So what happened during all those years? Where was Didi all this time? Only she could answer that, and she was not ready to divulge everything. She had hoped that Bron would not give her away, and he held to his promise although reluctantly. Why hide yourself, he asked when he realized just who she really was. After all, he reasoned, Didi's family has the right to know she was still very much alive. ("And I know 'Didi' is not your real name.")
No, she insisted, and revealing herself too soon might spoil things, especially if word got out about her long-lost love. How would everyone take news like that? Besides, the object of her affection was, of all places, here, in the Great Valley! This she never told Bron, and she certainly did not, could not, reveal the beloved longneck's identity.
However, her love would have to wait, for Didi desperately wanted to reunite with her family. She decided to approach Littlefoot carefully, let him understand that she was in no way taking the place of his mother. Oh, she saw, at that first meeting, through the child's polite manner, detecting the resentment within his eyes. Didi suspected such: It was natural for the child who revered his mother to regard any female in his father's life as competition for Mom's memory. This was not the case for Didi as Bron reassured her that he had no intention of remarrying, not now at least. He had just met the youngster recently, catching up on all the lost father-and-son time he had missed.
Besides, Didi only stumbled upon Bron's herd just days ago after spending all those years traveling from place to place, teaming with a herd for a short time only to strike out on her own again. Even during the Great Longneck Migration, she remained in the background, talking to and mingling with no one. Oh, she did get a glimpse him in that great throng of sauropods during the "The Night Circle versus. the Great Circle", but she never made herself known.
Oh what to do? Here she was, among beloved family again, in the presence of the one male who, so many years ago, and unbeknownst to him, stole her heart. She did not want to risk making herself known to him lest she suffer heartbreak unimaginable.
Those other two, Daddy Threehorn and Mr. Thicknose, by chance may not, after all these years, recognize her. So far, so good. Now, if she could get up the courage, find some creative yet subtle way to tell a certain little one and his grandparents...
"Littlefoot, I don't think Didi is Bron's 'girlfriend'. She joined the herd just a few days ago. Besides, I think she loves someone else. Know how I know? Because she told me, but she didn't tell me who."
The young dinosaurs gathered in their favorite spot: a tall rock formation that gave them a bird's eye view of the Great Valley. It was the perfect place for getting away from the grown-ups. In this special hideaway, the little ones could tell each other secrets or just daydream.
In this circle were Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Spike and Petrie. Ali and Shorty rounded out the group, the latter an orphaned brachiosaurus who Littlefoot met during the Great Longneck Migration. At first Shorty was wary of Littlefoot, especially when he discovered Bron was Littlefoot's long lost father. Naturally, Shorty assumed Bron would cast him aside, just nearly every other adult. After all, no one wanted to adopt kids his age; they wanted babies. No wonder Shorty resorted to bullying behavior, a way of acting out his frustrations. It was not until Littlefoot suggested, "I thought we could be like brothers," that Shorty finally realized he had family all along.
Now, this female longneck, Didi, who just days ago crossed paths with both herds...She was a mystery, especially to Ali and Shorty.
"She said," explained Ali, "that she lost her family and had been on her own ever since. But I don't think she's telling the truth."
"What you mean?," asked Petrie. "Why you no think she not telling truth?"
"Because Bron acted as if he knew her from a long time ago," replied Shorty. "Even the Old One knew her. I could tell by the way they looked at her. I think Bron and Didi knew each other when they were kids."
"She seems nice enough," reasoned Cera, although the little threehorn still harbored some doubts about longnecks, feelings obviously learned from her father. However, that attitude changed somewhat after Cera witnessed, "Longnecks saved the world" during the Great Longneck Migration. Seems the bragging, boastful Cera had a change of heart, but not totally and just enough not to rile her father.
Glancing out from the children's hideaway, Cera could see Bron and the Old One chatting with Littlefoot's grandparents. Ali's mom was there as well; so was Didi. Peering intently at the adults' confab, Cera decided Didi was very pretty if not too talkative. The lady longneck just stood there while the others chatted.
"Hmm," she said to her friends, "she doesn't say much, doesn't she?"
Ducky was outdone. "Cera! How can you say that? Maybe Didi does not need to talk much. She is new to our Valley, so she has to get acquainted with everyone. She does, she does."
Littlefoot, strangely silent all this time, still had some reservations about Didi. He also became quite curious about the stranger in their midst. If she isn't his dad's new girlfriend, then who is she really. Why did she pick Bron's herd? If she had been on her own ever since childhood, where had she been all this time? And, if what Ali said is true, why won't Didi tell just who she is really in love with? These questions he levelled at Ali and Shorty, and both kids didn't have all the answers.
"She told me," Ali replied, "that she learned he is here in the Great Valley, but she is too scared. Didi is afraid he won't love her back."
Now the kids were intrigued, especially the girls of the bunch. Hey, they reasoned, why not befriend Didi, maybe get her to open up about this secret longneck boyfriend. Perhaps, once they learn the mystery guy's identity, they could play matchmaker.
"Oh yes, yes, yes!," said Ducky exuberantly.
"Me think it wonderful idea," rejoined Petrie.
"So what are we waiting for?," asked Cera, looking at Littlefoot with her big green eyes. "Didi is in love, and we can help her and this longneck boyfriend get together."
Littlefoot thought it over, but something was amiss. What if his grandparents or dad get wise to their scheme, and tell the kids to butt out of adult affairs? Ali picked up on this, replying, "We just don't tell them. It'll be our secret."
Shorty added, "And we don't tell Didi either, at least the truth. She and her guy won't know what we're up to. So, is it a deal? We do our good deed and help Didi. No one else has to know."
That said, the kids made their secret pact, devising ways to bring two special longnecks together. Then they left their hideaway and joined the adults. This should be fun, thought Littlefoot, and I hope nothing goes wrong...
"Didi, you should tell them as soon as possible. It is not good to keep your true identity a secret for long. They will soon discover just who you are. Think of Littlefoot. He deserves to know the truth."
The Old One, Prudence, caught Didi in a quiet moment. She took the opportunity to counsel the lady longneck, and such sage advice did not quite sink in for Didi – yet.
"But, Pru," Didi protested, "while I truly want to tell them, I'm afraid of the fallout. Especially since I learned he is here. Of all places, he's here in the Great Valley."
Prudence was not amused or swayed. "Child, you must come clean! After all, you said yourself he hadn't seen you since you were a mere girl. For all practical matters, he doesn't know you exist. Perhaps, to his mind, the girl longneck he knew is long dead. Forget about it, dear, and concentrate on reuniting with your family."
Didi thought it over, glancing in the distance to catch a glimpse of the one male longneck with whom she was desperately in love. He was telling the young ones the same stories Didi heard as a child. How sweet, how touching to see him getting on so famously with the children. Maybe it is time to gather courage...She got an idea.
"Pru," she said at last with conviction, "I believe there is a way to reveal myself to my family, but I must do it my way. But, deep down, I believe my true love will never know I'm alive, and I've waited all these years..."
TO BE CONTINUED...Go to Chapter 3
Copyright © 2005, 2006 by PRP.