After a long hiatus, I'M BACK! I'm STILL getting reviews on this story, and I've had an overwhelming desire to finish one of my favorites, as it probably will be one of my last fanfictions for a very, very, very long time. As always, thank you to all of my readers!
I stared open-mouthed at the scene in front of me.
The cave was brightly lit by a strange, ethereal light. A soft burbling alerted me to a shimmering pool surrounding us. On each side of the cave, more Harvest Sprites were staring at us, wide-eyed in disbelief, whispering to each other and pointing at us. But the most incredible thing about the cave lay ahead of us.
It was a statue of a young woman. Her face was locked in a face of eternal sadness so beautiful that my heart clenched just looking at it. Her delicate hands were folded together against her long dress as if praying, and her long hair cascaded down her back. She was so lifelike that I half expected her to start moving at any moment.
"Miss Goddess!" Arthur squeaked, bounding forward and stooping in a bow. "How are you doing today? This is Jill, she wants to help you come back to life.
"Huh?" The sound escaped my lips before I could stop it. "What do you mean?"
Billy scuffed his foot on the ground. "How to begin...how to begin...Okay, this is very important, so listen up!
"A really long time ago, the Harvest Goddess was beautiful and happy and this land prospered because of it. But the people of the village began to lose faith in her and went their own ways. The only one who continued to believe was a young boy living here. He came and visited her everyday for many years. We all loved him and the Harvest Goddess took solace in the fact that at least one person who still trusted in her. But one day, just a few years ago, he stopped coming at all. We waited for a very long time to see him again, but he never came. The Harvest Goddess, in her grief, turned herself to stone." Billy wiped tears from his eyes and gazed forlornly at the statue. "We've been trying to find a way to save her ever since. The last thing she said to us was 'The one who can see our world will be the one to rescue me from my stone prison' and we've been searching for that person ever since. Now that you're here, you can help the Goddess!"
"Woah, woah. Back up," I said. My brain was spinning, completely overwhelmed at all of this information at such a short time. "You need me to help her? I don't even know how to do that!"
Arthur, Billy, and Carlos looked at each other with fearful, guilty glances. "I guess you don't have to...It's just that we've been waiting for so long..."
They were obviously trying to guilt me into this, and so far, they were doing one heck of a job. It was a few tense moments later when I replied, "Fine. I'll do it."
The result was like an explosion. Every Harvest Sprite in the place went nuts and started jumping for joy and yelling at the top of their lungs. Feeling embarrassed, I picked up my dog, who had started barking for no other reason than to make noise too.
After a full minute, the noise finally dimmed and I was about ready to return home. Suddenly, all talking ceased entirely. There was a sudden tenseness in the air and I felt a prickle on the back of my neck. I turned around, dreading what I expected to see.
Jamie stood there.
The first thing I noticed was that his face looked entirely different. It looked incredibly sad and just a little bit guilty as he took in the sight of the Harvest Sprites, but turned to anger as he saw me. "I told you not to come here," he said, advancing on me. Jamie directed his anger now at the Harvest Sprites. "And I told you I would be the one to save her!"
Everything suddenly clicked in my head. "You're the boy from the story?"
Jamie flinched. "You TOLD her?!" The Harvest Sprites cowered in fear at his roar, but I wasn't afraid. I'd already been through this. Enough was enough!
"STOP!" I yelled, louder than I had intended. Jamie stopped his fury and stared at me in disbelief. "I don't care who you are, Jamie! You're doing one hell of a job of making yourself look like a jerk. If you were so worried about the Goddess, you wouldn't mind my help!" By now my face was going red, though whether from embarrassment or anger I wasn't sure. "If you're so concerned about her, why don't you try showing it?!"
Jamie's voice took on a deadly tone. "You don't know anything about me or what I've done. Now do us all a favor and go back to your farm, pack your bags, and get out of the village. Now."
I stared him full in the eyes. I held my head high defiantly and answered, "No. I'm staying right here no matter what. I have a Goddess to free."
His head gave a peculiar jerk, and without another word he stormed out of the cave, leaving silence in his wake.
That day changed how I lived in Flowerbud Village from that point on. I guess there are some things that are just meant to be.
As I returned home, I didn't see him anywhere on his farm. I bundled my coat tighter against me and started off toward the Cafe. My stomach was beginning to growl since I hadn't had breakfast.
The Cafe was incredibly busy for that time of morning. Most of the villagers greeted me as I came in and returned to their meals. Katie, her auburn curls bouncing as she walked, showed me to the last open table in the building. I ordered blueberry pancakes and a straight black coffee; after my blowup a little while ago, I needed something strong. Katie returned bearing the mug of the greatest stuff on earth. "Do you mind if I talk to you for a minute?" she asked.
"Sure, not at all."
Katie sat down in the seat across from me. "How are you with baking?" she asked sheepishly.
I gulped down the scalding hot coffee, burning my tongue in the process. "Um, okay, I guess."
"Well, tomorrow's the Thanksgiving Festival. Everyone's going to be getting together here and eat cake, but Carl and I can't bake them fast enough! I hate to ask this, but do you think you can help?"
I chugged the rest of my coffee and wiped my mouth with my napkin. "I don't see why not."
"Thank you SO MUCH!" Katie exclaimed in relief. Across the room, the door opened and a blast of chilly air enveloped the restaurant and someone walked in. Katie jumped up. "They're going to have to sit here with you...is that okay?"
"I guess. I'll have another coffee, if you don't mind, too."
The spunky waitress crossed the room and escorted the customer to my table. He took his hood off and I recognized Ray from before. He took the seat across from me and gave me a broad smile. "So how's your first day going?"
I grimaced involuntarily. "Fine, I guess," I answered vaguely.
We sat talking for a long time. Ray was a wandering fisherman who liked the rivers and lake in the area. This was the longest he'd ever stayed in one place, and he said he really liked it in Flowerbud Village. For pretty well the first time that day I was genuinely smiling and laughing, thrilled at having already found a close acquaintance. When Katie brought my pancakes, I was only half-conscious of how good they were, I was so interested in the conversation.
"So where did you come from before here?" He would ask.
"The city," I replied.
"Ah...a city girl!" he exclaimed. "Bet it's really different here than there."
"Well, yeah...it's much smaller, and the people are so friendly! I think I really like it here."
"That's good." Ray took another drink of his drink and cleared his throat. "Uh...Jill...do you know about the Thanksgiving Festival tomorrow?"
"Yeah, Katie just told me about it. I'm going to help them bake cakes for it."
Ray chuckled slightly. "Well, do you maybe want to meet up here tomorrow? With me?"
I was a little surprised by his question, but a little happy too. I think I may have been starting to blush, too. "Sure! Sounds like fun."
The fisherman's blue eyes brightened considerably. "Awesome! Everyone comes out here around noon, meet me then?"
"It's a date."