Chapter 2

   I woke up only moments before dawn. I put on my work clothing and boots then went outside to watch for Mallory and prepare thier new home. I placed a good amount of food in the hole under the tree and attempted to make a home-made nest for the mice. As i finished up i went back into my cave.
Dawn has arrived.
   As i grabbed my bag, Mallory came scurrying in. "You ready?" she looked up at me and sniffed.
   "Yeah, I'm ready. I was just getting some things."
   "Alright! Let's Go!"
    Mallory led me thorugh a dense valley path; i never imagined Hollowlog to be so far. We walked through another forest, it was shady and cool. It was a sweet relief from the sunrise's harsh glare. We came onto a small stream and followed down to the cozy yet crowded animal village of Hollowlog; a sweet little town full of trees, nests and burrows. We arrived at the village gate and Mallory's family were already waiting close by, all with wide and friendly smiles on thier face. I grinned back quietly and waved as they did. "Good Morning!" Mallory greeted them with hope and happiness written all over her face.
    "Morning!" They all said. I showed them to my bag and gave them some food to eat for the way back to thier new home. Mallory made her way up to my shoulder and took a seat. "Bye, Mama Muskrat!" they called out in unicent.
   "Bye!" Mama Muskrat waved us goodbye and then we were on our way. Back the way we came... The sun was all the way up by now. By the time we got home, the weather was nice and the sun had gone cooler. i let them out of my bag and showed the mouse family to tree, thier new home.
   "I hope you all like it here," i prayed to myself as i showed them the whole beneath the tree and everything in it. "I've got food and nesting supplies included in there for you already. I have to go to the Marketplace to sell some things today, so i'm going to gather food then i'll be getting ready to leave. If you need me, just ring the bell 3 times, alright?"
   "Uh-huh! Thanks again, Esperanza."
   As they went to make themselves at home, i took my bag from my cave. this one i made especially for harvesting. i stuck in my knife to the pocket of my boots and journeyed off into the woods. i watched around the ground to make sure i picked off the brightest mint leaves. I was off to the purpleberry tree and gathered enough to fill the pocket, starfruit by the rainbow sea on the opposite side of the mountain, then onion grass by the brook. i should have a good selling today,  i thought, its been awhile since my bag was this full and heavy... maybe, after today, i can sell enough to buy some better clothes...and i'm in need of a new pot too. i stopped thinking as my ear twitched; i heard the bell ringing, echoing in the distance. i rushed back to the cave hoping that nothing was wrong. "Do you guys need anything?"
   "Uh...Yeah..." the little mice mumbled. "We were wonderin'...can we play in the puddle by the mountain spring?"
   "Of course you can," I laughed, "Thank you for asking. The mountain put the spring here for anyone who wants to use it, including all of you!" I smiled to them as they cheered. I was telling them i was going to get ready to go to the Marketplace before going back into the cave to grab my wheelbarrow. i took out the wooden crates from under my bed and organized each crate to have a different item in each one: purpleberries, onion grass, starfruit, mint leaves, dried purpleberries, and star fruit slices. I put the thirty flutes i had carved out into my bag then went to the spring and bathed. I got into the most decent clothing i had, a flowing purple dress, and i let my hair loose. i looked at my skattered reflection in the half cracked mirror hung up to the cave wall. it was only a faux mirror, a contraption i'd made from quartz crystals and slate. i looked better than usual, but still not beautiful. Big, light purple eyes. My hair curled every which way all the way down to my legs, it was black and brown, like wet dirt. i was small and skinny, but that didn't effect my strength. my ears were pointed, as all elves' are, but my nose was flat. it's an effect of being crossbred, as i'm not fully elvin. None of this suited me well.
   "I rolled my wheelbarrow out from the cave and was ready to leave, with my bag on my back, when the mice came out. Mallory immediately grabbed my attention. All of her younger sisters and brothers were sitting in a line.
   "Esperanza! We got you something while you were inside!" I looked down at the tiny animals in a bit of a conundrum. They stood up, one by one, each taking a gold coin from under thier bottoms and holding them foreward, and out, to me. "We wanted to thank you for letting us stay here." There was 10 of them, so i was truely shocked. How could they find that much money?
   "Thank you so much! I don't know what to say!" I was still looking at them, with my hands over my face, covering my dropped jaw.
   "We found these buried near the brook and we thought maybe you could use it."
   "You guys are the best, thank you."
   "Anytime, you deserve it. Whenever we find money, we'll give it to you."
   "Thank you, so much...that really would help alot."
   "Well, you should get to the marketplace now. the earlier you go, the better spot you get!"
   "That is very true." I picked up the coins and put them in my bag. "I'll see you all soon! bye!"


   I rolled my wheelbarrow down the path in the forest until i finally came to the village gate, The guard gave me a glare when he saw my earings, but he still let me in. As an elf in our land, the number of earings you have and the colors of the beads on them are a sign of your powers that you've mastered. if you have powers at all, earings are mandatory, so you can't hide, no matter where you live or where you're from. I have every color on both of my ears, most elves don't have more than two colors. although its hard to tell from my actions, out of all of the elves in this land, i'm the most powerful. I'm the youngest elf to have powers from every element and i'm only aged at sixteen rotations; just one more thing to make me different. i rolled through the village, and i was given looks by the people, as always. i tried to keep a cheerful mood, it was needed.
   I arrived at the marketplace and went straight to the rental center. There was a troll working the booth today. He was stumpy, but seemingly friendly. "May i rent stand 12 until the sevent hour?"
   "Of course." I gave hi a rental token. He smiled and changed me out with my pass. it's a liscence you get to sell in the marketplace. It says the time i was allowed to sell, my name and my race among other things.
   I set up my stand and put all of the crates in color order in my wheelbarrow, then set the flutes up on the table. i brushed down my hair and set my back up straight, took out my prized flute and played a song as propoganda. I swayed and twirled around my stand as i played my flute and affer a few minutes, an ice elf stopped by. She has short, white hair and her skin was tinted blue. Her eyes were pink, as were her clothing. "...Oh, Miss! Miss!" She called to me, "Could you tell me please where to find a flute like yours?"
   "yes, you can find one right here. I make them myself." I handed her on and she examined it, running her index finger across the floral design carved into the side.
   "It's beautiful..."
   "Oh, thank you." I blushed slightly.
   "How much would you like for it?"
   "However much you would be willing to give me/"
   "Well, you won't make much selling things that way!"
   "That's alright with me, i don't need much."
   "Hmm...I like the way you think. you let the people choose the price for you beautiful flutes and you even make them yourself... even the food you have priced doesn't cost much. the people here must love you."
   I looked down wth slight despair. "You're very kind, thank you, but the people here, they actually don't like me at all..."
   "How can this be? i can tell just by meeting you, that you're a sweet, generous and thoughtful young Elvin girl. they're so hard to find here."
   "i try... I try so hard, but they don't appreciate it. i-i guess.. they've outcasted me, that's all. I don't mind really, as long i know that i'm doing the right thing."
   "i know what you mean. Well, i'll give you twenty golden coins and i wish you much good fortune." she grabbed my hand and sprawled it out, dropping the coins into my hand and curling my fingers onto it. "You deseve it." She looked me in the eyes and smiled.
   "Thank you so much! Would you like anything else? Really, you can have anything you want, just take it."
   "I'll take your smallest starfruit. i hope everything gets better for you soon."
   "Thank you, i wish you the best as well."
   She began her departure but stopped briefly to turn back and looked at me. "My name is Yolandsa, by the way."
   "Esperanza." I replied, as we waved eachother goodbye.


   Hours and hours flew by. I played my flute and sold many more, in fact, i sold them all. I was really surprised at how much business i had gotten today. i sold all thirty flutes and nearly all of my harvested fruits and vegetables. That almost never happens for me. I looked over to Timekeep Tower; the seventh hour had approached. I packed up my crates and went shopping for myself. For the first time, i had enough money to buy more than one thing, and nice things. Today i had made two hundred and twenty in gold currency. That, and a really nice compliment. and possibly, a friend.
   I began pacing my way through the Marketplace. I was looking around at all the nice things and thought to myself, i want a new bow and a set of arrows... As i was thinking, something caught my eye. I looked at the price, reading "20 gold." it was immensely inexpensive for its kind, i was very surprised. i bought it and set it in my bag. i thanked the salesman, and he said i was welcome, but gave me a strange look. i began my way down the line, glacing at every stand as i went. i spotted a stand filled with clothes. i walked up and looked around. i always looked, but now, i could actually have something. i spotted a beautiful lavender dress, it flowed like rippling water in the wind, even on a hanger. it was a light, blue-ish lavender and hung all the way down the floor. it was just my size, and the color of my eyes.
   "That dress would look beaufiul on you."
   I was startled a little and jumped. "M-me?"
   "Well, of course, you...i don't think i've ever seen anyone as beautiful as you."
   My face swiftly reddened. "Um, sir...i think you must be mistaken, no harm meant, but do you happen to be bllind?"
   "No, i am definately not blind in the least. I'm an archer."
   I turned even redder. "I'm...I-I didn't mean that an...i'm-i mean as...i didn't mean to insult you." i cringed to myself in embarrassment.
   "Aw," he smiled, "it's alright, i know you idn't." he had the most enthralling green eyes.
   I giggled and smiled awkwardly and giggled to myself, as i'm not used to people saying things such as this, not to me. No one ever has to me. "Well, are you going to buy it?"
   "Oh, Um, I'm-I'm not sure."
   "I'd love to buy it for you."
    I was red once again. "Oh! No, no! It's fine! I'll buy it, you don't have to, i mean, you don't even know me or anything, it would just be-"
   "Well then, my name is Kero, nice to meet you." he bowed. "What's yours?"
   "Esperanza... Nice to meet you as well..."
   "Well, now that we know eachother," he handed me the dress, "I'm buying you this dress."
   "He gave the woman at the stand a hundres red gold coins. i was in shock, and i of course blushed once more."Thank you," i said in shock, "i really don't know what to say..."
   "Say you will come out to eat with me? This endings?"
   "Oh, um.. Sure!" i laughed. did he just ask to court with me? no...no, no, no...he's just being nice.
    "Alright, let's go!" he smiled. i grabbed my wheelbarrow abut he took it and rolled it for me. how sweet of him... Kero. What a nice name. He was tall and slender, like the trees by the sea. his sandy-brown hair flowed like the ocean down to his broad shoulders.
   We arrived at a restaurant. it was cozy and warm. there were two moon emblems on the front door. The building was carved into the side of an enourmous oak tree. he parked my wheelbarrow on the side and opened the door, entering chivalrously behind me. every table had a tiny candle on top with either two or four chairs. we sat at a table for two.
   A waitress walked up with a set of warm purpleberry jam and toasted bread, and put it on the table infront of us. kero smiled at me and i smiled back. we both ordered tea and rice, then the waitress left. i spread some jam on a piece of bread and ate it.
   "So, do you like it here?" asked Kero as he too ate a piece of bread.
   "Yes, it's really nice."
   The waitress came back after a few minutes and set our orders on the table. She glared at me. "Do you know her?"
   "No... I don't..."
   "Then why did she just glare at you?"
   "I-I'm not sure." i looked down and ate some rice. i lied to you. i know why...but i don't want to lose my new friend. he;ll find out sooner or later whether he hears it from me or from someone else... its been all over the village for years. i just want to hang in here as long as i can... i fiddles around with my fork, then sipped some of the tea. it was warm and calming. the steam and mint leaves energized me.
   "So, where do you live?
   should i tell him?...no....i wont be specific. i don't fully trust him...i don't want him to tell anyone... "i live near the mountains."
   "Ah, sounds nice."
   "It's alright, i really love it."
   I'm glad you do." he smiled. "i like where i live too, i live by the water, my house is almost right on the sea."
   "that sounds amazing."
    "It is. you should come see it sometime-"
   "no, no...i don't know..." i unintentionally cut him off.
   "Are you alright?"
   "Oh, yeah..." i cleared my throat. "yeah, i'm fine."
   "...Alright." he took in a big scoop of rice.
    There was an awkward silence between us. I blushed out of embarrassment. i hid it by tilting my head down and letting my hair flood my face. i finished my tea. We engaged into small conversations over time, but about nothing necessarily important. we both finished our food and walked outside. the waitress told Kero "thank you for coming." and he smiled at her as she did. i smiled to her as well, but she, of course, just glare at me, then rolled her eyes in a circle. i looked down and away, eventually back to the side of the tree to fetch my wheelbarrow.
    It was dark outside. everything was covered in a sheer sheet of blue. the trees made crazy shadows on the ground, crazy, but beautiful. stars sparkled up in the sky, like owl eyes, glowing in the night sky. the two moons glimmered bright. no fog or coulds. it was perfect.
   "Would you like me to walk you home?" Kero offered as he looked at me with those glowing green eyes.
   "Oh, um.. no, thank you." i bent one leg to balance myself. "its...getting dark...i-i should be leaving..."
   "So, i guess this is goodbye." He hugged me. It felt odd. I hadn't been hugged in a very long time. i got up the courage to hug him back. His hands had slid down to my lower back before he loosened his grip and looked me in the eyes. i felt the blood wash out of my face and my eyes grew wide. He was leaning towards me, his face nearly touching to mine. The closer he got, the more nervous i became. His lip had almost touched mine, as he brushed my hear behind my ear, almost like he was going to kiss me. His hand brushed acrossed my ears and he stopped. My ear rings jingled. I looked up at him. his eyes got wide. My stomach tossed in my body. I quickly let go of him and looked away as my eyes began to water. He didn't say a word.

He felt all of my earrings...
He knows who i am...