stomach, the dream was fading, everything was slowly disappearing from my thoughts. I missed it already. I wanted to grasp onto every last piece, but it slipped through the cracks, just like sand through slender fingers pale fingers. I closed my eyes, maybe I could bring it back if I just closed my eyes.

“MERLOT!”

My eyes shot open again. “Yeah? I’m here.” I winced through gritted teeth.

“Yes, I know you are here, but that isn’t what I asked.”

“You asked me something?” I hadn’t heard a thing.

“Just now… Merlot, seriously. Are you even awake? Or are you sleep talking or something creepy. You are acting weird.”

I didn’t know how to answer that. I was awake, or at least I was pretty sure I was awake. I stared blankly ahead. “I had a long night. Weird dreams.”

“About what?”

About what… how in the berry was I going to answer that. I watched as she slipped her stockings over her feet, sliding them high up on her thigh, doing my best to keep all my attention on her. “A bunch of different things. It’s pretty hard to explain. It was a complicated. Most of it is gone now. You  know how it is.”

“Must have been a doozy, you have been at it for hours.”

“Right…”

“Well, it is late, I am going to be super late if I don’t get out the door, this instant.”

Fully dressed she came over by me to give a quick hug and kiss before she was out the door. I pulled her closely into my arms. It seemed like centuries since I had been there. “You sure everything is alright?” She asked, throwing me a disconcerting frown.

“I’ll be fine.”

“Now don’t you go back to bed. You have things to do today!”

“I won’t.”

She blew me a kiss from the bedroom door, before she was clipping carefully down the stairs in her work heels. I watched from the window till I saw her step onto the walk, she was headed safely to our car, so I decided to throw on some clothes. I had a little “honey do” list I was supposed to  be working on, so there was no need for a shower. I had barely slipped my pants on when I heard the doorbell ring.

“That was quick.” I chided. “I gave you two weeks at least.”

I rushed from the bedroom door tugging at my shirt as I went. The dream still continuing to fade with each heavy step I took towards the front landing. Not really paying attention, I reached for the handle and began to teasingly berate my wife through its locked but obviously transparent surface. “Lock yourself out again. How many times is this now. I think we might have to-

But the next few words froze in my throat. My mouth gaped open at the realization it wasn’t Fairy who was now standing patiently on the other side of the glass. The door was wide open now and the pale figure standing before me came into clearer focus. Bundled in her arms was a tiny baby. My hastiness to rip open the door had caught the young woman by surprise and immediately her eyes shot up and met with mine.  In that same instant my dream came flooding back, only it no longer felt like a dream. No, it was more like a distant memory. Each line of her face felt like home, but all I was able to cultivate in my state of shock was a mystified “Hello?”

“Hi there.” She smiled adjusting the tiny bundle in her arms. “I hope we aren’t intruding. I was just taking Roz here for a walk, and decided this would be a good time to meet the neighbors. Probably shouldn’t have waited this long.” She chuckled brightly. “But that is besides the point isn’t it? Hi. I’m Lacey, it’s nice to meet you.”

She grinned reaching out her delicate hand for me to take. Warily I wrapped my rather large hand, by comparison, around hers and gave it a small shake. I must have looked like a total loon, but my mind was swirling in about three hundred different directions.

Could it be? The elegant figure from my dreams in the flesh? I felt my cheeks flush with excitement and shame. It was obvious she had no recollection of who I was, but even so, I found myself fighting every instinct, to throw my arms around and hold her yearningly close. So carelessly I wanted to kiss those cheeks, that adorable nose I had hopelessly fallen in love with, to greet her like the old dear friend she had been.

Oh Berry, she was beautiful. Perhaps even more so in person, than she had been in my mind.

I smiled again in my attempt to keep a safe distance, but there was no changing the inevitable. This day, this moment, it had all been done before. This was the moment my existence would forever alter countless futures if I allowed it to.

I had one hell of a decision to make, one that could change everything, for better or for worse, depending on who you were speaking to. My life had always been one of fatalistic proportions, but this…this only drove that nail in harder. Was my only reason for being, so that the cruel fates had someone to do their sinister bidding? Given the chance to learn where my decisions would lead me and others that I cherished…Would I be able to make the needed sacrifices that were now so apparent in their calling? Would I be willing to withstand the hardships I would undoubtedly endure to see them come to fruition? I looked deep into her luminous eyes, and felt myself crumble under the weight of my own breath, just the way it had before. I knew my answer, but what right really did I have to refuse? Was it fair for me to be selfish? Refuse to play my part? So many lives affected, all those amazing and inspired souls, the world would be deprived of knowing.

Would Fairy the woman I had so fiercely fought to have and keep, win out? Or would it be the woman I would unwittingly fall for in a moment of passion, one who was destined to bear my child and bring with her generations of light and love? Lacey…What of poor Lacey? I had seen her agony as well as my own. My conscience ripped at the very fibers of my heart, the thought of knowingly deceiving her, a woman one who would teach me more in our brief, yet poignant encounters, than I had learned in all my thirty one years of living. Lessons, I already knew, but if decided upon would have to learn yet again. Undoubtedly doubling all of the pain, all of the hurt, but there was something, something that trumped all the suffering I envisioned in my mind. The love that we would share, the moments I would have to hold her, as short as they were, it all seemed worth it, and after seeing the world through ten very different pairs of eyes, it was all clear to me. My life was merely a stepping stone to bigger and better things. My happiness was and always would be inconsequential. Guess that was part of my curse, but being near her, knowing what I would have the chance to experience, even if only for those few fleeting moments. I knew I would be inviting her not only into my home, but into my heart as well. There by ensuring the rest of my days would be spent, begging for her unknowing forgiveness.

“I was just about to put on some tea, would you like to come in?”

The end~

Finale Part 1

“You’re mad…” Tilly slinked through our hotel room door, setting her key-card and a bouquet of flowers on the dresser. It had been hours since she had left the room, and even longer since I had returned. I wasn’t sure where she had been, but there was an instant relief when I heard her jiggling the handle from outside. My heart rate rattled a little faster than normal, and I felt torn between, wrapping her up, thanking the great Berry above that she was alright, or giving her the hairy eyeball for scaring me half to death. I decided on the latter.

I narrowed my eyes, allowing my rather menacing eyebrows to furrow. Getting my point across that I was not pleased, I spoke in a low unapproving timbre. “You think? Where have you been? It’s been hours.”

“I know, I’m sorry. I got a little sidetracked.”

I looked to the window, it had been dark for several hours, a small tinge of worry still remained in my gut. I crossed my arms over my chest to further express my annoyance. “Sidetracked? I heard you ran off with some guy. What if something had happened to you? You don’t know this guy. He could have hurt you or worse.”

“I know, he could have, but he didn’t. He’s a good guy.” She explained a curl at the edge of her lips, masking a full blown smile, obviously induced by this Valencia character. “I think we might have something. Something special.”

I threw my hands in the air. “Well that’s great in all, but what about our reason for being here? Are you just going to throw that away for this french…”  I didn’t even know what expletive I wanted to use. “guy?”

“No. Look! We were searching today as well. Okay? We didn’t find anything, but we were looking.”

“What about you?” She asked heading towards the bathroom door. “Have you found anything for us to go on yet?”

“No, but I did find someone who has offered to help.”

“Who?”

“Her name is Tulipes. She works with your boytoy at the pub.” Now I could feel the curl at the edge of my lips.

Tilly must of sensed it too, because she stopped just short of the door and turned back to look at me. “Tosca? Did you make a lady friend?”

“A guide.” I corrected. Lady friend was too big a step for me to admit just yet. It didn’t matter the way I coated it, Tilly saw right through. “I never thought I would see the day! What does she look like? Is she pretty?”

My mouth was agape, a stupid grin plastered all over. “Very.” I blushed.

She clapped her hands together. “HAH! This is amazing. First night in France and you found a lady! Bro I am so proud of you.”

I could feel my head moving in all directions, wanting to nod, wanting to shake a way the title, it was all too much. Oh man, why was she helping me? What was she expecting? Did she like me? Did she feel sorry for me? I pulled back the plush covers on the bed, and hid underneath. “It’s been a long day. I’m going to bed.” I exclaimed from my down covered confines.

A small giggle, tucked me in before the bathroom door shut behind her. “Night lover boy.”

I heard the water as she turned it on, I even heard the shower curtain clink a bit on the metal track, after that, the sounds in the hotel began to fade into the walls. Sleep came quickly, for me that night. No time to think about it, no doubt I was snoring heavily by the time Tilly emerged, ready for bed. A brief recollection of a small clicking sound as the only lit  lamp in the room went out and I was gone to the world again.

It was a welcome sight to find my home away from home in my sleep that night. With the fact I was so far away from everyone in Twizzlerbrook. I felt a little bit closer, opening my eyes to find the beautiful moon-drenched cherry blossom trees, swaying above me. It always surprised how real the dreams felt. Very different from normal dreams. I could feel the soft breeze that ran across my bare feet, and smell the blossoms on the trees.

I took in a deep breath, drawing in with it all the amazing scents that resided there. “Ah it’s good to be home!” Looking around, the place was deserted as per usual. Wasn’t really expecting to find anyone, not right away at least. Orange always made her appearances after I arrived, so I figured she would be along any time. Taking the opprotunity while I had it, I ran to the swing and sat down. Hah! Made it before she had a chance to steal it out from under me. Digging my toes into the grass and dirt, I pushed off into a large swoop. That tickle in the bottom of my stomach was still there every time I lifted up into the air. Nothing as free as the feel on a swing.

Almost on cue a slender silhouette stepped out of the darkness. A small snort escaped her nostrils, alerting me to the fact, she was not pleased to share her swing. “Leave for months and then have the audacity to take my swing.” She spat, sticking out her tongue. “Some friend you are.”

I slammed my feet to the ground, bringing myself to an abrupt halt. I could tell for the most part she was teasing, but there was a small undertone that was undeniable. “Sorry.” I sheepishly grinned, swaying to the right and then left. “Would you like to sit?”

“No. You’re there now. You should stay.” She pouted, jutting out her hip, to its furthest possible limit.

“Suit yourself.” I picked up my feet and started to swing freely again, her face bobbing in and out of view. “So I’m in France right now.”

“I heard.”

“No clue what I’m doing here!” I yelled, swinging so high into the air, that I lifted off the seat, hitting back down with a thud.

“That makes two of us.” She mused. I could tell she was getting a little satisfaction from my ongoing confusion.

I came to stop again. “I was really hoping you weren’t going to say that. I could really use some help.”

“I think you misinterpret my reason for being here.” She explained. “I’m here more for moral support, to keep you going. Not feed you the answers. Besides that, I truly don’t have the answers. You can do this though, I mean look at what the two of you have accomplished already. You traveled quite a distance to get where you are. You just have to keep looking.”

“But I don’t even know where to begin!” I wanted to say more, but she started to dissolve into the night air, preparing to leave me alone with my thoughts again. “No! Don’t leave! Please!? We need help! Where should I look?! I’m so confused!”

“Perhaps what you came here to find, isn’t what you are searching for.”

“What?! What does that mean?! Orange!” Slowly her eyes faded, before she was no more.

I watched the spot where she had been mindfully. Wishing and hoping she would come back. “Perhaps what I came here to find, isn’t what I’m searching for?” I scoffed. “Way to make me even more confused.” Looking to my feet, I flicked a small rock with my big toe across the grass. “What else could I be looking for then?” My shoulders slumped in surrender, before I sneered at the spot again. “You know you could have left without saying that. Because it didn’t help!! And I don’t really know who I am talking to. But you!! You!! You aren’t very helpful! I don’t need moral support!” Realizing how crazy I must have seemed, I lowered my voice a bit. “Just answers…”

The next morning I woke with a feeling of serene calm, the birds chirping outside on a clothes line, softly waking me from my dream. The moment I remembered who I was about to meet up with however, everything clicked into overdrive. I shot out of the covers and ran for the bathroom, slamming it behind me. Tilly was still wrapped up in bed, but my sudden movements, jolted her awake as well.

“Geeze.” She groaned, throwing a pillow over her head. “I don’t think the shower is going anywhere!”

I flipped on the water; had to get dressed, had to be ready, had to brush teeth well. I was in and out in a flash, and before I knew it, we were ready, rushing our way out to the elevator. We stepped in to morning air, it was a bit cool, but certainly not uncomfortable. We walked to the front of the pub to wait for Valencia and Tulipes. If you haven’t guessed by now, I was nervous.

Tulipes was the first to arrive. My heart literally stopped beating for a couple of seconds when I saw her walking across the road. Hopefully this wouldn’t be an on going problem, I thought to myself. Could be detrimental to my health if exposed to her for an extended amount of time. When Tilly realized the gorgeous figure walking towards us was indeed my friend, I heard her breath hitch in her throat. “Bro.” She whispered. “You picked a stunner.”

I couldn’t help but grin. I did didn’t I? Though in all honesty, it felt more like she picked me. I stepped forward to greet her, when Tilly pushed in front. “Bonjour!” She beamed, reaching out a hand. “I’m Tilly, Tosca’s annoying little sister.”

“Bonjour Tilly.” Came a sweet angelic voice in reply. I had to refrain from melting right there on the spot, that girl had me so deep under her spell, I could hardly think straight. I watched the two talk for a couple seconds more, before she turned her beautiful smile to greet me. “Bonjour Tosca.”

“Bonjour.” I smiled, holding up a hand giving my fingers a miniature wave.

The three of us conversed comfortably as we waited for our fourth party member to arrive. Tilly and I took turns explaining, in a bit more detail, what we might be looking for, while Tulipes did her best to take in as much of our information as she could. There was a still a bit of a language barrier, but Tulipes was sharp, she picked up on things right away. Learning more and more as we chatted. We didn’t have to wait too long before Valencia strode up beside Tilly and wrapped an arm around her waist. She let out a squeak before practically jumping up into his arms. Tulipes looked to me and gave me a wink.

“Bonour cutie!” Tilly cooed.

Sure was a lot of bonjouring going on….

After a short round of introductions, we decided to split up into teams. It would allow us to cover more ground, and since we both had guides with working cell phones, we still had a way to contact the other, just in case of an emergency or in the off chance we actually found what we were looking for. Tulipes and Valencia exchanged numbers before we were off and running.

One thing I had managed to do during my time alone in the hotel, was rent a car. I wasn’t entirely sure if Tulipes owned one, seeing that public transit was much bigger in the city, and I didn’t want to bother her even is she had, so I spent a bit of money to rent one for the week. It’s amazing what you can get done online these days. I was ready to go in a couple clicks, and the car was to be dropped off to the hotel parking lot that morning. I found myself holding my breath as I lead her around the building to find it. Must remind myself to breathe, lack of oxygen to the head, might end up getting us in a crash and then where would I be? Unaware of my underlining awkwardness, the ivory beauty floated across the gravel, to wait at the passenger door. I nervously unlocked her door first, before stepping around the car to mine. You can do this, I assured myself again. It probably looked a little off from her perspective, but she busied herself with the mirror, as I gave my little pep talk.

Mapping out a bit of a trail, we decided to split the city in half. Making sure to hit every park, garden, flower shop that we could find. It was a long shot, but it was all we had. As we headed for the top edge of town, the Eiffel tower seemed to loom ever head, it was quite an amazing structure. Not quite as impressive to her as it was to me of course.

Things got off to a slow start and nothing seemed to improve after that. There was a plethora of places to go and see, but nothing seemed to have any connection to what we were searching for. The fact we had no clue what we were looking for didn’t really help matters much. I was relying fully on gut instincts and so far nothing was waving a flag in my face. About noon, we hit a rather large park below the tower. There were fountains similar to the one at home in the small grassy areas, surrounded by flowers no less, but it wasn’t the place. Tulipes gave me a hopeful glance, and I shook my head. A half hearted smile graced her sweet face and then we continued on to our next place. Mark another off our list.

By the time we closed in on the edge of town, our situation, to me, was feeling more and more hopeless. The only good thing from the day was all the time we had spent together. Stepping up the large steps of the cathedral, we walked to it’s edge, where a delicate garden had been constructed.  It wasn’t right either and I let out a disappointed sigh. Tulipes bit her lip as she shook her head. “No?”

“No…”

This was one of our last stops. If it was in town, it was surely on the other side because we had stalked the streets, coming up with nothing. “I’m really sorry.” I groaned. “I am just wasting your time.”

“No. I’m having fun. Not a waste with you.”

She was being awfully sweet, but my spirits were so low, I didn’t even know how to respond. “Let’s just keep going, I guess.”

Nodding patiently, she headed back to the car.

We only had a few places left to check and things were not looking bright. We shuffled through a small market in the middle of the lower east square, when a woman with a cart, shoved a beautiful bouquet of flowers at Tulipes’s face as we passed. She spoke in their native tongue, but I was fairly certain it had something do with the flowers and their price.  She gave them a once over before checking with me. I shook my head, and she politely pushed the flowers away from her nose. Unfortunately the seller was not so easily swayed, and continued to try and push her wares, long after Tulipes had adamantly refused.

The two argued for several minutes, a small back and forth of wills. I felt weird just standing there, knowing I would’t be much help in a domestic discussion, so I decided to study the collection of rather eclectic sundries the woman had on display. She had a small stack of pots and pans, little glass containers with several different tops, including butterflies, hearts, leafs and neat row of potted plants. I passed by two pots before my eyes settled onto the third. A small flower was painted on it’s side and it looked an awful lot like the symbol from our clues. My mouth dropped open and I reached out for Tulipes’s shoulder. The ladies squabble subsided instantly as I jumped between them.

Completely forgetting the woman before me spoke only French I blurted out my question. “Where did you get that?!” I asked, pointing to the potted plant in question. The woman stared back at me blankly. “Oh right.” I turned to Tulipes. “Ask where she got that. Please.” Tulipes obliged and the woman nodded a couple times before answering back. Not understanding a word, I waited for Tulipes to clue me in.

“She says she buys from a shop near the front of a cathedral in Chambury. She gets a whole sale price so she buys many to sell here.”

“Chambury? Where is that?”

“It is a small village. It is a few hours time from here.”

“I think that is where we need to go.”

“Are you sure?”

“I think so yes.”

We didn’t even thank the woman, we just started running back to the car. Hurried feet crunched across the cobblestone road, till we were safely at the car once more.

I unlocked the passenger side door, before walking to my side, I was in such a rush to get on the road again, I wasn’t paying attention to the trouble, she was having getting the door open. I was in my seat when I looked up to find her pulling on the door. “It is stuck.” She grunted, pulling on the handle again. I started to get out of the car to help, but I was too late. I heard a small yelp, before she disappeared from view.

“Mon baie.”

“Are you alright!?” I rushed around the edge of the car, to find her on the ground. She wrapped her arm around my leg to help herself up, but it didn’t put her at quite the right angle and she tumbled over again  Here, let me help.” I reached out my hands for her to take. She smiled weakly before setting her hands on top of mine. Using the car for a bit of leverage I helped to bring her back to her feet. Her cheeks were red, more from embarrassment, than any sort of injury, but at first she wouldn’t look up.

Her eyes were transfixed on our hands. It seemed in all the commotion to get her upright, I had failed to remember to let go. Sweet soft hands were still safely guarded in my own, even after the realization of my error, I found myself resistant to release them. She didn’t seem to mind to much. Her eyes finally fluttered up and met with mine, that sweet face staring back at me.

“Are you alright?” I asked, giving her hands the tiniest squeeze.

“Yes, but your door does not seem to like me.”

“Let me see if I can fix it.” I finally released her hands, and jiggled the handle a few times before, it finally decided to give and pop open. “I’ll help you next time.” I said, opening the door a bit wider.

“Thank you.” Not waiting for me to get out of the way, our bodies connected for brief moment as she slid past me and into the seat. I gripped the door frame above her head and thankfully out of view, oh sweet berry what was she doing to me?

The drive to Chambury was short. Too short in my honest opinion. Not nearly enough time to study the beautiful woman in my peripheral, before it started to get dark. The sun was just heading over the hill as we pulled into the small village of Chambury. It didn’t take us long to find the cathedral or the woman in question. If we would have arrived any later though, we might have just missed her all together. She was in the middle of packing her things as we came up the steps. I tapped her gently on the shoulder, and she turned to greet us. Tulipes inquired if she had gotten the flowers from a florist or if she grew them herself. The woman explained that she did buy them from a local florist, but she was not at liberty to disclose the woman or her location. Tulipes’s expression dropped. “She says she will not tell us.”

“What? Why not?!”

“She says it is not a buisness, it is a family friend. She says it is not our buisness to know where she lives.”

“But…”

“I’m sorree Tosca. She refuses.”

It was a disheartening walk back to the car. How could we be so close, only to be thwarted by an address… My footsteps were heavy and deliberate and I felt more like a petulant child than a grown man. I didn’t care, I was crestfallen, this was the end of our road. There was no possible way to find where the flowers came from now. Not unless we wanted to knock on every door in the village till we found it, that is if they even lived in the village. I walked to the passenger side first, unlocking the door and then using my new technique to open it. Tulipes just watched as I silently moved to my side of the car. I was in the middle of unlocking my door, when a gentle touch graced my back and arm.

“I am so sorree Tosca.”

“It’s fine.”

“We tried.”

“We did.”

The moon seemed to race into the sky after that. I pulled out to the street and we headed back for the city. We were barely out of the village before the car started to rattle. The engine heaving each time I tried to apply the gas. I frantically studied all the guages before me. Everything seemed fine. The tempurtaure guage was good. No check engine light. The gas was still half full. Come to think of it, the guage had been half full for a while now… oh berry, no. We were out of gas. The car slowly rolled to a stop and I smacked the steering wheel.

“Mon baie.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it must have been something good, because she used it every time there was trouble.

I unbuckled my seat belt.. “We better call my sister.”

Tulipes nodded in a agreement before reaching into her pocket for her phone. It was hard to see in the dark, but even still, her eyes opened wider than I had ever seen. Her arms frantically patted her front pockets, before she pushed her feet into the floor of the car to lift herself up so she could pat her back pockets. “Pas!”

“What?” I asked, flipping the overhead light on.

“My phone. It is gone.”

“What?!”

Tulipes was already opening the car door to get a better look at the floorboards and the dark corners underneath her seat. ” I had it.” She whined. “It was here.”

“You don’t have your phone?!”

“I did!! But it is not here.” She thought for a moment and then gasped. “Mon baie, it must have fallen when I fallen.”

As my sister would say, oh sweet lavenous days. This was not good. “What do we do now?”

“I don’t know. Find help.”

I looked across the empty field, there were trees, grass and sky. No houses, no cars and no phones. “I guess we walk then.”

“I am so sorree Tosca.”

“It’s alright. We will be fine, we just need to get walking.”

Even a small distance can seem like a lot when you have to walk it. We had passed only one house for a good couple of miles, but I was able to navigate us back to it with little to no trouble. The lights on the porch were burning brightly and breathed a sigh of relief as came up over the hill. Just a few short minutes and we could get things back on track again.

Wrong again.

“Bonjour. We need to use a phone. Our car ran out of gas, and we need to call someone to come pick us up.”

The woman shook her head solemnly. “Pas.  Il n’y a pas de téléphone ici.”

“Oh right. You don’t understand me…” I looked to Tulipes who was preparing to translate when….

“No, I understand you. There is no phone here. You need to go.”

“But… no phone? You have no phone? Please you must.”

“It is late, and you should not be here.”

I was more than willing to continue our absurd argument, but a small shaky voice cut right through. “Framboise, where are your manners? Let them in.”

All three of us turned to the direction of the voice. A tiny woman was heading up the walk, her expression not very impressed with Framboise’s behavior. “I am very sorree, please come in. We will be happy to get you a phone.”

The woman on the porch glared at us both before opening the door allowing everyone outside entry. “We really appreciate it. Thank you.” Doing my best to express our true appreciation seemed to fall on deaf ears, well one set of them anyways.

We were guided through to large living room. There was a small fire burning in the fireplace and its golden light seemed to bounce off of the furniture, setting a slightly rustic homey feel to the place. Framboise shoved a phone into Tuilpes’s chest before stalking back to the kitchen. She immediately started to dial, when it dawned on her that she had no idea how to get a hold of them. She had entered the number into her phone, so she had no reason to memorize it. She patted the phone to her chest before turning to face me. “I don’t know the number.”

“Right….” Made sense. Why didn’t I think of that.

“I will call my mom!” She exclaimed as she dialed a number furiously fast. There was no immediate answer but she refused to get off the line.

“Car trouble?” Asked the woman sitting just across from me.

“Ran out of gas.” I explained.

“Fate is funny no?”

“Hilarious.”

“You are looking for something. Something you can’t seem to find.”

Suddenly the woman had my full attention and I waved at Tulipes to hang up the phone. It took her second to catch my frantic arm gestures with her back turned, but finally she caught on.

“How did you know that?”

“I think I have what you are looking for?”

The phone in Tulipes’s grasp dropped to the floor with a thunk.

“You do? Where?! Where is it?”

“It is hidden, safe. Locked away from the world. I can show you, but not tonight. I can take you in the morning. It is too dark now. Can you stay?”

“Auntie!” A voice piped up from the other room, but she ignored it.  “You will have to excuse my great niece, she is a bit overprotective. Please, call me Mara.”

“Tosca and this is Tulipes.”

“It is an honor I assure you.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I gave a small smile in gratitude anyhow.

“It is late. Let me show you to your rooms.”

“Thank you.”

We followed the Mara down a dimly lit hallway, where we stopped before one of its closed doors. Her wooden canes rhythmically clunking coming to a halt. “Shall I make up two rooms, or would you care to share?”

“I started to say two, but Tulipes beat me to the punch. “One… please.”

I shot her a sideward glance, and my jaw dropped to the floor. Did she just say one?

“Very well. You can take this one then. I must apologize the walls are in desperate need to repair, but I burden with dear niece with so much already.”

“It’s fine.” My heart was racing in my eardrums, probably wouldn’t be able to see the walls let alone appraise their condition. “Thank you.”

After bidding our gracious host goodnight, we retired into the bedroom. I was pretty sure there would only be one bed, but some how it didn’t quite sink in till I saw it sitting there. What did all this mean? We were sharing the bed? She wanted to share? With me? She didn’t seem to have the same reservations as I did, so she walked across the room and settled onto the increasingly more inviting mattress. I however couldn’t move from the door. A playful grin beckoned me to move closer, along with a small wave of her hand in a come hither motion. “I will not bite.” She teased.

I laughed nervously. “I know. I just thought, well.. are you sure about this?”

“If you are uncomfortable. I can sleep on top.”

“I’m sorry what.” I almost fell against the door behind me.

“I can sleep on top of the covers. You can sleep under.”

“Oh. Right. Of course. No. I will be fine. You can have the covers.”

“It it warm. Let’s just sleep. Hmm?”

“Sure…”

I cautiously moved across the room and lowered myself onto the other side. The mattress dipped at my weight, letting out a loud creak. “Heh.”

Turning our back towards one another, we attempted to sleep. I say attempted, because my heart was still beating so hard, I could barely breathe, let alone sleep. She seemed to slip right off, and I could feel my internal temperature start to cool. Listening intently to the soft lull of her breathing, before my eyes drifted shut and I too was out.

Some time during the night we both slipped under the covers. Not knowing exactly how it happened, it came as quite a shock, when I woke to find my arms clinging tightly to her middle. My eyes shot open, but I didn’t move. If I moved she would wake up, but if I didn’t move she would wake up too. Mon baie, I was in a pickle. She let out a soft moan and my eyes rolled to the back of my head. Oh sweet berry babies, I needed to move before it was too late. I decided to try and seperate us slowly. “Tosca?” Not slowly enough.

“I don’t know how this happened.” I explained. It sounded stupid, but it was the truth. I slipped my arm from underneath her and stood from the bed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean. I really don’t know….”

“It is fine. It felt nice.”

“I just… I wouldn’t invade your privacy like that. Not on purpose.”

I thought she was going to reach out and slap me, but a pair of sweet lips parted the air between us, landing directly on mine. It was only a peck, but it sent a shiver so far down my spine, it went through the floorboards.

“You worry much.” She giggled. A giggle I recognized immediately. Suddenly one of the things on my agenda was crystal clear. I think I had just found one of the things I was looking for.

After a delicious breakfast, Mara in the lead, guided us out of the house to her back yard. “It is here.” She pointed up the hill. “I am so glad you made it, I don’t think I will make another trip. It is hard walk.” Tulipes and I nodded. Following closely to keep an eye on our frail guide, she lead our way, we were finally going to see the fruits of our labor. Tulipes slid her arm through mine as we continued up over the hill.

Gen 10- Chapter 3 Part 2: Tosca

Leaving the hotel room, my gut let out a lavenous rumble. I looked around the empty hallway. “Glad no no body was around to hear that.” I chuckled to myself. I had not eaten since my little stunt on the plane, so my stomach was a righteous mess, by the time we landed. Nerves were so shot, and I wasn’t too sure I would be able to even hold anything down, but my tummy seemed to think other wise, so off we went to find food. The cafe sign was turned to the open side, but there was no one around on the patio. The place was looked fairly deserted from the outside. Hoping there might be civilization on the inside I stepped through the front door.

Not much different on the flip side. The place was deserted, there wasn’t even a person standing at the reception desk. I felt like I was entering on private property or something. There was a low voice coming from a TV in the distance, a french news caster chattering away, about berry knows what. I looked around the empty room.

“Hello? Are you open? The sign says you are, but… I don’t think that… you are.”

There was a clatter of glass before a man popped up at the bar. Unaware of my existence, he continued to clean and prep things for the later shift. Seeing that I wasn’t entering into a completely empty establishment, I decided to walk through the open hallway to the main dining room.

I walked up the bar, where the man was still looking at the work before him. “Hello?” I asked, stepping a bit closer. “Are you open? I would love to order some food or take-” The man looked up and I was paralyzed by the gaze in his eyes. They bore through me, leaving marks on the other side. “Out…”

He set down is glass and tucked the towel in his pocket. “Bonjour mademoiselle.”

“Bonjour.” I grinned back. I could feel my insides tiptoeing around my belly button. Oh berry was he cute. I decided to ask again, because my stomach wasn’t about to take no for an answer. “Are you open? I would like to order something. Starving.” I rubbed my belly, just in case he wasn’t understanding.

“Oui!” He lifted up a menu and sent it over the bar to me.

I scanned the menu quickly and picked out the first thing I recognized. The man nodded and walked a small paper to the back room. I watched as he walked away, cute going as he was coming. By the time he returned with my food, I was ready to consume the plate along with my meal. He kept a close eye on me, and I did the same. It felt like eye tag, but I wasn’t sure who was it or who was winning.

After I had finished eating, I slipped the menu across the counter trying to find something suitable to order Tosca. I finally decided on the same thing that I had, but when I went to give him my order, he slipped around the side of the bar heading straight for  me. I felt my heart quicken as all of the blood rushed from my head. I had never been so captivated by another human being in my life. I was like a fly in a web and there was no way to escape.

“You are beautiful. Your name belle?

“I uhh hehehe it’s Ferra, but everyone calls me Tilly.”

“Tilly!? Why that sounds French. No? You are not?”

“Um, noooo.” I started to back away. “Not French. I’m from the berry states.”

“Oooh, beautiful and foreign.  I shall be your, ah tour guide. Take you, show you around.”

“Oh, that is very sweet….”

“Valencia.”

“Valencia…but I have to get my back to my room. My brother is waiting for me. We have-

He took hold of my hands and all thoughts flew out the window. “Mission.” I trailed off.

“Mission! He and I are here, important business. Must get back.” I felt a thumb grace the outer side of my hand and my knees buckled. Oh sweet berry, what was happening?

“Mission for what? I’ll help you find.”

I watched our hands intertwined, my voice losing all resolution. “A garden I think. A special white flower. Mooooooonflower.” I cooed.

“Oh! I know the place.” He grinned.

“You do?! Where is it?!”

“Across town. Come I take you.”

“I really should be getting back…” But if he had information, the trip could be informative.

Take me anywhere Mr. French man…

Once his replacement came into the bar,Valencia tossed his work thingies on the counter and took hold of my hand guiding me to the entrance. Everyone sure was friendly around these parts. We walked across the street to his car, where he grabbed a couple things from his glove box. Tucked his wallet in his back pocket before locking the door behind him. “It is a beautiful day, we shall walk. Is that okay?”

“Sure” I squeaked. Oh what was I getting myself into?

Well we finally made it to his garden, but I was pretty sure this wasn’t what we were looking for. There were beautiful flowers growing all around, but it definitely wasn’t out of the ordinary or spectacular, not to say what we were looking for was any of those things, but it was bound to be more than this. I studied the flowers closely. Nothing looked right, and nothing resembled the strange emblem on the paper.

“I don’t think this is it.”

Before I had a chance to turn around, a pair of strong arms scooped around my waist holding a beautiful bouquet of white flowers. “For you.”

“OMB! Where did you get these?!” I had no clue where he picked them up, but they were beautiful.

“I am sneak. For you.”

“Ah ehehehhe you are very sweet.”

“Sweet for you.”

The heat radiated from my cheeks. Taking a deep whiff of the flowers, the world around me spinned a little off it’s axis. It all seemed like dream, if I didn’t know my dreams so well, I would have been almost sure of it.

“I would like to help you and your eh, brother you say?”

“Oui.” I giggled.

“Stay with me today and I bring you back tonight. We look first thing. When you wake.”

“I uhhh…”

“S’il vous plaît belle Tilly. You would make me happiest french man ever.”

For some reason, I felt I couldn’t possibly say no to that, so I agreed. “Oh why the berry not!”

We spent the rest of the evening traveling the city. We saw many things, but not what we were looking for. Hopefully Tosca would have better luck, and hopefully he wouldn’t kill me when I got back.

———

Short, sweet and fun. HAHHAHAH goodnight guys!

Valencia is the uber sexy Leland Vanhorn from creatingsims over on tumblr!

Gen 10- Chapter 3 Part 1: Tosca

Finding a job wasn’t difficult. We both managed to snag a position working the evening shift at a local coffee/tea shop. The manager had been overly excited when we brought in our applications, it should have been our tip off that something was up. We were too focused on getting money to care where it came from, so we took the jobs immediately. During our training period, we worked the afternoon shift, where things were busy and the place was a bustling hot spot of activity. Our first night shift rolled around, and we suddenly knew why there had been openings.  The place was dead. Deader than dead. That first night, we probably had all of five customers over a five hour shift. Boring, dull and soul draining-ly slow. A five hour shift normally chugs along pretty nicely, but when you spend a good 55 minutes of each hour watching the door or the clock, time dragged.

Being one year ahead in school and one year ahead in math, meant I was the better candidate for register duty. Math had always been my stronger suit, so that didn’t bother me much. If only I’d had customers to ring up. We spent more time cleaning, dusting, eliminating the tiniest marks of grime from every surface, than we ever did doing our actual trained positions. When we did finally get a customer, we were so overly excited that we practically hopped in their pocket. There was one advantage to being cashier though. Whenever manning a register, it is not a good idea to walk away, so anything that had to be done outside the main room was up to Tilly.

Bathroom duty, not to say I didn’t feel for her, I did. I was just so glad it wasn’t me. I think the mid afternoon person just left it for her to do, since no one would be around in the evening to mess it up, why not let the night person handle the mess. Practically every night Tilly came into work to find both bathrooms in shambles. Puddles on the floor, more dirt and gunk in the sink than should be possible in a days time. Poor girl, I would give her a hug every night and thank her time and time again for pushing through to help with our goal. If anyone tried to say their sister was the best sister in the world, I had inexplicable proof they were wrong.

Working our tails off four nights a week and one weekend day a month, we were slowly working the way to our final goal. Putting away almost all of our earnings from each check, our little bank was getting fuller and fuller by the month.

By the time Tilly’s 18th birthday rolled around, we had more than we had originally planned for, plus a bit more from the family for extra spending cash. Her bank weighed four times more than it had originally, and we were so excited that didn’t even know where to begin. Plane tickets and accommodation were first on our list, but after that we honestly had no clue. We decided to just go where ever the wind would take us. It was basically a wild goose chase any ways, so we could decide all the particulars once we touched down. Two weeks after Tilly’s birthday we were booked on flight 2709-f heading skyward for Pâte Sucrée France!

The month following our booking flew by much quicker than anticipated. I just knew it would drag on kind the way our long nights at work had, but I was wrong. It seemed to happen almost over night, and then boom,  we were packing our things and preparing for our departure. Butterflies swirled in my stomach as I packed my minuscule amount of clothing and other small “must haves” into my suit case. This was the moment we had been planning for. We were finally off to find my destiny. Or our destiny. Or what ever it was we were looking for. Almost everything was packed, when I remembered one final item that needed to go with. I scooped up the folder containing the journal entries and our clues, from the desk drawer in the living room, and set them neatly on top of my clothes, before zipping everything safely inside my luggage.

Once we had everything loaded into the car, we said some goodbyes before heading to the airport. Mostly everyone was planning on piling into the car, to accompany us, but there was one who wouldn’t being making the trip that day. Grammy was not in the best of spirits those last few days before our departure. She had been tired and sluggish and barely came out of her room. We all knew she was getting up there in age, but not many wanted to admit the fact she might planning on making her own departure.

I found her in their bedroom upstairs. She hugged me closely and I squeezed back with a firm hold. I had made no illusions that might I not see her when I got back and neither did she. “So this might be goodbye my angel.”

“I know Grammy.”

“I love you. Have a wonderful trip, you hear?”

I couldn’t let her go, I knew I was going to collapse on the ground crying the moment I released her. I tried not to think about it, I had way too much on my mind, to worry myself with things I had no control over. So instead I held her for a moment longer, before kissing her cheek.

“Safe travels.” She smiled.

“You too.”

There was a similar scene once we go to the airport. Everyone was hugging or crying or hugging and crying in those last few moments before we were to walk through the security gate, leaving family on the other side. I won’t lie, it was pretty tough on us both. We had never been away from the house longer than a day or two and even when we did, it was only across town to someones house. This was a huge step out of my comfort zone, but I was ready. I needed to know what was there and this was the only way we were going to find out.

After we finally severed that final tie, and Dad was able to drag mom and grandma out of the terminal, Tilly and I got in line for the security checkpoint. It was a hectic scene to say the least. There were people coming and going in all directions. Flight attendants dragging their carry on across the terminal, children hugging their mothers or fathers, begging them not to go, family getting in that last final hug before they no longer had that chance to say goodbye. It was incredibly emotional, even for those of us just watching. I tried to avert my eyes from a husband and wife, as they held onto one another, his service uniform drenched on the left shoulder,  I found myself sniffing gently as I turned my head away.

The scene ahead of me however, was a bit more interesting. A young woman and man, with a small child were in a heated debate with the security guard. Insisting she go through the metal detector, but she adamantly refused. Finally after a few colorful words, the man was able to procure some paperwork from one of his bags. It seemed that woman wasn’t a woman at all. She was a robot, and going through the metal detector, could inadvertently cause irreparable damage to her system. The security guard snatched the papers from the mans hand and gave them a quick once over. Realizing that their claims were actually true, he allowed the lady? to pass by the detector and wait on the other side for her party. The hold up took so long that a woman from the other side of the security panel, started pulling us into her line, in hopes they could speed up the processing.

After passing through security, we walked through the terminal gate to wait for our boarding call. Tilly had been quiet from the moment we entered the airport, but I was so busy making notes on my laptop, that I hadn’t really thought much of it. Assuming she was thinking about her own plans, I continued to make use of the free wifi for as long as we had it. The second we were on board however, I realized there was a whole lot more going on with Tilly than excitement.

The boarding call floated across the terminal and poor Tilly almost jumped right out of her skin. She gripped my arm tightly as we dragged our things on board.

“Are you alright?” I asked pushing our things into the overhead compartment.

She just stared at me, eyes wide.

“Till?” I placed a hand on her arm. “What’s the matter, you’ve gone catatonic on me.”

“I don’t think I can do this.” She whispered, leaning in close so the other passengers wouldn’t hear.

“This?” It took a me a moment to piece it all together. “You’re scared? Of flying?”

She nodded.

“You?!” I laughed. It didn’t seem possible. “But you aren’t scared of anything!”

“Well that is where you are wrong. I am scared of this.” She hissed.

I looked around at all the people settling into their seats. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I wrapped her in my arms, and squeezed her gently. “You can do this. We can do this. It won’t be long and we will be landing again. Okay? Nothing is going to happen. Planes fly and land safely hundred times a day.”

I could tell she was still squeamish, but I had managed to get her in her seat and buckled. Now it was up to our pilot to get us there in one piece.

Flying wasn’t scary for me at all. Go figure, can’t talk to girls, or anyone else for that matter, without feeling stupid and awkward, but throw me on a plane and I was like a fish in water. I was able to situate myself in my seat comfortably enough that I drifted off to sleep. I of course made sure Tilly was alright before doing so. She assured me she was, but in hindsight, I don’t think she was as truthful with me as I had previously taken her to be. I was snoozing comfortably, as she was having a mini heart attack every time the plane would jump or dip due to some pretty nasty turbulence. A couple times she dug her nails into my arm, but I was really out, and barely budged from my nap.

It wasn’t until a flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder, that I ever realized something was wrong.

“Excuse me? Hi. You are with a young girl?”

I opened my eyes to find a concerned look plastered on her face. Rubbing my eyes, I nodded slowly. “Yes, my sister. Why?” I looked to the empty seat beside me, and almost hit my head jumping up. “Where is she?” I asked with a bit more urgency.

“She’s fine. I think. Well we don’t know. I do believe she is the one locked in the bathroom, she’s been in there for a good hour now and refuses to come out.”

“Uh oh.” I said, unbuckling my belt. “Where is she?”

“Back there.” The woman pointed to the bathroom at the end of our cabin, and I looked down the long row of seats.

“Okay, I’ll go see if I can talk her out.”

“Thank you.”

I walked up to the door and pressed my ear against it. I knocked a couple times, but there was no response from inside. “Tilly? Are you in there?”

Dead silence returned my inquiry of concern.

“Look Till I know you are, because the fly attendant told me so. You got to come out, people need this bathroom for bathroom stuff. Please?”

The quiestest muffled voice inched through the cracks. “I don’t feel so good. ” She explained.

Relieved to know she was still alive, I breathed out a deep sigh and tried not to laugh. “It’s okay, just come back to your seat. We have a bag for that sort of thing. You can’t just lock yourself in the bathroom though. So come on.” I tapped on the door again. There was another second or two before the door clicked and she opened it. Revealing a face a strange shade of green, she was definitely air sick.

“Oh wow.”

“I told you.” She grunted, half burp, half I don’t know what.

I probably should have left her alone, or brought an airsick bag with me during her retrieval, seeing I did neither, I guess it was mostly my fault when she leaned into me and threw up all over my front. I thought she could at least make back to her seat, but I had severely miscalculated the level of queasiness in her belly. We barely made it four steps away from the bathroom, when blehhhhhhh, her small bag of in flight crackers and juice were all over my shirt. “Oh berry!” I’m sorry Tosca!” She cried, throwing her hand to her face. I looked down at my shirt, a flight attendant was already rushing up to meet us, a wet towel in hand. She helped Tilly back to her seat as I did what I could to clean myself up. I was severely regretting my choice not to bring an extra change of clothes…

So the rest of the flight was a sticky, wet, fun time for Tosca. The smell alone was enough to make me sick, but I managed to make it without chucking on myself. The moment we touched down, I was looking forward to a shower and a change of clothes. Poor Tilly was still mortified and apologized to me, my back, the side of my head, all the way to our hotel. I tried to tell her it was alright, several different times, but she was feeling really bad regardless.

By the time we reached our hotel, the stain had dried, but the smell was still strong. Really strong. We were greeted by a not so friendly concierge at the desk, who was even more off put by the horrendous smell coming from my body.

“Hi, Chiffons checking in?”

The man behind the desk eyed us over the top of his computer, sniffing loudly. I bit my lower lip. “This is the Burgandy hotel?”

“Oui.” Said the man, plugging his nose. Oh boy…

“Sorry, sister was sick on the plane. Had a little accident. Would really love to get our room.” I grinned sheepishly.

The man snorted derisively and then typed a few things up on the keyboard. Apparently there had been a small mix up with booking and the online promotion, namely a 6 was left out of the price, so rooms were going for 17 a night and not the 176 that they were supposed to. It wasn’t until thirty bookings came in at once that they realized what had happened. Needless to say this guy, was not pleased.

There was nothing he could do once the rooms had been paid for, so the hotel lost out on quite a large chunk of money in that short span of time. Big mistake for them, but a total blessing for us. After making sure we knew how displeased he was, he finally handed over our keys. Giving us our room number, we were left to our own devices to get our things up to suite 27. Once we saw the room, we had a better understanding why the gentleman at the desk was so peeved. The room was posh. Everything was down quilted and cushy. The room was a literal steal!

After setting up our things against one wall, I headed straight for the shower. I was getting out of my nasty clothes and no one was going to hold me up a minute longer. “I’m gonna go scald off my first layer of skin.” I teased, stepping into the bathroom.

Tilly rubbed her belly. “I’m starving. I think I am gonna take some of this weird money and go find us something to snack on. Saw a cafe next door, maybe they have take out.”

“Sounds good!” I called through the door, turning on the hot water.

“Alright. I’ll be back soon.”

After flight showers are good. Amazing in fact. I was in there for a half hour or more, just letting the hot water run all over. Soothing my aching muscles and cleaning away the mess. I would have stayed in longer, but I didn’t want to hog all the glorious warmth, and I was pretty sure Tilly would be back with some sort of sustenance any time.

I stepped out of the bathroom, steam wafting all around me. The room though, was empty. I looked out the window, to see if I could see her somewhere on the bottom floor outside. There was no one. Huh…Making sure my towel was securely fastened, I opened the room door. The air was cool by comparison, and my whole body gave a shudder. I scanned the hallway for movement, but there was no sister to be found…

I figured she would be back fairly soon, so I changed into some clean clothes from my case, and settled onto the bed for a small nap. It may have only been a 10 hour flight, but I was exhausted. It took no time at all to slip off into a nap on the comfy down bedding.

My small nap ended up turning into a small sleep. When I woke again, it was already getting dark. I sat up to find the room still empty. I quirked an eyebrow. Where the berry was she? I looked to the clock on the wall. It was well past 7. She had been gone for hours. I started to get a little worried. What if something happened to her? What if she was kidnapped? What else could be keeping her? I had no idea. I waited another half hour before, I decided I better go investigate.

The only place I could think of to look was next door at the cafe she was supposed to going to. People were chatting and laughing on the back patio and one of the guys from the plane was making his way inside. I think a lot more of us were taking advantage of the inns clerical error.

Waiting inside, the man was greeted by a hostess, who obviously spoke only the native french dialect. He tried several times to explain he was waiting for his party, before the woman finally gave up and called one of the other waitresses over. She wasn’t much better and seemed like I was never going to get inside. I looked up the ceiling, pleading for the pair to hurry up. I was starving by that point and decided if I did get in, I was going to eat. No need to starve myself waiting for Tilly to come back. Since things in front were taking so long, I took a moment to run back to the room and grab my laptop. Might as well use the time I had efficiently.

It was a lot easier for the hostess to understand my index finger symbolizing a number one, so she grabbed a menu and took me to an open table near the back. I nodded in gratitude and then took my seat. Opening my laptop, I started plotting out points of interest. Pretty much every garden / flower shop I could find. I still had not a clue what I was looking for, but I knew it had something to do with flowers.

Suddenly a soft voice interrupted me from my concentration, trying to take my order in french. Still focusing on my monitor, I never looked up. “Uhh sorry, I don’t speak french.” I muttered apologetically.

“Oh. You are tourist?” The voice asked.

“Yes. I-”

I finally looked up to find the most beautiful face I had ever seen, smiling back at me. Her porcelain skin almost shining in the dim lighting around us. “I-”

“I’m from Twizzlerbrook.” I stammered. Why was I telling her that?! She gave me a puzzled look. She of course had no clue what I was talking about. That all familiar, awkwardness was taking over me. Closing my laptop, I just looked up and grinned. “Heh.” Idiot…

“Would you like to order?” She asked, lifting a note pad from the pocket in her apron.

“Yes!” I swept up the menu and tried to read. It looked like a mess of letters and nothing more. I opened and closed it a few times, the air brushing against my face. “I- uh, what would you recommend a foreigner like me?”

“Well.” She took the tip of her ink pen and poked it against one of the items on the third line. “This, is great. House eh… favorite.” She explained.

“Okay. I’ll take one of those. Thanks.”

She jotted down a couple of things on the paper and started to walk away. Two steps, she turned back. “Drink? What would you care to drink?”

“Oh! Right! Uh, water is fine.”

Once she had gone back to the kitchen to drop off my order, I opened my laptop again. Trying to yet again get back to my work at hand. A little more difficult with the fact I was now watching the front entry for my sister, and side one for the gorgeous waitress wandering the grounds, I used my high school typing skills to manage all three at once.

When she returned with my food, she set it down on the only open spot of my table. I gave her a small nod, but didn’t go straight for my plate.

“Must be important.” The woman chided.

“I- uh ya. It kind of is.” Deciding this would be the best time to inquire, I looked up to her stunning sapphire eyes. “You haven’t seen a girl? Looks kind of like me. Lavender hair? She came down here this afternoon and I haven’t seen her. She was supposed to be back hours ago.”

The woman thought for a moment, and shook her head. “No, I am sorr-ee I have not seen anyone.”

“Alright. Thanks, it’s my sister. If you see her, tell her she is in big trouble.”

“Do you think she is lost?”

“I’m not sure. We are here trying to find something but she just up and disappears… now I am stuck trying to figure this out alone.”

I could tell she was only taking in about half of what I was saying, but she gave me a smile of affirmation before sitting down. “May I help?”

“Well, you see, I don’t know exactly what I am looking for.” I wanted to slap my hand to my face.

“How will you find it? If you know not what it is?”

“Good question. I am looking for a garden or something. Flowers. See I have these clues and they lead me here, to France.” Her eyes widened a bit. Yeah, it didn’t sound nearly as cohesive as it had at home.

“You came here to find something, you know not where it is?”

“Heh, I guess so.”

“Well you definitely need my help then no?”

My stomach dropped into my shoes. Oh man, traveling around the city with this grogeous creature, I wasn’t sure I would be able to talk, let alone keep up the search. “I— uh,”

“You don’t want my help?”

“NO! It’s not that, I just, I well…” I took a deep breath. “I would love your help. Miss?”

“I am Tulipes.”

“Tosca.”

“Nice to meet you, eh Tosca?”

“Yes. Nice to meet you too.”

“Do you stay close?”

It took me a moment, to decipher some of the things she was asking under her thick accent. “Yes. I am next door.” I pointed to the wall, forgetting it was there.

“Ah. Well you meet me here tomorrow and we shall look around. Hmm?”

“Sounds good. Maybe my sister will be back by then.”

After I scarffed down my meal, I paid the check and headed for the door. Tulipes quickened her pace to catch me just after I stepped out the front stoop. “Tosca!” She called after me.

“I talked to my friend, eh she said you sister was here, with Valenica.”

“Valencia?”

“Yes, he works here. Said they left afternoon.”

“Great…”

“I’m sure, she is fine. He is a good man. Kind heart.” She gave me a reassuring touch on my shoulder and I felt as if I would melt under her fingertips.

“I- thanks.”

“See you tomorrow Tosca!”

In seconds passing far too quickly, she headed back inside. I watched as she slowly slinked back through the main door, leaving me with only the sweet smell of her perfume for company.

“See you tomorrow.”

Gen 10- Chapter 2: Tosca

Talk to my family? Easy for her to say. My incredibly huge, larger than life family. Where would I even begin? The second I rolled out of bed, I was contemplating the best course of action, though I was never any good with situations with multiple choice answers. Choosing the best option would always be my last. Ten choices, and my last would always be the correct way to go, so I should just go with my least likely choice, but then it would probably wrong as well. See my dilemma! I could ask grandpa, he had a working knowledge of most things. Or I could ask my great-grandpa, he knew everything! Or maybe Grammy, Mom always said she was like us, but would she know about a fountain? Ughhh my head hurt just mulling over all the possibilities. Still deep in thought, I missed it as my door swung open. My sister watching me as I went back and forth. Mom, Grandma, Dad, Grandpa…

“Yo bro, what you know?” Tilly greeted, watching my strange display of awkwardness.

I looked at my hands, they were still floating mid air, fingers at the ready to help with my in mind calcutlation. I quickly dropped my arms back to my side. “Oh hey sis. Just thinkin. Had another dream last night.”

“About the fountian?!”

“Umm, no. I was back at the swing.”

“Oh.” Her voice dipped from the unmistakable disappointment.

“But.” I interjected. “I talked to my friend, and she is convinced someone in the family will have the answers we are looking for.”

That seemed to perk her right back up. A toothy grin spread across her face. “So who is it? Did she say?”

“Ah, no. She didn’t…”

“Oh. Well I guess we will just have to ask everyone.” She brought a finger to her face, tapping her lip. “Hmmm.” She hummed thoughtfully.

“I was thinking maybe Pappa. He knows everything.”

Tilly shook her head. “Noo.  I mean he does know everything, but I think you should talk Grammy. She’s like us remember. If anyone will know, it has to be her.”

“I thought about her, but…”

“But nothing. Go march yourself upstairs and ask her.” A voice so resolute, there was no point in arguing.

“Alright. I’m going now!” I exclaimed, pointing at the door.

“Good. I’m gonna go get my yoga on.”

“You do that…”

“Oh I will.” Tilly winked, before skipping off to her room. I would never understand her obsession with yoga.

My plans came to a screeching halt the moment I had climbed the stairs. Heading straight for grammy and pappa’s room when I saw pappa stepping out of the door. Slowly and carefully closing it behind him, just about the time I walked up. “Morning Pappa!” I said with a wave.

“Morning Son.” I heard the hushed tone in his voice and immediately had a pretty good idea why.

“Is grammy awake?” I asked, I already knew the answer, but I asked it anyways.

He shook his head, voice still quiet and low. “Nope she just went down.”

My eyebrow quirked, when it sunk in that it was only 8 in the morning. “Already? But it’s morning time.”

“You know her, up and going at 4am.”

“Oh yes.” I snapped my fingers. “Alright I’ll come back then.”

I stopped for a moment, contemplated asking him about my fountain, but then decided not to. “See you around.”

“Alright.”

I walked back downstairs. “No, that wasn’t awkward and weird at all.” I muttered under my breath.

Painfully awkward could have been my middle name, which had a lot to do with the reason I didn’t have many friends. My sister knew I was awkward and didn’t care. She was way too weird herself to ever point fingers, but some managed friends without batting an eye, I never could. I didn’t really care about friends though, she had always been the best-est friend I could have ask for. It sounds sad, but I swear it wasn’t, she and I were a team from the word go. Not that a girlfriend wouldn’t have been awesome, I was just too much of a mess to ever land one. Unless I found a girl who liked bumbling idiots that tripped over his own shoelaces. Then I would have been golden. Up to that point, no girl had ever fit my requirement. I was far too busy chasing down mystery fountains and giggling mystery voices anyhow.

With time to waste, I went off to bug Tilly for a bit. I knew she would be deep in some yoga session, but that had never stopped me before.

“That was quick.” I looked down to find her folded completely in half. I wasn’t even sure how she was managing to speak.

“She is napping.” I explained, watching the crazy contortions happening before my eyes.

“Already? Was she up late again?”

“No she was up early.”

“Ah. So I was thinking… can you tell me your dream again? The one you had last night? Maybe there was some sort of clue that you missed somehow.”

“Alright.”

Tilly shifted her weight, lifiting her feet over head, I lost all concentration watching her. “Wow you are getting really good.” I chuckled.

“I know right! Now your dream please.”

“Right right.”

“Well.” I thought for a moment. “I was alone, it was dark and at first no one was around. I was disappointed because I wasn’t having the same dream as before. Then my friend-

“Orange?”

“Orange?” I asked dropping my head to side, looking at her feet as if they were the ones talking to me. “Orange?”

“Your friend Orange…”

“Oh, I don’t know her name.”

“You mean to tell me after all these years you have never asked her name.”

“No.”

“You are tweak, you know that?”

“Hey! I am not. Anyways my friend.” I paused and then added. “Orange… Wait, how do you know her name?”

“I know her sister Saffron. Unlike you, I ask these things.” She explained, dropping one foot onto her face. I sneered my lip, it was just gross to be that limber, in my humble opinion.

“Go on.” She pressed, poking a toe at me. I recoiled away, pulling my arm back. Sister feet ew.

“I asked her if she knew anything about the fountain, she said no. So then I asked if she had any information or any ideas. She told me to ask family. Family always has the answers. Then she disappeared. That was it.”

“Guess you were right. That wasn’t much help.”

Our talk lasted long enough, that I was able to watch my sister, roll herself into a tiny ball, before I heard the piano ringing out from upstairs. I left Tilly in pretzel pose and headed up the stairs again. It could have been one of two people at the keys, but I hoped that it was Grammy. A short nap to say the least, but that was fairly normal for her. She was seated comfortably on the bench, playing away, just like most days. Her fingers gracing the keys as if she owned them.

“Hello?” She inquired, hands lifting up, causing the music to stop. “Is someone there? You have to come closer. I can barely hear you breathing. Tosca dear, is that you?”

I came further into the room, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. “It’s me Grammy.”

“Ah dear. I thought so.” Shortly after that, the music resumed. “Did you need to speak to me?”

“I’m not exactly sure.” I explained, scratching the back of my head. “See I had this dream.”

“Oh!! Dreams. Yes. Yes. What was this dream dear?”

“Well it has a lot to do with a fountain. With lion faces and it’s white?” I clapped my face to my head. Why was this so difficult?!

“A fountain you say?”

“Yes grammy. Have you ever seen it? I mean, not seen it, but oh man. I didn’t mean that.”

“Hahahha! Relax my sweet darlin. It’s fine. Though I think you should ask your mother.”

“Mom? Really?”

“Oh yes. You should go ask. Right now in fact. I bet she might just have the answer you are  looking for.”

“Thanks grammy I will!”

I gave her a small kiss on the cheek before running back down the stairs. Watching my slippered feet as I went down the steps, I realized, man I really needed to shower or something…

A shower and a change of clothes were going to have to wait. I had big questions to ask, and hopefully bigger answers to find. I found mom in the laundry room, humming some little tune to herself as she switched the clothes from washer to dryer. “Hey Mom.”

“Oh hi dear!” She grinned. “Have a nice sleep?”

“Pretty good. Mom can I ask you something?”

“Sure dear, what’s on your mind?”

“I have been having this dream and I was wondering if you couldn’t help shine some light on it.”

“I can try, though I am not much help in that department.”

“Well, Grammy said I should ask you. See in my dream, there is this fountain sitting in the grass, but it’s not where it is supposed to be.” Her eyes lit up at the word fountain, perhaps she would have some information after all. “It has these lion faces where the water flows out. Do you… know what I’m talking about?”

For a second she was quiet, as if reliving something in her mind. She winced and then nodded her head slowly. “I believe I do, yes.”

“Really?!” I gasped. “Where is it?! Where can I find it?”

“Sugar Valley.”

My grin faded. “Sugar Valley? That’s like hours a way.”

“Hour an a half to be exact.”

“Great.” Moments like that, I had really wished I was driving already.

Mom placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. “Did you want to see it? I’m not sure what this is all about, but I will take you, if you feel that this is important.”

“I guess it is important. I keep dreaming about it. I think there is something there, something I am supposed to find.

“Well then this weekend we will go. Okay?”

“Thanks mom.”

“Of course love. I would do anything for you or your sister, you know that.”

That night at dinner, I spent most of my time thinking about our trip. I was excited, we were finally getting somewhere, I only hoped, we would finally get a definitive answer once we had found the fountain. Everyone was chatting amongst themselves as usual. Tilly was midway through some wild story about her friend and the berry llama from her agriculture class, while grandma and grandpa did everything they could do to seem interested. Dad was busy staring down his dinner, making sure that no bugs had found their way in while he wasn’t looking. But it was mom who disrupted the whole table, when she decided to tell dad about our trip.

“Tap dear.” Mom said taking a bit of her noodles. “I am going to be taking Tosca-

“And me!” Tilly chimed in, jumping ship from her current conversation, landing right in the middle of ours.

“And Tilly.” Mom corrected. “To Sugar Valley this weekend.”

“Oh? For what?”

Mom let out a breath, preparing herself for something unbeknownst to the rest of us. “Taking them up the hill. Tosca needs to see the fountain up there.

Dads spoon his the bowl with a clatter. “What?!” He squeaked. “What are you going back there for?”

“Well, it seems your son has been dreaming about it. He thinks there is something there that he needs to find.”

Dads eyes searched mom for unknown answers, his head continuing to involuntarily shake back and forth. “No way. You are not going back there. No way. No how.”

It was my turn to drop my spoon. “But dad?! Why not?”

He never left his gaze from her. “Don’t you remember what happened last time?”

I turned my head. “What happened last time?”

“Oh it was nothing.” She assured me. “Just a small fainting spell. It’s warm there you know.”

“You fainited?”

“Almost. You’re father caught me. I was fine.”

This was getting weird. “Why didn’t you tell me, when I asked you this earlier?”

“Dear it’s fine. We can go. Your dad is just over reacting.”

“Overreacting? Lace…”

Mom gave him that look, and he dropped his guard. “Fine, but you aren’t going without me.”

Suddenly we had a family affair. I guess Orange was right.

It didn’t take nearly as long to get to Sugar Valley as I had expected. The trip was the easier part. Historical Sugar Valley, the one town in all of the state, that never changed. If a building got to old, they rebuilt it just as before. It was an iconic place after  all, they didn’t want it to lose its charm. Mom said it looked exactly the same fifteen years ago as it did two hundred and fifty. Very strange, and kind of boring. Anyways, we got to town and we headed straight for the hill. Mom had been driving since about our half way point and she knew exactly where to go. Unfortunately when we got to the bottom of the hill, we found a small road block. Well, gate and it wasn’t small, it was huge. Covering the entire road, there was no way to get around it.  Apparently a new addition, because mom pulled up to it with great surprise.

Unsure of what to do next, we all sat in the car, staring at the giant metal block. “Maybe we could wait for someone to leave.” I offered, trying to spring any idea I could.

“Maybe…” Mom nodded, tapping her fingers on the wheel.

“Or.” Tilly squeezed between mom and dads seat, poking her finger out at the glass. “You could call that lady.”

We all looked to where she had been pointing to find a real estate sign. The house in question was for sale, so the only way up was going to be through her. We dialed the number on moms phone and with in a couple minutes we had scheduled an appointment to view the house under the context that we were looking to buy. She wasn’t going to be able to meet us straight away, so she gave us the code to get in, allowing us a chance to look around before she got there. This was too perfect. If we were lucky, we might miss her completely, that is, if we could find what we needed quickly enough.

We pulled up to the house and my heart skipped a beat when I saw it. It was the fountain! The right fountain! I bounced in my seat as the car pulled to a stop and then I jumped out heading straight for it. Here it was! We found it! We found it!

The three of us headed straight for it, but mom walked to the far side of the house. Standing on the walk leading up the main door, she called over to us. “I’m just gonna stay right here!” Something about this place still had her freaked. I guess if I passed out when I touched it, I would probably have been right there with her.

Standing before it, we all kind of just looked at it. The water had been switched back on, probably by Mrs. Biscotti-Cream for prospective buyers. The water spilled from the lions mouths, but other than that, it looked like a normal fountain.

“Well you found it. Now what?” Tilly broke into the silence. Dad and I scratched our heads.

“I don’t know. I guess I will take a closer look.”

Without the distraction from a certain giggling mystery lady, I was able to give a full inspection. At first glance, there was nothing at all out of the ordinary. Just a fountain, spraying water, doing its given job in life. I made a full circle, before coming back to my original place of examination. “I don’t know.” I sighed, splashing my hand in the water. “I don’t see-” Then I saw it. Just below the water line. Something on the far lip. I couldn’t read it under the water, but when I ran my hands across it, I could feel it. An engraving just below the surface. “There!” I yelled, way more excited than I realized. “Right there! Something. I can’t read it though. Dad help me.”

Going against our better judgement, Dad and I tipped over the fountain. It took all the strength we had to get the job done. Hitting the ground with a thud and scream from Tilly. “OMB WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

Water from the lions mouths drenched the ground around our feet, but we were able to clear up the lip with the engraving, so we could read it. Mom seeing and hearing the commotion ran up to join Tilly, both of them squeaking and squawking as we tried read what had been placed there. I got down to my knees, hitting the cold water, I leaned in closer. “It’s a flower of some sort and.” I read the engraving aloud. “Somewhere of my own design, you and I will finally see the sun. Someone right that down!”

“I got it!” Tilly, waved her bPod in the air.

Before we had a chance to tip the fountain back up right, I honestly had no idea if ever could have. An angry voice sliced the air behind us. “JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING!?”

It was a none too pleased real estate agent. Oh this was not good. Water splashed across my feet, draining all the way out to the walk. Dad and I gave a nod and then all four of us bolted for the car, running like made.

“Go go go go go!!!!!”

“Hey get back here!”

I had a funny feeling she was going to be a little more strict after that, with who she let in the gate. I stuck my head out the window and waved her direction. “Sorry!!”

The car was abuzz all the way home. We read the quote over and over again, trying to make sense of it. “Who will see the sun?” Tilly asked.

“I don’t know.” I said, leaning over the seat. I tried to grab the bpod from her, but she wouldn’t let go.

“Somewhere of my own design. So someone made something. But what?” All four of us thought about it for a moment. Mom looked up into the rear view mirror at dad. “Do you think maybe we should look at moms file?”

“Moms file?” I asked. How was it I always felt out of the loop with these two. “What file?”

“Your grandmother has a file that she received after your uncle and I were born. It was sent from someone, long before she was ever born, but it was addressed to her.”

Things were just getting weirder and weirder. “How is that possible?”

“Yeah!” Tilly wanted to know that one too.

“No one knows, but maybe there is something there. I haven’t seen it since I was very young.”

The second we were in the door, the four of us were running up the stairs to find my grandmother. We practically trampled her in the hallway, almost failing to stop in time, we halted just at her feet. Mom was totally into everything at the point and immediately asked her where we could find the folder. Our exuberance was a little baffling to her, but she knew exactly what we were talking about and where to get it.

We all followed in one big line, out the house and into the back yard. Trailing across the grass we looked like a Chiffon choo choo train. Standing in her bedroom,  we all watched as she extracted the folder from deep within one of her dresser drawers. She wasn’t sure who to hand it to, we were all chomping at the bit, but eventually she chose to place it in my hot little hands.

Sitting at the kitchen table, I opened the folder to review its contents. My three partners in crime, still hovering around. There was a letter and pages of a diary. Everything was hooked to the inside of the folder with a paper clip. A couple photos nestled underneath the the metal enclosure, but nothing really that coincided with the fountain or its message. I thumbed through the pages, each sheet of paper making a small fan of air that came back to hit my chest. “I don’t know.” I admitted reexamining the first page. “There is nothing here.”

“Let me see the papers.” Tilly demanded placing out her hand.

Not even thinking about it, I pulled the papers from underneath the paper clip and handed them over. I went to set the empty folder on the table, when I noticed something written on the inside and underneath, where the papers had been. It was another quote, only this time the strange flower symbol was at the end of it. “Where hopes and forgotten dreams will bloom in our hearts.”

“I never noticed that before!” Mom exclaimed.

“Tilly.” I motioned for her to pull out her bpod.

She complied and read the first part of the quote. “Somewhere of my own design, you and I will finally see the sun.”

“Where hopes and forgotten dreams will bloom in our hearts.” I completed to phrase and the four of us again were totally lost.

Dad ran off for the computer, the three of us hot on his trail. Searching through every known database known to man, he finally stumbled onto something that might just have our answers. “Okay. I think I have something here, but it’s a stretch.”

“What is it?!” We all zoomed into the monitor trying to read. Tilly and I even bumping heads, fighting for a better view.

“Well.” He explained. “I figure it has something to do with flowers. Blooming and such, so I looked up symbols of different varieties of flowers. The Almond blossom is symbolic of “hope” and the moon flower is symbolic of “dreaming of love”, but in another translation, it is stated as “forgotten love”. A french translation… I think what ever was built, is in France.”

Our dreams of ever discovering what was there, went up in flames. “France?! But that is like on the other side of the world!?”

“Sorry Kiddo.”

“Well this stinks.” Tilly looked as disappointed as I was. How anticlimactic.  All that work and there was no possible way to go further. I trampled off to my room, preparing to tuck into bed early. Maybe I could go cry on Orange’s shoulder or something.

I got about an hour in before a small rap at my door woke me from my dreamless nap. “Hey.” Tilly slowly entered the room and sat on the far side of my bed. “Sucks about that France thing…”

“Yeah…”

“You know, I was thinking, maybe we could go afterall.”

“How we gonna do that? Strap wings on our back and fly there ourself?”

“No… Hang on.”

She hopped off the bed and ran back down to her room. Her heavy foot stamps leading her path all the way there. I could here her rummaging for something and then she was on her way back again.

She retook her original place on the bed, only this time she was lugging her piggy bank along with her. Plopping it in her lap, she set out her plan. “My sixteenth birthday is almost here. Which means I can get a job. If we both get jobs and put that money away, I bet by the time I turn eighteen, we could totally have enough for a trip to France! I looked up from my gaze at her bank. “You would help me do that?”

“Of course I would! I am just as curious as you to find this place of forgotten dreams and hopes.” She shook the bank in her lap. “Soooo, what do you think?”

“I think we need to start looking for a job.”

Gen 10- Chapter 1: Tosca

Falling usually isn’t a big part of my dreaming, there might be some random tripping or me lacking the ability to run very fast, but falling was usually never in the cards. Not to say my dreams were always consistent mind you, sometimes there was some crazy messed up stuff going down, but there was little to no falling. This however wasn’t a normal dream and I knew it from the moment I drifted off to sleep.

Just as if the ground ripped open into a giant hole, I slipped and fell straight through a clear blue sky. I could hear and feel the wind whip against my face. My clothing rippled violently against my skin, as I dropped further into a neck-breaking decent.  I watched the ground heading closer with no way to put on the breaks. Pretty sure I was going to hit bottom and splatter into a thousand chunks, my mouth opened wide, trying to scream, but no sound would come forth. All I could do was brace for impact.

“Oof.”

I hit the ground with a sickening thud. Blades of grass stabbed from every possible angle, scratching the underneath my chin and even poking into the very tips of my fingers. At first I was too relieved to move, so I hugged the ground instead, giving thanks for it’s solid surface, being kind enough to buffer my fall, and not kill me in the process. Once I had assured myself, I was indeed still all in one piece, I tried to stand.

I’m not sure if gravity pulls were different on planet weird or what, even trying to stand required work and extra effort on my part. I pushed from the grass, but it felt like someone was sitting on my shoulders, trying to press me back down into the ground. Dust continued to swirl from my initial impact as I finally managed to my feet. The dream had not gotten off to an enjoyable start. I could feel an array of mixed emotions cascading through me. Do emotions cascade? Well they are going to for this instance.

Anyways, more than a few times, I had attempted my fail safe way to wake myself, but even those proved ineffective.

Once I had gotten to my feet, I took in a bit of my surroundings. Everything about the place was strange. The grass was an odd shade of green, the larger pink and white bloomed trees were unlike anything I had ever seen before. Even the birds sounded different. I brought a hand above my eyes, attempting to block out some of the sun, in order to allow for my eyes to adjust. “Anyone around?” I called out into open grass. It didn’t look like there was, but it didn’t hurt to double check. “Yo Tilly!? You here?!”

A bird continued it’s cheerful coo in the distance, but no other contact was made.

“Alright… I guess I’m alone then.”

There really wasn’t much to see other than the beautiful greenery. There was every kind of white flower you could imagine sprouting up from the ground, or drooping from the over hanging branches. One strange thing did stand out a bit in the setting though. Set oddly in a small dip, was a fountain. A white fountain, resting in the grass all alone. It looked misplaced at it’s location and somehow, even though I had never seen it before, I knew it wasn’t supposed to be there. Almost as if it dropped from the sky like I had. The water trickled from some unknown source, harmonizing with the natural setting around it. I brought myself closer trying to get a better look, but something stopped me. A woman’s laugh.

It was soft and sweet, not like the hyena sounds my sister made. Like rain tinkling on the tin roof. Exciting. Inviting. It caused me to lose all interest in the fountain, and instead follow the sound to it’s source.

“Hello? Miss?” I called out once again. A little louder, in hopes whoever was there might hear. “Can you hear me? Where am I?!”

I walked closer to the wall. I could hear her, she couldn’t be far from the other side, another sweet giggle rang out across the skyline. I looked down the perimeter, it seemed as if the wall went on forever. I peered up to the edge above me, it was too high, out of my reach. There was no way to get over it or around it. Frustration fueled me to pound my fist on the wall, perhaps waiting for the mystery woman to open an invisible door, bringing me inside.

“Tosca~♫” She knew my name. How could she possibly…well anything is possible, it was a dream after all. Something I had to remind myself over and over again. It all seemed so real. I tried to call out to her, but again there was no sound. Only the gentle jolt as I woke.

The first time I had the dream, it was weird. The second time, it was a strange coincidence. It wasn’t until the third time around, that I finally convinced myself that it meant something. Something I wasn’t too sure of, but I knew it was my job to find out. I sat up in bed and looked around the room. I was back at home. Back in my pajamas and socks. I touched my chest, examining myself for holes or broken bones. Everything seemed in order, so I slipped out of bed. With each instance of the dream, my curiosity grew. Now it was full blown, and I was ready to share my experience Tilly. Perhaps she had been there too. Maybe on the other side of the wall. It certainly would not have been the first dream we shared over the years.

I headed across the house to Tilly’s room. Her door was cracked enough that I could see her pushing back the covers on her bed. Good, she was just getting up as well. This was a very good thing, because Tilly is not one to be rudely disrupted while she is sleeping. You might just get a  stuffed animal to the side of the head, or perhaps something worse if nothing soft were in her range. I rubbed my left temple just thinking about the piggy bank indecent.

Knocking on her door, I stepped inside. “Morning sis!”

“Mmmmmuuuuh.” She grunted, throwing her covers back over her mattress, still in a disheveled mess below her pillow. I should have swung by the kitchen first and snagged her a cup of coffee, I was entering at my own risk.

Testing fates I decided to press further. “Sleep well?” I grinned.

She blinked a few times before letting out one of her overly loud yawns. “Alright I guess. Why? Did you not sleep well?”

“No. I slept fine. Just had a weird dream. Did you… have any weird dreams?”

“No… nothing out of the ordinary. Though I did have a nice little interlude with Clover from second period. Would you like to hear about that?”

I shook my head quickly so she had no chance to jump in. “No no. That’s fine. I’m good. Thanks. No, the reason I am asking is, I had a weird dream and I was just kinda hoping you had been there. Maybe you could help me make sense of it.”

“Nope sorry bro. No clue, but do tell.” She inquired as she headed into the bathroom with her clothes. I didn’t feel like talking to her through the bathroom door, so I headed for the kitchen instead. “We’ll talk over breakfast. I’m gonna grab some cereal.”

I was already sitting at the counter with my cereal, by the time she entered the room. Obviously still not fully awake, she shuffled across the floor to the fridge. Instead of opening the fridge door like a normal person, she reached for the handle of the freezer and swung it wide. Scratching the spot just above her hip with one hand, she reached in with the other to grab a carton of world class choco creme ice cream. “So what was this dream?” She asked, opening the silverware drawer, pulling out a spoon and stabbing it into the middle of her breakfast…

I scrunched up my nose. “That’s your breakfast?”

“Yeah.” She nodded spooning in a big bite. “Got a problem with it?”

“No. If you want diaberries by the time you are thirty. Fine by me.” I looked at my boring bowl of wheat bits. They looked a whole lot more bland than before.

“Well, maybe I do, or maybe I don’t care.” She took another over-sized bite, her mouth now full of sugar and cream, but she kept right on talking. “Nowfff tell me aboufft your dreeamff.”

I stirred my wheat mush, as it was now a soggy mess. “Well, I am in this big open place. There is a lot of green and white. Really pretty, but there is something strange about it all.”

“Like what?”

“Well that’s just it. It was all strange. The flowers were strange. The sounds from the birds were strange. Everything seemed different. Then I see a fountain sitting in the middle of everything. It looks really out of place and somehow I know it is. Like it belongs somewhere else, but I have no idea how I know it, or where I have seen it.”

“Weird.”

“Yeah! But it gets weirder. I hear a woman laughing and calling my name.”

“Then what happened?”

“I woke up.”

“Bummer. Maybe it was a just a weird dream, nothing more.” She shrugged.

“I thought so too, but Till I have had it three nights in a row now…”

“Like a reoccuring dream?”

“Yes! Exactly.”

“And it is always the same?”

“Yes, I try to keep my interest in the fountain, but the moment I hear her voice, it’s like I am pulled away and all I need or want is to get to her.”

“Sounds romantic. Any idea who she is?”

“No idea.”

Tilly put down her spoon, by stabbing back into the carton. “Well maybe this fountain is the key. Maybe if you find that, you will find the girl.”

“Maybe.”

“Ohh! What if it is the fountain at the park?!”

“I don’t know… that seems a bit too big.”

“Well, it would better to check just in case, right?”

“I guess so. Yeah.”

“It is Saturday. And I have nothing to do, and I know you have nothing to do.”

“Hey!”

“Well it’s true right?”

I ran through my mental schedule. Blehhh she was right. “Yeah…”

“What are we waiting for then?!”

We finished our breakfast and pulled the old bikes out of the shed. We hadn’t used them in months, but everything seemed to be in ride-able condition, so we headed for the center of town. Tilly was having a hard time keeping up, if she had worn actual shoes it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as hard, but one can only do so much with giant bobbly cat heads on your feet. I think if she ever decided to wear actual shoes I would have died of shock.

I could tell as we walked up this wasn’t the right place. The fountain was way too big.

“So is this it?” She asked.

“Errr. No. It’s really big. Too big.”

Tilly’s eyes trailed off into the falling water, her attention drawn into its pull. “Hmmm okay. Let’s try somewhere else.”

“How about this?”

I wanted grab her by her ears, because she obviously wasn’t listening. “Till you are thinking way too big. It wasn’t this big. It was like a lawn fountain, not a monstrosity like this.”

Again she contemplated all her options. I could see like a hundred different fountains in her eyes and we would undoubtedly be hitting up all of them.

We trudged through the cemetery till we got to the center. I knew it wasn’t the right one either, but as promised, I was willing to give it a shot. A giant statue of death loomed over head of the moderately sized fountain. She was at least getting the right idea now. “Closer to the right size, just a little less creepy.” Suddenly I was really starting to hate fountains.

We walked up and down almost every street in town. Having ditched our bikes at the park, we were able to engage in a bit more… extensive reconnaissance.

“I’ll keep watch, you go.”

I turned to look at the fence, the distinct sound of a fountain could be heard on the other side. “I don’t know about this.” I whispered.

“Just look over!”

“Okay.” I Hissed quietly. Grabbing hold of the top of the fence, I dug one shoe into the planks making a slightly too loud a clunk.

“Shhhhhh!.”

“Sorry.” I gave a mighty heave into the wood to prop myself up and over. There was a fountain on the far side of the yard, but it wasn’t the one. I was just about to jump back down when my eyes caught onto something I wasn’t prepared for. A woman probably in her 40’s had been sunbathing completely nude. She noticed me way before I noticed her. She had stealthily equipped herself with a hose and water shot right at my face, causing me to fall backwards off the fence. Tilly yelped and the woman started to rant. “Get out of my yard pervert!” Water sprayed over the fence as we made our escape.

“We really could use our bikes right about now!”

“Shut up and keep running!”

Once we had gotten far enough way, we stopped to catch our breath. I was feeling quite embarrased about peeking in on someones naked time, but something good did come of our getaway. Tilly was doubled over, trying to slow down her labored breathing, while I had news. News that might just help to narrow our search. “I *pant* remember something. *pant*

“What is it? *gasp wheeze pant*”

“The fountain it had these lion faces engraved around the water holes.”

Tilly’s eye lit up like he had just won the lottery. “OH!” She squealed. ” I know just the place!” We were close by the park, so we made a quick stop off to snag our bikes before we headed onto our next stop. Tilly was convinced she had found it this time.

“Taddahh!! Your fountain awaits.”

I cocked my head to the side. Well it had the lions, but it definitely wasn’t it. “It’s not the right color.” I explained, crossing my arms over my chest. I felt bad turning her down so many times, but the truth was the truth. Her arms fell in disappointment. “Boy you sure are picky.” She groaned, already heading back for her bike. It turned out to be our last stop for the night, it was already getting dark and both of us were famished. We rode a bit slower all the way back home.

I didn’t have much to say at dinner. I was too busy thinking. What could it mean? The woman. Was it someone I knew? Someone I met before? Was she even real? Maybe just a creation of my mind. I went to take one more scoop out of my bowl, when I hit the bottom. I had finished every last bite and didn’t even realize it. My spoon hit the ceramic bottom, bringing me back to reality. I looked around the table to make sure no one noticed, thankfully, Tilly was in the middle of her detailed account, about her day at school two days prior and no one was the wiser. I tried scrape a bit of cheese from the bottom, but I had done a pretty thorough job of inhaling every last bit that I could. I was done before mostly everyone else, so I excused myself from the table with my bowl in hand. There had to be some other way to find it.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to find online, but what can’t you find online?! It had everything! I guess I was hoping to open a page to find big bold letters and an arrow. This way Tosca. As you can probably guess, I got no where. It didn’t stop me from searching for a good four hours on berrycrawler though. I looked at so many lion faced fountains, it was ridiculous. The pictures started to melt into each other and I knew it was getting way too late. That was when I decided to call it a night. Maybe my fourth time in the dream would lead to new clues.

I settled in for the night, after my teeth were brushed and all that other good stuff. Isn’t always the way, when you want to actually fall asleep, that you can’t? I waited for sleep to come, but I was wide a wake. I laid in bed, staring the roof my bed canopy… thing. Weird, I never even noticed there was a roof up there before. I tried closing my eyes, pretending I was asleep, that didn’t work either. Finally I was so exhausted that I finally conked out. Too tired to even feel it as it came over me. My eyes slammed shut without warning. Shut down mode in 3, 2, 1…

When I opened my eyes again, I found myself not where I was hoping. I was back in the park. Pink flowers as far as the eye could see, and the lonely swing sitting still just behind me. I knew the place all too well. I had been there so many times since I was a child, it would have been impossible to count. Not that I wasn’t happy to be there, I loved it, but I had just really been hoping, I would get another chance to study my clues at the other place. I let a disappointed sigh.

“Hey… you know the rules. You’re not allowed to be sad here.” A voice I wasn’t expecting popped up behind me.

I turned around to find the empty swing not so empty. My friend was sitting, slowly swaying back and forth on its seat. She and I had been friends since I was a child, but in all that time, I don’t think we ever exchanged names. Didn’t seem that important really. She obviously knew me somehow and I could feel the same connection. I looked over my shoulder and gave her a smile. “I’m alright. Just had a weird couple of nights.”

“I see. Haven’t seen for a while now. Where you been?”

“I don’t know.” I walked over to her, she could clearly see my confusion, as I took a seat at her feet.

“I was in this weird place. I have never been there before.” I took a moment to explain, just as I had done before with Tilly. Her face, made a few different expressions, things I didn’t really recognize, before finally settling on an odd look of confusion similar to my own.

“Hmmm. I don’t really know. Doesn’t sound like anywhere I have been.” She leaned out the back on the swing dipping her head to look up at the night sky. “Only place I get to see is here.” That wasn’t what I was hoping to hear. I thought for sure she might have some insight.

‘Never seen a fountain with lions before?”

“No sorry. Haven’t seen that either.”

“Dang. Alright…”

“Maybe you should ask your family.”

“Well I talked to my sister. We spent the whole afternoon looking around town.”

“Who says it is in town? It could be anywhere.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.” The thought, caught my breath in my throat. Imagining having to travel the state looking at every fountain, was exciting yet terrifying.

In the middle of conversation, I could see her fading away, like most nights she only stuck around for so long, before she was gone again. “I really think you should talk to your family!” She called out to me, her voice beginning to fade right along with the rest of her. “Family always has the answers!”

With those final words of encouragement, she was gone. I looked around the empty grass. I hated when she left. It always felt so lonely and empty, especially when Tilly was no where to be found either. I thought about what she said though, perhaps asking around would  be the way to go. But where would I even start?