Chapter 3: [Star] Twins of the Valley
A cool wind blew brown locks of hair out of my eyes, and I wiped the remaining strands plastered to the side of my face back as I stepped into the shade the trees provided. At least the overgrown farm had provided a decent escape from the sun, even if clearing the land to start any sort of farm work had been exhausting. Wiping the sweat off my reddened cheeks with the white handkerchief that hung around my neck, I took a moment to take in the sight of the beginnings of our new life.
I eyed the rich blue sky as I took a moment to relish the fresh air that greeted my lungs. For a second, I let the excitement of being in a new place filled with signs of life thriving everywhere flood my senses. The birds were singing in the forest of winding roots which delved deep into the rich soil of Snowdrop Farm, and sunlight filtered through the leaves above, casting shadows on the ground that flickered and swayed when a gentle breeze pushed against the thin green sheets. Dotted through the broadleaf trees – oak and maple, if I’m not mistaken – were tall pine trees, with darker needled leaves that withstood the previous winter. They stood proudly, the wind failing to pull at their posture.
I then turned to the results of the early morning’s work. We had taken the time to roll the trees that fell to our attachable axe heads to the side of the cleared land, and so now they lined the rooted trees and created a barrier that separated the wilderness to the farmland. Small and large pieces of rock had found their place among the uncut logs, and the shattered rubble from our pickaxes’ strikes also sat beneath the shade. My shoulders still ached from that task, among the numerous other muscles that I hadn’t been aware of before. The tilling and planting of the parsnip seeds only added to the list of muscles that had no names, and the muscles that had already notified me of their existence only seemed to burn and transform into heavy weights that left me wanting to curl up in bed and sleep the rest of the daylight away.
It had been hard work, but looking at the small patch of upturned soil – a testament to our hardships – I couldn’t help but feel the weight pressing down on my aching body lessen.
This small little garden in front of Grandpa’s old house was the beginning of something that was entirely different from a standard desk-job at Joja. While it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, it was exactly what I had wanted when I had handed in my resignation letter. This was the change of pace that I had hoped for when we opened Grandpa’s letter. While enormous doubts and fears still lingered at the edges of my mind, proudly looking over our little patch of parsnips had pushed them from my immediate thoughts for the first time since we arrived.
This was the start of something new, and that was a good thing.
It had to be a good thing. After all, in just one morning’s work, I felt like I had accomplished more than I had in the five years with that desk and plastic nameplate. Then, in four days*, all the work put into the small patch of cleared land would manifest as our first harvest: after the hidden seeds grew into ripe vegetables that waited to be plucked from the ground.
With the hint of a smile, I swapped the interchangeable pole for the old-looking watering can. It had a few dents in the metal, and could only take water up to a certain point due to a small hole near its handle. As we got the tools for free, I couldn’t complain too much. Making my way to the small pond we had discovered when we were clearing the land, I dipped the mouth of the watering can under the tranquil surface of the cool water. As I waited for the water to fill the metal container, I glanced over my shoulder at the overgrown forest that we’d have to deal with before we could do much else with Grandpa’s land.
The discovery of the small pond, which Dew would’ve fallen into if I hadn’t instinctively snatched her wrist the second she seemed to lose her balance (I had saved her from countless falls that way, after I learned a long time ago that steadying her myself was a lot better than having her flail widely and grasp onto my hair or whatever was closest and knock us both off-balance), had sparked my interest. If the overgrowth had hidden a small pond, it could be hiding any number of other landforms. Some might be beneficial, once I figure out the different soils and conditions that specific crops prefer, but if half of our land is made up of water or unsuitable land…
Shaking away the worrying thoughts, I pulled the watering can from the water and watched the clear liquid leak from the small hole. With an ingenious idea, I pressed a fingertip firmly against the hole and hurried to the planted seeds. Recalling the mountain of books and manuals I had worked through in the small library a few blocks from the apartment before we left, I braced the bottom of the watering can with one hand as I removed my fingertip from the hole and began pouring. With the water tilted away from the hole as the nozzle sprinkled the liquid gently over the soil, the water didn’t escape through the side of the metal. Before long, the soil of the square patches had darkened.
“Alright…” I placed the empty watering can into my rucksack, “Next I’ll…” I trailed off.
With the seeds now planted and watered, my mind tried to turn towards the next task. Only for it to realize that there was no other task to complete so far.
Unease crept into my heart once more, as even though my muscles ached and desired rest above all else, there had to be something that needed doing. For a work day to end so quickly… I’m sure if I took stock of our current situation, I could find something more to do. With a quick nod to myself, I left the little garden behind and turned towards the farmhouse: making a list of things that needed to get done would provide me and Dew with some direction for the season. A planned approach to this new life was much more reassuring than an unplanned one.
A pile of leafy twigs and branches collected at the base of the stairs leading up to the deck. While an eyesore, we didn’t exactly have a use for them at the moment – nor did we know how to use them effectively. Just like the uncut logs that separated the forest from the usable farmland, the pile of green had no other place to be for a while.
The creaking of the stairs as they supported my weight ushered a sigh from my lips, and my eyes traced every chip of the deck that had broken off during the years of disrepair. While the carpenter, Robin, did a good job of fixing up the place for us, there was still a lot left to be desired… She had said something about a house upgrade yesterday, so maybe I’ll spend the rest of the day in town greeting everyone (as per Dew’s challenge) and seeing what not only the carpenter could offer us and the new farm, but everyone else as well.
Nodding to myself in agreement, I wiggled open the door (which inconsistently stuck itself against the door frame and needed an extra shove to open due to a loose-fitting hinge) and stepped inside the darkened house. While morning’s light streamed in through the windows, the single-room house (not including the small bathroom) still felt dark to me. It was probably more to do with the fact that I was so used to things being over-illuminated in the city that relying solely on sunlight was a stark contrast. Or perhaps I just hadn’t noticed how bright it was outside compared to the shadowed interior of the farmhouse. Either way, my eyes adjusted quickly.
After carefully removing my dirtied red rubber boots at the door as I stepped in, I ran my fingers across the wooden planks on the wall as I walked directly to my bed which was squished into the corner of the house. It was a decently comfortable bed, despite its less-than-glamorous appearance. Kneeling down onto the wooden floor, the end of my ponytail brushing against the old groaning boards as I lowered myself further onto the ground. Peering underneath the bed frame, I spotted my suitcase and slid it out from the darkness. Since there was no space to hold some of our things, the dresser being the only storage we had so far, anything that wasn’t clothes would stay in our suitcases for the time being.
Quickly unzipping and opening the suitcase, I then slung my rucksack from my shoulders as I eyed my belongings. There were a few journals, several important documents of both mine and Dew’s, a framed photograph of our family, an array of pens and pencils, and a lone cartoon-styled stuffed rabbit that sat atop a blank notepad. Lifting up the frame, I flipped it over to inspect the picture held within it. It was rare to get a picture of the four of us together, usually Dad was the one left out of all the pictures since he was the one who took them all. This was the photo a waiter took of us when Mom and Dad treated us out to Dew’s favourite restaurant to celebrate graduating high school. With a smile spreading across my face at the sight of teenage Dew’s happy grin (which may or may not be covered with the restaurant’s signature sauce) I rose from the floor and placed the picture on the dining table before returning to the open suitcase.
The soft pink fabric of the rabbit plush brushed against my fingers as I picked it up off the notepad. With a fond pat on its head, I put it back into the suitcase and grabbed the unguarded notepad as well as a black-inked pen from the messy assortment of different colours and types. Placing both items in the middle pocket of the green apron that shielded some of my outfit from the dirt I had been working in, I then closed the suitcase and slid it back into place without another glance at its contents.
Standing up, I pulled the straps of the small rucksack onto my shoulders and began inspecting the inside of the farmhouse and everything within it: a task which I had decided to skip last night in favour of sleeping. After a few minutes of wandering across the wooden floor, prodding and fiddling with anything that could be prodded or fiddled, I concluded that there was nothing that really required immediate attention. The door sometimes stuck, the window beside the table had a crack in it that caused a bit of a draft, the lack of a calendar, the woodstove was a little tricky to light (which would become problematic since I would be cooking a lot more than I had in the past), and the remote for the old TV was missing. The last of which was even a smaller issue due to the fact that there was only four channels available with the ancient satellite sitting on the roof – the weather report, a weird fortune teller one, a channel about living off of the land (which was pretty convenient), and a cooking channel that sometimes crackled in if a cloud moved into just the right spot. Well, I wasn’t really sure how much sway a cloud could have over the satellite picking up a signal, but it really felt like the cooking channel only came through whenever the wind was blowing in the right direction.
And there was absolutely no way I was going to try and mess with the old satellite when it was a miracle already that it still managed to give us any channels at all.
My fingers brushed against the seed bag Dew had ripped open as I reached in the middle pouch to grab the notepad and pen. I took out the garbage with a sigh before throwing it into the small trash bin hidden underneath one of the kitchen counters. An apology was definitely needed: there was no reason to be so frustrated with Dew over an accident – we were both trying to do our best in our new life. Engraving that thought into my mind, I pulled out the notepad and started writing down some things to ask the villagers about. When I came back to the farmhouse later, I wanted to have enough information to come up with a reasonably ambitious plan for S pring.
Within a few minutes, a small list had been made:
O Calendar. (Lewis?)
O Map? (Something to get us acquainted with the town’s layout… If possible, a map of the farm would be useful as well.)
O Tips on how to work the woodstove/getting a new one?
O Washer and dryer?
O Robin – House upgrades and other farm buildings she could construct for us.
O Upgrading the tools?
O Blue curtains for Dew’s window/ fixing the shutters...
O Make sure Dew hasn’t left any bad impressions when dashing around trying – and probably failing – to greet everyone.
I looked the list over again, and considered crossing out the last point, but decided to keep it on the list for now. It was more of a side note, as Dew had a habit of overestimating her ability to meet new people… Which usually ended up in rather embarrassing situations for her that also had the potential to give the wrong impression. With such a small town, they might not be used to the shyness my sister usually portrayed around strangers.
With a nod to myself, I grabbed the 500G that I had set aside to buy more seeds with as well as a small snack from the decently-stocked refrigerator (I’ll have to thank Lewis for having that foresight) for lunch later in the day. Shrugging on my dirt encrusted boots, I shoved open the door and strode out into the bright Spring day. After making sure the door had closed completely behind me, I made my way into town. While I didn’t seem to notice it when we arrived, there was a small slope leading down from the farm to the bus stop. As I passed by the road, the old bus still parked on the dirt shoulder, a breeze pulled a few leaves from the towering trees to my right and carried them past me as I continued onwards. Protected from the sun’s rays on both sides as I took the other path from the bus stop, as trees arched far above my head, my legs braced me against the steep decline the path took as the bus stop was no longer visible. My pace slowed, as my body instinctually warned me to take measures against falling, and I noted the steep hill as a possible hazard when Winter came. Salting the dirt path would probably fall on the town’s responsibility… But if it didn’t, we needed to be prepared for that cost. All in all, Pelican Town seemed to be quite close to the farm and was fairly easy to traverse (not being as overgrown as the farm itself). But the thought of the journey back to the farmhouse would be a harsher climb than going downhill – one that my already tired body immediately protested.
The dirt road soon turned into a cobbled pathway that split into two different paths: the left path branched off and led to some stairs set in the cliffside and the other that led to the town square. Noticing a circle of a red bricks set into the cobblestone square, I walked over to the center and took in my surroundings. Two houses were south of me, one had blue siding, and the other had been painted in a nice tan colour. There were a few flower gardens that bloomed eagerly with the early spring, allowing them to brandish their petals to the cool air. A brick building with ivy crawling up the side of it was directly east of me, and further south was a house with pale siding. In the distance, a lone, light-blue house stood behind the ivy-covered building. Directly north of the brick building was another tan-coloured house with the sign ‘Pierre’s’ hanging over what looked like a bulletin board, and a separate light-blue building pressed up against the side of it. A red cross hung over the door, so I assumed it was the clinic while ‘Pierre’s’ was the general shop.
Turning to look down the path south of the square, I was greeted by a friendly middle-aged looking woman with a warm smile spreading across her face. She had thick brown unruly hair which she tried to restrain by pulling it into a loose braid that fell over her left shoulder coupled the orange long sleeved shirt and green apron-dress suited her nicely. As she approached, waving at me when she saw that I noticed her, I mirrored her friendly smile and sent her a wave of my own.
“Mayor Lewis told me that you arrived, everyone’s happy to have the Snowdrop Farm back up and running!” She held out a hand as she reached me, and I shook it firmly, “I’m Marnie, I sell livestock and animal care products at my ranch. After you two young ladies get set up on that farm, I’d say you’ll be seeing me a lot! But, if you’re in the area feel free to swing by – I’m just south of your farm, in Cindersap Forest!” She gestured in the direction of the blue sided house.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Marnie.” I smiled warmly at her, which only made her beam back in return, “My name’s Star, and if you haven’t met my sister yet, her name’s Dew. I’m sure you’ll see her running around eventually. I hope we get along!”
“I haven’t seen your sister yet, but I just know you two’ll fit in nicely here.” She smiled brightly, “I know it’s a small town, but do you need any help finding your way around?”
Sizing up the town square briefly, I noted that the commercial buildings were self-explanatory with their chosen signage. The only problem I could see was the residential buildings of Pelican Town – and I certainly didn’t want to make a bad impression by entering a building under the assumption of it being a shop of some sort… Plus, having a local show me around would make introductions a little easier, if nothing else.
So, I smiled sheepishly at her, “Actually, I would love some help finding my way around. I’m looking to check out the shops and businesses around here to see what we can do to get the farm in working order...” Marnie nodded along with my words, “Would you happen to be able to help me with that?”
“I’m glad you asked, Star! I know moving from the crowded city to come to such a small town is daunting at first, but I’m sure you’ll find that everyone here is happy to help – you just need to ask!” She paused for a second, her eyes leaving my face for the first time since our meeting, “Even if some of them don’t make it easy to see it that way.” The woman shook her head, returning her gaze to me with a new smile on her lips.
“As for what we have in Pelican Town to help your farm along… Well, there’s Pierre’s,” She pointed towards the nicely decorated general store I had picked out earlier, “the store where you can get all sorts of seeds for your farm. I was talking to him just yesterday: he said that he was gonna start putting that kind of stuff in his stock because the farm’s being worked on again.” Her smile fell slightly, “There’s also a JojaMart on the other side of town, over the river, where you could also buy seeds… But, well… They tend to be a little pricey. My nephew, Shane, works there. You’ll probably meet him at some point, but his work kind of sets him on edge, so please try to overlook his… irritability.”
So even this little town couldn’t escape the Joja Corporation, huh? I wasn’t sure whether I was surprised by that or not, but I would not step foot in another Joja-owned building for the rest of my life. The plague of monotony that mega corporation spread was something I would never subject myself or Dew to ever again. Not if I could help it, at least.
With Pierre’s being the only remaining store left in Pelican Town, it looked like we would be doing all of our shopping there.
Marnie cleared her throat, having been caught up in her own thoughts as I had been mine, “Anyway… Clint runs the blacksmith shop just past Lewis’s house,” she gestured to the pale-coloured house that sat a little further away and below the brick building, “and then you’ll spot it – the library that Gunther owns is also there.” She paused for a second, “Well, I might as well tell you that to get to the beach you also need to head over to Lewis’s house and keep heading south – you’ll smell the saltwater before you see it. Other than that, you should visit Robin up to the north. Just follow the path from Pierre’s, and see if you can work something out with her to fix up your grandpa’s old coop and barn to get you started.”
“Wait, what old coop and barn?”
Dew and I had not come across any sort of building when we cleared out our little patch of tillable land. Were there structures hidden in the overgrowth? If there was a coop or a barn left behind by Grandpa Drop’s time on the farm (which, now that I think about it, it would be strange if there wasn’t some remains of his old farm) then we wouldn’t have to commission a new building. Repairs typically costed less than a whole new building – if they hadn’t fallen into disrepair in the last decade or so.
“Have you not found them yet?” She brought her hand up to her chin as she thought, “I didn’t realize that the farm had gotten that overgrown… I haven’t been up since your grandfather’s funeral was held – but from what I remember, he had a small coop, barn, and silo somewhere on his land. Near the middle, if I’m remembering correctly. By that large lake?”
Pulling out my notepad, I quickly scribbled down Marnie’s vague location (as the large lake she mentioned remained hidden) but it was better than nothing – at least we now could try and unearth the structures as we continued clearing the land.
“I’m sorry I can’t be much more help, dear.” I glanced up to see Marnie looking apologetically at her own words written down on paper as a clue.
“Oh, no! You’ve been extremely helpful, Marnie. Thanks to you, at least we know Grandpa Drop had some structures on the farm we can hopefully reuse.” I smiled at her kindly.
“Hmm… Well, I might know someone who’d be of more help with this… Do you mind coming to Pierre’s with me?”
“That’s very kind of you, Marnie, but I wouldn’t want to be any trouble-”
“Oh, hush!” She wrapped an arm around my shoulder and started walking with me in tow, “It’s no trouble at all! It’s where I was heading before I bumped into you!”
My protests died on my tongue as before I could say anything else, we were already in front of the glass doors of the general store. After sending another kind smile my way, Marnie pushed open the doors and ushered me inside as a chime of a bell placed above the door sounded, alerting the occupants to our arrival.
“Welcome to Pierre’s! I’ll be with you in just a moment!” A voice rang out from the back of the shop, and as I looked to see where it was coming from, I saw a man crouched down in front of the cash register, sorting out the items on display. While I was hesitant to interrupt the man while he was busy, Marnie placed her hands on my back and herded me towards the back of the shop.
“Hey, Pierre! Is that any way to greet our new neighbour?” Marnie was very much like a tornado, I found: hard to stop, hard to argue with, and able to sweep you up in whatever she wanted. It’s a good thing Marnie seemed so sweet – that unstoppable power could wreak havoc otherwise.
At her words, Pierre looked up from his shelves, and upon noticing me, stood up with a kind smile on his face, “Oh, it’s Ms. Drop, the new farmer!” He slid his glasses back up the ridge of his nose as he ran his fingers through his brown slicked back hair before reaching out a hand, “I’m Pierre, owner of the local general store. If you’re looking for seeds, my shop is the place to go. Once you get started, I’ll also buy produce from you for a good price!”
Shaking his hand, I returned his smile, “Thank you for the warm welcome, Pierre. I’m Star, and you’ll probably see my sister – Dew – running around eventually.” I glanced around the shop, eyeing several products that I had seen in Zuzu, while also noting a few that those overcrowded shelves didn’t contain. The general store seemed to be run by very few people – a stark contrast to the grocery stores Dew and I were used to. Seeing the owner was one thing, seeing him stock the shelves himself was another entirely.
Produce lined the left wall, seeming to all be of a fresher variety than the ones back home. If Pierre wanted to buy whatever we managed to grow on the farm, then perhaps that would be a better alternative to shipping it to another city (which would probably be Zuzu, now that I think on it). But, there was research to do before I aligned myself one way or another – a mix of both shipping produce and selling it locally could also work…
Now I’m getting ahead of myself – I had to grow something before I could sell it.
“Where might these seeds be?”
“Ah! Right over here…” Pierre gestured for me to follow him, and I moved in order to do so.
Before I could get very far, Marnie laid a hand on my shoulder, “I’ll be right back with someone who might be able to help you find those old buildings.”
With a nod to Marnie, I rounded the counter as Pierre waited for me to catch up and saw her disappear further into the shop out of the corner of my eyes. A simple wooden door had been obscured by the two relatively small shelves when we entered, and it wasn’t until Pierre led me around the second shelf (a journey which was a bit of an uneasy squeeze for fear of knocking anything over as the shelf and counter were only a singular person’s width apart) that it came into view.
For a second I thought it was the storage room, but seeing as Pierre was unfazed by Marnie disappearing through it, I considered its destination once again. Perhaps it was a washroom? A secondary room for the shop? In that case, knocking down the wall that separated the two would give the shop a little room to breathe… Maybe this was both the shop and the house of Pierre?
I shook my head. Marnie had just waltzed into the room without even knocking or checking with Pierre to see if she would be let in – it couldn’t be Pierre’s house.
…Or could it?
I’d heard that smaller communities were a lot friendlier than people living in the city, but walking in uninvited? Is that something people just did around here?
I hope not-
“-And each season, I’ll have a new set of seeds for sale so that they’re on display for their planting period… Miss Star?” Pierre’s voice brought me out of my thoughts, and he gestured towards the counter, which I could now see had an assortment of seed packets waiting to be tried out. Some were displayed on top of the counter, but most were placed on the shelves beneath it, arranged packet for packet with the pattern of seeds displayed on top – a quick guide to tell which packets were which instead of pulling every packet up an inch to see what their labels indicated.
“Thank you, Pierre! And just ‘Star’ is fine!” I shot him a quick grin, “Sorry, I haven’t really been in such a… general store quite like this one before. Got a little distracted trying to take it all in.”
Pierre knew the seasons in which the seeds grew, something which I now added to the growing list of things I should’ve researched more before arriving. As a general store owner, it would make sense for him to know what fruits and vegetables are in and out of season… But even so, maybe I should’ve put more time into studying these kinds of things rather than taking a few ‘vacation’ days to hang out with Dew. There’d be lots of time for that later, once we had time to settle in and get our lives in working order…
Those hours could’ve been used a lot more efficiently…
“How long has the shop been running, if you don’t mind my asking?”
Making small talk with Pierre, I looked over the options for the season’s crops. Parsnips (the same packets that I had opened earlier in the day) were priced at 20G, Green Beans at 60G, Cauliflower at 80G, Potatoes at 50G, Kale at 70G, and then there were Tulips and Jazz flowers at 20G and 30G respectively. With only 500G set aside to buy seeds… choosing what to risk any kind of return on was an important decision – one that took time.
“Hmm… The shop’s been running for quite some time now – but I’ve only had ownership of it for about… twenty years or so. It’s a family shop, named after my grandfather, so it’s been around even longer than your grandfather and his farm!” Pierre laughed, memories probably flooding back to him.
I nodded along to Pierre’s story as I crouched down to inspect the packets further, the time taken to explain the shop’s history (which made it seem like Pierre wasn’t hovering) was just enough to make up my mind. Two Bean packets, and four Potato packets would bring us up to a total of 320G, which leaves us with 180G in case this first round of crops doesn’t make it to harvest. This leftover can then be used for more seeds or food, should our refrigerator run low (even with the 280G I put aside for food), we could always use this money to buy enough to last us until another (hopefully) successful harvest. With a nod to myself, I pulled out the packets I needed.
“Pelican Town had a hard run of it once your grandfather’s land was left unattended. A little agriculture could really inject new life into the local economy!”
His breathy laugh died out after a moment, an awkward silence ensued as I processed Pierre’s words.
Did the residents of Pelican Town expect Snowdrop Farm’s opening to cause a resurgence of the local economy? Did they expect me and Dew to do that in such a short time, when we were so inexperienced at working on a farm? Exactly how well did Grandpa Drop do with running his farm…? I hadn’t really stopped to think about it, or ask Dad any questions about the old Snowdrop Farm before we came. He mentioned it briefly – that it was a place he had fond memories of: the horse that took a liking to him, the view of the fields ripe with wheat, the smell of home baked bread that he swore Grandma Drop had a secret recipe for…
It was a far cry from that little patch of dirt we worked on today. And my hands still burned in places that would surely blister later in the day, even though the gloves I wore protected most of the soft skin – unworked skin.
A lifetime spent in the city prepared me for an eternity at a desk job, filing reports and typing up documents. The only sweat-worthy work I’ve ever done was when the AC broke in the Joja building (adding more heat to the already hot room), or when carrying groceries up the eighteen flights of stairs when one of the elevators malfunctioned, and the other was known for slowly jolting up the floors (something that everyone who’d lived there long enough recognized as a probable hazard, but it didn’t really matter until it was the only uneasy ride up to the top).
A rural life, filled with backbreaking work day in and day out… Was a city girl even capable of that?
Realizing that Pierre was still standing there, waiting for a response, I let out a well-disguised nervous laugh, “Hahaha… We’ll certainly try our best, Pierre.”
Before he could say anything else, a new voice cut in as the door Marnie disappeared into opened again, “Hello! You must be Star, the new farmer.” I stood up from my crouch to see who the unfamiliar voice belonged to as she approached the two of us, “I’m Caroline, Pierre’s my husband.”
A woman with green hair bundled into two loose ponytails greeted me with a soft gaze and wide smile. Returning her smile and miraculously juggling the six seed packets into one hand, I extended the other towards her, “It’s nice to meet you, Caroline,” after a beat of hesitation as my eyes glanced towards the wooden door before glancing between the two of them, “Do you two live here or do you commute from down the street?”
Gesturing to the town square as I said this, she gave a small chuckle and shook my hand as Pierre smoothly placed a hand on her shoulder and laughed along.
“No, no… Pierre and I live in the back of the shop. We also have a daughter, Abigail. Have you met her?”
“Ah, I see. No, I haven’t-” As soon as I started shaking my head in answer to her question, she released my hand and turned to call out over her shoulder – cutting me off quite effectively.
“Abigail! Come out here and say hello!”
Standing awkwardly in the aisle together, the three of us watched the door for signs of movement. After a moment or two, the door was slowly opened and the impatience that had been growing in Caroline’s body vanished. A girl with shoulder-length blue hair that shone purple in the lighting, and looked to be around my age walked into the shop. A plain black choker adorned her neck, and she wore a sleeveless blue jacket which flared down to her thighs with a grey buttoned shirt that had the top two buttons left undone underneath. A simple belt held the jacket close to her waist, and dark leggings with warm-looking boots completed the look.
It was stylish, and something I could see Dew throwing together.
Her eyes met mine, and I found that they shifted from green to blue depending on what way the light reflected from them. I offered a smile, and she gave a small one in return – one which bordered on a grimace when she looked towards her parents, who were still standing beside me.
“I’m Star, it’s very nice to meet you.” I held out a hand, “Me and my sister, Dew, will be living on the Snowdrop Farm from now on.” Marnie came back into the shop as Abigail shook my hand, and Caroline quietly excused herself from the situation – Pierre wasn’t too far behind as his daughter gave him a pointed look.
“That’s right… I heard someone new was moving onto that old farm… It’s kind of a shame – I always enjoyed exploring those overgrown fields by myself…” She trailed off, releasing my hand from her grasp while raising and eyebrow at me with a smirk, “Star and Dew, though? You’re lucky you guys didn’t grow up here, with those names.”
I grinned at her, “It was our dad’s idea… But yes, luckily enough, no one in Zuzu knew about the Valley, so we didn’t get called out on it often.” She chuckled along with me, “So, you’ve been exploring the farm?”
“Yeah. An overgrown forest has all sorts of cool secrets hidden inside, and it was the perfect place to get some alone time – you’d be surprised how hard that can be with everyone so… close.” Her face scrunched up at the mention of how small Pelican Town was, and it took all I could to not mirror her expression at the thought that I’d eventually find out exactly what that entailed.
“Have you come across a small coop, barn, or silo somewhere on your explorations? Marnie recalls the structures being somewhere near the middle, by a large lake of some sort?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen those…?” She looked off to the side, shoving her hands in the pockets of her long jacket, taking a good minute before responding, “Yeah! Those are all around the lake. From what I remember, the silo’s in the best condition. I don’t know which building was the barn and which was the coop… but one needs just to be patched up, the other… well, the other looked a little too unstable to enter. There was also another building a little further away from the lake that looked to be in decent condition… and there… there was also some sort of foundations nearby that as well?” She scrunched up her face again, “I’m not too sure how far away those were from the lake though. Sorry.”
Trading the seed packets for my notepad and pen, I scribbled down what she recounted on paper, and shook my head at her, “Don’t be sorry! Any information at all is useful. Besides, we’re not even close to being able to repair them or even finding them – just trying to take stock of what we have and figure out what we need from that.” I flipped the notebook shut and gave it a small shake as if to show her that the notepad was substituting as a planner for now, before I returned it to the pockets of the handy art apron.
With the seed packets in hand, I gestured towards the counter, “Well, unfortunately I need to get a move on: I’ve got a lot of stops planned for the day. If you see Dew around, please say hello to her – but, uh…” I lightly shook my head as yet again, I couldn’t keep the smile from my face as I thought of Dew trying to greet people, “She’s extremely shy when meeting new people. She’ll warm up once she stops overthinking it, I promise!”
“Sounds good. I’ll see you around.”
With a polite nod, I excused myself and found my way over to the counter Pierre was standing behind, seemingly waiting for me to come by. With some small talk that insinuated he had overheard most of the conversation between me and Abigail, I bought the packets and placed them in one of the empty pockets in the green apron. With a small wave, and a promise to be back again, the chime of a bell announced my departure.
But before I could step outside of the shop, I noticed someone standing by the door, hand outstretched to grab the handle that I had already pulled open. While my brain struggled to find out how I didn’t notice her standing there before, I stared blankly at her for a moment too long before I realized what I was doing. Opening the door further and standing to the side, I gestured for her to step inside before I exited.
“Sorry about that! I wasn’t expecting to see anyone standing there, so you kind of surprised me!” As another chuckle escaped me, I took the time to examine another resident (potentially in my age group) of Pelican Town.
Her long tawny hair was pulled away from her face and placed in a braid which fell onto her right shoulder. Brown suspenders found their place over her two layers of green – a light coloured t shirt and a darker coloured vest – and connected to the noticeable, yet simple, belt. Grey jeans flecked with numerous colours were rolled up at the ankles, showing off the tops of her shoes easily. Her lilac coloured eyes searched my face for a second before she shared in my friendly smile, and stepped inside the general store.
She stopped beside me, and held out a hand in greeting as she laughed heartily, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you!” I grasped her hand, shook it briefly, and released it as I introduced myself.
“Nice to meet you too! I’m Star, me and my sister will be living at the old farm from now on.”
She nodded quickly, and I got the feeling the news of us arriving had spread like wildfire, “I’m Leah. You picked a good time to move here… the spring is lovely.”
I took a moment to glance outside at the soft, warm, light that streamed into the store. Unmuffled by tall buildings, unappreciated until rainy days delayed the bustling of bodies moving along from one point to the next in the day-to-day rush of the city… Spring in the countryside looked like a completely different world than that in the city.
Which is exactly why we moved here in the first place.
I laughed a little, “After living in the city for so long, it’s like I’m experiencing the season as it was intended for the first time.”
“I can agree with you there – it’s a nice change of scenery.”
With a wave, she found her way between the aisles and I stepped out of the shop and made sure the door closed behind me. Taking a deep breath, I tried to shake off the sinking feeling in my chest – one that had been growing since I spoke with Pierre. While I wanted to hurry back and work on the farm, sowing the seeds I bought as soon as possible, I pushed the urge away and started walking towards the Mayor’s house. Along the way, I pulled out the notepad and crossed off one of the items on the list that made its home on the first page and added a few more tasks:
O Calendar. (Lewis?)
O Map? (Something to get us acquainted with the town’s layout… If possible, a map of the farm would be useful as well.)
O Tips on how to work the woodstove/getting a new one?
O Washer and dryer?
O Robin – House upgrades and other farm buildings she could construct for us.
O Upgrading the tools?
O Blue curtains for Dew’s window/ fixing the shutters...
O Make sure Dew hasn’t left any bad impressions when dashing around trying – and probably failing – to greet everyone.
O Blacksmith (Clint?)
O Library (Farming resources?)
O Finding Grandpa Drop’s buildings (by ‘lake’)
O Fixing up Grandpa’s farm buildings (Robin?)
As I finished up, the weight of the writing utensils against my legs as the pocket was filled once more, I found myself on the steps of Lewis’s house, and knocked on the dark wooden door.
After a moment, the door opened with a loud creak that made me believe the door was just as heavy as it looked, and Lewis stood before me. The confusion displayed on his face soon cleared as the flash of recognition showed in his eyes and he broke into a large smile.
“Ah! Star, it’s good to see you. How are you finding Pelican Town so far? Have you met many of your new neighbours? Would you like to come in for some tea?” He opened his door further, welcoming me into his home as he waited for me to answer his questions.
Laughing lightly, I shook my head, “Thank you for the offer, Mayor Lewis, but I’m afraid we’ll have to do so another time – I’m running a lot of errands today. I’ve met a few already, and so far it seems like Pelican Town is filled with very kind and friendly people…” He nodded along proudly, shifting his body against the frame and listening closely to what I was saying, “I was wondering if you had any sort of makeshift calendar we could use for the time being? Or have any sort of map in your possession of the town or of the farmland that we could borrow?”
“Hmm… I don’t really have a calendar on hand, but if you’re not looking for anything fancy, I could make one up quickly-”
“Oh, no! You don’t have to do that-”
“It’s not a problem, my dear! I’d be happy to help you out. I’ll be sure to put important dates on it as well, such as the numerous festivals Pelican Town puts on for it’s citizens! I’ll be sure to send you additional information when the festivals get closer, but having a rough idea of when to take some time off to participate in the festivities would be useful for you two.”
“Well, if it’s not a problem…”
“Nonsense. As for a map of the town… I might have an old map or two in the attic. I’m afraid getting a map of the land is out of my abilities, though. I believe Pete had one for planning out how he was going to use the farmland… But who knows what he did with it.”
Hearing Grandpa Drop’s first name was a rare occurrence in our house – Dad usually just called him ‘Grandpa Drop’ along with us (something that started so that we would learn to call him that when we were young, and stuck around), or just ‘Dad’. It was kind of refreshing. And a little melancholic. Having only seen him once or twice when we were little, the only memories I had of him were hazy and unfocused. And because of how young we were, most of the time I think I ‘tricked’ myself into remembering interacting with him because of the pictures that Mom and Dad kept around the house of him.
“Thank you very much for your help, Lewis!” He waved my thanks off, but before he could once again brush off his considerate actions, I continued, “And I would love to stay and chat, but I’m afraid that I do have a lot of things to get done today…”
“Not a problem, Star. It’s good to get a head start on a new life. I’m glad to see that you’re taking it seriously.” He shook his head, the wide grin never leaving his face, “Anyway, I’ll bring over whatever I can find some other time. If you’re not at home, I’ll just leave it in the mailbox.”
“Ah! You don’t have to come all the way out-!”
“Don’t worry about it! I’m looking forward to seeing Pete’s land turning from a forest back into a farm. It’ll remind me of the good ol’ times!”
Thoughts of Lewis continually inspecting the progress of our farm resurfaced the urge to return to the farm and start clearing and preparing the land immediately. The restlessness surged through my body, making a pit form in my stomach while the overwhelming need to do something to lessen the feeling forced my hands into the pockets of my apron to fiddle with the notepad and roll the pen around in my fingers. As I rapidly clicked the pen, I offered Lewis a grateful smile that didn’t quite reach my eyes, and removed myself from his doorstep.
Matching the wave he gave me as he closed his door, calling out another goodbye to me, I continued on the pathway towards the blacksmith and library. Both buildings were now in sight, and as I crossed over the stone bridge that separated the larger portion of the town from the one containing my next destination, I pulled out the notepad again. Crossing two more items off the list, I felt the coil my stomach had knotted itself into loosen slightly.
Slivers of blue JojaMart colouring peered through a grove of trees at the green painted building of what I assumed to be the library (with the plaque of a book above the door) and the grey brick building of what I assumed to be the blacksmith’s I stood before. A grimace instantly made its way across my face at the sight of the Joja Corporation, and I quickly walked up to the purple door of the library to distract myself.
As my fingers touched the doorknob, I came face-to-face with a sign hastily put up on the door: “Library is closed for the time being. Will reopen within the week!” written on it in big, bold, lettering.
With a curious shrug, I made my way towards the other building, letting myself in without knocking as I noticed the ‘Open’ sign on the door. Another chime sounded, and as I looked around at the storefront, I could hear someone rustling in the backroom.
There was a large furnace of some kind in the far corner of the room, and the basalt stone that contained it led from the structure to the surrounding ground. While the walls were made of a lighter coloured stone as well, the wooden siding that covered the bottom half of the walls were bare directly around the forge. An anvil also found its place on the area of stone floor, and I gingerly walked over to it (although I did not leave the wooden flooring to do so) to take a closer look.
I didn’t know too much about anvils, but with the slight discolouring of the metal on the surface, I’d assume it had been there for a while.
Turning around as I took another glance around the room, I found myself in front of a table and two chairs, as well as a small cabinet with some sheets of paper on it. Curious, I took a step towards the paper, but before I could inspect them further, a voice sounded as the creak of a door accompanied it.
“Lewis, you…” I turned around, and he looked severely confused as to what I was doing in his shop, “Er… hi…?”
A friendly smile spread itself across my face as I approached him, still skirting the stone-laid area, and held out a hand as I introduced myself, “Hello, I’m Star. My sister, Dew, and I will be taking over Snowdrop Farm for the time being. I heard that you were one of the people that could help us get the farm back in shape?”
His confusion cleared, and as he shook my hand, he introduced himself with a shy smile, “Ah, I see. I’m Clint, the town blacksmith. As for helping your farm out… Well, if you need to upgrade your tools, I’m your guy.”
Nodding, I pulled out my notepad once again, “And around what would that cost us?”
“Well, if you need to buy the metal here as well, it would take five bars. Depending on the metal… the price changes, but let’s say you were looking for a Copper Tool of some sorts. The copper required would cost you 375G, and then making the tool would cost you 2000G.”
Scribbling this down on a new page, I paused, “What if we could find you the metal you needed elsewhere?” If there was some cheaper way to get the material…
“Sure, if it’s quality material, I’ll work it. Without the cost of material involved, it’ll still cost 2000G.”
Nodding once again, I recorded the optional deal to the paper, “Is there any other services you can provide?”
Clint took a moment to think, scratching his beard as he did so, “Well, if you wind up getting horses, I can outfit some horseshoes for ‘em. 50G per horseshoe. And if you find any geodes or anything, I can break them open for you.” Noticing my confused expression, he continued, “Pelican Town started out as a mining town, the occupation sort of died out years ago, although, the mines got blocked only recently… so there might be a few lying around that had gotten loose beforehand and got washed out, or something. That Joja business has someone trying to clear out the rubble for us… They ended up outbidding me for the contract... Anyway, if you go down searching for ore, you’ll have to be careful. Monsters have taken the mines for themselves – I could forge a sword if you guys were interested in that sort of thing.”
I paused, giving Clint an incredulous look. I’d never heard Pelican Town mentioned as a mining town… but, having a blacksmith in the Valley without any real need for it (our Grandfather probably needed one, but it would be weird for a blacksmith to open up just for one farm) is stranger than Pelican Town starting as a mining town.
If we could get into those mines, we could try and get the ore Clint needs to upgrade our stuff… and with enough of it, we might be able to just trade a lot of ore for an upgrade… But, that’s hinging on the fact that Dew and I can, at the bare minimum, identify ores and then successfully free decent pieces from their veins.
And monsters? Living in Zuzu kept the city free of monsters inside the walls. The fact that monsters typically stayed away from humans (a few generations ago it was supposedly a difficulty, until we drove them away from human settlements) and didn’t usually travel outside of their homes, meant that any sort of interaction with them were few and far between. But, security measures were taken to keep monsters out, and the monsters that did come by Zuzu usually left it alone or were shooed along. Entering the homes of these monsters, though? They’d probably be less inclined to move along when asked nicely.
Some combat training might also be a good idea… If the mines ended up reopening, that is.
“Uh… is there anything else I can help you with?”
Clint’s voice drew me back from my thoughts, and after offering a smile, I politely shook my head and took a few steps towards the door, “No, I think that’s it for now. Thank you, Clint, you’ve been very helpful. Unfortunately, I still have to speak with Robin, so I’ll take my leave… But if I have any more questions, I’ll be back!”
“Alright then. I guess I’ll see you around.”
“I look forward to it.” With a wave, I spun around and left the blacksmith behind and stepped out into the noticeably cooler air.
I made my way north, seeing the second bridge further up the river, and steeled myself as the JojaMart came into view. Purposefully focusing my eyes solely on the bridge, I passed by the out-of-place blue building without even once allowing my eyes to drift over to its features out of spite.
Arriving at Pierre’s, I turned up the path that Marnie spoke of and continued up the steps. As I reached the top, I took in the view that unfolded before me. There was a large run-down building with a clock placed above the door and a fenced area adjacent to it that contained a dark-leafed tree and a… bench of some sort? After a few moments of keeping my eyes trained on the clock hands, I recognized that the clock seemed to be broken – without a second hand attached, I waited for a while (well after a minute) for the minute hand to move. It didn’t, leaving the clock stuck at 3:30 – which was around the time it was now.
There was another fenced area to the left of the building, which I couldn’t necessarily tell what it was supposed to be used for. A water fountain was to the left of that, with a few benches surrounding it, and then a small playground with more areas to sit was placed into the corner of this higher part of Pelican Town. The mountainous region beyond the cliff face – which towered above the playground – looked like it grew taller the further it stretched from the town’s boundaries.
The elaborate playgrounds in the city, padded with a hard rubber material which usually contained all sorts of monkey bars, slides, small rock climbing walls, swings, merry-go-rounds, pirate ships, and much more, made the small Pelican playground look even smaller. But the sand that lay beneath the small playground’s equipment showed the town’s superiority compared to the city: the inkling of nature existing in the world could never be found in the concrete jungle.
Although the rubber ground gave us scratches and bruises whenever we landed a little too hard, Dew and I spent a lot of time in the park a few blocks from our old house after school. Even when the summer made everything in that playground a dangerous, burning, hazard.
Looking over my shoulder, at the town below spread before me, I felt a spark of optimism course through my being. At the very least, I enjoyed being in Pelican Town far more than I enjoyed being in the expansive, yet restricting, city.
With a lighter heart, I followed the path – at a slower pace then what I had left Clint’s at.
After a few minutes of walking along the dirt path, I found myself in front of a beautiful looking home. Unlike most of the other houses in Pelican Town, this one looked like it had just been built, not a wooden plank out of place, and what looked to be a brand-new fence wrapped around the house and restricted access to the shed behind the house.
A telescope was planted in front of the shed, which reminded me that stargazing was hard to do in the city, and I wondered what a star-filled sky looked like. However, before I could inspect it further, a man standing outside of the house drew my attention away.
“Greetings! I’m Demetrius: local scientist and father.” The man left the potted plant, which he seemed to be inspecting, wiped his hands off on a handkerchief that was tucked in his dark coloured jeans.
“Good afternoon! I’m Star. My sister, Dew, and I will be living at the Snowdrop Farm…” Taking a glance down at the ring he wore on his left ring finger, and the fact that he was standing outside of what should be Robin’s house… “But, I’m sure Robin already told you that?”
We briefly shook hands, and a wide smile spread across his face, “Yeah, she told me you guys would fit in nicely around here. Thanks for coming up to introduce yourself! Did you want to come in for a bit?”
I hesitated, but an offer inside the house would allow me to speak with Robin, so I nodded enthusiastically and followed him as he gestured towards the door.
“I’m studying the local plants and animals from my laboratory – its in the house. I tend to lose track of time when I’m in there, so if you ever come by and I’m working on something, I’m not ignoring you!” He laughed at that, and opened the door, allowing me to step inside first as I laughed along with him.
“I know what you mean – sometimes I get so focused on something, that I don’t even realize someone’s calling out to me until they come right up next to me!”
“Haha! I’m glad to find someone who’s the same way!” He glanced around the foyer, which seemed to double as a shop based on the counter in the corner, “I don’t want to alarm you, but I’ve been outnumbered here for a long time.” Demetrius seemed like the kind of guy who was easy to talk to, as he tried to make you comfortable with every action he did. It was strange, but I found myself liking the easy air he brought with him.
“Now, what kinds of ideas are you putting into her head, Demetrius?”
Robin appeared, holding two plates and grinning playfully at the two of us as Demetrius walked up to her. With his hands raised in mock surrender, he approached.
“I’m not putting any ideas in anybody’s head, dear. Promise!”
She stared him down for another moment, before her grin grew as she rolled her eyes. She held out one of the plates to him, “Here. I was planning on bringing you out a plate, but it seems like you’re here now, soooo go eat in the kitchen before you head out!”
“Alright, alright,” He grabbed the plate from Robin while kissing her on the cheek before turning to me, “I’ll see you later, Star! Try not to get eaten alive!” He chuckled, quickly making his escape as Robin tried to hit him half-heartedly, heading down the hallway with a wide smile on his face.
Robin shook her head at his antics, placing the plate down on the counter before turning to me, “Don’t listen to him, Star. Anyway, your sister stopped by earlier!”
I paused, raising an eyebrow, “Oh? And… how well did that go?” She started laughing, and I grimaced. With that kind of reaction, Dew most certainly left an impression. One that could hopefully be rectified after Dew settles in.
“Hah! I don’t think I’ve ever SEEN anyone turn that red!”
Well, at least she didn’t break anything.
“Haha… She’s a little shy to begin with… but we decided to have a contest to see who could meet everyone first.”
“Oh really? That sounds exhausting… but I guess having a competition makes it easier to introduce yourself over and over again. Who have you met so far?” She grabbed her sandwich, taking a bite out of it as she waited for me to speak.
“It’s not so bad. I’m more worried about Dew overdoing it. I’ve met Marnie, Pierre, Caroline, Abigail, and Clint so far.”
Robin nodded, “Making your way around town, huh? At least you’re faring better at greeting everyone than your sister – when she came by, my son Sebastian,” She gestured towards the hallway, and I noticed there were stairs that led down to a door, “came out of his room when she was speaking with my daughter, Maru. Let’s just say… he was less than decent. Your sister looked mortified.” She laughed, “But, Sebby was blushing up a storm as well – maybe that’ll teach him a lesson for next time!”
I chuckled a little at her story, determined to hear Dew’s rendition of it once we were both back at the farm.
“Anyway, I’m sure you’ll hear all about it later. Now, is there anything you came up here that I can help you out with?”
I nodded, pulling out my trusty notepad and pen, “I was wondering about a few things, actually, now that we’ve had a day to scope things out.” She nodded, finishing off her sandwich before giving me her full attention, “The woodstove’s a little old, and tricky to start… so some potential options for later on would be helpful. I’d also like to ask about ways to get a washer and dryer in the farmhouse and I’ve learned that Grandpa had a few farm buildings left on the farm, but we’re still looking for them, so if you could assess their condition and perhaps repair them once they’re found…? Are there any other farm buildings you could possibly construct for us?” I paused, quickly running down my list. “And, well, I don’t know if you’d be the one to ask about this… But the shutters in front of Dew’s window are stuck so if you have any sort of curtain to hang over window, that would be excellent. Or, if we could get you to potentially fix them, that would also work.”
“Wow. Okay…” She took a deep breath, and a moment to think through her answers, “The woodstove is pretty old, but it’ll last you for a while… If you wanted to replace it, that’s something that Pierre has to order in for you. If you wanted to exchange your woodstove for a stove, you’d have to get a house upgrade first, as Pete’s old farmhouse isn’t equipped to handle that. It’s the same for the washer and dryer – the hookup I can do, but it’ll cost more to install it in that house now, then it would be to set it up while I’m upgrading the house for you. The physical washer and dryer you’d also have to order in from Pierre’s.” She pulled out a book from beneath the counter, “The farm buildings left on your farm I could probably repair if they’re not in bad shape. For a repair job – although it will depend on how much needs to be repaired – will certainly cost less than a regular build job. But, if you want to have the buildings in a different place other than where Pete put ‘em, you’d have to make a new building – so make sure you look at where you want them before coming to me!”
She slid the book over to me, “As for other farm buildings, in this book, there are a few buildings I’ve constructed for the other farms a little further from the town… any other structure you want, you’ll have to come to me personally to hear what kind of thing you’re looking for.”
Flipping through the book and seeing some buildings that looked like they came straight out of a children’s book about farms, I wrote down the prices, sizes, and the information she listed as ‘required materials’ for each one – which had an alternative, and cheaper, price scribbled next to it.
“Required materials? So, if we supply the materials you need, the price goes down?”
“Yup!” She popped the ‘p’, “If you bring me the materials, you’re only paying for my services and the time needed to construct the building.” As I finished up writing my notes, and marking off a few items from my to-do list, she took the book back and returned it underneath the counter, “For the shutters, I’ll be happy to swing by and see what I can do.”
Nodding happily, I returned my writing utensils back to my apron, “How much would that cost us?”
She gave me an incredulous look, “Cost you? You’ve been living in the city far too long…” Shaking her head in what I took as mock-sadness, she quickly broke out into a grin, “It’s just fixing a shutter: it’s just being a good neighbour! I’ll swing by sometime tomorrow. The look on my son’s face earlier today is payment enough, anyway!” With a loud laugh, inciting me to laugh along with her, I quickly said my goodbyes and made my way out of the house after calling out my goodbye to Demetrius (to which I got a muffled response).
As I made my way back towards Pelican Town, with the intention of going home and planting the seeds before it got too late (I don’t even know where the time went). But, as I got to the town square, a strong breeze coming from the south brought with it the smell of the ocean. Marnie did mention that there was a beach nearby…
Perhaps I should stop by and take a quick look before heading back?
With a quick glance towards the sky, noting its darkening colour, I figured I had a little bit of time. Besides, I was used to working late – and since Dew had been on the same schedule as me, she wouldn’t be hungry for a few more hours…
Nodding, I made my way south, my eyes trained on Lewis’s house as I did so.
The last time Dew and I had been to a beach, was during a paid school trip just before Dew dyed her hair black. The sound of the sea had been relaxing, and the way the bright sunlight reflected off of the cresting waves made it all the more appealing to jump into the cooler-than-expected water. After a mouthful of saltwater accidentally entered Dew’s mouth (she had wanted to ‘surf’ the waves inward, but hadn’t expected the force of the waves crashing onto shore), we built the largest sand-village that beach would ever see.
It was well thought out, in accordance to my younger self’s understanding of the way villages were set up: a central well that was surrounded by a marketplace, roads that bore no resemblance to the blocks in the city, and houses haphazardly placed inside the wall that Dew constructed perfectly. But, the grand castle we built high above the village was the most spectacular feature of all.
It was a strong castle: it’s king undeterred by the relentless battering waves that threatened to consume his beloved village. The seaweed that covered the tallest spire of the castle was the only remnant of the sea having been there at all, and some said that the castle had been there long before the village had been constructed. That it had been created under the waves, standing tall and proud, but solemn as it reigned over no citizens of its own. Sculpted by the very same king that compelled the sea from his city, being tired of his lone castle walls…
Angered by his betrayal, the sea vowed to take the castle back, trying day after day, reaching far into the land to drag its creation back into itself… But, to this day, the King and his castle withstood the tide. And, they would continue to do so until the sea no longer tried to return him to its depths.
I let out a chuckle at the fantastical story created from two young minds. It had all started with Dew wanting to use the seaweed for some part of the castle, but she became disheartened when it didn’t quite line up with how she imagined it. She kept muttering under her breath, ‘It’s not right…’, ‘That’s not how it looks…’, or, ‘It’s missing something…’, among many others. After trying just about everything, the story of the King’s struggle against the tide flowed easily from me, and the seaweed became a banner: draped over the tallest spire as a symbol of the kingdom. One that inspired the King’s people – why they kept repairing the walls that the water softened… One that continually angered the sea, as it was a challenge: reclaim the banner, and you have reclaimed this castle.
… And since we never returned to that beach, I like to think that the kingdom still lives on. Perhaps it’s even grown larger since we left it.
“Ah, I’m assuming you’re Star? The one who moved onto the old farm?” Hearing my name, my head shot up – my eyes moving from the ground to meet the green eyes of the man standing on the bridge leading to the beach.
He had long, very well-cared for light brown hair and dark eyebrows. A green… tie? Cravat? Was tied around his white collared shirt, and a red jacket that had hopefully seen better days (the fabric looked thin and worn) was worn over it. Dark green pants that also looked well worn (and had patches of sand encrusted on the knees, although it seems a valiant effort to brush off the clinging particles was made) and equally worn (and sand covered) shoes completed the outfit. As I examined him, he straightened himself, no longer leaning over the edge of the bridge and turned towards me fully as a hand still rested on the smooth stone.
“Yes, I am. Pleased to meet you.” I walked up to him, offering my hand (the left one, as his opposite was hanging idly at his side), “I assume you’ve heard from the other villagers to know my name already?”
His warm hand easily covered my own as he let out a laugh, “Your arrival has sparked many a conversation,” his eye seemed to twinkle as he leaned in, as if he was telling me a secret, “but I actually got a few words out of your sister, Dew? She mentioned you by name in her… ranting.”
Laughing lightly, I rubbed my forehead out of endearment as I shook my head, able to clearly imagine my sister stumbling over her words, “I’m surprised you could get that much out of her! She rambles a lot when she’s nervous. And, well, meeting people makes her nervous. I hope she didn’t leave any bad impression?”
“No, no… Nothing of the sort! It’s quite refreshing actually… But never mind that…” He grinned at me, “I’m Elliott. I live in the little cabin by the beach,” He nodded his head towards the direction of said beach, “It’s a pleasure to meet you – and your sister. She ran off before I could tell her as such, so please be sure to let her know.”
Shaking my head at Dew’s shyness (something we really should’ve worked on in the city before we moved out here), and agreed to pass along the message.
As the sky noticeably got darker, I decided to head home instead of visiting the beach. After talking a little more with Elliott, I bid him goodnight (he seemed to speak a little ‘fancier’ than I normally did, but it was actually quite infectious, and by the constant twinkle in his eye which could only be called as ‘mirth’, I think he recognized this fact too).
The trip back to the farm was quick, helped by the hurried pace I set as my mind bent itself around the act of planting the seeds before calling it a day…
But as I returned to the farm we inherited and found it to be just as overrun with trees and their gnarled roots, the only piece of solace from the shadowed forest was the small barren patch we worked long and hard to clear this morning, I felt disheartened. While the upturned soil indicated that life was starting to take root in the open plot, my eyes instead found themselves locking onto the encroaching forest. The towering and twisting trees loomed over my heart, and ensnared my mind with the large shadows of doubt they cast.
It was such a small plot of land… And so much work had gone into providing us with just this. This haphazard patch of ground that supposedly granted us ‘farmer’ status as we played around in the dirt, hoping that we would get lucky.
The lightness of my heart quickly turned heavy once more, the worry pulling at my fingers as they found purchase on my pen, clicking it rapidly as my heart raced. The sound echoed in the darkening field, and my mind turned to the words of Pierre and Lewis. The former, mentioning that the farm opening once more would put some money into the economy (which infers that Grandpa’s farm had an economic impact when it was running) and the latter, saying that he would be coming up to see the unimpressive job we had done so far…
There was still so much work to do.
With the amount of money we had left over, we needed to do well on this – especially when people in this town seemed to be expecting so much from us, when we didn’t even have any sort of experience…
With that in mind, I got to work. I tilled the land, able to do so on my own as the patch we cleared earlier was just large enough to house the new seeds. Tucking the opened packets into my pockets, all the seeds now safely buried beneath the soft soil, I then watered them carefully. Giving up with the dying light, I headed inside only a half-hour after Dew called out to me for supper. But as I wiped the dirt from my hands and face in the small bathroom, I found that the shadows in my mind had followed me inside.
As I sat down to a nearly-cooled plate of food, I listened intently to Dew’s version of encountering Robin’s son:
“Omigosh, Star! I just met like, the cutest guy I’ve ever met, and he had black emo-y hair and he was so pale that he sorta reminded me of a vampire but vampires aren’t real, right?”
She leaned her elbows onto the table, seemingly waiting for a response in the brief pause after her question – but I knew better, and didn’t interrupt.
“Well at least I don’t think they’re real but if they are then I think this guy would make the perfect vampire with his pale skin and dark hair and – omigosh Star – he had the prettiest violet eyes! He’s Robin’s son which is so cool because we already met Robin, so we already know his mom and I met his dad and his sister and they seem like cool people too like his dad is a botanist, so I think you’d like him with the plants and stuff and his sister seems really nice as well like she had pretty glasses and I liked-”
“Breathe” A quick, but deep, inhale later and her pace hadn’t slowed.
“-her overalls. But Sebastian – that’s his name, isn’t it awesome – lives in the basement which is totally cool because he has his own apartment to himself basically and omigosh Star he was naked when I first saw him.” I raised an eyebrow at her, “Well, not naked naked but like he was shirtless and he was wearing the cutest boxers ever that were like white with a bunch of little red hearts on it like I didn’t think they really existed – only in cartoons – but he was wearing a pair and ugh, Star, he was so cute like omigosh.”
There was a lull in her rant as she stared off into the distance, and I had the time to think about Robin’s comment of Sebastian not being entirely ‘decent’, before she snapped out of her daze and picked up where her brain thought she left off.
“He was a little skinnier though, like he didn’t eat a lot or something because I could see his ribs but he did a have a bit of muscle – especially around his upper body but I’m not sure if he works out or not because Robin said he was shy and that he worked as a programmer most of the time and that he had weird schedules for coming out of his room so I think it was fate that he came out at the moment I was there because I got to meet him and I think I really want to be his friend. I think he got a really good impression of me too because I walked up to him like no one’s business and introduced myself as Dew and mentioned you as my sister and shook his hand and he said his name was Sebastian and omigosh Star his voice was so cute like it was low and quiet and his face was so red from embarrassment and gah I want to see him again and be his friend!”
“Oh really, now?” I picked up my plate, noticing the end to her rant as she sat back in her chair – the wood squeaking in protest, and brought it over to the sink.
“Yes? Why? Did you meet him too? What do you think of him? Do you think he’s-?” Dew was by my side immediately, earnestly trying to gauge how I felt about him as I gently washed the thin and ornate dish.
“Oh, I just think that you want to be a little more than just ‘friends’ with him, that’s all.”
I didn’t have to look at her to know that her face turned red again, and so my playful smirk came easily, “STAR!”
She shoved me out of embarrassment, but as I was prepared for it, the fragile plate had left my hands moments before impact as I laughed loudly.
“Ahaha! Alright, alright. I’ll stop teasing you.” She huffed adorably, “Elliott mentioned that you came across him when I spoke with him earlier, and told me to say that he enjoyed meeting you. Apparently, you ran off without letting him get a word out.” I through her another mischievous look, which earned me another shove – though this one, I noted, was lighter than the last.
“I’m sorry.” The words were mumbled, and as I glanced over to her she seemed to be staring down at her toes and fiddling with her hands.
“For what?” Noticing the change in atmosphere, I walked over to comfort her, wrapping my arms around her shoulders and holding her tight.
“I wasn’t any help on the farm today. I couldn’t introduce myself properly. I-”
I shushed her, cutting her off, “Shh… I’m sorry too, Dew. I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that. And I’m sure that tomorrow we’ll both do better. We’re still settling in, so we’re going to make a few mistakes here and there. But, Pelican Town is shaping up to be a great place. We’ll try our best to make it here, so don’t worry, okay?”
She nodded, sniffling discretely before breaking from my grasp and emerging as the same old bubbly Dew as always, “Alright then, we need to go to sleep and rest up for tomorrow then!” She scurried off to the bathroom without another word, presumably to get ready for bed.
My brow furrowed, the thought of Dew worrying over anything always pulled my lips into a frown. With a sigh, I wandered over to my bed, setting my alarm a few hours earlier, and curled up under the cool blankets. Before Dew got up, I’d take care of most of the farm work and get a head start on the farm so that she didn’t have to worry about it.
With that, I drifted off into a dreamless sleep, urging myself to ignore how it seemed to feed the shadows that danced in the back of my mind.
Growing times: the growth of produce will be the same of that in the game, and as we are taking that to be the way of the Stardew Universe, it’s not astounding to have crops grow that quickly (i.e. fully grown parsnips in four days).