Gen 1 Ch 8: Not All News is Bad

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Waking up snuggled up to Celeste was a dream come true. There was just something so reassuring in knowing that the person you care about is lying next to you, safe and sound.

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There were plenty of things to do around the house, but I just stayed in bed, listening to her breathing. I could spend years like this if I had to. I wanted to say good morning.

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She eventually woke up, and being a bit flustered at realizing I was there with her, whispered “Morning.”

“How did you sleep?” I asked.

“Pretty well. It was… different” she admitted.

“Hungry?” I offered, realizing that the wedding cake was the last thing we’ve eaten.

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“I could eat something, sure” she responded.

“I’ll cook!” I bounded out of bed and into the kitchen.

Over breakfast we were still a bit shy with one another at first, but eventually we ended up laughing about the awkwardness and afterwards, things went on as normal.

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And so our days fell into a familiar but happy vein: Celeste would go fishing, I would farm while the weather was still good, and the dogs either played together or showered us with their undivided attention.

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In the evenings, we would cuddle up by the fireplace together. That always led to long make out sessions, which, in turn, would always lead to Celeste and I heading off to the bedroom.

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I guess you could say, despite our initial awkwardness, our marital life got on pretty well.

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One day Celeste and I ended up on a fishing date. It was crisp and cool but the sun was still shining and the park where Celeste preferred to fish looked exceptionally charming.

She always made sure to teach me all her tricks of the trade when we were on dates like this.

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“Make sure you reel the heavier fish in carefully, or they might jump” she warned, demonstrating the correct way to do it. After I repeated the movement, she nodded approvingly “That’s it!”

“Thank, hon. So, this is how you reel in good catches all the time” I joked.

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“Oh, come on, when do I ever catch such good fish?” she laughed.

“You caught me. While fishing, too!”

That definitely got a smile from her “I sure did, didn’t I?”

Unfortunately, fishing had to be put on hold, as it started raining once again.

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“We can just go to the coffee shop” I offered. “At least there are coffee and dry seats.”

At the coffee house, we continued to chat and enjoy each other’s company.

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“Soon the plants will go into hibernation for the winter and I’ll be without anything to do” I complained. “I hope you won’t get tired of me being in the house with you all day.”

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“Heh, I’ll find something for you to do, don’t fret” she joked right back. “Seriously though, when it’s cold enough, you wouldn’t want to be in the garden all day.”

Whatever she wanted to say next was interrupted as she quickly got up and rushed off to the bathroom. When she came back, she looked somewhat sick.

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“Is everything alright?” I wanted to make sure she hasn’t caught a cold from being outside so much.

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“I think the waffles got spoiled already, we’ll have to throw them away when we get home. A bit later though, I got a call from Maya Abot—she has a birthday tonight and we’re invited” she informed me.

Upon arriving at the Abot house, we were both surprised how quiet it was.

“It is Maya’s birthday, right?” I clarified.

Celeste nodded “Yeah, she did say so. It is weirdly quiet though.”

Inside, the only people were Maya herself and a guy I didn’t know, who was leaving already.

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“Hi” I greeted Maya. “Happy birthday! How is everything? Where’s Carl, by the way?”

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Maya snorted “Oh, I guess you two haven’t heard then? We divorced.”

“What?” Celeste’s eyes grew huge. “But how? You were both at our wedding and together.”

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“Yeah. And a couple of weeks later, he ended up walking out and moving in with a woman half his age.” It was hard not to hear the bitterness in her voice, which was understandable—Maya and Carl spent years together.

“I am so sorry” Celeste apologized. “I had no idea or I would’ve come earlier.

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“You don’t need to apologize, dear” Maya calmed her down “At least you two actually came to congratulate me on my birthday. I think most of our friends are too weirded out by the situation.”

“They still should’ve been here” I contended. “This isn’t right, you shouldn’t have to spend your birthday alone.”

“Well, that is fine. I’m not alone now, am I? Not as long as I have friends like you two” Maya smiled, looking happier now than she had all night.

After the party, Celeste and I sat outside, just pondering the situation over.

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“I can’t believe he left her. What’s gotten into Carl?” Celeste was incredulous.

“I don’t know. Old age? Insanity? Just a new infatuation? I guess only he can explain what happened to make him leave his family at this point” I mused. “All I know is, it’s a good thing we got here tonight. And before we leave the topic, I want you to know; I meant my wedding vows and am not planning to pull a stunt like this at any point.”

“Oh Si, you don’t have to reassure me. I never doubted you.”

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Celeste’s sickness continued, despite us getting rid of the bad waffles. To be honest, I was starting to suspect the worst, knowing that there was a history of cancer in Celeste’s family.

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Now she was throwing up once again and I was standing worried by the bathroom door.

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“Hey, are you feeling better? Maybe we should go to the doctor?” I suggested.

“I’ve gone to the doctor” she mumbled through the door. “I have news from the doctor.”

“It isn’t bad news, is it?” my heart began to beat faster.

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“No Simon” she announced coming out of the bathroom, dressed up and ready to face anything. “It’s pretty good actually. We’re having a baby.”

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At first I was dumbstruck. I was going to be a father! My wife wasn’t dying! I pulled Celeste into a tight hug.

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“This is so awesome! I guess we’ll need to prepare our house for the new member of our family.”

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And we did. We didn’t have that much money, but it was enough to comfortably hire a contractor to build additional space for the house. After the baby’s room was ready, Celeste went to town decorating it. As she put it, a newborn had to see pretty things around—it was good for early development.

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The baby wasn’t due for a while and that was a good thing. We needed time to prepare. Celeste spent time at the library reading childhood development books. She also insisted that at some point we had to get a food processor to make organic baby food, since the store-bought foods weren’t as healthy. I wholeheartedly agreed.

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With the two of us eagerly awaiting our newest family member, Celeste and I couldn’t keep hands off each other. It was kind of strange. At first we were so shy of one another, but with the baby on the way it was like we were even more a family than previously.

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Also, despite her pregnancy, Celeste continued to go on long fishing trips. She insisted that there would be plenty of time to stay indoors once the baby was born. Besides, fresh air was good for our little girl.

That’s right, we knew it was a girl after one of the later doctor’s visits. Celeste was a bit disappointed at first, since she wanted a son, but we both knew that we were going to love our kids no matter what gender they were.

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Finally, one night I woke up to Celeste seating up with her legs buckled up and hands around her belly.

“Simon, it’s time. Can you call the cab?” she urged.

Yep, baby was certainly on the way out if she was insisting on the cab.

Luckily, her labor didn’t last long and soon we were heading home with our new-born daughter.

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We were welcomed back by two curious dogs who were very excited to see the newest human in the house. Once the barking quieted down, Celeste realized “We haven’t thought of a name for her, have we?”

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“I guess not. What ideas do you have?” I admitted.

“Well, have you ever read Sherlock Holmes?” she ventured.

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“Yeah… hey, are you thinking of a particular character?” I understood. Celeste loved a good mystery and I loved all literature in general. Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries were always a favorite with both of us though.

“The only woman to ever catch the great detective’s heart” she smiled.

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And so, Irene Meadows, our daughter born on a cold winter’s day, came into life.

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So, indeed little Irene is named after Irene Adler from the Sherlock Holmes novels/adaptations– she was a pretty cool character. And we have the first potential heir of gen 2! 

Gen 1 Ch 7: One Family

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The day my parents were supposed to arrive, I woke up to the sight and sound of Celeste furiously beating waffle batter. One look at her was enough to tell me that she was a ball of nerves.

“Morning, dear” I greeted her, almost regretting my words as she nearly dropped the bowl she was holding.

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“Simon!” she gulped, surprised at my voice. “I’m sorry, I woke you up!”

“Hold on, let me help you” I went to her, but she waved me aside.

“Your parents are almost here and there is nothing to eat!” she worried.

“Hon, you don’t have to worry about that, their hotel has food, you know!” I tried to calm her down “And they’re not here to assess your cooking skills, but to meet a new member of our family.”

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“But what if they disapprove of me…” she looked like someone who just found out that Christmas was cancelled.

“They won’t. Trust me; my parents know that if I’m marrying you, you’re a great person. They’ll only be happy for us.”

“If you say so…” she still seemed to be unconvinced. “Great, now it’s raining.”

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“Well, on the bright side, now we’ll have a great conversation opener—bad weather!” I joked.

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Luckily, when we arrived at our reserved wedding venue, the sky had cleared up.

My relatives were already there, as I expected, in all entirety—they even brought my baby cousin Tyrion, who frankly looked like he’d rather be sleeping.

“Mom, Dad!” I greeted my family, not realizing how much I’ve missed them. “You made it! How was the trip?”

“Not bad at all, I can really see why you like this place so much” laughed my dad. “May I say, you have a lovely bride.”

Celeste blushed, still uncomfortable around my huge family.

“And of course, we’ll talk a bit later, I’m off to see how our formal clothes are doing” he apologized before taking leave of us.

“Well, you’ve just met Martin, my husband, who’s ever the charmer!” my mother smiled at Celeste, clearly noticing the latter’s discomfort “Now, Simon, why don’t you let us girls chat for a bit. Don’t worry, I don’t bite!”

While she and Celeste were excitedly discussing wedding plans and other details, I ended up with my aunt Marie.

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“So, nephew, I see you’re pretty well-settled here now. Not planning to come back home anytime soon, then?” she jokingly asked.

“Nope. I’m pretty happy here” I assured her.

“I can see. Of course, you won’t find a girl like that in Starlight Shores, that’s for sure. She is very natural.”

“How do you know all that just from looking at her?” I laughed.

“Oh well, a writer has to” she explained seriously. “You see people and you end up understanding them pretty well. Make sure you take good care of that one.”

“Oh, I fully intend to.”

Celeste’s POV

My heart was beating so fast when Simon’s mother approached me that I thought it will jump out of my chest. I’ve heard so many horror stories of couples breaking up because someone’s family didn’t approve of their choices. Of course, Simon already proposed to me, so it probably didn’t matter to him what his parents thought of his choice. But I would hate to cause any strife between him and his family.

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“Oh girl, relax, I don’t plan to terrify you!” Simon’s mother’s words snapped me out of my reverie. “What did my son tell you about his family? We’re not that scary, are we?”

“I’m sorry” I apologized. “It’s just that our engagement was so quick and I was afraid you’d think badly of me since you barely know me and it’s almost like I’m stealing him away…”

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“Oh dear” she shook her head “I don’t think badly of you, not at all. It’s normal for kids to grow up and start their own families. In fact, if Simon didn’t do that, then I’d worry. As it is, I do want to get to know you better. After all, you are about to become part of our family.”

“So, you’re ok with Simon and me getting married? Oh, you have no idea how happy I am to hear that!” it was as if a weight fell off my shoulders.

“And I’m happy to see that someone is so over the heels for my boy” she smiled.

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“As is he. We were pretty surprised to hear he was engaged” chimed in the teenage girl, who I understood to be Simon’s sister, Samantha. “I was pretty suspicious, to be honest. But it does seem that you’re pretty nice.”

Well, that was more of the sentiment I expected, but I understood the whole “protective sister” mode. I was the same way when my brother got into relationships.

“I’d be glad to get to know all of you pretty close” I honestly told my future in-laws.

“What about your family?” asked Mrs. Meadows.

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“They can’t make it, unfortunately” I admitted, trying not to show that my family’s absence at my wedding was making me more upset than I was letting on. “My father will be all tied up at the ranch and my brother’s wife is in last stages of pregnancy.”

“Oh, wow, that sucks” Samantha shook her head. “I know we can’t replace them, but I hope our presence here can still cheer you up.”

“After all, there are wedding preparations to make” enthused Mrs. Meadows. “We have to arrange the cake, pick the dress up, make sure everyone and everything is in the right place. Don’t worry; we’ll help with all that.”

“Oh, you don’t have to, Mrs. Meadows” I didn’t want her to burden herself with this.

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“Oh, honey, you can call me Laura, everyone does. And wedding arrangements for my son and his bride are not a hassle at all, they’re only fun” she smiled.

Simon’s POV

In the following week, Celeste spent nearly all the time with my family. I would’ve complained about not seeing her, but really I was just happy she got on so well with my relatives. Truly, not everyone can enjoy that development in their lives.

My parents really liked her and Samantha, who was always the tough one in the family, ended up really warming up to my fiancée. Uncle Ezekiel and Dad ended up going fishing with her at some point, which was something they’ve never done in Starlight Shores. Even Aunt Marie would let herself get distracted from her writing long enough to actually interact with Celeste. As for Wanda, when she saw Hawk and Ursa, she wouldn’t get dragged away from them for hours.

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And so that day came. Luckily, the weather was nice and sunny; otherwise our outdoor wedding would have been ruined. The guests were gathered and the bride was stunning.

As per tradition, I haven’t seen Celeste in her wedding dress until the time of the wedding, so I was happily surprised by her look for the wedding.

“You look gorgeous” I told her, before the wedding was about to start.

“And you look even handsomer that usual. You should wear a tux more often” joked Celeste.

My father looked on us approvingly and smiled nostalgically. He said earlier that ours reminded him of his and my mother’s relationship, which I considered to be a very good thing.

So, under the warming las rays of autumn sun, Celeste and I spoke our vows.

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“Simon Meadows” began Celeste “when we met, I never thought you would see me as anything more than a friend, yet here we are, getting married. I promise to be your wife in health and sickness, good times and bad, through anything. I will always be there for you, no matter what life decides to throw at us.”

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“Celeste Lewis” I continued “you are the only woman I have even been in love with and I know that will never change. I knew I had feelings for you since the moment we’ve met and I have been the happiest person alive since you reciprocated them. I take you as my wife and life companion and I guarantee that while my garden may be seasonal, my love for you will never be.”

And the rings were exchanged, the wedding papers signed, and we were officially husband and wife!

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After the cake cutting, which everyone was just as happy about as about the wedding itself, the party went on.

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Wanda and I ended up seated next to one another, as my folks stole away my wife again (a usual occurrence these days).

“So, you’re finally married, huh?” she mumbled through a mouthful of cake. “How does it feel, new husband?”

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“Pretty good, thanks. Although it has been less than an hour” I played along. “What about you, planning to get hitched anytime soon?”

“We’ll see. College comes first, mom was pretty adamant about it. I kind of agree. I mean my relationship has been pretty good so far, but I don’t really know what I want to do in life. Not like you did” she admitted wistfully.

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“Oh, cuz. You’ll figure it out. It’s no rush.”

At some point, Celeste and I did get to spend our wedding party with one another.

“Hey there, wife” I greeted her. “Would you care for a dance with your new husband?”

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“Of course, although I must warn you, I’m not a very good dancer” she warned me.

“Me neither” I laughed. “I think we can just imitate the other guests.”

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Throughout the entire dance, we were both blushing like it was our first time seeing one another. Luckily, it was getting dark by that time, and the guests didn’t notice. Of course, even if they did, it was pretty normal for a couple to be giddy with one another.

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As the party drew to a close, we said our goodbyes and headed home. My parents were flying back out to my hometown and Celeste and I were starting our official lives as married people.

Of course, I carried Celeste over the threshold—it was, after all, a tradition.

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From then on, there was plenty of awkwardness. We were both virgins and quite honestly had no idea where to start or how initiate anything. One would think that instinct would take over—after all I thought Celeste was the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen. But we were just both really nervous.

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“If you’re not comfortable, we could always do this later” I offered, not wanting to make our first night together bad for Celeste.

In response, she laughed nervously and shook her head “We’re both way inexperienced, aren’t we? Yeah, I’m pretty nervous, but I knew what marriage entailed. Unless, you want to wait, let’s do this.”

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I couldn’t resist pulling her into a hug “You know, you’re awesome, right?”

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The kiss that followed eased us into our first night as husband and wife. And while I won’t go into details of what happened, I think we were both glad we didn’t put our marital life off for much longer.

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So! These two are finally married. I unfortunately didn’t have many pics of the rest of the family and Celeste interacting, but here’s one of them, sans the sister and cousin posing with the happy couple.

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Simon’s Family (Left to right): father Martin, uncle Ezekiel, aunt Marie, bride, groom, mother Laura. 

 

Gen 1 Ch 6: Be My Wife

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My life continued in its peaceful vein. Ursa and I kept each other company, with the big girl insisting on sleeping next to me whenever the weather or anything else scared her. I honestly didn’t mind, as long as she stayed flea-free—getting bitten by bugs in my own bed was no fun.

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She did surprise me quite a bit one day—I walked in from gardening and saw the dog sitting proudly with two expensive-looking natural stones I front of her. Turned out, dogs have a good nose for these things, and the stones did, indeed, turn out to be pricy. Selling them gave me a large sum of cash and I knew I wouldn’t need to worry about bills for a while.

Also, it turned out Sebastian kept his promise and did talk to his sister, because a couple days after Celeste’s party, I received a phone call from Francesca Vanderburg. She told me that she was interested in buying fresh vegetables year-round and that she’d be happy to see what my garden had to offer.

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Upon meeting her, it turned out that Francesca was a friendly and pragmatic person who I had a lot in common with. Upon seeing my produce, she was very impressed and paid me a hefty sum of money, which at first I was even hesitant to accept, but she, very spiritedly informed me that she was always happy to pay for a job well done.

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It was around this time that cold weather has set in and the low temperatures have forced my plants to go into hibernation. This was not an unwelcome development—it gave me both a physical break from garden work and time to finally research the plants in a more scientific environment, as I planned before even coming here.

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Upon researching the specimens which I kept from selling, I came to the conclusion that there must have been something in the soil here for real. From what I’ve read of agriculture back in school, with as little training as I had in the matter, the greens just shouldn’t have been growing as well as they were. But despite the odds, my garden was thriving and producing outstanding fruits and vegetables. Hidden Springs just had something special in the soil—that was the only explanation I could give.

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I did wonder how this extreme fertility hasn’t been really more noticed by a larger population of scientists and researchers. From what I knew, whenever there was some unexplained interesting phenomenon like this, flocks of scientific developers would travel to wherever it was happening and spend a long time studying it. But here? Nothing. Although, whatever caused this lack of general attention, I was, despite my scientific leanings, pretty happy about it. The quiet peaceful life of Hidden Springs was such a nice change from big city hassle.

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Celeste and I still kept seeing each other whenever we could, despite being busy with our individual jobs. I knew she spent long hours fishing and she was often tired from her days out during our dates. After one such coffee-house date, I knew for sure that I was tired of us being apart for such long periods of time. I wanted to be there for her at the end of the day, to comfort her when she was tired and sore, to share meals with her, to live with her.

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It was definitely time.

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I was so nervous. I could feel my hands sweating and my heart was beating way faster than usual. It also didn’t help that Celeste showed up to the restaurant in a pretty white dress that really, really complimented her.

“Earth to Simon” she called, noticing my stupor upon seeing her. “So what are the plans for today?”

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“Oh, hi” I came back to earth. “Well, our table is ready; we can get the food now. I hope you like it here.”

“Of course, I’ve heard only the best reviews about this restaurant. Are you ok though? You look flushed” she worried.

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“I’m fine, just hungry that’s all” I lied. Honestly I wondered if I’d be able to eat with my nerves so frayed!

As our food was served, I tried to focus on my plate and not on what was really on my mind. I noticed Celeste wasn’t really eating either.

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I know it is traditional to propose at a restaurant, but somehow I couldn’t do it in front of all these people. It just seemed so un-personal.

“Are you going home after this?” I asked “Or do we have more time to spend together after this?”

“Well, today is my day off! So I have all the time in the world” she enthused.

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“Would you like to just walk for a while with me?” I asked.

“That sounds lovely” she smiled.

So that was what we did. We walked for hours, just talking. At some point I realized that Celeste and I were the only people in the square. This was more like it.

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‘Celeste” I began, hoping I didn’t bumble through my words “I know we haven’t been together that long, but even at the start of our relationship, I knew you are the only person I want to spend my life with.”

A look of realization appeared on her face, replaced by a huge smile. I continued.

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“I know I’m not very well-versed in romance, but I also know that I want to make you happy.  So, will you, Celeste Lewis, make me the happiest man alive and become my wife?” I was already down on one knee. I held the ring out toward Celeste, hoping she wouldn’t refuse.

“So that’s why you were so nervous!?” she asked, smiling from ear to ear. “Of course I’ll marry you. Now get up and let me hug you!”

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I was more than happy to oblige.

There was one more thing I needed to ask her.

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“Celeste, now that we’re engaged, will you move in with me? We could wait until we’re married, but I figured it’d be easier with wedding planning and then we could see each other every day…”

She contemplated the idea for a bit, but then agreed “Alright, but remember, I have a dog too. We have to make sure our furry companions are in accord as well.”

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As luck would have it, the dogs got along perfectly fine. It probably helped that they were different genders, so they didn’t feel as inclined to get territorial with one another. Also, they were both equally terrified of everything, so fighting was not their ideal pastime.

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As for Celeste and I, it was decided (by me) that for the time being, she would have the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch. It was pretty comfortable and warm from the fireplace, and it was pretty neat to sleep with two pooches curled up next to me. Of course we were planning to sleep together after the wedding, but neither of us was willing to breach that line until then.

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Also I knew there was one thing I really had to do—I was engaged now and my parents didn’t have the slightest idea. I had to tell them.

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The phone rang and after three rings I heard my father’s voice on the phone “Simon! Well, this is a nice surprise, how’s your life going? You’ve been calling less and your mom and I worry. You aren’t sick are you? Or starving? Because, If you need money, just let us know.”

That was my dad, always the go-to person for solving any problem.

“No Dad, my garden is doing pretty fine actually, I’ve been making quite a living off it, to be honest” I laughed. “I’m actually calling because I have news.”

“Is someone pregnant?” Dad asked. “You know, we wouldn’t mind, we’d help her out if anything, as will you!”

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“Hold your horses, Dad” I giggled. “No one is pregnant yet. But I am engaged and getting married soon.”

“Oh” there was a pause on the other end “Well, is she a national secret? Do we get to meet our future daughter in law? Or are you going to keep her all to yourself?”

“Well, I don’t know if Celeste will want to go to Starlight Shores…” it would be quite a hassle.

“No need! We’ll visit! You didn’t think your mother and I will miss our eldest child’s wedding, did you?”

Well, if Dad said he and Mom were coming, then I was sure the rest of the family won’t be far behind. Looks like Celeste will be meeting my family in its entirety.

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The next morning, I knew I had to let Celeste know about the arrival of family. I didn’t want to overwhelm her or freak her out. After all, meeting the family is always stressful and I didn’t want her to worry for no reason.

“What are your plans for today?” I asked while making some pancakes.

“Fishing, more fishing, maybe some quality time with the dogs. You know, they need to learn some house skills” she noted. “What about you?”

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“Well, it’s gotten warm again lately. I’ll work in the garden for a while. I want to whip it into the best shape possible before the colds set in. Also, I’m going to make some calls regarding wedding venues in town. I want to see if we can have a park-wedding for ourselves.”

“Oh, that sounds so dreamy!” Celeste sounded happy. “It would be pretty nice. By the way, I’ll take the dogs with me to the park. I think they’ll love it there.”

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And so we went to our own business for the day, with Celeste fishing at the park accompanied by our dogs and me checking up on the plants and planting the last seeds into the ground while it was still possible for them to get good weather.

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In the afternoon, it began to rain pretty hard and as Celeste was still not home, I began to worry. I didn’t want her to catch a cold, or worse, get hit by lightning.

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Before I could imagine the worst, she walked into the house.

“You’re back!” I pulled her into a hug. “I was worried.”

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“That’s alright, a little water never hurt anyone” she joked.

“Come on, let’s get you warmed up” I insisted, lighting the fireplace. “Also, I have some news.”

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“Good news or bad news?” she asked.

“My parents are coming for the wedding and I think they’re bringing the whole family.”

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“Oh. What are they like?” she was curious.

“Well, Mom and Dad are both in the arts. She is a well-known painter and he works in the local symphony orchestra. They’re both pretty fond of music though. My sister Samantha is most likely going to follow in their footsteps—she is also pretty focused on the arts, even went to a special boarding school for that. Then there are my aunt and uncle, Marie and Zeke. She is a writer, as you know, and he is a famous athlete.”

“They all sound so… respectable” Celeste mused. “I wonder how they’d react to me. I mean, their son goes to another city and then, bam, he’s getting married to someone they don’t even know!”

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“I think they’ll love you” I assured her. “My family isn’t that intimidating. I’m sure Wanda, my cousin, will be over the moon to meet you.”

“You were closest with her, weren’t you?” she noticed.

I nodded “We always got each other. My sister and I are close, but she was much younger than me. Wanda and I were always spending more time together.”

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“I am pretty curious to see them, to be honest.” Celeste looked wistfully at the fire. “I know my family won’t be able to make it. My Roger is at home taking care of his wife who’s in her last trimester, and because of that, Dad is swamped at the ranch.”

“Are you ok about it? About your family not making it to the wedding?” I didn’t want her to be sad on her wedding day.

“I’m not as upset as I thought I would be. I grew up there; I know they have a lot to deal with right now. I’ve heard they were short staffed on the ranch, it’s not like I can go back and fix everything. I offered.” Something remained unsaid, but I decided not to prod anymore, since it seemed that the topic was in fact upsetting her.

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Instead, I put my arms around her and pulled her closer.

“Well, I’m happy that you are here with me. I don’t want to imagine otherwise.”

She smiled and leaned closer “Me too. I’m happy I’m here with you and that we’re about to become a family.”

And so we stayed together, warmed by the fire, as the weather raged on outside.

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Gen 1 Ch 5: Celeste and Friends

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It didn’t take long for me to recover and soon I was back in the garden, reaping the rewards of my hard work. It certainly pleased me when I would bring in baskets of my own home-grown fruits and vegetables.

Of course, I was taking all the necessary precautions now, in regards to my wellbeing. Celeste was right—I had to be responsible for my own health. So, I made sure that when I spent hours in the garden, I had lots on sunscreen on and drank as much water as possible.

Of course, I wasn’t alone in the garden. Ursa made sure to always stick nearby—I think it was some specific dog quirk of always needing to know where the human was. I didn’t mind. She was sweet and having an excited dog nearby can make even a dull day better.

Ever since we became an item, Celeste and I would go out of our way to call and write to one another. Because we both spend long hours busy being one with nature, we often didn’t get to spend much time with one another. Deep inside I was planning to propose to her as soon as I had a decent amount of money in the bank—I didn’t want to be that guy who couldn’t provide for his beloved.

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It was when I felt lonely that Ursa’s company couldn’t be more welcome. She was always so happy to spend hours playing with me or just sitting nearby. It was absolutely endearing. I thanked my stars for that rain that caused my furry friend to seek out shelter at my exact house.

From asking around, I knew that there were two popular stores around that always accepted locally grown produce. As soon as I had enough specimens, I made sure to sell my goods at both stores. As a result, I ended up earning quite a bit of money which made me worry less about paying the bills.

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Still happy from the incoming cash, I got a call from Celeste.

“Hey, hon. Are you busy this afternoon? If not, come to my place!” she invited.

I didn’t need to be asked twice.

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Celeste’s house was a small wooden cabin, but it felt very homey. It was just like her to live here.

“Come on in” she called me inside, where I was instantly met with happy barking. “Hawk, meet Simon. Simon, this is Hawk.”

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The puppy was small, but he was obviously very energetic and wanted to sniff me and know everything about me.

“Come here, Hawk!” I called the pup over “Well, aren’t you a cutie! Just like your mommy!”

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Celeste blushed, continuing to cook “I have some friends coming over. I thought it would be a good chance for you to meet the locals, since you’re new here.”

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“That’s a great idea” I admitted. “Working in the garden all day, you don’t really get to go out and mingle much.”

“Well, here they are” she nodded toward the door.

Two men and one woman arrived at Celeste’s house. Frankly, they couldn’t have looked more different. I guess Celeste had a unifying effect on people.

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The tall blond man turned out to be Sebastian Vanderburg and his family was somewhat well-known around town. Old money or something like that. He greeted me amicably enough, although it seemed that his mind was elsewhere and that he felt stressed out about something. Considering that I barely knew him, I thought it was best not to prod.

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The woman turned out to be Madeline Moore. She knew Celeste from the latter’s brief stint of working at the science facility, where Madeline still worked, or rather was planning to return to—she recently had a baby and had to take a maternity leave.Screenshot-35.jpg

The older man was Carl Abbot, a former military man, who took one look at my unkempt hair and “hippie clothing” and made up the opinion that I was a useless youth. I guess he was the sort of person who believed that discipline was very important and that young people were out of hand. If not for Celeste and Madeline joining our conversation, he no doubt would have gone on a tirade about modern economy and politics. I guess some people had no idea what constituted friendly party conversation.

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“So, how’s the baby doing? With those first teeth coming in, I know you two aren’t sleeping much” Celeste sympathized with Madeline, who snorted before regaining her composure.

“Yeah, the kid has been a handful. The doctor says it won’t be much longer now though and then we’ll get some peace and quiet!”

“So, as I was saying, these new trends, with people obsessed with all the organic stuff, are quiet bothersome. I mean, in my day we were happy to have food on the table!” continued Carl, clearly not knowing what I did for a living. I guess he noticed my consternation since he did eventually ask “So, young man, what is it that you do for a living?”

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“Well, sir, I’m a farmer. I keep a plot of land not far from here, actually” I admitted, trying hard not to laugh.

Carl’s eyes went bigger and Sebastian, sitting nearby, laughed “Well, Carl, looks like you should watch what you say to people. And loosen up on the guy, he’s done nothing wrong!”

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While the guests were busy talking to one another I inquired from Celeste how she got these very different people to get along with one another. She just at me “I guess I just provide a friendly place for them to enjoy each other’s company.”

Over dinner, Carl once again started to bring up politics, so I did what my parents taught me to do in such a situation—change the topic. I began to talk about science and astronomy, with great detail and attention to all the scientific formalities. In a couple of minutes, Carl looked as confused as anyone could be and an unpleasant dinner was avoided.

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Sebastian was still deep in thought about something. Noticing our concerned expressions he explained “My sister and mother had another fight over Mom constantly nagging Francisca about her husband. I mean, first she was nagging her about getting married, but Franny basically ran off from home and now has her own life. Seriously, she is a mother herself now, my mother could learn a bit about normal human interaction, you know. But I’m sorry to load this on you” he apologized.

“Oh, it’s no problem. I understand family can take up a lot of our worries.” My words relaxed the man considerably and he gave some semblance of a smile.

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“I’ll be telling Franny about you, Simon. She is always interested in freshly grown produce and might be interested in buying from you” he suggested.

“Thank you for the offer” I happily agreed. “It would also be great to meet her, since I still don’t know many people around here.”

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After the dinner I approached Celeste with a bouquet of flowers I’ve stashed earlier. Guess who’s sold a whole bunch of home-grown produce today?”

“Oh, that’s wonderful!” she gave me a thumbs-up. “I told you you’ll succeed.”

“You did” I smiled. “Want to go outside for a while?”

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“Sure thing.”

Seating near a flower bush outside, I thanked Celeste for inviting me “It was interesting meeting these people.”

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She laughed and whispered in my ear “Thanks for not blowing up at Carl! He is really a pretty good guy, but you know, has some rough edges. His face when he found out you’re one of those ‘organic farmers’ though!” her laughter was too quiet to be heard in the house, but to me it was music.

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“Well, we had people like that in Starlight Shores as well, I’m used to them. I had a teacher in high school who honestly considered agriculture pointless.” He was quite a character too, although if we followed his guidelines, our chemistry lab would have caught fire ages ago.

“Oh well, I guess some people don’t know what they’re talking about, right?” she shook her head.

“What is Appaloosa Plains like?” I asked. We haven’t really talked much about her past or hometown, although her memories of it seemed to be warm.

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She leaned back and wistfully looked up “It’s really nice! If you like much more rural places, that is. Not to say that farming and ranching are the only thing people did back there, but you would definitely see lots of huge fields and then there were ranches and horses and hay…”

“You really love it, didn’t you?” I realized.

“Oh, I do” she admitted. “I only moved here because of my health. I’ve always been a pretty sickly kid. It’s sort of been in the family—my mother passed away from cancer when I was just a teenager. The doctor told us that I was at an increased risk of contracting the same form of disease as mom. Well, Dad found out about this place—they say the land and air here are healing. So, as soon as I turned 16, my brother and I came to stay here, so that I could get healthier. When I became 18, my brother went back home to help out on the ranch. I remained here. By then, fishing was already my passion and Hidden Springs is as good a place for that as any!”

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“You really miss it then…” the wistfulness was clear in her voice.

“Oh, I visit a lot” she assured. “Mostly for the holidays though. I’d say, I’m definitely a Hidden Springs person now. That just doesn’t mean I forgot my country roots!”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here, to be honest. We wouldn’t have met otherwise” I admitted.

“So am I, Si, so am I. Who knows though, maybe one of us would have found a way to Appaloosa Plains or Starlight Shores at some point though?” she imagined. We both knew it was pretty unlikely though. “Should we head inside? I think the others want to go home now and don’t want to leave without a proper parting.”

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While she thanked the guests for coming, I helped Celeste out by washing the dishes. Little Hawk watched over me approvingly. I imagined he’d get along pretty swimmingly with Ursa.

After everyone was gone, I knew I didn’t want to say goodbye to Celeste, but it was late and neither of us has talked about taking the next step in the relationship yet. Honestly, I didn’t think either of us had any experience with that next step.

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“It’s been a wonderful evening, Celeste” I headed towards her, kissing her gently. “I will see you soon. My garden needs less care now—we can have more time together.”

“I’d like that!” she agreed “Say hi to Ursa for me.”

“Will do” I laughed and headed home, while a huge part of me wished we lived under the same roof.

Gen 1 Ch4: New Beginnings

The week passed pretty fast. I still spent a lot of time in the garden, although I did try to protect myself from the sun and not to overexert myself quite as much. The cramps in my legs weren’t as bad and on the weekend Celeste and I met up for our agreed-on day at the festival.

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“Wow, I can already smell the popcorn and the hot dog smells” Celeste enthused as we got out of the car. As I learned, Celeste preferred to either bike or to use her own legs to get around, since, as she said it was more environmentally friendly, but with the three of us, she agreed that a cab was more reasonable.

 

“They had festivals like this in my old city” I remembered “but most people were busy with their jobs and didn’t spend much time there, to be honest. And to be fair, it’s not much of a summer festival, surrounded by all the cement.”

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“Well, then you will truly experience things the way they were meant to be experienced” she excitedly informed me. “What should we do first?”

I could hear my stomach rumbling as the host called over participants for a hot dog eating contest “Hey, let’s join! I’ve never done that but I’m sure the hot dogs are better than whatever I can make at home.”

She laughed “Fair enough!”

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Surprisingly for Celeste and not so surprisingly for the very hungry me, I actually won the contest, earning the cheers from onlookers! As the winner, I was taking a full plate of well-cooked food home (a very welcome turn of events).

“Well, looks like city boy has some skills” Celeste nudged me.

“Yep, I can eat like the best of them!” I chuckled.

“Hey, Ursa seems to really like the flowers” pointed out Celeste.

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“No kidding” I noticed my fluffy friend frolicking among the wildflowers, looking like the perfect illustration of country life. “Looks like she’ll be remembering this outing for a while. Speaking of that, let’s take a picture together!”

“Totally, then you can hang it at home or something. Your place is cute, but it still doesn’t have anything that shows it’s been lived in, you know, like photographs or family stuff” she noted. “But maybe that’s just me, I always over decorate.”

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“Over decorating is cool though” I smiled. “I love going to someone’s place and seeing all the mementos that a family might have in their homes. Like baby pictures, or wedding photos. You’re right, my place is somewhat empty at the moment.”

After we got our pictures, Celeste frowned at hers.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, not understanding why the photo made her gloomy.

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“Ugh, I hate how I always come out so pasty-looking” she admitted.

I was baffled “What are you talking about? You look great!”

“Well, as my friend, aren’t you pretty much required to say that to make me feel better” she chuckled.

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“What?! No! I mean, why would I be lying about that? I mean, you’re pretty gorgeous. Your boyfriend must be a lucky guy” I slipped up, before I realized what I was saying. I could feel my cheeks heating up.

“I don’t have a boyfriend” she blushed even more. “To be honest, this is the first time a guy as cute as you called me gorgeous.”

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“You think I’m cute?” this was the first time a girl not related to me called me cute.

“Well, yeah…” She was blushing furiously now, looking absolutely embarrassed. I probably looked the same, but I could feel a huge grin take over my face. She liked me back! Without thinking, I leaned in and kissed Celeste.

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I thought she’d be mad at first, but her face began to honestly glow.

“Wow” she gave a quiet laugh “I totally did not see that coming”. I couldn’t help but pull her closer.

“Celeste, will you be my girlfriend?” I asked.

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She looked at me with her shining blue-green eyes and nodded, first hesitatingly, then more definitely “Yes” she finally got out “Of course!”

And just like that, I was the happiest guy alive. The girl I’ve been crushing on since my arrival agreed to be my girlfriend!

“I promise I’ll be the best boyfriend I can be” I told her.

She smiled and embraced me. I could spend an eternity like this. Was this love? I didn’t know, but whatever it was, I doubt there was a better feeling in the world.

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After Celeste and I became an item, I felt more energized than ever. We spend all our free time either together or on the phone, talking. Neither of us were really the flirty types, so we talked about other things, like gardening, fishing, life in general, or how our days were going.

The time I wasn’t with Celeste, I would spend in my garden or with Ursa. To my consternation and general itching, I’ve discovered that dogs easily get fleas when you let them go outside without a flea collar. Coaxing a terrified and flea-bitten dog into a special flea bath was… challenging.

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Still running short on funds, I utilized all of Celeste’s fishing tips, I spent hours fishing at the nearby beach. It was all about using the right bait, finding a populated water site, and generally staying patient enough for the fish to bite. It was pretty serene, I thought, looking at the sparkling waters in front of me. Hidden Springs didn’t exactly have an ocean—the waterbody was a huge lake created from the nearby flowing river’s end. Therefore, the air here wasn’t that of the sandy ocean, but that of a mountain lake. It was very refreshing.

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Even though, I was tired upon coming back from my fishing outing, I knew I had to check on the plants. There were still those pesky weeds and the heat was still taking toll on the weaker plants. I worried that the summer weather won’t let my garden succeed, so I had to make sure I did my best to prevent it from dying.

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Waking up the next morning, I knew something didn’t feel right. My skin was practically burning. A look in the mirror confirmed my worst suspicions—I had a killer sunburn.

“Argh” I was sure I used enough sunscreen, but maybe I forgot to reapply it while fishing?

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My phone rang and I saw Celeste’s number.

“Yes” I answered trying to not show my discomfort through the phone.

She must have sensed something anyways “Simon, are you alright?”

“I’m fine, just a bit tired, that’s all” I lied.

“Ok then, take care” she didn’t sound convinced “Get some sleep, maybe you’ll feel better.”

“Will do. I’ll probably go back to bed now” I answered honestly.

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The bed felt uncomfortable and moving too much was a challenge. Curling up, I finally fell into some semblance of a nap.

I woke up to see Celeste sitting at my bed “I’ve let myself in. Wow, you’ve got a really bad sunburn.”

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I felt embarrassed—she specifically told me to be careful about this “I’m sorry.”

She gave a comforting smile “Don’t be, it’s ok. I brought some cooling bath salts and oils. Go take a lukewarm bath and put on the lotion I brought you.”

“You’re my guardian angel” I told her and hauled myself toward the bathroom.

She smiled and shook her head “Just doing what I can. I’ll make something to eat—you must be starving.”

 

After I followed Celeste’s instructions, I felt much better. Meanwhile she made a fast but delicious salad.

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“I should have been more careful” I admitted.

“It’s easy to forget that though. Trust me, I did when I first got here” she laughed. “Have you seen your garden today?”

“No. I was too achy to even look out the wondow” I realized.

“Well, come on over. You’ll like what you’ll see.”

Outside the sun was at its worst. “Don’t worry, we won’t be out here long” she calmed me down.

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We approached my plants and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“So what do you think? I’d say your hard efforts paid off!” enthused Celeste.

“They’ve blossomed!” I whispered, looking at the healthy-looking tomato fruits. “It’s working!”

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“It sure is” agreed Celeste. “Now let’s get yourself nice and healthy, so you can continue tending your garden, but this time around, remember that your garden, Ursa, and I would be very sad if something bad happens to you.”

Without thinking of my aches, I pulled her into a tight kiss.

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“What would I do without you?” I asked, still holding her tight. I knew right there and then that she was the person that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. As soon as my garden brought in some profit, I’ll propose to her.

Gen 1 Ch 3: A friendly visitor

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Waking up the next day, I knew something wasn’t feeling right. Getting up, I realized my body was aching all over and my legs were hurting. I supposed it made sense: I stayed up late, planting new vegetables and making sure the ones already in the ground were doing alright. So far, I couldn’t afford a mechanical sprinkler to install and I had to make sure my garden didn’t wilt before it even had a chance to get off the ground.

Taking a few steps, I realized I might need to take it easy. I almost fell over, which, luckily would have only landed me back in bed. This wouldn’t do at all.

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After doing a few exercises that were supposed to relieve muscle cramps, which an athlete relative taught me in my youth, I managed to get myself into a more or less decent walking condition. I still had to check on the garden, leg pain or not.

Ursa was already outside. Despite being scared of practically anything, she was always happy to go outside and play the role of an honorary guard dog. It was pretty adorable, especially when she would look really serious and then get freaked out by a passing car!

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I knew I shouldn’t garden today, but several of the plants were wilting, which was understandable—this was turning out to be an especially hot summer, and even though the soil here was good, the sun was stronger still. Promising to myself I will only fix up the problem plants, I watered them as much as I could. Although there were those pesky weeds, already coming in! I got down to remove them before they deprived my precious plants of their much needed nutrients.

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I was in the middle of pruning off the worst offenders when I heard Ursa get very animated and start to bark. Raising my head I saw the familiar red hair and smile of Celeste, who was coming over towards us.

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“Oh, hello Celeste!” I greeted, sincerely happy to see her.

“Hi yourself!” she waved back. “I see your garden is coming in nicely. Not bad for a first-timer!”

“Thanks, it’s good to hear that.”

Before we could say anything more, Ursa began jumping around Celeste and for a moment I became worried that my dog will attack my friend. However Celeste just laughed excitedly and took out a flashy dog toy, inviting Ursa to play. My pooch happily barked and joined into a friendly tug-of-war with our visitor.

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“Wow, she really likes you” I noted. “How did you know I have a dog? Since you brought a dog toy?”

Celeste laughed “Oh, I didn’t! I was going to the junkyard not far from here, to drop off some really unneeded things. And on the way back, I saw you working out here. This is actually my dog’s toy—you could say I have a way with the canines. But this girl is adorable! What’s her name?”

“Ursa, since she reminded me of a bear. She basically just came over to my place during the rain, and I decided it was meant to be, you know.” I recounted to her how I became a proud dog-owner.

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“Oh, that’s so cute! She chose you! You know, animals totally chose their humans” she informed me totally serious,

“Really? Well, that’s nice to hear—she makes a good companion. Are you hungry? I have some salad that I think came out pretty ok” I invited her in. “Cooking for myself has truly been a challenge.”

“Oh yeah, tell me about it! When I first went to live on my own, I nearly burned my house down. That would have been pretty embarrassing, to die because of burned toast, right?” she exclaimed.

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Getting up, I couldn’t help but groan. Apparently when I got on my knees again, the muscle pain came back. Celeste noticed and looked me over with a worried expression on her face.

“Are you alright? You aren’t ill are you? Maybe you need to see the doctor?” she sounded concerned.

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“Oh, it’s just cramps from being on my knees for a long time.” I didn’t want her to think I was a wuss who couldn’t handle the outdoor labor “It’ll go away soon.”

“If you say so” she didn’t sound convinced.

Once inside I hurried to get us some food, while Celeste looked around. “Hey, your place is really nice. Did you pick out the designs?” she asked.

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“Well, I think most of the building and wallpaper was already here. I just brought some furniture. The fireplace was included with the house” I admitted.

“I like it” she decided “It has a comfy feel to it.”

She took note of the bookshelf and the books lying around “So, I guess you really like to read? Makes sense that we met at the library then.”

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“I’ve always liked a good book” I admitted “They just have so much information.”

“True. I’ve always liked a good story myself” she agreed.

“Oh well, my aunt in Starlight Shores is a published author, Marie Lin. Maybe you’ve read any of her stuff?” I inquired.

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“Omg! I love her books, especially the horror ones!” Celeste exclaimed. “I guess your family is quite far from farming, isn’t it? You’re really out of your normal area here.”

“No kidding, everyone at home was shocked that I chose to move out here and do this. But, you know, it just felt like the right decision” I admitted.

“It’s worth taking the big step forward to see your dreams come to life” Celeste understood. “But forgive me if I’m overstepping my friendship bounds, but you’ve got to be more careful with yourself.”

“What do you mean?” I was confused.

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“Simon, you’re barely walking today, and you’ve only been here for what, a week? Yes, I’ve noticed how sore you are. And go look in the mirror—you’re only a few notches away from strong sunburn. How long have you been in the sun without any sunscreen? I’m a proponent of the natural lifestyle myself, I am, but you’ve got to take measures to protect yourself when working outdoors. Or you will get some dire results with your health.” Celeste sounded seriously worried.

“I admit, I miscalculated how hot and physically exhausting being outside for so long can be. I assure you, I will take more care of myself from now on” I assured her.

She nodded “Good, I would be pretty sad if you ended up in the hospital from sunstroke.”

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“Ok, mom!” I joked “I’ll be careful.”

“And maybe, if you feel better later on in the week, we can go check out the summer festival together. I hear they have a hot-dog eating contest and the winner takes a full plate home!” she offered.

“It’s a deal!” I agreed. “Maybe we can even take Ursa with us! I bet she’d love all the food smells.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’m glad we’re getting to be such good friends!” she told me before leaving.

I smiled to myself—even though I was embarrassed that a girl I liked caught me in such a bad condition, it was really nice to know that she cared enough to worry about me.

She said we were good friends. It wasn’t the same as knowing my crush on her was requited, but it was better than nothing.

Gen 1 Ch 2: Welcome home

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Waking up, I became aware that my bed didn’t contain just me alone. Quickly opening my eyes, I found that the big fluffy dog I let in yesterday was peacefully napping in my bed. Imagining how horrified my mother would have been to find an animal in her own bed I mused whether to chase the pooch off, but he looked so sweet that I couldn’t bring myself to do that. After all, yesterday the animal looked terrified of everything, so I thought it deserved some rest.

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Making my way to the window I looked outside where I planted things yesterday. It wasn’t clear whether the plants were coming in well yet so I knew I would have to head to the library and read up on what I could do to improve the likelihood of their positive growth. After all, there were many things I still didn’t know.

When I moved here, I intended to research plants and soil. Looking at my old lab station I shook my head. I just didn’t have enough experience with plants at this point to actually find out anything new, it seemed. I found this idea somewhat sad. Oh well, all the best things required patience—that much my parents taught me. I could now heed that way of thinking and make what I could of my time.

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Eating some cereal, I was startled out of my thoughts by a friendly whimper. The dog woke up and was now seating next to me and looking at me with those soulful dog eyes. They say cats are good at begging, but really, dogs have had the monopoly on emotional manipulation for ages. I just couldn’t say no to that face and gave the pooch more food, like yesterday.

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That was something else to ponder—the dog didn’t have tags, so unless it was microchipped it was homeless. I wasn’t sure if I was ever planning to have a pet, but I wasn’t going to turn an animal out on the street, if it had no place to go. At least for the time being, I decided, the dog would stay with me. I’d have to get him a bowl and some proper dog food in town.

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I supposed that was the downside to my current place—I bought a house that had a large plot of land attached, but unfortunately it was quite far from all the necessary places in town. Since I haven’t brought a car with me, this was turning out to be somewhat inconvenient.

After finally getting to the center I wondered if I could check out the local places a bit more. The bookstore, as always held a lot of allure for me but much as I wanted to check out new releases, I still didn’t have much money, so library it was today.

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Settling down in a comfy chair at one of the tables, I allowed myself to become engrossed in the latest gardening chronicle. Many people don’t care much for non-fiction books, but I’ve always adored them. I always wanted to know more about how things worked, especially if they were nature-related.

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I probably spent a good hour reading the book; I’ve lost the count of time. However at some point I heard yelling in the neighboring hall.

Whoever yells in a library? For very good reasons, libraries require patrons to be quiet. Making my way towards the noise, I recognized Celeste, the fisherwoman from yesterday, giving one of the other library patrons a very loud piece of her mind. Both she and the woman looked pretty upset.

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“At least I haven’t stolen money from my own son, so there!” yelled Celeste and maybe the fight would have continued if the librarian didn’t show up and quiet both of them down.

Heading away from the woman, Celeste saw me “Oh, hello Simon! How is your day?”

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“I’m doing pretty well, I suppose. Is everything alright with you?” I inquired about her argument.

“Oh, I’m doing pretty well too, at least for someone who apparently has no soul” she smirked.

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“Ah, one of those people” I realized the argument must have been about Celeste’s hair color. I never understood why people believed that crazy rumor, that gingers have no souls—to any sane person, it was just nonsense. Celeste, didn’t seem to have taken the offense seriously, though, despite raising her voice.

“Don’t mind us, she’s just dumb!” Celeste laughed. It was a good sound, that I found myself wanting to hear more of. I wondered if she had a boyfriend. She probably did. “So, how is your garden coming up? Did you start planting yet?”

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“Oh, well, I’m not sure, to be honest. It just has to grow now. I guess I’m just trying to find out more of what I can do in the meantime.”

“You could go fishing!” she offered merrily.

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“True, I could, and probably will very soon. If I can save up enough money, I’ll buy a telescope as well” I laughed.

“Oh, that’s pretty neat. You’re interested in astrology?” Celeste inquired.

“Oh yes!” I remembered fondly spending nights looking at the night sky. “It was one of my favorite pastimes as a child.”

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“Cool, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it. Someday, maybe! Well, if you ever need advice for gardening tips or fishing info, feel free to give me a call. Here’s my number by the way. I’d love to chat, but I have to head out now!” she gave another charming smile and left, with me just starring after her like an idiot.

So, ok, I didn’t have much dating experience, despite having a sister and a cousin who seemed to know more about such things than I did. In school, I was always the one with my nose in a book or focused on research and never figured out how exactly to interact properly with the girls in my grade. It didn’t seem that important to me, to be honest. Maybe there just wasn’t the right person back home to make me care.

I definitely enjoyed Celeste’s company. I only talked to her twice, but she had a really easy-going manner that really put me at ease about things. And she was really pretty.

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Realizing that I still had other errands to run, I headed off to the store, to buy some groceries and dog food. Thinking this might be a good place to start, I asked if any of the customers talked of missing dogs. The clerk’s response was negative. The only missing dog was one that has run off from the pound the previous day. He gave me their phone number, so I could inquire about the details.

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I immediately dialed their number. It turned out my furry visitor was their missing dog, indeed. She got terrified of the vacuum cleaner during their cleaning hours and ran off. It seemed like the animal was in fact homeless. They told me I was free to bring the fluffy girl back to the pound and gave me the address.

Heading home, I wondered if I should. Sure, I wasn’t really planning to get a pet, but sometimes the best things in life came unplanned. I would have to think the situation through.

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Of course, my arrival home made up my mind completely—the dog was waiting for me by the door, like an old friend. There was no way I was sending that sweet scaredy creature back to the pound.

“Well, dog, looks like you’re staying here.” The dog panted happily. “Now what should we call you?”

She looked like a big fluffy white bear. “How does Ursa sound?”

In response Ursa just rolled over and happily pawed at me. “Well, welcome home, Ursa.”

 

Gen 1 Ch1: New Town

This was it! I was finally free of Starlight Shores! Taking in the beautiful nature around me, I breathed in as much of the ample fresh air into my lungs as I possibly could. This was so nice and different! Coming to Hidden Springs was something I should have done long ago.

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When I told my parents I wanted to leave Starlight Shores, they were somewhat surprised—it was the first time I’ve talked about actually moving, even though they knew I wasn’t that fond of the big city. When I told them I was moving to the country to farm and to research soil, they were pretty shocked. My parents were both artists and musicians and it was a bit hard for them to imagine that their city-raised boy would want something so old-fashioned.

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They tried to talk me out at first, with plenty of arguments, some of which, to be fair, were pretty good. My mother wondered how I’d be without our large family, all by myself. I debunked that argument by explaining that it’s something everyone goes through. After all moving out and living on one’s own is a normal part of adulthood.

My dad argued that working outside would be a difficult lifestyle, especially for someone who knew nothing about farming and tending the soil. But of course I did! I read so many books about all the different methods of farming and of all the different ways to grow a perfect crop. I had enough knowledge to get me started—the rest would come later. After all, people who grew up on farms weren’t born knowing how to farm, right? People learned these things, as would I.

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Looking around, I took in my house again. It wasn’t that big, but that was alright. I wasn’t even used to having that much space at all, completely to myself. Growing up in our large family, I always had someone nearby. It was lucky that we all got along so well—otherwise, things would have been awkward.

But of course, I wasn’t here on vacation! I spent most of the money I had on this house because it came with a huge plot of land. I was serious about starting my own farm. Not with cows and sheep—farm animals weren’t something I knew much about, to be honest. I was interested in plants, from common fruits and vegetables to the more rare healing and medicinal plants. I was always interested in using my scientific studies and knowledge to enrich my garden. And now I had the chance to prove to the world, to my parents, and to myself that I could in fact do it!

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Heading off to the local store to stock up on plants and seeds, I took in the town. It was so serene and green. Even the cemented roads seemed greener. This was why I came here. It was my first day here and I already felt way calmer than I ever did in Starlight Shores. Hidden Springs was rumored to have something healing in its land and while I wasn’t sick with anything, I thought I could feel that live energy of the earth coursing through me.

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At the store, I purchased some seeds and fruits that I thought would work go well together and would require less expertise, considering that all my farming knowledge was theoretical and not hands-on. I knew I probably should have talked to the people near the store, but I was eager to head home and start planting. Who could blame me? I’ve been waiting since childhood to actually start working the soil and my childhood home just wasn’t quite right for that. It was much too industrial and urban for a proper garden.

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Without even going indoors, I headed out to the huge yard and began planting the specimen I’ve purchased, the way I’ve read was correct. It didn’t take that long, although, the soil turned out to be harder to make soft, as described in the how-to books and frankly, I wasn’t sure if I actually planted the seeds correctly. I guess only time will show.

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Getting up and rubbing off the dirt that clung to my pants, I realized that I had no money left to actually buy any proper fertilizer. How careless of me to forget that! Of course, most of the books I’ve read maintained that in the absence of fertilizer, raw fish could be just as good. It was a good thing that my much more pragmatic cousin has bought me a fishing pole as a parting gift, insisting that since I’d be surrounded by all that nature, I’d get a chance to use it. Grabbing it, I headed out to the small waterfall that I’ve seen from the cab that brought me here. It wasn’t far from my house and looked like the perfect place for fishing enthusiasts.

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Upon arriving I discovered that I wasn’t alone at the pond. There was already a young woman there, already fishing. Well, well, my guess was correct—the place was popular with the fishing folks!

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Hoping that I won’t disturb her, I threw in the fishing pole in the manner that my cousin has demonstrated for me when giving me her gift. It looked like I’ve done it right. Now I had to wait.

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Several hours later, the only thing I’ve managed to reel in was a ghastly looking Medusa-like creature. After putting it into my bag (any catch at all was good right?) I decided to brave my fortune and talk to the young woman, who was still also fishing. It did look like she knew what she was doing.

Approaching her and clearing my throat, I introduced myself “Hi, I’m Simon Meadows. I apologize if I’m intruding on you, but I’ve never been fishing before and only caught this. Can you maybe tell me what I’m doing wrong?”

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The girl looked me over, taking in my utter confusion and smiled “Well, what bait did you use?”

I guess my embarrassment showed, since she gave a reassuring smile and asked “You forgot the bait, didn’t you?”

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My blushing was followed by a nervous laugh “I’m from Starlight Shores. Yeah, yeah, total city boy. You have no idea how long I’ve waited to get to a place like this and start farming. And now that I actually am, it turns out I’m a total noob!”

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Instead of ridiculing me, she gave an understanding smile “So you’re new here! Well, that explains why you look so unfamiliar. I’m actually not from around here also. I used to live in Appaloosa Plains, so, I suppose I’m a bit more familiar with living one with nature. I’m Celeste, by the way. Celeste Lewis. And what you have there is perfectly good sea sludge. But it probably got hooked to you by an accident. Next time you’ll need something to invite the fish in. And maybe make less noise.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you that way” I apologized profusely.

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She laughed merrily “That’s quite alright. I wasn’t always the pro fisherwoman myself.”

It had gotten dark and I realized I had to head home.

“Thank you for the advice. I guess not everything one can learn is in the books. It was nice meeting you, Celeste Lewis.”

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Heading home, I somehow felt very light. Something about Celeste’s friendly manner put me at ease and made me forget the tension that I didn’t even realize I’ve been feeling since the move. And she had a pretty smile…

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Coming to my empty house, I’ve realized that, for the first time in my life, there was no one but me available to make food and that, by now I was quite hungry. Praying that I don’t burn the house down, I got out the ingredients and started to prepare macaroni and cheese. Towards the end, I nearly lost a finger, but managed to prepare an edible dish, which wasn’t quite as good as the one my parents made, but not that bad, nonetheless.

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Afterwards, I allowed myself to relax by the fireplace. It’s been a long day and luckily for me, it hasn’t started to rain while I was out gardening or fishing, but now it was pouring cats and dogs! Closing my eyes, I leaned back on the couch and let the fire’s warmth envelop me.

“Whelp” What was that? There was someone outside? In this weather?

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I went out on the porch and saw a big white dog, trying to find a hiding place from the rain. He looked to be scared of the thunder.

“Hey doggy” I approached and let the pooch sniff my hand. He looked scared, but allowed me near. “Wow, you must be terrified and hungry. Come in.”

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The dog cocked his head to one side surprised but eventually followed me inside. He was dripping wet and the warmth from the fireplace would do him good.

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“Here, eat something” I gave him some bacon. Now satisfied that the animal was protected from the weather, I allowed myself to head to bed. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?Screenshot-169