The Dreaming Star...Now where have I heard that before? Oh yes, a long time ago...There was a longneck family...the mother told that story to her daughters...One was...Oh my! Littlefoot's mother! The other daughter? Dvora...but word came that she died during that earthshake...Got trapped in a landslide and couldn't get out...That was so long ago...She was my friend...Well, we were friends until my father told me threehorns don't play with longnecks...I said the same to Cera...
Mr. Thicknose didn't know what to say. Daddy Threehorn had him cornered and there was no way to get out of revealing the truth. Swallowing hard, he said, "It is true, Threehorn. Didi is Dvora, but she made me swear not to tell anyone. She wants to tell Littlefoot in her own way, when the time is right."
Threehorn's eyes grew wide in astonishment. So she's alive and well, and going under an assumed name. But why hide herself all this time and not even try to contact her family. He wondered if she was there during the Great Longneck Migration. If so, why didn't she make herself known then? This he asked Mr. Thicknose, who replied, "She was there, but she had her reasons not to reveal herself. See, there was a particular longneck there, and she didn't know he was going to be there. She's been carrying a torch for him, and if, after all this time, she and he crossed paths..."
"Wait a minute, Thicknose," said Daddy Threehorn. "Could this be...No, it can't be, could it?"
Mr. Thicknose, his own thoughts matching Daddy Threehorn's, nodded and replied, "Yes, it's him."
Now Daddy Threehorn didn't know what to say. He knew when Cera and the other kids returned to the Great Valley (and he was quite upset Cera sneaked off in the middle of the night just to find Littlefoot), they were accompanied by a new Valley resident. That would be Pat, an elderly gentleman longneck to whom Threehorn was forever grateful. Without Pat's timely appearance, Cera could've drowned in that raging river. The other kids most likely would either return home or push on to find Littlefoot, without Cera. He shared the others' – Ducky and Petrie – parents' concerns of their children wandering into the Mysterious Beyond on their own. Thank goodness Pat showed up when he did; otherwise the little ones may have either perished or become hopelessly lost.
This was tough on Daddy Threehorn who always held a bigoted view of longnecks. He once told Cera (and that one had to rub it in to Littlefoot during the kids' initial trek to the Great Valley) that longnecks had very small brains, therefore they weren't very smart. Threehorns are very fearsome, brave, never have stupid sleep stories, and are always very brilliant. To him, longnecks weren't worth the time, and getting to know them better wasn't on his list of priorities. Yet, even in the Great Valley, he had to get along with longnecks, and others not like his kind, just to survive. Getting along with and relying on each other was extremely important, or so Grandpa Longneck so often said. Daddy Threehorn just harumphed, grinned and bore it, so to speak. After all, they were all in this together, right?
However, in light of what happened during the Great Longneck Migration, Daddy Threehorn had to thank, somewhat begrudgingly, a longneck for saving his daughter's life, although he didn't count Pat as a close friend, just a casual acquaintance and leave it at that. As for the lady longneck who called herself "Didi", Daddy now knew that his old childhood pal was alive and well, and she was making quite an impression on Cera and the other children. Perhaps he will call on Didi, maybe rekindle that ages-old friendship, something that would have been more lasting if meddling adults hadn't interfered. Yet there was something puzzling Daddy Threehorn: Why hasn't Didi told the family?
"You know, Thicknose," he said, "secrets like that aren't too good to keep to yourself. Did Bron figure out who she was?"
"Oh yes," answered Mr. Thicknose, "he knew her at once. Littlefoot's grandparents know; so does the Old One. And, if my hunch is right, Pat now knows. Only Littlefoot has yet to learn his mother's sister is indeed alive. Why she won't tell him is beyond me." He looked Threehorn squarely in the eye, adding warningly, "And you're not the one to tell him! Dvora made me swear not to tell Littlefoot – Heck she warned Bron and the Old One not to tell him. Let her do it in her own time. I think, since she and Pat have probably gotten together, Littlefoot will learn the truth. But only from her! Got it? None of your babbling to the kid."
Daddy Threehorn looked at Thicknose slyly, saying, "Oh, you can count on me. I won't tell a soul. Hey, you think she'd mind if I pay her a visit? You know, just to catch up on old times?"
To this Mr. Thicknose said, eyeing Threehorn with a gaze just as cool and steady, "Well...I don't see anything wrong with that. But, please, no prying, and no babbling!"
The Great Circle sat low in the western sky, signalling the waning daylight hours. In time it would disappear over the horizon, allowing darkness to envelope the Great Valley. Yet there was plenty of daylight left to play, and the children gathered at the edge of the flowery meadow waiting for Pat. They had precious time to lose as the set-up had to go off without a hitch. They knew what to say, how to make it sound so inviting that Pat wouldn't dare say 'No.'
In the distance they could see Pat's massive form approaching. Now the kids had to get their story straight, and not tip the gentleman longneck's suspicions.
"Me see him from here," said Petrie who hovered overhead. "Here he comes now."
Pat smiled at the kids, a big friendly grin that showed off those jagged teeth. A merry twinkle lit up his great blue eyes as he neared the youngsters. Just short of the meadow, he called out, "Hey there, young'uns. Heard you were calling for me."
"Hi, Pat," called back Littlefoot.
"Pat," said Petrie. "Me knew that was you."
The others nudged each other with Cera initiating the conversation. "Pat," she began, "we thought Didi would join us, but I guess she didn't show up."
"Yeah," rejoined Shorty, "she said she'd meet us here to, you know, tell us those stories."
"And what," asked Pat, "stories are those?" He was careful not to tip off the kids, for he and Didi knew what the youngsters were up to, namely playing matchmaker.
"About the Dreaming Star," said Ali who looked at Littlefoot. He still had his suspicions about Didi: That she was really his mother's sister. Why Didi had yet to tell him was a big mystery, and that bothered him more than whether she and Pat got together or not. He had yet to talk to his dad about Didi, so maybe Pat could shed some light on this mysterious lady longneck.
Littlefoot merely replied, "My mother told me those same stories. Didi said she heard them from her mother, too." Was his expression that obvious? It had to be, because Pat looked at him curiously, as if trying to delve into the child longneck's mind. Instead Pat just said kindly, "You know, Littlefoot, that story is as old as...Well, much older than this valley if truth be known. Not change the subject, but did you know Didi is great with a song, too? Why, I remember, when she was about your age, listening to her sing. That girl had the loveliest voice. Still does, that is if she still sings. There was one song...Now let me see if I can remember how it goes...I can't sing worth a lick, but I recall the words. I believe the song was about the Dreaming Star."
Huh? Now the kids didn't know what to make of this. Pat speaks of Didi as if he knew her from long ago. If he did, why didn't Didi say so?
"Pat," ventured Ducky, "Did you know Didi? She did not say she knew you."
"Well, Ducky, she was so young, so I think she may not remember me. It has been so long since I've seen her, and wouldn't you know it, I have yet to meet her, catch up on old times."
Now the kids had their friend right where they wanted him. Cera loftily said, "Well, if you want to see Didi again, why not join us tomorrow morning. We can meet here, in the meadow. She tells great stories, and maybe you can get her to sing for us."
Pat's eyes glowed as he replied, "Kids, I'd be delighted to join your little circle. You know, if Didi is as wonderful as I remember, then we'll get along just fine."
Good! It was all settled. Now to convince Didi to do the same. Only one catch, though...Come morning, at the appointed hour, only Pat and Didi will find themselves at the flowery meadow. The kids will watch from their special secret hideaway that overlooks everything in the Great Valley.
Darkness fell over the Great Valley as the families settled in for the night. Another day over, now was the time for sleep. However, a few were still awake, and one made it his point to reconnect with a longtime acquaintance.
Cera had already gone to sleep, so it was a perfect time for Daddy Threehorn to meet the Didi, the mysterious lady longneck. But to Threehorn, she wasn't all that mysterious, she made herself so. A big, blustering sort, he was the type not to keep secrets, not to hold his tongue. He spoke his mind and didn't care whose feelings he hurt.
He saw her settling in a clump of trees, away from the crowd. Isn't this about right?, thought Threehorn. She keeps to herself as not to tip the others. I'll show her...
"Didi," he said softly as he approached, "so at last we meet – again."
She looked up, acknowledged his presence and merely replied, "Daddy Threehorn. I wondered when you'd show yourself. I've met your daughter, Cera. She is wonderful. So, you did a good job in rearing her by yourself. I heard what happened to your mate...Died en route here. Please accept my condolences."
Threehorn skewed his face in a frown but softened the moment Didi mentioned his dearly departed mate. Perhaps this isn't the time to do this, but...No, the kid has a right to know his aunt is stringing him along...
"Didi...Have you dropped your real name?"
"No, I'm still Dvora. But I've gone by Didi ever since the earthshake separated me from Bron and my sister."
"Well, if it's all the same to you...Dvora – and I will address you by your true name – I think it's time you told Littlefoot the truth. I don't believe in keeping secrets. It's not healthy."
Didi looked at Daddy Threehorn coolly. She replied, "In my good time, Threehorn, in my good time."
"Okay," he said with a sniff, "have it your way. I don't suppose a certain longneck knows you're alive and well...You remember him, don't you?" He was on a roll now, mouth turned up into a malicious grin, a wickedly sly glint in his eye. "Yes, if I recall right, he used to tell us stories, much like the ones you're telling the kids. You had a crush on him at the time. I wondered why you didn't take on a mate like your sister and the rest of your kind. You just held back, the only female longneck without a mate. May I guess you still pined for...Now, let's see, what was his name...Pat! Yes! You've nursed this 'love' for Pat, a longneck old enough to be your father! Know something? He's here in the Great Valley, but I suppose you've seen him, and..."
Now Didi had to say something, anything to get Threehorn to shut up. "Look, it's true, all right? When I was separated from my family, I thought I'd never see my sister again, let alone Pat. So I just wandered from place to place, taking on the name 'Didi'. I never forgot who I was, my real name, my family, or the love of my life. Now, by stroke of fate, I've found my family again, and my love. Pat knows, Threehorn, if it's any business of yours." Her voice was couched in righteous anger as she continued, "You know, we could have been good friends, but your folks felt otherwise. My mother didn't care, but...Threehorns never play with Longnecks, remember? So go away, and don't you dare blab it all over about Pat and me. And, please, for the child's sake, don't tell Littlefoot about me. That is my call!"
Threehorn wasn't buying it. He had to get his last licks in before returning to his nest.
"Dvora, if you don't tell the kid, I will. And it may be amusing for all the folks in the Great Valley to learn that the lady who abandoned her family has fallen madly in love with one their 'senior citizens'." He chuckled cheekily then returned to his nest.
Now what? Didi didn't know what to do. If she didn't tell Littlefoot soon, the poor kid will learn the truth from Cera's father, and that one has an annoying habit of getting his kicks off the misery of others. What's worse is that he threatened to broadcast her relationship with Pat, hoping to set off a firestorm of scornful gossip. She softly cried, knowing that she would have to leave soon. She didn't want to do that, and it distressed her that she would have to leave her family and Pat behind – again. Yes, as much as she hated to do so, she would leave just before the Great Circle peeped over the eastern horizon. Looking up at the Dreaming Star, she whispered, "Oh, please, tell me what to do? I can't just leave without explanation. I don't want to leave Pat or my family. After all this time, I've found peace, but...Oooh, the gall of Threehorn! Why do I let guys like him to get to me? He was like that as a kid, bullying, intimidating..."
"Hey, darlin'. Don't let him push you around like that."
It was Pat who happened to overhear the confab between Didi and Threehorn. Thank goodness she didn't have to suffer through this alone. Reaching out to nuzzle his neck, she said sobbingly, "My secrets have caught up with me, Pat. What am I to do?"
Pat returned the loving embrace and sympathetically said, "Tell Littlefoot, Dvora, then tell everyone about us. Simple as that. I don't think you'll get the reaction Threehorn is anticipating. Call his bluff and come clean."
"But, Pat, I'm not ready to tell Littlefoot yet–"
"Darlin', I think he already knows. He's been talking to Bron all evening, and his grandparents have confirmed it all. The kid's not bitter, Dvora, just confused as to why you haven't told him personally."
Didi nodded, replying in tear-choked voice, "Poor child! I should have guessed so much. He's so bright and insightful, and it wasn't right for me to keep him in the dark. I will tell him in the morning, after we've had our 'story time' in the flowery meadow." Then, finding her courage again, she added with a sly grin, "Won't it just frost Threehorn to learn that he can't have his way all the time."
Pat chuckled, his blue eyes twinkling in the moonlight, a look that made Didi love him that much more. "Dvora – and I do believe you should go by your own name from now on – if that isn't a wicked woman smile...Just tell me, what grand slam are you planning for Mr. Threehorn?"
"Oh, my darling" she said, tenderly caressing Pat's cheek, "you'll see...Poor guy won't know what hit him."
[TO BE CONTINUED...Go to Chapter 7]
Copyright © 2006 by PRP.