The train rumbled ferociously as it rolled away from the bustling station. A usual trip down these rusted tracks to the city didn't bring me onto this train like it normally did. Instead, at the end of the tracks awaited a new trip, a new journey, one that in my mind would not be as enjoyable as a shopping spree. I was moving away from everything to a place where there was nothing. Recommendations told me this new town was the best place to go if you wanted to land a job as a business woman. Selling turnips was fun and games when I was a child, but the town I was headed to guaranteed a shop in its growing community. An offer I couldn't pass, I packed up my belongings and jumped on a train.
However, the peaceful and quiet train ride I was looking for did not come, and in five minutes time, there was a villager squealing in the back and a villager up towards the front wailing. Sighing, I looked out the window again. Everything was nothing but a blur - the trees flashed by with the occasional change of color produced by a street lamp. If you squinted hard enough, you could see little towers of silver and black in the far back. Though they almost as blurry as the trees, that was the city I was longing for, and that was the city I chose to leave.
"Excuse me, Miss?" I'd never swung my head around faster to see the face that broke me from my thoughts. Not the face I was intending, I immediately answered, "Yes?" with an expression that conveyed heavy confusion and a hint of anger.
A raccoon stood before me. His brown fur was complimented by the dark blue suit he was wearing. Wide eyes, he looked back at me in surprise and exclaimed, "You must be Lauryn Hill! I talked to you about the job offer in Westfield." Shaking his head frantically, he said, "I'm so sorry, where are my manners! I'm Thomas Nook, owner of Nook Homes."
I nodded slowly. He continued, "I hope you don't mind if I sit across from you?" I watched as he sat himself down on the seat, neatly rubbing his coat to remove any inch of a wrinkle. "We've got a lot of business to discuss. I don't believe you imagined you'd see me on this train! This saves us a lot of time though. Where do I begin, where do I begin?" He reached into his coat and pulled out a little book of papers. "We need to get your residency information all sorted out, since you're moving and all. I'll tell the boys to start looking at blueprints for your house. Meanwhile, let me just fill out the apparent things."
I was still surprised he found me on the train. I had been emailing Nook for the past two weeks, sorting out a shop and other businesses. He'd warned me that I would have a ton of paperwork to fill out once I arrived but I was hoping to complete that task when I actually got to Westfield. Nonetheless, I looked over him while he wrote my name into one of the blank spaces. Once he did what he could, he said, "You'll just have to stop by my store in a few days and we'll finish the rest of this." He shifted in his seat. "Now, on to the real, actual business. Your business. As far as your store space goes, we don't have much. Actually, I should tell you now, we really don't have anything."
Surprise and confusion rinsed itself off my face as anger and heat took its place. "You what? I'm on a train to own a shop that doesn't even exist?"
"Well, well - um - yes, ma'am, that's - that's what's happening," Nook stuttered. "I'm sorry we hadn't told you sooner, it was just that -"
"We?" I said. "You mean this deals with more people than just you and me?"
"Um, yes, that's probably what I should've told you about too. You, you're our new mayor."
I love this story so far, great work Ari! In fact, I like it so much that I'd like the first chapter to be featured in the second issue of Gyroid Gossip Magazine! Would you be okay with that? I would put you as the author and have this sneak peek in the magazine to help advertise your story, so don't worry about that.
Our section of the train filled with silence for the rest of the ride. Anger burned through my body. I'd been played, I'd packed up and left to be played by a raccoon who fed me lies through his deceitful eyes. Nook didn't take my silence offensively - to be honest, I doubt he even noticed I stopped talking to him because he was so wrapped up in the packet of paper he was messily scribbling on. Was I really going to Westfield to become a mayor? I was dead sure I hadn't signed up for anything that I wouldn't agree to - I specifically e-mailed Nook about the open job market in the little town. Yet somehow, here I was, riding away from everything I knew to somewhere that was definitely nothing like I thought it was.
Finally though the train rolled to a stop, shaking and rumbling uneasily on the cracking tracks. Gathering his different pens and papers and packets, Nook scrambled to stuff his belongings into his pockets. "My, my, the ride back was definitely shorter than it normally is!" he mumbled lightheartedly. Turning towards me, he said, "I'll see you in a few hours, perhaps? Stop by my store and I'll arrange a place for you to stay. Then we'll talk business." He strutted down the carpeted aisle towards the open door.
Pulling my bags behind me, I trudged down the aisle and walked into the train station. The train station was practically just a room with four dirt-covered windows, two large ones and two little round circular ones. The floor boards were popping up out of their place, and faded yellow wallpaper was peeling off t he wall in crispy chunks. Nook was walking slowly ahead of me, his head bent over as he was tapping ferociously on a little calculator in his paws. "You honestly have to be kidding me," I said loudly. "First you tell me that I'm taking on a job that isn't even the job I was looking for, then you stick me in a town that is much worse off than I thought it was? You told me this town was growing and slowly rising, not that it was practically a dump!"
Nook turned around. "Now now, calm down. You're here now with all of your things so you might as well stay." He continued walking, stumbling over a piece of wood that sat out of place on the floor.
We walked outside, only to be greeted by a stubby little penguin with large red eyes and a cute golden dog wearing a white suit. "Welcome, Miss Mayor!" squealed the dog happily. "I'm Isabelle, I'll be working with you to return the town to the beautiful state it once was." She turned to the penguin who grumpily smashed his eyebrows together. "This is Hopper. He's the only villager that's moved in thus far. Why don't you introduce yourself, Hopper?"
The penguin grumbled, "Why don't I introduce myself? I'll tell you why. This mayor is going to be exactly like the last, leave us for a year which lead everyone to move out of town! Don't feed her any more lies than this bag of money Nook has already told her. I'm only here because I signed an agreement that I have to live here for the next five years! This town is in ruins because of his carelessness! Don't you see, Isabelle? What's the point in having a strong, childish hope that this town will become great again if it's not going to? I don't waste my time on those things, it's bad enough this sorry excuse for a town is still considered a town anyways."
At this point, I snapped my head towards Nook. "The last mayor left for a year? That would've been nice to know, just like it would've been nice to know that I was assuming the role of a mayor!"
Hopper threw his flippers in the air. "Just great, exactly what this town needs! Another hooligan who doesn't know what she's doing!"
"I don't know what I'm doing because I never signed up for this job! I was told this town had a blooming job market; that I had a guaranteed space to open a shop," I argued, furrowing my eyebrows.
Nook and Isabelle exchanged glances. Isabelle looked heart-broken and looked at Nook. "You mean, you lied to her? She's not here because she wanted to be? How could you!" She took off running, her golden fur shimmering as she shrunk in the distance.
"Well, if you have any questions, just go to the Town Hall. I'd better start arranging your home, Miss Hill," Nook said professionally, trying to put the previous conversation behind him. "You might want to stop by there sooner than later; we have a lot a work to do."
A/N: I'm updating the story a lot because I'm on vacation and have a lot of time to write, just so it's not weird. Also, I'm just going to say this is part one of Chapter Three because I've been trying to write the second part of it and then for some reason my browser keeps taking me back and isn't saving any of my work so I'll finish it later. Thanks for reading though!
Chapter Three Isabelle's Point of View
"I can't believe you lied to our new mayor, Thomas! We gave you one job and that was to find a devoted mayor for Westfield, but instead you told lies to trick her into coming!" I screamed, feeling my fur turn from a vibrant gold to a fiery yellow. "You completely and utterly destroyed all hope left for this town because who is going to come live here once they know that we were so desperate for authority that we lied for it?" I paced haughtily around the front room of the museum, the air thick with the smell of dust and aging furniture. The museum was in a similar state as the train station and every other building in Westfield. Paint was peeling and falling off the walls onto the dark wood floors that were covered in splinters. The windows hadn't been cleaned in months, and the light filtering through it cast a discolored tone to the rest of the room. Across from me was Nook, standing with arms crossed, leaning against a wall. Under his furrowed eyebrows were darkened eyes, a sign he had been getting little sleep in the last two days.
Anger kicking in, the raccoon scoffed and yelled, "You think it's easy finding someone willing to dig this town out of its ruins and turn it into some beautiful metropolis? Well, it's not, Isabelle. At this point, I'm not even worried about the quality of this mayor; we just need one. And don't try saying it's my fault she's here rather than someone else either. I have no idea how I even got contact with her to begin with; her name just popped up on the list."
"The name didn't just 'pop' up, Thomas." The low grumble of the museum keeper's voice rang in the empty room. The dark-feathered owl appeared from one of the doorways, his thick round glasses sitting on his beak. His vest of still as clean and wrinkle-free as ever; the little green clip-on bowtie clasped to his collar. He flapped his feathers and walked forward. "Lauryn Hill, yes? She's the one for this town, Nook. I put her name on the list for a reason."
"You can be the wisest animal in this town, Mr. Blathers, but you can't possibly tell me that this girl is what will bring the town to greatness again," Nook began, smirking.. "You said the same thing about Him too. You said He would make the town beautiful and prosperous and -"
Blathers chuckled lightly. "And He did, didn't He?" The owl rested his wing over Nook's shoulder and looked straight out the window. "You don't understand, my dear friend. He was here for a reason just as Lauryn."
"But, you have to be wrong, Blathers," I justified. Nook shuffled uncomfortably. What was I doing? No one told the great Blathers he was wrong. "Yes, He made the town prosper but then He left us to fend for ourselves, for an entire year. Remember the threats? Every day was like walking on a rope, one mistake and we could potentially fall to our doom. We don't need that again."
"Oh, Isabelle, always learning. I've thought about it all. She's the one, just you wait. Our world will face great tragedy sooner or later and she will be prepared." He looked at his watch and grumbled, "You'd best be off, Nook, store opens in five minutes. Isabelle, why don't you run and check on Lauryn? It'd be the wise thing to do."
A/N: Sorry that Chapter Three was broken into two parts. Hopefully you like it though! I wanted to end with a cliffhanger, but it doesn't have the effect I wish it did. Nonetheless, I still like this part!
Chapter Three Lauryn's Point of View
I'd been living in the cramped backroom of the Westfield post office for the last two days. With electricity coming and going and little space to move around, it wasn't the most ideal living quarters but at the same time, it was the best place available to me. I made the personal choice of not leaving the post office for anything; if I could avoid any contact with Nook and the rest of the townspeople, I would.
The backroom of the post office was barely large enough for me to stretch out to rest. Paint was peeling off in chips from the walls and the floor boards were covered thick with splinters. There were no windows in the room, only a little light bulb that looked like it was at least five years old. My suitcase and backpack were thrown against the wall so that I had a makeshift table and pillow. What with the electricity coming in and out, I was often in darkness. For the past two days I tried looking for train tickets back home but none were available for a while. It was probably the most upsetting news I probably could receive, that I would be stuck in Westfield for the next few days, if not weeks.
I heard a soft knock on the door, as if the person on the other side were afraid to come round. "Miss Mayor?" a quiet voice whispered hopefully. Recognizing the voice belonged to the little dog who ran away from Nook the other day, I opened the door and leaned against the doorway. "S-sorry to bother you, Lauryn," Isabelle mumbled. "I just wanted to check on you. You haven't come out of here in two days, I thought you took a train home or got sick or just ran away." The poor dog looked stressed. Clearly the last forty-eight hours were difficult for her. I assumed she had been governing the town for the last year since the last mayor had left. Why couldn't she just become the mayor officially? Why did they have to find a different person to be the mayor?
In hopes to relieve some of her stress, I said, "I'm fine, Isabelle, honestly. I've been trying to get a ride back home but either the trains are going to towns around it or I can't get hold of any tickets." Isabelle looked down and sighed. "Don't worry about me, Isabelle. I'm worried more about this town than myself. I can't be the mayor here; I have no experience or ideas. I would be worse than this last mayor, and that sounded pretty bad."
"Do you want to hear what actually happened, Lauryn?" Isabelle sat down on the floor and smiled a little smile at herself. "It's been such a long time since it's happened, but I can barely believe that it did."
"Mayor Logan Farms, he was a great guy. Everyone loved him. He moved on December 14, 2014. The townspeople were ecstatic; it was a new town and a new character running it. He was a great person: kind, loyal, loving. At least, that's what he was. He came to the Town Hall every day for five months, always asking, 'Isabelle, what's on the list today?' As you can see, he was devoted to everything about the town. From the people living in it to the leaves on every tree, he was on top of everything and keeping everything in good harmony. After five months, he started coming in every other day. Soon every other day turned into once a week. Then we never saw him again for a year. To this day, we still don't know where he is. The town went from model status to weeds, dirt, and run-down homes. No one visited anymore, no company dared to ask us to be a model town for their magazine. People started leaving the town because they couldn't live in these conditions anymore.
"Hopper only stays because this is where he grew up. He is only crusty and grumpy because on the inside he's struggling. He's seen this town in its glory days, and to him, it's been too long since he's seen another. Yet he stays. Somewhere in him, he believes that the glory days will return, but then reality shows him the real truth.
"And not to toot my own horn, but I highly doubt this town would still be up and running if I weren't around, Lauryn. Nook and I have been trying to run this town for the last year, but no one can do it as well as Logan could."
Isabelle batted a tear out of her fur and looked up to see that I was watching. She blushed and apologized immediately. "Isabelle, I think - I think I should stay a little while. This town is going to get on its feet again."
The walk from the post office to the town hall was short but interesting. Within the few days of residing in Westfield, I hadn't really spent the time to look at the scenery, not that it was very scenic. Overgrown shrubs and groups of weeds populated the few grass patches that dotted the dirt plains. Most of the trees were losing their leaves, and dead branches were either dangling hopelessly from their limb or had fallen to their death. The only flowers around the place were wild and wilting cosmos or dandelions. A pain began to stir in my heart. This was definitely not the town I thought it was, and the scenery reminded me of home.
Back home, the town was the most beautiful thing in the county. The flowers were bright, vibrant and colorful, and there were no weeds to be seen except a rare four-leaf clover. While the wind batted playfully at the thick foliage of the growing oak trees, golden fruit clung heavily to the ripe peach trees. But there was one day that as a child I feared the beauty would be swallowed into darkness.
When I was four years old, there came a day in which I woke up to a dark, clouded sky. Thunder roared and lightning flashed fiery blazes in the sky. Already afraid of the heavy rolls of thunder, I developed another childish fear when my brother told me, "The last time I saw a storm this bad, all the flowers in town went missing because they were scared too! And then the trees shrunk down from fear, and the bushes became leafy monsters!" Though the town was still in its gorgeous state the day after the frightening storm, I never wanted to imagine such a beautiful being taken away so easily.
Maybe the walk to the town hall was short, but it was much longer in my head. Thoughts darted around my head like race cars zoom around a race track. Had I really offered my aid to this town? The town I was trying to get away from? But at the same time, what was I supposed to do? Leave the town to its wilted flowers and broken past? And looking at how stressed and exhausted Mr. Nook and Isabelle appeared, the least I could do was give them a little help to change up their usual helpless, work-filled, stressful life. And maybe I was going to struggle with it too; I had no job and no income, not to mention I was living in the backroom of a post office. But then again, Nook and Isabelle and Hopper must have had it much worse.
"Lauryn?" Isabelle whispered. Her voice drove me out of my thoughts and I looked at her. "You don't have to help us if you don't want to. I don't want you to feel like you're signing up for things that you're not okay with. I mean, this town has been through a lot and it's still going through the motions - I don't want to involve you in something that really you don't want to be involved with."
At this point in the conversation, I was stuck. I could lie and tell her that really I'd rather be looking for a ticket home, but was that actually what I felt inside? "You see, Isabelle, I can't tell you that I don't want to be involved but I can't tell you that I do. The townspeople here deserve a better mayor, a better chance, a new start. But I - I want to go home. I'd rather be there than here. But I'm sure I'm here for a reason other than in search for a job, so if I'm going to stay here while I look for a ticket home, I might as well make it worth my while."
Isabelle cracked a small smile beaming hope from her cheeks. "Thanks, Lauryn," she said. She gave me a quick hug and I smiled too. There was something about her happiness that told me I made a good decision.
When we made it to the town hall, I was greeted by Nook, Hopper and an owl whom I hadn't met before. He instantly reminded me of Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter, a series I was obsessed with as a child. His presence made me feel safer, like I was surrounded by wisdom and power. He smiled at me and nodded, accepting my presence.
"Greetings, Miss Hill; I'm Mr. Blathers. I'm the Westfield museum keeper." He bowed formally and turned to Isabelle. "She's agreed to help us, correct?" Isabelle looked at me with a worried look and nodded. "Good, good. We'll try to make it easy on you, Lauryn. I understand it's a change for all of us, but change is good, yes?"
"What's the plan, Blathers?" Hopper grumbled, folding his flippers haughtily. "We have no plan, we have no blueprints, we have no square one. We just have a plot of land and a few shops and a train track. Everything needs repairing and updating and renovating; we receive no funding from the government; we barely receive stock for the stores. Not to mention, I highly doubt He left anything for Lauryn to work with. Isabelle did most of the mayoral papers and packets anyways, but I'm sure the government has updated the standards and regulations since. Plus I highly doubt He put away money for the town, and even if he did, we have no right as a committee to withdraw savings from His personal account. I never heard anything be said about a town funding account either, one specifically for Westfield. And since money is as scarce here as residents, I don't know how Lauryn is going to come across any."
The owl chuckled lightly to himself. "Ah, Hopper, always spreading hope to difficult situations. Maybe He didn't set aside money, but I'm sure we can apply for government funding if -"
Nook interrupted him. "Government funding? That's like trying to dig a hole in sand; in the end, the sand will just fall back down into the hole and create more issues. Besides the government is a group of -"
"If we need it, Thomas, we can apply if we need it," Blathers piped in, raising an eyebrow as Nook hushed.
Isabelle chimed, "Ohh! We could develop a donation program to provide our own funding for towns who need the little help. That way we're helping not just us, but others too."
"I like that idea," I said, stepping forward. I felt a rush in me, not so much like power surging through my veins, but like authority and responsibility and devotion beginning to wind itself through my body. "We set up the program and use the funding towards mayoral fees and things." I stopped myself, quickly clicking back into reality. "Wait, mayor- Blathers, I'm - I'm not becoming a mayor still, am I?" I looked around the room with a worried look glued to my face.
Blathers nodded, pressing the tips of his wings together. "It's time, Lauryn, it's time."