Beyond the Blossom Tree: Part One
The brilliant sun was illumining over the luscious green earth, bathing everything in a glistening golden shine. The active spring breeze crept coolly in from the shores of Kiko Lake just across the water, and a river spiraled down the meadow valleys that lay just adjacent Neopia Central.
Alone in that meadow, stood a sole cherry blossom tree, which had strong protecting branches clothed in bright pink blossoms. The trunk was thick and round and the color of chocolate, and leaned against that tree was a young Xweetok, the look of a dreamer in her bright yellow eyes. Her eyes shone as bright as the sun as she set her mind to her thoughts. Every day she came to the blossom tree, where she would take out her quill and write about her fanciful world that she had created- the world beyond the blossom tree.
“Hey, look! It’s a girl!”
“A girl? Where?”
“Right there, silly! A Xweetok, under the blossom tree.”
“Oh, it is a girl!”
“Where do you think she came from?”
“I don’t know.”
“She’s a very nice-looking girl...”
I awoke, a peaceful awakening, blinking at the blazing noon sun that was caressing over the valleys of my homeland, which was located right on the brink of Neopia Central. I blinked that tenderness sleep from my bright yellow eyes and yawned, stretching, blossom petals fluttering from my yellow hair. I lay there a moment, propped against the old mysterious blossom tree, listening, my ears perked. My mind was still fuzzy and clouded from my dream. I was certain I had heard voices in my sleep, but I was for certain they weren’t part of my whimsical dreams that I had very often. Moments passed where I pondered and finally I picked up my blue quill pen lying next to me in the grass and dipped it into a little ink bottle. I grabbed my stack of stationary and then began to write-
Murmur, murmur. Ears perk. She hears a voice again. It’s no lie... someone is close this time. Waiting, waiting, she listens. Nothing yet- only eternal anxiousness. Silence, and then...
The wind whispers in the wild flowers, blossoms dance in the parading wind. Listen. The girl doesn’t let a moment go where her senses are shut. Shielding her eyes, she peers across the way. Flowers. Blankets and blankets of wild flowers, swaying to the chorus of the wind. The riverbed close by trickles water of blue crystals, and petpets are buzzing and fluttering across the bright blue sky as if carried to their destiny. The grass trembles, the wind speaks. Louder, louder, it fills the entire world near. All life has joined. Murmur, murmur. And as fast as the dance had started, it had stopped. Then all is still. Nobody has come. Murmur, murmur. It was all a dream. Or perhaps not; perhaps justice has been belied. Until next time. Beyond the blossom tree remains unknown.
I paused to look up at the sky for a golden moment, the long protecting branches of the blossom tree shielding the sun from my eyes. Endless rolling hills of impossible description faced before me, taking my breath away. It was glorious, the sun bouncing off the grassy mountains, making the flowers shine like golden silk. The sky and the clouds mingled together to form a desirable picture... it was all quite beautiful.
I had always dreamed of what lay beyond the old cherry blossom tree. I had always said that one day, I would find out. If my owner would ever let me. Mom was protective like that, though she was barely ever home to watch over me.
That thought made me frown. I pursed my lips, my gaze wistfully focused on those rolling hills. Something in my heart was set afire, and I longed so badly for adventure. I felt that whatever lay beyond the cherry blossom tree was the waiting answer to my call.
For years and years I had lived here, having my blossom tree as a support and friend. When I was younger, I poured all my troubles out to the blossom tree, as if it actually listened and heard my cry. I spoke to it in my young, bubbly and childish voice and dreamed under it and made sparks about why it was possibly here, for this was Neopia Central, not Shenkuu!
“Oh, blossom tree,” I remember myself clearly saying one day many years ago. “Why ever are you here? A pretty pink tree like you shouldn’t be in Neopia Central. Neopia Central is dull.” I always laughed as I recalled my six-year-old self thinking that. “You should be in beautiful Shenkuu. That is where cherry blossom trees belong.” My young self looked out beyond, eyes flickering with some sort of glee and hope. “Maybe you’re magic,” I had said, my voice breathy and excited. “Maybe a pretty Shenkuu princess planted you here... maybe she still lives nearby... maybe she’ll come back here and be my friend!” My young lonely heart soared at the thought. “Someday I’ll find out,” I declared, grinning determinedly. I looked back to the tree. “You’re special, blossom tree. And some day I’m going to find out why.”
From that day forward, I my heart longed to know. I decided one day, I would. I would find whatever lay beyond the blossom tree. It was my destiny.
Overall, what I loved best was that the blossom tree was all my own. No one else came here but me, and I loved my little hideaway of wild flower paradise. It was my valley of dreams. It was where I came to escape from the loneliness of my life, for Mom was rarely home and Cleo paid me no mind. I sighed, and then inhaled a deep whiff of sweet cherry blossoms, my absolute favorite scent. Warmth flooded over me. I looked up, a cheerful smile bloomed on my face. My heart was full and contented. The tree above me gave me a sense of peace and knowing. My eyes gleamed hope and then I continued on my story-
Perhaps not today, and perhaps not tomorrow, and maybe not the next day either. But one day, beyond the blossom tree shall be renewed.
The sun suddenly shines brighter, filling everything with light as the girl thinks those truthful words of spirit. The Xweetok girl lifts her paws to the sky and cheers, “Listen! Do you hear it? It’s freedom. The bells of time are ringing! Hope is in the distance, do you feel it? That is where hope shall be found! No more loneliness! It’s all right there! Can you see it? It’s written on the hills like an open book! Read it!” Her sunhat ripples in the wind as it begins to pick up. Wild flowers march. Trees sway. Blossoms are raining upon the land. “Yes, yes!” the girl chants, laughing freely, her voice ringing in the air.
The wind picks up that magical voice and shares it with all the life that roams. The girl hugs the blossom tree, giggling, and she’s leaping now, her dress flowing as she twirls. She dances around the tree for what seems like hours. Finally everything dies down. Calming... The wind gently ruffles her hair to a stop, the flowers slowly settle to a tremble and softly the sun weakens to its normal glow. The girl stares off into the horizon, a grin of determined likeness plastered on her face. “Tomorrow,” she promises. “Tomorrow we shall see.”
“Cleo, I’m home.” I slowly opened the wooden front door my little Neohome located just outside Neopia Central. I made careful to not spill my ink, and held it in my left paw. Over my right shoulder my blue quilt bag was flung, my stationery swallowed safely inside. I flipped off my shoes and took off my flowered pink sunhat, cherry blossoms fluttering to the floor. My gaze followed them.
Cleo marched into the hallway, paws on her hips. Her gaze first flashed to the spill of blossoms on the floor, but then her eyes made her way up to my innocent face and she stared at me. The red Cybunny took one whiff of me and grimaced. “Ugh, Shiloh, you reek of cherry blossoms!” Her pink nose pinched up and she made a face that nearly made me laugh. She was completely disgusted. Cleo was nearly seven years older than me, and we never truly understood each other.
“So,” I retorted, my eyes narrowing. “They make me smell sweet.” I flashed a teasing grin at her.
Cleo’s pink eyes burned up. “Shiloh, I won’t stand for your sarcasm,” she barked sternly. “Go and take a shower. And what did Mom say about you staying out until odd hours? You should’ve been back hours ago! It’s going to be dark soon.” She sighed and shook her head, walking back into the kitchen. “What are we going to do with you?” she groaned. “Honestly, what do see in that old tree?” she huffed, her voice trailing away until it became nothing to my ears.
I swiftly shook my head and ran up to my bedroom, my feet making loud thumps on the wooden stairs. I shot into my room and snapped the door shut, leaning against it and catching my breath.
She doesn't understand...
Then I hung up my sunhat and carefully placed my blue ink bottle on my desk, letting my old quilt bag hit the floor. A few split seconds I stood there, staring, and then suddenly I was off, spinning around my room until I became dizzy and my vision twisted and blurred. I twirled one last time and then flew myself onto my quilted bed. I giggled and sighed happily, my world spinning before my eyes. I liked doing that, spinning around. It made me feel funny- a good funny, though.
I lay there, breathing hard, still catching my breath, the breeze wavering in from my window ruffling the curtains and my fur. It was a nice breeze. Calming, soothing- and I was for certain it carried a share of cherry blossom scent. I lay there a moment, blinking, and slowly I lifted my head and peered out the window. I sighed deeply, a sigh that crept up from the deepest caves of my heart.
The endless plains rolled before me, my little Neohome cradled in a mountain of beauty. The sun was falling from the sky as night arrived, little tufts of pink and light orange forming as it set. Petals drifted in the air from flowers of yellow and red and I could hear the faint clatter of Cleo in the kitchen. I sighed, my gaze then staring at the ceiling, my brows furrowed.
A sudden burst of energy shot through me and I propelled myself out of bed and ran to the window, leaning against the sill with my head outside. A smile slowly began peeking its way to my face. I closed my eyes and let the breeze take me away. It rippled through my fur and ripped my pretty little sundress against my legs. The transparent petal-pink curtains danced around me and papers scattered around the room that were lying on my desk.
I loved our Neohome. It was small and cozy and dream-filled. And it wasn’t around anything or anyone, so we didn’t have to worry about other neopets bothering us or the busy rush of town. The problem with this, though, is that we had to walk five miles to go to the store, or the town altogether. This was bad for Mom, and usually she wouldn’t be back until dark, sometimes not at all if she worked too terribly late. We were that far from Neopia Central. Mom would sometimes have to scrape up some pocket change and pay to stay at a nearby cheap lodge for the night. Sometimes I missed her presence when she was gone awhile, but I had to say Cleo took descent care of me.
I smiled a little more and then opened my eyes. I couldn’t see the blossom tree, but it was out there, waiting for me. And tomorrow I would return to it with a waiting desire.
Later that night, I lay dreamfully on my bed, my wet fur plastered to my skin. I blinked slowly so my still-dripping lashes touched my face and stared thoughtfully at the ceiling. I loved doing that. If I stared at it hard enough, and used my deepest of concentration, it would move. Soon I would see a Uni racing through the woods, mane whipping, or even an Eyrie with soft wings flying high and free through the wide-open sky above Neopia Central.
I sighed and rolled over, looking at my precious cuddly Wocky plushie for a moment lying next to me on my bed. Suddenly I scooped her up in my arms and cuddled her under my chin, rocking softly. It was what I did when I felt lost in my thoughts. My mind would spin with uncontrollable feelings and emotions and my brows would furrow and I would stare at nothing in particular. Moments I would be like this. Suddenly I sighed.
I slowly got up, my silky pink night gown rippling at my heels as I approached my open window. It was dark out, the bright full moon big and beautiful. Glistening white stars were painted on the midnight-blue sky and the faint sounds of scurrying night petpetpets whispered in the grasses. I looked up at the moon, my head tilted as I spoke.
“See, Present,” I said softly to my cuddly Wocky plushie in my arms. “The moon is full tonight. And the stars are extra bright too.” My brows furrowed, which they always did when I was thinking hard. “I believe that’s a true sign that tomorrow, I should go and see what’s beyond the blossom tree.” I looked at my precious child-hood friend plushie. Present’s non-wavering button eyes just stared at me, and that stitched smile was good enough too. “You’re right,” I said tenderly, my voice filled with determination. “It’s a good plan.”
Suddenly there was a knock at the door and flew into bed.
“Shiloh, are you asleep?” I heard Cleo ask as she opened the door. The red Cybunny studied me with a pleasurable look. “I see you’ve showered. Good.” She smiled a small smile and walked over to my bed carrying a plate and a cup of milk. On the plate were two cookies. “Mom neomailed and said that since you ate all your supper, you deserved this.” She placed the plate of cookies beside me on my bed and the cup on my nightstand right beside me.
I didn’t want any cookies.
“Thanks,” I managed to say quietly, looking up at her for a short moment but then taking my gaze elsewhere. I picked up a cookie and then bit into it. It tasted plain, but I guessed it was just because of the ache I felt all over, not that Cleo was a bad cook. Cleo was a great cook. I sat blinking, chewing the bite of cookie and forcing myself to swallow. I mustered all my being to keep those stubborn tears from coming to my eyes.
Cleo leaned over and ruffled my hair, not noticing how broken I felt. “Hey, you’d better get to sleep soon. Mom wouldn’t want you up too late.” She quietly got up and walked out the door, letting it close softly.
“Okay.” I nodded. And when Cleo had gone, I let the terrible tears fall. They came in rivers and poured down my face and onto my quilted bed. I didn’t know why I cried, but sometimes I did. I felt like a lost pound child, like the ones I had seen before when we took a trip to the pound in Neopia Central. The abandoned pound children with loveless words who had wide lost eyes and empty hearts.
I pushed the plate of half eaten cookies aside and rolled over, grabbing Present and hugging her close to my heart as small sobs shook my body. My mind swirled and I felt so lost. Soon the bed below me was soaked with tears.
Mom was rarely home. I missed her terribly, too. Even when she was home, it was like she wasn’t, for she was always working away in her study with the door shut tight.
Sometimes when I got so lonely, I would creep down the hall and lean against her door to her study room, my ear pressed against it. I listened to her faint upbeat hum as she worked and my eyes shut with a happy feeling that spread all over my body. I loved hearing my mother hum. But I loved to hear to sing more, something she hadn’t done in a long while.
And what Cleo didn’t know was that some nights I waited up for her, no matter how late it was. I would sit by my open window, feeling the pleasurable night air. And when I heard the front door open and the muffled voices of her and Cleo, I scurried into bed, throwing the quilts over me. Soon the smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the house, and I breathed it in, inhaling the delicious smell blissfully. I rolled over so that Mom couldn’t see my face. She walked in; I heard her light footsteps on my floor. She walked over to the window and shut it. I lay still as I could possibly, daring to breathe. My heart raced. Then Mom would walk over to me and lean over and plant a kiss on my cheek. I filled with warmness at her touch. It blossomed in my heart and gave me peace. But when my tender heart wanted more, she was walking away, my door closing soundly behind her. I was once again alone.
It was early morning. I had quickly dressed and packed my quilt bag and walked swiftly down the stairs and into the kitchen to snatch an apple, waving good-bye to Cleo.
“Where are you going?” she asked, brows raised, a suspicious look on her face.
“Just out,” I replied, throwing Cleo a smile. Silly Cleo! As if she didn’t know. The only place I’d ever go to is my blossom tree.
My sister looked at me. “Okay, Shiloh.” Her voice was light and she sighed, a small smile twitching at the corners of her mouth. “But don’t be gone too late. Mom’s coming home early today.”
My heart leaped. Really? Mom was coming home early? My smile grew as big as Neopia and I shouted a jubilant good-bye to Cleo before racing out the front door and into the abundant and active life of nature.
It would be perfect! Once I found what was beyond the blossom tree, I could share my wondrous findings with my mom! Mom needed adventure. I had always remembered my mom saying that Neopia Central was too dull and lifeless for her, and that she needed spirit and merriment. I could give that to her! My heart soared and I spun around twice, the morning sun lighting up my face.
I skipped happily to the blossom tree, my patched-up quilt bag hanging over my shoulder and my ink bottle held delicately in my paw. Also, Present was tucked under my arm. She wanted adventure, too. I smiled blissfully. The day was perfect, simply perfect. The wind was warm, the sun bright and caring. Everything was peaceful.
Long minutes filled with mirthful thoughts passed.
I trekked through the meadows until finally I came to my blossom tree. It was glorious as ever. The blossoms glimmering in the sunlight, the long branches beckoning me and welcoming me with out-stretched arms. A little pulse of enchanted joy shot through my body and I suddenly ran to the tree, dropping everything I held and throwing my arms around it, pressing my furry cheek to its soft, smooth bark.
I backed away and smiled brightly. Then I reached for my quilt bag to take out my quill and stationary. I remembered years ago Mom had made that bag for me from patches of old quilts she found in the attic from when she was a child. I always took pleasure in the thought that my mom had once used those quilts to huddle up in and keep herself warm when she was my age.
I sat down on the soft grass and leaned back against the tree. I pulled my knees to my chest, dipping my soft blue quill into the ink. I stood thinking for a moment before I wrote-
Today is the day. Wistful hearts shall be contented; dreams that were chased shall be caught. The girl’s heart was set on discovering the truth, and today, she shall find it.
I paused to look up at the mountains before me. Something in the way they stood, tall and proud and real, made my heart feel full of yearning and desire.
Glorious mountains and valleys, whatever lies beyond you? I wondered.
I looked back to my paper, my eyes widening. For a moment, the words I had written with my ten-year-old heart seemed to dance on the page. They danced in spirit, and my heartbeat quickened.
Today is the day...
Those words seemed alive, on fire; burning straight through to the wistful depths of my heart. I blinked suddenly and the words cleared and shifted back to normal. I stood frozen, my mind racing. What did all this mean? Today is the day... Today is the day. Today was the day I’d see what lay beyond the blossom tree. My mind clicked.
And then I was on my feet. Walking... walking. Farther, farther... My heart was dancing with an over-powerful joy, my mind soaring high above the clouds.
I’m doing it! I’m doing it! I thought. Soon the thoughts turned to a triumphant shout. “I’m going beyond the blossom tree!”
I broke out into a run, laughing freely, when suddenly, the sun disappeared. I strange scent filled my nose. Dread pricked at my heart. I looked up, dark, angry clouds suddenly towering over me and moving over the sun. I stood frozen, my heart aching feverishly. Oh where did those doomful clouds come from?
They inched closer, and off in the distance, coming straight my way, were foggy, hazy sheets of pure disappointment.
Could it be...?
It suddenly began to rain.
“Oh no!” I yelled, dismay and sorrow choking my voice. “No!” I shook my head, tears beginning to flood down my face. I was doing it! I was going to see what lay beyond the blossom tree! And now... I couldn’t. It was raining.
I stood there for a few lost moments as rain poured down on me and soaked my sundress and dripped off my sunhat. Oh, spring rain, couldn’t you have waited?
I had to get home. Cleo would worry. Cleo didn’t like me out in the rain.
By the time I reached home, I was soaked to the skin and so were my clothes and my belongings as well. Tears rolled helplessly down my face but I bet a million Faellie cookies they mingled with the rain so you couldn’t tell. My heart was aching fiercely. I was so close!
I opened the front door with a wet paw and pushed myself inside, sobs jerking from my sore throat.
Cleo must’ve heard the door open, for she walked into the hallway. “My, that rain sure came quick, didn’t it, Shiloh?” she said, but her smile immediately faded when she saw me and my teary face. “Shiloh... what happened?” She was at my side in an instant, kneeling so her eyes could see into mine. “Are you hurt? Goodness, you’re soaked!” she remarked as she drew her paw away from my wet shoulder.
I didn’t reply. I didn’t want her sympathy. I wanted my blossom tree. In the distance, thunder rumbled, rain pounded ever so faintly. But somehow I only heard my heartbroken sobs. I couldn’t stop my tears.
“Shiloh, what’s the matter with you?” Cleo asked, concern flooding her voice. “Did you get hurt?”
I madly shook my head, sobbing like a poor child, gasping for my breath. My heart was aching and heavy like a bucket filled to the brim with water. I felt I couldn’t stand; my heart weighed me down so.
“Shiloh,” Cleo caressed, taking my paw. “Tell me, whatever is the matter with you?”
“B-blos... som...” I sobbed with all my might, trying to get the words out. “Tr... ee.”
For a few moments, Cleo stared at me. I saw the compassion and sorrow in the depths of her pink eyes. She sighed and took my paw, leading me upstairs to my room. A small, soft and understanding smile formed on her face. She stripped off my wet clothes and dried my fur with a towel before pulling a fresh warm nightgown over my head. She smiled into my eyes as she peered into my face. “Better?”
I nodded slowly, smiling slightly, but tears still remained brimmed sadly in my lost yellow eyes.
It was my mother’s voice.
“Cleo tells me you were upset earlier, something about your blossom tree. What happened, baby?”
Oh, so now she cares. I didn’t answer her. I coldly lay in bed with my back to her, blinking away new tears. I felt my throat tighten as I struggled to hold them in.
I heard her sigh and then her light footsteps on my floor as she walked over to my bed. I felt her hand lightly touch my side. “Shiloh, sweetheart, are you okay?”
A few moments later, I shook my head, still unspeaking. It was the honest truth. I wasn’t okay. I’d never be okay again.
“Oh, honey, don’t worry,” Mom said tenderly, soothing out my hair.
Somehow, her words didn’t seem reassuring. They seemed tired and unhappy and lifeless. They didn’t fill me with comfort at all. I was lost, all alone. My blossom tree waited for me... and I was so close to seeing the mystical, enchanted world that lay beyond it. But I didn’t get to... and I felt I never would. I didn’t belong, perhaps. Perhaps I didn’t belong anywhere...
My heart began aching dully again with the pain my thoughts threw at me. I scrunched my eyes shut tight and just wanted my mother to go away. She wouldn’t understand anyway. She never did understand; never would. She was never home. Why should she care now?
I heard her sigh again, a sad, lingering sigh that crept out from the unhappy crevices of her heart. She got up from my bed and walked over to the door. “Okay, I see you won’t tell me,” were her last words she spoke softly before she left my room. Bewilderment swallowed up the tenderness of her voice.
The door closed sadly behind her.
To be continued...