Limbo Read on Ao3 I'm determined, for once in my life, to see an idea of mine from beginning to end. I'm going to try my best, and thanks to anyone who reads my attempt! Summary: Nothingness has an inertia of its own, and Aryll hopes to keep up this momentum of nothing going for as long as she can. When she moves into her grandfather's old farm, she finds that the kindness of a small town makes it hard for her to remain the reclusive hermit she prefers to be. Warnings: Swearing, Suggestive Language She knew she'd reached the valley when the sky opened up, and the stars glittered like an infinite wasteland. She rested her head against the bus window, feeling the vibrations chatter through her teeth. There was a heavy feeling of isolation lingering in the air--the passenger area was dark and devoid of people--making her feel like she was headed toward a deep oblivion. An abundance of life bloomed outside the window, illuminated by the soft moonlight--she knew this as well, that the valley is teeming with possibility, and yet it filled her with a strange and powerful longing. It felt empty. Perhaps it was the slow anxiety snaking through her stomach that forced her to close her eyes, to break off from that ever-looming uncertainty that plagued her mind. Thoughts of her life--of whether she made the right decision. It didn't really matter anymore. She evened her breathing, trying to will herself to sleep. The bus was set to arrive at her new home in the morning. It would be best to get some rest. **** "Last stop, Pelican Town!" Her eyes fluttered open at the sound of the last call. The bus driver was looking at her amicably through the front mirror and engaged in small talk while she answered in a friendly, albeit reserved, manner. They exchanged short quips about the valley, and her destination that hardly anyone ever stops at. It's different, in the morning. The valley was truly as alive as she imagined--and she almost chided herself for being so morose. They pulled into a rest stop harbored by trees. The driver helped her with her bags, and wished her good luck. She looked around the station, hit by the realization that everything was green and lush, not paved over like the city was. All at once she felt lost in the moment, until something interrupted her stupor. "You must be Aryll! I thought I saw the bus pull up," said a woman fast approaching her. Her hair was bunched up in a rather haphazard ponytail, and the loose bangs framed her tired, but maternal appearing face. She seemed to have layered a hooded vest over a thermal sweater--perplexingly enough, considering the warm weather. "O-oh um. Yes, I am," Aryll stuttered as she tensed up. "I'm Robin, the local town carpenter," Robin said, giving Aryll a hearty pat on the back in lieu of a handshake. She lurched forward a bit, not at all doubting Robin's profession. "I'll help you grab your bags and then show you to your new home. You must have traveled a long way, huh? You look exhausted. I live up in the mountains myself, so sometimes getting around can be difficult. But don't worry, the town itself is rather small and you'll be able to get around in no time!" Aryll marveled at Robin's ability to carry a conversation, practically alone, while they walked. Perhaps she sensed a reservation in Aryll, and took it upon herself to fill the silence. The path seemed to wear down under her feet; although it was already a bare dirt road, it tapered further into a small line. Parts of the surrounding fences were in tatters--holey and patched--as if she was entering an area that had been long deserted. A sense of uneasy dread unfurled inside of her, as it does when one walks through the monument of a memory. As they entered the clearing, Aryll could only balk. Just how long had it been since her last visit? She had only been a child then, in the age where the mind forms itself in such grandeur--the world is immeasurable, and every happening is a new wonder. The farm, which had once been incomprehensible to her small mind--open, manicured, lively --lay in shambles before her. It was like a dream, where a thick fog descended over reality, and no matter how many times she waved her arms should could not disperse it. There stood, closest to her, the old cottage where her grandfather had baked her cookies from a secret recipe he could not, under the most serious of circumstances, divulge to anyone. It still looked sturdy, despite the passing time and heartbreak it must have housed. The cobbled path stemming from it led past a tool shed and ended at a pair of buildings. Aryll recalled them in their former glory--one was a coop where the chickens delighted at her presence, and the other a barn. They appeared uninhabitable now. Holes in the roof. Rot in the wood. Abandoned. All of this was surrounded by the ruins. The madness of disorder swallowed the farm; branches, bushes and all manners of invasive foliage scattered the land like a maze. Spring, truly, was the cruelest season. Plants broke through the dull ground like a mockery of her childhood idealization; where beauty and organization once lied, there was now only the jurisdiction of nature. But perhaps she was being dramatic. The old, familiar comfort of indifference seized her body. She tried to gaze over the farm as one would in an unfamiliar graveyard, only a tourist to the grief. The state of the farm, she had decided before coming there, was not her problem. Still, Robin must have seen the dread on Aryll's face earlier. She turned to her with a supportive smile and said, "It's a little run down, but with some time and work it could be back to its former glory. I believe you have what it takes." Aryll looked over to her, and Robin's smile wavered quickly, but returned with more strength than before. "Mayor Lewis is inspecting the house right now but--oh, speak of the devil." Aryll's sight was redirected to the door, where a man stepped out onto the porch. The first thing she noted was his peculiar style of dress; it was as if he just come out of a period piece--possibly reminiscent of his childhood--and everything about him screamed "old-fashioned" to her. She didn't even know people still wore suspenders. A hat (one of those ones you see newspaper delivery boys wear in the old movies, she thought) adorned his head, with tufts of salt and pepper hair peeking under. The most striking thing about him, however, was his eyes, for she felt a strange familiarity looking into them. "Aryll," he said simply. "I don't know if you remember me." "Mayor Lewis," her grandfather's voice echoed in her mind, "is a hard-working man. You can tell he cares about this town and the people in it." "Yes, but…vaguely," she said as she shook his hand, for he had walked down the path to meet them. "Understandable, you were only a child the last time I saw you. Thank you for writing me about taking up the old farm. It's been a heart wrench, watching this place fall apart. I had thought on occasion, for years, of contacting you, but I hadn't much of an idea on how." The feeling of familiarity faded, and Aryll found herself stranded in perplexing waters. But? Hadn't he been the one to send her a letter first? If he wasn't the one, then, who…? Now that she thought about it, actually, the letter hadn't even been signed by anyone. She felt her head start to spin. The confusion must have shown on her face, because Lewis straightened up a bit and said, "well, that’s all good and sorted now, isn't it! You're here, and that's what matters. Welcome to Pelican Town! I encourage you to explore the town and meet everyone, most would be more than happy to make your acquaintance. As for the farm itself, I'll show you around to the cottage. It's a little old, but still sturdy." "A little?" Robin interjected, trying to lighten the mood. "If this place was anymore dilapidated, I'd be using it as firewood." "Robin!" Lewis shouted, instantly getting worked up. "Don't listen to her, I've made sure the inside is in presentable shape. Your grandfather left a bit of a fund to make sure the place stayed up to date. I'll show you inside right now and-oh dear," he said, interrupted by a small chime. She watched him pull out a comically outdated phone and quickly read a message. "Ah, I'm so sorry about this Aryll. An important piece of business just came up. A mayor's work is never done. I'll leave you in the very capable hands of Robin… even if she can be a bit of a handful herself," Lewis remarked. "Why Mayor Lewis, was that a joke?" Robin laughed. He shot her a glance that was both reprimanding and amused. "I have to get going now. Stop by my house if you ever need anything. I'm there in the mornings, but usually out doing my mayoral duties during the day. Good bye!" He said, and exited towards the town. "Well, that was something," Robin said, before a silence could settle. "Come on, I'll help you get your bags in and we can look around the place." The stairs to the porch held Aryll's weight just fine, but she was still wary of the holes in the flooring. As she entered the house, she was instantly aware of the size of it. Lewis might have called it "cozy" if he were still there, but Robin would probably have described it as "confined". A recently made up bed sat in the corner with a small nightstand next to it, and on the furthest wall was a fireplace. Aside from a table, lamp, counter and old fashioned looking T.V., the place was minimal. There was only one other door, and it led into a rather compact bathroom. "He wasn't wrong, at least. The place is still in good condition," Robin stated. She nudged Aryll in the side, "when you get the funds and the desire, I'd be more than happy to fix the place up for you." "Robin," Aryll started in a flat tone. "Yes?" Robin sighed, aware of what was coming up. "There is no kitchen," Aryll continued. "Yes." "Robin," she said, voice thick with the reality of her life catching up to her. "Alright, don't panic. It'll be ok! We'll work on getting this place truly livable." "There's no stove. No fridge. Not even any cabinets?? " "There's electricity, at least." "Electricity and a T.V. but no kitchen? What was my grandpa even doing?? What the heck, old man!" Aryll felt animated for the first time since she got here. "I heard he was a bit of a strange guy," Robin mused. "Well-" "Probably runs in the family," she finished, shooting Aryll a mischievous grin. "ROBIN!" "Ok, ok, sorry! Calm down!" She said placatingly, putting her hands up in defense. "Let's just focus on getting all of your stuff unpacked for now, alright? Then we can talk a bit about your life here, and after that, I think you could use some sleep. Hopefully a nice, long sleep." "…Yeah, ok," Aryll sighed. She already had her head in her hands. They spent a good portion of the day unpacking, Robin commenting on each of Aryll's possessions and offering decorating advice ("I handmake furniture you know, I have an eye for these sorts of things," she had said). She talked about the town, her two kids that were around Aryll's age, life in the mountains--it seemed she had a lot to say, and Aryll soaked it in. She didn't ask many questions about Aryll's life, to her relief. They dined on a meal that had been gifted from the local saloon before her arrival, and a cake from Evelyn, an elderly woman who lived in town. "Sorry if I talked your ears off, it gets lonely up in the mountains. Beautiful, but isolated. Like I said, my kids would be happy to meet you. Well, Maru at least. There's a path behind your farm that leads up to the mountains, so don't hesitate to visit! I'm going to head out before it gets too dark, are you ok here?" Robin asked. Aryll nodded and then yawned, feeling the full effect of the day. "That's good. Oh! Before I forget, this is for you. It's from Emily, she's a very sweet girl," Robin said, handing Aryll a letter. The envelope was a soft pink, embroidered with a curly red pattern. "Get some sleep, alright? Bye!" She gave her one last pat on the back and left. Aryll stared at the letter in her hands. The golden ink of the cursive lettering shined in the light, and the pattern was actually lace. Eccentric, she thought, but pleasantly so. She placed it on the table, and told herself she'd read it in the morning. Her tired body pulled her to the television, and she sat and watched; her worries rolled off her in soft waves, mixing with the sounds. Eventually she crawled into bed, T.V. still on but volume low, hoping to fill the deafening silence of the valley. The valley was not silent. The sounds of the night crawled into her home and tucked themselves into every crevice. She was stalwartly reminded that the valley had been there first, for a long time before her--and, presumably--would be for a long time after. The call of the crows stabbed the air, occasionally punctuated by the orchestra of crickets, like a strange symphony without pattern or predictability, so different from her old life. But was it really so unique from the cacophony of the city? It was reasonable to feel discomforted at first--to be made an outsider in her own home. But then Aryll laughed. Loudly, along with the chorus of nature. It had been so long since she'd heard these sounds, they felt more like a warning than a welcome. The world was going about its business, that's all. The tired, lonely mind was a master of tricks, so she calmed herself--the music of the valley lulling her to sleep. **** Daylight broke through the window, rousing Aryll from her slumber. She gazed around the room in her lethargy and felt no need to rush the day, as the events of yesterday started catching up with her. Something glittering, however, caught her eye. A stray ray of light illuminated her table, shining off the gold ink of the envelope. She planned to read it after a shower, all the while trying to stave off thoughts of food, getting internet, the farm, the town, responsibilities… Post shower, she regarded the envelope again while slipping a shirt over her head. The soft pink of the parchment comforted her spinning thoughts, and she decided that at least humoring the attempt at communication would be fine. Dear Aryll, I know you'll just love it in Pelican Town! I was so excited when I heard you would be moving in, I hope you manage to settle in alright. Mayor Lewis said it would be best to give you some space on your first day, so I decided it would be nice to write you instead. You are formally invited to dinner at my house, just stop by any day before 4 pm! That's when my shift at The Stardrop Saloon starts, which is a great place to meet people and make friends. The food is delicious as well! Sincerely, Emily P.S. I drew a quick map on the back so you don't get lost. See you soon! She stared at the letter blankly, as if old roots were stirring from the dust of her mind. There was a feeling in her she couldn't identify--a feeling akin to searching for a word on the tip of one's tongue. Aryll…didn't want to meet anyone else. She didn't want to cultivate the farm; sometimes, she didn't even want to look at it. She turned her back on the letter and faced the window, a calm spring day displayed through the waving curtains. She couldn't deny that the call of obligation weighed heavily on her thoughts. It would be easier if people left her alone, it would be better for her plan-- A knock on the door jolted her out of her thoughts. "Oh, why?" she said, wracking her fists against her head. "Why, why, why--" she murmured into the air. The knock sounded again, and Aryll took a calming breath and fixed a pleasant expression on her face. She crossed the room and opened the door. "Hello, how can I help you?" She asked. Aryll was immediately struck by the other woman's hair. It was vibrant green, and tumbled gently behind her back. It was rare to see someone with green hair, especially such a luscious color that caught the light so brilliantly. It reminded her of fresh sprouts and new life--the color of spring, possibility. Her gaze was drawn to the woman's eyes--kind looking, with a surprisingly mischievous glint to them. Her attention was diverted when a tingle shot up her spine. She looked over and saw another young woman whose eyes were contorted into a glare that pierced Aryll's soul. She had long, purple hair (was there something in the water that gave people bright hair?) and was dressed in a way that could be described as 'goth' or perhaps… 'alternative'. Aryll eyed the two women in confusion. "Hello, my name is Caroline," the green haired woman said with a soft laugh. "And this is my daughter, Abigail." "Hey," Abigail said in a disinterested tone. "I'm Aryll. It's uh, nice to meet you both!" Aryll finally noticed the bags in either of Caroline's hands and ushered them inside the house. Caroline carefully placed both bags on the table. "Well, this is a rather cozy place, Aryll. I brought over some breakfast, in case you were hungry." She rummaged through one of the bags and pulled out a tray of muffins. "There's some more food in there for lunch. Something hearty, we'll need it for afterwards!" "Afterwards…?" Aryll echoed slowly. "Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself! I'm a bit of a gardener, myself. I've been doing it for years, so I'd like to think I have a good idea of what to do. Oh yes, this is for you!" She pushed the other bag towards Aryll. "It's a little gift from Mayor Lewis, purchased with the Agricultural Fund." Aryll figured the only thing she could really do was go along with it. There was a package inside, and she opened it up to find it was full of various seed packets. Her stomach dropped. "The land is a little cluttered, but with some work it'll be more than ready for planting!" Caroline said, cheerfully. "Robin said she checked the tool shed before she left, and it's already got everything you need. After breakfast, Abigail and I would be more than happy to show you the ropes!" Abigail groaned audibly, and Aryll finally understood her sour attitude. She looked at Caroline, who was practically radiating with energy, and felt her already weak resolve diminish. "…Thank you, Caroline. That's so kind of you both. Yes. I would. Just love your help," Aryll managed to say. Caroline merely beamed in response. **** Abigail initially spent a good deal of time lounging under the shade of a tree, with protests of being much too pale for this horrid sun, ok mom, as her defense. Eventually, she offered to help weed after watching a particularly large frog hop across the dirt. ("She always did like frogs," Caroline would supply later.) Caroline instructed the three of them to focus on a patch in front of the house, as clearing the rest of the farm would be too overwhelming. They moved rocks and branches out of the way, and then Aryll proceeded to cut the taller grass while the other two pulled weeds from the ground. They partitioned off a small plot and tended to the dirt with spades, diligently removing roots. The first time Aryll heard Abigail laugh, truly unabashedly, was when Aryll fell backwards trying to pull up a particularly obstinate root. She laid on the floor, staring up at the partly cloudy sky in a stupor, until Abigail offered her a hand. After that, the mood lifted and they exchanged jokes while dragging bags of fertilizer out of the shed. Caroline showed Aryll how to turn the soil with a shovel, and then smooth it out with a rake. When they finished, Aryll surveyed the land and couldn't help but laugh at the contrast--the cultivated plot made her think of a cake where someone had removed a slice from the edge or middle first, rather than the corner as a civilized person would. She couldn't help the small spark of pride that alighted inside her. "It's best to let the soil rest first before planting," Caroline informed her. "So I think we're done for today! Unless you want to do more…?" "No! Uh I mean, that's ok! Good work today, thank you!" Aryll said, trying to catch her breath. "Alright! I'll go in and get lunch ready. Why don't you and Abigail go relax for a bit?" Caroline said, and headed inside the house. Aryll practically collapsed under the shade of a nearby tree, intimately aware that she was covered in dirt and sweat. Abigail made her way over, looking just as tired, and plopped on the ground next to Aryll. "…You know, that wasn't so bad," Abigail started. "You probably guessed, but I'm not one for physical exertion. Sorry about being a real bitch this morning, but I pulled an all nighter and then my mom guilted me into doing this. But like I said, it was actually kinda nice. I'm gonna miss exploring this old, abandoned place, though," she added, wistfully. "Hey, don't worry about it," Aryll replied softly, but then remembered the glare that almost lifted the soul from her body. "Thanks for helping me out, I mean it! I wasn't in too good of a mood myself, earlier. This place wasn't what I was expecting, but then, I don't really know what I was expecting…" She lapsed off. She and Abigail shared a silence and enjoyed the passing breeze. "Here we go, a nice potato salad from fresh, home grown ingredients!" Caroline said, walking over with a container in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. She passed around a few water bottles and paper plates. They ate fervently and talked through full mouths about farming and the valley. "Thank you, Caroline. That was delicious! And I feel like I could really use a shower," Aryll said after everyone finished eating. "Ugh, same. I'll probably take one as soon as I get home," Abigail replied. "Speaking of which," Caroline interjected. "Aryll, I noticed it seems like you need to pick up a few amenities. I'll have to be honest, my husband runs the General Store here and we could help you order anything special you need. As well as, perhaps, stock up on shelf food. There is a Joja Mart, but their seeds tend to run a bit pricier." "Hmm, so that's why you were so eager to help? Trying to get me on your good side?" Aryll laughed. "Oh, Aryll, no! It's not lik--" "I was only joking! I didn't really figure I'd shop at a Joja Mart, anyway." "When we're all rested, how about we head over there together, then?" Caroline excitedly suggested. "I figure you could pick up some more seeds, you seem like the dedicated type! The amount of work you put in today was inspiring, I can see this place blooming in the future." Aryll felt like a deer in headlights. She stared at Caroline for a few seconds, then sighed. "Yes, alright, that sounds like a good plan." Aryll said. **** "Now, I promise I wasn't snooping around while inside your house, but…" Caroline started as the three of them walked to the town. Aryll groaned at the shift in conversation. "…I saw the letter on your table. It was out in the open but I didn't read it. It's the one from Emily, correct?" While Aryll believed Caroline hadn't gone through her stuff, she got the very strong suspicion people here could be a bit… nosy. "Yes, you're right. She sent me an invitation to dinner. Unfortunately, I just arrived in town and I don't know when I'll have the time to uh, visit, y-you know… how it is… farming, and all that…" She trailed off. "Well then, why not today? You said earlier you were probably done working for today. Luckily, Emily's house isn't far from the General Store at all!" Caroline said excitedly. Why, why, why whywhywhyyyyyyyyy?????? "Oh yeah, um, that's a good point there but uhhhhh…" Aryll frantically searched for an excuse. "She pretty much talked nonstop about how excited she was to have another person around her age move into the valley at our last aerobics session. I wasn't even sure she'd be able to catch her breath with how fast she was speaking! She'd be so delighted if you stopped by, you have absolutely nothing to worry about! Not to mention, you'd be getting a very filling dinner." aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH Guilt welled up inside Aryll. "…It couldn't hurt, I guess." "Wonderful! I'll go on ahead and tell Pierre to get the catalog ready, and after we finish I'll point you to her house!" Caroline said while walking ahead and entering a building. Aryll realized with a shock that they were already in front of the store. She heard a snort behind her. "Welcome to the unwavering kindness of a small town," Abigail laughed, opening the door for Aryll. **** Aryll later exited the shop, arms laden with bags of long lasting food, all different kinds of seeds and receipts for larger purchases, and proceeded in the direction of Emily's house. Every step closer only aggravated her growing nerves, and she realized that she didn't actually have to visit today, or ever, even. However, the townsfolk were quickly proving themselves to be tenacious, if nothing else. Finally, she reached the front door, staring at it in a moment of confusion. Should she knock? She looked around for a doorbell, found none, and lifted her arm up hesitantly. It had been so long since she had physically knocked on a door that the whole notion seemed ridiculous, but when she heard the noise of voices and clashing cutlery drift from inside, it gave her a boost of bravery. She knocked. "Hold on, hold on! Haley, would you please get the door?" shouted a friendly voice. There was a bit of bickering that Aryll couldn't make out, and then the door swung open. Aryll was leveled with one of the most uninterested glances she had received in a while. It came from a pair of bored eyes laid on a perfect, heart shaped face that was framed by cascading rivulets of blond hair; the girl before her was as beautiful as she was indifferent. "Oh Yoba, it's you. Come in I guess,” Haley, Aryll assumed, said as she turned back into the house. "Emily, the weird farmer is here!" She shouted. Aryll narrowed her eyes at the back of Haley's head and put her bags down by the door. "Aryll is here already? Wonderful! Come on into the kitchen, Aryll, I was just finishing up dinner!" Emily's excited voice boomed from a room over, and Aryll walked a bit further into the house. The dining area and kitchen were combined in one room, and in the middle sat a table that appeared comically large with only two chairs and place mats set on it. The room had a suburban, homey appearance yet seemed like it wasn't fully furnished or decorated. "Aryll!" Her attention was directed to a woman standing by the counter with a wooden spoon in her hand and a radiant smile on her face. This was Emily, Aryll thought without a doubt, and for a brief moment swore she was never more sure about anything in her life. Everything about Emily was exuberant, from her spiky, blue hair to the red, perfectly tailored dress that hugged her body. Her eyes glittered like a gemstone, and there was such mirth written into every line of her visage, as if she knew many things--both spiritual and earthly--and would delight in nothing more but to tell you them. "It's so wonderful to see you!" And then Aryll was enveloped in a tight embrace, acutely aware of Emily's floral fragrance. It felt more like seeing an old acquaintance for the first time in years rather than a first time meeting, but it did manage to make Aryll feel welcome. Then she was quickly pushed toward the dining table. "Have a seat, dinner will be ready in just a moment. I'll have Haley set up another chair. Haley!" Emily's enthusiasm was met with a disgruntled groan. No wonder Caroline and Robin spoke so highly of Emily, Aryll thought. She wondered if Haley and Abigail, too, got along--or if their similar stubbornness could be anything but clashing. "This is my famous Red Platter," Emily said, spooning a heaping portion of red and purple on everyone's plates after they had all sat down. "It's full of vitamins and antioxidants, the perfect meal for hard working farmers and growing teenagers!" "I'm an adult," Haley interjected. "Don't be shy, Aryll, there's enough food for seconds and thirds," Emily continued, as if she was used to Haley being… Haley. Aryll stared down at her plate. The meal certainly looked and smelled like healthy food. When she looked back up, Emily was staring back at her with a contemplative expression; she almost seemed expectant. Caught off guard, Aryll tried to give a genuine and unawkward smile. Emily looked as if she had figured something out and made a decision, all in the span of a few seconds. Was this about the food? But no, it seemed to be about something bigger, something that went over Aryll's head. "…Well this is turning out to be a lot more interesting than I initially thought," Emily said, breaking the spell. Her usual smile was back on her face, and she took a bite out of her meal. Aryll mirrored her action, then stopped as soon as the food hit her tongue. It certainly tasted like healthy food. A laugh erupted from the other side of the table; Haley must have caught Aryll's expression. "We always have weird food in this house. Kale, quinoa, samphire--I can't even pronounce half this shit! We never have meat, and we absolutely never have chicken -" "Haley, that's enough." Emily sternly interrupted. "We have a guest, please do your best to be polite." Haley crossed her arms and leaned back roughly in her seat. "…Fine." She put on some earbuds and returned to her food, effectively shutting out the rest of the world. "That's good enough, I suppose," Emily sighed. She turned her attention back to Aryll and gave her a tired smile. "Thank you for having me over, Emily. This dinner is delicious," Aryll said. "You're welcome over anytime, I mean it," Emily replied. "Now, tell me about that old farm. How are you doing there? Is everything holding up?" They launched into an easy conversation, with Emily doing most of the talking and Aryll answering questions as best she could. Emily talked in length about town life, the forest, and how important it was to have a connection with nature. Before she knew it, they had finished their dinner and Aryll's plate was left with only a pinkish broth. Perhaps trying to be social was not as bad as she thought it would be. Emily gathered up the plates in her hands while Haley walked Aryll back into the living room. "You're kinda quiet, you know," Haley said, surprising Aryll. "Well we only just met. I don't really uh, know what to say" she replied. "Hmmm…" Haley hummed, looking the other woman up and down. "You know, I guess you are actually kinda cute, in that 'lost puppy dog' sort of way," she smirked. "Um, thank…you? I-Hey, wait!" Aryll yelled indignantly, the meaning of Haley's words finally catching up to her. She was met by the sound of a slamming door and muffled laughter on the other side of it. "Don’t let her get to you," Emily said as she approached Aryll. "Are those your bags by the door? I'll help you carry them back to your farm, and then I have to head over to the saloon for my shift. Plus, I think you could use a good rest. When you have the energy, please consider coming by the saloon, there's so many people I want to introduce you to!" "I'll…I'll try my best to," Aryll said, and she meant it. Then she watched, wide eyed, as Emily lifted her bags with ease and hauled them out the door. **** At home, Aryll fell gracelessly into bed, realizing her plans probably meant nothing in the wake of the town's friendliness, and thought about what other surprises tomorrow would bring as she drifted to sleep.