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Beyond the Blossom Tree: Part Three


by puppy_girl252

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A Xweetok girl’s voice rings through the valleys.

     She sings a song of hope, justice, and life. She spins and laughs and sings her heart away. Her happiness is everlasting. The wind ripples her yellow hair and her sundress rips about her heels. The grass and flowers and trees sway and dance with her. And suddenly the girl collapses onto the soft summer grass, her hair and tail laid out like a fan. She laughs, laughter like bells, and is free as can be. Cherry blossom petals parade in the wind.

     I realize that girl is me.

     The picture in my mind then clouds over to another, this time one of Mom and Cleo and me on a bright summer’s day, having a picnic out on the lush grasses on the bridge of Neopia Central.

     “My, Shiloh sure loves flowers, doesn’t she, Mom?” A younger Cleo peers at me with a pretty smile, laughing as I come dashing to them with a handful of flowers. I have to be only two years old.

     “Mom, Mom! Lookit, fwowers!” I cry, tottering faster and faster on my new legs.

     Mom laughs, holding out her arms. “Come on, Shiloh!”

     “Mom- OOOF!” And then I fall, flowers flying askew. I’m not hurt, only upset. Fat tears dribble down my face.

     Mom and Cleo dash to me, Mom picking me and caressing. “Oh, honey, are you okay?”

     I continue to sob and shake my head. “Fwowers!” I cry, reaching madly for my lilies. “Fwowers!”

     Cleo gathers the fallen flowers and hands them to me and I grab them in my tiny paw.

     “They’re dirty,” I whimper, my lip trembling as I stare at the smashed flowers.

     Mom carries me back to the picnic blanket and sets me down, grabbing my tattered sunhat and perching it on my little head to shield me from the sun. “Here, Shiloh,” she says tenderly, handing me a cookie. I take it and sniffle, not truly content.

     A few moments later, a red Cybunny comes walking to us, smiling brightly, paws behind her back. I stare up into Cleo’s dancing eyes.

     “Aw, look, Shiloh. Cleo’s got a surprise for you,” Mom says, grabbing my tiny paw.

     I sniffle and suddenly my tears dry up as Cleo gives me a pawful of blossoming red roses. “Fwowers!” I cry, grinning down at them.

     Cleo pats me on the head. “I even picked off the thorns for you, Shiloh.”

     Darkness swirls around me. I have no idea where I am, or where these visions of my past are coming from. All I know is that I miss those happy times. Things have changed too much as the years go on. The picnics and outings became less frequent, money became tight, Mom became busier and started working more, and therefore Cleo became grown-up too fast, being the “parent” of the house all the time. And I... I am caught in the middle of it all. I haven’t changed. I’m still the cheerful, imaginative, dreamer-girl I was then. Only now, I know more. I understand that life can’t always be a faerie-tale.

     ***

     It seemed like days I was out, visions thrown at me, and a couple times I awoke softly, barely alive to the world around. It was all a blur. I could barely remember falling into the creek. A few times I heard voices, just like back in the blossom tree days where I would go off into slumber and hear the voices... the pretty, pretty voices...

     “Where did you say you found her, Rosy?”

     “She was drowning in the creek, Mother. It’s a good thing I found her, too.”

     “A very good thing. My, she could’ve-”

     “D... drowned?”

     “Yes.”

     More voices joined in now.

     “Where do you think she came from?”

     “Neopia Central?”

     “Why is she here?”

     “I don’t know. But someone’s probably looking for her.”

     “Like her mother, Rosy?”

     “Exactly.”

     I rolled over and groaned softly; so softly, I don’t think they heard me, whoever they were. I could barely register what they had said... who were these people? Where was I? Were they real? A dream? Part of my imagination? Was I even still alive?

     ***

     “Mom!”

     It was Cleo’s voice. It was frantic and choked with worry. She burst through Mom’s study.

     Mom looked up, her glasses on the bridge of her noise. Her quill poised in midair. “What is it, Cleo?”

     “Mom, it’s Shiloh,” Cleo panted, tears brimming in her eyes. “She’s gone!”

     “Gone?” Mom’s eyes widened and she sharply drew in her breath.

     “Yes, she’s not in her room.”

     Mom flew up from her study, her hand flying to her mouth when she realized Cleo was right. The quilt covers on my bed were limp and flat, no little yellow Xweetok nestled under them. The petal-pink curtains rippled about from the wind creeping in from the open bedroom window.

     ***

     “Can I help you, ma’am?” A Skeith officer peered up at my mother from his desk, mouth in a thin line, a badge glistening on his chest.

     “Yes, it’s my daughter. She’s missing.” Mom’s voice was choked with pain. Cleo stood beside her, worry clouding her pretty pink eyes.

     The Skeith nodded and grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. “Okay, ma’am, calm down. Tell me your daughter’s name, species and color, birthday, and age.”

     Mom nodded and swallowed, trying to find her voice. “Her name is Shiloh. She’s a yellow Xweetok, birthday is April 6th. And she’s only ten years old! Please, sir! You’ve got to help me find my daughter!” Mom pleaded. "I have to find my daughter!"

     The Skeith finished writing notes and nodded. “Thank you, ma’am. We will do all we can. If anything turns up, we’ll send a neomail.”

     Mom bit her lip and nodded. “Thank you, sir.”

     ***

     “Any sign, Mom?” Cleo asked as Mom walked through the front door, sadness washed over her eyes.

     Mom shook her head. “They’re doing all they can, sweetie... but they can’t find her...”

     Cleo sighed. “I made some coffee,” she said lightly after few seconds.

     “That’d be nice,” Mom said tiredly, though I knew no coffee could bring me back.

     I whimpered in my sleep. These dreams... were they real?

     ***

     “Is... she waking?”

     “I don’t know...”

     “Look! Her eyes are fluttering! She is waking! She’s waking up, Rosy!”

     My eyes fluttered open, the world around me a blur. I blinked at the figures standing above me. They were... Xweetoks. Four of them, I think.

     For a few moments we did nothing but stare.

     My head ached. I tried to make the figures clearer. “W... where... am I?” I stuttered quietly.

     One of the brown Xweetoks wearing a pretty pink Shenkuu dress stepped forward. “Serene Meadows,” she said melodically. She seemed the oldest of the four.

     “S-serene Meadows?” My head flopped back down on my pillow. Serene Meadows? I had never heard of such a place, yet the name was captivating. “H-how’d I get here?”

     “You were drowning,” the brown Xweetok said softly, “in the creek. I had to rescue you.” Her voice made me melt. It was the nicest I had ever heard.

     “You... rescued me?” I asked. What a kind thing to do. I owed this pretty Xweetok my life.

     “Th... thanks.”

     Another younger brown Xweetok stepped forward and nodded. She wore a silky blue Shenkuu dress. “Yes! If Rosy hadn’t come along, Mother said you would’ve...” She clasped her paws together in fear, horror snapping in her beautiful brown eyes.

     “R... rosy?” I asked the older brown Xweetok. What a nice name...

     Rosy nodded. “Yes.” She smiled. “And you’re welcome.”

     I smiled back and took everything in. I was somewhere in Serene Meadows, possibly in Rosy’s house, which I was guessing she lived with her sisters and mother... But still the story didn’t fit somehow.

     “Mother! Mother!” the brown Xweetok wearing the orange dress suddenly cried. “She’s awake!” Their mother walked into the room.

     My eyes then fell upon the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She was like a faerie, with sparkling blue eyes and shiny, silky auburn hair. She was wearing a Shenkuu dress too, a yellow one. My eyes widened. These weren’t ordinary Xweetoks. I blinked as my eyes fell upon each of them.

     Rosy was wearing a silk pink Shenkuu dress. The next oldest wore a sapphire blue one, the second-to-youngest an orange dress, and the youngest a green. All of them, along with their mother, wore a precious lotus blossom tucked in their hair.

     “Oh my,” I breathed, blinking at them, truly mesmerized. “You all are so beautiful...”

     They all smiled brightly, and their mother stepped forward. I realized now she was carrying a quaint little Shenkuu tea set. “How are you feeling, dear one?” she asked, her voice light and caring and soft like a faerie’s.

     “F-fine,” I answered.

     “My name is Karalina, and these are my daughters.” She motioned to her brown Xweetoks. “Rosalinda had rescued you in the creek. You are a fortunate young Xweetok.”

     I nodded. “I am. And I am most grateful.”

     Karalina nodded and smiled. “And this is Erabella, Marirosa, and Saraphina.” Each one curtsied in turn.

     “Wow,” I breathed. “They are all so... beautiful.” I couldn’t imagine having an extravagant name like any of those, or wearing such divine dresses. “My name is Shiloh,” I said, looking at each of them and their kind brown pools for eyes.

     “Thank you, Shiloh.” Karalina smiled warmly. “Would you like some tea?”

     “Oh, yes please.” I sat up in the fancy Shenkuu bed. My eyes flickered around the room. It was gorgeous, simply magnificent. Shenkuu inspired everything. “Oh Karalina, this room is incredible,” I said earnestly, taking a sip of my tea.

     “And so it is.” She gazed around the room. Rosy and her sisters had now taken a little creamy teacup and sat around on the small Shenkuu pillows on the ground.

     “This tea is great,” I said. It was Shenkuu tea, and I had never tasted it before this. I gazed around the room again. “This whole place is great.” It was hard to take everything in. It was so much, and everything was so stunning and brilliant.

     “Thank you.” Karalina gazed at me tenderly. “And when you are stronger, we shall show you around.”

     I smiled widely and nodded. “I’d like that.”

     ***

     For several days I stayed with Rosy and Karalina and the others in their marvelous Shenkuu abode. I nearly fainted when I was able to see the whole place. It was... like a castle; like something from a faerie-tale. Karalina had decided I wasn’t well enough to travel outside yet, for the air was becoming quite chilly, but every day I looked forward to tea time and adored their little cakes and cookies, along with other Shenkuu foods I didn’t know a hair about.

     As the days wore on, though, I began thinking about Mom. Would she be worried about me? And Cleo as well... did they miss me? I remembered days ago when I had that dream, of Mom going to town and searching here and there for me. But did she really care? Would her life really be shattered if I never returned? I liked it here. For once in my life I felt like I belonged.

     ***

     “Shiloh?”

     My eyes opened to little Saraphina, standing by my bed with a flower.

     “Oh hi,” I said, blinking away sleep.

     Saraphina shyly handed me the lily. “I picked this for you.” Her pretty eyes sparkled in adoration.

     My eyes widened as I took the lily. “You did?” I held it in my paw, the beautiful thing. It smelled so nice and... free. “Thank you. How did you know I liked flowers?”

     Saraphina tilted her head back and forth cutely. “Rosalinda knows everything. She’s seen you before; in the fields, with the flowers.”

     I cocked my head. “What? Rosy saw me?”

     “Saraphina!” Erabella’s jubilant voice rang through the Shenkuu home. “Come, Sara! Time for your lessons.”

     “I play piano,” little Saraphina explained sweetly before running from the room.

     I was still a little puzzled. How had Rosy known I liked flowers?

     Soon the precious sweet melody of the piano drifted through the home.

     ***

     “Where do you come from, Shiloh?” Rosy asked me one day as her and I had tea one afternoon. “It must be somewhere nice.”

     I stared into my teacup with my brows furrowed. Was she kidding? “Nah,” I said quietly. “Nowhere special. Just in a little Neohome near Neopia Central, that’s all.”

     “Oh.” Rosalinda daintily took a sip of steamy Shenkuu tea. “With your family?”

     I froze, my heartbeat beginning to pick up speed. Then I shrugged. “Yeah...” My voice trailed away and I sighed sadly.

     Rosy peered at me curiously. “Shiloh, are you hiding something? Why don’t you talk about your family? Surely they miss you.”

     I quickly shook my head, avoiding Rosy’s gaze; just in case she cared to see through my wavering eyes. “No. I-I don’t think they do.”

     “Why not?”

     “Because they don’t.”

     Rosy leaned over and put her paw on my mine. “Shiloh, your family loves you; no matter what. They’re probably worried sick about you.”

     I sighed. “You... you wouldn’t understand. You have such a nice family. Your mother is amazing and your sisters are little dears.” I suddenly heaved a heavy sigh. “And my family isn’t anything like yours.”

     Rosy pulled her paw away and stared at her paws clasped around her teacup. “I bet if you were to go home now, you’d see the truth, Shiloh,” she said quietly. “You’re family loves you dearly.”

     I knew Rosalinda was only being nice, but I didn’t want her sympathy. I wanted to live here forever, in this marvelous faerie-tale castle of dreams.

     ***

     It was just before sunset. Some people and Neopets were trekking through the meadows, my meadows; my wildflower paradise and valley of dreams.

     “Shiloh!”

     My mother was calling for me.

     “Shiloh! Shiloh?”

     Soon Cleo’s voice had joined in too.

     “Shiloh! Where are you?”

     And soon I heard other voices I didn’t know.

     “Shilooooh!”

     “Shiloh?! Shiloh, where are yooooou?”

     “Oh, where could she be?” Mom sighed, her voice layered in sorrow and defeat.

     Cleo suddenly gasped. “Mom! Her blossom tree!”

     Mom’s eyes lit up. “Oh... oh how could I have forgotten? Shiloh loves her blossom tree!”

     Soon a Kougra pointed to a faint tree in the distance. “Is that it? It’s a little dark to tell...”

     “Yes!” Mom cried in relief. “That’s it!”

     The search party ran to the blossom tree. I didn’t recognize anyone, but surely Mom had gathered them in town.

     “Oh, she’s not here!” an Acara whimpered.

     “Hey, what’s that?” a Lupe said, pointing to my quilt bag tumbled in the grass under my sole cherry blossom tree.

     “It’s her quilt bag,” Cleo said, running to it and flopping down. Soon Mom was kneeling on the grass beside her. Cleo reached a paw in and withdrew my stationery, loaded with dreams and desires. In the faint light of the falling sun, Mom scanned them, tears forming in her eyes.

     “Oh, Mom, she’s been writing,” Cleo whispered, brushing her fingers over the work I had done so carefully and earnestly with my quill.

     Mom dug through my bag again and came in touch with something soft. The sight made tears come to her eyes. “Oh, Present!” She pushed the treasured plushie to her cheek. “Oh, my Shiloh... my baby... I had no idea,” she murmured tearfully over and over.

     “Valley of dreams,” Cleo murmured as she held the stationary. “What an imagination that girl has.” She smiled softly, a sad smile; one that was proud of my work and the kind of mind I had, the kind that allowed me to let loose and be free, yet sad for my sudden disappearance.

     I think they understood me better now.

     “You know, Mom, they say writers are harder to keep focused; harder to understand sometimes. They say they’re sensitive and true and sometimes get carried away in their work...” Cleo took a deep breath. “I don’t think we took the time to truly understand Shiloh the way we should’ve.”

     Mom nodded, sniffling. “Oh, I’m a terrible, terrible mother! I should’ve listened to her.” She buried her teary face into Present, who soaked up her tears just as he had to my own so many times.

     Cleo wrapped her arm around Mom’s shoulders. “Shh,” she caressed. “It’s okay, Mom. We’ll find her, we will.” Determination swallowed up the fear in her voice.

     An orange Gelert suddenly looked up at the darkening sky. “Come on, Korah,” he said, speaking to my mother. “It’s getting late. We... we should head back.”

     My mom’s eyes flew up to the Gelert. “You mean I should... give up?” she sniffled, anger beginning to show in her eyes.

     The Gelert held up his paws. “Korah, we’ve done everything. But we’ll never find Shiloh when it’s too dark out. We can barely see our own paws in front of us. We’ve got to head back.”

     Mom blinked at him in disbelief. “I... how could you think I’d give up like that? I will find my daughter! I won’t give up! Even if I have to search day and night, for days straight, ALL ACROSS NEOPIA, I WILL find my daughter!” she yelled irately, her eyes burning fire.

     The Gelert shook his head and sighed. “Okay, Korah. But some of us have families of our own.” Most people then turned to leave...

     Mom flashed a fearful glance at Cleo. “Cleo... I’ve... failed....” she whispered, hugging her chest and falling on the ground before the blossom tree.

     “No, Mom-”

     “Yes. I’m a terrible mother. I let Shiloh slip away from me...” Her hands balled into fists and her voice wavered with tears. She picked up a cherry blossom petal in the darkness, rubbing the smooth softness in between her fingers. “I... I never really told her how much I loved her...”

     Suddenly my eyes flew open, my heart pounding and my mind swirling. Tears stung my eyes. It had all been a dream. No wait- not a dream. This had actually taken place. My mom was looking for me. She was really looking for me. And she actually loved me...

     ***

     “Shiloh? What’s the matter?” Saraphina stared at me with brown eyes as round as balloons. The brown Xweetok’s paws froze perched on the piano keys. “Did I plunk a wrong note?”

     I realized I had been in a daydream. More visions of my past, more thoughts and mixed feelings about my life. But for now I realized I was back with little Saraphina as she got lost in her beautiful Shenkuu music. “Nothing.” I forced a smile to belie my confusion. “It was great.”

     Saraphina grinned. “Thank you.” She continued with her piece. The little Xweetok had a knack for music, I had to say. I swayed my head back and forth to its serene melody. When it was over, Saraphina flipped through her music sheets and stopped at a piece. “This one is Rosy’s favorite. She’s bound to show up and sing. Rosy has a great voice.” And then she began to play.

     I closed my eyes and sighed dreamily. I loved music. I hadn’t paid much attention to the title of Saraphina’s piece, but as soon as she began to play, I opened my eyes and gasped softly. Saraphina played on, fingers flying across the notes. I felt my heart racing, thoughts whirling. That song... it was my mother’s favorite.

     “And I shall dream a boat for you, so we can sail across the sea,” Rosalinda’s voice sang out as she walked into the room, a soprano with an alluring, clear melody. “And I shall paint a palace for you, oh how we’ll live so happily.”

     I swallowed some tears. Mom sang that song so many times when I was a child. And they way Saraphina played and Rosy sang... I felt like Mom was right there with me, holding me comfortingly in her warm embrace and smiling a tender, motherly smile.

     “As long as I have you,” Rosy finished sweetly. Her clear bell-sounding voice echoed in my heart. A few moments the song drifted around the Shenkuu castle, a haunting reminder of my past.

     “Oh, that was beautiful!” Rosy gushed, clasping her paws together in avid delight.

     “So?” Saraphina turned to peer at me with sparkling eyes. “Was that pretty, Shiloh?”

     More than pretty, I thought. And then I fled.

     ***

     “Shiloh, we have something to tell you.” Karalina stood at my doorway. “Would you come to the sitting room, please, dear?” A small smile was painted on her pretty face.

     I followed. For a few moments after I walked into the room, it was silent. Everyone stared at me. Something was wrong.

     “Shiloh, it’s time for you to leave.”

     My thoughts shattered into a million pieces. I stared at Karalina in shock, my mouth hanging open. Rosy and her sisters gazed at me with sad gazes and downcast eyes.

     “L-leave?” I spluttered. Leave? I didn’t want to leave! Not ever! Not as long as Neopia revolved around the sun!

     “Yes, dear, Shiloh,” Karalina murmured gently. “You have to go back where you belong.”

     “But I belong here!” I whined, no control over the pleading wail of my voice. I fought to keep my emotions in check, but I was so upset! “For once in my life I fit in. Oh, Karalina, you can’t make me go back! You simply cannot!”

     Karalina’s gaze softened, and her smile was pure and everlasting and genuine. “Shiloh, your family is waiting.”

     “No,” I whispered, shaking my head. “You’re wrong. I love it here. I don’t want to go. This place is like everything I’ve ever dreamed about. Don’t you understand?”

     Rosy looked into my eyes, true and kind eyes that made me bite my lip to keep the tears from being unleashed. “Shiloh... they do love you and they miss you as well. Your mother’s never stopped looking for you.”

     “Yes, she has!” I spat the words bitterly. “She didn’t want me anymore! I’m a disappointment, a disgrace!”

     Rosy walked over and put her paw on my shoulder. “Oh, Shiloh. That is not true and you know it. Your mother... she loves you.”

     “How do you know?” I asked crossly, my voice coming out in barely a squeak. I swallowed and blinked away tears.

     “Because-” Rosy reached into her pocket and withdrew a pink cherry blossom petal. She took my paw and placed the blossom petal in it. “I saw them.” She smiled softly. “By the blossom tree. They really miss you, Shiloh.”

     I stared into Rosy’s kind brown eyes, wondering if I could trust her. They were serious. And you know, I actually believed her. My mother did love me. She did want me. I knew know that... I needed to go home.

     “Oh, Rosy!” I suddenly threw my arms around her. She was probably the closest thing I ever had to a true friend. “I’ll miss you.”

     “I’ll miss you too.” Rosalinda hugged me tighter, a huge sisterly smile engulfing her face.

     “Oh, what a shame I’ve been,” I fretted miserably. “I know now that... I belong where I’ve always been.” I smiled through my tears. “My home,” I said surely. “With my mom and Cleo.”

     Rosy nodded and grinned. Karalina gazed at me proudly, her eyes sparkling with tears.

     “I’ll never forget you, Rosy.” I then turned to her sisters and Karalina. “Either of you, I’ll never, never forget for as long as I live. I’ve only known you a short time, but it feels like I’ve known you my whole life.”

     Rosy flashed a secretive smile. “Maybe you have.”

     I turned to stare at her, puzzled. “W-what do you mean?” And then I thought about the voices. The voices I had heard so many times around the blossom tree, yet never knew who spoke them. I drew in a breath and cast Rosy a look with wide eyes. “W-wait... so, those voices... they were you!” I gasped. “They were all your guys’ voices!” I clasped my paws together in avid delight.

     Rosy nodded. “Yes. Shiloh, I’ve known you a long time.”

     “Even though I didn’t know you,” I breathed, still amazed how the mysterious puzzle of my life was slowly being pieced together.

     Rosy squeezed my paw. “Shiloh, I went to the blossom tree every day hoping one day I would meet you. I knew there was somebody else coming to the blossom tree, I knew it! Only, I never seemed to run into you. Until that one day, I did see you. You were sleeping. My sisters and I didn’t want to wake you though. And then another day, I saw you again. You were running near here, only it began to rain.”

     My heart faded as I remember the dreadful disappointment of that day.

     “And you ran home. You looked devastated,” Rosy murmured, compassion running through her voice. “But Shiloh, I’m so glad to have met you!” She threw her arms around me.

     “Wait, the blossom tree! It’s a mystery to me. How did it get here?” I asked.

     Rosy smiled. “When we first came here from Shenkuu years ago, we planted that tree as a symbol of freedom. We knew we could always go to it when we needed a comfort, a friend. I think you may have needed it more than us, though.”

     I smiled at her, nodding silently.

     “I do hope you come back and visit, Shiloh,” Karalina said. “You’d always be welcomed for tea.”

     I nodded. “Oh, yes! I’d like that. I’d like that a lot.” But suddenly I gasped softly. “But wait, I don’t know where this is!” I said. “I still never found out how far Serene Meadows is from my home.”

     Rosy and the others glanced at each other, smiling. “Shiloh, think of the song; and I shall paint a palace...”

     A castle. My eyes grew wide, excitement and delight coursing through my body. “No... way!” I exclaimed breathlessly, running out of the sitting room and out the door of the lovely Shenkuu mansion.

     My heart soared. I whopped and hollered and cheered. “My castle! It’s my castle!” I shouted, waving my arms. The castle I had seen so many times, the castle I dreamed I’d one day explore.

     It was truly my marvelous faerie-tale castle of dreams.

     ***

     “Mom!” I ran on and on until a terrible stitch tore at my side. “Mom, Mom! I’ve come home; I’m all right!” My house became closer and closer. “Mom!” I burst through the door, heartbeat pacing faster than a Poogle in a Poogle race. “Mom?” My heart drooped, my face shriveling into a heartbroken frown. “Mommy?” I began to sob. She wasn’t home. I collapsed on the floor of my living room, hugging my middle, huge sobs exploding from my chest.

     “Shiloh?” An uncertain voice sounded behind me.

     I sobbed a gasp and spun around. There she was, standing there; a sad figure that I love so very much. Her eyes were wide, and she stared at me as if I were painted ghost or something. “M... mom?” I sniffled. “Mommy?” I swallowed.

     “Shiloh.” She smiled and tears sprang to her eyes. She kneeled down and suddenly I went running into her out-stretched arms.

     “Oh, Mom!” I sobbed as our tears mingled together. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have ever, ever run away. Never again will I.” I bawled into her sweet-smelling shirt as she stroked my hair. My heart began flying away with love, warm at my mother's touch.

     Mom drew in her breath. “Oh, Shiloh. My sweetheart, my baby. I’m the one who’s sorry. Oh, honey, I had no idea you felt so strongly about being alone.”

     I paused. She knew my secret. She had read my writings.

     “I’m sorry, Mom,” I whimpered, sniffling and burrowing my tear-stained face into her. “I... I like to write. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

     “No, no.” Mom hugged me closer and held me there a few moments. I could hear her heartbeat. It was the most wonderful sound in the world. “Shiloh.” She led me to the couch and I sat close to her with her arms around me. “I’m very sorry, sweetie. I... I haven’t been there enough for you, I know.” She kissed the top of my head. “I just... got so caught up in life. Trying to earn money, find a real job... I lost sight of what was important.” I nestled into her.

     “I love you, Mom,” I whispered up at her. “I don’t hate you. I’m sorry I said that. I don’t. I love you, Mommy. With all of my heart, I do.” A fresh river of tears spilled down my face. I laid my head in my mother’s lap, just as I had done when I was a little child.

     She soothed me and caressed softly, kind, endearing words; words that were true and from the mended work of her learning heart. “Oh, my dear Shiloh.” She leaned down and kissed my cheek. “I love you too. With all my heart, I love you too. You are my world, honey.”

     And then she began to sing; her soft, sweet voice making me melt in tranquility and jubilation. The enchantment of the moment even made me want to sing too. I soon began singing along with her. We ended it nicely, with words so genuine and true and unmistaken for any other meaning...

     “As long as I have you.”

     ***

     The sole cherry blossom tree was an array of joy, the sun shimmering off the precious petals and the breeze dancing through the branches. The valley of dreams and wildflower paradise; vast and spirited and always cherished; the merriment and breathtaking wonder of it all. It was alive. And it was amazing.

     Often times, you could see a wild and free yellow Xweetok running through the grasses, tumbling through the wildflowers with the joyous wonder sparkling in her clear yellow eyes.

     You may also see a red Cybunny sunning under the blossom trees, gathering roses and weaving them into necklaces. She has not moved away, not yet, though her wistful heart is pursuing.

     And if you’re lucky, you’ll see a mother, sitting by the stream with her feet in the water, the sun bouncing off her hair and shoulder. She has taken less time with her work and more time with her daughters, and her heart has learned to adore, her mind to slow down and contemplate the mirthful pleasures of life.

     The blossom tree for many years has served as a friend, as well as a dream keeper. Wistful hearts shall be contented; dreams that were being chased shall be caught.

     “Mom! Look, flowers!” the yellow Xweetok cries cheerily, running to her mother with a pawful of lilies. The Cybunny follows suit with rose necklaces and the mom laughs, pure happiness painted on her face, her heart full and truly filled with love.

     And often, very often, they pack up their quilt bags and head beyond the blossom tree in search of new adventure.

The End

 
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» Beyond the Blossom Tree: Part One
» Beyond the Blossom Tree: Part Two



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