Chelsea sighed and wiped the sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand. She was tired. Lately it seemed as though that was the only state she was capable of existing in. With 32 turnip crops, a horse and a puppy to take care of, it was difficult to catch a break. And here she was thinking of expanding!
Chelsea sighed again. It was her fault that she was so overworked. Most ranchers knew better than to plant so many crops before investing in an upgraded watering can. But she had been so excited to have finally gotten her farm that she had let her optimism get the better of her. 32 crops had seemed like just the right amount to get her on her feet when she had bought her 4 bags of seeds. Now she knew better.
The watch on Chelsea's wrist beeped to announce the hour: 4:00 PM. She felt so tired she thought she might pass out, but she knew from past experience that if she took a nap this late in the day it would mess up her night's sleep. She looked around half-heartedly for something to do in the meantime. Her eyes came to rest on her fishing pole lying propped up against the wall. Fishing was probably easy enough for her tired body to handle. After tying her bandana a little tighter, she grabbed the pole and ambled out the door.
All of the islands were surrounded by water, but the ocean to the East of Sprout Island was Chelsea's favorite fishing spot. Her feet unconsciously guided her to the beach as her mind focused on the strain in her legs. She really could use a day off.
As soon as her boot sank into sand her knees buckled and she collapsed. The ground felt warm and inviting from soaking in the rays of the sun. Perhaps a little too warm, since she had been outside all day herself- but then again she was just so tired…
A shadow fell over her closed eyes, and she breathed a sigh of relief. The darkness beckoned her deeper into drowsiness. Chelsea very nearly fell asleep right there and then, but a voice pierced her ears.
"Chelsea?" it asked. She growled. She needed her rest, darn it!
"Chelsea?" it asked again, a bit more forcefully. A hand brushed her hair off her forehead, and another shook her shoulder. Chelsea opened her eyes, blinking painfully. "Chelsea, are you okay?" the voice demanded, concerned.
It was Denny, the fisherman. His dark eyes searched hers as he gently pulled her up to sitting position. He left his hand on the small of her back, supporting her. She leaned back into it, feeling oddly comfortable. Probably she could sleep standing up at this point, she was so tired.
"Chelsea? C'mon, answer me!" Denny cried, giving her a small shake. With a start, Chelsea realized her eyes had glazed over and she was lying limp in his arms.
"Uhn," she moaned, shifting herself so Denny could move away. She brought her arm up to test rub her eyes, but a bought of dizziness overcame her that knocked her back over.
Denny was getting a bit frantic, Chelsea noted from her vantage point on the ground. Actually, he looked a bit silly waving his arms around like that- wait. Was that a green elephant walking by just then? And Denny's face- it looked like something from a funhouse mirror. Not to mention the fireworks. They were really pretty. It was like looking out a kaleidoscope…
Chelsea awoke with something sitting on her head. It felt like a bird, but obviously she couldn't be sure since she couldn't see the top of her head. With a leaden arm she reached up to pick up whatever it was and move it so she could go back to sleep. The thing let out a squawk and hopped onto the pillow. She rolled over and came face to face with Popper, Denny's pet parrot.
"Wakie, wakie!" Popper cooed, giving her a light peck on the nose, "Wakie, wakie!"
Chelsea groaned and turned over. "Wakie, wakie!" Popper repeated, hopping onto her head and playfully flinging bits of her hair. "Wakie, wake wake up!"
Chelsea reluctantly pulled herself up, shooing the bird distractedly. She was in a plain wooden building with a small kitchen in the back. Above the sink hung a large painting of a very impressive looking fish. All along the walls fishing poles of various sizes were lined up in neat little stands. In the far corner there were bunches of fishing nets stacked up. This wasn't her ranch. In fact, it looked an awful lot like Denny's house. And that would have to mean… that she was in Denny's bed.
With a yelp she catapulted herself out of the bed. She didn't remember a thing from the night before. Something about elephants? She checked herself- all her clothes were still in place, except for her boots and her bandana. The former were at the door, and the later was on the nightstand. Without pausing to put her boots on she walked outside to find Denny.
It didn't take long to find him; he was sitting a couple paces from the house with a line in the water. He turned when he heard the door open. Catching sight of Chelsea, he stuck his fishing pole in the sand and hurried over to her. "Oh, Chelsea! You're up, thank God! Are you feeling okay? Maybe you should stay in bed," Denny breathed out in a rush. He took hold of her by the elbows and started to steer her back to the house. Then he paused.
"Hey, Chelsea? You think you're okay enough to go back to the ranch?" Denny inquired timidly.
Chelsea frowned. "What… happened last night?" she asked.
Denny grimaced and explained, "Well I was fishing like always here on the beach and all the sudden you come wandering up- staggering like you were drunk- but you didn't smell drunk- you weren't, were you?- and then BOOM just like that you collapsed! And I tried to talk to you but you weren't responding and then you passed out. I thought you died! You were so pale! But you were still breathing so I knew you weren't dead. Anyway I was going to carry you back to the ranch but you had a death grip on my arm, and I heard somewhere you're not supposed to move sick people much. So I put you in my bed, since my house is right here. I hope you don't mind. Oh, and I sent for the doctor in Mineral Town."
Chelsea nodded. It was starting to come back to her now: the exhaustion, the beach, the collapse. She was glad Denny had been there to help her, except… "Denny, you didn't sleep in the bed with me… did you?"
Denny turned about ten different shades of red and he stammered, "N-no! You were unconscious! Jeez, what do you take me for?"
Chelsea blushed furiously. "I didn't think- I was just- Well. Where did you sleep, then?" she asked.
"On the floor," he replied nonchalantly, "It's no big deal. I sleep outside all the time, so I'm used to being on the hard ground."
"You didn't have to do that for me!" Chelsea protested, "And I don't need the doctor. I'd been overworking myself- it was just exhaustion. I wasn't drunk."
"I figured that's what it was. But I still think you should have a doctor look you over. And like I said, the bed thing was no big deal."
"But it is a big deal!" Chelsea objected, "I feel terrible. I kicked you out of your bed." She paused, reflecting. "I suppose I should see the doctor. But I have work to do, I can't stay in bed all day," she affirmed.
"You're not really thinking of working, Chelsea! You passed out yesterday! You need rest," Denny insisted.
"But my crops-" Chelsea began.
"I'll take care of them," Denny assured her, "I'll get Taro to show me what to do and I'll take care of your farm. Just promise me you'll rest today!"
Chelsea sighed. He was right. And she had wanted a day off... "I just feel guilty about laying this all on you, Denny," Chelsea murmured.
"It's no big deal. That's what friends are for, right?" Denny prompted, giving her a nudge. She smiled. She hadn't really thought of Denny and her as friends before. Sure, they knew each other in passing, but they weren't all that close. The extent of their conversation tended to center on the weather and whether or not the fish were biting.
Chelsea inclined her head to rest it on Denny's shoulder. In an unspoken agreement he hoisted her up and she let him carry her up the road.
Denny didn't put Chelsea down until he reached her bed in her house. "You'll be okay by yourself?" he asked, anxiously watching her as she fluffed up her pillow and settled down.
"I'm nearly always by myself, Denny. I'll be fine," she answered, sinking deeper into the bed. "Mmm," she sighed contentedly. Denny was still skeptical.
"Well, if you need anything, just yell, okay? Don't strain yourself getting up," Denny ordered. "Here," he said, striding into the kitchen. He poured a glass of water and brought it back to her nightstand. "Stay hydrated. I'll come check on you every now and then. Don't get up," he repeated.
"Jeez, aren't you bossy," Chelsea replied, a small smile playing about her lips. Denny meant well, and she was lucky to have him waiting on her. Still, it was somewhat irksome to have limited mobility forced on her.
Popper, who had been lazily flying around the pair up until now, landed decisively on Chelsea's head. "Popper watch," he squawked while turning in a circle and ruffling his feathers. He sat squarely on her forehead, gazing intently at Denny.
"Well would you look at that," Denny murmured. Chelsea shot the bird an irritated look through her eyebrows. "I can't look at it, he's on my head. Again!" Chelsea pouted.
"Again?" Denny exclaimed. He looked at Chelsea, as if appraising her anew. "Popper doesn't go near anyone but me. Believe me, I've tried to socialize him, but he won't have it. A shy little guy, Popper is." Denny shook his head and smiled. "I knew you were special," he proclaimed. Chelsea blushed.
"Well," she said after a beat, "Can I be special and not have him on my head? He's heavy." Denny laughed and scooped the bird up, placing him on the nightstand next to the water.
"Alright, Popper, you watch her. I'm counting on you," he instructed the little bird. Chelsea could have sworn she saw it nod. Reasonably satisfied with Chelsea's well being, Denny walked out the door to work on the ranch.
Chelsea slept fitfully for the rest of the day until around 3:00 PM when the doctor showed up. He scolded her for overworking herself but otherwise issued her a clean bill of health. Denny was just as relieved as she was.
"Don't scare me like that again, Chels," he admonished her, pulling her into a hug. She stiffened, unsure of being so close to him. It was silly, since he had carried her home that morning. She forcibly relaxed her muscles and returned the hug.
"Thanks for everything, Denny. You're the best. Really," Chelsea said with sincerity. He was warm from being out in the sun, and his body was toned beneath the loose-fitting shirt he wore. He smelled nice, too… like an ocean breeze.
Realizing she was checking him out, she pushed him away self-consciously. "W-well, you should get going," she stammered, rubbing her left earlobe, "Fish to catch, right?"
"Right," he said reluctantly, looking around. "So… what's up with your ear? Itchy?"
Chelsea snatched her hand down. "Nervous habit," she mumbled.
"Hey, no need to be embarrassed. It's cute," Denny soothed. They both blushed. "Well, yeah, I better go. Take care of yourself," Denny insisted. He waved cheerily over his shoulder as he walked down the path away from her. Chelsea sighed, then paused. What was she sighing about? She wasn't upset or anything. Confused, she turned and headed back into her house, feeling oddly lonely for the first time since she'd moved in.
Hey this is the author here. Sorry anyone who's been following this and is confused by my constant re-organization of the chapters. This is the last time, I promise. Anyway I don't know how long I'll be able to work on this project but I had a road trip so I was writing the whole way up in the car. I hope you enjoy this next chapter, written from the passenger side :)