Leena's garden was looking much more organized nowadays.
People would pat her on the back and compliment her on her gardening skills, but she knew very well that the increase in quality of her garden wasn't all her work.
Leena smiled as she looked over at Seedos, who was carefully fertilizing a whole bunch of flowers that were starting to bud from the ground.
"The color of the fertilizer goes with the color of the plant," Seedos had explained to her earlier. "That's just how it works out. But if you buy the more expensive stuff from Lottie, it will work just fine on all of your plants!"
Leena had been feeling reserved at first, but Seedos grinned and reassured her: "Can't believe I'm quoting him, but way back when, Jardiniero would always say 'you need to spend money to make money.'"
And make money Leena did. With the sales of oversized pumpkins, lovely flowers, and fresh fruit, Leena never found herself strapped for cash. More piñatas came to her garden as well, mostly bugs and insects, which Leena didn't mind at all.
Leena's favorite piñata, a green Squazzil named Crispy, was the odd one out among all the insects. Leena's Flutterscotches and Bispottis didn't appreciate Crispy trying to tackle them in an attempt for a friendly wrestling match, Leena's Tafflies didn't like it when Crispy would leap out of trees in an attempt to catch them, and Leena's young Shellybean certainly hated when Crispy would bat her shell around like a ball.
Crispy was creeping up on all fours behind Seedos at the moment, but he didn't notice. He was completely focused on making sure all of Leena's plants were being fertilized properly. Right when he cast aside the bag of fertilizer, Crispy wiggled her butt and leapt right onto Seedos' backpack and scurried up to the top of his head.
"AHH!" Seedos yelled in alarm, jumping about a foot in the air. Crispy leaned down in front of him and gave him an upside-down head tilt of confusion. "Oh, it's only you…Leena, could you control your Squazzil, please? I almost had a heart attack…"
"Ah, suh-sorry!" Leena scampered over to Seedos and pried Crispy off of his head. Crispy wriggled and squeaked in an attempt to get out of Leena's arms, but Leena managed to keep holding the piñata.
"No biggie," Seedos flapped a hand at Leena with a small smile on his mask's giant mouth.
"Thanks for helping me today, Seedos…" Leena looked down at the ground, her cheeks turning red.
"Hey, any time! I'm just glad to see you finally getting everything together," Seedos looked around at all of the flying piñatas, budding flowers, and tall trees. "Jardiniero's going to be happy with your progress." He really wasn't before, you should have heard the things that jerk said about you! he almost added, but he knew that would set poor Leena's anxiety into overdrive.
Leena was ready to say she couldn't have done it without him, but she was interrupted by a loud voice coming from the edge of her garden.
"HEY LOVEBIRDS! HEY!"
Leena knew that was Yoto. She let the squirming Crispy go and turned to look at him, a look of vague horror on her face.
"What the heck do you want, Yoto?" Seedos ignored Yoto's "lovebirds" comment, much to Leena's relief.
"Come quick, guys! Eddie's dad is back, and he said he has BIG news!" Yoto jumped up and down, clapping his hands in excitement. "He says it concerns everyone who lives in the Village! And also Sahari and Sparcticus for some reason…" That last comment made Yoto scratch his head. "Must be because they're Eddie's friends…"
"Yoto, no tangents, let's see what this is all about!" Seedos darted forward, Leena hot on his heels.
"Okay, okay, let's do it!" Yoto nodded and the three ran into the Village Square.
Eddie's father was making a big show of himself. It must run in the family.
He was standing on a stone platform in the middle of the square, his excited looking son on one side and a short, plump, well-dressed woman with pink hair and a slightly swollen belly on the other side. Edward had his arm around the woman's shoulder and kept beaming at her with excitement.
"Who's that?" Leena whispered to Yoto, pointing at the woman.
"Eddie's mom!" Yoto nodded vigorously. "I heard she was a fashion designer, I can tell it's her by the clothes…and also because Eddie's dad has his arm wrapped around her real tight."
"Well, now that everyone's here…" Edward did his best to project his voice and it could be heard clearly over the chatting crowd. He obviously had some vocal training. "I'd like to make my announcement!"
That shut the crowd up and they all looked at him expectantly.
"There's going to be an enormous piñata raising and gardening convention in Poprockolis, and the P-Factor-along with the wonderful Erin Fashion Line-" Edward paused to share an affectionate look with his wife before continuing. "-will be sponsoring it! There will be a televised P-Factor round during the convention, and we'll pick a lucky few from a raffle to see who gets to be in it! As a twist, there will be six competitors and eight judges this time around!" Edward beamed his most charming grin at the crowd. "The competition will be stiff! But that's not even the best part, I have an even bigger announcement!"
Eddie looked ready to burst at this point, jamming his gloved fingers into his mouth and bouncing up and down. He obviously knew what the news was and has been aching to see what everyone's reaction to it would be.
"I'm going to personally pay for every last person here to attend the Convention and have a room in the hotel joined to the event center! I want all of you lovely people to experience city life! It's really quite interesting, and you're bound to learn a thing or two about the world, especially if you've never been!" Edward winked in the general direction of Seedos.
Seedos couldn't help frowning as the crowd erupted into applause.
"Let my son know if you want to room with anyone in particular!" Edward gestured to Eddie and he waved his colorful clipboard in the air. "It would save us some money, and, even though we have plenty of it, it would be much more convenient! The convention will last all of next week! Short notice, I know, but I wanted it to be a big surprise! Bring your best piñata and your best clothes, you're in for the trip of a LIFETIME!"
The crowd erupted into applause, especially Lottie, who was practically crying with joy. Visiting the city without having to spend a cent on a hotel room? She thought she had died and gone to Heaven!
"Seedos, are you okay?" Leena asked the seed merchant as she struggled to keep up with him on the way back to her garden.
"I'm fine, I'm just…thinking…" Seedos walked terribly briskly when he was in thought, apparently. Leena had to jog to match his pace. "Me…in the city? Doesn't that sound like an oxymoron?"
"Oh, Seedos, you'll be fine," Leena sighed. "Cities are…not so bad, really. I could help you if you want me to!"
Seedos stopped in his tracks and burst into full-on, body shaking laughter.
"What, what's so funny?" Leena frowned and folded her skinny arms, waiting for Seedos to finish his fit of hysterics.
After one final snort, Seedos finally trailed off into chuckles. "I'm sorry, Leena, but I think you'd fare just about as well in the city as I would! We're a little…close to earth. Gravel and big buildings and…conventions…" Seedos shuddered at the thought of all those people. "Not to mention people will probably know who I am." Seedos tugged at his backpack straps and lowered his voice in an attempt to sound like an aged man. "'Hey, aren't you that kid of Jardiniero's who went totally insane? What are you doing in a place like this, you swamp freak?"
"Aw, Seedos, they won't say that," Leena shook her head, her frizzy bob bouncing with the motion. "And I know more about cities than you might think…" Leena placed a thumbnail between her teeth and looked at Seedos with a glimmer in her eyes. "Wanna hear a secret?"
"Sure," Seedos nodded his oversized head.
Leena looked around, leaned forward, and lowered her voice to a whisper, as if she were about to tell Seedos that she had done something illegal.
"I grew up in New York City."
Seedos gasped and jammed all of his fingers into his mouth. New York City was one of the few places he knew about in foreign areas. He had heard Eddie talk about it with his eyes glimmering, but to Seedos, it seemed like hell. Millions of people, crammed into one city? People living on the streets without homes? People judging you for what you wear and how you walk? Hardly a haven for someone like him, not to mention someone as withdrawn as Leena!
"No way," Seedos finally said, his eyes bulging in an impossible way.
"Yes way…" Leena sighed and hugged herself. "I wasn't…treated too well by my classmates back home. I used to get bullied. I have no idea why they chose to pick on me, and I still don't…New York was…overwhelming, to say the least. Complete strangers shoving you aside on the streets, enormous crowds of faces that just seem to blend together after a while…it wasn't all bad, though. My dad's a florist and I always had fun helping him in his shop. We'd go out to find parks to sit around in and enjoy being away from the hectic city life…but I wasn't really happy. But then I heard about this garden, and…" Leena chuckled and gave Seedos a small smile. "You know the rest of that story."
"So…are you saying you could help keep me sane in the city?" Seedos asked, tilting his head.
"I'll do my best to keep us both sane," Leena twirled a curl around her finger. "I really want to enter Crispy in that P-Factor round…even though I probably won't win the raffle to get in. Still, she's gotten really impressive lately. She might act like she has liquefied sugar running through her veins 24/7, but she knows a lot of cute tricks and has fantastic Candiosity!"
"I don't know much about Squazzils…" Seedos scratched his head. "…but I think Crispy would have a fighting chance, especially with how much you've gotten better at piñata rearing lately!"
"Yes, and…" Leena turned a bit pink. "I'd like for you to be there to support me. Who knows, you could pick up some nice things for your Shellybeans at the convention!"
"I'm…still not sure…" Seedos looked down at his feet and absent-mindedly curled and uncurled his toes in the dirt.
"I'll room with you if it makes you feel better," Leena burst into a bright red blush and covered her mouth. "Cuh-completely platonically, of course!"
"What? I don't see any problems with sleeping in the same room as a friend…" Seedos looked up, one of the brows of his mask askew with his confusion.
"Okay, whew…" Leena exhaled. "So, should I tell Edward to book the room?"
"Please do," Seedos nodded. "This will certainly be an…experience! I'm a homebody, but I always did wonder about the city…"
"I bet it's not as big or as cruel as New York," Leena looked off into the distance in thought. "This is Piñata Island, after all…I'd like to see what constitutes a 'city' here!" Leena twirled her lily necklace around her finger. "Shame I'm gonna stick out like a sore thumb. Petula told me before that my quote-unquote 'mask' and clothes scream 'I'm not from here!'"
Seedos gave Leena a once-over. Her eyeband was dirty from all of her gardening and slightly torn at the edges, her clothes were just a green shirt with a simple darker green pattern and loose, nearly pattern-less pants that stopped just above her ankles.
"Well, I don't know much about clothes…" Seedos stroked the bottom of his mask. "…but I think I can help you look like more of a local. It's the least I can do since you've been improving so much lately…and since you're going to help me in Poprockolis."
"What do you mean?" Leena gave Seedos a questioning look.
Seedos simply smiled as mysteriously as he could. "It's a surprise."