Chapter 7: Brass Suitcases

The snow melted in Ecclesia more quickly than it had fallen. The mayor's birthday, Valentine's Day, and Festivale all passed in a flurry of frosty mornings and warm afternoons. February was coming to a close, and the blooming starts of March were beginning to rear their heads. Scarlett buried her head in work, taken by spring madness, blasting through stacks of paperwork like she had the morning pot of coffee. Public Works Projects were being designed and paid off almost daily, and the town was quite frequently buzzing with construction work.

Isabelle knocked on the office door, peeking her head through the wooden frame. "Mayor Scarlett?"

"Mmhm?" Scarlett responded, not taking her eyes off of her pen scribbles. She scratched out a large section of text and continued writing.

"There's someone at the train station."

Scarlett set down her pen and looked up at Isabelle. Her bangs fell in front of her face, and she sat up and pulled them back, pinning them in place. "Why don't you go greet them, then?"

"She asked to see you, Mayor."

Scarlett pushed away from the desk and stood up. She pulled her sweater sleeves back down below her elbows and stepped into her worn-out rain boots, heading for the door. "Thank you, Isabelle," she said fleetingly.

She shuffled down the brick path, through trees that glistened with morning dew. She shoved her hands into her pockets and kicked at fallen pinecones. The walk from Town Hall to the train station wasn't a long one, but it was still early, and Scarlett was feeling lethargic. Repeated late nights and early mornings working towards developing the town were starting to get to her.

Coming past the Re-Tail shop and the Plaza, she saw someone in a blue and white sweater standing awkwardly beside the door to the station. On her feet were bright green polka-dotted shoes, and beside them on the ground was a beat-up looking suitcase. Its brass locks and straps glimmered in the wintry sunlight, giving it a golden glow. Looking around, her gaze settled on the bulletin board, and she stepped aside to read, startling the swallow quietly perched atop the wooden frame.

Scarlett's eyes grew wide. As quietly as she could, she snuck up behind the stranger until she was within arm's reach. She put her hands over the girl's eyes and whispered, "Guess who?"

The stranger jumped slightly, before turning around and throwing her arms around Scarlett's neck in a hug. "Scarlett!"

"Maggie! It's so good to see you!" she exclaimed, returning the tight embrace. "It's been so long!"

"It's been too long," Maggie said with a smile. She shuffled her feet, kicking up dirt from the grout in the bricks. She looked nervous, uncomfortable almost.

"Do you have someplace to stay?" Scarlett asked, picking up on her best friend's attitude.

Maggie tugged at her tangled hair, trying to comb out knots with her fingers. "Well, sort of?" When Scarlett cocked her head, she continued, "I called Isabelle a few weeks ago and she told me to talk to Tom Nook. When I did, he said he'd meet me here this morning so we could make sure I got settled in properly, but he hasn't shown up yet."

"His shop's up on Main Street," Scarlett said, gesturing over the train tracks. "We can go talk to him now if you'd like."

"I'd like that very much, yes," replied Maggie, taking up her suitcase. She nodded towards Scarlett, who led the way across the tracks and up the stone steps to Ecclesia's business district.

Being only slightly after 9, the Nooklings' store lights were dim, not yet open for business. The Able sisters puttered in and out of their clothing shop, sweeping the front stoop, unlocking the doors, and greeting Kicks, the resident shoe enthusiast. To the left, the post office's sign swung slightly in the breeze, squeaking quietly. Next door, Nook's Homes was dark. Maggie looked panicked.

"He's not open yet?"

"He doesn't usually open until 10," Scarlett said, tapping on the door's glass window. After a moment of silence, Tom Nook peeked his head through the window, eyeing his visitors. Scarlett waved at him, and sounds of scurrying and a lock clicking could be heard.

"Mayor Scarlett!" he exclaimed, straightening his button-down collar so that it laid flat against his sweater neck. "And friend, yes, hello friend."

Maggie smiled sheepishly. "Hi, we spoke on the phone sometime last week about getting me set up in a home today? I'm Maggie."

Nook's eyes lit up in realization at the mention of her name. "Oh! Yes, yes. Let's go find you a good spot, hm? I do apologize, it's been a rather busy morning."

Scarlett peeked into the shop, where his two nephews, the Nooklings, perched in two comfy-looking armchairs, nibbling at a bowl of fruit for breakfast. "I'll leave you two to find a good location. I have lots of paperwork to complete before Katrina can acquire a building permit for her shop here. Maggie, come see me at Town Hall after you're settled, okay?"

"Sure thing," she said. Tom Nook slipped into a yellow windbreaker and gestured towards town.

"Shall we?"

The End

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