A Night At Orchid Valley

Ameena was excited. More excited than she had been when she had attracted her first piñata, more hyper than when she'd taken her first step on the Island and - strangely - even more elate than she had been when she'd gotten her very own mask!

No, what was about to happen was significantly better than all that. Tonight Leafos and she would head to the rainforest to stay there until dawn. They would observe the jungle's wildlife and fauna and eventhough Ameena was somewhat afraid of the dark, she couldn't get over the idea of spotting wild orchids and Parrybos!

The girl grinned as she stuffed her backpack with water bottles and snacks. She hadn't managed to attrack a Parrybo herself yet, but she'd seen a man in the Village carrying one around and the cheeky, colorful piñata certainly reminded her of her little brother Atsou! God, how she missed that brat... The times she'd watched Spongebob and played Winx Club with him were among her most precious memories!

She still cracked up when she thought about the latter. 'I'm Lord Valtor and I'm gon' destroy all of you! Rahhh!' Atsou had been such a cute little dark lord before he'd decided Winx Club was gay!

Thát was a really long time ago, though. How old had she been herself? Nine? Ten? Boys definately lost their innocence and imagination earlier than girls!

''Mraw!''

''Oh, Katchie...'' Ameena picked the young Kittyfloss up. She had found in her garden a while ago, fortunately he'd gained a little weight - she could recall him hardly containing sweets that day she'd offered him shelter from the pouring rain. ''Who's a big boy? Who's a big boy?'' she coeed as she lifted Katchie a little higher.

The cat piñata started licking her Tigermisu mask and the girl giggled.

''Yóu are a big boy! One day, you'll be the star of a party!''

''Purrr...''

''Hehe, I guess that means you agree with thát!''

VPVPVPVPVPVPVPVPVPVP

''Ameena! You ready to go?''

''Sure I am!''

Ameena walked down the uneven path in front of her house and gave Leafos a high five. The sun was already going down so the garden was bathing in deep-red orangie light, which was Ameena's number two favorite sight - right after the early morning when everything was still covered in a thick blanket of mist.

Leafos smiled. ''Have you packed your camera?''

Ameena's hand flew to her mouth. ''Oh, chips, I believe not...''

Leafos shrugged. ''It's not worth it anyway - that old camera dad's given you doesn't even have a nighttime mode. Just enjoy the sights you see, you can go back whenever you want to! Oh... And I'll make drawings.''

''Okay then'' Ameena tightened the straps of her backpack ''works for me!''

''Haha, let's go then, we better arrive in Orchid Valley before the sun's gone down completely.''

''Orchid Valley?'' Ameena asked as they crossed the border of the main garden and stepped into the very outskirts of wilderness.

''Didn't you say you wanted to see orchids? Well, there's a perfect place for that - a place where Mother used to take us picknicking when we were young, Seedos, Storkos me and... Stardos... It's on of the prettiest places on the Island. During the day Flutterscotches and Cinnamonkeys are all you really see - but I've heard you can spot Galagoogoos, Parrybos and Tigermisus at night.''

''Awesomeness!''

''Times ten!''

Ameena's glance fell on her hand as she shove a liana aside. She was wearing a metallic blue OPI polish that didn't go with her light pink mask at all... Somehow she couldn't believe herself - she'd arrived in this world where material stuff almost didn't matter and yet she varnished her nails every other night!

''I can't wait for you to see the nightsky... It's stunning from your garden already, but in the jungle it's dazzlingly beautiful! Dad showed it to me, once, when we were tracking down a Ponocky that had fled from a Sour Mallowolf... Beware of those, Ameena! No fun!'' Leafos shuddered audibly. ''When you manage to tame them, though, they're real good company... A tame Mallowolf is just like a Barkbark - a huge, rough, savage Barkbark, that is!''

As they progressed through the dense bushes, the sky turned darker and the temperature dropped a few degrees. Just when Ameena was about to put on the denim jacket she'd brought with her, Leafos beckoned her to come closer. As time had passed the girl had wandered more and more ahead of her friend.

She was standing in front of a huge monkeynut tree. Ameena had no idea where this was going, until Leafos shifted away a few of the low-hanging branches.

''Holy Moozipan...''

A breathtaking landscape unfolded before Ameena's eyes. Leafos and she were standing upon a small, not so steep hill, from where they could overview the entire valley.

Orchids. The valley was completely overgrown with big, wild, exotic orchids, which were reflecting the moonlight in such a way they looked like they were made of silver. And the moon, the moon itself was at least as beautiful as the flowers. Ameena had néver seen the moon that big and round, not even in her mother's home village in Ghana where she'd presumed the moon would be the prettiest.

''Leafos...'' the girl whispered, not feelinglike breaking the serene silence, which was only interrupted by the perky sounds a handful of Galagoogoos made ''thank you so much for bringing me here...''

''That's okay.'' Her friend smiled. ''I've always wanted to go back, you know... And neither dad, Storkos or Seedos ever feel like it.'' She licked her chapped lips and then continued: ''I don't want to sound like an emotional, self-pitying hag but... This place holds a lot of memories of our family... of Mum and stuff. Those memories are too much, to my father and siblings... Personally I want to get over it all and just enjoy life.''

''I understand'' Ameena mumbled, but she knew she didn't. She had never lost someone as close as Leafos had.

''It's not like dad, Storkos and Seedos don't try to make the best out of it, but avoiding such a beautiful place is just... Oh, well! Let's descend.''

The girls skidded from the sandy hill - which was rather a dune - and made their way to the middle of the valley. They found a nice place in the high grass and Leafos tried to save as many flowers before she unrolled the mat she'd brought.

''Do you have a bottle of water or something? I want to bring these home and give them to my dad. His favorites are bird of paradise flowers, but he likes orchids too.''

''Of course.'' Ameena had a six pack of small bottles with her. She was more than willing to 'sacrifice' one to make an old man happy, especially if that old man was Jardineiro, the Legendaric Gardener.

''Great!'' Leafos gave Ameena a grateful smile. ''They were in my mother's bridal bouquet... orchids.''

''Really?'' Ameena asked as she laid herself down on the mat. Wow! That sky was STARRY... More stars than sky, if you asked her! ''I don't even know which were in my mum's...''

''Ah, well. I guess I've been kinda obsessing over her.'' Leafos sat down and crossed her legs. ''You would hardly notice because everyone around here wears masks, but I look exactly like my mum when she was younger... Same blue eyes, same lips, same high cheekbones, same pale skin and same haircolor. Only difference - her nose was a little wider than mine. Except for that, we're identical.''

Ameena didn't know what to say about that. She looked a lot like her mother too, but she was way taller and slimmer.

''You know... Our house has loft.'' Leafos pulled up her legs and let her chin rest on her knees. ''Dad stores a lot of old stuff up there, stuff that's precious to him, such as ehm, family heirlooms and, well, other 'treasures'...
One of those 'treasures' is my Mother's wedding dress... It's so amazing. It's plain, it's simple, it's lilac, it rocks. Eventhough father wouldn't want me to, I've tried it on once, and it fits me perfectly...'' The girl yawned and shook her head like a wet Barkbark would. ''Sorry, kinda sleepy, I'll get over it. However, that dress... It has a matching mask - all wedding and mourning dresses have one - and when I put it on for the very first time, I was shocked when I saw my reflection in the mirror... Great Gods, I looked júst like her in the wedding pictures.
Just like her.''

Ameena stared at the older girl. She felt sorry for her, maybe returning to this place hadn't been the best idea... She should've kept the fact she wanted to see more of the Island to herself.

''I'm planning on wearing it for my own wedding too.''

''That's great. Family traditions like that are great.''

''Yes. Yes, I feel that way too.'' Leafos stretched her legs again. ''I even think I've found my future husband!''

''You have?''

''Yes!'' Leafos giggled. Ameena was stunned. True - she hadn't known Leafos for a very long time yet, but they'd spent quite a some time together... How come she hadn't noticed the girl having a crush on someone?

''Who is it?''

''Oh, you don't know him. Only Storkos does, she's actually introduced me to him. I kinda wanna keep it a secret - if dad finds out...''

''Wouldn't Jardineiro like him?''

''Jardineiro, The Legendary Gardener? Liking anyone enough to let him marry one of his daughters? Please...'' The girl cliqued her tongue. ''He'd rather let me marry one of my faraway cousins or something crazy like that.''

''Really?''

''No, no, of course not... But him letting me marry Ha... shit, I can't tell you his name, I'm sorry, he's the only guy on the entire Island who's called that.''

''I wouldn't tell a soul...''

''I know that, but trust me, it's better for your own safety if you know nothing.'' Leafos grinned Goobaisly. Gosh, her mask was beaming, that was even noticable in the silvery twilight. There was definately an interesting story behind that happy maskial expression...

''But I'm like, really curious!'' Ameena said in her cutest voice.

''Okay, okay, but don't push me like that!'' Leafos giggled, again.
Ameena hadn't even tried to push her yet...

''You're just dying to tell anyone, don't you?'' She giggled too now. ''I know what it's like! When you're in love you just want to tell EVERYONE about how AWESOME your crush is!''

''T-t-that's true'' Leafos hiccuped ''and we met in such a terribly romantic way...''

''Come on. Tell me how you guys met.''

''Okay. I will.'' Leafos cleared her throat. ''There was this really warm day, a few months before you arrived on the Island, and for some reason, my poor lil' sis' was busier than ever... As you know she doesn't only deliver eggs to the gardens near the Village - her job as a 'superhero', as she likes to call it, brings her all over the place.
I was wasting away in the house and felt like going outside and do something instead of sombering over dad's destroyed garden or bothering others with gossip, so I decided to offer Storkos a helping hand. Helping her's always fun - I mean, she shouldn't because she sucks at it, but she has the ability to fly! Plus, going with her gives me the perfect opportunity to visit gardens and villages I wouldn't even know the existance of without her.''

The girl paused for a while. Ameena conjured a roll of chocolate chip cookies out of her backpack. ''Want one?''

''Yes, thank you.''

Leafos hadn't even finished half of her cookie when she continued. ''So. That afternoon, we went to this realllly picturesque village further to the north... The gardens surrounding it were pretty plain and simple, but some definately had class and a few even had the rarest piñatas... I'm talking about Elephanillas, Bonboons, Galagoogoos, the good stuff!
We had to deliver a Ponocky egg, though, in a neat, but less sophisticated garden...
As soon as we landed, my eye fell on a girl my age. She had long, dark hair, wore a grey Venetian mask and had Storkos' posture. She was kinda pretty I guess, but she had no-thing on her little brother...
I hate to admit this, but the guy I want to be my groom is like, a year younger than me! Not much of an age differece - he's eighteen, I'm nineteen - but still, I'd always expected to marry someone older...
Ugh, but I don't care, I guess that's what love is and this was love on first sight!
He wore a Venetian mask as well, so I could see half of his face - if he only knew how that made me feel inside! Oww...''

Leafos let herself fall flat on her back. She had grinned from ear to ear.

''Sexy?''

''Hell yeah!''

''Feel like describing him?''

''Haha, if you want me to...'' Leafos took a bite from her cookie and went on. ''His skin. Só perfect. I don't even know what color to call it, it looks like desert sand mixed with a caramel shade... Hmm, that doesn't sound attractive at all, but in fact it is!
The shape of his face's just... Perfect. Nice cheekbones. Gorgeous nose. Full lips. Green eyes. Best. Face. Ever.
And don't get me started on that body!''

''You're right.'' Ameena remarked teasingly. ''I better don't get you started on that. You seem on cloud 9 already!''

''I totally am!''

The girls fell silent for a few minutes. Ameena surrendered her self to the breathtaking sight of the nightsky again, and only a dumb person would wonder where Leafos was with her thoughts.

She usually could resist thinking about him, but now that she'd shared some of her long pent-up feelings... she felt an indescribable urge of sharing more.

''He's from the mainland too, you know.''

''He is?'' Ameena hadn't met other people from the mainland since her arrival on the Island. Sure, there were plenty of people with a parent from Europe or the US or something, but someone who was born and raised in a world that was not made of confetti? She hadn't found such person yet!

''He is'' Leafos affirmed. ''He's from one of those countries near Asia - I forgot what it's called, I don't like names from the mainland... And I don't think I like where he's from either, there seems to be war all the time. He and his family actually fled to here.''

''The Middle-East, perhaps?''

''Could be. Yes, yes, I think it was the Middle-East!''

''Girl, it's really bad there.''

''He told me. We've talked a lot, you know, that afternoon and during our... haha... secret dates.''

''Secret dates?''

''Yes. I don't want anyone to see me with him. I know I'm an adult now, but dad'll be upset if he knew I was with a boy that's not from the Island! Eventhough his own roots lay on the mainland, he's always told me that I'm bound to marry a succesful gardener with pure, Islandian blood running through his veins...'' Leafos plucked at her green gloves. ''Also, no way my boy'll ever be a succesful gardener! His family's garden is neat, but his father, sister and younger brother pretty much do all the work around there!''

Suddenly Leafos fell silent. A big, white thing had appeared in the distance. Ameena squinted at the thing and realized it had black stripes, too. It was a piñata, and a very familiar one...

''A wild Tigermisu!'' she hissed enthiusiastically. ''Gosh... They're wonderful, they're beautiful! One day, when I've become a better gardener... I'mma attrack one!''

Leafos smiled. ''That'd be awesome... They're really friendly, but can snap if they don't get their way for once. Dad used to have one, and you know... They couldn't agree over this ball of wool. Tyra wanted to play with it and dad wanted to use it to Romance Kittyflosses, and well... Tyra was a very sophisticated, not-agressive Tigermisu so she packed her bags and moved to the garden of one of dad's concurrents, but it could've ended differently.''

Ameena snickered quietly. ''Those piñatas must be worse than Roarios...''

''True, they are. Though I haven't seen much of the way Roarios behave... Just when dad had manage to make one resident, he left for that ridiculous Dragonache adventure 'Pester' had led him on, and while he was away one of the first Ruffians smashed his precious piñata...''

''What are these Ruffians exactly?'' Ameena wondered out loud as she was keeping an eye on the huge, majestic cat piñata ''I've heard quite some bad things about them... I've seen some when I was on my way to the Village too, and those guys are kinda scary... They somehow don't look human.''

''They áre not human. They're sick creations of Pester.''

''But how did he create them? And why did he ? And... I'm sorry for asking, but why did he exactly destroy your dad's garden?''

It remained silent for a while. The truth was, Leafos didn't know for sure either... The only thing she could think of was ''jealousy. Perhaps. My dad's garden was the most beautiful on the entire Island, you know...
Pester used to be one of dad's Helpers, but he was made reluctant before I was even born! He was a slow worker, and dad decided that Stardos - who was only five, I believe - would make a great replacer for Pester... Who was really not happy with that decision, I still believe nowadays that Pester's got something to do with Stardos' disappearance...''

Leafos heaved a sigh.

''My father knows way more about this than I do... I can ask him to write down his story in your Journal, if you want? He likes to write, he loves to boast about himself and it's not like he has anything else to do anyway.''

Ameena thought about this for a second. Sure, she was curious, but on the other hand... She wasn't sure if she wanted to know the history of her lovely garden. What if it was too dark? Would she ever be able to just sit around there again, and enjoy the atmosphere, or would knowing the past completely ruin the ambiance?

''I'll think about it.''

''Fine. Because, Ameena... I really want to know more about you. All I know is that you're born and raised in the Netherlands, have roots in Ghana and have a little brother named Atsou...''

''True, true, true.'' Ameena nodded as she watched the Tigermisu turn around to dissappear into the bushes again. ''There's not much to tell about me, though...''

''Please.''

''I'm trying to think of something... It's just... My world is so different from this one! It's a whole lot less colorful, and a whole lot more boring...
We don't have piñatas, to begin with. Our animals are made of flesh and blood, like humans are, and they're covered in fur, not in confetti. We don't have to cover our faces with masks when we go outside, in fact, it's forbidden in the country I used to live in... There's a law that tells us we should be recognizable all time - otherwise,people could commit crimes anonymously...''

''Sounds sensible...'' Leafos murmured. ''But here, on the Island, we don't do sensible.''

''I've noticed that.'' Ameena grinned. ''I like the ridiculousness of some of the Villagers... I mean, you know Bear, right? Oh my God, he wears a Fizzlybear costume, and, and the way he talks about himself in third person! Gets me everytime! ''

''Haha, cracks me up too!''

Leafos looked up at the nightsky. Those stars... they were the same as those that were shining above Europe, and they were identical to those above Africa as well...

High up in outer space a couple of thousands of kilometres were absolutely nothing, but here on Earth it was a hell of a distance. Wouldn't Ameena feel lost, now that she was so far away from her hometown and beloved ones?

''Don't you ever miss your family?''

That question made the Tigermisu-masked girl wonder for a while. ''Sometimes I do'' she answered ''but I'm really grateful to be here... I've met the most wonderful people here, including you, and staying in a country that only few know the existance of is just... I don't know, it makes me feel like an old-fashion explorer! Like, Lara Croft!''
Leafos had no idea who Lara Croft was, but Ameena and her cousin used to play Tomb Raider all the time when they were younger. She still had those good memories of years ago, and they weren't going to fade any time soon... Which made her think of something else.
"I also think that... You know... The distances between Piñata Island and Ghana and the Netherlands are pretty big, but... when you're bound by love, a couple of thousands of kilometres really don't mean a thing.
Not to me, at last.''

''That reminds me of something my mother used to tell me'' Leafos whispered.

''That is?''

''Well, my mother was a sailor, and whenever she went away... She would sit by our beds the night before, and tell us that whenever she looked up, wherever she was, she would see our faces in the clouds above... I know, sounds kinda cheesy and I guess it is, but I was like seven years old so I found it incredibly touching and all.''

''I still find it touching.''

''It might be, then... My Mother had a perfectly good heart...'' Leafos bit her lip. There was one little angle to the story of her and her mom that was bittersweet, though... Something that didn't even fit in with her Mother's persona. ''You know she never returned, right?''

''I do.''

''Do you know why?''

An uneasy feeling crept over Ameena. ''I... I assumed she'd died...''

''She hasn't.'' Leafos chuckled mirthlessly. ''Mother's a sailor, she's been in heavier storms before...'' The words she had just spoken tasted worse than Sour Candy, and she hadn't even gotten to the core of what was on her mind.

''D-do you think s-she deliberately...?''

''Yes.'' It sounded even worse when somebody else said it.

''But why would she..?''

''I don't know for sure. But... Eventhough dad loved her to death, he's always been a jerk so that could've played a role - perhaps she washed ashore on another Island and found the man of her dreams?
It could also be all due to Pester's evil plot, though. He might've captured her, to never set her free again! Maybe she's escaped and fled to Europe, too afraid to ever set a foot on Piñata Island again...
Or maybe she HAS died. Even the most experienced sea Barkbarks can drown, if a big wave takes them by surprise...''

Great Gods, how many nights such worries and considerations had kept her up! She couldn't let her insecurities spoil this one too. There were more fun things to talk about, and the night was still young. It was hardly even past two o'clock yet; they could have an amazingly long gossip session! Gossiping was her favorite way to get her mind off of things, after all!

''Let's skip serious them topics. I've been wanting to ask you this for a while... What do you think of Fannie and Petula?''

Ameena shrugged, relieved that her friend had brought up another subject. ''Not much. I don't know them very well, but I like them both. How about you?''

''Ah, well, Fannie's alright, generally speaking... I have my doubts about Petula, though.''

''Hmm, I think that I get what you mean... She seems so unhappy. As if she's bored to tears all the time... Working at Paper Pets seven days per week can't be too good for your humor.''

''True, true, but that doesn't give her a reason to be rude to her customers.''

''She's never been rude to me - I've always found her a little bit too friendly. I know the two of you don't get along, though.'' Ameena chuckled. ''Remember when we went there together to pick me a mask, before I wore this masterpiece?''

''Yeah, I do.'' Leafos couldn't help but giggle when she recalled that little quarrel. ''It's a miracle that that bitch doesn't scare away all of her customers!''

''Ehm, Leafos?''

''Yes?''

''I, I honestly think you're a nice girl and all, one of the nicest I've ever met... But I don't like it when you talk about people like that! I mean, I know Petula talks behind your back as well, and I always stick up for you when she does... So I gotta do the same when you gossip about her, too.''

Leafos thought about that for a moment. ''I respect that'' she finally concluded. ''I just don't understand why you hang out with her. Máááájor bad influence! Look at what happened to Fannie, she's only like eighteen and she's a man hungry hag already. She's even been spotted with Pester, can you believe that?''

''Fannie just has serious self-esteem issues!'' Ameena said, with her index finger in the air as if she was preaching. ''And the same might count for Petula! Trust me... she really isn't as bad as she seems! I know things about her most people don't, and she's way less of a spoiled brat than she shows.''

''Sure'' Leafos huffed. ''I also know some things most people don't know about her; she's been deflowered by some random dude -''

''That's just a gossip. And it's not a nice one, I mean, I like the one about her having had a crush on that dude that used to work at the Post Office before Fannie did...''

''Haha, Fannie's older cousin, who moved to the UK a few years ago!''

''Yes, him! I heard he was really skinny and ugly, and that he wore this horrific envelope kind of mask... but that's not the point. The point is that it's not nice to present her as a slut when she's not. Okay, she is a female Barkbark at times, but we all are, aren't we?''

Leafos nodded, reluctlantly. She didn't want to argue with the best friend she'd made in her life so far. There was one thing she couldn't resist asking, though: ''What do you know about Petula I don't know? If it's too painful, I promise I won't hold it against her.''

''Well...'' Ameena pondered ''I don't think it's something you even can hold against her anyway... Petula's not from around here.''

''She's from the Central City, I know, she's been bragging about that since she first came here, at the age of seven.

''She says she's had adjusting problems! That she couldn't cope with having to live in such a small town, especially since her parents are always traveling up and down for business...''

''I can imagine her having had a hard time, but she's seventeen now, for the sake of the Gods!''

''Can't argue about that... But still, try to give friendship with her a chance! You two seem to have quite a few things in common.''

''We so not...''

''You do!'' Ameena smiled. ''And that might be the reason you hate each other as well...''

Leafos growled. ''I do not think Petula and I have anything in common... We shared something though, something that had quite an impact on our childhoods... We walked away from home, when we were younger.''

Leafos aversed her mask and looked at the ground. She wasn't proud of this one story...

''You two walked away from home together?'' Ameena was shocked. Leafos and Petula... had worked together to achieve something, in the past?

''Yeah, I know, I can hardly believe it myself, but it's the sheerest reality... Petula's never been very fond of her parents and neither was I of my dad, at the time... I didn't like Petula at all - she already wore that hideous Kittyfloss costume back then and she's always had that catty attitude - but one day I catched her crying under the counter... I've never realized it before, but she's been working at Paper Pets from a very young age.
I asked her if she was alright, and after a few mocking remarks about my patched clothes she admitted that she felt like shit. I don't know what got to me, but I decided to tell her about my petty, miserable life too... And that's how we came to the plan to pack our bags. We would head to the Central City and go separate ways there, we still didn't like each other after all.
We quickly planned our trip. Walking would consume way too much time, so we would go by piñata. I took one of the Horstachios from dad's garden and Petula picked out a Ponocky that suited her - Paper Pets stores Ponockies, after all.''

Leafos paused, looking up for a moment. The constellations were positioned differently than earlier that night, and that was exactly what Leafos liked about staying up from dusk to dawn. In her early, early youth she'd wanted to become an astronomer, and she still kept a small, private journal with star charts and galactic information.

''Hm?'' Ameena hummed.

''Ehm... Ponockies. Yeah.'' It was about time she continued! ''We left our parents small goodbye-notes. Petula's parents were somewhere out of the Village and my father was tending the garden. Nobody noticed our disappearance until the dark fell in. That's when they started searching, but we were miles away already...
I remember us being on the road for two days and a half. We passed villages we had never even heard of, and all of them had beautiful gardens - though none of them was quite as gorgeous as my father's.
We were lucky with the weather, it was warm and sunny all the time. It was nice to sit around campfires at night and feed wild Badgesicles and Pretztails, and for the very first time in our lives Petula and I didn't annoy or scoff at each other. We actually were friends, as long as it lasted...
Whenever we got tired or even homesick, we would cheer each other up with visions about how great it would be in the City. The boys there would be wááááy hotter than those idiots from the Village, there would be countless clothing stores and we would party every night. Too bad we were only about ten or eleven - even if we would've reached the Central City and its nightclubs, the bouncers wouldn't let us in!
However, we never even got that far. On the second day in the afternoon, Stardos catched up on us.''

''Your brother Stardos?''

''Yes, indeed. Too bad you've never had the chance to meet him...''

Ameena nodded. ''You've told about him before, about how much of a talented gardener he was and the small Macaraccoon he kept... He seems like he was an interesting person!''

''Oh yes, he was. And he was kind. But do you know what the strange thing is?''

''No.'' Ameena shook her head.

''Eventhough he's presumably dead... I never feel like he's really gone. It's the same feeling as with Mother, but more intense, as if he's close, close to our family, watching us and, perhaps, guarding our well-being... I know that it sounds like non sense, but my sister feels exactly the same way.
Dad and Seedos don't want to talk about it. Sometimes I suspect them of knowing more than we do - but that's impossible! They would've shared it with my sister and I!''

The girls remained silent for a while. Leafos was gazing at a Mothdrop and Ameena was studying her pink Vans. She had bought them in London a long, long time ago when she went there to visit her family...

''And yet...'' A shiver went down Leafos' spine as she looked away from the moth piñata. ''I... I better shut up about the death.''

''You should'' Ameena agreed. ''Tell me... What happened when Stardos caught you and Petula?''

''Hmm, not much. I was angry at my older bro, but happy at the same time because I had missed him more than I wanted to admit. I used to look up to Stardos, you know...
Stardos insisted on taking us back home. Petula was more furious than ever, and now that I think about it, she must've really not liked home! Poor, poor little spoiled girl...
Two days later we arrived in the Village again, where house arrest awaited me. Same for Tula, I think, or worse, 'cause she never ever spoke to me in a friendly tone of voice again...''

''Sucks.''

''Agree.''

''Maybe I can talk to her? You guys can make up, and become friends again!''

''Nah, I'm not sure if I even want to. I don't have many friends, I know, but I've been studying plants a lot lately and I think that I want to dedicate my life to... you know. Documenting the world surrounding us...''

Ameena nodded. ''Sounds like a meaningful way to spend your life... I'm proud of you! I don't even know how I want to spend mine yet...''

''You're only seventeen, I'm almost twenty. I know a few years don't seem much of a difference, but a few years ago I had no idea who I wanted to be either... Now I even know who I want to be the father of my children...''

''I know thát little detail too, though!'' Ameena grinned. Doc Patchingo; the sexiest doctor on the entire Island would be hers sometime in the future...

''You do?'' Leafos asked in surprisement.

'''N-no!'' Ameena stumbled, as she realized she was sitting there with a true gossip queen. She didn't want Patch to find out about the weak spot she had for him just yet! They hardly knew each other! She'd better not tell her friend; even if Leafos wanted to keep her crush a secret, there was no way she possibly could.
''Just messing around with ya. I know you like to know people's romantic interests! You're almost as bad as Fannie!''

Leafos smirked. ''I am! It's not funny though, so SHUT UP!''

''Haha, gotcha!''

VPVPVPVPVPVPVPVPVPVPVP

A few hours later, Leafos' fountain pen ran out of ink.

''Damn it!'' she whispered, not wanting to wake her loyal mainland-friend.

Ameena had fallen asleep around three o'clock, right after they'd spotted the cutest wild baby Galagoogoo they'd ever seen.
Leafos hadn't felt like sleeping a night at Orchid Valley away though, so she'd decided to stay up to describe every single wonderful thing she could see, from the huge, majestic moon shining above to the most sweet and humble ladybug piñata.

The Bispotti she had just drew was crawling over her bare, left arm. Its little legs tickled her! ''Aww, I wish I could take you home, little one... Hmm, now that I think about it... I totally could! Haha!''

The girl smiled. She hadn't kept a piñata in years, and Bispottis were small enough to live in the empty terrarium in her room.

''How about I'll call you B... B... Bubbi?''

The Bispotti made a cute little sound. Leafos recognized as a sign of satisfaction.

''Then you're Bubbi from now on...''

She looked up at the rising sun. The Valley looked very different in the golden morning light, a whole lot less mysterious and way more inviting and warm. The nocturnal piñatas had drawn back to their lodgings a while ago, and the daytime wildlife was coming to life again.

Great Gods, how much she loved the songs of those wild Candaries! She could've listened to it all day if she hadn't had the noble task to make breakfast for her poor, legendaric old father...

Leafos heaved a sigh when she thought of her dad's dependency on her. Ah well, there was nothing she could do about it, was there? If she didn't take care of him, who else would?

With that in mind, the girl started to wake her sleeping friend by gently shaking her shoulders.

''Ameena! Wake up! A new day's come! I've made a new piñata friend...''