Had someone abandoned a baby?
Valerie hesitated at the edge of the forest. Little cries continued to mew from the bramblebush before her. Val stood there, weighing her options. What if it wasn't a baby, but some sort of trap? She had heard of things like this before and was not in the mood today to get kidnapped. Other days, sure, kidnapping might be the better alternative to life! Today? No. Simply, not in the mood.
What if it was a baby, and she was now responsible for the tiny human? At 23, she hardly had her life together to be a mother. Destiny had not been kind through her entire life. She wasn't one to complain, but she also wasn't one to be bothered trying to be a hero.
One long plaintive cry called out, long and strong. It was as if the baby knew she was there, deciding its fate.
"Damnation," Val stepped into the woods to seek out the source of the wailing. "I'm not keeping you. I'm just finding you a nice alternative to the bush, mind you."
The crying stopped immediately. Scuffling could be heard. It sounded like a rabbit caught in a trap, trying to break free as the noise of a potential captor creeped nearer.
"What's there? You a baby? or not? I have things to do and I can't be fiddling with tom-foolery today."
Val held back a squeal when a large sparkling emerald eyes shone like a little light from the edge of the bramblebush.
"I'm not a baby," the little voice squeaked. "I'm, I'm, I'm-"
"A LEPRECHAUN!" Val interrupted. "Oh No! No! Not today. Not me. Not ever!" She turned tail, fixing to march her way back on the path leading back to the miserable town. Another wail, louder and more insistent came from the shaking bush. She stopped, sighed, and returned. Standing in front of the green mass of tangling branches, she tapped her foot impatiently.
"Look! I've had enough of your kind! All my life, any time something was JUST about to go right for me, lo and behold, who comes along to make a mess of it? You and your trickster troublemakers. Be gone with you!" Val spat back.
The leprechaun did a mad sort of gymnastic swirling cartwheel and popped up before her. His finger pointed up to her face, but then realizing his extremely short stature was limiting the fiercness of that action, he decided to poke poke poke at her knee cap. "That" poke "is not" poke "MY kind!" He crossed his little arms and turned his up-turned nose even more. He looked a ridiculous sight, grouchy and haughty, while tears brimmed in his eyes.
"Not your kind, eh? You certainly all LOOK like a certain kind."
"Yeah, we do," he huffed and turned back to her kneecaps. "But looks" poke "can be" poke "deceiving!"
"Leprechauns can be deceiving too. So off with you!"
"Woe is meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" He held the last eeeee for ages. It sounded like a siren.
Val took a deep breath, waiting for it to end. It didn't end. She stared at him, until he finally realized she was waiting to hear his woes. She reasoned that if he really wanted to harass her, he could. Leprechauns were nasty, insistent little buggers and they only needed to be made aware of your existence in order to start terrorizing. Their lives were now definitely intertwined. It was risky either way, but what were her alternatives? Misery in the town or misery here - it was all the same to her. She sat down in front of him and waited.
He looked up at her, heaved a big sigh, and wiped his snotty nose all over his green sleeve.
Val wrinkled her nose. "That's disgusting."
He shrugged. "Sorry."
She stared back for a minute in silence, and then finally sighed again. "Gonna take all day?"
"The Lepre-Consters are going to kick me out."
"Lepre-Consters. They're our Leprechaun Mafia. They rule the Lepre-Underworld."
Val rolled her eyes. "What does this have to do with me?"
The leprechaun jumped up, bouncing and clapping his hands. He was excited that she would help and now his woes would finally end. "I just need a person to torture!"
Standing up and wiping the dirt from her pants, she began walking back to the town. "I'm out." Miserable as the town was, she was not particularly keen to be the personal torture device of some scrubby, snotty leprechaun.
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait!!!" He ran to catch up with her, running three times as fast as her long legs were carrying her away. "I just need a person to PRETEND to torture."
She continued walking. Let him do his worst; she was not interested in his lepre-games anymore.
He ran quintuple speed and jumped in front of her. He would force her to move around him, but he couldn't let her go. This was the closest he had come to any real conversation with a human, and he couldn't give up now. "We have a quota. We have to do so many miserable things to humans. Can be one or two - to many people, or lots and lots to one. Doesn't matter to the mob, as long as we have some miserable deeds to share, they all thrive off it! But I hate torturing humans. Why can't we all just be nice?"
"Yeah, right." Val made to move around him but he jumped and hopped like a little flea in front of her, blocking her escape each time.
"Have I done anything to you? Anything at all? We've been in the same space for a while now and no, no, no. I haven't bugged you at all."
Val lifted her eyebrow.
He conceded, "Ok, I have BUGGED you, but I haven't done any tricks. Right?"
She paused. "So what do I have to do, and what's in it for you?"
He scribbled his little boot in the dirt, looking down in shame. "I might have to do SOME tricks to you - BUT, once I report to them to the mob, I'll come back and clean them up and make it even better!"
She waited. "And what's in it for you?"
He matched her silence. His little cheeks flooded green with embarrassment. Quietly, he answered. "I'm lonely. I just want a friend."
Surprisingly, that struck her heart. She had not admitted that she was lonely to anyone, but right here and right now, she was tempted to confess her own sad heart. Instead, she just waited for him to continue.
Still focused on swirling the dirt in front of him, he admitted further. "If I could keep making it up to you, then eventually you'd have enough good fortune saved up to go anywhere you wanted. Anywhere at all! And then, if you didn't mind having me around. I could go with you. I'm tired of being mean to people. I just want to be nice. But they're all I have, and they won't let me be me."
Of all the things she expected today, she did not think that having her heart strings tugged by a leprechaun who wanted to change her life - would be at the top of the list. Why not? Life could be a mess, but why not guarantee a little good luck to come along with the bad? She shoved her hand in front of the tiny green man.
His face lit up. "Deal?!"
"Sure, let's work ourselves out of this insufferable place."
Three years, two months and seventeen days later, they were clinking glasses of chilled orange juice on a beautiful white sand island.
"The water matches your eyes." Val said to her little friend.
"And those dark clouds over there suit your grumpy mood." the leprechaun giggled.
Val laughed. "Maybe for now. But, I've learned that a little dark helps the light seem that much brighter."
The leprechaun nodded. "And a little rain with a little light makes the best rainbows."
And so, the two unlikeliest friends lived happily ever after. Loneliness be damned.