A home rested on a branch, peering above the leafy levels of the highest point of an aged tree, a young girl named Matilda Strongborn was sitting by her window observing the horizon above the surrounding forest. Someday I will get past the guards and explore the world beyond, instead of staying in this place, thought Matilda. She sighed pushing herself up from the cushions of her burgundy reading alcove. She strolled to her bed when there was a rapid knock at her door.
Matilda stopped in her tracks and looked at her golden bronze door. "Who is it?"
"It's me. Tilda, let me in!" answered a cheerful voice.
Matilda cracked a smile as she walked over to the door and turned the knob. "Hey, Raven. What's going on?"
"I just wanted to come over and ask if you are going to the festival tonight. They are celebrating the return of our troops who traveled to help the Queen of the Elves. Want to come?" questioned Raven.
Matilda looked at her best friend and was about to say she was going to busy tonight but she looked at her friend's sterling grey eyes and saw the hopeful glint, Matilda knew she couldn't resist. She sighed, "Alright, alright. I'll go but I don't have anything to wear."
"Oh! That's alright, we will go down to Azura's Fashion Store. She will help us!" said Raven excitedly.
Raven grabbed Matilda's wrist and yanked Matilda through a small hallway into the living room. On the far wall was an ebony fireplace with wood burning, sweet cedar incensed the air. Old photographs hung among the walls of Matilda's parents holding her when she was five years old. Matilda dared not to look at them too long. Soon it was too late with the memories floating into her conscience of the night her parents left home to have a night to themselves, but unfortunately they never returned. For twelve years Matilda had to learn everything on her own just to survive. No one wold step in, adopt her or even help, for Matilda was believed to be an odd child who should never worry about the outside world and just be a happy little kid. Matilda would encase herself in her parents home.
Matilda was a lonely child while curiosity got the better of her in her young stages; Matilda took a chance to explore the levels of the branches in her town. Matilda ran down steps into the levels of what is known as the town square where a variety of stands, small buildings and peopling yelling to persuade customers to explore their products. Matilda spun around absorbing her surroundings but it came to an end when she hit what seemed to be a wall, but when she turned around it was a young girl, perhaps five years old with light brown hair, a thin short figure, and sterling grey doe eyes.
The young girl glanced at Matilda with a shock look on her face then the girl started laughing and smiling. Once the girls laughing fits died down she said, "Hello, my name is Raven Nightmoon." giggled the young girl. "What's your name?"
"Uh...u-um Matilda Strongborn." staggered Matilda. Matilda glanced down at her feet, embarrassed.
"Strongborn? Interesting name! Come on! Let's go!" Raven exclaimed as she grabbed Matilda's wrist and they both were laughing as they began chasing each other through the crowd of other kids and adults.
Matilda delved into the question she'd asked herself repeatedly: if my parents did return or are still alive out there in the surrounding forest, I never would have met my best friend Raven that I have now. I never had made so many memories over the years with anyone like I have Raven. I would truly be alone. But all too soon Matilda's reverie was broken by Raven's musical voice calling her name and snapping her fingers in front of Matilda's face.
"Tilda? Hey, you ok? You look upset and pale. Matilda?" Raven watched Matilda, feeling worried.
Matilda looked at Raven's troublesome face. "Sorry Raven, my mind reeled away from me, I guess." Matilda smiled at Raven to reassure her friend that she was ok.
"Alright." Raven looked down at her watch. It was eight o'clock, one hour before the festival starts. How on earth are we going to be ready in time?! Raven began to panic. "You better get those boots a workin', Matilda. We only got an hour to get ready before the festival!"
Matilda nodded and they both rushed through the front door, onto the wide branch. Over the twelve years of growing up they learned to be careful not to step on the curved edges of the branch so they can prevent a nasty fall. They reached the silver smooth stairs when there was a person yelling from behind them. Both the girls turned around searching for the sudden sound. Matilda laid eyes on the source and she began to smile.
A boy with sandy brown hair rustling in the wind, sprawling down to the tips of his ears. His face sculpted into a handsome structure, but his eyes were the most captivating, with his soft slight angled hazel eyes. He began to smile as he hung from a tree branch, his knuckles and palms white and red, few feet from the two girls. He swung and jumped off softly landing in front of the girls. He nodded at Raven and his smile grew showing his brilliant white teeth as he looked at Matilda. He admired how the soft blue and violet colors shined through the leaves that made Matilda's hair shimmer a vibrant crimson red.
"Well, well isn't it Sambow Whitecloud." said Raven rolling her eyes.
Sambow began to laugh, "Yes, I'm here and alive, in the flesh." Sambow flashed a wide grin at Raven, though Matilda laughed at his wrinkled nose. "What's so funny, Matilda? Don't care for wrinkles?"
"Huh? Um...I didn't say that!" Matilda giggled, cheeks flaring red as she reached for his hand.
"We are going to Azura's Fashion Store for the festival tonight. So if you don't mind we lost ten minutes already! Let's go Matilda." Raven said as she descended the stairs quickly.
Sambow watched as Raven rounded the corner then swinging his attention to Matilda. Sambow lightly brushed Matilda's hair aside behind her ear, resting his hand on her warm cheek, his thumb stroking her soft flesh.
Matilda felt her heart pick up speed as it always does when she is around Sambow. She still remembered the first day he asked for her to accompany him in his life.
Suddenly Matilda noticed Sambow was leaning in slowly. He had to crouch his figure for how tall he was, but he was going to kiss her! Matilda didn't know what to do. They never kissed before. Matilda slowly leaned in.
Sambow watched as Matilda's eyes closed. Grinning, he leaned up a little higher and softly kissed her forehead.
"Come on love birds! Stop smackin' lips or whatever you're doing and hurry up!" Raven yelled, peeping around the side of the tree.
Sambow grabbed Matilda's hand, intertwining their fingers. They both started to softly jog down the staircase, winding around the trunk until they reached an average sized platform that had private shops lining the far, surrounding edges.
Matilda glanced around finally her eyes fell upon a sign that read: Azura's Fashion Store. "It's over there." Matilda pointed in the direction as they strolled over to the door.
Sambow raced ahead and opened the door for the two girls with a smile on his face. Raven walked in first huffing at Sambow, rolling her eyes. Matilda stepped in next giving Sambow a slight nod, smiling back.
All three of them stood by the door admiring all the bright but calming colors. There was variety of dresses, jeans, shirts, jackets hanging everywhere, no bare spots were seen on the walls. At the front desk there was a short, plump lady scurrying around through a stack of papers that spilled over the surface and onto the floor.
The lady cursed under her breath, "God damn it! Why they give me so many papers? Never get a break around here."
Raven stepped up to the front desk, staring at the lady, "Miss Azura?"
The short lady jumped backwards in the air, slamming into a wall that had a picture of the Alma Silvana tree hanging next to where the lady hit. The picture fell to the floor, the glass cracking across the width as if a spider was making its web.
Miss Azura stood up grunting, rubbing the back of her head. "What in the world?" Miss Azura looked up and saw Raven looking worried. "Oh! Raven, what a pleasant...um, surprise. You scared me. I swear I need a bell or something on the damn door so I know if someone comes in. What can I do for you, Rae?"
"We need something to amplify our beauty for the festival tonight, which starts in about forty minutes. Can you help us?" Raven pleaded in prayer like manner.
Miss Azura contemplated Raven's plea. "Oh alright. Let's get this show on the road. I'll get my tape measure. Come around the counter to the dressing rooms."
Raven, Matilda and Sambow began to make their way around the front desk when Miss Azura blocked Sambow from going any further. "Sorry, don't need no perverted guy running around peering under girl's skirts just so he can see what female will make his babies worth it."
Sambow was speechless to the point of embarrassment. "I-I'll just...stand out here then. See ya in a bit Matilda."
Matilda and Raven took a stall each and waited for Miss Azura to start throwing clothes over the door. Matilda was slipping her shoes off when suddenly she began to feel this sharp pain in her spine. Matilda felt she was being ripped apart from the inside. She gritted her teeth, doubling over, trying to bear the agony. But all too soon as it came she felt it slithering away. Matilda leaned up slowly her eyes falling upon the full size mirror but what she saw was not herself. In the mirror a transparent shadow of a red fox was standing before Matilda. The ears were long and pointed, fur was long and soft looking, cheeks had a slight round appearance, eyes were slightly angled but covered by the round round cheeks making the eyes look large and round. However, the soft golden color of the eyes is what drew Matilda in the most of the creature's appearance. Matilda was so frightened that she started to back away from the shadowy figure but tripped over the chair.
Soon after Miss Azura knocked on the door, her voice dripping with concern, "Sweetie, you okay in there? I heard a loud bang when I was picking out a dress for you."
"Yes, I'm fine, Miss Azura. Tripped over myself while taking my jeans off." replied Matilda, her body trembling with fear.
Miss Azura began chuckling under her breath while she tossed a dark plum dress over the top of the wooden door. Matilda gave her thanks and began to slip into the silky fabric. Matilda was frightened to look in the mirror again. She decided it was best not to chance it. Matilda opened the wooden door of the tan changing room and walked out into the short hallway leading to the front of the store.
Miss Azura came around a corner to Matilda's left. "My goodness! You look absolutely stunning! Come, come. Look in the full size mirror over here." Miss Azura led Matilda down the short hallway, coming to a turquoise painted door.
Miss Azura turned the knob, the door swung inward and Matilda saw a small closet that had mirrors from ceiling to floor on every wall. Just from the doorway Matilda saw a young female with crimson red hair flowing like a waterfall over a dark purple dress with blue tinged sides. There were purple ruffles forming a V-shaped angle in the front showing both her legs. The best part Matilda loved about the dress was the small soft pink flowers flowing at a curve from her right breast, curving down her stomach and around a V-shaped vest like in the olden days. The dress fit Matilda like a glove.
"It's...beautiful, Miss Azura. Thank you!"
"Your welcome, sweetie. Glad you like it! Now let's go see your friend." Miss Azura led Matilda around the corner, down a small similar hallway to the end where there was another wooden door. Miss Azura didn't hesitate one second and knocked.
Matilda can hear her best friend muffled voice. "Yes?"
"Are you decent, Rae?" Miss Azura began to tap her foot waiting for a response. She is not a patient woman, Matilda noted.
The lock on the door made a squeaking noise as Raven exited the dressing room. Matilda saw Raven wearing a silky looking silver strapless dress that reached to Raven's knees. It hugged her skin, showing off Raven's curves.
"You look good, Raven." observed Matilda
"Thank ya." replied Raven while digging through her wallet and handing over the money to Miss Azura. "Thanks for helping us Miss Azura. Keep the change." Raven winked at Miss Azura, gathering her clothes in her arms.
"Oh dear, let me get you both bags to carry your clothes." Miss Azura bounced off on her two short legs rounding the corner where Matilda came from.
Though Miss Azura is short, plump lady, she can move her legs quickly, thought Matilda. Matilda shook he head of her thoughts and redirected her attention to Raven. "So now we gonna go to the festival?"
"Yes. We have about half hour, I believe. Let's go back to your house and we can finish getting ready. I wanna do your hair though!" Raven exclaimed happily.
Matilda sighed, saying no more as she followed Rave, maneuvering their way to the front of the shop. As they reached the front Miss Azura was waiting for them with bags as promised. Matilda and Raven put their clothes in a bag and met Sambow by the front door leading out into the tree.
"Hey, Sambow. Ready to go?" asked Matilda.
Sambow turned around, "Yea, I'm..." He paused mid sentence. Sambow looked at Matilda in her new dress and was astonished. He was a total loss for words. Instead he nodded at the two girls and opened the door for them.
Once all three of them reached the stairs Matilda asked, "Hey, Sambow, are you going to the festival tonight?"
"Um...I don't know. I have stuff to do at the house. But you go have fun." With that said, Sambow felt his cheeks flare up, and he took his chance of escaping.
Matilda reached out to stop Sambow from leaving but he was too fast for her. She frowned as she watched him jog down the stairs to the next floor where he lived. Matilda sighed turning around and looked at Raven.
"Oh Tilda, it's alright. Next year he will show up at the festival. Come on, girly." Raven tugged Matilda towards the stairs leading to the top of the tree.