Chaptero Uno, otherwise known as our lovely heroine's introduction to the jungle
It was the day after Independence Day. Remnants of fireworks littered the streets, accompanied by beer cans, proof of the previous night's festivities. Zelda stared out of the bus window, feeling quite bored, as her MP3 player cranked out Guns 'N Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle." Though the upbeat song normally put Zelda into a mood so giddy that she could scream and dance from glee, she felt that the lyrics were perfectly fitting for the lovely, lovely road trip she was making. Not even road trip, really – her father was shipping her off to live with some associates, saying that a change of scenery would be good for her. Zelda doubted that there was much truth in his words; he probably just wanted her out so he could mix business with pleasure and feel no guilt. Either way, though, Zelda was being sent away from home for a year, maybe more, probably more, to live with these people she'd never met before.
"Welcome to the jungle,
we've got fun and games
We got everything you want, honey, we know the names
We are the people that can find whatever you may need
If you got the money, honey, we got your disease"
"I'm sure you do," Zelda grumbled. "I've got the money, now you're giving me a disease. Bleck."
Though Zelda's inner self was quite happy about a change of scenery and escaping from her overindulgent (where women came, anyway) CEO father, she couldn't help but feel a little bitter about being sent away like some sort of nuisance.
The bus slowly pulled to a stop and Zelda stashed her MP3 player in the pocket of her gray zip-up hoodie, slipping her tremendously huge headphones to sit around her neck. Though they were ugly, Zelda loved those headphones because they successfully blocked out all noise, much better than the dinky little ear buds her MP3 player had originally come with.
The young woman stood, sweeping her wavy blonde ponytail over her shoulder to rest on her back and grabbed the small bag filled with junk (snacks and a few smutty romance novels, not to mention several spare packs of batteries) from underneath her seat as the bus doors opened. She stepped into the aisle and waited patiently to exit the bus, faint strains of Guns 'N Roses floating up to her from her head phones.
Zelda stepped off the bus and looked around. Her father had shown her a picture of the associates she'd be staying with – a blonde haired man and his lovely silver-haired wife, and their adopted son and two birth daughters. The son was supposedly around Zelda's age, though she couldn't be sure. The picture she'd been given had been several years old.
"You know where you are? You're in the jungle, baby. You're gonna die," Zelda quoted under her breath, feeling that the lyrics couldn't speak more truly of her current circumstances. Eyeing her surroundings, she eventually spotted the family she'd be staying with. Funny, though, how the people looked so much nicer in real life than in the photograph, Zelda thought, feeling a little comforted. She slowly made her way over to the family, who had been searching the crowd of passengers.
"Um, excuse me," stuttered Zelda, feeling a little nervous. "But are you…"
"The Tudors?" asked the husband, his blue eyes crinkling with a smile. "Yes. You must be Zelda." He seemed younger than his wife – his blond hair only had one streak of gray, and he was attractive for an older man, not to mention had a neat appearance.
Zelda nodded. "Erm, yes, sir, I am," and brushed an imaginary fleck of dirt off of her jeans with the knees torn open, trying her very best not to study the tops of her scuffed up Doc Martins.
"It's very nice to meet you, Zelda," came the slightly husky voice of his wife.
Zelda smiled as best she could. "Thank you." The wife's lips curved pleasantly upward, and Zelda studied her, noting that she was most definitely an ex-hippie, from the loose peasant blouse and wavy skirt to the silver cat-stripe tattoos under her eyes, but unlike most ex-hippies, she radiated cool. Zelda turned her focus to their son, who she found to be quite likeably handsome. He wore a green baseball cap and, to Zelda's infinite joy, a David Bowie tee. His hands were shoved into the pockets of his baggy jeans, and though some might have found his nonchalant appearance unnerving, Zelda found she quite liked it.
Next, Zelda looked at the two little girls, one of whom was clinging to her older brother's legs. They couldn't have been much older than ten, both wearing identical green dresses. It was apparent to Zelda, however, that the two girls took after a separate parent. One girl had blond hair pinned into two neat pigtails and looked very clean and well behaved overall, while the other girl had dyed green hair (Zelda admitted, the kid had guts) and a very carefree-looking appearance.
Mr. Tudor noticed Zelda's studying of his family, and smiled. "Allow me to introduce everybody. I'm Haft, and this is my wife, Impa. Feel free to call us by our first names."
"Thank you, Mr… Haft," Zelda said, smiling. Haft smiled as well and nodded in approval, and turned his eyes on his son.
"This is Link." Haft gestured with one hand to his son, who was still staring plainly at the ground.
"Link." Zelda tested the name on her tongue, like a toddler with a prospective toy. "It's nice to meet you." He looked up, his bright blue eyes meeting hers, and nodded once. Impa sighed and rolled her eyes, but smiled all the same.
"And these are our daughters," Haft stated as he smiled down at the two girls. "Saria," he pointed to the green-haired girl who was clinging to Link's legs, "and Jayda." The little blonde smiled at Zelda, whereas Saria peered at Zelda for a moment curiously then went back to plucking at Link's pant leg.
"It's very nice to meet you both," replied Zelda, smiling down at them.
"Now that we have introductions done with," beamed Haft, who seemed like the jovial sort, "let's get your things, Zelda."
"All right." Walking over to the luggage compartment of the bus, Zelda pointed at two large suitcases, before lifting out a third long, slim suitcase. "Those two are mine," she said. "And so is this, but I'd prefer to get this one myself."
Saria peered around Link's legs and walked over to Zelda "Why?" she inquired, acknowledging Zelda for the first time. "What's in it?"
Zelda grinned. "My most precious possession." She bent down to the little girl's level, patting her on the head. "It's a bass guitar."
"You play bass guitar?" This voice was deeper, and Zelda looked up, surprised. Link was squinting at the suitcase, as though trying to see through the fabric. "You don't seem like the type."
Zelda sighed leisurely. "I've found it's better not to make assumptions." Zelda smirked to herself at the mild challenge thrown his way, standing up and pulling the suitcase to her chest as Haft retrieved the two larger suitcases from the luggage pile the driver was currently building.
"You didn't bring very much," Haft commented as Impa deftly took one of the suitcases.
Zelda shrugged. "I'm not like most of my peers. I only brought what I felt I needed. Clothes, a few books, some CDs, a few small belongings, some products I use and my laptop. Oh, and my amp."
"Ah," said Impa as she turned to her son. "Link, why don't you get this one?"
Haft looked at the fabric of the suitcase as well, curiosity evident. "What kind of bass do you play?" Link's ears seemed to perk up a little as he made his way over to the suitcase Impa had set on the ground, though maybe it was just Zelda's imagination. He pulled out the handle and began to roll it along behind him as he proceeded to the car.
"It's a Fender," Zelda stated, chest swelling with pride. "Vintage '57 precision bass. Plays really well, cost me a pretty penny."
"You bought it yourself?" Impa asked.
"Took me three summers to earn enough money. I wouldn't let Dad buy it for me. I wanted to earn it myself."
Haft laughed, a deep sound that made Zelda feel a little more at ease. "I can respect that," he grinned as they reached the car. Zelda grinned as well. She was beginning to like these people already.
"My bass is like my baby," Zelda told them as she helped to load her two large suitcases into the back of the silver SUV. "Do you want help with that?"
Link gave a grunt. "I've got it." Zelda glared at him, but stepped back and let him heave her suitcase into the back of the car. She securely tucked away the suitcase containing her beloved bass, making sure it wouldn't be damaged in any way, before allowing Haft to shut the trunk and usher her into the car.
Zelda found herself sitting next to Link; she eyed him a moment before turning her attention to Impa as she began to speak.
"I hope you don't mind. We're getting our home remodeled and didn't have time to prepare a proper bedroom for you on such short notice, so you're going to be sleeping in the basement with Link," the elder woman commented
"It's fine." She pushed the thought of staying in a concrete, possibly soundproof basement with an attractive young man out of her mind, and forced herself to continue. "I've always wondered what it might be like to sleep in a basement for a while."
"The basement isn't all dusty and stuff," Saria added. "It's cool. Like a real room."
"Yes." Impa seemed distracted as Haft made a left turn. "Signal, dear. It's walled and carpeted and air conditioned. The other rooms are just torn up to bits, and I don't think you want to stay there. The girls are staying with Haft and me."
"No, it's fine." Zelda smiled, attempting to reassure the woman, though indecent thoughts still ran rampant in her imagination. "I don't mind."
"Good." Reassured, Impa turned back around to face the front.
"Welcome to the jungle we
take it day by day
If you want it you're gonna bleed but it's the price to pay
And you're a very sexy girl that's very hard to please
You can taste the bright lights but you won't get there for free"
Zelda looked down, startled. Somehow, she'd managed to bump the volume on her MP3 player, blasting the Guns 'N Roses song she'd put on repeat out of her headphones.
"Oh, is that 'Welcome to the Jungle' by Guns 'N Roses?" Link asked, curious.
"Yeah." Zelda grinned in relief, feeling a little bit better about the mysterious boy now that she knew he was probably as much of an 80's music junkie as she, judging from the David Bowie tee and all….
"What else do you have on there?" Link cocked his head, blue eyes meeting Zelda's own violet. Awkwardly, she pulled her MP3 player out from the pocket of her hoodie, unplugging it from her headphones, and handed it to Link.
"Hm, let's see… Guns 'N Roses, Def Leppard, Led Zepplin, The Clash- they're great, love them, The Pixies, Duran Duran … David Bowie?" Link looked up at Zelda.
Haft laughed. "You've just made a new friend." He turned right, saying over his wife's criticism of his lack of signal, "Link's a Bowie maniac."
"Am not," stated Link rather sulkily, though Zelda couldn't help but notice that he looked rather delighted at discovering that she too shared his love of Bowie, not to mention that he seemed much more friendly than before as he continued to scroll through her list of artists.
Saria's little voice came wafting dreamily up from the back seat. "Link likes old music." Saria paused, and continued, "and he likes rock music."
"What do you like, Saria?" Zelda turned around to smile at the little green-haired girl.
"Anything," she replied.
"Old music is stupid," stated Jayda contemptuously, crinkling her delicate little nose. "I much prefer Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson."
"She's already living the life of a Pop Culture addict; just like her father, back in his day, if I remember correctly," Impa commented wryly from the front seat.
"Now come, dear," coaxed Haft teasingly. "She's not half as bad as I was."
Impa gave a laugh. "Yet," she stated good humouredly. Zelda found herself smiling, and snickered a little as Link exclaimed over the extensive list of songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
"I can play 'By The Way' on my bass," commented Zelda offhandedly as she turned to look out the window at the stores whizzing past.
Link gawked. "Really? The riff on that is intense."
"It's not that bad," Zelda commented and went back to staring out the window, leaving Link to dig through her music stashes.
Funny, Zelda mused to herself. You seem to have managed to win these people over in the space of ten short minutes, whereas in all of sixteen years, you couldn't win your father over at all.
Impa and Haft chatted amiably with one another and the little girls only fought a little on the drive, to Zelda's infinite relief, and Link seemed occupied with the MP3 player, occasionally asking Zelda about one file or another, so she was surprised when they reached the house so quickly. It was situated on a grassy hill, a good distance away from the top of the incline, which seemed almost cliff-like. Zelda stepped out of the car and was immediately assailed with the smell of sea-salt in the air.
"Dad didn't tell me you lived on the beach," Zelda commented.
"Really?" Haft seemed surprised as he wheeled one of Zelda's suitcases into the house, calling over his shoulder, "you'll have to go take a look at the sea, then."
"Take the bags in first," Impa instructed. "Best to just get it all done with at once."
"Let me get my guitar." Zelda hopped out of the seat, walking to the trunk and grabbing the slimmer suitcase containing her precious instrument.
"Link, take this inside, then show Zelda to the beach." Impa hoisted out a suitcase and handed it to her son with a smile.
Link sighed, but complied all the same. "Right," he said, handing Zelda her MP3 player and rolling the suitcase along behind him. "This way, Zelda. Do you want me to get that guitar for you?"
"I've got it." Zelda adjusted the strap of the smaller suitcase on her shoulder and followed Link into the house. She found herself in a cozy kitchen, but was led by Link out of it and down a broad hallway, past a room in a state of modeling disarray into a large, formal foyer, dominated by an elegant spiral staircase. In the wall just below the stairs was a door, which Link kicked open, revealing a narrower, straighter staircase.
"This way." He nodded down the stairs, carefully pulling Zelda's suitcase down the dim passageway. At the bottom, he flicked on the light, revealing what was to be their shared living quarters.
It was nice, Zelda had to give it that much. The hard wood floor was shiny and new, and Link had put down several large rugs: one in the shape of a foot, one in the shape of a tic-tac-toe board, and another that was a simple blue and red polka dot rug. She was pleased to see, also, that the basement was very large, with its own separate bathroom that Zelda discovered also contained the washer and dryer.
Zelda walked through the large, square basement, noting the nice stereo, the TV with a vintage couch, the large collection of DVDs, and the two mattresses thrown on the floor. One was made up in rumpled blue Hawaiian print with a plaid comforter randomly thrown atop it – Zelda supposed this one was Link's. The other bed was made up neatly in powder blue sheets, with a simple white quilt thrown over it. Zelda noted the suitcase Haft had brought in sitting next to one of two mismatched chest-of-drawers, a scratched up, oriental-style piece that added to the overall image of hodgepodge that the basement presented.
"There," said Link, dropping her suitcase by its twin and dusting off his hands. "Let's show you to the ocean."
Zelda smiled in eager anticipation "Right," she said, following him out of the basement and back through the house, out through the kitchen and up the hill. Zelda discovered that the incline had not ended in a cliff as she had originally thought, but instead changed into a small, steep slope with several stone-hewn steps cut into the edge. Link hopped down them and Zelda cautiously followed, landing neatly on the sand and staring around at the sparkling blue ocean.
It was easily the most beautiful view Zelda had ever seen. The clean ocean sparkled like a thousand blue diamonds, and to her left and right, the white sand stretched out to meet the horizon. It was only ten meters to the sea, and Zelda eagerly ran forward, standing just before the edge where the crystalline tide washed ashore, picking up a seashell and examining it in her hand.
"This is really nice," Zelda remarked, dropping the shell and gazing at the stretch of ocean.
"It is," nodded Link. "And we're lucky, too. We own it, have it all to ourselves. No stupid pothead surfers or whatever invading our beaches. It's great."
"You don't like surfers?" Zelda asked, surprised. Link hadn't seemed the kind to form prejudices. But then, as she'd said earlier, best not to make assumptions.
Link threw up his hands in defense. "Never said that," he stated, flustered. "I surf, a little. I just don't like the idiots who think they own the beaches."
Zelda nodded. "I can understand that."
They stood in silence for a moment staring out at the ocean, and then Link sighed.
"Well," he said, "we should be getting up to the house. Mom will probably want my help making lunch."
"Right." Zelda followed Link back up the steps to the large, Victorian-style house and past the blue, sawdust scented dumpster that was evidence of remodeling. Link easily kicked open the screen door to the kitchen and Zelda followed him in, to find Impa hard at work on some food at the counter.
"What did you think, Zelda?" Impa asked kindly as she set to a full, round, deliciously red tomato with a rather large knife.
"It's really nice," said Zelda with a smile.
"We thought so too, dear. If you'd like, you can go unpack, then come back up here for lunch."
Zelda grinned. "Alright," she said as she proceeded out of the kitchen. However, she stopped just short of the exit, turned back around, and stared for a moment at Saria, who was perched cross-legged atop the fridge with a calm expression on her face. Shaking her head, Zelda proceeded out of the kitchen and down to the basement.
The young woman trotted through the large room and to the scratched oriental dresser she'd seen before, and opened the drawers. Satisfied at their emptiness, threw her first suitcase on her bed and unzipped it. It was her junk suitcase; she pulled out her amp and carried it over to the stereo, then pulled her guitar out of its own suitcase (it had a wavy, almost stripe-like pattern on the body that Zelda adored) and leaned it against the amp. Then she pulled out the CDs and piled them atop the chest of drawers, along with the few books she'd brought. Next came her makeup and jewelry box, and after that, her laptop. Her shower things she left in the small canvas bag she'd brought it in, dropping it next to her pillow.
It took quite a while before Zelda felt she was unpacked and organized to her satisfaction.
Hungry, she walked up the stairs to the first floor and looked around, then decisively made her way back to the kitchen, where Impa had fixed some deli sandwiches and a small pot of soup. Zelda was surprised at how comfortable she felt with these people, and how, in a mere thirty minutes, they felt like family and their mid-remodeled beach house seemed more like home than her gigantic mansion and C.E.O. father ever had.
"Hello Zelda," beamed Impa as the young blond entered. "Did you get yourself unpacked?"
"Yes, thanks, Impa." Zelda unzipped the hoodie to reveal the simple maroon spaghetti strap top she wore underneath as she eyed a sandwich, mouth watering. "That looks really good."
"Thank you. Help yourself." Zelda eagerly reached for the sandwich and dropped it onto a plate, and gratefully took a bowl of soup offered to her by Impa.
"I believe Link and Saria are out on the patio," Impa said. "Why don't you go join them?"
"Alright." Zelda pushed the screen door open and stepped out onto the patio, where she saw Saria and Link sitting on the steps.
"Hi, Zelda," Saria said, smiling.
"Hi, Saria. Hi, Link. Mind if I join you two?"
Link grinned. "Feel free," he said as he scooted over to make room. Zelda sat down, placing her plate on her knees, and looked around the grassy yard, destroyed slightly by the remodeling crew.
"Where's the workers?" she asked curiously. Link stared at Zelda for a moment as though she were crazy then saw her gaze on the large dumpster.
"Oh," his eyes widened in realization. "We told them not to come in today. They'll be back tomorrow, though," he added.
"I don't like them," Saria commented seriously. "They make too much noise."
Link nodded in agreement. "They do make a lot of noise. Makes me glad the basement is sound-proof."
"Is it really, now?" asked Zelda, curious. "Hmmm..."
"Yeah," laughed Link. "What's especially nice is being able to sleep in. Can't hear Mom or Dad yelling at us to wake up, or the noisy workmen stomping up and down the stairs."
Saria scowled. "Hurrah. Brother gets to sleep in and I don't." The little girl sourly shoved the last of her sandwich into her mouth, looking disgruntled.
"Your mom is a really good cook," Zelda commented.
"Yeah," Link and Saria agreed- then both burst out laughing.
"What?" Zelda asked, bewildered.
"It's just that Mom used to be a terrible cook," explained Saria. "Then she went to cooking school."
"More like Dad forced her to go." Link grinned.
"I see," laughed Zelda, amused.
"Oh, um, Zelda," Link began, looking shifty.
"Yes?" Zelda asked expectantly.
Link bit his lip. "Are you allergic to cats?"
This was not what Zelda had been anticipating, and she burst out laughing in surprise. Link scowled, and Zelda apologized. "Sorry, Link. That's just not what I was expecting. No, I'm not allergic to cats. Why?"
"Valoo," stated Saria indifferently.
"Who?" Zelda asked in curiosity, and shortly found herself assaulted by a fat, white, prissy cat with a very grumpy face and puffy tail.
"Valoo," repeated Link, prying the cat off of Zelda's hoodie and petting him on the head. "He's our cat."
"Looks more like a she."
"Don't tell Valoo that."
Zelda gulped down the rest of her soup and stood, brushing off her jeans. "Why doesn't somebody show me around the town?" she asked over her shoulder as she took her dishes into the vacated kitchen and washed them off, putting them in the dish washer.
"There's not much to it. I'll show you tomorrow," Link replied, following her into the kitchen. "We'll want to escape then, because the workmen will be back. For now, though, we can hang out in the basement or whatever."
"Can I hang out with you?" Saria asked eagerly.
"Sure, Saria," Link grinned, patting the little girl on the head.
Saria turned her big green eyes upon Zelda, imploring her even as she jumped about"Can I try playing your bass, Zelda?"
Zelda smiled kindly. "Yeah, but you have to be careful not to break it."
"I won't hurt it, I promise," stated Saria seriously.
Zelda smiled, "I know." She allowed the little girl to take her by the hand and drag her down into the basement, enjoying the odd sense of belonging welling slowly in her chest.
Zelda had a very good feeling about how life might be from now on.
- - - -
True to his word, Link showed Zelda around the town the next day.
"Like I said, it's not much," he commented as he showed her around. "Everything worth visiting is in the city, which we have to take a train to get to."
The town was nothing special- small, sleepy in the summer heat, but overall a nice place. There were stores here and there, and trees everywhere, providing shade for those wanting to escape the heat of day. It was an older style town, around the same age as Link's house, and had a sort of charm that Zelda had never seen in a place before.
"It's nice," she said blandly, looking around. "It's not cramped, like everything was back home. Well, except for the mansions. Those weren't cramped, but everything else was."
"Do you miss it?" Link asked curiously.
"No," Zelda smiled sincerely. "I like things better here."
- - - -
Later that day, after they had returned to the house, Impa dragged Link, Saria, and Jayda out for a few errands. She'd offered to bring Zelda along, but the young woman had declined, saying that she still had a few things to organize. So that was how Zelda found herself in front of the huge stereo in the basement, fiddling with a few knobs and pressing the "play" button on one of Link's Metallica CDs. Satisfied at the intensity of volume, Zelda hopped onto her mattress, hairbrush in hand, and began to scream along with the lead, using her brush as a microphone. She'd always wanted to try something like this, but at home there had always been servants around, not to mention lack of stereo power. Here, though….
"Sleep with one eye open, gripping your pillow tiiiiight!" Zelda closed her eyes and jumped up and down, head banging, blond strands flying everywhere. "Instant light, enter night! Take my hand, we're off to never never land!"
By the time Impa, Link, and the girls got home, Zelda was feeling satisfied, despite her pounding headache.
"I've been missing out," she commented to herself.
- - - -
That night, Zelda and Link sat across from one another, she on her bed and he on his, talking as they listened to silly old 80's CDs Link had managed to dig up.
"So, why did you say your dad shipped you down here, again?" Link inquired, plucking at a thread on his soft flannel pajama pants.
"Because he's a jerk, and not a real father," Zelda answered bitterly. "At least, not a good father. I haven't even been here forty-eight hours and your family is already more a family to me than mine ever was."
"What about your mom?" Link asked.
"Died in childbirth." Zelda rubbed at her eyes tiredly before continuing. "Never knew her. Heard stories, though. Apparently, she was loads better than my dad. Sometimes I miss her."
"Yeah," agreed Link pensively, leaning back. "I never knew my parents, but even still, I can't help but wonder what they were like."
"I don't blame you," responded Zelda. "At least you have Haft and Impa, though. They're great people."
"Yeah," agreed Link. "They are. And now, you have them too."
"Yeah," nodded Zelda. "I suppose I do." She turned her head to watch the stereo for a moment, and began to hum along lightly, smiling at Link.
"But I won't cry for yesterday
There's an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive"
"You're a good singer," Link commented. Zelda smiled in reply, blushing lightly at the compliment.
"Thanks, Link. Nobody's ever told me that before."
"You should join a band when school starts," he offered with a grin. "I'm sure you can find somebody to form one with you."
"Yeah," agreed Zelda with a smile. "So, what else do you want to talk about?"