by Ocean Elf
This is how a famous fictional character and a non-famous created character meet and become friends. Though it takes place on Valentine's Day, it is not a sappy love story.
* * *
Down a stretch of shopping mall, music could be heard coming from a shop that sold sheet music and electric and acoustic pianos and small electric organs.
A petite brunette was at one of the pianos, playing Beethoven's "I Love Thee". The piece was cut short by an angry voice, and two men were now standing just in back of the musician.
"There, you see why it's a bad idea getting someone else to play for you when you're supposed to be the one demoing these instruments?" Demanded one of the men, who was dressed in a suit, "That girl plays better than you ever have, and I have a good mind to replace you."
"I am doing the best I can, sir," the unfortunate employee stammered, "I couldn't help it that I was sick for so long."
"Listen!" The boss snapped, "Everyone gets sick but it's no excuse for showing up one day and not the next, or showing up and sitting around while someone else does your work!"
"It is when you are still fighting to get over something that serious. You know that I could've died, this wasn't just something going around, I need this job, sir, and I am doing the best i can. I'm not staying off work on purpose, some days I am fine but others can hardly get out of bed. And I do call when I can't show up." The man really did look terribly thin and weak, like he'd been through an ordeal.
That was when the girl sitting at the piano suddenly stopped playing and whirled around to face the men."
"Hey, you!" Boss man!" she started, glaring at the man in the fancy suit, "you are a poor excuse for an employer! I wouldn't work for you if you paid me a million dollars! You're awful!"
"Miss," the boss started, "You've misunderstood me, I--"
"I know what I heard!" She continued, "You don't care about anyone but yourself and your position around here. Just wait until word gets around about what a tyrant you are! and don't think it won't!"
The employer, who happened to be the music store owner, tried to flatter the girl into keeping quiet and giving him time to think out what he should do next. "Miss, I just wanted to let you know how good you were--"
"There is no need to shout, Miss," the boss replied in a voice which he forced to be calm.
"Right," the girl answered indignantly, staring the man full in the face, "As if you didn't start it by shouting your fool head off at him!"
"Keep your voice down, people are staring at us! The boss hissed furiously.
"So apologize then and keep your big mouth shut." The girl retorted.
Several whisperings among the crowd were heard, some people thought that maybe the store owner had made unwanted advances or something along that line.
"Excuse me," a fairly tall, red-headed woman approached the young girl and the boss. "But creating a disturbance isn't going to help, now let's talk calmly about this like rational adults."
"You keep your nose out of this!" snapped the boss. "You have no idea what this is about!"
"Rational? That twit wouldn't know the meaning of the word!" the young girl replied to the newcomer in a considerably lowered tone, but it was clear she was very displeased. "He threatened to fire that man."
"You're really asking for it, miss!" The boss retorted, growing more and more angry that he couldn't make her hush up and back off.
She responded with a sneering "Oh, I'm scared."
"Now stop it!" The woman warned both the overconfident man and the hotheaded young girl.
she did manage to get the story from all three, the boss, the employee, and the girl. So did the people around them.
The people made it clear who they disliked shortly, audible gasps, groans and words of contempt were hurled at the store owner, and some people were even starting to call for a replacement of the owner.
More heated exchange was heard along with more crowd reactions until the authorities were called in. On hearing all accounts, they got the employee's position secured. The store owner was reminded of prior instances where he had abused various people who worked for him and warned that this was the last time he would be given a chance to keep this position. Next time he was found to abuse any employee, he would be out of there.
When things settled down, the girl began walking away.
"where are you off to?" the woman asked, catching up with her.
"Nowhere in particular," The girl responded miserably. I was just listening to that man's music, it was really good. Then he asked if I could play something and I did. Than that ogre of a boss showed up and ruined everything!"
"Well, it all did turn out in the end," the woman reassured her.
"Yes, but sheesh!"
The woman nodded. She could see this was a troubled girl who needed a friend, and possibly some guidance. It puzzled her a little that the girl was alone. Young people tended to hang around with friends. But then maybe this was some girl who had it out for the world because some boy wasn't showing her he cared about her on Valentine's Day. That scenario was common enough. If this was the case, the woman would put her own plans on hold for a while to help a lonely girl feel a little less lonely. It was just her style.
"So, what's your story? If you don't mind me asking. Are you meeting a friend here?"
The girl shook her head. "I don't know anyone."
"Anyone?" The woman repeated. "Did you just move here?"
"No, I'm lost."
The woman looked confounded at the girl, who must've been in her late teens or early 20s. How could a girl this age get lost? Especially one who didn't seem to have anything mentally wrong with her.
"So, you really have nowhere to go and no one to meet?"
A homeless girl? If she was, she couldn't have been for long. Her clothes were clean, she looked no shabbier than any middle-class youth. But she was pale and wan, definitely not thriving. This was something Pippi intended to look into. It could be any number of situations that brought this girl here all by herself, and Pippi couldn't just leave her there.
"Well, why don't we get a little better acquainted?" the woman suggested. "What is your name?"
"I'm called NT." the girl replied, looking shyly away.
"NT?" the woman repeated. The girl nodded.
"As in the two letters of the alphabet, or is there a fancy way to spell it?" NT shook her head. "Just two letters." she said.
Well, NT, do you have another name, a surname?" The woman was trying to get information in case this was a missing person. NT nodded and said, "Dawson. And what's your name?"
"My name is Pippi Longstocking." She decided not to rattle off her full name this time.
"Could you spell that, I'm not sure I heard your first name right." NT requested.
Pippi did so, then explained, "It's short for a much longer name, but you don't need to worry about that."
NT nodded. "Pippi - long stocking," she repeated.
"That is correct."
""I'm pleased to meet you." The girl smiled, and there was a hint of excitement in her expression.
"And I you." said Pippi. "Look, why don't you come along with me then, if you don't have anywhere else to go? I'm about to head for home, and might stop in on a friend. But it looks to me as if you could also use a friend."
"I don't want to be any trouble."
"And I don't want you to be *in* any trouble." said Pippi.
They moved along toward an exit.
"I recognize your name or I should - but then maybe I--" NT faltered, seeming very confused."
"Oh, you're probably remembering what you've read about me as a little girl. I've grown up a lot since then."
the girl smiled but remained confused. "I remember -or, something. It's all new to me, but you were a little girl with, as you said - a really long name, and you and two other kids used to go on all kinds of adventures, right?"
"That's right." Pippi responded, smiling warmly.
"T-tommy - or Thomas and his younger sister - Annika?" NT ventured, not sure she was getting the details right.
"Yes!" Pippi smiled encouragingly at her.
NT flashed Pippi a pleased grin, then looked down again. "Such a pretty name, Annika," she said wistfully. "I wish - that was my name too."
By this time, they had exited the mall and were on the way to Pippi's car.
"Your name must mean something, or is it a nickname?" Pippi asked.
"No, it's not a nickname, it - well uhm...My mother didn't have a chance to explain it before she faded out of my sight." The girl said sadly.
"Faded?" Pippi probed.
NT frowned, barely able to process her birth and mother's fading away or death in her own mind, how could she articulate this to anyone else? "She was gone. I've been trying to find her - to get her back. I can't find her, Pippi." NT wrung her small hands and looked like she was close to tears.
"Shhh, shhh, there, there," Pippi put her arms around the girl and held her for a while.
"I miss - " NT stammered through her tears. "I want her back."
"Oh, NT," Pippi thought inwardly. "What could've happened to traumatize you so much?" This must've been an abandonment or some other terrible loss." She said nothing of this to NT, but just continued to hold her until the girl pulled herself together.
"Now," Pippi said as she gave NT a couple of tissues. "You remember or know anything else about me and my wild childhood?"
"You had a house all to yourself as a kid, and some pets back then, right?"
"Yes...A horse and a monkey. Sadly they're both gone now, but, you're right. I am the one you're remembering."
"Well, not remembering, exactly, it's--something else - I recognize you but I don't know why." The girl responded. It's like I...Remember you. I remember things about you and recognize you, but...but...How can that be?"
Pippi looked a bit puzzled, but she figured the girl maybe just wasn't quite thinking straight for whatever reason. "Oh, that's all right, I understand. That scene back at the music store was upsetting enough to fluster anybody. And here's my car, do you need a lift anywhere?"
"I don't have anywhere to go - I don't know."
"Then, how about coming along with me?" Pippi planned to make inquiries later and find out if this girl had a home and where. But for now, at least she could keep her off the street and out of trouble for a while.
"All right - thank you." said NT. Pippi opened the passenger side at the front of the car and invited NT in.
I'm sorry about Horse and Mr. N-Neil--" NT hesitated again, seeming to doubt her recollection. "Your monkey." NT shut her door.
Pippi got in the driver's side and shut the door, and looked at the girl. "Mr. Neilson," she gently helped affirm she was on the right track, and put a hand on the girl's small shoulder. "NT, dear, don't worry. Mr. Neilson and Alfonso Horse have been gone for a while now, and I was very sad for a while after they died, but I'm all right now. They've given me plenty of very fond memories."
"Doesn't it hurt to remember them when you can't get them back?" NT asked quietly.
"Not any more, the sadness goes away with time, and now I can remember the times we had and laugh."
NT shrugged, and turned her face away.
They drove off. After several minutes and different streets, "Oh, there's Ameh's, let's stop in for a visit." Pippi said.
Pippi parked the car and got out. Then she went around to the passenger's side and looked in.
NT wasn't getting out.
Pippi opened the door and looked at her. "Aren't you coming in?" she asked.
"Um..." NT looked wanly back.
"Are you quite all right? You're not getting sick, are you?"
The peaked girl only shook her head.
"Are you hungry, you look like it. Should we go get a bite first?"
NT looked at her, apparently still confused. "I guess that's it - but, where can you get something for free?"
Pippi understood this to mean the girl had little or no money and didn't want to impose on someone else to pay for her food.
"Don't worry about that, you just gave me an idea. How about I take both you and Ameh out for a bite, my treat?"
NT thought a moment. "That's kind of you."
Not getting a definite answer one way or the other from the timid girl, Pippi said, "Then that's what we'll do. Perhaps you'll feel better after you've eaten," she suggested, then, took NT's hand, encouraging her to step out of the car.
Pippi and the new girl made there way to the door and rang the bell.
Inside, Ameh came to the door, peeked through the keyhole, and smiled, seeing Pippi's bright red hair. "Come in, Pippi," she said as she opened the door. "who's your friend?"
"Ameh, this is NT." Pippi said.
Ameh was shorter than the other two, and her deep blue eyes, lovely blonde hair and baby face made her look like she could pass for a little girl. She had a small, sweet voice to match.
"Thanks, Ameh - And you both have such neat names."
Both Ameh and Pippi chuckled and thanked NT for the compliment.
"I bought some specialty coffee for you." Pippi handed Ameh the package with the vanilla coffee, plus a box of chocolates.
Ameh accepted these treats with an expression of great surprise and delight. "Pippi, you're the best."
Pippi knew this expression of gratitude to be a great compliment since Ameh wasn't given to showing much emotion most of the time.
"Why don't you guys make yourselves at home and I'll put the coffee on?" Ameh invited.
"Or how about we go out? You wouldn't have to wash and put away dishes." Pippi suggested.
"Sounds good," said Ameh.
They took Pippi's car and went out for coffee and a snack.
It was a pleasant outing, Pippi and Ameh chatted and laughed as they drank their coffees and had their desserts.
NT didn't say much but seemed to enjoy her snack and hot cocoa, for a while.
AS the outing went on, she started looking paler than she already was.
Pippi and Ameh chatted, and tried to keep NT included in the conversation, but the girl said very little and soon started looking positively sick.
The other two women were done with their food by now as well, so Pippi suggested leaving for home.
Ameh agreed, and they all got up, Pippi paid at the counter, and the three moved carefully with NT out to the car.
By now, NT was moaning and holding her stomach.
"Are you gonna be okay?" Ameh asked.
NT only shook her head. "No...It's happening again - I hate this." she moaned, and sagged against the car.
"what's the matter with her?" Ameh whispered to Pippi.
"I'm not sure, but we better get her home."
Neither of them knew that NT was just a baby, born only five days earlier, so hadn't even thought that ordinary food could do this. How could they when NT herself didn't know what was wrong?
Another short trip that seemed to last for ages to NT in the car, and then they arrived at Pippi's home.
There, Pippi put the writhing, groaning NT on the couch and gave her a heating pad to relax her and help alleviate the pain at least a little, while she prepared something to settle her stomach.
Eventually NT's condition improved, then seemed to go away, and she was able to sleep.
Ameh took a bus home.
Pippi made some inquiries, but NT was not a run-away, or missing person, so, didn't seem to have a home to go to at all. So Pippi was quite agreeable to having her stay at her house until a family identified her as theirs or she turned up in the missing persons' database.
All the rest of that day, Pippi continued puttering around the house, and she did manage to get her baking done.
Every so often, she'd check up on NT to make sure she was sleeping peacefully.
When the girl finally awoke, she assured Pippi that she was okay.
Relieved, Pippi treated herself and NT to the cupcakes she had made.
NT accepted this with gratitude and delight, but she paid for it soon after when the tummy ache returned. Again, Pippi did what she could to help relieve the pain, and after a while, NT was okay.
"Have you been getting these pains often?" Pippi asked NT, recalling what she had said earlier about hating it happening again.
"Yes, several times a day." the girl replied.
Pippi winced in sympathy. "How long has this been going on?"
"As long as I can remember."
Pippi looked at her with a mixture of bafflement and pity. "You mean, all your life you've been suffering this way?"
"Is there nothing the doctors can do for you?"
"I haven't seen a doctor."
Pippi frowned in concern. "You mean to tell me that whoever raised you, never took you for a check-up or better still, to the hospital with this?"
"Nobody raised me." said NT.
"Somebody must have. I know you said you miss your mother. What about your father?"
"I don't have a father and I can't get my mother back. She was too weak to take me to any doctor." NT looked like she might begin to cry again.
"What about relatives. Have you no aunts or uncles, or grandparents?"
"No. None." NT replied.
"Were you in a foster home?"
"I was self-sufficient by the time I was nine years old, but before that, even I still needed someone taking care of me. You can't have not been independent at age two or three." Pippi was trying to get NT to reveal who her guardians were.
"I'm not anywhere near that age yet."
"Do you know your age and birth date, NT?"
What NT said had Pippi utterly confounded for a few moments.
"I am five days old and my birthday is February 9."
Pippi's eyebrows raised in confusion, but she soon recovered. Whatever happened to NT must've taken place five days earlier. The girl wasn't making much sense, but something was definitely wrong with her. Pippi began to put it together that NT had experienced a traumatic loss, probably the death of or abandonment by her mother. and if this was an abandonment, NT's way of coping was to make believe she was starting life over. That theory made the most sense. If it had been a death, surely there would be relatives, or even friends that NT would remember with all of Pippi's gentle probing.
"I'm sorry, NT," Pippi went and put an arm around the girl to comfort her. "But if this happens again, I'll have to take you to emergency. Maybe the hospital can help you find your mother." Pippi said that to reassure NT, but she had mixed feelings about that idea.
At Some time after dinner, Pippi took NT to the emergency. The hospital informed them both that NT would have to undergo some tests and be kept over night and the next day for observation, possibly even longer.
Pippi stayed as long as she was allowed to, and then went home. She was glad NT was sleeping by the time she left.
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