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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 26th day of Storing, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 140 > Short Stories > The Hope Tree

The Hope Tree

by nincondemius

The sun had barely begun to rise when Tasha, a red Lupe, woke up. She rubbed her sleepy eyes with her paws, and gazed insightfully out the window. It was one of Tasha's daily rituals to do this, because whenever she looked at her beloved valley, she felt as though she were a part of the hills where she had grown up. Dawn had cast an eerie glow on the golden hills of the valley. The golden hills shined and seem to sing to Tasha. They were singing a familiar song, a song that Tasha never sang anymore. That song was about Tasha's sister.

     Tasha's sister, Marigold was a delightful little creature. The green Cybunny had never ceased to make the village a happier, warmer, and more comfortable place. She used to wear flowers in her hair, insisting they made her look more beautiful. The truth was that Marigold was already beautiful. The girl had a natural, carefree, childish warmth inside of her that made her shine like the beautiful golden hills of the valley. Everyone loved her. But, more importantly, Tasha loved her. Marigold was the only one who could understand Tasha's strange quiet ways. But, then Marigold left. She didn't say anything about it though. It was so sudden, and so surprising that Tasha didn't even know about it. Marigold had left in the night, when everyone else was sleeping. All she left was a single piece of palm leaf with the word 'Runaway' scrawled across it in Marigold's smooth, curvy handwriting. Except now the same handwriting that had written so many grocery lists and thank-you cards did not send the message of comfort to the reader's head. Instead, it sent pain.

     Tasha shook her head, trying to forget the image of Marigold. She gently brushed away a tear which had found its way to her eye. Tasha stared outside at the hills again, but mainly at one hill. One hill in particular seemed to shine more than the others. This hill stood in the center of the valley and it was surrounded by the many houses of the inhabitants of the area. This hill was the hill of the Hope Tree.

     The Hope Tree was an old gnarly thing, all busted up with many knotholes in it. Its limbs twisted and turned, but never failed to soar high into the sky. Each leaf was different from the next, and sometimes you could spot a leaf that was red or orange or even blue. Come leaves were furry and some was sleek and waxy. But, besides leaves, the Hope Tree also bore flowers and fruit all year. The flowers were ones which were so extraordinary and beautiful, each one delicate and precious. They were all different colors, some orange, some magenta, some jet black. Oh, and then the fruits which the tree bore! They were amazing. They were strange in shape, like semicircles attached to semi-hearts. Their skins were fuzzy and were peach-colored. Inside, they tasted sweet like custard in the center, and around that they were sour. The skin was edible, too. It tasted like a chewy square of dried apricot.

     Marigold loved the Hope Tree, thought Tasha. The strong limbs of the tree were like a second home to the Cybunny. Many a time had Marigold been caught confiding to the rich, brown colored bark as she sat atop a branch high upon the Hope Tree. Tasha remembered asking Marigold why she liked the Hope Tree so much, and why she didn't play with Tasha as much as she used to. Marigold had scowled and almost looked disgustedly at her little sister. "The Hope Tree doesn't expect anything of me," was her answer. Tasha had thought that answer was a confusing one and after that had asked why Marigold had said that. "You wouldn't understand," she said. The Cybunny looked perturbed, and then didn't speak to Tasha for a while. Instead, she spoke only to the Hope Tree.

     Tasha thought of all this with a funny, salty taste in her mouth. She then realized that she had swallowed a tear. Tasha hung her head down, against her blue paw. She rested her head like this for a moment, as if she was thinking. Then, Tasha got up and stood, looking confidently at the Hope Tree with a small smile on her face. She was going to visit the Hope Tree.

     The Hope Tree was not to far from Tasha's house. It was only a short walk away. Tasha hummed a song to herself as she set out to visit the Hope Tree like she had seen Marigold do so many times before. Tasha hummed the only song she knew, the only song which made her cry, the song which Marigold used to sing. The song was sad, yet happy, lonesome, yet friendly.

     Soon the Hope Tree came into view.

     Marigold once told Tasha that the Hope Tree had so many different things growing on it because everyone told it their dreams and wishes and the Hope Tree turned those dreams into fruits and flowers and leaves. I wonder if that's what Marigold used to tell this tree. Maybe she asked it to help her run away. Maybe she wanted to run away. Tasha shook her head at the last thought. No, Marigold never wanted to run away. She liked it here... she had to! Tasha stopped in her tracks and thought over how many times Marigold had told Tasha wistfully, "There's better things out there." Tasha looked quizzically at her beloved valley, her beloved hills. They looked so welcoming and comforting before, but now they were like huge prison cages in front of Tasha.

     "No!" screamed Tasha. She couldn't believe it, she didn't want to believe it. But it was true.

     Tasha ran to the Hope Tree, throwing herself into its sturdy limbs. It was so beautiful. Tasha stared at it, as if it was a mystical creature she had never seen before. The Lupe had never seen the tree up close. Who cares? she had told herself. It's just a dumb old piece of wood. Tasha couldn't believe how wrong she was, because in that tree Tasha found a warmth that she hadn't felt since Marigold ran away.

     Tasha sat on top of the grass, dew sticking to her blue fur. She pondered what her wish should be. Tears immediately sprung to her eyes as she thought it over. "I wish to find my sister," she said at last. Tasha then closed her eyes, waiting for something to happen. She had often seen Marigold close her eyes when she talked to the Hope Tree, and thought it would be the right thing to do. The Lupe felt a surge of power around her. The whole world was being sucked into the ground around her, she could feel it. Tasha was scared to open her eyes, because maybe then she would be sucked away with the world around her.

     When the world had stopped moving and Tasha felt safe, she opened her eyes. She was sitting on a wooden bench in the farthest corners of the Lost Desert. She could see Coltzan's Shrine, although now it looked more like Coltzan's Stool. The wooden planks felt hot against the Lupe's legs. Suddenly, Tasha heard a thick breathing sound from next to her. Tasha looked across at the Cybunny sitting to the left of her and almost yelped. The Cybunny was clad in Grey, its ears drooping and its eyes red. A drooping marigold was stuck in its fur. Tasha knew who it was, but she was shocked. This can't be Marigold, her heart told her. But her mind told her that it surely was the long-lost sister that Tasha had been searching for. Tasha wanted to say something, but didn't want to interrupt. In a thick, raspy voice, Marigold sang a song that was sad, yet happy, lonesome, yet friendly.

The End

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