Beyond the Blossom Tree: Part Two
For several days, I went to the blossom tree and wrote continuous entries about what lay beyond it, but somehow I had no heart in anything. It was like my dreams had been poisoned. The grand journey I had planned to make beyond the cherry blossom tree was a worthless waste of life. It was terrible, yes, but somehow it didn’t seem the same. Nothing seemed the same. The nature near my blossom tree I had known had vanished and in its place was left a hollow shell of what was. It was an empty valley of dreams.
I sighed every time my gaze would flicker to the world beyond, the mountains and valleys of wildflower paradise.
At dinner each night, I prodded heartlessly at my food. I noticed Mom was home early the rest of the nights that week, but what did it matter? She was still locked away in her study. I fingered with my fork at my omelette, my head in my paw and my gaze low and doleful.
Cleo and Mom laughed at things I couldn’t understand or didn’t care about, like Mom’s jobs or Cleo’s plans for her future. Suddenly my fork froze and my heart began beating wildly at her next words...
Cleo smiled at Mom as she told something funny that had happened in town today. But then she said something else, a little bit of hesitation gripping at her words. “So Mom... I was thinking maybe I’d go and find a place in Meridell for myself...” Cleo let the conversation stop and simmer in our mother’s mind a moment.
Mom’s laughing stopped. Her shocked eyes stared Cleo down and she paused with her fork in midair, just as I had. “A place for yourself?” she asked, placing her fork down. “Like... all for yourself? Do you want to move, Cleo?”
I froze, my eyes widening. Move?! Fear and confusion ripped at my heart.
Cleo’s pretty pink eyes drifted down to her plate. “Well... yeah.” The Cybunny hesitated and looked up at Mom again. “But Mom... you know I can’t stay here forever. I think I may have found a job there I like and may want to take up. I’m sorry to do this to you now, when you’re so busy with work and Shiloh, but Shiloh’s old enough. She’s mature; she can take care of you and herself.”
Mom pondered the thought for a moment, her eyebrows creased. “Oh, honey... if that’s what you want, then I can’t stop you... You are nearly eighteen. Who am I to tell you what you can and can’t do?” She blinked, though, and looked down as if she couldn’t believe those words and the life-changing event that was about to take place.
Cleo frowned. She seemed reluctant, hesitant, and unsure. “Are... you sure? Perhaps it’s too soon. Maybe I should wait a few years...”
“No no, honey, that would only hold you back.” Mom’s voice was forcefully brightened. “It’s okay, really. If it’s your dream, then go for it.” She smiled.
Cleo smiled too, relieved. “Gee, thanks, Mom.”
Horror made my head spin. Moving? Cleo was... moving? But no! She couldn’t! She couldn’t! I needed her!
“YOU CAN’T GO!” I suddenly heard myself yelling, standing up abruptly from my chair. “You can’t leave, Cleo!” I felt tears smart my eyes and my voice was a reckless explosion of pain and misery and sorrow.
“Shiloh!” Mom yelled at me, aghast, her head snapping in my direction. “Your sister has a right to do whatever she pleases. You can’t stop her.” Her tone was stern and half-angry. She didn’t want Cleo staying home when she could be out in the world just because she pitied me.
“But she can’t go!” I yelled again, fat, doleful tears coursing down my cheeks. “Please! No!” I wailed, my poor Xweetok self hurting all over.
Cleo didn’t speak. Her eyes were cast down upon her dinner of omelettes.
“Shiloh,” my mom hissed through clenched teeth. “Stop that yelling this instant, young lady.”
“You hate me!” I screamed at Cleo. “You hate me!” Huge sobs erupted from my throat and I felt my heart was really broken. Pleading words escaped my mouth before I could stop them.
Mom stood up. I knew she was angry now. “Shiloh, stop that foolishness right now!” Her voice was cold and raging. Her caring brown eyes burned like fire.
“NO!” I howled before taking off, bounding out of the kitchen and up the stairs, where I didn’t stop until I was in my room with the door slammed shut. Sobs tore from my throat as I collapsed on my bed in a teary heap of misery and melancholy cries. “No... no... noooo!” I continued to sob, my heart feeling even more terribly sad than before.
I needed Cleo! I was only ten! I needed her! I couldn’t live alone!
The next morning I slipped away before Mom or Cleo had awakened. The need for my blossom tree was urgent.
“Hi, blossom tree.” I spoke those words so tenderly, so freely, so softly. It was all the hope I had left. Yesterday I had learned the terrible news my sister was moving away. Today, perhaps I would be too. But maybe I was running away instead...
No, I wasn’t really, though I was sad enough to consider the thought. Maybe there was some mystical world out there where everything was perfect and enchanted, like a castle. A place where there were lots of Xweetoks like me. I sighed, and then my head lifted.
Beyond the blossom tree...
I quickly looked down back to my writing, my brows furrowing in determination. It was foolish. I could never see what lay beyond. It was like I was locked up and couldn’t chase my dreams...
Slowly, I lifted my yellow eyes to the picture before me again. For many moments, I sat staring before me at the eye-catching, dazzling sight. The sun’s rays shone on the land below and everything looked so inviting. Without thinking, barely breathing, I stood. I hadn’t seen that beautiful sight in days. I left my paper and my quill, and even precious Present. The sight was luring me in with its enchanting beauty. A delicious wind began whirling around me, the sweet whiff of blossoms filled my nose and weaved its way to my heart. I let my eyes close and kept walking.
Another step... and then another, and another. The grass was so soft. Farther, father... farther away from the blossom tree; from my home. The astounding view was simply intriguing and enticing.
Shiloh, come... Shiloh, don’t be scared... come...
No rain would stop me this time. The sunny day was alive. My dreams were animated and sharp with desire. Nothing at all could stop me. Wistful hearts shall be contented; dreams that were being chased shall be caught.
Come, Shiloh. Come! Hurry!
The words spoken seemed astir and truthful. They drifted in the wind and encircled me with hope and desire. My heart began leaping with a delighted start. I was actually going beyond the blossom tree.
Suddenly Mom’s past words suddenly rang in my ears. Words she had spoken many years ago...
“Now, Shiloh, you be a good girl and run along and play to your heart’s content, okay?” Her brown eyes were full of adoration and she smiled tenderly, a smile that showed she cared. So different from the side I had encountered yesterday.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” I said, grinning up at her with my child-like grin and pulling my sunhat over my head. “I won’t be far. I’ll even pick some wildflowers for you.” I smiled as she tied the strings of my hat under my chin. “How does that sound?”
Mom finished tying the strings and patted my head. “That sounds lovely. But Shiloh, promise me something...”
I had turned to gaze curiously up at her. “Yes, Mom?” I asked, Present dangling from my paw as I placed my other paw on the front door handle.
Mom kneeled down so her eyes bore lovingly into mine. “Promise me you won’t go beyond that blossom tree of yours. You don’t know what’s out there, Shiloh. The outside world can be dangerous to young Xweetoks like you.” She gave my shoulder a squeeze. “Things are never as they seem...”
I had looked up at Mom for a few moments before smiling. “Okay, Mom. I promise,” I said earnestly before running out the door. At six years old it had seemed easy enough to me...
Don’t ever go beyond the blossom, Shiloh, okay?
I promise, Mom.
But what was I doing now? Exactly what Mom told me not to do, yet somehow, I didn’t care. I was blind to everything else; to life itself. All I wanted was adventure, to see beyond the blossom tree. A determined grin broke out across my face. I looked back over my shoulder, the cherry blossom tree a speck in the distance. My wistful heart soared as I then looked back to the world in front of me and I shot into a run, the delicious, sweet wind ruffling through my fur and the glorious sense of freedom ringing in my ears.
As I walked on through the meadows, I could hardly keep my eyes focused on one thing. It was one beautiful picture after another after another. A forest glistened with dew and a roaring blue creek brimming with happy Catamara was alive nearby. A mass of fluffy marshmallow clouds gathered overhead, a cluster of ruby-red roses here, a patch of budding lilies there, a blanket of haze making the mountains look simply amazing...
Everything beyond the blossom tree was simply extravagant. What was Mom so worried about?
I walked on and then sat down, wishing I had brought an apple along, for I was growing hungry. I gazed at the view again, sighing blissfully. Suddenly my breath caught in my throat.
Out yonder, in the distance, beyond the mountain... what was it?
I blinked, focusing on that image. I gasped. It was a castle!
“It’s beautiful,” I breathed aloud, my voice filled with enchanted joy. My heart soared. Hope wasn’t lost after all! I sat staring, smiling brightly, when suddenly, words flashed across my mind...
Go home, Shiloh... you don’t belong here...
I stopped, confusion clouding my mind. What are you talking about? I shouted to that voice. This place is more enchanting than I could have ever imagined! I want to stay!
Your place is home... the voice said.
And then I thought about Mom. Mom wanted excitement. I could tell her about the castle. She wouldn’t be mad, would she, if I gave her adventure? Maybe she’d come and explore it with me!
My mind sang with impossible ideas, and before I knew it, I had ventured further then I knew at that point. I had wished I had brought my stationary. Oh, how I would’ve loved to capture the moment!
Before I knew, I had come to a crest in the hill. The lovely castle was before me. Curiosity pricked at my being, but what if someone lived there? I stood watching it, just in case. Maybe someone did live there; maybe a princess! An enchanted gasp escaped my mouth.
Please, oh please, be a princess!
I sat there for what seemed like forever, watching that marvelous castle, until suddenly my eyes fluttered shut and I had fallen asleep, animated dreams of the castle dancing in my mind.
My eyes flew open. The grass what soft under me, and faintly I heard the sound of night petpetpets scurrying through the bushes. The moon was full and drifting overhead, and for a split second, I had forgotten everything. I had no clue where I was, or how I had gotten here. And then suddenly it registered as I sat up and saw that glorious castle. It was even prettier at night.
Suddenly I froze, my heart lurching with disbelief. Night?!
I leaped to my feet. How late was it? Did I miss supper? Oh my, would Mom be mad? No way! She’d be completely ecstatic when I shared my amazing adventure!
I ran as fast as I could to my blossom tree, gathering my belongings and sprinting home. As I saw a sliver of my Neohome in the distance, my heart soared. Oh, wouldn’t Mom be pleased when I told her about my castle! A smile broke out across my face, excited tingles darting up my spine.
“Mom! Mom!” I yelled, wanting to meet her at the door and tell her my incredible day’s journey.
Before I even reached the door it opened and Cleo stood there, sighing in relief and hollering into the house, “Mom! Mom! Shiloh’s here! She’s okay!”
I’m okay? Of course I was!
“I’m better than okay, Cleo!” I shouted. “I’m extravagant! I’m...”
Suddenly Mom appeared. I guess I must’ve been blind to that look on her face... that mixture of worry, anger, and bewilderment, for I shouted, “Oh, Mom! You have to hear what I did today!”
“SHILOH! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” Mom’s brown eyes blared like flashlights lighting up the dark night.
“Oh, Mom! I went beyond the blossom! Mom, you have to hear what I found! You’ll-“
“Get in the house right now, young lady!” Mom’s stern voice raged with such animosity, you would’ve thought she was Balthazar or something.
Suddenly my excited bubble popped and it registered in my mind ever so clearly, I felt my heart I been stabbed with a pin needle. Mom wasn’t happy. Not one bit.
“Oh, but Mom, you have to-” I tried again, my voice becoming a plead.
“SHILOH!” My mom jerked my arm so hard, it hurt a little.
I stood staring at her, my eyes flickering with hurt and my heart slicing into a million gazillion pieces.
“YOU ARE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE, YOUNG LADY! YOU WORRIED ME SICK!” Mom shook my arm so hard I felt it was going to come loose.
“I... I was...” I tried saying, but tears only formed in my eyes. “Ow.” I tried to pull loose from her tight, pain-filled grip on my arm.
That only made her jerk again. “HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?! SHILOH, WHY ARE YOU SO STUBBORN! I THOUGHT... I THOUGHT YOU WERE GONE!”
“Mom,” I whimpered, easing away. “You’re... hurting me...”
Mom suddenly screamed and snagged me into the house. She slammed the door shut so hard, it made me flinch. “Shiloh, you are NEVER, EVER leaving this house again. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME????”
Tears were spilling down my face at this point and I shook my head madly. She couldn’t do that! “Nooo,” I sobbed. “That’s n-not... fair!”
Mom flew down to my level. “It is fair, young lady,” she spat harshly. “You need to learn you can’t go wandering out in the world by yourself. Shiloh, YOU HAVE TO LEARN YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GO WHERE YOUR IMAGINATION WANTS YOU TO!!”
I stood staring at her, hating her with every fiber of my being. I wouldn’t listen to her. She couldn’t make me stay inside for the rest of life. She couldn’t. She had no control over me. I... I was free.
“No,” I whimpered pitifully, my voice barely a whisper.
Mom was quiet now. I stared in her flaming eyes. She was breathing hard from her yelling. For moments our eyes bore into each other’s. Suddenly her eyes began melting. They wavered slightly, and I realized they were filling with tears.
Mom swallowed. “Shiloh... I...” I hadn’t realized at that moment she was sorry. Anger made my mind spin.
I tore away from her. “I HATE YOU!” I screamed, turning to run up the stairs and into the security of my bedroom. If she thought I’d fall for her innocence, she was wrong. I heard Mom’s angry footsteps jogging madly behind me.
“Shiloh, get back here!” She reached to grab at my arm.
“Noooo!” I howled, running faster and pulling away from her. When I reached my room, I quickly shut it before she could reach me. I clicked the lock shut. “You can’t do this to me!” I yelled tearfully. “You can’t! It’s not fair!”
I heard the doorknob jiggle fiercely and then Mom’s angry fist pound on the door. “Shiloh! You open this door right now!” Her voice came out as a hiss, sounding tearful, yet outraged.
“No!” I shouted at her. “No, no! I need my blossom tree!”
“What you need is a good punishment!” Mom yelled hotly. “Do you hear me, Shiloh?”
Tears spilled down my face and I was sobbing terribly. I knew then, my Mom and I hadn’t spent that much time together. I was practically raised by Cleo, my mom never around. I realized now we didn’t understand each other.
After a few long moments, moments as long as eternity, I heard Mom’s lingering, sorrowful sigh; the one that came from the miserable cracks in her heart. “Shiloh,” she half-whispered tearfully. I heard a smidge of disappointment in her voice.
And then her footsteps padded softly away...
A runaway dreamer.
That’s exactly what I was. With my quilt bag flung over my shoulder, I ran on in the night. Slipping through the open bedroom window of my room had been easy; dealing with the pain and dread that throbbed in my heart... not so much.
The moon was a haunting circle in the night overhead, clouds drifting around. For a second the fear of being alone caught up with me. But it melted as I saw my cherry blossom tree in the distance. As I came to it, I collapsed in front of it, my quilt bag packed with my life’s needs spilling off my shoulder. I sat a few moments to catch my breath.
A few hours after my mom and I had had our disagreement, I realized I didn’t belong here. I never would probably. I couldn’t stay in a place that didn’t allow me to be me. Mom was highly disappointed with me, I knew. So with a heavy heart, I snuck away, everything I would ever need tucked away in my quilt bag.
I was a runaway dreamer.
I rested a few more hours before awaking again. The tufts of pink from the rising sun were just coming up over the horizon, just over the mountains. The enchanting sight made me stare with awe.
From now on, I’d live here, under the blossom tree and beyond. Who needed a real home, anyway? And then I remembered the castle. A prickle of excitement raced through my veins. My, I’d go to the castle! I could live there! I’d be a true princess!
It was still a little dark out when I set out. I breathed in the sweet early morning air. It smelled like wildflowers; and hope too, I decided. When I neared the castle, my heart leaped. It was stunning. I broke into a run. The next event that took place I could barely remember; only the penetrating fear and the thought of my life ending.
As I neared the castle, I saw a garden. My eyes widened as I ran by it. It was blossoming with the most beautiful Shenkuu flowers I had ever seen. It was-
“Ahhh!” I gasped as I felt water beneath me.
My mouth filled with water. I realized now I had fallen into a creek. I slashed out in front of me at the water, trying desperately to stay above. Sheer terror suddenly raced up my spine. I suddenly remembered something...
I couldn’t swim!
“Help... me!” I choked, water drenching my lungs. My arms flailed madly out in front of me, water splashing everywhere. “HELP!” I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper, until suddenly my head disappeared under the water. I felt my throat tightening. I could barely breathe.
No! I can’t drown! I thought wildly. I can’t! I swallowed buckets and buckets of water. My arms ached from splashing about. It felt numb with fear.
I’m drowning! I thought. I’m drowning and there’s no one here to save me!
Oh, why did I ever leave home? Why did I come here by myself? I want my mom! The world blurred around. I scrunched my eyes shut tight. It was the end; I was a goner.
The last thing I remember before the world before me went black was a paw grabbing onto mine, pulling me up until my head broke through the surface.
To be continued...