Over the weekend, Carlene and Uncle Lester traveled with Belle, Israel, and Parson Dae-Jung to the village of West Bellforth to procure supplies from Martin Watson, proprietor of the Esoteric Emporium. They received permission from the village elders to bring Willy along to receive the Blessing of the Western Sun, stating their hope that the wholesome energies of the Western Valley would prompt Willy's soul to be released to the Higher Realms sooner.
Martin Watson was a genial young fellow, just thirty years of age. Carlene enjoyed her excursions to West Bellforth, for visiting with the amiable mystic felt like visiting with a beloved older brother or cousin. She knew innately that she could trust him.
"I hope Uncle Marty has Waterfruit to eat," Belle and Israel's thirteen-year-old daughter Hara mused to Willy's twelve-year-old daughter Olivia. "He grows the very best Waterfruit. Ian likes the rinds best, and I like the middle. What of you, Livvie?"
"I like the pulp," Olivia said. "The stuff that's left behind when they squeeze the juice from the Waterfruit. That's my very favorite."
"Oh, I see," Hara contemplated. "I never really bothered with the pulp once the squeezings were pressed out. I like the fruit with the juice inside it still, and I like the squeezings."
"Yes, of course," Olivia agreed. "But the lovely thing about the pulp is the flavor is so very concentrated once the moisture has been rung out of the fruit. It's almost like Waterfruit candy, only there is no need for sweetener."
"I never thought of it that way," Hara realized.
"Did you know that it is possible to make sweetener from the dried pulp of the Waterfruit?" Olivia inquired. "I tried to make my own, but one must have a warm, dry place to allow for it to cure properly."
"Hell, Girl, come by and use my kiln shed!" Uncle Lester suggested. "Let's save us up a bit of that Waterfruit pulp in jars, and I'll show you how it's done. I'll even show you how to add flavors and colors, and we can make candy for Harvest Night."
Olivia strode up to Uncle Lester and linked her arm in his.
"I'm longing for Waterfruit now," Olivia said wistfully. "Aren't you, Uncle Lester?"
"Aye, girl, that I am," Uncle Lester agreed. "Got my own mouth a-watering, thinking about that candy we're gonna make with our own Waterfruit Crystals. But I do believe this whole mess is your fault, Hara."
"Mine? How?" Hara demanded with mock indignation, hurrying to grab Uncle Lester's other arm.
"You're the one who mentioned Waterfruit in the first place, Silly!" seven-year-old Ian laughed.
Carlene smiled wistfully as she looked towards the horizon. She wished every day could be filled with such peace and joy, but it would be folly to deny that there was danger lurking.
The Real Cie