Chapter 3: Visitors

After Maple moved out, Annalisa cried. She was the first and the last at the train station to see her off on her next adventure, and she demanded lots of letters and pictures. She tended to Maple's old flower garden late into the summer, and when the blossoms wilted with the cooling temperatures she cried again. The grass around her doorstep had long since grown back.

***

"I don't like scary things," Isabelle insisted. "Digby used to tease me with fake spiders when I was little."

"You and your brother didn't get along very well, did you?" Scarlett replied with a chuckle, leaning back in her large office chair and propping her feet up on her mahogany desk. Isabelle set her clipboard down on the edge of the desk and stared out the town hall window. Outside Annalisa fought with the weeds that had worked their way around the tulip bulbs she'd planted near Maple's old house plot.

"She took the move a little too harshly, don't you think, Mayor? That was months ago, too..." The grass was turning brown and the trees were withering, sure enough. Halloween was fast approaching, and Scarlett couldn't seem to convince Isabelle that it was a holiday worthy of her participation.  "I think she should go visit soon."

"Never mind the visiting, Jack asked me personally last week to help with the festivities, Isabelle, but I need your cooperation in order to get the whole town on board," Scarlett said, drawing her secretary's attention back.

"What about the folks on Main Street? Surely they need to be informed that-"

"Tom Nook has already agreed to sell candies for the villagers and the Able sisters were more than excited to tailor costumes."

Isabelle frowned. "Halloween just isn't my holiday..." she said quietly. "I'm sorry, Mayor, but I'm going to have to sit this one out. I'm sure the townsfolk will be more than willing to take part in the festivities, especially if you're the one to invite them."

Scarlett exhaled deeply. "I'm sure they will... I just want everyone to have a good time. October is my favorite time of the year, and it'd be sad to not see everyone enjoying themselves."

"I'll be perfectly content with a book in my easy chair, thank you," she insisted, taking up her clipboard and pen. "As for the bench you'd like built, Loid set up his station in the location you requested and we can begin receiving donations first thingtomorrow morning."

"Excellent."

***

Scarlett sat on the cold metal bench and stared up at the evergreen trees. Her shovel sat at her feet, dirty and dented. She tugged at the sleeves of her striped sweater and shivered.

"Cold, Mayor?"

"I'll be fine, thank you Avery," she replied, recognizing his voice before she saw his weathered face.

"Can I join you?" he asked rhetorically, leaning his fishing pole against the back of the bench and plopping down next to her. She scooted over to make a little more room for him.

He tipped his head back and stretched, draping an arm over Scarlett's shoulders. His body radiated heat.

"Are you as excited for Halloween as I am?" she asked, knowing the answer.

"Of course I am," he said, "I've already got my costume picked out and everything. Though I'm not sure if I'll actually go out this year or not..."

"Why wouldn't you?"

"You know that being social makes me anxious, and I think it'll be worse because I won't actually know who I'm interacting with," he replied nervously.

She laughed lightly and rested her head on his shoulder. "Why not spend some time with Grizzly instead?"

"He's sick, didn't you know?"

"I didn't... Maybe I'll pick up some medicine for him at the shops today. I need to get my sapling order."

"What's with you and your trees?" he looked down at her strangely.

"They make the town seem cozy and welcoming. Especially in the fall. I haven't seen any new faces in the Roost lately, and I want to try and change that."

"I don't think the lack of trees in Ecclesia affects who visits," he laughed.

"Why wouldn't it?"

"Because we're close to the last stop on the train line. Unless someone has business way out here, they're not likely to travel."

"What brought you here, then?"

Avery got quiet. He'd moved in just a few months ago, and he and Scarlett had become fast friends. He took a deep breath and said, "There's a girl that lives another town farther down the tracks. Or at least, she did. I don't know if she does any more. I'd worked up my courage to go see her one day but once I was on the train I got scared. By the time I reached Ecclesia I was about ready to cry I was so nervous. So I got off here."

"Why'd you stay instead of going back home?"

"Heh.. I'd talked pretty big game about her back home. I didn't want to go back, because I was scared someone else would... You know."

"I get it."

"That, and after I got a taste of an Ecclesian perfect orange I was sold. There was no way I could go home."

Scarlett laughed and stood up, stretching her legs. She reached for her shovel, which Avery bent down and picked up for her.

"Good luck with your gardening," he said with a sad smile.

"Don't stay out here too late," she warned. "The trees won't hide you from the sun for long." But he waved her off and became lost in thought before she could say goodbye.

The End

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