A/N:Here's my attempt at a chapter fic. I prefer doing one-shots though. I guess I'll see where this one goes. By the way, Elpitha means "hope" and is a Greek name, for those who are wondering.

An arm reached out to grab her as she ran. She brushed it away, stumbling a little as she quickened her pace. Her head was pounding in time with her heart. She didn't know where to go, but she needed to get away. It was raining, pouring in fact. More attempts to stop her failed as she attempted to make her escape. Arms attempted to pull her into a hug, but she backed away. Who were these people? Why didn't they let her go? They didn't understand. They couldn't.

It was pain unimaginable. It was infinite terror. Three wooden vessels making a six foot voyage into the unknown and her life was destroyed. There was nothing left for her in that place. She had to get away and quickly. Her head spun as she searched for an escape route. There was a building. Was that where she had come from in the first place? She couldn't think. There was no time to think. She dashed into the building and ran straight up aisle. Three wooden vessels stopped her. It wasn't true. It couldn't be true. It was a dream. It had to be a dream. It sunk in and she suddenly found it very difficult to stand on her own. Her hands were in her hair, and tears were in her eyes. She screamed and backed away, losing what was left of her balance. Strong arms lifted her. A soothing voice hushed her. It was a dream. It had to be a dream.

Elpitha sat up in bed. She took a deep, steadying breath, allowing the fresh morning air of the fall to ensnare her senses and bring her back to the present. It was another beautiful morning in Mineral Town. She stepped outside and took another deep breath. Fresh fall air, the poor man's Prozac.

Elpitha stood on her porch, hand resting on the banister as she contemplated Mother Nature's masterpiece. She saw a little chipmunk scurry out of its hole in her yard. A robin flew by with a worm in its mouth to its nest in a nearby tree. A bunny hopped shyly up to the front steps of her porch. Then, quite suddenly, a blue jay landed on her hand. Slowly and gently, Elpitha lifted her hand. Then she quickly shook the bird off of her hand.

"What the hell?! Who am I? Freaking Cinderella?!" she exclaimed suddenly.

She shot a dirty look at the bunny, who had not come to her home empty handed. Quite the contrary, it had left little surprises for her all along her front walk. The chipmunk was digging up her flowers, and the robin's offspring were going into a chorus of screeching that would make someone's nails on a chalkboard sound like Beethoven's Fifth.

"Disney, my lily white a..." she began, when she was stopped by a glare from her neighbor Saibara.

The old man stared her down as he waited for his grandson Gray to come to work that morning. Right on cue, Gray slouched around the corner, coming to a halt before his grandfather. Normally he barely gave Elpitha a sideways glance, but today he stood and stared, his cheeks tinged a slight pink. Elpitha suddenly remembered that she was still in her pajamas.

Perhaps "pajamas" was not really the word for it. Elpitha had been lazy about getting around to doing the laundry and had been forced to sleep in her underwear and bra the night before. Woopsies. With a quick glance downward she shot back in the house. Today was most definitely going to be a laundry day!

"Saibara sure looked shocked!" she thought sarcastically, "He probably saw something he doesn't normally see at home."

Saibara was an old bachelor and had been one for quite a while. His long white beard made up for his bald head in terms of hair. He was a little bit taller than Elpitha, although Elpitha was not all that tall herself. The only person Saibara saw at home was his grandson Gray when he came to work. The thought of Saibara's dark eyes popping at the sight of Grey modeling her bra was enough to get a giggle out of Elpitha as she got dressed. A pair of faded blue jeans, old sneakers, and a T-shirt was sufficient for doing the laundry. She quickly roamed the house, collecting any clothing that needed to be washed which consisted of almost everything she owned. It would take her the whole day to get this done, but at least she would keep from flashing her neighbors in the future.

The sun was beginning to set as Elpitha joined her clothes in lying out in the grass to dry. She lay on her back, staring up at the clouds drifting away to be painted pink by the setting sun. Giggling woke Elpitha from her reverie. She lifted her head slightly to see a small girl in pigtails happily running towards the bank of the lake. She was wearing a red bathing suit and trampled all over Elpitha's clean clothes to get to the lake. Elpitha put her head back down.

"Kids are so annoying. Glad I never was one. Don't fall in and drown yourself now." She thought sarcastically as she closed her eyes.

A splash and a scream made her snap them open once more. She turned her head quickly to see arms flailing and a set of pigtails barely managing to stay above the water's surface.

"Holy crap! Did she read my mind? I didn't mean it literally!" Elpitha thought as she jumped up.

She ran to the bank of the lake, wading into the water to where the girl was struggling. The child was terrified, and fought Elpitha, but Elpitha was not accustomed to being gentle in such situations. She grabbed the child roughly around the middle and dragged her out of the lake, dropping her among the clothing in the grass.

"May! Are you alright?! Are you hurt?!" Elpitha asked, grabbing May by the shoulder and giving her a small shake.

May's only response was to burst into tears, her whole frame trembling in the effort. The child sat up and before Elpitha knew what was happening, had wrapped her arms around Elpitha's middle. Elpitha wasn't sure what to do exactly. She knew it was best to calm May down, but she didn't know how. She gently pulled May into her lap and held her there while she contemplated what to say. It had to be something sympathetic that would make May feel safe and alleviate her fear.

"A blue jay crapped on my hand this morning."

It looked like someone else was going to get the Nobel Prize for raising children that year. However, the line did its job. May stopped crying to look up at Elpitha with a puzzled expression. It was at this moment that Barley made his appearance.

"May! You shouldn't run off like that! You had me worried sick." Barley scolded as he approached them.

May got up and ran to her grandfather. He caught her up and she put her head on his shoulder.

"What happened?" Barley asked.

"She fell in. I pulled her out, though. She's fine now, I think." Elpitha said simply.

Barley instinctively clutched May closer. Then he freed up an arm to grab Elpitha's hand and give it a hearty shake. His eyes were glistening with tears.

"Thank you so much for saving her! By the time I got here it probably would have been too late! How can I ever thank you enough?"

"It's fine, really. There's no need for that." Elpitha replied nervously.

"No! I won't hear of it!" Barley cried, taking up her hand once more. "I must do something for you in return. I have it! Come to the ranch tonight for dinner! I think I have something I can give you as a thank you. It can't repay you for what you've done, but it's something at least!"

Elpitha tried to wriggle out of the dinner invitation, but Barley refused to take "no" as an answer. At six o'clock Elpitha was strolling down the road to Barley's ranch. The evening air gently lifted her hair as she slowly wandered to her destination, the song of the crickets filtering through her ears and making her glad that she had an excuse to be out to enjoy their serenade.

She knocked on the door, wondering just what kind of conversation she could possibly make with a five year old and a seventy year old who spend their days dealing with the business ends of cows and sheep. The door opened, but it wasn't a kindly old man that met Elpitha's eyes. A mildly surprised set of blue eyes and half raised eyebrows met them. A shock of spiky brown hair nearly brushed the top of the door frame as he stepped outside to see who had knocked on the door. Elpitha took a step back in shock.

Until next time...