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Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times


Color Story

Sunlight shone through the window of Julianna’s room, rousing her from her deep slumber. Birdsong floated on the warm summer air, to which she hummed as she got ready for the day. There wasn’t much to do in that respect; makeup and lipstick and such were nigh unheard of in the countryside, after all. Just a quick brush through the hair to get out the tangles, some clean clothes, and Julianna was done.

She walked down the creaky stairs, following the smell of fresh pancakes to the kitchen where her mom was making breakfast on the rustic gas stove. Julianna sat down at one of the two chairs at the little table in the corner, and soon her mom joined her, holding two plates piled with pancakes.

Julianna and her mother talked about nothing in particular while they ate, but once breakfast was done and Julianna was about to leave, her mother called out after her: “Wait!”

Julianna turned back around, confused while her mother continued, “Could you pick some juneberries while you’re out? They should be in season about now.”

Julianna nodded and grabbed a woven basket from beside the door while she put on her boots. They were worn, the leather cracked in places, but they still worked just fine, so she didn’t much care.

Julianna set off through the village. Her and her mother’s house was at the outskirts, so she’d have to pass through most of it to get to the forest where the juneberries grew.

The first thing Julianna saw as she walked was, as always, the old windmill. She could see the paint peeling off in places, even a few spots where the wood had rotted through. Despite being in such a state, it still did its job, much like everything else in the village.

Soon enough Julianna made it to the village proper, though such a name was a bit misleading. It was really just a small collection of no more than seven houses and the town hall. A few stalls were set up, the villagers selling what homemade goods they had. Fresh bread at one, handmade jams at another, milk, cheese, and eggs at a third, and various meats at a particularly large stall at the center of the market. The sounds and smells were no less jumbled either. People peddling their wares and the clattering of glassware filled the air along with the scents of baking bread, fresh meat, and ripe fruits.

But Julianna wasn’t shopping right now, and she moved on soon enough. Now she was approaching the outskirts of the village on the other side, near Harvey’s farm. She walked down the dirt path in peace for a minute, but a distressed moo caught her attention.

Following the sound, Julianna soon found a peculiar sight: a cow stuck in the fence surrounding Harvey’s farm. It flailed its legs uselessly, thoroughly trapped.

The sound of hurried footsteps pulled Julianna back to the present. Harvey had heard the cow too, and had rushed over to help. His overalls and boots were dusty, and his straw hat sat lopsided on his head as sweat dripped down his face.

“What the– Moona!” Harvey exclaimed, still breathless from the run.

“Heh. Moona.” Julianna snickered.

“Naming’s hard…” Harvey mumbled ashamedly.

“Sure it is, Harv.”

Harvey sighed. “You gon’ help or what?” He said, starting to tug at Moona’s back legs.

“‘Course, what kinda friend would I be if I didn’t?” Julianna replied, pushing on Moona’s shoulders.

It took a few minutes and Moona was none too pleased with the whole ordeal, but eventually she slipped out of the fence with a pop.

“There. Back where you belong.” Julianna said, slumping down against the fence.

“Y’alright?” Harvey asked.

“I’ll… be fine. Just need to… catch my breath.”

“Well, just let me know if yeh need anything. I owe yeh one.”
“I will. Thanks, Harv,” Julianna said, standing.

“See yeh ‘round!” Harvey called as Julianna walked away.

That issue resolved, Julianna continued on her way. She was almost to the forest now, all she needed to do was cross the meadow and she’d be there. So she walked a bit faster, humming a little song to herself.

The meadow was filled with flowers as it always was this time of year. The gentle hills looked like an abstract painting, covered in swaths of red, blue, yellow, and everything in between. A sweet, almost cloying scent permeated the air there, carried by the cool breeze.

Julianna looked up at the sun. A bit past noon. She had time to enjoy herself, and so she did. She rolled down the hills, smelled every flower she could, even spent some time just sitting, enjoying the quiet ambience. The hours passed by, and by the time Julianna thought to look up again, it was getting close to dusk. She had maybe an hour or two before sunset. She grabbed her basket and hurried across the meadow.

Julianna leapt across the rocks in the river, rushed past the final stretch of meadow, and stopped in front of the forest. The juneberry bushes were all but empty, the animals of the forest having gotten to them first. Still, Julianna managed to fill her basket with the berries that were left.

Just as Julianna was about to leave, she noticed something further in the forest. A small clearing, a single shaft of sunlight filtering down to illuminate a beautiful blue-purple flower. 

Thinking her mother might like it, Julianna went to pick the flower. When she bent down, though, a gray-black blur zipped through the clearing, snagging her basket.

“What the– hey! Those are mine!” Julianna shouted, chasing after the creature. It ran and ran and ran, twisting and turning to try to get Julianna to lose it, and almost succeeding. Julianna hardly noticed the forest getting darker around her, such was her focus on catching the thief. Her legs pounded under her, fuelled by righteous anger and sending vibrations through her body.

The chase continued all throughout the forest, and eventually the creature– which still hadn’t stayed in one place long enough for Julianna to figure out what it was– ducked into a small hollow underneath a tree’s roots.

Julianna squeezed her upper body as far into the hollow as she could, and even with the exceptionally low light, she could finally see what had stolen her berries– and why. A raccoon huddled against the wall, trying to conceal its two kits with its bushy tail. The basket was sitting near the middle of the hollow, still filled to the brim with juneberries.

“Oh… You were just trying to feed your babies!” Julianna whispered.

Careful not to disturb the terrified raccoons, Julianna took the basket and gently emptied it on the ground. “There you go. You need it more than I do.” Julianna smiled as she slowly exited the hollow.

“Guess I ran further than I thought…” Julianna said to herself as she finally realized just how deep in the forest she was. “Hope I can find my way back before nightfall…”

And luckily, she did; though only barely. By the time Julianna was back at the forest outskirts, it was almost completely dark. She was careful to watch where she stepped as she followed the light from the village back home.

When Julianna finally got back to her house, she found her mother sitting by the window, looking worried. 

“…You alright?” Julianna asked.

Her mother looked up, seemingly having been deep in thought. “Julie! Where have you been?!” She exclaimed, rushing over and catching Julianna in a tight hug. “I was so worried…”

Julianna returned the hug, then sat down with her mother to explain. “Well, you see…”

And so Julianna went to bed that night without the berries she was sent to collect, but a story unlike any other.

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