A WARNING ABOUT DREAMSTONE
Phoebe awoke to a delicious warm breeze wafting in through the open window, and sat up in the light of the morning. She looked over at the figures of the Good Fairy and Santa Claus and felt reassured. I think I can handle this.
She considered her dream. A small piece of the song and the whistling came back to her:
We can find a bridge to cross
There must be a way
She hummed the tune and looked out the window, across the street and across the field, where the vast woods and the Half Moon Cliffs rose in the distance. This enormous forest had been a looming presence in her life as long as she could remember, always visible from her window in the loft over the toy store. She thought of her parents -- who had sold the store the year before, and were now living in the greenhouse at the garden center.
Phoebe limped down the stairs and into the hot, fragrant atmosphere of the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. Even with the door open to the backyard, her sister Penny's baking raised the temperature of the kitchen by ten degrees. Penny sat on the little porch just outside the door. Phoebe joined her there at a small table half-covered by a breadboard and a large brown loaf still steaming from a fresh cut slice.
"So..." said Phoebe. "I notice almost none of the Mom's stuff is left in the room. Does she ever stay here anymore?"
"Hardly ever. She's been back with Dad for months. It feels like they never split up. I think Mom just moved here to concentrate on her painting. She couldn't get anything done living at the toy store."
Phoebe looked around and breathed in the beautiful morning. Any thought of the loss of the toy store stung her like a wasp, but she didn't want to quarrel with her sister. It wasn't her fault, and there was nothing they could do about it now. Her glance fell on several fat tomatoes ripening on the wooden railing of the porch. At just that moment they were touched by light as the sun rose above the trees. There was something strikingly attractive in their varying colors and irregular shapes. The thin skins seemed to be bursting with juice.
"Whoa! I've never seen tomatoes like those. And it's only... what, June 21st? Dad's growing those?"
"Well, I think so," replied Penny hesitantly. "I traded a few loaves for the vegetables Sammy sells at the coffee shop now. Chi Chi brings them over from the garden center."
"So Sammy's selling Dad's vegetables and your bread too? Way to go!"
"Thanks... but... I'm not sure about the vegetables. The last time I was at the garden center Mom and Dad weren't there. Allison says they're out camping. I'd gone by a week before and they weren't there then either."
Phoebe's face became thoughtful, and she stared into the distance. So much had changed. She suddenly shifted her gaze back to Penny. "There's something new here... I can tell. I bet Dad has a new plan to save the world. Come on, fill me in."
Penny laughed. "You do know Dad, but don't put me in the middle. You'll have to ask him yourself." She paused for a moment as if deciding whether to continue, and then her eyebrows came down low over her eyes. "But you're right, there are new things around here that will take a while to get used to, and you've got to be careful with some of them."
"Well, people don't know that Chi Chi brings the vegetables to Sammy. He wants to keep the source a secret."
"That seems weird."
"And your dreamstone charm. Keep it tucked under your shirt."
"I usually do anyway," she replied, trying to keep her voice calm, "But why does it matter?"
"People are looking everywhere for dreamstone -- especially in Middletown -- and they're asking a lot of questions."
"I know that dreamstone's valuable now," said Phoebe. "But hiding my necklace?! Who cares?"
"Now Phoebe, don't go digging up this issue on your first day back. Promise me."
"Well... thanks for alerting me to all this," she replied, and broke into a smile.
"Phoebe, I'm telling you to watch out! I know that look. Don't get involved. You're going back to college anyway."
"Not this year. Without soccer I'm not so interested."
"What happened to environmental studies? I thought you were on a mission."
"I wish I was."
They heard footsteps crossing the gravel driveway from the house next door. In a moment a large older woman in a long navy blue skirt and a pale blue shirt walked up to the porch.