Littlefoot tossed a blackberry into her basket and wandered toward a ripe patch nearer the old treehouse. A smile snuck up on her cheeks. There where the treehouse ladder used to be were five completely ordinary beanstalks.
“Asher,” she said aloud to no one.
She picked a few beans, threw them on top of the blackberries and walked back to the house.
Kindra was sitting at the kitchen table while Benedella kneaded bread dough. “Littlefoot, have you heard? A man is sneaking into houses while people are asleep, kissing women, and running away when they wake up.”
“No,” Littlefoot said, getting out a second basket for the green beans. “I hadn’t heard.”
“It’s a good thing you built a lock for our door,” Benedella said to Littlefoot, still kneading.
Littlefoot separated the beans into the other basket. “I don’t know why no one else locks their doors. It’s idiotic.”
“Well, they’ll put locks on now,” said Benedella.
Littlefoot slipped the handle of the bean basket over the crook of her arm. “I’m running to Asher’s. Be back soon.”
“Ugh,” said Kindra. “Just to take him beans? Why don’t you wait til he comes here so you don’t have to see his mother?”
“It’s a long story,” Littlefoot said.
Benedella sighed. “True love, Kindra. She can’t wait for him to drop by later. It could be hours!”
“Oh, shut up. I’m going so I can prove he’s an idiot.” Littlefoot held up the bean basket, although her sisters didn’t know about Asher and the “magic” beans. They just looked at her like she was crazy.
“Littlefoot,” Kindra said. “Men don’t like women to make them look like idiots. Asher’s not going to wait for you forever if you keep treating him like this.”
“I don’t want him to wait for me. He’s just a friend.”
Kindra only raised her eyebrows.
Benedella put her dough in the oven. “Even a friend doesn’t want to hear that you think his mother’s a witch, Littlefoot. Remember when you did that?”
“But she put that little boy in a cage!”
“Only to scare him,” Kindra said.
“Well that’s still horrible,” Littlefoot argued. “And who knows if she’d have let him out if Asher and I hadn’t shown up. And there was that prince from Grimmston who disappeared on her property.”
“Coincidence,” Kindra said assuredly.
“But the frog with the tiny crown showing up right after? That’s a pretty weird coincidence.” Littlefoot was almost shouting.
“Stop it you two,” Benedella said. “I agree with you, Littlefoot. I think she probably is a witch, but Asher’s never going to believe it of his own mother. It’s lucky he’s so forgiving. You shouldn’t have said it.”
“Well I believe in saying the truth,” Littlefoot yelled, knowing full well that it wasn’t so much that she believed in always saying the truth as that she couldn’t stop herself. She left them and followed the path to Asher’s, furious with her sisters and herself.
Asher’s house was inarguably strange. His mother, a famed candy baker, had decorated the outer walls and roof with hard candies of every color. When Littlefoot and her sisters were little, they’d thought it wonderful. But the more Littlefoot got to know Asher’s mother, the more the candy creeped her out.
Asher opened the door, and Littlefoot shoved the basket at him, laughing. “You planted the beans.”
He smiled. “They grew! What do they look like?”
“Perfectly ordinary knee-high stalks.”
“Oh,” he said, clearly disappointed. He looked over his shoulder. “Mom, I’m going to Littlefoot’s for a while.”
“Wait, wait,” his mother said, shuffling into the room in her wide, floral dress. “I have something for you, Littlefoot, dear.” She made a stop at the kitchen counter and brought Littlefoot a chocolate truffle with a pink candy flower on top.
“Oh, thank you. It’s beautiful.”
“Asher’s grown so fond of you, I thought I’d make you something extra special.”
Littlefoot didn’t like the way she stretched out the word “extra.”
“Eat it, dear.”
“I, uh, I think I’ll eat it while I walk. Thanks again.” She and Asher walked back down the path, Asher munching on beans.
“Tell me what the chocolate tastes like,” he said. “Mother spent a really long time, and she only made the one.”
“Actually, I think I’ll save it for after dinner, so it’s the last thing on my palate.”
Asher smiled and nodded in agreement. When they got back to her house she put the chocolate in a far corner of the kitchen counter to be thrown away later and took Asher out to the treehouse to show him the beanstalks.
While Asher stood staring sadly down at the beans, Benedella’s voice rang out across the gardens from the back porch.
“Littlefoot! Come here! Hurry!”
They rushed to the house.
Benedella grabbed Littlefoot’s hand and pulled her toward Kindra’s room, stumbling over her words. “Kindra said she needed to lie down, and she barely made it to her bed before she passed out. I can’t wake her!”
And there she was, sprawled out with one leg hanging off the bed. On the floor nearby was half a chocolate truffle.
Littlefoot lunged and picked it up. “Asher!” She showed him the candy.
“What about it?”
“Your mother must have -” Littlefoot stopped when she saw the incredulous, angry expression on his face. She looked to Benedella. “Della she said she made it extra special for me.”
Benedella spent a long time looking from Littlefoot’s face to Asher’s before saying, “Asher why don’t you tell your mother what happened and see if she -”
“Fesses up,” thought Littlefoot.
“Has any ideas,” Benedella said diplomatically.
With a glare at Littlefoot, Asher snatched the chocolate and stomped away home.
After several minutes of fanning Kindra and calling her name, the sisters sat down on her bed to wait for Asher. Littlefoot was sure that his mother was to blame, but not sure whether she’d help when she heard that her potion had found the wrong victim. A tear rolled down Littlefoot’s cheek.
“Don’t worry,” said a worried Benedella. “We’ll find out how to wake her.”
Littlefoot didn’t want Benedella to know how selfish she was, so she didn’t say anything, but her tears were not for Kindra.
Sooner than they expected, Asher pounded on the door. Littlefoot ran to unlock it.
But it wasn’t Asher. “Bron!” Littlefoot exclaimed. “I’m afraid we’re rather busy. Kindra can’t go for a walk right now.”
Benedella came out to see that it was indeed one of Kindra’s suitors. One all three sisters deemed too pompous to be given serious consideration.
“I just ran into Asher,” Bron said, pushing his way into the kitchen. “I came as fast as I could. May I see her?”
“I suppose,” said Benedella before Littlefoot could object.
Bron jogged to Kindra’s room and shut the door behind him. Littlefoot had only time for the briefest glance at Benedella’s surprised face before she heard Kindra’s voice. “Oh Bron.”
The two sisters ran to Kindra’s room and flung open her door. And there she sat, holding Bron’s hand and smiling a very different smile than Littlefoot had ever seen on her before. Kindra usually had a small smile and a gleam in her eye, totally in control of her feelings for a man, and generally in fair control of the man himself.
“What happened?” Littlefoot asked Kindra.
“Bron’s kiss woke me.” Kindra gazed up at Bron.
“I knew something was wrong about you showing up here,” Littlefoot said. “You’re the one. The one who’s been kissing women while they sleep at night. That’s why you came.”
Bron’s jaw went slack. “No, I -”
Just then, Asher came charging in. “A kiss! That’s what will cure her – a kiss!”
“Exactly,” said Bron. “This happened to my cousin’s brother’s mother’s sister once, and I remembered what cured her.”
“Wouldn’t your cousin’s brother be your cousin too?” Littlefoot said. “And his mother be your aunt?”
“Yes exactly. My aunt’s sister. My aunt by marriage that is.”
“Then why didn’t you just say that?”
“Who cares, Littlefoot?” Kindra said. “The important thing is, somehow he knew. He saved me. We were fated to be together forever.”
“Kindra! He’s the guy, don’t you get it? He didn’t know it would cure you til it happened, and Asher came in with the answer.” When Kindra didn’t respond, Littlefoot looked to Benedella, who didn’t say anything either.
Littlefoot rounded on Asher. “And you! How did you know about the kiss?”
“Mother had heard of something like this before.”
“I bet she had.”
Asher looked hurt. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Littlefoot fled before she started to cry again in front of everyone. She sat on the back porch step and put her face on her knees. Why was everyone so stupid? Why couldn’t they see?
After a long time, Benedella came and sat next to her.
“Asher left,” she said. “Kindra and Bron, too.”
“You know Bron’s the guy, right?”
“No, I don’t know it,” Benedella said gently. “But I think he probably is.”
“So why didn’t you say anything?”
“Kindra wouldn’t have believed it anyway. She has to see it herself. Same with Asher and his mother.”
“Spinach and chard, people are stupid.”
“They’re complicated, Littlefoot, especially where love is concerned.”
“I’m not complicated.”
Benedella gave her a hug. “True. You’re very straightforward and sensible, and I love you just the way you are.” She got up to go in, and as she opened the back door, she paused. “But it’s not very sensible to fall in love with someone whose mother is a witch.”
She left the door open behind her, and Littlefoot drew purposelessly in the dirt with her finger. She realized that she had drawn a beanstalk climbing up through the clouds, and she crisscrossed through the drawing savagely until it was unrecognizable. She would not be the one to go to Asher’s next. He could very well come to her house if he wanted to see her, and that was that.