Dandelion had never celebrated Love Day before. But he’d enjoyed his newfound holiday celebrations in the last year, and he was determined to get Cordelia’s mind off of whatever she’d experienced in Forgotten Hollow. She hadn’t been herself since getting back. Not that he could blame her.
It had been a busy morning, but he made it back to the house just in time, right when Cordelia came out to the balcony. He watched her as she scanned her surrounding sleepily, probably looking for him. She noticed the handmade decorations before spotting him.
The soft smile on her face told the elf that getting up extra early to decorate had absolutely been worth it. Cordelia didn’t smile an awful lot these days.
“Dandy?” She called out to him once she noticed him on the ground. “Did you make all this?”
“I did,” he confirmed with a grin. “But there’s more. Come down here!”
She disappeared in the house briefly before emerging on the stairs.
“Did you do all this while I was sleeping?” She gestured to the paper hearts on the balcony and fences. “Must have taken you ages…”
“It’s no big deal.” The elf shrugged sheepishly. “Don’t you remember Spooky Day? You carved out those pumpkins when I was sleeping. My turn to surprise you with decorations this time.”
“I decorated on a much smaller scale.” Cordelia chuckled, joining him on the ground. “What’s with the bikes?”
“Well, one’s for you. A present.” He explained. “Happy Love Day!”
“Dandy! A card would have been fine!” Her tone was scolding, but her eyes were still warm. So she had to like the bike, the elf assessed. “People don’t give each other huge presents like this on Love Day…”
“Maybe not,” he didn’t let her deter him. “But I didn’t give you anything for Winterfest. Still bugs me. So I had to make up for that. I thought we could go on a little picnic?”
“I told you it was fine you didn’t get me anything.” The girl shook her head. “But thank you. And a picnic sounds nice. If I can remember how to ride this thing, I haven’t sat on a bike since I was a kid…”
“It doesn’t seem too difficult.” He tried to encourage her.
“Wait, have you never ridden a bike?” Cordelia asked as he climbed on. She seemed surprised.
“Of course I have, how do you think I got these here?” He pointed out.
“But, I meant-“
“I’m a quick learner.” He told her. It was so like Cordelia to focus on the wrong things. Or wrong people. Dandelion pushed the thought aside. “There’s a nice spot close by. It’s walkable, really, but will be quicker on the bike…”
So maybe he was a little wobbly. And maybe he couldn’t exactly keep the bike straight. But he didn’t fall off, and Eden wasn’t far.
Cordelia soon overtook him. As per usual, she’d underestimated her abilities. She could be silly like that sometimes… The elf stopped in his tracks when he saw her break suddenly. She dismounted her bike, staring at something before her.
“We’re not there yet,” he yelled, trying to catch up.
Cordelia didn’t reply.
Dandelion stepped off his bike “I guess we could walk from here. What’s up?”
She finally looked at him. “This mushroom circle… has that always been here?”
It was one of those times when she got stuck on something for some inexplicable reason. Dandelion still wasn’t sure how to deal with those.
“I guess? Not a mushroom fan, are you?” He tried to pinpoint the issue. “Me either. Weird texture. I think most fae tend to like them, so it’s probably just me…” He went on, hoping to distract her, to find that smile on her face again.
It didn’t seem to work. Why was she looking at him so suspiciously?
“Most fae like mushrooms.” Cordelia repeated quietly. “I guess I knew that. Did I ever tell you that when I first came across the sprites, it was in a mushroom circle like this one?”
“No. But I guess that makes sense.” The elf frowned. The sprites were a topic he hoped to avoid today. They’d always upset her, and had been sad enough as it was these days…
“Dandy…” She paused and studied his face. “When I first got here after Forgotten Hollow, the sprites were with you. I’ve barely seen them since. Is there something you know about the sprites that you haven’t told me?”
This was most definitely not how Dandelion envisaged today going. He was so terrible at keeping secrets. And now Cordie seemed to think he was hiding something nefarious from her…
“I don’t know anything about the sprites, other than that they’re fae, and that they like and dislike different things – which I know from you!” He blurted out, hoping she’d know he spoke the truth.
“Then why does it feel like you’re hiding something?” Cordelia asked.
Because I am, but it’s not what you think, the elf thought. Best he could do was come clean, and hope she would believe him.
“I don’t know any big mysteries.” He looked into her eyes. “Didn’t know anything about your sprites till you brought them to Sylvan Glade, honestly. But I think they like me. They listen to me sometimes. You know I used to get them to come here sometimes instead of them following you. So now that you’re here… well, I try to get them to stay away from you when I can. Because I know how they make you feel… and I don’t want you to feel that way.”
Which is exactly why I got them to stay away today, but here we are, talking about them anyway, he thought to himself.
“Oh.” She stared at him for a moment. But then she composed herself. “I’m sorry, Dandy. I’m being a jerk. Some Love Day company I am… Let’s just… go get our picnic set up. Did you say we’re not far?”
Relief washed over Dandelion. “Yeah, that’s right.” He smiled. “We’re going to Eden.”
“I didn’t come up with the name.” The elf told her. But he didn’t think bringing up Lulu was a good idea, so he decided not to elaborate. “It’s just there, behind the big tree.”
“Woah. That’s a lot of butterflies!” Cordelia exclaimed at the sight of the scenery unfolding before them.
Butterflies. Dandelion grew stiff for a moment. He hadn’t thought about that. Did butterflies remind her of the sprites?
But it seemed his worries were unfounded, as the girl walked towards the garden with a grin on her face.
“I can’t believe this has been here in Sylvan Glade this whole time, and you haven’t told me!” She marvelled. “What are those glowing trees at the back?”
“Well, those trees are actually a part of the reason we’re here,” Dandelion admitted. “Not Love Day related, exactly, but I need a few of those fruits.”
“Oh?” Cordelia followed him as he crossed the bridge into the garden.
“Could use a bit more water.” The elf observed. He picked up an old watering can and filled it up from the small stream bubbling below the bridge.
Cordelia came closer, studying the glowing trees. “I’ve seen one of these before, in your garden.” She remembered. “But you don’t always have them.”
“No, I don’t.” He nodded.
Apparently, his answer didn’t satisfy her curiosity. “What are they?”
“The fruit – and the tree, I guess – is called growfruit.” He said, pleased at her interest in the garden.
“I’ve never heard of that before.” Cordelia examined the glowing tree.
“I don’t think they grow outside of Sylvan Glade. At least, I’ve never seen one anywhere else. Hang on, let me get you one.” He reached into the crown of the tree, picking a ripe looking fruit.
He handed it to Cordelia.
“These are edible, right?” She examined the fruit in the palm of her hand.
“Of course.” He confirmed, reaching for another one as she took a bite.
“Huh. It’s not what I expected.” She frowned, putting her growfruit away.
He should have probably told her that, Dandelion scolded himself. “They don’t really taste like anything.” He nodded. “But they can be useful.”
“How exactly?” Cordelia tilted her head.
“They’re a good base.” He explained. It seemed unlike her to take this much interest in gardening, but he wasn’t going to complain. “Not much on their own, but you can add stuff.”
“Like me.” She said quietly.
“What?” He turned away from the tree to look at her. “What do you mean, Cordie? You’re not a fruit.”
“Obviously.” Her expression seemed distant. “But think about it. When I’m here in the glade with you, we do what you want. When I’m with Morgyn… well, you know how that goes. I don’t even know who I am on my own.”
Did she really think that? The idea didn’t make much sense to Dandelion.
“It doesn’t work that way, though.” He told her. “I’ve been alone here for a long time, and I’ve only started to learn more about myself when you showed up and when Lulu came back into my life. And, urgh, Morgyn. You can really only get a sense of who you are from the way you act with other people, right?”
“Not if all you’re trying to do is please them.”
Well that was just silly. “You don’t have to do anything to please me.” He said brightly. “I like you already.”
“Thanks, Dandy.” Cordelia sighed. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been alone most of my life, but I was so focused on getting away from the sprites, or pleasing the sprites, or… well, everything to do with the sprites.”
She paused, as if to collect her thoughts. “Once I got to Glimmerbrook, for the first time, other people cared about me. I’ve even been able to forget about the sprites from time to time. But… I can’t just replace fixating on the sprites by fixating on other people.”
Dandelion was quiet for a moment, trying to make sense of it. He hated this kind of talk. She clearly meant all of what she just said. But why did it feel like the actual meaning of her words had nothing to do with those words themselves at all? Why did people have to be so confusing all the time?
And why was he feeling this strange yucky pain in his gut? The elf had never experienced anything like it.
“I guess that kind of makes sense.” He said slowly. The pain wasn’t leaving. But Cordie was, he realised. “So… that means you won’t be staying in Sylvan Glade, will you?”
She let out another sigh. “You’re right, I won’t.” She confirmed. “I think I’ll move to the new house.”
The odd feeling in his gut got worse. As if somebody was actually kicking him on the inside. But there was nobody else in Eden but the two of them. It made no sense. Then again, neither did Cordelia.
“You’ll live with the vampire?” He raised an eyebrow. Why would she want to do that? Wasn’t the vampire taking over her old campsite the whole reason why she was staying with him in Sylvan Glade?
“I don’t think he’d hurt me. He’s… he’s had plenty of chances to do that already. And he did the opposite. He brought me back home, to safety. He protected me from the others back in that… hell.” Cordelia paused uncertainly. “Besides, I doubt I’ll see him much anyway. He sleeps through the day, I sleep through the night.”
Did she believe what she was saying? Didn’t matter, she’d made up her mind by the looks of it.
“I guess that works.” Dandelion agreed. He wasn’t sure what to do with himself. He looked at Cordelia, and then he turned back to the tree, hoping that the gut sensation would go away. Stupid imaginary kicks ruining Love Day. They hadn’t even started the picnic yet.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring the mood down.” Cordelia said apologetically. “I’m not going anywhere right now. We’ve got Love Day to celebrate, and picnic to eat!”
Had she read his mind? Or was she experiencing a gut pain of her own? He hoped not, it felt very unpleasant.
He forced the corners of his lips to turn upwards. “That’s right. Just wait till you see all the cupcakes…”
Cordelia made all sorts of approving noises while he took out the cupcakes out of picnic basket one by one and placed each on a small individual plate in front of her.
“We’ll never eat all that!” She laughed.
“We’d better. I need room in the basket for that growfruit.” He reminded her, lying down next to feast. She joined him on the ground.
But in spite of her clearly being impressed with the food selection, it didn’t feel right. As if there was a cloud over them, and not the interesting kind that looked like an animal or building. Just a plain old storm cloud. But it never rained in Sylvan Glade. And Dandelion didn’t even mind storms, when he was out in Glimmerbrook… so what could the problem be, he wondered?
Maybe he was wrong to pick Love Day to try to cheer Cordelia up.
“Thanks for spending Love Day with me, Cordie. I know it’s not what you wanted.” He managed to say. “It’s meant to be a day for lovers, not friends, right?”
“You’re meant to spend it with those you love.” Cordelia corrected him. “And I love you. You know, as a friend.”
The gut pain was back in full force. Why? She just told him she loved him. Dandelion did his best to ignore it. “And I love you. As a friend. Duh.”
“Have you ever been in love, Dandy?” She gave him a conspicuous wink. “The ‘not as a friend’ kind?”
Dandelion wasn’t sure why people got that way when they spoke of that kind of love. The ‘not as a friend’ kind. Winking, smiling, as if it was something to get excited about. Dandelion had no experience in that department yet, but he’d seen it first hand, and it didn’t really seem like something to get all giddy over.
“I don’t think so.” The elf shuffled uncomfortably, deciding to prop himself up instead of lying on his stomach. Maybe that would ease the gut sensation.
“And honestly, I don’t think I want to. All it seems to bring is pain. Just look at what it did to you. Or Lulu.” He added before he could stop himself.
Just to make the day even worse, he scolded himself. Mention the one person Cordelia couldn’t stand. But he couldn’t help it. For so long, his life had just been Lulu and him…
Thankfully, it didn’t seem to have the effect he anticipated. Cordelia just looked curious.
“L Faba in love? I can’t imagine that.” She smirked.
“Maybe you have more in common than you know.” The words spilled out. He shouldn’t have said that. Wasn’t his place. He improvised. “I mean, there’s me, for starters. You have me in common.”
“Do we really have you in common, though?” Cordelia looked into his eyes. “You haven’t really seen her that much lately. I mean, I know you saw her for Winterfest, but…”
Dandelion weighed his response. Another conversation he didn’t foresee. But it seemed like nothing could go right today.
“I know what you mean.” He nodded. “And… I don’t really want to see her right now. She said some terrible things. Things you can’t take back.”
“Terrible enough for you to not want to be her friend?” Cordelia asked.
“It’s not that simple.” How could she ever understand the kind of bond he had with the mischief sage? “Lulu and I, we… you’re probably right. I’m not sure if we’re still friends. Or if we ever will be again. I don’t really like her anymore. But I do love her. I will always love her. I can’t forget what she said, but I can’t forget the time when she was all I had either. She’s family.”
At first, Cordelia didn’t respond. She brought her knees towards her chest, her eyes far away.
“I understand. If I had family, I wouldn’t let go of them either.” Her voice was quiet, but he could hear the hurt in it.
Just when the elf thought the day couldn’t get worse…
“I’m sorry. Today was meant to be happy…” He said hopelessly. And then he remembered the last thing he had planned for their trip. It was worth a shot. “Wait! I can fix it. I’ve got a surprise for you…”
He jumped up to his feet, quickly muttering the summoning spell.
Cordelia looked at the violin that materialised in his hand.
“Oh, it’s the violin I gave you!” She hadn’t expected that. And already looked a lot less gloomy. Promising.
“Sure is.” He replied, pressing the violin under his chin.
Dandelion was too focused on the violin to look at Cordelia while he played, but he knew she must have enjoyed his performance when she broke into an applause once he was done.
“You learned to play!” She squealed. That looming cloud had finally lifted. Maybe they could actually watch the interesting kind of clouds now.
“I’ve done some practicing.” He beamed at her. “And you were right. I used to like having Lulu play to me, but playing my own music is even better.”
It wasn’t as if he was going to listen to Lulu play for some time now, it dawned on him. But he didn’t want to think about that. Not now, when the day finally got brighter.
“Your own music is far better.” Cordelia told him. “I’m proud of you, Dandy.”
He wasn’t sure why. And he suspected she wouldn’t like the full details of his practice sessions – Cordelia wasn’t the only one who was fond of the sound of his violin. The sprites were too, but thankfully, they complied with his request to stay far away today.
But whatever she meant, she looked happy. And that made Dandelion happy. The yucky gut pain finally went away.
“It’s no big deal. Really, it would be rude if I didn’t learn to play properly after you made a violin for me!” He said, grinning. “At least Love Day’s not a complete dud.”
“What, no way!” She smiled back. “How could it be when I get to spend Love Day with you…”
And before he knew what was happening, Cordelia planted a kiss on his cheek.
It was then when his stomach decided to do a cartwheel. First the pain, now this… maybe he really did bring too many cupcakes.
“Eww, quit it!” He giggled, nudging her away. “That’s gross…”
“Now who’s being rude!” She teased. “Shush, or I’ll lick your ear!”
His response was dignified.
Cordelia leaned back, letting out a hearty laugh.
“Oh, Dandy… never change.”
And before he could protest, she pulled him into a hug.