Hi! This is my Happy Face, I swear to it… Just kidding! My name is April March and this is me just outside my own 2 billion $$ mansion realising that the gates are either rusted shut or that at best someone hid away the key under a flowerpot. A flowerpot where the garden might be the entire town and nature of Windernburg. Wooops! This is also my HF when I just hung up on the Mayor explaining that I was broke, had nowhere to sleep. Could he please help me with a loan? Oh yeah, this is my happy face when that toad actually told me that I had signed a contract that said that I was on my own and would take no charities from the counsel. Great….
But I am usally not the girl known to be moody for too long. In a flash of insight I had actually packed a few changes of clothes, including my training clothes. I loved training. Especially jogging. At the orphanage it had been a great way for me to clear my head and to get some endorfines flowing through my body. The body-produced morphine they called it and I could not agree more. I craved it and needed more! I also needed an income, a place to sleep and something to eat. The first was actually easily fixed. At least in a symbolic way. As I was out running I ran past a log where I found a frog hiding. Not one of the rare ones. But add enough of them and I would soon be a millionaire, in say 1 000 years or so….
One of the other great things when it comes to running is that it is a great way of transport and of taking in the scenery. So as soon as I had left Kermit at the rusty gate at my casa I started running towards the main city core. It turned out to be quite a distance since the mansion was actually on a big island. But I did not mind and the weather was great. As I ran down what I assumed was a sidestreet to the main I took in the scenery. I see trees of green, red roes too. I see them bloom…. and I thought to myself, what a wonderful world. I saw skies of blue, and clouds of white . The bright blessed day. The dark sacred night and night and I thought to myself…….
Sorry, no, nope I can’t do this anymore. It is true that the sky was unimaginable blue with fluffy white clouds and there were a lot of roses blooming too. That was probably why the old Louis Armstrong tune popped into my head. But this reminder only made me feel miserable instead. It made me realize how much I had lost, just because my parents did not want me and how truly alone I was now when I had left orphanage.
Aaargh! You know how hard it is when you get a tune into your head and you just cant stop it from playing over and over in your head. So frustrating. But except the rainbows the verse was actually half right. I made a new acquaintance in a small park. He was clearly the local gardener and when he saw me drooling over his sandwich he offered half of it to me. Then he made me a deal and a challenge. If I could beat him at one game of chess he would actually let me have the produce of what was growing in the flowerboxes behind us. I did belong to all of the community of Windenburg, but if I promised to not tell his wife that he was eating gluten again he would not tell anyone about me harvesting the plants (sometime long in the future) as long as I went for it when it was dark. And to make it even more interesting – why don’t we add some money into the challenge as well? How about $10?
After the Gardener had gracefully bowed out and given me the victory I was left sitting in front of the game for almost 30 minutes. Something bugged me, but I could not really figure out what it was. Then it hit me. OK, I did know som chess-moves, but I was not a chess virituose, far from it. I just used to dabble in the orphanage, with a old treestump as a board and stones and fircones as pieces, but I still considered myself a novice. So how was it that I had beaten this old fart in way fewer moves that should be possible? Then it struck me: He head taken pitty on me! The old geezer had let me win on purpose. But why? Did I look so desperate?
As I filled a nearby pitcher with some water and started to tend to the scrawny plants I started to go through the conversation I had had with the Gardener before. At first it had started as a way for me to distract my opponent as I started to tell him about the events that had led up to my current situation. When I told about the apparent backstab from the Mayor wrapped up in what then seemed like golden promises the Gardener had snorted. “Sounds very much like old Mauritz at his best or his worst. It is really hard to tell. He is as slippery as an eel that one. So be careful!” I could not had agreed more. But my challenger also helped me realize where I needed to start looking if I was to find a way into my newly acquired, but yet so unattainable legacy.
My benefactor had pointed me to a small and rather discrete coffee house in the western part of Windenburg. In there you could not just get the best homebacked sccones, but there was also a leave-one-get-one bookshelf where people could leave their old litterature and hopefully leave with something new to read. It was mostly chick-lit of course. But once in a blue moon some rare copies of local myths and legends ended up on the shelves for taking. And if I was to crack the code to where the last heir had hidden the spare key to the mansion it might just well be in the legens!
As the sun set in the sea just a short walk down from the mansion I stood in front of the fire and contemplated the day. Well, not before I almost had managed to set myself on fire of course. But I saw it more as some kind of iniation or passage rite given by nature it self. Now when fire itself had approved of me being here I knew I could survive anything! When it came to finding the solution, well it still felt like I was the one that had drawn the shortest straw and that I really was just fumbling around. But as the proverb says: Even a blind bird will find a worm eventually. I wonder if worms tastes good on a grill?
The next couple of days I spent a horrendous amount of hours in the local library. The freindly librarian had pointed me to Local History section, which covered an entire wall of the library, BOTH floors. Who knew that there could be hours, and hours, and hours… well you get my drift… to read about a small town like Windenburg? But there was, believe me there was. I learned some useful stuff. Like that the coastal line would fill up with crystal and old fossils after the flood had left the shore with the tide. Then I learned some pretty useless things too. The last First Lady of the manor was named Petunia, but hated flowers. Everyone back then apparently knew that if you stood on one leg under the full moon and howled like a wolf the banshee would come and get you. And to top it of: The sad ghost story of Lady Mimsy Alcorn Shallot who was burned alive by her eccentric husband Bernard. Stories says that he did not make it out either. Now they are forever doomed haunting the von Haunt estate north of the city core. Who believed in such garbage?
What the books did NOT say anything about was how it absolutely sucked to be broke more than a few days. Yes, we had lived a simple life at the orphanage. But we had still always had food on the table, clothes to warm us and somewhere dry and safe to sleep each night. These days I noticed that I became more and more desperate when it came to find money enough for a hot meal and I found myself always looking up at the blue sky for rain clouds. But it still was Armstrong-fluffy white clouds. Lucky me. One night I even convinced myself to dig into a garbage can downtown. It was so utterly disgusting, and very little rewarding that I promised myself that I come hail, come storm would never ever do it again.
The wooden planks from the bench was really hard and noone could blame me for getting one full nights sleep in a long, long time. But what could I do? I did not know anyone in this little pitoresque hellhole and renting a room in even a cheap B&B would be way to pricy for my wallet. So I was stuck out here with only the moon and stars as a company. Not the worst company a girl could ask for right? Sometimes I would turn around on my back and look up to the skies and try to count the stars or trying to figure out the stories behind the constellations I could pick out: Ursa Major, Orion, Gemini…. When I was just a little girl I dreamed about becoming an astronaut and walk on the moon. The same day as I told my friends at the orphanage about my dreams I was beaten up badly and given a black eye. I did not dream much after that.
A small bright event was when I was finally able to buy a tiny pot and enough soil to plant and plant the tinies seed of a snapdragon in it. The soil around the mansion had been so contaminated and mistreated over the years that it no longer could harbour some living plants. It would cost me many hours of hard labor and most likely a lot money to restore the garden to what it once was. But this little seed that I planted was still very symbolic to me. It meant hope, it meant growth and it meant promise of a vital future!
It took some weeks of trial and error, but after a while I learned how to calculate coming and going of the tide and where to harvest the glittering crystals. The money I received from my sandharvesting was not much. But eventually I had saved enough money to buy a camping bed. I can guaarantee that sleeping had never felt that good, ever! At first I had hated the sand, the sea and all that came with it. Now however I had to admit that it had grown on me. Call it a case of male-nutrition, but I had started to like living here. A roof over my head would not be bad though. Babysteps, babysteps…
When I struggled for a while I suddenly got a *bing!* in my phone. It was an announcement from an old message board that there would be a Geek-con arranged in San Myshuno later the same weekend. San Myshuno was very far off if you had to use the only transport I could afford: The bus. 5 hours. I still felt it was so worth it. For once I could feel like a normal young human being again. Someone who really had any worries in life. It reminded me so much about when me and my friends Raven and Sasha had camped the festivals that came to the small village where I we, all orphans grew up. A lot of people, sugar and just some good old girlfriend fun. It was more of a carneval than a proper geek con when I was young. But although I missed the ferries wheel, to be able to poke the brains of possible hackers was well worth the loss. A young obi-wan together with a very cute darth vader gave me the best clue I had in weeks when it came down to where on earth the old heir had hid the key. Finally I was getting somewhere!
“Raven? Is that you? Hey! Wait a minute! Do not walk away. Not again! STOPP” I had almost missed the young tattooed girl that just walked past me. The hair was different, both in length, cut and color and she had some more tattoos that I had not seen before. It had been many years since I last saw her, but I knew I was not wrong. Here, alive and well was my old friend Raven. The same girl that pulled pranks on the headmistress together and took the punishment when we go caught. The same Raven that created havoc together with me and Sasha at the carnivals. Well at least before Sasha vanished one stormy October night and turned up…. I had just turned my thoughts inwards to my well hidden memories and feelings for a split second. But when I looked up again the girl was nowhere to see.
I was totally dumbstruck. I was baffled. What was going on? To help sort my thoughts I tried out the local 24/7 open gym nearby. It was not a runners-high but it was still relaxing to try to test my own limits while I was still trying to sort through things. I had not been mistaken. I had recognized Raven instantly and I just knew she had recognized me too. For just a fraction of a second I had seen in her eyes that she knew who I was and remembered. Then my own memories had taken over and when I looked she was gone. I had stayed late, long after Geek-Con had closed to look for her. But she was gone as swallowed whole by the earth it self. Why did she not stop and say hello? Was she still mad at me because all that happened almost six years ago?
Jumping and throwing a basketball in a hoop did not help. Not at all. It actually was making it all worse. What was I doing here? What was I doing with my life? Our little trio of friends, we had so many dreams. So many plans for the future. What had happened with those? How come I had become such a failure? To distract myself I took to the treadmill and raised the speed to high. As the machine forced me to keep my focus or else I would fall of flat I pushed myself hard. I felt my muscles in my thighs tightening in a familiar way and a small drop of sweat thrickle down at my spine. It was true as they said: You can not run from your problems, but it feels so much better afterwards!
“Hard at work I see”. The friendly dark voice came from a man, just a tad older than me that presented himself as Tanner. We started chatting, a welcomed distraction to my own messy life. He loved to train, just like me and he pretty soon confessed that he and his wife dreamed about starting up a chain of gyms together to be able to combine business with pleasure.”You are lucky” I heard myself almost whiningly say. “At least you have a job. I am stuck with an old ghost house and no money. Stupid inheritance!” I showed him some of the pictures I had taken about my own Fort Knox. He looked at it several times and then chuckled. “So you are the crazy witch everyone was talking about? The one that moved into the abandoned manor. I can’t help with the key, but I can help you with a job if you interested? Here is my card. Hand it over to Claus at Windenburg Spa & Gym and he will give you a job. It is not much, but it is a start at least.
So at least I now had a job. Not a well-paid job mind you, but something that would put food on the table at least. Now if I could only crack the mystery about the key to the main gate… I got my break a few days later when I ran into the mailman. Or woman in this case. It turned out she had been on vacation and just came back. She had worked the same post-route for almost 15 years. What she did not know about this area was not worth knowing. I asked her if she knew anything about the big flower-pot that kept on being referenced in all stories I read about where the last heir hid the key to the mansion.”Have you tried the ruins?” she asked?
The ruins turned out to be the best known hidden party-place in Windenburg. It was a large glen in the forest close to the shoreline. All the best rave-parties was held there. This was also the place for a gigantic bush of Bleeding Heart. Not roses at all as it turned out. Still reddish flowers though. What it was, was a place where drunk teenagers had fumbled around countless of times, fallen in love, fallen asleep, and ….. urgh….who knows what else? I strained myself and pushed the branches aside. The best bet for a hidden key was close to the roots I hypotized. I spent a good ten minutes digging through the wet soil and was almost giving up when I felt it: Hard, cold metal against my hands. I had found it! I had found the key! With my heart beating like a hammer I backed out again.
“Hi April, long time no see” Raven said.