The late morning sun was creeping higher and higher into the sky as Krystina and her family headed down the nearly empty sidewalk. It was a beautiful spring morning – cool enough to be refreshing and comfortable, but still warm enough that they could walk to her parents’ house without having to worry about bundling up.
“You must be so excited.” Mitch said warmly to his daughter, glancing down at her with a smile. “It’s not every day that you get to spend a whole weekend with Nana and Papa.”
“I know!” Danica beamed. “Nana said she’s gonna teach me how to play chess!” She cried excitedly. “And Auntie Ev’s gonna tell me more of her funny stories… And Papa said we could go fishing tomorrow too!”
“Sounds pretty cool.” Krystina smiled as they came to a stop in front of her parents’ house.
“Are you gonna go fishing too?” The little girl asked.
Mitch nodded. “Of course.”
“And roast marshmallows?” She said softly. “And watch the stars?”
“Yup.” Krystina replied happily.
Her daughter’s face fell slightly. “I wish I could go.” She said with a tiny sigh.
Mitch bent forward, placing his hands gently on her shoulders. “We’ll take you there someday, okay?” He said. “I promise. Just not this time.”
“Okay.” Danica replied reluctantly, trying to smile. Her sparkling brown eyes bounced back and forth between her mother and father. “Did you ever go to Planet Falls when you were little?” She asked them both eagerly.
Krystina couldn’t help but laugh. “Granite Falls, honey.” She correctly gently, stepping closer to her daughter. “And I did go one time, when I was just a few years older than you… We’ll take you for your first time before you know it.” The young woman smiled.
“This will be my first time.” Mitch chimed in. “But I hear it’s a pretty fun place.”
Danica appeared to be thinking very hard for a moment. “That’s where Papa met that nice lady, right?” She asked at last. “And she gave him all those plants to help Auntie Ev?”
“That’s right.” Krystina replied. “But that was a long time ago.”
“I wonder if she’s still there…” The little girl’s eyes lit up. “Maybe you can go talk to her!” She said excitedly. “Maybe she knows where to find the special fishy!”
Krystina shook her head, feeling slightly amused. “Honey, that lady lived there years and years ago… And she was already old, even back then. I’m sure she’s passed away by now.” She explained gently.
“But if she was really magic, she can’t be dead!” Danica insisted. “And even if she is… Why would that mean she’s not there anymore?” She asked.
Krystina looked down at her daughter curiously. It was something she’d never really thought of before, and she had a feeling her father hadn’t either. Could the old woman still be around, even in spirit? Could she know how to find the angelfish? Or better yet, could she already have exactly what they were looking for?
“How’d you get so clever?” Krystina asked with a smile.
Danica returned her mother’s smile, but said nothing in reply.
“What do you think?” Krystina turned to her husband.
“I say we go for it. Why not?” Mitch shrugged. “I mean, we’ll have to figure out where to find her first, obviously.”
His wife smiled, glancing over at the two figures visible through the living room window. “I know someone who may be able to help with that…”
“Let’s go ask!” Danica shouted, and skipped excitedly down the walkway toward the front door while her amused parents followed close behind.
“Aha, I thought I heard a familiar little voice out there.” Lucas laughed as his granddaughter practically burst through the front door and rushed into the living room.
“Papa, I had the bestest idea!” Danica practically threw herself into her grandfather’s arms as she spoke.
Lucas laughed as he sat back onto the sofa. “Is that so?” He smiled. “Well don’t keep us waiting then!”
“Mommy and Daddy are gonna go talk to the old lady.” Danica explained. “And she can help us find the fishy!”
Lucas and Melanie exchanged a puzzled look. “Uh… What lady are you talking about, honey?” Mel asked gently.
It was Mitch who stepped in to help. “The one you met in Granite Falls.” He clarified, addressing his father-in-law. “Dani thinks we should try finding her while we’re there… I mean, she helped you grow that flower right?” He paused, almost laughing. “I mean, it took a while, sure, but… Maybe she’ll know something about the fish too.”
“And if she’s not there,” Krystina added, “you said there was a lake down by her cabin, right? With that big waterfall? Sounds as good a place to try as any.”
Lucas was thoughtful for several moments. “I guess…” He began uncertainly. “But it was such a long time ago… This might end up being just another dead end…”
“It might.” His daughter agreed. “Or it could be exactly what we’ve been waiting for!”
Mel turned to Lucas. “Honey, we’ve been hitting dead ends for years.” She said. “It couldn’t hurt to try.”
“Good point.” Lucas smiled. “I guess it’s worth a shot, huh?”
“I just hope you’ve got a good memory, dad.” Krystina teased. “You’re the only one who knows how to find this place. Do you think you can still remember?” She asked.
Her father’s brow furrowed for a moment, lost in thought. “Grab me some paper and let’s find out. “He said at last.
“There’s a fishing area just past the ranger station…” Lucas scribbled a few lines on the notebook page as he spoke. “You wanna go past it… Keep following the trail until the woods start getting thicker… And then…” He paused, closing his eyes for a moment as he tried to remember. “Go right… I think.” He did not sound particularly confident as he spoke. “Make sure you don’t stay on the path the whole time. When the ground starts sloping up, just keep going… Then once everything goes quiet, you’ll know you’re close…” His pen scratched quickly against the paper as he drew a rough sketch over the blue-lined page.
Lucas slid the notebook across the table to where his daughter sat. “That’s the best I can do… It’s a huge rock face, with an opening all covered in vines. Go inside, follow the stream, and you’ll be there.” He said at last.
Krystina shook her head, but did not lose her smile. “Dad, I think those are the most confusing directions anyone’s ever given me… But it’s better than nothing.”
Lucas couldn’t help but smile slightly as well. “Are you sure you want to do this?” He asked seriously. “I’d hate to ruin your anniversary weekend.”
“Nah, it’s not ruining anything, don’t worry.” Mitch assured his father-in-law. “This could be the chance you guys have been waiting for! I think we can spare a few hours.” He smiled.
Krystina nodded. “If it gets us any closer to helping Evelyn, it’s worth it.”
“You’re going to be a very good girl for Nana and Papa, right?” Krystina crouched down to meet her daughter eye-to-eye.
“And no complaining about bedtime, understand?” She added firmly. “9 o’clock.”
Krystina shook her head. “No ‘buts’. Auntie Ev knows the rule too. No letting her talk you into staying up later, okay?”
Danica sighed. “Okay.”
Her mother’s face softened as she pulled her in for a squeeze. “I love you, honeybunch. Have fun.”
“And we’ll get her to bed on time.” Melanie smiled at her son-in-law. “Don’t worry.”
Mitch returned the gesture. “We know she’s in good hands.”
He crossed the kitchen to give his daughter a kiss on the cheek as Krystina approached her father and embraced him tightly.
“I’m gonna try my best.” She said softly. “But maybe don’t say anything to Ev yet? Just in case… We don’t want to get her hopes up.”
Lucas pulled away from her gently. “Keeping Danica quiet may be a bit of a challenge…” He said with a smile. “But I’ll try. And I won’t say anything either.” He promised.
“Thank you. It means a lot that you’re willing to try this, sweetie.” Lucas paused. “Just make sure you two are able to enjoy yourselves too.”
“Don’t worry.” Krystina laughed. “We will.”
After saying goodbye to her mother and giving Danica one last kiss, Krystina headed back out into the morning sun with her husband at her side.
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” She asked him softly as they began their walk home. Krystina could not help but feel a little guilty for allowing this wrench to be suddenly thrown into their plans.
Mitch simply laughed. “I’m sure.” He replied, draping an arm gently over her shoulders. “It’ll just make our anniversary a little more interesting.”
Heh. ‘Interesting’… Krystina thought to herself, amused. That’s one way to put it.
But just how interesting remained to be seen… A feeling of excitement began washing over her as she thought of what may lie ahead. This could finally be our chance!
Her eagerness and anticipation only continued to grow as they headed home, changed their clothes, loaded up their car, and began the long drive north to Granite Falls.