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My name is Megan and I'm the mayor of Griffin Beach. Griffin Beach is one of the most popular resort beaches in New Leaf County. Thousands of animals and humans come annually, and Griffin Beach's tourism revenue contributes to a major chunk of the county's economy. The name Griffin Beach actually comes from the oddly shaped beach we have, but old folklore says that a griffin gave birth to a human child (I know, weird right?) who became the town's first mayor. I personally find that all hodgepodge. Nevertheless, the beach curves around half the island and has four major points that jut out into the ocean. These points vaguely resembly the feet of a griffin. Three coves are formed from these points: North Cove, East Cove, and South Cove. Generic names, but it keeps track of things.
Before I became mayor, a lot of villagers and humans built houses by these coves so they could be right by the ocean. However recently, I have been implementing preservation projects that prohibit any more house building on the points. Hurricanes and storms frequently bash our shores, plus natural erosion and pollution degrade the beaches daily. As mayor, it's my job to keep Griffin Beach intact. While multi-million dollar homes plopped on the cove are nice and pretty, they are a burden environmentally. While some tourists have commended me for standing up to those rich snobs who think money can buy them exemption, others (including the rich snobs) have given me a hard time and have even threatened my standing politically.
I have confidence in my constituents though. The locals have supported me for years, and that's all that matters. The tourists may not like my preservation projects but they don't vote for me at the end of the day. They do pay taxes and contribute to the economy and tourism, but they're not my sole priority. I know I don't have much to worry about...
Well, except Coral Lakes.
I sat in my office, looking out the window. Hundreds of cars were creeping slowly over the bridge. It was a Friday, approximately 2PM, and the traffic was already bad getting into Griffin Beach. It's no wonder. It's Memorial Day Weekend and to most people, the first weekend of the summer. Everyone was heading to their beach houses. Or at least they were headed to their rentals. Tom Nook's realty company, based off of Griffin Beach, has been making a killing through rental properties. I envy his success sometimes. I wish my financial benefits could be more direct with all this tourism. I glanced at my itinerary. I had a lot to do. After I signed this paperwork to demolish an old public works project--a dilapidated lighthouse--by North Cove, I had to meet with Cyrus and Reese regarding a permit they submitted for an expansion, I had to personally thank Tom Nook for his financial contribution to my campaign a few months ago, and I had to lead the grand opening ceremony for Gulliver's Souvenir Shack the seagull just opened near South Cove.
I leaned over the paperwork and signed the paper quickly. We would be building a new lighthouse soon. As much as I wanted to do it during the off season, there was no way the lighthouse would be ready by next summer if I waited. The construction had to start tomorrow. My secretary Isabelle would handle all the paperwork and present it to me tomorrow. Speaking of that dog, she hustled over when she saw me put the pen down.
"Ms. Mayor, did you fill out everything?" I nodded and Isabelle scooped up the paperwork. "OK! Thank you so much! The work for demolishing the lighthouse will start right away. It should be a distant memory by tomorrow morning." I nodded again.
"Thank you Isabelle. Did Porter get the limo ready yet?" We didn't have a train station like other towns did. Porter the monkey, instead, was my personal driver. He was the man behind the wheel of my bulletproof, all-black limousine. Isabelle affirmed the limousine was ready, and that it was sitting outside for whenever I was ready. I immediately stood up. "Good. Let's get this show on the road." I picked up my tan hat and walked towards the door. "You coming with me?" I asked. The dog shook her head.
"Not this time, Ms. Mayor! I have to get this paperwork for the lighthouse all sorted out. I'll see you at the grand opening ceremony at 5." she halfway reminded me. If it wasn't for her and Porter, I don't know what I'd do. I'm just a walking zombie, doing the orders of people who are symbolically below me. They keep me sane though. I opened the door and saw Porter leaning again the limo. When he saw me, the monkey ran around to the door and opened it for me. I thanked him and Porter got into the driver's seat.
"Where to, Madam?" he asked curtly.
"Re-Tail. I shouldn't be too long, but if I'm longer than an hour, come in and get me." I ordered firmly. Porter nodded, showing he understood.
"As you wish, Madam." Despite the traffic being thick, Porter was able to navigate the back roads and certain one-way roads (I am the mayor, heading to important civic business. Exceptions can be made) to get us to Re-Tail at a reasonable time. I could see the two alpacas working feverishly inside. I thanked Porter again while he let me out of the car. "I'll be waiting right here for you, Madam!" he called, as I walked inside. The bell above the door rang loudly. I took a glance around. It was small, yes, but it didn't need expansion. The shelves weren't stuffed. People weren't crowding in here. Besides being the main place to sell items, Re-Tail wasn't much else. Tom Nook's stores dominated Griffin Beach and I feared losing his campaign donations if I introduced some competition.
Reese looked up and abandoned her current customer to hurry over. Cyrus was forced to wrap up the transaction and then he came over. I found myself drawn to some lightly used t-shirts, folded in a corner. They were cheap. Only about 80 bells each. They weren't my taste, but it wouldn't hurt for me to support the local businesses instead of patronizing GracieGrace constantly. "Mayor Megan! Welcome to Re-Tail. You're early." she said, glancing up at the clock. I took the hint. I was supposed to be there at 2:45. It was 2:20.
"I know. Sorry for not saying something. Porter took some back roads." I explained. Cyrus nodded.
"That's fine." He waved a quick goodbye to the customer leaving the store, and looked at me. "So! What do you think?" I paused. "It's a little on the small side, isn't it? Nothing like those massive chain stores or anything like that around here." he trailed. I shrugged.
"It's cute. You guys are just a small store. It's the epitome of a small business. It just...fits." What was I supposed to say? That Nook threatened me to veto the permit? That Nook is blackmailing me? I couldn't tell a soul. Cyrus sighed and Reese remained silent.
"We want to expand our business. We don't want to just be the mom and pop store anymore. It's great that we've had support from the locals all these years, but Reese and I want...we want more." I bit my lip. Cyrus continued. "Griffin Beach has expanded so much and Reese and I want to accomodate ALL the customers, not just the locals. We can only do that if we expand. We're not asking for anything preposterous. Just a permit to expand our store to the second floor." I gulped. Technically, they already owned the second floor. They lived there with their son Tyler. To an extent, I couldn't tell them what to do with their property. The zoning was commercial; they had to get a special permit to convert the top floor to an apartment. I guess they figured it wouldn't be a big deal to convert it back.
Little did they know.
I had to be blunt. If I beat around the bush at all, I would be giving them false hope. I wasn't that heartless. I shook my head and I watched the alpacas' faces fall. "I'm vetoing the permit, guys. I'm sorry." Cyrus spluttered.
"Wha--why?" asked Cyrus. "I don't understand." he said slowly. I pursed my lips.
"There's nothing to understand. You're not converting the upstairs. End of discussion." I could see the tears form in Reese's eyes. I had to look away. "Besides, where would you guys live? Your home is upstairs." Cyrus puffed out his chest and even though his move was solely instinctive, I felt intimidated.
"Where we make our home is none of your concern." he said smoothly. He pointed towards the front of the store. "Please leave now." I gulped, grateful that no customers were noticing. I sighed and left in a huff. When I got out to the limo, Porter let me in again and slipped in the front seat. I must have had a "look." He asked me what was wrong. I ignored Porter and ordered him to drive to Nook's office. The monkey acquiesced. He didn't have a choice. I was silent the whole car ride. When I got to the office, I jumped out and hurried inside. The lights nearly blinded me. Nook had expensive lights to highlight his items. At the moment, the raccoon was dealing with a human. I could tell the human wasn't a local. He didn't have the Griffin Beach aura that the locals had. He had the Griffin Beach aura that the tourists had, flaunting their money and their house around. The man turned to face me.
He had the bluest eyes ever. His brown hair was graying. He wore a tight polo shirt from GracieGrace's men collection and long white slacks. His flip flops topped of the beachy look. "Which siding do you like better? Should I go with a light blue or a tan brown? Which screams 'luxury beach house' to you?" he asked. I shrugged and walked over. He was looking at Pearl Ocean Blue and Caramel Toffee Brown. They were the two most popular siding choices at Nook's. Nearly every house on Griffin Beach had it. Those who diverted from that norm stuck with a classic white or yellow. Nobody strayed much with siding diversity.
"It depends on where you live. What cove?" I asked. It may have been a snotty question to ask. Not everyone lives on the point, but I could tell by this guy's attire and attitude that he was a Cover. I just didn't know which cove.
"East Cove." he said with a smirk. I inwardly rolled my eyes. East Cove was the snottiest. North Cove and South Cove were extremely close to each other but East Cove was off, away from the others. Lots of businesses and restaurants opened up in North Cove to take advantage of the combined population and demand. The nightlife is popping there. East Cove, however, is quieter and more residential. It's also safer and "the best cove at Griffin Beach" according to magazines. However, prices there are almost double those of North Cove and South Cove. Thus, the people's egos are double those of North Cove and South Cove. "The beaches are so large over in East Cove, if you don't know already." This guy didn't know I was the mayor. Oh my Goll. "I have footage on footage of beach, since we're right on the cove. My father built the house with his bare lots and it's been in our family for years." the man bragged. "I'm trying to find the perfect siding so when you look back at the house from the boat or the jet skis, it just looks luxurious."
The way this dude said luxurious, the way it rolled off my tongue disgusted me. "I would go with Caramel Toffee Brown. Every other house is a blue or gray." He nodded.
"Good point. I would've went with a darker color but my feng shui advisor told me it would mess with the vibes." I hated feng shui. Although, it encouraged the economy on the island. There were several feng shui shops and advisors on Griffin Beach that thrive from people being stupid. I turned to gesture to Nook but the guy caught me. "Hey. Maybe while I'm getting this siding installed, you and I could...hang out?" My breath hitched. "You know, I have a huge deck with a hot tub. We can just sit there and look out over the water. I mean, it's an unrestricted view." I politely declined him. He gripped his fists. "Well, how about dinner? I can understand not wanting to come back to my place, but how about dinner? I can-I can take you to Vesuccio's. Right on the water, overlooking the cove. Everyone knows me there."
Pal, everyone knows me there too.
"What do you say, huh?" he asked, flashing a fake smile. I looked down at his left hand, to try to find a ring. The hand was hidden conveniently behind his back. I couldn't see.
"I say no. Now, Tom, I've been delayed enough. I have a grand opening to be at. Can we talk in your office?" I asked, wrapping things up. The man looked dismayed I was cutting it short. Nook nodded.
"Absolutely, Ms. Mayor! Follow me!" The man's face reddened as he watched me follow Nook around the corner. I entered the room, but not before smiling and blowing the man a kiss.
After putting our son Tyler to bed, Reese and I needed to have a talk. Mayor Megan was unusually strange. Maybe she forgot a promise she made to us, when we agreed to convert the second floor in the first place. She told me and Reese that we could always re-convert the upstairs back to a commercial space whenever we felt we were outgrowing the apartment. At the time, Tyler was a baby and it wasn't a problem. However we're now at a stage in our life where we want to upgrade to a house with a yard for Tyler, and we want to expand the business. Technically, it shouldn't be an issue re-converting the upstairs but apparently, the mayor is intent on vetoing the permit. I have to figure out why. I feel she's just not being herself.
Reese sat on the couch across from me and I sipped my coffee from Brewster's. The TV was blaring but we had ignored it for some time. I just grabbed the remote and switched it off. Now, it was too quiet. Reese sighed after a few moments and I broke the silence. "How are you feeling?"
"Awful. I still feel so humiliated and degraded...like a child." I moved to the couch and slung my arm around her shoulder.
"I know, babe." I kissed her on the head. "Don't worry about her though, ok?" Reese pulled her head away from me and choked back some tears.
"How can't I? She's the mayor! Without the permit, we literally can't do anything. How are we going to afford the bills of two places?" I pet her soft fur, attempting to calm her down and cheer her up.
"We can rent out the apartment. It won't be hard. We can find someone. We'll-we'll look into their background. Don't worry, Ree. We got this." I smiled. Reese could barely smile back. I sighed and stood up, pacing around the room. "It'll offset the costs...just trust me. We're not going to let the mayor dictate our life and our choices. There's something going on with her...there's some reason why she won't let us expand upstairs." Reese sniffled away her tears and spoke up.
"I know exactly why, Cy. It's Nook." I froze in my tracks. I knelt in front of my wife and asked her how she knew. "I saw Nook talk to Mayor Megan one time. I wasn't supposed to be there, but I just stumbled on them talking. I overheard the entire thing. When it was over, I just ran home. I didn't even finish what I came to do..." she said. I guess she was referring to talking to Megan about whatever. I shook my head.
"Why didn't you tell me?" I asked desperately. She sighed.
"Because I knew you would react like this! It's none of my business what the mayor and Nook are up to, and it's not yours either." I pinched the bridge of my nose with my hand. Reese didn't understand. I knew Nook's shady tactics. I knew he wouldn't stop at anything to be on top. Even though Reese wouldn't tell me what they said, I had a funny feeling what he and Megan were up to.
I followed Nook into the office. He stood aside to shut the door and gestured me to sit down. I plopped in one of his comfortable chairs and waited for him to be seated. The swivel chair creaked as his body fell into it. He drummed his fingers on the desk and looked at me with an expectant gleam in his eyes. Firstly, I thanked him for the campaign contributions. I had to keep this formal and official. I was beginning to sweat and I glanced at the thermostat. 70. Kinda hot. Nook stared at the thermostat but didn't turn it down.
"I appreciate you swinging by to say thanks. I did you a nice favor but now I expect you to do me one. Remember, you promised." He grinned that sick grin. I knew what was on his mind. My mind flashed back to that one moment. I felt his breath on my mouth. That stale, sweaty smell. I couldn't help but feel pulled back in time.
Nook hung over me and had me in the corner. It was only me and the wall. There was nowhere to go. His shoulders haunched in a savage way. Sweat dripped down my forehead as he nearly spat on my face and tried to splutter out words.
"You will get this done for me, do you understand?"
"I can't, Tom! It's unethical!"
"I don't care what it is! You're going to get it done." Nook grabbed the front of my shirt and jerked me forward. I screamed out but before my scream could get too loud, I was slapped across the face. I only winced this time and hissed. "You listen to me, and you listen to me now." the raccoon growled. "I have power. I have more power than you could DREAM of. You're the mayor, but compared to me, you're nothing more than a lowly peasant." He slapped me again. I didn't make a sound. "If you don't do this for me, I will hurt you so much. When I'm done with you, you'll be a speck of dirt beneath my feet." I could feel Nook loosen his grip on my shirt. I pushed him away from me. He stumbled back unexpectedly and snarled.
"You're a monster!"
"I'm a rich monster!" he yelled with a maniacal cackle. "I would rather be rich and smart than poor and stupid...like you." I gasped and clenched my fists.
"I would never want to be like you." I sneered. Nook sighed with exasperation and pushed me against the wall. I screamed out as I collided with the concrete. A loud thud resounded across the room. I slumped to the floor. He walked up slowly and hung over me.
"I only ask you one little favor. Just one teeny weeny little favor. Crush Re-Tail. Crush Re-Tail and I'll give your little campaign the boost it needs to survive. If you don't..." Nook pulled a picture out of his wallet. I knew what it was. I didn't even have to look. I blinked away tears and turned my head. Nook knelt down and I could smell alcohol oozing off his mouth. "I might accidentally show somebody your darkest secret." I sniffled.
"Don't underestimate me." He stood up and went to turn away. I groaned loudly and kicked the wall.
"You're an evil, evil, evil man! You're not going to get away with this! I swear, Tom, you're going to pay for this!" I bellowed. Nook turned to walk out of my office and turned around, waving the picture in his hands.
"Ohohoho, we'll see about that. Goodbye."
I shuddered and shivered. I shook my head vigorously. Nook's voice called me out of my trance. He asked me if I was ok. He asked if I wanted water. I declined politely and licked my lips. I wasn't actually dry; I was just nervous. Nook continued to talk. "So anyways, did you do what we talked about that? I still have your secret dangling on a thread." he pulled it out of his suit jacket. I turned my head.
"Yes, yes! I did what you said. I vetoed the permit."
"Somehow, I don't believe you," the raccoon said. He leaned over the desk and got right in my face. "You've lied to me before." I sighed.
"I don't have the paperwork officially filed, if you must know. But when I get back, I promise, everything will be taken care of." I said. Nook eyed me suspiciously. I kept talking. "Just give me till tomorrow. Please. Everything will be taken care of [i]tomorrow[/i]." Nook snarled.
"Fine. You have till tomorrow. If you break your promise, I'll break you. Do you understand?" I nodded and gulped. Nook held out his hand and pointed towards the door. "Leave. Now." I mumbled a 'yes, sir' and stumbled out of the office. By the time I was out of there and inside the limo, I was trembling. I was shaking so much that Porter asked me if I was okay. I nodded and he silently drove towards South Cove. I had to conceal my feelings. No one could know what transpired in that office. Ever.
When Porter pulled up with the limo, I noticed the crowd. It was mixed with tourists and locals. Many of them were just curious. As Porter drove down the narrow road, I saw some people pull out camera phones. I was by no means a celebrity, but I guess it would be cool to see me conduct the opening ceremony. Isabelle hurried over once Porter parked the limo, and helped me out of the car. People were murmuring amongst themselves and others were even calling to me. I ignored them and the cameras. Isabelle was the important person right now. I felt her fuzzy paw on my face.
"Ms. Mayor! You're pale as a ghost! Are you okay?" she asked. I nodded and pushed forward. She followed me, scurrying along. She looked concerned but I had to pretend nothing was wrong. I stepped onto the podium and Isabelle sidled next to me. She turned on her microphone and began the ceremony. "Welcome everyone to South Cove! It's a lovely day out today, a great day for the grand opening of a brand-new store!" She pointed to the seagull a few feet away from her. "This is the grand opening of Gulliver's Souvenir Shack! Our wonderful mayor is here, to do us the honors. Mayor, would you like to say a few words before we proceed?"
I paused. I forgot about the speech. I FORGOT. ABOUT. THE SPEECH. I had been meaning to draft up a really nice speech but time escaped me and Isabelle never reminded me. Ugh, it's not her fault. It's not her job to remind me of things. Well actually it kinda is. Nevertheless, I needed to come up with something. I leaned into Isabelle's microphone and grinned. "We did it, guys! On to the next project!" The people cheered. Isabelle looked flustered and smiled towards the crowd.
"What a...way with words, Ms. Mayor. It's now time to do the honors! Here's the scissors." I carefully took the scissors from Isabelle and leaned over the ribbon. It was a symbolic ritual that I was destined to fulfill. The people were watching me intently. I held my breath and pulled the scissors apart. Now or nothing.
The ribbon was now in half, drifting to the ground. The crowd cheered and cameras began flashing 100 flashes per second. I blinked rapidly and resisted the urge to shield my eyes. Everything else moved in a blur. I could fully admit I was dazed. I was speechless as people asked countless questions and swarmed around the podium. Porter rushed me into the limousine and drove me back to the town hall. Isabelle sat alongside of me and didn't say a word the entire time. When I stumbled out of the car, I staggered inside and sat at my swivel chair. There was nothing left to do. There was no reason for me to be here and there was no reason for Isabelle to be here.
I felt sick. I wanted to go home.
"Isabelle, if you finished up that paperwork for the lighthouse, you're free to go." I said. She looked at me curiously.
"What? Oh no, Ms. Mayor! It's too early. I couldn't possibly--" I raised my hand and cut her off.
"I insist, Isabelle. Take the rest of the day off. Enjoy yourself." I added with a small smile. Isabelle hopped off of her chair and ran over to hug me.
"Thank you so much, Ms. Mayor! I'll do what you say, but I'll be thinking of work the entire time!" she said, grabbing her jacket and running out of the Town Hall. I chuckled and shook my head. That girl was so obsessed with work. Her passion and dedication were great, but sometimes I wish she would just relax. Speaking of relaxing, I needed to go home. After the encounter at Nook's, I needed a nice nap and maybe a warm bubbly bath. Something that screamed R&R.
Reese and I had our work cut out for us. Today we closed the store for the day because we were conducting tenant interviews for the upstairs space. A lot of people inquired about living above the shop. I mean, who wouldn't? Re-Tail is in a great location, smack dab in the middle of Griffin Beach. In the center of the island is the downtown area, also known as Old Towne. It's the original Griffin Beach, before expansions were made to the coves. Old Towne had great cafes and stores, beautiful vintage homes, and an indigenous forest vibe. For those who weren't into the beach, Old Towne was a great place to live and raise a family. I was banking off of the store's convenient location to find tenants. That worked, but the tenants we found...they weren't the greatest.
The first tenant was a pink rabbit wearing heavy blue clothing, despite it being almost summertime.
My wife raised her eyes and looked at the paper in her hands. "Your name is Snake?" The rabbit nodded.
"Yes, ma'am. My parents were eccentric souls."
"Why Old Towne? Specifically, why our apartment?" she asked. It was a standard question we agreed to ask all the tenants. It was basically asking why did they want to live in that area of Griffin Beach in OUR space. The rabbit shrugged.
"I have a lot of friends around here, but the nightlife isn't the most exciting. Since we can't afford to hit up the nightclubs by the coves, I figured that if I got an apartment, we could all hang out there and have a good time."
My wife and I grimaced together. Next.
The next tenant was actually a small family.
I watched the three children run around our office. I smiled at the bluish-gray deer sitting in front of me.
"You must be a very proud father. Your children are wonderful." I said. They seemed like very...active and rambunctious kids. Tyler would like them. The bluish-gray deer blushed.
"Thank you. Please...call me Bruce. My wife Fuschia and I are very proud parents. Due to financial issues, we had no choice but to downsize to an apartment in Old Towne. We loved our home, but things happened. The kids are devastated but they understand our situation." My wife pursed her lips sadly.
"I'm sorry to hear that. Our upstairs space would be a great home for your family during this time of your life." she said consolingly. The pink deer--Fuschia--smiled gratefully. Bruce nodded. He opened his mouth to say something else when a piercing crash shattered everyone's eardrums. Reese and I whipped around to see the children standing in the corner looking very guilty. Reese's favorite china vase lay in pieces on the floor. The little blue deer boy frowned and apologized lamely.
My wife and I grimaced together. Next.
Unfortunately, all the tenants had some type of caveat or another. Reese and I talked about everyone we had interviewed and had come to the conclusion that nobody was suitable for the apartment. Reese had her head in her hands and I sat across from her, dismayed and confused. We were silent but after a few minutes, she spoke up. She trembled as I realized she was confessing to me what she heard. It all came pouring out--about Nook and Mayor Megan together, about Nook blackmailing her, about Megan blindly agreeing, and about Nook wanting to crush us. I clenched my fist when I saw what a cruel capitalist monster Nook really was. I believed my wife completely and I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
The breath coming out of my nose was steaming and my muscles involuntarily flexed angrily. Reese frowned. "Cy baby, please don't be upset..."she trailed. I stood up and turned away from her.
"How can I not? This man is plotting to ruin our livelihood! And this isn't just messing with us, it's messing with our son. Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Cyrus, I know your temper flares! You are powerless against Nook, don't you see?" I sighed. She was right. Nook is one of the most powerful men in the business. There was no way I, a small business owner, could go against such a prestigious, rich entrepreneur. He had money, power, fame, lawyers, and even a PR crew. Materialistically, he had everything and I had nothing. However, I did have happiness and love. That's all that mattered. "I'm sorry." Reese whispered. I waved my hand.
"It's ok." I said, swallowing my pride. "You're right. We can't rent out the apartment. I think I have an idea on what we can do though." Reese rose her eyebrows. I smirked with a knowing grin. "We're going to move to Coral Lakes."
With a loud gasp, Reese cried out and fainted on the couch.
"Coral Lakes?!" Reese exclaimed with shock.
I nodded. Thankfully, Reese wasn't passed out for long. I whipped one of our smelliest candles underneath her nose. Her alpaca senses picked it up immediately. I could understand her shock. No one from Griffin Beach would ever openly think about moving to Coral Lakes. It's a long and complicated story but there's a rivalry between the two tourist towns. Coral Lakes is smaller than Griffin Beach and not as well known, but it doesn't actually have a seashore. It's literally all lakes. However, the lakes are very pleasant and large. Griffin Beach thrives off of its borderline with the ocean. Coral Lakes thrives off of its lakes. I don't personally understand the rivalry between the two mayors but I know it's been going on forever. People can't just be in the middle or choose both. You're either pro Coral Lakes or pro Griffin Beach. The rivalry is clearly stated through people's cheesy bumper stickers.
I've heard of road rage fights and other altercations breaking out because someone with a CL sticker or sweatshirt disapproves of another person's GB sticker or sweatshirt. Cops have gotten involved. It was petty but not pretty. I explained to Reese that I could find a broker very easily to find us a commercial space. His name was Al Lewis, and he was the top realtor in Coral Lakes. I knew he was the right man. I technically have already been in contact with him. Before I knew about Nook's plans, I had planned about expanding into Coral Lakes. It was a dream of mine for a couple years now, but financial issues prevented me from acting upon it. Plus I was afraid to discover Reese's reactions. Her opinion mattered too, and I felt strange going behind her back.
Al was a great guy and I was confident he would help us out. I pulled his card out of my wallet and held it out to Reese.
"All we have to do is give him a call. He'll find us a place in a jiffy. We'll be free from Griffin Beach forever. Megan won't rule us anymore, and neither will Nook." Reese scratched her pink wooly fur.
"I understand your desire, but I'm just unsure. Griffin Beach is our home. What are we going to tell Tyler?" I shrugged.
"Tyler's just a kid. He'll be fine. We can rebuild our lives in Coral Lakes." She looked away. I pet her fur. "Promise me you'll just give it a chance? I'll arrange an appointment with Al. Tomorrow, we'll take a drive out there and see the inventory. If you don't like it, you'll never hear a word from me about it again." She smiled that smile. That smile I love, that smile I fell in love with so many years ago. Reese nodded lightly.
"Okay. I promise."
I love Griffin Beach. I really do. It's been my home since forever. I've fallen in love with Griffin Beach, but I can't live here anymore for several reasons. The first one is financial. The taxes have slowly been rising since the tourists have been coming. I guess Mayor Megan wanted to gain revenue from the tourists. I don't blame her tactics, but in the process, it hurts the locals. My brother Al is a realtor for Coral Lakes, the infamous rival town of Griffin Beach. Al has told me that Coral Lakes is an up and coming place. Coral Lakes is the new hip place, and he told me I should move there. I was skeptical and hesitated to make any big move. Imagine the backlash if people heard rumors I was interested in Coral Lakes?
A few weeks ago, my brother took me out to a small house. It was really nice and small. I didn't have to deal with any of Nook's monopolizing drama. Buying the house would be a simple process. Even renting would be simpler in Coral Lakes! I really liked the people and the vibe of the town. It was smaller than Griffin Beach, but I liked that small town feel. That's what Griffin Beach used to be. I appreciate the tourists' contribution to our economy and our town, but some of the tourists can be, for a lack of a better word, real jerks. I live in South Cove. It's not the "richest" cove, but every cove per se is affluent. I've lived in Griffin Beach for my whole life. Just recently though, a family of tourists built a house next to mine. They seemed nice at first. I didn't mind them, but they were loud. I began to dread weekends. I tried to befriend them; I figured this way would prevent any resentment. Maybe we would hang out and I wouldn't mind them as much.
However the family always had a bunch of people over and they were rowdy. When they weren't at the beach, they were at home doing just about everything. Screaming, drinking, eating, playing...you name it. At first I didn't mind it. I understood. It was their vacation time. However, as time wore on, I wore out. It all climaxed when I got in a disagreement with the owner and his wife...
I was trying to relax on my deck. It was a nice weekend. Most of Saturday, they were at the beach. However, when they trotted back, I could heard them from 2 miles away. Our decks were directly next to each other because of poor engineering and design. Within minutes, I heard everyone tromp up on the deck and plop down. The kids switched on the radio and blared the music. I was already prepared. I was used to this nonsense for so long. I dug through my bag for some earplugs I bought at the pharmacy. Successfuly finding them, I shoved them in my ears. I reclined back in my lawn chair, thankful I was one step ahead for once. I closed my eyes and started to relax.
That's when a gross, foul smell reached my nose. I nearly gagged and sat upright. Looking over, I soon saw the source of the smell. A bunch of the men lit up cigars. No. No. I was not tolerating this. I pulled the earplugs out and stomped over to the head of the deck and yelled over.
"Hey! HEY!" One of the kids heard me over the music (miraculously) and turned the music off. "Hey!" I yelled. The main guy (the husband and owner) glanced over, with the cigar still propped in his mouth.
"What?" he asked testily.
"Douse the cigars now." I ordered. He laughed and nudged his buddies haughtily.
"No way, honey. I'm on my deck with my friends. We're not bothering you."
"You actually are bothering me. Cigar smoke is such an offensive odor! I never even get that much time to hang out here. It's a beautiful day and it's bad enough you're playing music. At least I can drown that out. I can't buy nose plugs." I said snarkily. "You can smoke them somewhere else if you want to smoke them that bad."
"Look lady. I'm not dousing the cigars. You're going to have to get over it." I clenched my fists.
"I am NOT getting over it! All summer I have to put up with your crap and I'm not going to put up with it on this beautiful day when I want to relax on MY OWN DECK. YOU'RE going to have to get over the fact that you're not going to walk all over me and get your way for once." Everyone looked shocked and flabbergasted that I blurted out so much in such a...way.
Two weeks later, I saw a nice "For Sale" sign outside the three story home. I was happy but not satisfied. It wasn't just this tourist family. They were all like this. My local friends had similar horror stories. Out with the old, in with the same. Nothing would change and I wasn't going to sit around and wait for the next tourist family to move in and torture me again. I was going to move as well. I took up my brother's offer and I was in the finalization process of buying a new home. All I had to do was submit my moving papers up at the Town Hall. I tried to time my visit so Mayor Megan wouldn't be inside, however it didn't work too well. She always seemed to be inside. I waited a while for it to be just Isabelle. I couldn't wait too long though.
I was moving tomorrow.
I needed to submit those papers today.
It was a new day. After sending Isabelle home early to relax, I went home and relaxed as well. I had a nice bubble bath and must have soaked myself for hours. I felt refreshed and ready to take on a new work day. It was a Saturday and there shouldn't have been much going on. I noticed a lot of people had a head start on their day and trotted down to the beach. I reclined in my office chair and watched Isabelle do her own work. I was enjoying relaxing for a quiet period when suddenly, the door opened. Rocket came in. The pink gorilla was a nice girl. She was a local and she's been here for years. I remember her well. I didn't understand why she was here right now.
Rocket held a paper in her hand. She was talking to Isabelle. I could barely make out the words but I could see the expression on Isabelle's face. The dog was so sad and turned to file the paper. Rocket sat down patiently in the lobby area and Isabelle approached me. She handed me the paper.
"Ms. Mayor, you need to sign this moving petition." I gulped and looked at the paper with uncertainty. It was Rocket wanting to move. I noticed that the space where the mover was required to put where they were moving was conveniently left blank. I wanted to know where Rocket was moving. I gripped the paper in my hand and stood up, walking out to the main lobby. Isabelle trotted behind me nervously. "Ms. Mayor, wait!" she exclaimed. I ignored the dog.
Rocket looked up, not expecting to see me. I waved the paper around wildly. "What is this? Just please tell me, what in the world is this?" I asked. Rocket licked her lips.
"What do you think it is? It's a moving petition." she said firmly. "I'm not staying in Griffin Beach anymore." I frowned.
"You can't...you can't leave. You've been here ever since I could remember. You and your family are originals...you're locals!" I exclaimed desperately. She folded her arms.
"I'm sorry, Mayor Megan. My family and I will always be from Griffin Beach, yes. Griffin Beach is the home of some great memories, but I'm ready to make memories elsewhere." I scoffed.
"And where would this 'elsewhere' be?" I asked with a smirk. Rocket scowled. She wasn't falling for my bait. "Hmmph." I groaned, standing in my spot. "I could rip up this petition right now. If you leave, I could make you responsible for all your bills...and...and RUIN YOU." I stammered. It didn't really sound authoritative. If anything, I made it sound more like a question. Rocket laughed.
"Do you realize how corrupt that is?" she asked. Rocket stood up. "You know, this is why Griffin Beach has so many problems. You are so consumed with keeping everyone trapped here that you're actually pushing people away!" she exclaimed. "This is why people are LEAVING Griffin Beach! You can't ignore the moving petitions anymore, Mayor Megan. Face the music. You either have to sing or plug your ears. You can't pull the radio plug out of the wall and hold it in your hand."
I pursed my lips. "Don't tell me what I can and can't do! You're not the mayor." I snapped. "I am. So as the mayor, I'm ordering you to stay in Griffin Beach." I couldn't control my hands. I really couldn't. I regret doing that...ripping the petition in half. A loud screech filled the town hall. I couldn't tell if it was Isabelle screaming or if the paper shredding was that loud. Rocket just stared straight ahead. After a few seconds, she headed towards the door.
"I have human rights, Mayor Megan. I may be an animal, but I have rights too." Rocket strode out of the office. She opened the door and turned towards me again, right before leaving. "I'm moving to Coral Lakes. Noah will always be a better mayor than you and there's nothing you can do about it." The door slammed, the noise echoing across the room. I scowled heavily and shook my head. I was sick and tired of people telling me they were going to Coral Lakes. They want to leave? Fine. I'm better off without them. I don't need them. I never have. Let Coral Lakes have my sloppy seconds.
I didn't need Rocket. Or anybody else that agreed with her silly ways.
Reese agreed to come see some places in Coral Lakes. She, Tyler, and I loaded in the car and took a nice drive out there. We met Al outside one of the commercial spaces we were interested in. I could tell Reese really liked it. I saw the look on her face. I hadn't seen her gaze with such a mesmerized expression in forever. Coral Lakes was much smaller than Griffin Beach. It wasn't crowded and the whole vibe was calmer and slower. It was a nice pace. It was a great pace for us. Al clambered out of his car, gripping some papers. He waved and walked towards us.
"Alpaca family! Nice to see you again, Cyrus." He shook my hand firmly and looked at Reese and Tyler. "Nice to meet you two. I'm Al King and I've been working with Cyrus here. I hear you guys are looking for a nice space to open your store and live?" Reese nodded.
"Yes. I don't know if Cyrus told you...we live above our store now. We would like to be able to find our own home, separate from the store. However, if it's not cost-effective, we can make do with living upstairs for the time being." Al nodded.
"I got you." he sifted through his papers. "This place we're about to see has actually three apartments above the space. As the owner, you can do whatever you like. You can combine the apartments to make a single family penthouse above the store, or you could rent out the apartments. It's completely up to you. The district of Coral Lakes we're in right now is the main downtown area. Everyone usually walks down here. You're right by restaurants, stores, and Bear Lake. Bear Lake is one of the best lakes in Coral Lakes, so you're guaranteed to have lots of customers." Al punched in the code for the lockbox and obtained the key for the store. He leaned over and unlocked the door. "Head on in, guys. It's a nice big space. This room is abouttttt 2,000 square feet." Tyler took off and ran around the empty commercial space. Meanwhile, Reese and I examined the finer details.
Reese nodded with approval. "I like the space. It's nice. But is it too much? We're just starting out here. I hope we don't bite off more than we can chew." I shook my head.
"I like the space too. We'll be fine. We have enough money to support ourselves until we break even." Al started to talk again.
"The only store that was here before was a convenience store. They only closed because they wanted to expand beyond this area. They actually opened up down the road in a bigger building. Now through this door here is just a huge supply closet. Spacious. Enough to hold everything you could possibly need AND serve as a great hiding spot for when Tyler wants to play or chill with his friends." the gorilla said, throwing a wink my son's way. Tyler laughed and tugged on my shirt.
"Dad, that's a great idea! Please please please...I LOVE THIS PLACE!" he screamed. Reese tousled his hair playfully as Al walked over to another door. He said it led to the apartments upstairs. Tyler ran upstairs first. I gestured for Reese to go in front of me. We entered a hallway, similar to a corridor on a hotel level. Al explained that there were three apartments. One had two bedrooms and one bathroom, the other two had one bedroom and one bathroom each. Tyler was hanging out in the hallway playing around, while the rest of us toured the apartments. They were in decent shape and were almost move-in ready. Each window had a great view of Bear Lake and the sidewalks below. "Dad!" screamed Tyler.
I rushed out of the room and hurried into the other apartment. When I entered the living area, I was terrified to see only part of my son's body. I strode closer and was relieved to find he was intact. He was just hanging over the rail of a balcony. I grabbed the cuff of his shoulder and yanked him towards safety. "Be careful, Ty. I don't need the butcher selling fresh alpaca meat for this week's special." Ty cracked up laughing. He appreciated my sense of humor.
"I see your son found the balcony. It's the only balcony out of all these apartments. It's great to sit out and people-watch on. It's just a shame the balcony isn't attached to the two bedroom place." I agreed with the realtor's sentiments. However I assumed that every apartment needed its own edge. The one apartment had two bedrooms. The other apartments needed something to garner attraction.
"So, Al, give me the bad news." I ordered. "What's the price?" Al pursed his lips.
"Well...the guy wants 400,000 Bells." I frowned. That was pushing at the higher end of our budget...but it was perfect. I looked over at my wife. She was pointing out the lake and people to Tyler. They were both really enjoying the view. I saw the smiles on their faces. I saw the happiness oozing from their souls. They never looked this happy at Griffin Beach. Seeing the looks on their faces, I didn't care about budget.
I only cared about the well being of our family. I glanced over at Al and asked him about financing and getting a loan. I expressed my discomfort with getting a loan from Nook. Al waved me away. "I completely understand. Coral Lakes isn't within Nook's jurisdiction so you don't have to worry about going through that shark. I have connections that can get you financed without a problem."
Reese turned away from Tyler and looked at me with wide eyes. "Cyrus! We can't afford this place!" she exclaimed. I held her shoulders tightly and stared into her eyes.
"Trust me, babe. We can do this."
I just prayed my wife would believe in me.
I sat at my desk in a daze. I wasn't really paying attention to work at the moment. Isabelle was doing her own thing and I wasn't supervising her. I was too absorbed in some heavy flashbacks I was experiencing. Rocket's words triggered them. Bringing back memories of Noah was painful. It was bad enough that he was the mayor of a rival town. He was also my brother. We didn't always disagree with each other. We had a great childhood and we got along very well. I thought we would've spent the rest of our lives with each other and raised our families together. It all started though on one fateful Thanksgiving dinner.
A young man with short brown hair sat at a dinner table, the plate in front of him stuffed with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. He wore a huge smile on his face and he just declared he had an announcement. This young man was my brother Noah. My family and I listened attentively to what he had to say. He drummed his fingers on the table and grinned at us.
"I bought some land in an uncharted area of the west. I just had it all surveyed and plotted out. I'm going to build a town!" My mom and dad's mouths formed an 'o'. I didn't know what to say. I had been the mayor of Griffin Beach for quite some time now. It wasn't fully developed, but it still was thriving and growing slowly. I couldn't help but wonder if my brother was trying to be a copycat or if he was truly flattered. My mom got up and hugged Noah.
"Congratulations, Noah! We're so proud of you!" she exclaimed. My father stroked his mustache and beamed with pride.
"Both of our children...mayors...I never thought I would see the day!" he said. I huffed and crossed my arms.
"Neither did I..." I mumbled. My brother glared over at me and scowled, asking me what my problem was. My parents exchanged nervous glances, not wanting to get involved. I shrugged. "I don't know. I just don't think you realize how difficult it is to start a town and maintain it." My brother narrowed his eyebrows and asked me what I meant. I scoffed out loud. "What I mean is this isn't Zoo Tycoon or the Sims. It's hard to start a whole town from scratch. You're going to struggle. It's inevitable." I said smoothly.
Noah rolled his eyes. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, sis." he snapped. "You know, you're such a know-it-all. Just because you're a mayor doesn't mean that you're the expert of all Animal Crossing politics. Get over yourself." My parents nervously munched on their food.
"At least I have experience!" I exclaimed. "That's more than you can say." My mom opened her mouth to say something but stopped herself. I wouldn't have snapped at her, but I didn't want her to get involved in this argument. We didn't need her being the voice of reason.
"I'll be the best mayor ever! I'll be better than you, Megan, and there will be absolutely nothing you can do about it!" he yelled. Pushing out of his chair, Noah stormed out of the dining room. I groaned loudly and planted my face on the table. My parents ignored the bang as the dinnerware flew up in the air and landed with a thud. My father slowly got up and followed my brother out of the room. My mom stayed at the table with me and stared at me awkwardly, unsure of what to say or do.[/bq]
Unfortunately, Noah and I haven't spoken since that incident. It has torn our family apart and I regret to divide my parents like this. They still love us equally and don't treat us any differently, but Noah and I can't be in the same room. We can't be at the same gatherings and we definitely can't be involved together. It hasn't happened overnight and I regret to say I am at fault too. I refuse to speak to him. It's only been built up over the years and while I don't exactly WANT to speak to my brother, I have no intentions of going the rest of my life without speaking to him. It just has been so...dragged out that I feel it's too late.
I was sitting in my office one morning when Isabelle's twin brother Digby came into the office. Digby was a nice dog and I liked him a lot. He was a good guy. Currently, he works for the HHA Showcase and lives in the same apartment as Isabelle. I didn't know what he was here for. Sometimes he would come to eat lunch with Isabelle and share a nice conversation together. I figured this would be one of those moments. However, when I heard Isabelle's shrill voice, I realized something was wrong.
"Digby? What are you doing?" she asked testily. I turned around to see a paper in Digby's hand. He crumpled it gently but nervously.
"I'm...moving." I gasped but stayed silent. This was so unexpected. It just came out of the blue.
"Digby, I don't understand why. Was it something I did? If so, we could work it out. I--" Digby held out his paw.
"It's not like that, Isabelle. I hate being cliche...but it's not you. It's me. I found a new job opportunity. I would be a secretary." Digby paused. "I'm moving to Coral Lakes." Isabelle nearly choked.
"Digby, you can't! Don't tell me you--" The dog shook his head.
"Mayor Noah has hired me to be his new secretary. He needs someone to help him start the new town. I want to go." Isabelle sighed, muttering that she couldn't stop him. He was an adult after all. Digby smiled lightly. "I knew you would understand. I just hope that this doesn't make things awkward between us. You're my sister and I'll always care for you. It's just that...this opportunity would enable me to be something I can't be in Griffin Beach." he said. Isabelle pursed her lips.
"What about your job now? The HHA Showcase and Lyle? Did you even tell him yet?" she asked. Digby nodded.
"Yeah, I told him. Lyle was upset, naturally, but he'll be ok. He won't be able to maintain the office anymore so he's moving in with Nook. Everything will be okay." Digby rested a hand on Isabelle's shoulder. "Don't worry. I wouldn't ever let anyone down. I hope I'm not letting you down as well." he said with a dejected expression. Isabelle sighed and kissed her brother on the cheek.
"You couldn't ever let me down, Digby. We're family. I love you too much to let you go. I just hope that you stay safe and keep in touch." Digby nodded and handed Isabelle the paper.
"I will." He kissed his sister on the cheek and walked out of the office.[/bq]
Isabelle may have been okay with Digby leaving, but I wasn't. There was nothing I could do though. I couldn't control people. If Noah wanted Digby, fine. We didn't need him anyways. It wasn't like Isabelle was leaving! However, even though Digby wasn't the mayor, he had a major part in the formation of Coral Lakes. At first, I didnt' fear Coral Lakes or its development. However, when Coral Lakes started to become NOTICED...well...that's a problem for me.
Isabelle rushed in the office with the latest issue of of Vacationland Magazine. i was nervous. This issue was going to announce the winner of the Top Tourist Destination competition. It was an annual contest where editors of the magazine judge which town is the best tourist town. For the past three years, Griffin Beach has won. It's been a tremendous honor which has helped the economy of Griffin Beach prosper. It's really helped bring up the tourism in the town and I was looking forward to winning the fourth year in a row.
Isabelle threw the magazine on the desk and didn't say a word. I didn't want her to say anything anyways. I needed to read it for myself. I eagerly flipped through the pages and rested my eyes on the magazine. When I read the winner of the 2014 title, I was flabbergasted.
"AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH WHAT WHAT WHAT WHA--ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ISABELLE, LOOK AT THIS. DO YOU SEE-WHAT-CORAL LAKES? UNANIMOUS? HOW COULD EVERYONE SAY THAT CORAL LAKES IS THE TOP PLACE? UUUUUUUUGGGHHHH!" I scrunched the magazine up and threw it across the room. It collided with a commemorative picture of Mayor Tortimer, knocking the portrait to the floor. The glass shattered. I moaned loudly in anger and pounded my fists on the desk. Isabelle winced and grabbed the magazine.
"Look on the bright side, Ms. Mayor! We made honorable mention. Right below! See, listen to what it says: 'Griffin Beach was a top contender and almost a shoo-in to win for the fourth year in a row. However, the editors have noted that the taxes have risen tremendously, the crime rate is going up, it's not as family-friendly, and the beach quality is slowly declining despite Mayor Megan's conservation efforts. For these reasons, Coral Lakes has managed to snag the top spot and 2014's title of Top Tourist Destination.'"
Isabelle paused. It wasn't the best paragraph, but it was still something. I threw my hands up.
"Honorable mention is worth nothing. The only thing I want is the top title." I said, burying my head in my hands. Isabelle backed away, knowing that I needed my space.
It wasn't one of my best moments. It was definitely a moment of weakness. I couldn't help it at the time. I have calmed down considerably since then, but I'm not going to lie. Coral Lakes hasn't backed down. It's only become more prominent. People are noticing it more and people are flocking to it. It has truly become a top tourist destination and the words of my brother echo through my head. There's nothing I can do about it.. It's just awful to feel so helpless. I'm used to being in control. It just feels that everything I've worked for is being taken away from me. Griffin Beach is everything to me and I want to do everything I can to maintain its position at the top.
Reese and I gave Al an offer. Reese was so nervous about it. She clenched my hands and was shaking. Tyler was so distracted he didn't realize what had happened. I was personally happy that we were in the process of having a home. I brought up the delicate issue of financing. I didn't want to go through Nook. No way. Nuh uh. I made this clear to Al before he left to talk on the phone. The gorilla smiled and smoothly consoled me. He assured me there were other financing options that didn't depend on Nook. I sighed with relief. We wouldn't be tied to that evil man ever again...or so I hoped anyways.
"I'll just take a step out for a moment to get your offer in, and when I come back, we can talk financing." I nodded and smiled widely.
"Sounds good. Thanks, Al." Al left the building while Tyler was playing around. I wrapped my arms around my wife's waist and held her close. "This is it, babe. We're going to be moving. How you feeling?" I asked.
"Scared..." she muttered. I tsked and smirked, promising her that everything will work out. She sighed. "I hope. I don't think my nerves could handle something happening." I laughed and she smacked me in the stomach lightly. "It's not funny. I would like us to just have a pleasant, calm lifestyle in Coral Lakes. A new...fresh start." I opened my mouth to say something else but Al walked in with a giant grin on his face.
"Ayyyyyeeeee great news, Alpacas! You got the home! Closing in 30 days. Congratu-ma-lations!" he yelled. We all wooted in a celebratory manner. Tyler ran over and I reached out to shake Al's hand. Al's paw gripped mine firmly. "Seriously though, congratulations. Welcome to Coral Lakes. You guys are a nice family and I'm glad I was able to help you find your home." Reese smiled politely.
"We really appreciate everything you've done for much, Al. Thank you so much! Without your help with everything, we wouldn't have been able to make this transition so smoothly."
"It's why I love my job, ma'am." Al said smoothly. He turned to me abruptly. "I hate to cut this short, but I have another appointment. I must be on my way, but we'll be in touch about permits and that financing! I'll talk to some people and get you those names ASAP." I waved, thanking him again for his help." Al nodded courteously and left. Reese and I took Tyler and left the building. We clambered into the car. I'm not really sure Tyler realized what was going on. As Reese and I were talking, I saw the realization creep on to his face. He slowly slumped in his seat and didn't say a word. I finished he was playing around with his phone or 3DS or something. When Reese and I heard the tears, I knew something was wrong.
I was almost tempted to pull over. Reese beat me to any consolation or movement. She unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed into the backseat. "Tyler, what's wrong?" she asked. I watched my son dissolve into tears and collapse his head on my wife's chest. I bit my lip and continued to drive, glancing up at the mirror every now and then. "Tyler, buddy, talk to me." Reese was always better with being the softer, more comforting parent. My son sniffled and looked out the window.
"I don't want to move here. I don't want to leave Griffin Beach. I don't want to leave my friends...THAT'S MY HOME. WHY DO WE HAVE TO LEAVE?" he yelled. Reese tried to calm him down but it was futile. He just broke into tears. I continued to drive back but I couldn't help but feel defeated. My son didn't want to leave. Reese continued to rub his back and he remained silent for the rest of the ride. When we finally got "home", Tyler ran out of the car and sprinted inside. Reese sighed and got out of the car. I climbed out too and looked at her.
She had a distraught look in her eyes. Turns out, Tyler went up to his room and locked himself inside. Reese headed up the stairs to talk to him, but I stopped her. "Let the boy have some space. He'll get himself out of this funk." I said. Reese nodded, appreciating my advice. We prepared dinner. It was a silent process. Lasagna. Wasn't much. I took Tyler's tray and carried it upstairs. I knocked on the door lightly. "Hey, Ty. I got dinner for you. Open up." I heard some light shuffling as Tyler got up and answered the door. He grabbed the tray from my hand and shut the door again. I nearly winced as the lock clicked. I figured he didn't want to talk, so I walked back downstairs without a word. Reese looked at me and figured that Tyler wouldn't be coming down to dinner. I opened up conversation, knowing this would be the perfect time to talk.
"What do we do?" I asked. Reese shrugged.
"I don't know. We have to move the store, no matter what. We're paying that money and it's pointless to waste it." I agreed with a nod.
"You're right. The store is the most important thing. We can't let Megan think she won." I said. Reese picked up her head.
"Absolutely. You know...I could stay here with Tyler for a couple months. Let him handle this move gradually, while you go to Coral Lakes." I thought my eyes were going to bug out.
"No way! Reese, I don't want to--" She cut me off.
"This isn't exactly about what you want now, is it?" I sighed. She had a point. But still. "It'll be good. We won't even last that long away from each other. Tyler will miss you and want to come here." I grunted.
"If he has your stubbornness, you won't ever leave Griffin Beach." Reese laughed and took another bite of her lasagna. I sighed. It's not like we had another plan. Reese chewed her lasagna. During this silence, I took the advantage. "Maybe this is the time that our son needs to...grow up a little bit and learn the world doesn't revolve around him?" I was so afraid of speaking my mind that I sounded my statement as a question. Reese rose her eyebrows. "I mean, of course he's our son and is very important to us, but he should see that sometimes things happen that he can't control or do anything about..."I trailed. Reese swallowed. Uh oh.
"That's great." I nearly had a ray of shining hope. "But only if you want to trash our son's self esteem and make him feel worthless and depressed." Ray of shining hope shot down. I opened my mouth to protest but Reese wasn't having it. "Imagine if you were our son, terrified of the future and on the verge of leaving the only home he's ever known. You should be more sympathetic, Cyrus." Reese abruptly stood up. I sighed and pushed myself out of my chair to approach her. She held up her hand. "I've lost my appetite. But the lasagna was good while it lasted." She picked up her things, placed them in the sink, and headed upstairs.
I was left to eat in silence. I wasn't very hungry either though. So I scrapped my food into a leftover container and put it in the fridge. Maybe someone's appetite would pick up later. I began to wash the dishes. As I was doing that, I felt a childhood memory creep up on me. I remember my parent's nasty divorce, which happened when I was 8 years old. I was around the same age as Tyler. It was awful and I was caught in the middle. There was such tension and fighting, and Mom had to move very quickly. I was basically torn away from my father and I never saw him again. Mom had to move to Griffin Beach, since it was cheaper and easier. We would have been able to start new in Griffin Beach. I never understood at the time why we had to move. I lashed out at my mom so badly and I resented her for a long time, until I was able to consider Griffin Beach my home.
I groaned and nearly threw my head into the soapy sink. I was stuck in a predicament.
Today was the day.
I was moving to Coral Lakes. My brother Al took the day off of work to help me out. I appreciated the assistance. I was a strong woman but I did need help with some of the really really heavy items. I pulled up to my modest home in the U-Haul. I immediately saw his Mercedes car parked outside the driveway. He climbed out and flexed his muscles, waving at me.
"Hey, sis!" He ran over and shook my shoulders. "Are. You. Excited." I smirked and punched him in the shoulder.
"Yes, but you're giving me anxiety." I joked. Al laughed and pointed towards the truck.
"Is this everything?" I nodded and he headed over. I was grateful for the help. I pulled up the back door to the truck and we began to unload my belongings. It took a long time, but after a couple hours, my house was finally starting to look like a home. Al and I finished moving the last couch in when we heard a slight knock at the open door. A young man with short brown hair strode in and smiled. Al ran towards the man and shook his hand. "Mayor Noah. It's a pleasure as always." he said all business-like. It was funny to see my brother so...official. Mayor Noah smiled back.
"Likewise, Al. I swung by with Digby to officially greet our new neighbor!" he pointed to the brown dog besides him. I just noticed him. He looked a lot like Isabelle. It was clear they were twins. The dog nodded at me and I acknowledged his silent greeting. Noah continued. "Welcome to Coral Lakes, Rocket! It's wonderful to finally meet my town's top realtor's favorite sister!" he exclaimed. He extended his arm and I firmly shook his hand. I laughed in reply to his last comment.
"I'm Al's only sister. He's stuck with me. I have to be the favorite." Noah chuckled and poked Digby in the shoulder.
"I like the humor on this one." He turned to Al. "I also wanted to come by to thank you for wrapping up that deal with the Alpaca family. It'll really bring some new business and some stimulus to the Coral Lakes economy. On top of that, they're a nice family. I like them. They're good people and I think they'll be great model citizens of Coral Lakes." Al's eyes bulged like he just discovered the newest invention ever.
"Ah! That reminds me! I have to call them about those names and the financing." He rested a hand on my shoulder. "Sorry, sis. I'll be right back. You understand right?" he asked. I nodded understandingly. My brother was a busy man and the top realtor in Coral Lakes. He didn't get to that point by sitting around on his butt. Al took his leave and Noah, saying a curt goodbye to me, walked out as well. Digby remained though, looking down sheepishly. I asked him how he was doing and he replied 'Good', but he still seemed quiet. He looked in my eyes and I saw Isabelle. Just her.
"How's my sister doing? I'm-I'm sorry to put you on the spot like this, but I haven't talked to her in two years. Ever since...ever since I left. Could just tell me if she's okay?" I pursed my lips and smiled.
"She's well. She's been working hard, as always. You know her." I said automatically. As soon as I said it though, I stopped. It was just an expression, but the words in that expression...their meaning. Digby felt it. I stammered nervously. "Uh I'm sorry! You know what I mean. I didn't mean--" Digby raised a hand and cut me off, smiling warmly.
"I understand. It's just been hard. I've tried to keep in touch but she hasn't been writing me back. We used to talk a little, but slowly she's been cutting me off." Digby sighed. "She used to be my second half. Now I feel like a partially eaten, used cheesecake." I stifled a laugh at the comparison. "I can't help but think if Megan's jealousy is a factor in our division. She's definitely been growing worse, I've heard." He stopped and looked at me. "Is it true?" I gulped and said nothing. He put his head down, realizing that his question was inappropriate. "Could you at least tell Isabelle that I would like her to not think about work for once and to prioritize her family?" I wanted to curl up in a ball and die.
"I'm sorry, Digby. I think you're a nice guy and I feel for you, but I can't get that involved. I'd be more than happy to relay a simple message, but I can't handle anything of that depth. I hope you understand." Digby nodded.
"I do. Can you then write her and tell her I'm thinking of her?" he asked. A few seconds hung in between our conversation. I could see the pained look of a distraught brother. I could see the hurt and the sorrow and the yearning to be reunited with his sister. I thought about Al's and my relationship. I hoped deep inside that, God forbid my brother and I stopped talking, he would have that same desire to continue a relationship with me.
I said yes.
My name is Noah and I'm the mayor of Coral Lakes.
I'm also Mayor Megan's (of Griffin Beach) brother. I've had a long journey in town building and I've also had to deal with a lot of slack from a lot of people. It wasn't fun but the end result was so worth it. Coral Lakes is an amazing town and I'm proud to be the mayor of it. It's smaller than Griffin Beach and not as well known, but I really don't care. I'm proud of Coral Lakes for what it is, not what it could be. While I have great aspirations for Coral Lakes and want it to thrive and succeed, I also don't push it so much that it burns out. I like the town to pace its growth carefully. My sister on the other hand...she isn't as patient.
I remember Digby telling me a bunch of different things about Griffin Beach that he read in the news over the past 9 months or so. The corruption and crime were growing exponentially and there were some scandals that involved my sister. I couldn't believe my sister would be a part of this, but it unfortunately was found to be true. She had to plead guilty but never stepped down. Somehow they still managed to love her. Somehow she still managed to keep Griffin Beach...intact. I don't understand how but she got it to work. One of the latest articles involved a corruption sting within Lyle's Happy Home Academy, also known as the HHA. Apparently, Lyle teamed up with Nook and they were siphoning money and stealing from the home inspections. The FBI was suspicious for a long time and had planted a spy to see what was going on.
The FBI found its catch and Lyle was in deep trouble. Lyle got the best lawyers though and weaseled his way out of trouble. He only accumulated some fines and got no jail time. In other words, the man was really lucky. Lyle was still able to run the business without many consequences. Nook, who was involved, got off scotch free. No fines at all. Doesn't surprise me anyhow. Nook is a shady man who has been able to slide his way out of a lot of trouble. I remember one incident with Nook, when I first started the town. I would never forget it.
I was sitting in my office, looking over some papers. The door swung open and hit the back wall. The statue bust I had of a random Roman woman nearly fell to the floor. Before I could do anything about it, Tom Nook stormed into the room. He had on a smooth purple suit and red tie. He fixed his one lapel and sneered at me. Digby scurried in and yelled at Nook. Digby told Nook he couldn't come in. Nook waved his hand at him and ignored him. I noticed a bear in the background who was with Nook--he grabbed Digby, shoved him out of the room and slammed the door. I stood up abruptly and pursed my lips.
"You can't just come in here. Who do you think you are?" I asked. Nook laughed.
"I'm not even going to answer that question. I'm also not going to beat around the bush. You know who I am, and I know who you are. I've heard that you're starting a new town...eh, Coral Lakes, right? Yeah whatever. Names don't matter." I scowled. "Nevertheless, I want to expand my business in your town. I believe this will be a...beneficial deal for the both of us. Your town will economically thrive from my influence."
I sneered. "I don't need your influence. Coral Lakes will be just fine on its own." Nook narrowed his eyes.
"Don't try to bluff or play the self-sufficient mayor. There's absolutely no way you are in any place to negotiate. You need me." I clenched my one fist and pounded my other hand on my desk.
"Don't come into my office and tell me what I am. I know what I'm capable of and I know what my town is capable of. I don't need you, as a matter of fact." Nook bit his lip and straightened up.
"If this is your way of playing hard-to-get, I guess I'll give you the satisfaction of knowing it's working."
"It's my way of telling you I don't want your offices in my town." I walked towards the door and wrenched it open. Digby and the bear were shocked to see me open it. "Now please...leave. I'm asking politely now. Don't make me call my security." Nook adjusted his shoulders and frowned, slowly making his way out.
"Fine. Have it your way. I'll tell you something right now, Mayor Noah." Nook slinked up to my face and stood centimeters away from my face. "I will destroy you."
I didn't want his influence in my town, so when I created Coral Lakes, I was sure to go around his pompous tail. It worked against me for a long time. Nook made sure that people wouldn't do business with me or he would threaten them. However after some time, Nook finally left me alone. I made sure to use different realty companies, financing companies, insurance companies, banks etc. I wanted to use ANYTHING that wasn't involved with Nook or his businesses.
Al was the first step. He was one of my first villagers and he loved Coral Lakes. He loved what he did and I appreciated his contribution to Coral Lakes' growth. Without Nook's influence, Coral Lakes can be so much better than Griffin Beach. People may bash the town and say it's smaller, but I don't care what they have to say. I get the last laugh when Coral Lakes was named 2014's Top Tourist Destination.
I bet that really grinded my sister's gears.
It wasn't my intention to become my sister's rival, but it was a sweet victory nevertheless. It just happened like that. At this point, Coral Lakes' growth was automatic yet gradual. I added little things and big things. The public works projects were popular and they added to the overall aesthetic and character of Coral Lakes. Without them, I don't think Coral Lakes would have received the popularity it did. Now, it's a booming little town with a thriving tourist economy. Unlike my sister and Nook though, when I look at Coral Lakes, I don't think money and Bells. I just think about the happy memories people are making by enjoying the amentities in my town.
I never honestly thought the Alpaca family would move. Ever. They had been in this town for so long...their parents had set the foundation for their childhoods here. When Reese and Cyrus came in, saying they were moving, my heart nearly stopped. They changed the pace of the economy in Griffin Beach and became the first recycling shop in town. People could sell their unwanted items or buy used items at Re-tail and it really helped a lot of people out. It also created a form of community that wouldn't have been existent otherwise. To say Re-Tail was just a simple mom and pop store in town, I would be lying. I just hope its absence doesn't hurt the economy. Maybe with some luck, someone else will take the initiative and open up a new recycling store. After all, with the lack of a recycling store, there will be demand.
That's just the way the free market rolls.
I wonder if Isabelle would know. She did major in economics at the local college. I don't know whether it was macroeconomics or microeconomics, but either way she had to have some knowledge of the impact of losing Re-Tail. I was going to ask her, but at the last second, I stopped myself. I don't know what it was...I guess I just hesitated. I didn't want Isabelle to see I was afraid or worried about the Alpacas moving to Coral Lakes. It would look weak to her.
"Ms. Mayor?" A light voice woke me from my trance. Isabelle was looking at me. "Did you hear what I just said? Tom Nook is waiting outside. He wants to ask you about something..." she trailed. I waved my arm at her.
"Sorry. I was in my own little world. Let him in." Isabelle got up and was gone only a moment. The pompous raccoon scurried inside my office with a light gleam in his eye. I reclined back in my chair. "What's the haps, Nook?" Nook didn't say a word but slapped a huge poster down on my counter. I recognized them too well...of course they were blueprints. "Another project I see...let's take a peek at what you're cooking up." I unrolled the paper and glanced down. I didn't read everything or examine it minutely, but I got the gist of it. Nook wanted to build a casino resort on the beach. It would be huge and take up a huge chunk of South Cove. I sighed and set the paper down. Nook grinned.
"It'll be the best thing for that cove. Maybe it'll up the cove on the ritzy scale and get some more high-class people there." Nook said snottily. It wasn't a secret that South Cove wasn't filled with the high class rich people East Cove had, but it wasn't awful. I bit my lip and Nook continued his sales pitch. "The casino will be huge and have hundreds of hotel rooms and suites and penthouses that may even be, depending on the future and demand and things, up for rent, sale, or timeshare. It'll be called The Cove Casino and will encompass large stretches of beach. There will be an indoor pool, tennis court, outdoor pool, basketball court...you name it! The Cove Casino will have it, no doubt about it!"
I raised my eyebrows. "What about my conservation project?" Nook shrugged. I pouted. "Nook. This is important. Restore the Shore is a project that will build up the dunes, protect our shores from future erosion and storms, and preserve the environment around our coastline for generations to come." Nook didn't say anything. I stood up and leaned forward. "This is an initiative I have been working on for ages. You know that. It's what I've been pushing for the past two years since campaigning. The people are counting on this."
"The people are also counting on a nice casino to stimulate the economy and the tourism. Their pockets will be happy."
"Nook, I can't just ditch this initiative for your casino. It doesn't work that way." Nook took a bag of Bells out of his pocket and sloshed them on the counter. I heard the coins jingle together and wondered how many thousands of Bells were in there. I gently pushed the bag away. "Bribery won't work either. Keeping Griffin Beach safe and sound is my priority and Restore the Shore will achieve just that. I don't need a casino to make any cove happy." Nook's expression slowly faded into one of anger. I needed to get him out of here. Fast. "Please leave or I will call security." Isabelle stood up when I said that. Nook turned on his ankle.
"Don't worry your little face. I was just leaving." He stopped at the doorway and turned towards me. "Just know this. I will not hesitate to ruin you, just like how I ruined your brother. If you think your cutesie conservation project is going to stop me, you got another thing coming." I wathed his paw reach for the doorknob. The knob twisted. The door opened. He lurched forward.
"No!" I yelled out. Isabelle's head perked up. Nook stopped and I didn't even have to see his face. I knew he was smiling. "You can have your casino. I'll cancel the conservation project." Without another word, Nook left the office. I sighed and Isabelle was staring at me. I pursed my lips and snapped at her. "Quit gawking and get to work." She winced and huddled over her work. I brushed my hand through my hair. What was I going to do?
The past few weeks have been rough, however Reese and I have been trooping it through together. The building in Coral Lakes is ours now, but Tyler has been very difficult with the moving process. He hasn't been cooperative at all. Reese keeps assuring me that it's only a phase. She says he'll come around, but I'm genuinely afraid Tyler will never face the music. I can't lose my cool, but I'll admit...it's been pretty hard not to. I haven't opened Re-Tail in Coral Lakes yet but I know we have to soon. Money is getting tighter and bills are coming in. We need to get the business running and I have to get that income. As much as I don't want to separate the family, I have to move to Coral Lakes. The lease on the bottom part ran out, but Reese and Tyler are still living above the old store part. I know they'll be okay. When I told Reese I had to move, she looked sad but I could tell she understood.
I was so lucky to have such a great wife. Tyler was more disappointed though. He still hasn't spoken to me. When I packed the suitcase, he sat on his bed across the hallway and watched me. I felt too awkward to talk to him at the time. I don't know what stopped me from talking to my son...I just felt strange. A few hours later, I found myself outside my home. At least, my old home. My wife was standing on the sidewalk and Tyler was sidled alongside of her. She kissed me on the lips and smiled, nuzzling her nose in my wool.
"You stay safe now. Bring home the bacon for us." I laughed and kissed her back.
"I will, babe. Hold down the fort for me." Reese laughed too.
"You know it. Promise me that you won't lose your ambition or your spark. That drive is what makes me admire you, you know." I smirked.
"Reese, you and me, we're dreamers in a world that doesn't sleep. We have imaginations! We have the power of our minds to aspire and be inspired to action. The day I lose that is the day I die." I nuzzled my face in her ear and whispered. "And I will never die." Reese blushed. I looked down at Tyler and smiled. "You're going to be the man of the house now. Protect your mother, you hear?" I asked lightly. Tyler balled his hands up in a fist and turned abruptly on his heel. Just as I opened my mouth, Tyler ran back inside the building and slamemd the door. I sighed deeply and Reese cupped my face with her hand. "Reese, I'm a terrible father. A failure and humiliation to my family..." I trailed.
"No you're not." she said quickly. "I told you, it's just a phase." I bit my lip and didn't say anything. Reese lightly smiled. "Trust me, he'll come around. You just have to give him some time." I looked away at her. I couldn't look in her beautiful eyes and believe her. I thought Tyler would hate me forever. She kissed me again. "You should get going. You don't want to run into traffic on the way." I nodded blindly and wrapped my wife into a hug. She muffled something into my fur but I didn't hear her.
"Thank you." I whispered. I kissed her one last time and headed towards my car. I threw my suitcase in the back and climbed in the car. Looking through the window, I could see her standing there. Some tears glistened in her eyes but she managed to blink them away. I buckled my seatbelt and waved at her. She lightly waved back. I started the car and before I knew it, I had driven away. She and our old home were just specks in the distance. I sighed and stared forward.
I was so unsure about my future.
I had been living in Coral Lakes for quite some time now. I really enjoyed it and I fit in well within the community. It was quieter than Griffin Beach and I was making many friends. Everyone made me feel so welcome. I wasn't just a resident; I was a part of a community. Some of my new neighbors and friends helped me and Al furnish my home and now, my living room was decked out with the Green Series. My gym was in the basement. I sat at my green desk and stared out the window. There wasn't much going on. Unlike at Griffin Beach, where children and adults were always walking, yelling or running around, the people in Coral Lakes stayed to themselves and didn't wander or permeate any property boundaries through actions or noise. I glanced at the paper and pen in front of me and remembered Digby's words to me.
He wanted me to pass on a message to Isabelle. I wasn't averse to the concept but I wasn't for it either. I contemplated writing that letter for a moment. I did kinda promise. I couldn't break a promise. But I did some thinking. It was cold. How would I feel if some stranger sent me a letter passing on a message from my brother? Insulted. Cheap. Offended. Numerous emotions would flood through me and I didn't feel it was right to be the partial cause of someone else being flooded with those emotions. I pushed away from the desk and stared around my living room. I told Digby I would pass on the message. I couldn't retract that. It didn't feel right.
I didn't really know what I was doing, but I felt myself stand up and grab my car keys. It was all a blur as I drove to Griffin Beach. The drive wasn't very long thankfully. I was broken from my trance when I saw tons of news anchor vans around the town. Some were already in town; others were driving towards the beach. I didn't know why they were there, but I took the appropriate detours to avoid them. It seemed like they were all over. Luckily, I was driving down a random street and caught Isabelle walking somewhere. She had a coffee in her hand. She must have stopped at the cafe. I pulled alongside of her and rolled down the window. She stopped, clearly startled at my appearance. When she realized it was me, she smiled warmly.
"Rocket! It's been a while! What brings you to Griffin Beach?" I couldn't say it at this moment. I didn't have the courage yet. I shrugged.
"I was in the area and decided to stop by. I just happened to see you walking alone. Would you like a ride?" Isabelle nodded and scurried over to my passenger side. She thanked me and took another sip of her coffee. "You're welcome." I said naturally. "Any destination in particular you're headed to?" I asked. She shook her head.
"I'm off today. Miss Mayor let me have vacation today, because it's too hectic at the hall. I was just walking to the cafe and taking a scenic saunter." She took another sip and turned towards me. "How's Coral Lake working out for you?" she asked. I turned and stared into her eyes. Her question seemed so harmless. So innocent. But I had to remember who I was talking to. Isabelle is Megan's left hand girl and has been her secretary for years. As much as I wanted to truly be her friend, I couldn't trust her.
"It's a nice place. I've settled in smoothly." I began to drive again aimlessly. Isabelle didn't resist. Was this kidnapping? I hoped not. "It's actually pretty funny that I've run into you like this..." I trailed. Isabelle craned her head to look at me curiously. "I talked to your brother Digby." Isabelle bit her lip and looked down. "He just wanted me to tell you he was thinking about you." Isabelle smiled lightly but I could tell she was hiding some emotion.
"I appreciate you passing that on." she said curtly. I looked at her almost expectantly to say more. She felt my eyes on her. "Don't worry!" she squeaked. "I'm not going to ask you to say anything to him. I'll--" she stopped and looked down. "I don't know what I'm going to do." I pulled over to the side of the road. Isabelle looked up at me with a slightly frightened expression. I parked the car, turning and smiling at her.
"You could talk to him." I suggested lightly. She pursed her lips. "I'm not saying you have to jump right in and talk like nothing ever changed..." I started. "But you could always break the ice and get some water melted. Maybe if you lighten the tensions, you can set a precedent and build your relationship again." I said. Isabelle nodded slowly. I continued to talk, even though she may not have wanted my opinion. "I know how it is. I have a brother. We have our disagreements but he means the world to me. If I didn't have him, I wouldn't have my other half. Sure, we have fights and we lead our own lives, but at the end of the day we always have each other." I cleared my throat nervously. "I mean, of course I don't know your situation entirely and it's none of my business and I really shouldn't be involved, BUTTTT I just know from experience that family is family. You can't choose them but they're there forever..." I trailed. [i]That sounded so cheesy[/i], I thought. Isabelle narrowed her eyebrows.
"I'll confess. I'm taken aback." My face flushed and I was worried what she thought. I caught a smile creep on her face though. "But I'm grateful." I felt myself exhale a breath I didn't realize I was holding. "I needed to start talking to my brother again. I was just thinking about him the other night. Maybe you coming to me and telling me all this was a sign?" she asked to herself (not really me). Isabelle faced me. "Can you take me home?" I nodded. "You know where it is, right?" I nodded again and shifted gears. Silently, I drove her to her house. When we got there, I quickly parked just in case she wanted to jump out immediately. She didn't move though for a few moments. I thought she was nervous but I couldn't read her. She turned towards me and I was nervous about what she would think.
I opened my mouth finally and tried to lighten the mood. "We're here. It was nice talking to you again."
Luckily for me, she beamed. "Thank you. I promise to start talking to my brother again. I'm going to try and--hopefully--we'll make some progress together." I nodded slowly.
"That's...that's really great, Isabelle." Isabelle opened the door and I noticed a car speed towards us. It was on the other end of the road though, but it still piqued my curiosity. "I'll be talking to you later, I guess. Try not to be a stranger." Isabelle waved politely.
"I won't!" She waved, shutting the door and hurrying out the road. The car came closer and I saw it was one of those news anchor vans. The door slid open and some reporters ran out. Isabelle gulped, waving at me one more time and running inside her house. She locked herself inside. Realizing the battle of catching an interview with Isabelle was futile, the reporters turned towards my car and tried to get some questions out of me. I groaned, quickly shifting gears again and pulling away. I had no idea what they wanted, but I didn't want to wait around and find out.
I was just glad my sole mission was accomplished.
The consequences of my decision have chased me.
I regret canceling Restore the Shore but I really had no choice. If I didn't let Nook have his casino, I wouldn't have my town. As much as I hated to disappoint the residents, I had no say in the matter. The news anchors picked up on the decision right away and rushed down. Vans flooded Griffin Beach and before I knew it, I was trapped inside my office or I had to face the wrath of hundreds of pushy journalists. Isabelle made sure to be my PR team and my body guard at the same time. However, we had to call in police officers to keep the "riots" calm. Yes, I said riots. Environmentalists riled up by all the media hype pitched tents outside buildings and picketed with signs. Oh goodness, those signs. These people had nothing better to do than come up with catchy little slogans plastered on plain signs.
"Mayor or Betrayer?"
"Nook's A Crook!"
"Restore the Shore, Not Restore the Poor!"
"Indoor Pool or Cesspool, There Won't be a Difference!"
It ate me up inside. It ruined my poll numbers and it only heightened the tensions. I had all the cove district police officers patrolling the area to keep the peace. It was unnerving but it was the only way to feel somewhat comfortable and safe. Isabelle and I were sitting inside the Town Hall. She was scrolling through social media and I was scanning the television channels. They all were tuned to the news, showing the outside of the Town Hall. I could even see myself through one of the windows. They all mimicked the same headline.
"Just in! Mayor Megan of Griffin Beach has officially [i]canceled[/i] the [u]Restore the Shore[/u] initiative which she has spearheaded for the past two years and had named the key issue in her campaign. Mayor Megan promised the people of Griffin Beach that--upon reelection--she would work to implement these conservation measures. Now, it is rumored that the cancellation is attributed to Tom Nook's proposal of a casino along the South Cove beach. Mayor Megan and her secretary Isabelle have refused to hold a press conference at this point and police officers are heavily monitoring the area due to the fact that protesters have begun to camp out along the sidewalks. Tune in later for more on this breaking news!"
It made me sick. There seriously was nothing I could do though. The door suddenly opened and closed. Isabelle and I twirled around, since no one was supposed to be coming in. We were relieved to see it was only Tank, the police chief of all of Griffin Beach. The rhino adjusted his police cap and nodded to us. "Ladies." he greeted curtly. Tank was all business all the time. He was great at his job but sometimes, the man just needed to laugh.
"Is it a good thing that you're in here right now?" I asked with a smirk. Tank's facade broke and a smile peeked out. He let out a tiny laugh and shook his head.
"No, it's actually not. The protesting is getting worse. It's reaching a non-peaceful level at this point and I've told my officers to be prepared to take action. However, I highly recommend that you and Isabelle set up a press conference. That might pacify the people and buy us some time, because if it gets any worse, I'm calling in the National Guard." I gulped. The National Guard? That wasn't good. That wasn't good AT ALL. I sighed and held my head.
"I'll write up a quick little speech for Isabelle to say. I'm not going out there. Set up a small podium for Isabelle." I commanded. Tank nodded and saluted me officially.
"Yes, ma'am. Give us approximately 8 minutes. I'll be back in shortly with some men to escort Isabelle out." Before I could thank the chief, he turned and marched out. I immediately hunched over my desk and tried to piece some words together. It wasn't supposed to be long and it wasn't supposed to be too informative. I just needed something brief yet satisfying. After 5 minutes, I had my first draft. I did a quick scan over, read it out loud to Isabelle a couple times, and rapidly worked my way through a few more drafts. At 7 minutes, everything was ready. Isabelle had the piece of paper in her hand.
Right at that moment, Tank opened the door and came in with two officers. I could hear the crowd roaring outside. Isabelle winced at the noise. Tank told us he was ready. He began to walk out of the hall. Isabelle followed closely behind Tank, and the two officers were in Isabelle's wake. I lingered by the door (safe because of the other guards) to hear how my words would sound. When Isabelle approached the podium, the decibels of the crowd's roaring escalated by a thousand times if it was possible. Tank tapped on the microphone to shut them up and leaned in to speak.
"Thank you for your patience. We appreciate your efforts to remain calm and collected through this time. Mayor Megan's secretary Isabelle is here to deliver official words verbatim." He stepped away from the microphone but stood closely to Isabelle, in case trouble striked. Isabelle tapped the microphone lightly, smiling and waving to the mob. That girl was always so polite, even in an almost national crisis. Realizing her role, Isabelle changed her expression to a somber one and cleared her throat.
"From the mayor verbatim...It is unfortunate that [u]Restore The Shore[/u] is being canceled at this point in time, however I assure you all that the Cove Casino will be an excellent addition to Griffin Beach. It will stimulate the economy, create jobs, and add a new diverse element to South Cove's tourism that was nonexistent before. We will support the construction of the Cove Casino every step of the way and ensure that its construction process will be smooth and uneventful. I have not betrayed Griffin Beach and I have not broken any campaign promises due to the fact that Restore the Shore is not being canceled. It is only being postponed. In the near future, plans will be made to restore the shore at all coves. More details will be worked out later in time but for now, nothing more can be said. Thank you."
Isabelle stepped off the stage. News anchors began yelling questions. Protesters began yelling obscenities. Tank and the other officers rushed her away, back in the town hall. She whisked by me and before I knew it, the door was being shut. Isabelle was panting, but managed to smile at me. I smiled back. "You did great, Isabelle! Good job." She blushed.
"Thank you, Ms. Mayor! That was a wonderful speech you wrote. I didn't really do much work." she said bashfully. Isabelle was too humble and meek for her own good. But I let it go. She was reliable and she was always there for me in my personal and political life. I needed more people like her.
I heard the news.
To be honest, it disappointed me. I haven't known my sister personally for a while, but I just thought she had more courage than that. I assumed she would be passionate about her beliefs and not let anyone down. Meanwhile, all of Griffin Beach is in an uproar about the scenario. I have seen all the television news stations. I have seen the broadcasters standing out there live, and I also saw the protesters wildly complain. The little slogans on the signs were the best. They had all these catchphrases that were so...catchy. Lack of better word I know. I was sitting at my desk with Digby watching ACN, when the door swung open. Al stood there with a grim look on his face. Digby stood up and asked what was wrong. The gorilla nervously looked down on the ground.
"Invasive plants were found in Wolf Lake." I gulped. Wolf Lake was the next largest lake besides it. It was a very prominent lake and invasive plants being found there would NOT be good. Digby and I immediately headed for the doorway. We have special administrative golf carts that Digby and I use for mayoral purposes. This was one of those purposes. I hopped into the back seat (It was a three row golf cart) while Digby grabbed the keys and sat in the front seat. Al sat alongside of him and directed him to the road where the plants were located.
I recognized the one road well. Trick Hill Lane. It was a nice road where many people had camps and houses on the lake or by the lake. Near one of the right-of-ways, we saw cop cars. Luckily, no news crews arrived yet. One of the waterfront residents, Teddy, was standing alongside our Coral Lakes Police Department chief Lionel. Teddy was explaining to the officers what he saw. I rushed down the hill and when the bear saw me, he turned towards me.
"Mayor Noah! I'm glad you're here." The bear took my arm and led me down to the lakefront. "I was telling the cops, this morning I had come out on the porch with my newspaper and a coffee like I always do. My son and his family were staying the night and they were down there getting the canoes out. Nate calls up from the water and says 'Dad! You need to get your grass picked out!' I lowered my newspaper and stared down at the water with my glasses. I yell down 'What grass?' He calls back up to me and points to these plants and says 'This grass here!' That's when I knew something was up."
I looked at the grass. It was all tall and stringy and green. It didn't look like it had just...appeared overnight. If this was naturally grown grass, it looked like the grass would have been growing for almost a whole month untouched. Teddy continued to talk. "So I put my newspaper down on that table there and come to the waterfront. Nate shows me the grass. I didn't touch it or nothing. I didn't try to pull it, I just fingered it. It has a rough texture to it. You can feel it too." I did. Teddy was right. "I make sure, YOU know, I make sure that this beach is maintained meticulously. I don't let any grass or branches pollute this area. This grass wasn't here a few days ago. It just kinda...invaded."
"I see that." I mumbled.
"So I called the cops because I didn't know who else to call. I know we have the Association for the Protection of Coral Lakes...uh what are they called? APCL? Yeah, I didn't want to involve them too much, but I'm pretty sure they'll get their nose in this. I called the cops and then an officer came down. He seemed pretty concerned, and before I know it, the whole squad's down here!" I rested a hand on the bear's shoulder and smiled.
"Thank you for reporting this. I'm sure you're not the only one. If you're reporting this now, there's got to be tons of other homes that are just now discovering these invasive plants." I walked back up the hill to leave Teddy at the lakefront. Al, Digby and Chief Lionel were huddled by one of the cop cars. Lionel glanced up when he saw me. I sidled up alongside of him. "What's the haps, Chief? What's the next step?" The lion bit his lip and ruffled his white mane a little.
"Next plan of action is to call in some marine biology experts. I know a guy who knows some guys. He can get them in tomorrow morning." I nodded acknowledging his plan. "But I'll be frank, boss." Lionel cleared his throat. "It doesn't look good." I sighed.
"I know. But I'm not going to let this ruin Coral Lakes. I will fight this invasive plant and won't rest until it's completely, absolutely gone." The lion nodded, holding up a paw and answering his phone. Lionel walked away. I stared down towards the lake, blinking away tears. A fuzzy paw rested on my shoulder. I turned to see Digby smiling weakly at me. I smiled back; that dog would always be my loyal best friend.
About two weeks have passed since I left for Coral Lakes. Being separated from my family has emotionally killed me. We're lucky to have technology like texting and Facetime to keep us together. The wounds don't burn as much if there's some water to soothe it. Reese and I have been talking several times a day and we Facetime every night. I make sure to take time out of my schedule to do that. She uplifts my spirits so much. Seeing her face every night and anticipating seeing her the next night gets me through the days. Tyler is still stubbornly refusing to talk to me, but he does stand in the background of the camera when Reese and I video chat. I know deep down that he wants to see me, but he doesn't know what to say.
I glanced down at my phone and grinned. It was 8:30. I sent a quick text out to my wife. "Ready?" She immediately pinged back "Yes". I went to my Facetime app and pressed Reese's contact. A few moments later, her beautiful face was on the other side. I smiled and waved. She giggled and waved back. "How was everything today?" I asked. She said it was good and proceeded to tell me some minor moments of the day. Some of them attributed to the latest news: Mayor Megan's cancellation of her conservation project. I had been following the news ever since it was broke and I can honestly say I was disappointed in her. She promised us and the other residents that our beaches would be protected.
She let us down.
When Reese was finished talking, I began to give her some light news of business today. "It was slow today, but that'll be normal. Coral Lakes is a smaller area than Griffin Beach and there aren't as many locals. Once we get the word out through advertising, Re-Tail will be bustling in no time." Reese nodded. "Tomorrow morning, I have a meeting with Mayor Noah about that. We're going to team up with a charity to do partial fundraising for the store."
"That's great, honey!" she exclaimed. I beamed.
"I know! I'm not sure how the details are going to work out, but I'll keep you posted on that." Reese bit her lip.
"I have something to tell you." she said. My face fell and I asked her what she wanted to say. "Well...today, Nook came early. Well, the nephew did. I don't know which one it was. He came early to collect the rent." I nearly stood up out of my seat.
"What?! Reese, you should've called me immediately! He's not supposed to collect from you early!" I exclaimed. Reese was on the verge of tears; I immediately regretted raising my voice. We both sighed. "Did he collect the full rent?" She nodded.
"He also told me that the lease is going to expire in ten days." I groaned inwardly. Nook knew. He wasn't going to make it any easier on us. If he was going to lose us, he was going to cripple us while we were running away.
"Look, you need to make the move soon. I know that there are other forces at play here, but you can't stay there anymore. I'm actually worried for you and Tyler. Nook is being a jerk and you shouldn't hang around any longer and wait to see what he'll do." Reese looked towards Tyler's direction. I gestured to him. "Let me talk to him. He has to understand what's at stake here. We're the adults, he's the child. We are the bosses." Reese wouldn't hand the camera over.
"True but maybe you need to see everything from your son's perspective. Analyze how he feels and be a little sympathetic." she said. I rolled my eyes.
"Reese, I have been sympathetic. I understand how he's feeling, but at this point, he's being a brat." It kinda just slipped out of my mouth. The impact of my words didn't set in until I saw Reese's face set into a scowl. I sighed and muttered an apology. I don't even know if she heard me. The Facetime conversation had ended. I groaned out loud and nearly threw my phone at a wall. Iscrewedup I screwedup Iscrewedup Iscrewed up. There was nothing I could do now, but give Reese some space and hope she'll accept my apology later. It still annoyed me though that Nook was trying to push us out. Tyler needed to let up the facade and accept the change in our lives. There was nothing we could do, and he needed to understand that.
However, Reese--the overprotective, overbearing mother she is--has protected Tyler from any negative feelings.
It can be quite annoying.
When Digby told me the marine biologists were here, I didn't wait for him. I grabbed the keys to a golf cart and tore down towards Wolf Lake. I already knew where they were. I didn't have to ask. Besides, all I had to do was follow the cop cars and news vans. A tiny Toyota Prius was parked at the bottom of Teddy's driveway. I figured that was the experts' car. Teddy was hanging off of his deck, staring down towards his waterfront with a nervous expression. Chief Lionel was already there. He stopped me from proceeding any further and gestured towards one of the men in a white hazmat suit.
"Lyman, this is Mayor Noah." The green koala nodded and lifted his face mask.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mayor. Sorry it's under such grim circumstances." I waved my hand, but words couldn't come out of my mouth. "My partner Wolfgang is currently taking some samples and we're going to take them to the car. Technology is so great these days that we have mobile labs, where we can tell instantly what a plant is." I smiled.
"That's great!" We turned for a few moments to watch the blue wolf (although you really couldn't tell he was blue because of the suit) carefully take some plants and put them in a Ziploc bag. When he collected the plants, he waved to Lyman and started walking up the hill. The koala excused himself and followed his partner. I nervously bit my nails and Chief Lionel just stared forward. I broke the silence after a few moments and faced the lion. "What do you think this means...if it's bad, I'm saying?" I asked, stumbling over my words. The chief shrugged.
"Depends on the results. If it's something bad, this could really ruin the lake. People will be selling their homes left and right, and the economy might take a turn for the worse. You know, it's like a stock market. People start freaking over something and sell in a rush. That causes a panic and everyone starts selling. It drives the price down real low because the demand is next to nothing and the supply is huge, since the market gets flooded." He trailed. I stared up at the lion with a slight smirk and a gleam in my eye.
"Since when were you the economics expert over here?" I asked playfully. The lion laughed, his mane bouncing up and down.
"Since college made a criminal justice major take an economics class as a general ed requirement." We shared a laugh together and before we knew it, Lyman and Wolfgang came back. "It's done already?" Chief Lionel asked. They nodded. "And?" he trailed. The green koala spoke up.
"It's malterra. Literally means 'bad earth' in Latin. It's one of the worst invasive plants out there." My stomach dropped a thousand feet. "Within a month, it can consume an entire pond. There's no solution for it yet. Scientists have been teaming up to try to come up with something. You name it. Fish that eat the plant. Chemicals that kill the plant. Eco-friendly solutions to remove the plant. They just don't work. People have tried for approximately twenty years. Malterra just comes back like a boomerang." I sighed and Chief Lionel placed a paw on my shoulder. The wolf raised his paw.
"But there's a strange thing about this malterra that is important to note." This piqued my interest. "Malterra appears when there are chemical imbalances in the water. Severe chemical imbalances that would cause major environmental issues and concerns. We went around and tested the lakes and analyzed them. There was no sign of these chemical imbalances." The wolf said. I narrowed my eyes, telling him to speak English. He laughed. "Sorry. My jargon sometimes consumes me. What I'm trying to say is, this malterra didn't produce itself naturally. My partner Lyman and I would like to stay optimistic, but we believe someone planted this malterra in your lake."
My mouth formed the shape of an 'o'. Chief Lionel folded his arms; he was getting into business mode. "Now, you can't go making assumptions and accusations like that unless you have a clear cause. Explain why you think so." Lyman shrugged.
"The thing is, malterra is very powerful and only is produced when water is mixed with very unstable elements and compounds. We have analyzed and find no evidence of these unstable elements in your water. However, when malterra is physically planted--which is fully probable--it latches and never leaves." Chief Lionel shook his head.
"You're contradicting yourself! First you say, malterra can be physically planted, and then you say it latches and never leaves. Which is it, pal?!" he exclaimed. I got in the middle.
"No need to be confrontational! I apologize, sirs." I said humbly. Wolfgang grunted. I guess he was accepting the apology? "Now, please, explain your theory." I said. Wolfgang spoke up.
"Malterra undergoes a complex reproduction process where the very tough exterior opens up and the cell wall allows the release of spores. These spores can be captured and released into the water. We believe someone did this and released malterra spores into your lake." I looked at Chief Lionel, who wasn't as antagonistic but still looked skeptical. I nodded.
"Well, we appreciate your opinion and thank you for taking time out of your schedule today. We will investigate all options and come to a conclusion later on." The two marine biologists took this as a sign to leave, so they walked back up the hill and got in their car. I glared at the lion after they left. "Lionel! You can't spazz off like that on people." The lion hmmph'ed and folded his arms again.
"I think those two are a bunch of quacks who have no business in police matters. It's none of their concern and they should keep their head in the laboratory." I smiled weakly.
"They are experts. I appreciate their opinion. Besides, what if they're right? At least be open to the tip-off. If it's not right, it's not right. But we have to try something. This is the only thing we got." The lion unfolded his arms and began to walk up the hill.
"Fine! But for the record, I think their statements are completely false. No one would plant invasive plant spores in Wolf Lake. And even so, what's the motive? What's the gain? Nothing. But I'll look into it. You're the mayor." The lion left. I shook my head at his retreating figure, just as Digby pulled up on the golf cart.
"Leave me alone!" I screamed, as I slammed the door of my home.
These news reporters wouldn't stop. They couldn't just be content with harassing me at work. I had to be harassed at my house too. It almost made me want to move somewhere secluded, where they would never find me. However, that thought is synonymous to abdication--and I can't possibly give up my mayoral position. Tank had to assign me round-the-clock protection and security. There was no guarantee for my safety and frankly, that was terrifying. Isabelle has been supportive but she's only one person. No one else even cares. I'm made out to be the bad guy in ALL scenarios. Megan is this. Megan is that. It never stops. It comes with the job, sure. But these people need to realize I'm human too.
The latest news report included interviews from some of the villagers. They expressed disappointment in me and claimed I broke a crucial campaign promise that--in their eyes--helped me win. Did I break my promise? Technically, yes. While I said in my conference speech two weeks ago that I was only postponing Restore the Shore, I was lying. I was lying to myself and whoever I was addressing. Restore the Shore will never be brought up again. Not if Nook has his way. Which...he will. His casino will completely wipe out any possibility of my conservation project in South Cove. East Cove is already out of the question because of all the multi-million dollar homes.
Which leaves North Cove.
God knows what Nook's expansion plans are for that. Maybe he'll want a boardwalk pier extending over there. People don't understand. I can't say no to Nook. He'll ruin me. He's so powerful that the slightest thing I oppose him on will destroy me. Even though I am a powerful mayor myself, I have no pull against him. I would be toast in seconds. It's quite awful to think about. To think that all your hard work and sweat and tears could be undone by the mere whim of one man. Unfortunately, that's the way it is. I learned my lessons with Nook early in my political game. I learned never to cross him. I won't make the same mistakes again. I can't risk everything like that.
A knock broke me from my trance. An officer stuck his head in. "Ma'am. Isabelle is outside. She has breaking news about Coral Lakes." I scrunched my face up. Why did I care about Coral Lakes? Unless it was good news. Like Noah is experiecing political troubles, or maybe his poll numbers or economy numbers are going down. Besides that, I didn't really care. I had problems of my own. I told the man to let Isabelle in. He nodded and the dog sashayed into my living room.
"Hello, Ms. Mayor! Sorry to bother you like this, but I just got some news from Coral Lakes. It's a little delayed since this investigation has been ongoing for some days now. However, the news has just been officiated by Noah himself." I pursed my lips. Isabelle awkwardly cleared her throat. "Invasive plants were found in Wolf Lake." I narrowed my eyes and gasped. I had only heard of invasive plants. I never had to deal with them myself thankfully. Those were serious and I would never wish anyone that fate. "Marine biologists tested it and it rang positive for malterra." I must have made a funny, curious expression; Isabelle laughed. I smirked.
"What on earth is malterra?" Isabelle shrugged.
"I'm not really sure. It's some rare plant. There are so many different reports and theories..." she trailed. I rose my eyebrows and stared intently at the dog.
"What do you mean 'theories'?" I asked. A sweat began to break out on Isabelle's face.
"Weeeeellllll...theythinkthatsomeoneplantedthemalterrainthelakeandpeoplearesayingyoudidit." It was so fast, but by now, I could decode Isabelle's words. I bunched my fists up in a ball and stood up.
"What do you mean people are saying I did it?!" I yelled. "Are you kidding me? Why would I do something like that?!" I bellowed. Isabelle winced.
"Well, Ms. Mayor, it's not like people AREN'T aware of your hatred and rivalry with Coral Lakes." I groaned loudly.
"I have enough things on my plate and problems I have to deal with! Planting invasive plants is NOT on my agenda." I turned away from Isabelle and paced around the living room. "Who are these people starting these awful rumors? Now, I have to combat them and involve myself when it's not necessary!" I paused when I realized what Isabelle had just said. I turned towards her and narrowed my eyes. "Do you think I did it?" Isabelle grew red and stuttered rapidly.
"A-absolutely not, Ms. Mayor! I know you would never do such a thing." I nodded and pointed towards the door.
"I've had a long day and after the surface of these rumors, I am not going to try sticking my face outside. Work up a statement to release that would publicly absolve me of any involvement. I want it done by the morning." Isabelle glanced at my clock. It was 5:30. She saluted and with a high pitched squeak, she turned on her heel and ran out of my house. I plopped onto my couch and slid down the cushions. Now here was another web that I was tangled up in, unable to possibly free myself from.
After I spoke to Isabelle, I heard the news.
I realized that I was lucky to make it out of Griffin Beach alive and safe. Between the news reporters, the vans, the riots, and the picketers, Griffin Beach was almost a war zone. It was scary. I remember the town as my home, a place where I could feel safe. I didn't feel safe there now. The tinkling of a bell behind me snapped me out of my trance. It was just someone entering the diner. The waitress settled in front of me and asked if I wanted another coffee. I nodded and she hurried away. I stared up at the television playing the news channel on the wall. The newscaster spoke deeply and grimly about the two most interesting subjects in the contemporary news.
"Rioters continue to picket the cancellation of Griffin Beach mayor Megan's conservation project [u]Restore the Shore[/u]. This would be the second full week that people have camped outside buildings and held peaceful yet loud demonstrations. Sources say that this has severely depreciated the tourism in Griffin Beach and that tourists are choosing to spend their off days elsewhere. Not good news for Griffin Beach! Unfortunately, this isn't the end of the barrage. On top of it all, reports state there are rumors that Mayor Megan was involved in the malterra scandal in Coral Lakes." Everyone in the diner shuffled and grew quiet at this sudden news. "Rumors that Mayor Megan was somehow associated with the planting of malterra in Wolf Lake have circulated and are bringing quite the sour taste to this summer and Mayor Megan's second term. More news later on the next hourly update."
Several men and women in the diner scowled. One dog besides me voiced his opinion brusquely. "Shoulda known that chick had a hand in it. She wants nothing more than to see Coral Lakes burn to the ground." The waitress came back with my coffee and his cheesecake. She set the cheesecake plate in front of him and smirked.
"Usually, I would disagree with you, Shep, and tell you you're being paranoid, but I can't help but feel you're right." The dog puffed out his chest.
"Of course I'm right! I'm always right when it comes to her." He said 'her' like he was talking about a pest or some kind of deadly, contagious disease. "I told you two weeks ago, I was sitting right in this here diner when the news of the cancellation came out, that Nook's casino had something to do with it." The waitress nodded knowingly. "She gives into him so much. If he told her to jump, she'd ask how high." My blood was boiling at this point. I wasn't a fan of Mayor Megan either. I didn't forget the fact that she ripped up my moving petition, but I knew her better than any of these people did. I couldn't sit here and tolerate them trashing her.
I sipped my coffee and turned in my seat to stare at the man. "You know, I'd like to see you do a better job of running Griffin Beach." Shep shrugged, not really phased by my comment.
"I know I could do a better job than her. She's as useless as a walking leaf. She had a good start, I guess, but she's corroded to corruption and she's a goner. There's no getting her integrity back." He narrowed his eyes. "Besides, why would you defend her anyways? We're Lakers, if you forgot." he said, with a pompous smirk. "We're supposed to hate the Beachers." I growled. This rivalry was too much. It was infecting everyone.
"We're not supposed to hate anyone." I stated firmly. "Whether we're Beachers or Lakers, we're all people who have feelings. If you were dying on the side of the road, you would be grateful for anyone to help you out. You wouldn't care if they were a Beacher or a Laker. You would just be glad that someone had the heart to save your life!" I exclaimed. At first, I thought I broke through the dog. I really thought I did. Until I saw that gleam in his eye.
"You must be one of those Beacher transplants. We get them all the time. They come here and try to 'start a fresh life and turn over a new leaf.'" He said using air quotes. "However, you Beachers are all the same. You think you can come in here and try to act like you're one of us. You'll NEVER be one of us. You were born a Beacher and you're going to die a Beacher, just like how I was born a Laker and how I'm going to die a Laker." The man earned a rowdy set of applause from everyone in the diner, and they started chanting over and over. I couldn't take it. I slid off my chair and left the diner. I couldn't help but notice a tall man wearing a fedora and a trench coat slide out of his chair and follow me out.
I stopped and turned around to look at him, but he lingered by the diner window. As I walked down the sidewalk, I noticed he was following me. Every time I would look back, he would stop and look distracted. After two blocks of this nonsense, I got scared. I hurried towards the police station, him still following me intently. I burst through the door and told anyone who would listen that some strange man was stalking me. The officers just exchanged glances and laughed. They didn't want to help me and they didn't want to pay attention. I heard a sharp snap from the end of the hallway. Mayor Noah stood there with an intimidating air.
"Officers, you heard the lady. A strange man is stalking her. Shut down the surrounding blocks and find him. NOW." The officers scurried to obey orders. It was all a blur as Noah escorted me to a private room where I could sit and wait. I sat there for about fifteen minutes. Then a lion with a white mane came in. He introduced himself as Lionel, chief of the Coral Lakes Police Department. He told me they found the man who was following me. He confessed to it and will be properly processed. Lionel told me I was free to go. I thanked him and left the office.
I never experienced something like that before anywhere, and was sincerely curious if there was a reasoning behind this seemingly isolated incident.
We brought this man in for questioning. He was following an innocent girl. I wanted to know why. My officers yanked the guy's hat and coat off. A wooly mammoth sat in front of us with a calm expression on his face. Chief Lionel's face lightened and he narrowed his eyes with familiarity.
"Tucker?" The mammoth nodded. I had no idea who Tucker was and I nudged Chief Lionel, staring at him with a nonverbal look. Lionel understood. "Excuse me, Mayor Noah. This is Tucker Bryan, a colleague of mine from the Animal Crossing Police Academy. I was under the impression you were an FBI agent." The lion said to the mammoth with a confused air. "Don't tell me you've taken up stalking women as a new hobby." The mammoth laughed and had a non-criminal smile on his face.
"No. I was on official business but you kinda spoiled the element of secrecy, Ly." he said with a chuckle. Lionel asked what business he was on. The mammoth frowned. "That's confidential. All I can say is that I was investigating one thing, stumbled on something else, and now I'm following up on it." I intervened, sick of being on the sidelines.
"Rocket just moved here. What did you stumble on that involves her?" Tucker opened his mouth but I cut him off before he could say anything. "As the mayor, I deserve to know why a federal investigator is following one of my constituents." Tucker sighed.
"I was investigating Mayor Megan because rumors were circulating that she was the head of another corruption scandal. I soon discovered that Megan and Rocket were plotting to do something. After some following and spying, I found out that Rocket got the malterra from Megan and planted it in the water." Lionel and I both gasped. I stared at Lionel, trying to gauge his reaction. He looked shocked but not fully convinced or swayed. The man was the biggest skeptic in the world. The lion folded his arms and nodded.
"I'll have my offiers look into the tip but we won't be able to follow up too much on your head until I talk to the D.A." he said. Tucker stood up and argued that this was confidential, federal business. Lionel snapped. "As the chief of the department, I have every right to look into this investigation. It involves the planting of an invasive plant in our lake and it involves one of our residents!" The mammoth grew quiet and rolled his eyes. "Let me do my job, Tuck, and I'll let you do yours." Tucker shook his head.
"Fine. But you better not let this leak out to a soul. If the director finds out I told you, my tusks are on the line, Ly." he said, furrowing his eyebrows. Lionel smirked.
"Of course, Tuck. We wouldn't want your beautiful, masculine, ivory tusks to be compromised." The mammoth laughed and left the office. I was confused but I could tell Lionel wasn't in the mood to answer questions. He just looked at me blankly. "Don't worry, Mayor Noah. I'll make sure we get to the bottom of this hodge podge once and for all." He saluted me and left the office. Mentally and physically drained, I slumped into the interrogation room's chair, where Tucker was just sitting. I put my head in my hands and groaned. On the verge of tears, I just worried what else my sister would do to hurt Coral Lakes.
I remembered the feelings I felt when my parents divorced. My mom handled everything and my dad was absent. He just left one day and my mom was helpless. I gave my mom kudos later in life, because she stepepd up to the plate and stayed strong for me. But I felt bad because I didn't appreciate her role earlier. I blamed my father for basically abandoning me.
I think a neuron in my head clicked or something. I just realized something.
I stood up from my seat in the shop. I accidentally toppled the stool over. A customer looked up at me and whispered under her breath to a friend shopping with her. I blushed and blinked at the ladies.
"I apologize, misses. Something has popped up and I have to close the store. Sorry! We'll be open tomorrow. I'd love to have you both come back then." They nodded understandingly and left. I quickly locked up and jumped in my car. I made the smooth drive over to Griffin Beach. I had to talk to my son. Luckily the traffic wasn't too bad. That is, until I got to the island. News crews and environmentalist groups were everywhere. It didn't take long for me to pull up alongside the old building. I knew the side streets like the back of my hand. Tyler was outside playing with a football, practicing his throw. I remember the first day I taught him, and the following days where we proceeded to play catch together.
When I parked the car, Tyler glanced over at me. He realized who I was. I got out of the car and waved to him. "Hey, buddy! Where's Mom?" I asked. He shrugged.
"She's out at the grocery store, getting food for dinner." I smiled widely. They were the first words hes spoken to me. They weren't something special, but they meant the world to me. "What are you doing here?" he asked, narrowing his eyes. I held my hands out to catch the ball. Tyler threw it to me. It had a nice spiral to it.
"Good job, Ty!" I praised. I held onto it for a moment and smiled. "I was in the area and wanted to swing by and surprise you and Mom." I tossed the football back and he caught it perfectly. "I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry I haven't been around lately. I didn't mean to abandon you like that and I hope you don't feel poorly towards me because of it." We continued to throw the football back and forth. Tyler was quiet for a few moments but I could see that twinkle in his eye. He lightly smiled.
"It's okay, Dad. I forgive you. I understand why you had to leave." I smiled too and he continued to talk, scratching the top of his head. "It was inconsiderate and selfish of me to force Mom to stay. She talked to me last night..." he trailed, looking down at the ground. I stopped throwing the ball for a moment and walked closer. He turned his shoulder towards me. "I didn't know how bad it was with Nook and stuff. I mean, I had ideas. I heard stuff from other kids at school, but I didn't KNOW." He hung his head. "I feel bad for Mom. She has to face it all alone."
I approached Tyler and put a hand on his shoulder. "It's alright. Don't worry about Mom. She's been doing great and she's a really strong woman. I know it seems like she's facing alone but she has you and she has me. Soon, we won't be facing our troubles alone. We'll be together." I said warmly. The rose in my son's cheek returned.
"We'll be a family again?" he asked. My heart broke and I wrapped my son up in a giant hug.
"We've never stopped being a family." I heard a car door slam and some fidgeting on the concrete sidewalk. A beautiful pink alpaca stood on the side of the road, smiling at us. Tyler and I held open our arms. She sprinted forward so she could join them.
When we broke apart, I asked her why she didn't come back with any groceries. She bit her lip and grimaced. She said she ran into one of the Nook nephews at the store. He told her the lease would be up tonight. My eyes nearly bugged out. We had several more days left. He wasn't allowed to do this. Unfortunately though, you couldn't tell a Nook they weren't allowed to do something. I clenched my fists again and shook my head. "I'm sorry." She nodded, not really acknowledging me. She was looking at the apartment.
"We have to pack. We have to leave. Tonight." I nodded. I grabbed the football out of Tyler's hand and shoved it in the car.
"Come on. Get all your stuff. We're leaving in 45 minutes."
Suddenly, for some unknown reason, I feared the safety of my family.
Nook had something up his sleeve.
It's safe to say that the economy in Griffin Beach is about shot. All these protesters and news crews have caused tourists to stop vacationing here. I've noticed more and more houses go up for sale and others have remained empty. The prospect of this economy being crushed is terrifying. I've built up this place and one little thing is causing it to fluttle down in agony. In other fun news, construction for the casino has started in South Cove. That's only flared people more. Some people were even going onto the beach and sitting in the sand. That was the lastest Tank told me anyways. I told him to send the police down and escort them off the beach. Nook's construction was a private construction and couldn't be blocked. The police had to break that up, or I would hear it from Nook no matter what.
As Tank saluted and left the office, Isabelle put away some papers in a file and stared at me. "Ms. Mayor, I came up with a solution that might alleviate some tensions amongst the protesters." she said smoothly. I rose my eyebrows and leaned back in my chair. She took it as my tacit clue to proceed. "If you reinstitute the project SOMEWHERE, people would get off your back. They'll see that you have intentions to restore the shore. Then, maybe, everyone will back off and leave you alone."
This was a plausible suggestion. I leaned forward on my desk and placed my chin on my hand. South Cove was out of the question. East Cove had too many homes. That only left one cove: North Cove. I had a sudden idea. I needed to negotiate. I had to win my city back. I sat up straight in my chair and gestured at Isabelle. "I like the way you think, Isabelle. Get Nook for me please. Tell him it's urgent. I have to meet with him privately." Isabelle beamed, hopping out of her seat and nodding.
"Yes, Ms. Mayor! I'll get on that right away." She turned on her ankle and sprinted out of the office. I was planning in my head what to say. I had to get Nook to agree to a contract. He had to sign an official contract that stated he wouldn't plan any development in North Cove for the next 10 years. Unfortunately, I didn't have a contract. I needed to start typing. From past political deals, I knew the ins and outs of creating a contract. I had no lawyer to proofread it but that's alright. I knew the ins and outs of that too. Hurriedly, I hunched over my laptop and typed rapidly. Every few seconds, I would stop to scan my words and then, I would continue to type. Luckily for me, Nook was a leisurely man, despite the fact that Isabelle told him our conference was urgent. He casually strolled in with a rather annoyed Isabelle figuratively biting at his heels. He smirked at me and waved his arm.
"Not to be crude, but what's the meaning of this meeting now? I am a very busy man, as I presume you are." he added with a snark in his tone. I rolled my eyes.
"I understand. We're both going through some rough times right now, which is why I called. Sit down please." I gestured to the chair but he shook his head.
"This needn't be a long meeting. I'll stand." Isabelle bit her lip. My blood boiled.
"No...it needn't be. But it is. So sit down." Nook exhaled sharply and quickly sat down. I leaned forward and brushed my hands together. "While Isabelle was fetching you, I compiled a contract for you." I pushed the piece of paper face down across the desk. "It's nothing too bad. Just a little official paperwork so we have a deal in the archives." He rose his eyebrows.
"A contract? You never mentioned anything about a contract! You know that anything legal should be handled with my lawyer." Nook turned to get up but I gestured at Isabelle. She grabbed his shoulder and squeezed it tightly. I pressed a red button on my desk which summoned security to wait outside my office door.
"You're not leaving until you look at this contract and sign it." I said gruffly. "I am going through one heck of a time right now, thanks to your casino. I had to pull some strings to get your casino in the construction process. The least you could do is a small favor for me." Nook picked up the brief contract and read it thoroughly. I watched his facial expressions. His poker face failed him; he was livid. He put it down as quick as he picked it up and scowled.
"Doesn't look like a small favor. Ten years without any development in North Cove? That's a hefty offer to throw out there. Who knows what the future holds? Who knows what ideas my mighty intelligence may procure?" he added with a cocky sneer. "I can't promise you that I can just withhold any development there for ten years." he said. I frowned, quickly losing my patience with the raccoon.
"All of this is your fault! You had to have your casino. I'm suffering the consequences of this construction because I had to cancel [u]Restore The Shore[/u]. If you promise to withhold any development in North Cove, I can reinstitute my conservation project there and maybe all of these people...their bickering and protesting would end." Nook bit his lip and his face reddened. After a moment's pause, he asked if he could just agree verbally. I shook my head. "Absolutely not. You sign it now or I shut down everything." Nook opened his mouth to say something, but I stood up and cut him off. "Do you forget who I am? Yeah so what, you're Tom Nook. I'm Mayor Megan. You have caused me a heap of trouble and I am not going to allow you to walk all over me anymore. If you don't do something about all this, I will. I'm the mayor. You're not. Remember that, pal." Nook smiled and fidgeted his hand around in his pocket. I didn't really know what he was looking for. He had a suspicious look on his face but I ignored it.
He sighed and looked at me. "I don't have a pen. Do you have one?" I sneered and practically threw the pen at him. He picked it up and officially signed the contract. He pushed it back towards me and I made Isabelle take it away and put it in a safe place. "Thank you, Mayor. It was good doing business with you." He said, getting up and going to the door. I nodded.
"Always a pleasure, Tom." He nodded back.
"For your information though...North Cove will be the only cove you'll be able to conserve. East Cove won't go for it." He left the room without waiting for an answer. The guards stared in shock but didn't stop his departure. I stormed over to the door and yelled through the space at him.
"Those snobs will have to go for it!" I bellowed and slammed the door. I swear I could've heard a click just as Nook pressed his hand in his pocket. But I was too furious to care about that snit anymore. I came back into my office and sat down. Isabelle didn't say a word. I was just happy the contract was signed. This was the next step. After a few moments, I gained my composure and turned to face Isabelle. "Get all the preparations ready. North Cove will be reinstituted and you need to get a press conference out." Isabelle nodded readily and got busy.
Over the next couple of days, Lionel and I worked to investigate Tucker's story. We wanted to make sure it was true. Lionel took extensive measures to validate every aspect of the story and ensure every duck was lined up in its row. I just didn't want Lionel to blow any secret covers that would compromise Tucker's alleged investigation. As the mayor, I wasn't really privvy to too much information. It was police business, Lionel would tell me. However, I kept myself updated regularly on the status of the investigation. It would be the same thing every day. I would stride into the police station, past all the men and enter Lionel's office. The older lion would be standing there, hunched over some papers. I would ask the same question (Anything new?). He would shake his head and say no. I would ask if there was anything I could do to help. He would shake his head and say no. Then, I would leave and resume whatever I was doing before.
This time though, it went differently. Just as I turned to leave, Lionel sighed again and slammed his fist on the desk. I turned around to face him. The lion clenched his fists angrily.
"I just don't understand! Why would Tucker lie to me?" he asked. I shrugged.
"Maybe he had some other motive." Lionel shook his head.
"I investigated all outlets. There is no other motive. I can't figure out why in God's name they would pursue Rocket." Lionel beckoned me over to show me some papers. I didn't really understand much, but I tried to comprehend it as best as possible. "It shows that they were investigating a possible corruption scheme, yes. It shows that they were following Megan, yes. But it says nothing about Rocket. According to these official records, there was no reason for Tucker to be following Rocket." I pursed my lips.
"That's impossible." I scratched my head in confusion. "Maybe we're missing something." I said. Lionel shook his head and snapped.
"You know how I'm meticulous I am!" he yelled.
"Maybe you're being too meticulous!" I yelled back. Lionel's face paled. I sighed. "Just take a deep breath and step back, man. Lionel rolled his eyes. "The way I look at it, we're not doing something right. I'm not saying anyone is lying...I just think we're missing something. Why don't we go investigate some more ourselves?" I suggested. Lionel bit his lip.
"We are investigating, sir." he rolled his tongue smoothly. I grinned with a gleam in my eye.
"I have a better idea."
I wanted to get my family out of there as quickly as possible. Thankfully, we were able to get all our stuff crammed in my car in thirty minutes. I didn't want to wait a second longer. I didn't even wait for my son and wife to buckle their seatbelts. I tore down the street, leaving marks in the road. Instinctively, I would look back in the rearview mirror to see if anyone was following me. Reese didn't say anything but placed a hand on my arm. It was silent, but it was her way of telling me everything would be okay. I was relieved with her gesture, especially since it was the first gesture of affection we have shared since our reunion. It only made me feel somewhat better. I wouldn't feel comfortable until I was in my home in Coral Lakes.
Tyler was in his own world, playing on his 3DS. I remember him talking to me earlier, while we were packing, about the newest game of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I guess he was playing that now. Suddenly, we heard a revving of an engine. I looked up and saw a truck coming up behind us. I couldn't see the driver but it made me nervous. The truck was gaining speed. I gently pressed the gas pedal lower. Reese sensed my engine roaring and stared over at the speedometer. She pursed her lips and whispered at me.
"Cyrus, slow down. The speed limit is 50." I grunted in reply, blowing her off. She sighed and furrowed her eyebrows at me. "Cyrus, you're going 65." The truck was closer than I realized. He had to have been going 80. I didn't want to scare her though. I didn't want to scare Tyler either. Everything was supposed to be normal. However, nothing was ever normal. I glanced up in my mirror and saw the truck's turn signal blinking. I almost breathed a sigh of relief. Almost. I looked up to my left, slowing down to let the truck pass. The driver was a mysterious, short man. He wore a black ski mask and a black hoody. The piercing look in his eyes was enough to strike fear in my heart. I noticed a familiar emblem hanging from the mirror. It was a gold leaf.
I slammed on my brakes. Boxes crashed into the back of my seat. Thank goodness their seatbelts were on. The truck tried to slow down to cut me off, but I managed to manuever the car to the left. I pushed the gas pedal to the floor and sped off. The man in the truck was unable to pursue me. I could see him angrily glaring at me and muttering under his breath. Reese stared at me with shock but didn't say a word. Tyler gasped and glared up at me.
"What's the big deal, Dad?!" he exclaimed. I huffed.
"No time to explain now. I'll talk about it later." I just wanted to focus on getting us out of here. I knew Nook was going to do something. I just didn't know what. Those jerks didn't want me and my family to escape. Well, I guess the joke is on them. We're headed to Coral Lakes and once we get there, we'll be protected from Nook forever. I continued to drive for a couple hours. I wanted to make sure we were safe. After some time though, it was getting dark. I had no idea where we were, and Tyler and Reese were hungry. There was an old motel on the side of the road, so I pulled over. I let them check in and I drove down to the nearest convenience store. The hotel receptionist told me there was a place down the road called Meet and Eat, where you could actually order food.
I headed there promptly.
Reese and Tyler were safe in the room...as long as they locked the door. The Meet and Eat wasn't hard to find. The place was huge. I ordered us some food and wandered around, looking at the various items they sold. I noticed a couple in the corner staring at me. A muscular green alligator leaned against a shelf. A white deer with pink wisps in her fur--I assumed it was his girlfriend--stood alongside of him and stared at me. I blinked and tried to mind my own business, but I couldn't stop staring at her. There was something enigmatic and enamoring about her. That's when I heard the alligator clear his throat and glare at me.
"What are you staring at, puff ball?" he gruffed. Sensing the growl in his voice, I gulped. I didn't want or need this confrontation right now. I shook my head and shrugged.
"Nothing!" I turned away and occupied myself with other things. Despite me ignoring the two, I still felt their eyes on me. Once my food arrived, I was grateful to grab the bag and leave. I swear I could have seen her chuckle as I left.
When I got back, Reese was thankful for the food. She and Tyler devoured it. I didn't really have an appetite at this point. I told Reese I was taking a quick walk to the hotel reception area. I remembered there was a coffee machine in the room. I would make myself some coffee and walk back. Simple right? Apparently, not. Out of my peripheral vision, I eyed up the hotel receptionist. I was cautious around the yellow koala. Alice her name was...she just seemed nosy to me. I don't trust nosy people. I made the coffee and stood there, sipping it for a moment. I enjoyed its warmth, but it wasn't like Brewster's. No coffee was like that pigeon's coffee.
That's when the door opened. I glanced over and saw the white deer. She was alone this time. No alligator treaded sneakily behind her. She smiled lightly and I turned away. The koala was watching. Before I knew it, the deer sidled up alongside of me and leaned against the coffee machine. She didn't say a word. Neither of us did. The koala was watching. The deer slipped her hand in the pocket of her tight jeans and pulled out her room card. It had to have been a spare key. She slid it across the surface of the coffee maker and smirked. As quickly as she came, she was gone. I looked down at the card, like it was a piece of poison. I saw the room number on the card. It read 9. She was five rooms away from me. I could have just as easily left the card there and went to Room 9 and knocked. Something inside of me didn't want to do that. I sighed inwardly, picked up the card, and put it in my pocket. I headed down the corridor, away from my own room. Away from my family.
The koala was watching.
Over the next few days, I noticed them following me a lot. By them, I mean the Coral Lakes cops. I didn't really know why either. I figured they were just targeting me because I moved from Griffin Beach. I had been facing a lot of prejudice from people once they found out where I was from. It was discouraging, because moving here was supposed to be my fresh start. However, I really couldn't socialize with the other people. Thus, I stuck to myself. My brother Al didn't approve of that. He was the social butterfly of Coral Lakes. Well, more of like the socialite. He was the successful, brawny realtor. I was just his sister, stuck in his shadow forever. Al tried to poke and prod me to leave his shadow but I was incapable of doing that due to the stubbornness and closed-mindness of the "Lakers."
I was at Al's house this afternoon and he started to hound me about it again.
"You know, sis..." he started, leaning back on his leather sofa. "You really ought to immerse yourself within the community, you know what I mean. Try like going down to the community center and talking to people! You stay cooped up in that house of yours all the time. You know they have a potluck every Thursday at 6:00..." he trailed. I sat up straighter in my seat across from him and scowled.
"Like you go tromping down to potlucks. Besides, I have tried. Those people don't like me. They've established that loud and clear." Al folded his arms.
"One confrontation with a man in a diner doesn't mean the town wants to chase you out. Give the people a chance. They're nice when you get to know them." he said. I rolled my eyes.
"I haven't gotten that far. I--" Al raised his hand to cut me off.
"No offense, Rocket, but I don't feel like you've been trying! You've been making excuse after excuse, and you don't even know what the people in Coral Lakes are like!" he snarled, raising his voice. I scoffed loudly.
"I know exactly what they are! They're judgmental, snobby people who think they're better than Beachers!" I yelled back. Al stood up from his seat and pointed at me angrily.
"I knew it!" he screeched with a smirk on his face. "You're just like every other Beacher that comes here!" I nearly choked on my own spit. My brother too? How many people were swayed by this Beacher versus Laker mentality? "You think you can come in here with a pompous attitude and just win everyone over with your swagger! It doesn't work that way. You have to be a genuine, real person to get friends here." I clenched my fists and shrugged.
"I guess I'm just not a real person then!" I yelled back, standing up and storming across the room. Al began to follow me. I rummaged through my purse to make sure I had everything. I turned and looked at Al. "You know, not everyone can be the charming, funny, star-studded realtor of a tiny tourist town." Al bit his lip.
"Hey, Coral Lakes has made it pretty far. Farther than precious Griffin Beach has. Megan just keeps digging herself into a deeper grave." I wasn't a fan of Mayor Megan either but I wasn't going to let my brother trash her. A retort flew across my brain. The first thing I could hit is a retort about Noah. I relaxed my hips and sneered. Just as I opened my mouth and the word Noah left my mouth, I was interrupted by a firm knock. Neither of us were expecting someone. Al and I exchanged looks before he walked over and opened the door.
Mayor Noah stood there with a curious yet pale look on his face.
"Sorry to bother you, Al. Is now a bad time for you guys? I just wanted to ask Rocket some quick questions..." Al shook his head and let the man in.
Lionel asked me to get some questions from Rocket. The day before, we were at Teddy's house, investigating the status of the malterra. It hadn't gone anywhere; it was only getting worse. Teddy's son and his family were visiting again. We managed to ask everyone some questions about the event and Teddy's 9-year old granddaughter Cheri had some interesting information.
We had all sat down on Teddy's large sectional sofa and loveseat. Teddy's wife Paula made us all coffee. Only the finest blends from Brewster. I set my mug down on the coffee table in front of me and smiled at the family sitting down. They all really couldn't fit. I felt bad that Lionel and I were taking up the sofa. I wanted to switch spots but Lionel started to ask questions. Each family member recalled their perspective of the event. Lionel was about to skip over the little girl (Teddy's granddaughter) but she rose her hand. I put a hand on Lionel's shoulder and looked down at her.
"What do you remember about that day?" I asked politely. She shyly kicked her feet a little bit before answering.
"I don't remember much about that day but I remember what happened the night before!" she exclaimed. Lionel frowned and looked disinterested but I quieted him. "That night, after dinner, I asked my daddy if I could go down to the lake. Everyone was sitting out on the deck so they said okay. I went down to the lake when I saw a shadow down by the dock. I said hi and nobody answered. So I walked closer and said hi again. Somebody finally answered. It was a lady. A big pink gorilla. She had a bag in her hands and she was throwing something in the water."
Intrigued, I leaned forward and looked in Cheri's eyes. "What did this woman say?" Cheri pursed her lips.
"She told me she was planting a special plant and that I had to keep it a secret. Nobody could know that she was there." I immediately stood up and dragged Lionel up with me. The girl was afraid and bit her lip, on the verge of tears. "I'm sorry! I shouldn't have said anything! She said she would've gotten me in trouble if I told. Please don't--" I held one hand up and placed another hand on her shoulder.
"Don't be afraid, Cheri. You're a very brave girl. You did the right thing." I nodded and turned to Lionel. "Let's go. Go down to the D.A. and get a warrant. I'll head down to Rocket's and ask her a few questions. I'll make sure she doesn't go anywhere." I thanked the bears for their hospitality and escorted myself and Lionel out. Once we were out of the house, Lionel gave me a strange look.
"You don't expect me to go off of a little girl's word to make an arrest, do you?" he asked. I shrugged.
"It's the only thing we got. Go." I pushed him towards his car and clambered in mine. There was no time to waste. I hurried over to Rocket's house. Al's car was outside. I didn't really want to question Rocket or have any type of confrontation with her brother there. Despite me being the mayor, it still would have been 2 against 1. I didn't want that setup at all. Nevertheless, I told Lionel I would. Well, there was no shoulda-coulda-woulda situation. I had to do it. I approached the steps and stood outside the door. I heard voices. It sounded like Al and Rocket were fighting. It didn't sound good.
"I guess I'm just not a real person then!" Rocket yelled. I furrowed my eyebrows. There was a slight pause and then Rocket continued. "You know, not everyone can be the charming, funny, star-studded realtor of a tiny tourist town." I cringed. I could clearly sense the sarcasm. Half of me wanted to just leave. I felt so awkward.
"Hey, Coral Lakes has made it pretty far. Farther than precious Griffin Beach has. Megan just keeps digging herself into a deeper grave." I couldn't tell if I appreciated the compliment or not. This sounded like a deeper argument than a simple sibling squabble. I couldn't hide myself outside the door. I'm sure they might even know I was out here. Before someone else could say another word, I firmly knocked on the door. There was a quick pause and then Al opened the door.[/bq]
I was sitting in Rocket's living room, on the couch. She looked a little nervous. Al's face was still red from the argument they were having. Of course, technically, I wouldn't have known about it. Rocket fidgeted with her hands and sat across from me. Al was making himself a drink in the kitchen. I politely declined. Rocket looked around with a suspicious air.
"So why exactly are you here? You wanted to ask me some questions...but what did you want to know?" I pursed my lips.
"Where were you on the night of June 24th?" I asked. Rocket narrowed her eyes.
"I was at home. I had only moved here a couple days before and I was busy unpacking and getting settled in." I nodded.
"Was there a possibility you were out earlier and then came back to settle in?" I asked. Rocket began to get flustered; I could see that. She shook her head.
"No. I was inside since 4 o'clock. I put aside time so I could get most of the unpacking done." Before I could ask another question, Rocket stood up and looked at me. "I feel like this is a very intense situation right now. Are you accusing me of planting that malterra?" she asked. I didn't answer directly, simply saying I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. Rocket sighed. "I'm not saying anything else. I'm getting a lawyer. I have felt very targeted anyways, since I came into the police station that afternoon. Everywhere I turn, I see a cop, and I don't like it. Please get out of my home." I sighed. I wanted to stay and press her some more. I wanted to play "the bad cop." However, staying would have been something Megan would do. I vowed I would never be like her. I couldn't compromise my values by stomping on other people's liberties or invading their privacy. I rose my hands and stood up.
"Okay. I'll leave now." I slowly walked across the house without looking too long at either Al or Rocket. When I opened the door, I was shocked to see Lionel standing there with several other police officers. I stopped at the door and Al saw them. He hustled over and put his hands on his hips.
"What is the meaning of this? First, Mayor Noah, now you? Chief Lionel, tell us what's going on." Al demanded. Lionel scratched his white mane and stared through me. His eyes felt like daggers.
"Rocket King, you are hereby placed under arrest for the planting of malterra in Wolf Lake." The officers stormed forward and grabbed Rocket. The gorilla squirmed in their grasp but managed to be cuffed. Lionel stepped in the house and flashed his badge at Al to keep him away. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?" Lionel asked. Rocket scowled and mumbled a 'yes'. As the offiers escorted her out of the house, she turned to Al.
"Call our lawyer! This is total horse pat." Al nodded and hurried towards the phone. I just wanted to get out of the house and in Lionel's car as soon as possible.
After I made the deal with Nook, I had Isabelle do another press conference. It was very short and concise. The point came across. North Cove would be reinstituted. Thankfully, there was some approval and most of the people stopped protesting. Some even were beginning to pack up and leave. Not everyone was leaving; of course some people would never be content. They wouldn't be content unless Nook's casino development ended. That was impossible. I was sitting in Town Hall wrapping up some boring work, watching the 5 o'clock news. Clips of the press conference and analysis of what it meant were still circulating on the major news stations. However it was different now.
A newscaster sat in front of the camera with a grim look. That made my stomach drop and I hadn't even heard the news yet.
"In the wake of Mayor Megan's reinstitution of [u]Restore the Shore[/u] in North Cove is a released soundbite from Nook Industries. This soundbite is from a conversation between Tom Nook and Mayor Megan, which has sparked rumors that Mayor Megan has not only been insincere about her intentions with North Cove but also that she plans to include East Cove under the new conservation plans. This would possibly mean that homes would have to be moved back so they aren't as close to the coastline, or demolished. How will this affect the market and how will this affect the current state of home ownership in East Cove? Exclusively from 6 News, here is the soundbite."
I had no idea what this person was talking about. I wished this was a sore joke. Unfortunately, I heard my voice filter through the speakers in the office. Imagine how many other speakers my voice was filtering through.
"We're both going through some rough times right now, which is why I called. Sit down please." I heard myself say. A chair squeaked and I could just imagine Nook sitting his fat butt in my chair. "While Isabelle was fetching you, I compiled something for you." I don't remember these words. I didn't say 'something'. I said 'contract'. I drummed my fingers on the desk and wished I could hug Isabelle--or even pet her--to get my blood pressure down. There was slight rustle as I had pushed the paper to him. Nook's smooth voice cascaded through.
"You never mentioned anything about construction or development in North Cove! You know that anything legal should be handled with my lawyer." Oh my Gog. Isabelle couldn't have helped me at this point. I was beyond the line. Clearly, Nook had tampered with our conversation. How could I be so stupid. Clearly he had recorded us. That was why he was rustling through his pockets.
"I am going through one heck of a time right now, thanks to your casino. I had to pull some strings to get your casino in the construction process. The least you could do is a small favor for me." I had said. OK I remember that. But I'm still angry. There's another pause as Nook looks over "the contract."
"Doesn't look like a small favor. That's a hefty offer to throw out there. Who knows what the future holds? I can just withhold development there for ten years. You promise..." Before he could finish the word "promise", the tape makes it sound like I cut him off.
"All of this is your fault...the people's protesting and bickering... I had to reinstitute my conservation project just so it would end! " It sounds like I trail off for a moment. "You have caused me a heap of trouble and I am not going to allow you to leave until you sign this!" I yelled. I cringed at my voice. It wasn't MY voice. It was just my sound. I didn't say these words, but Nook made it out like I have. "I'm suffering the consequences of this. You sign it now or I shut down everything." I had demanded. Nook's testy scoff could be heard.
"Ten years of development in North Cove? Do you know what this means? And the other thing...I mean, Mayor Megan, North Cove AND East Cove won't go for it!" he exclaimed. I realized what I said next. I realized what my real words were next and my stomach sank anther thousand feet if possible.
"Those snobs will have to go for it!"
The tape cut off. I groaned and pounded my fist on the desk. I glared at Isabelle who was standing there with a shocked look on her face. The newscaster continued to supply some commentary. Another newscaster tentatively labeled it 'Snobgate' and then they moved onto a different story. I groaned again and sighed. Nook wouldn't stop. I looked over at Isabelle and tried to find words to say. Nothing could come out though. Isabelle understood me though. She came over and put a consoling paw on my shoulder. I sighed. She was my only best friend.
I woke up.
I wasn't in my own bed. That's when I remember everything that happened last night. That's when I remember what I had done. I sighed heavily and slowly clambered out of bed. As I slipped my clothes on, I figured that maybe Reese and Tyler wouldn't have noticed my absence. Maybe they were so tired that they just went straight to bed. Maybe they figured I was at the bar attached to the motel. That was it...I could blame i t on that. I could say that I was talking to some guys, drinking, snacking, and losing track of time. The white wispy deer was gone. The memories of her weren't though. I shook my head to clear my brain and stepped out into the hallway. I walked towards my room, groaning to myself. I still had my card key. I slipped it in the door and walked in my room. It was all clean. The beds were made. Bags were packed.
They were awake. They had to have noticed. Tyler wasn't anywhere in sight. That's when I glanced out the window and saw him alongside the car, packing his night bag in the back. I stood in the doorway dumbly, just looking in like a creeper. That's when Reese stepped out of the bathroom and glared. I thought my heart stopped. Or that I was in a horror movie. Both situations sounded the same to me.
"Where were you last night?" she asked testily. "You didn't come back to the room. We were worried." I blinked and used my excuse I had compiled on the way to the room.
"I was at the bar. It started out with talking and a game of pool. But then I started having some drinks and snacks with some guys. We ended up going back to one guy's room and we passed out like the second we got in the room." It sounded genuine, right? I never tried lying to my wife before so I had no idea if I was any good at it. However, I figured that I couldn't have been too bad at it. It sounded alright. Reese had a neutral expression on her face...that is until I finished talking. She folded her arms across her chest.
"You're lying. I know you are, so don't even try to get out of it. The receptionist told me everything." I inwardly groaned. That stupid koala. I had a bad feeling about her. She seemed nosy. Reese was on the verge of tears. "How could you do this to me? How could you do this to US?" I didn't know if by us, she meant me and her or her and Tyler. Either way, I was a disappointment. I realized that. I sighed and hung my head. Reese grabbed the car keys and her bags. "I'm going with Tyler to Coral Lakes. We're going to live there and he and I will be a family. If you have any interest of joining that family, you can walk to Coral Lakes." At that, Reese walked out and slammed the doors. I sighed again and instinctively threw a pillow that was on the bed. It bounced off the wall and hit the lamp. It shattered to the floor and broke.
I cursed under my breath and walked out of the room. Reese must have checked out already. The koala was still sitting there, just staring at me. I didn't want to have to ask her this question, but I had no choice.
"Where is the nearest bus stop?"
I think it was in like every other Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter post. I'm surprised Vine didn't pick up on the trend of hashtagging my misery. I had to get my team to do serious damage control to defend us. I personally held a press conference, assuring the people that the soundbite was false. I had no plans of starting development in North Cove and I had no plans of implementing East Cove in Restore the Shore. I don't know if they believed me or not. This summer, I have been painted out to be such a liar. Not to mention that there were new developments in Coral Lakes' malterra case. Rocket was arrested for physically planting the invasive plant in the lake and authorities are now trying to say I made her do it.
That's just nonsense. Between all these lawyers and and public relations agents surrounding me, I felt like an infamous A-Lister. Poor Isabelle was working her tail off to defend me. I had only the best lawyers and best PR reps. I don't know what was more stupid...the soundbite that Nook clearly edited or the assumption that I was the mastermind between the malterra? Either way, I had myself a deep grave to dig my way out of. Not to mention that next weekend is the Fourth Of July. Isabelle recommended that I still act like everything is okay and keep the processions and parade moving smoothly. I didn't know why I should have to put that much effort into it. It's not like people really vacation here. Ever since the first scandal, no one has really been vacationing here, or at least coming down to their house for the weekend. It's been dead.
Maybe the locals would be able to enjoy the festivities this year. Maybe I would be able to enjoy it.
Nevertheless, today was when I was scheduled for a questioning by the Coral Lakes P.D. and the FBI. Isabelle and my lawyers volunteered me forward to make me seem innocent. Seem? That's a stupid transitive verb to even say. I AM innocent. It's all these other people who are messing with me. Well, I don't know what the whole prank is with Coral Lakes. I wouldn't do something like that. To me, that's crossing the line. I wouldn't ever infer that Noah would poison his own little pond, but I could imagine him staging this whole scandal to portray me as the bad guy. I wouldn't put anything past my little brother.
That's when there was a knock on the door. Isabelle opened up the door. Tank was standing there with a tall lion with a white mane and a brown fuzzy mammoth with ivory tusks. Tank nodded. "This is Chief Lionel of the Coral Lakes Police Department and Tucker Bryan of the FBI. They're here for the consultation." I love how Tank called it a consultation. It was basically a questioning but on my turf--I had neither the time nor the energy to go to them. It was like I had turned myself in but they had to pick me up at my house. I was courteous to the two men and offered them a seat. My lawyer Olaf Fredrikson was a suave anteater. He hung behind my seat while I gestured the men towards the two chairs set up on the other side of the desk. Isabelle sat at her desk in the corner.
"Thank you both for taking the time out to meet me down here." I said curtly. "You have questions for me, correct?" I asked. Olaf gazed forward with calmness and approval. Lionel took some papers out of his briefcase and nodded.
"Yes. It shouldn't take up too much of your time, but we would like to get your side on things, regarding the malterra incident. That's the only incident we have the authority to question you about. We won't ask you anything about the latest developments with [u]Restore the Shore[/u] and the various coves...or as the media and populace refer to it...#Snobgate." Lionel affirmed. I blinked when he said that, since it was the only way I could outlet my emotions. I had to appear calm. I couldn't be volatile or angry.
"We appreciate that, gentlemen." Olaf spoke up softly. "Chief Lionel, will you be the sole questioner for both you and Mr. Bryan, or will both you and Mr. Bryan be asking questions?" he asked. Lionel glanced at the mammoth for a moment and then looked at Olaf.
"I will be the sole questioner. Mr. Bryan and I have consolidated our questions on to these papers in my hand." Olaf nodded with understanding and gestured to the lion to begin. The chief cleared his throat. "Have you had any contact with Rocket since she moved from Griffin Beach?" He asked. I shook my head.
"No. After she came in the day of and told me she was moving, I never saw her again and we never spoke again." Chief Lionel nodded while Mr. Bryan recorded my answers on his notepad.
"Did you have any knowledge of malterra or a possible source of malterra before this scandal surfaced through the media?" he asked. I shook my head again.
"No. I had never heard of it before it was discovered in Wolf Lake." Lionel wasted no time moving on to the other questions.
"Okay. Did you have any plans with Rocket before she moved, regarding Coral Lakes or any sabotage of Coral Lakes?" I thought about the last conversation I had with Rocket. About how she had said he would be a better mayor than I would be and how there was nothing I could do about it. This didn't have any relevance to me, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to say.
"I wasn't close to her prior to her moving. I was familiar with her as an acquaintance and a resident. We never had intimate conversations or plans pertaining to Coral Lakes in any way. The only time she mentioned Coral Lakes was when she moved. She had told me that Noah was a better mayor than I was and there was nothing I could do about it. She was intent on moving there. I couldn't stop her." The lion exchanged a quick glance with the mammoth before he asked another question.
"Why do you think people feel so strongly about your guilt in this scenario?" I sighed, confidently knowing the answer to this question.
"It's not my contempt and disapproval of Coral Lakes has really been a secret. It stemmed from old disagreements ages ago and has only fermented from there. It is halfway my fault for fueling such tensions between the two towns and the two sets of residents. That wasn't my intention and I allowed certain things to cloud my mind. I don't know if I could ever let those things dissolve. However, I do know that I would never do such a thing to Coral Lakes. Noah may have partially fueled tensions between my town and his, however he never did anything or pressured anyone else to sabotage my town's development. He sensed that that was an uncrossable boundary, and I respected his refusal to cross that line. I maintained that boundary for all these years and I have no intention to cross it now." Mr. Bryan whispered something in Lionel's ear and the lion nodded.
"One last question. Is there any possibility that Coral Lakes' recent win of Vacationland Magazine's 2014 Top Tourist Destination title sparked a desire within you to cross this 'boundary' and sabotage the town?" he asked. I pursed my lips. How blunt of a question. Luckily for me, I had as blunt of an answer.
"Absolutely no possibility."
The two men nodded to each other and abruptly stood up. "Well, our questions have been answered. We have no further business here. Have a good day." I shook their hands firmly and thanked them for their time. They nodded curtly back and left. I groaned once they were out of earshot and slid against the wall of the town hall.
"Olaf, Isabelle...why me?!"
A little voice in the back of my head squealed "Why not you?"
Today marks my second day in jail. I spent the night before and all of yesterday. I had no idea how filthy prison could be, even if it's not used very often. Maybe the guards make it disgusting on purpose so it fits with the stereotype. Either way, I was waiting for a visit from my lawyer. Al told me yesterday that he dropped her a line. I couldn't wait for her to bust me out of here. Our lawyer had some decent pull. She was a Beacher at heart, but that's okay. She knew her way around situations. A tan monkey with red glasses shuffled down the hallway and put a key in my cell door.
"Lucky you, you have a visitor. Your lawyer's here." she said. Elise, her name was. She was kind of an aloof animal. The definition of creature if there ever was one. Elise carefully cuffed my hands--not like I was going to go anywhere--and led me out into the visitor's area. I instinctively beamed when I saw our lawyer. A tall human woman with blonde hair, Sophia Robbins was more than just a pretty face. She had the brains of a computer. Sophia was sitting silently at the table but, when she saw me, stood up to shake my hand. Elise looked between us carefully. "The cuffs are staying on. Protocol." The monkey turned to stand in the corner of the room.
I huffed and sat down. Sophia put a hand on my cuff and smiled. "Don't worry. It'll be off soon enough." I smiled in return. She pulled out some papers from her bag and lined them up carefully. "I'm working on a deal with the judge to get you some probation. He seems nice enough but the prosecutor's office refuses to let you go until trial." I pouted.
"That could be ages away!" I exclaimed. "They can't keep me forever if they don't have the proof."
"That's what I said," Sophia said. "They're trying to get a trial for next week but they're having a rough time at the DA's office. The only evidence they have is a little girl's testimony. In my opinion, it wasn't enough to warrant your arrest in the first place. But we can't look in the past. We have to plan for the future, and my plan is to make you a free woman as soon as possible." She gestured to the papers. "If the deal works out, they want you on full house arrest until trial date." I groaned.
"That's basically like being a prisoner, Sophia." Sophia laughed.
"Wouldn't your rather be in your own home? It's the best I could do. They feel strongly that you're guilty but they have nothing to back it up. They're trying to cling to you like a toddler to its mother. Just hang in there. We'll work this out." Sophia stood up and I stood with her. "We'll have a firm answer by tonight. If all goes well, you'll be home in time for dinner. I'm arranging for you to go home with Al and have him help you out." I paused and shuffled my feet. Last time I was with Al, we had a major fight. However, there was nothing I could do about it. I needed Al. I just hoped he would be there for me.
I nodded with approval. "Thanks, Sophia!" I shook her head. "I'll talk to you later." She made a slight grunt.
"Okay. Holla." I have no idea why she always says 'holla' when she leaves. I always give her the benefit of the doubt and hope it's just a human, cultural thing. As Elise grabbed me roughly and escorted me to my jail cell, I just hoped Sophia could work her magic and get me out of jail. I was innocent. These false accusations riled me up; I wanted to be rid of them once and for all.
Rocket was arrested.
She was in our custody. It was almost surreal. Lionel was certainly convinced of her guilt. We just didn't have much evidence. Besides Cheri's testimony, we didn't have anything else. Lionel felt that that would be enough to sustain Rocket's guilt, but we were having a rough time with the district attorney and Rocket's lawyer Sophia Robbins. Today, we were having a meeting at the town hall to discuss making a deal. Lionel was adamant on not making any negotiations but our prosecution team, consisting of Tucker Bryan and Hippeux Blanc. I've heard of Mr. Blanc before. He seemed like a very good lawyer and I was confident with him on our side.
Digby cleared his throat and tapped me on the shoulder. "Mayor Noah? It's almost 3:30. Ms. Robbins should be here any moment now for the meeting." I nodded and stood up. Our town hall had recently constructed an addition; we had a conference room now. I gathered my things and entered the room. Hippeux and Tucker were already sitting there. Lionel wanted to be there but I strictly forbade him from attending. It wasn't his place; he was the chief of police. Not the lawyer. Tucker was technically a lawyer so he was allowed in the room.
There was a light squeak as the conference room door pushed open. A tall, blonde woman with medium-length hair. She was very pretty but I couldn't let that distract me. She worked for the enemy. Well, not the enemy, but she was working for Rocket. I couldn't underestimate her abilities. Hippeux and Tucker leaned forward to shake her hand.
"Ms. Sophia Robbins? Pleasure to meet you in person. Thank you for taking the time to come out." Hippeux said with a firm smirk. Sophia nodded and shook his hand.
"No problem at all." She turned to Tucker and smirked. "Mr. Bryan, I didn't expect to see you here. I didn't know you were a lawyer." She said, raising her eyebrows. The mammoth chuckled and shook her hand.
"I wouldn't call myself a lawyer. I'm not practicing. I have only passed the bar." The mammoth ruffled his fur and stroked his tusks. I narrowed my eyes and spoke up from my seat across the table.
"You two know each other?" I asked. Sophia nodded.
"Mmhm. Mr. Bryan was one of the finest men in the ACPA. Graduated with all honors and made the first cut of the FBI. I've heard of his accomplishments with the bureau." She gestured to the mammoth. "No matter how pompous he can be, he's still an intelligent, cunning man. I can't trust him farther than I can throw him." she said with a warm laugh.
"I take that as a compliment, Ms. Robbins!" exclaimed Tucker. "Have a seat." Sophia pulled a chair out and began to ruffle through her briefcase. "Now, you wanted to negotiate. Let's negotiate." Sophia nodded and held her hand up.
"If I could have the floor..." she trailed. Hippeux and Tucker nodded. "You guys don't have any proof besides a little girl's testimony that Rocket was even involved with the malterra planting. Most people wouldn't proceed with a full arrest and trial on such faulty, incompatible evidence. The DA is giving you a hard time and no wonder. Do you really want to embarrass yourself in a courtroom with a testimony from a child? I have a deal written up that could save us a lot of humiliation and conflict." Sophie unfurled a roll of paper. "If you release Rocket from jail and place her under house arrest, we'll allow an extra week between now and the trial for you to gather enough evidence to attempt a prosecution." Hippeux scrunched up his face and scowled.
"How exactly does this help us? We want Rocket to remain in custody. All that your deal proposes is that we postpone the trial another week." Sophia folded her arms.
"My deal proposes a two-week house arrest and then a trial. If you're so confident, you shouldn't be worried..." she trailed. "Besides, most societies allow prisoners to be released on bail. Rocket isn't a criminal; she won't violate her parole. Isn't refusing civil liberties a Griffin Beach thing? I thought Coral Lakes was better than that." Sophia added with a light sneer. Hippeux stood up abruptly but Tucker laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Sit down, Hippeux. I'll talk to her." The mammoth cleared his throat. "Sophia, I thought we had agreed this would be a civil discussion. Any jabs to one's hometown is not only unnecessary but also unfavourable to a diplomatic talk. All that Mr. Blanc is saying is that he doesn't feel the deal is fair. It seems too...slighted towards your favor." Sophia pursed her lips, not willing to say anything. I stood up immediately, trying to be the mediator in the situation.
"How about you and Hippeux propose a deal that would be a compromise? Try to make it so we're both happy?" I said. Tucker nodded.
"How about this, Ms. Robbins? We'll keep the one-week house arrest. It'll be the most efficient and easiest solution. However, we will require a 500,000 Bell bail money...as leverage. It will be returned to you in full after the trial, if Rocket remains on her best behavior within her house arrest." Sophia tapped her chin with her finger and leaned on the table.
"Whether or not Rocket is found guilty, would this money still be returned?" Hippeux and Tucker exchanged a glance. Hippeux then faced Sophia and gently nodded. Sophia stood up. "Very well, gentlemen. You have yourself a deal." She turned to face me. "Mayor Noah, even though you could be considered the head of the prosecution team, I would hope that your character and conscience would still make you an unbiased witness, to prevent any corruption or deception. Gog forbid these two don't hold up their end of the deal." Sophie reached the door. "I know we'll hold up ours. Good day." She left the conference hall.
Tucker scratched his tusks and stared at me. "Don't give me that look, Mayor. I'm an FBI agent. We'll hold up our end."
Snobgate will probably be in the history books. I've had a heck of a time trying to do damage control. Olaf has done the best he could, but the media has been having a field day with all these scandals. We've been trying to convince people that Nook released a botched recording, but based on my track history, they're more likely to believe Nook. Olaf, Isabelle and I were discussing things to do. I had officially decided that what I wanted to do was expose Nook. I didn't really tell Isabelle and Olaf the whole story. I couldn't. If I told them everything, the whole point of trying to keep my secret secret from the world (the secret Nook held over my head) would be moot. No, I couldn't tell them that much.
Olaf leaned over my desk and had his head in his hands. "You want to pin Nook? Okay. Everyone believes him though. No one would dare cross him. You won't even cross Nook. How could we possibly convince people?" I clenched my fists and sighed.
"As much as I hate to admit it, Olaf, there's only one person who has defied Nook and survived. We have to talk to him." Isabelle perked her ears and Olaf nodded.
"Okay! Let's go to him today. Who is he? Where is he from?" I gulped, trying to swallow the nausea away. I hung my head, half with shame and another half with fear.
"It's my brother Noah." Isabelle's and Olaf's eyes nearly bugged out of their heads. I raised a hand to stop them before they could speak. "I know! You don't have to say it...but I've been thinking. I really have...I want to talk to my brother. I want to reconcile things and honestly, I just really need his help." Isabelle rushed over to my side. Well, she pushed herself over, still seated in a swivel stool.
"Ms. Mayor! You don't have to do this. We don't need your brother's help just to deal with Nook. We've dealt with Nook before. Don't worry about what anyone is saying! The media or--" I shook my head and placed a hand on Isabelle's shoulder.
"I appreciate your kind words, Isabelle. You've always been a loyal friend and a supportive person. However, he was right. So was Rocket. He is a better mayor. He really turned out to be better than me. I mean, look at me. I'm just a puppet. Nook has played me for so long and I think I'm ready to fight back. I need another warrior's help and Noah is the only person I know who can help." Isabelle sighed, nodding and asking me if I was sure. I smiled. "Yeah, I am." I stood up and gestured towards the door. "Tell Porter to get the limo ready. I need you to call up your brother Digby...hopefully you two are civil. Can you possibly arrange a meeting today?" Isabelle nodded and hurried towards the phone.
"I'll do my best, Ms. Mayor!" I nodded and turned to Olaf.
"You okay with this? ...Is this alright?" The anteater straightened the lapels on his jacket and nodded.
"Absolutely, Mayor Megan! You're the head hauncho, not me. I'm just an advisor compared to you, madam." Olaf bowed his head slightly. "Whatever you choose, I will support wholeheartedly." I nodded and smiled at Olaf.
"Thanks." I glanced at Isabelle who was on the phone, preparing to talk to her brother Digby. "It's people like you and Isabelle that keep me going, in times like this. Thank you." Olaf nodded and we turned towards Isabelle when we heard her high-pitched voice. Digby told her that a 6 o'clock meeting worked. I glanced at the clock. It was 4:45. We should get moving. Isabelle, Olaf, and I rushed around to get ready. Porter was, thankfully, waiting for us. The monkey drove us to Coral Lakes, trying his hardest to drive quickly yet avoid the crowds and paparazzi.
As I saw the signs and I felt us get closer, my stomach started to hurt. I never thought I would have a civil discussion with Noah, let alone VISIT Coral Lakes. It was all spinning so fast. As I saw the car clock near 5:45, I felt sick. When I saw the sign that said "Coral Lakes -- 1 mile", I thought I was going to legit puke. Thankfully, my stomach contents remained inside. Exactly where I wanted them. It was like Porter could sense my sickness. He rolled the car gently to a stop and turned his head over his shoulder, telling us we were here.
Olaf, Isabelle, and I slowly got out. Digby walked outside, smiling. Gog, it's been forever since I've seen Digby. He's grown up so much. When I saw him, he was a young, curious, naive puppy. Now he was like a man. It was weird. Without saying a weird, Digby approached his sister and hugged her. At first, isabelle seemed tense. However, she ended up relaxing into the hug. When they broke apart, Isabelle was smiling.
"It's good to see you, Dig. Thanks for letting us meet with Mayor Noah on such short notice." she said.
"No problem, Iz." He looked at me and nodded curtly. "Mayor Megan, pleasure to see you. Follow me into the conference room. Mayor Noah is sitting inside waiting." Olaf and I entered in Digby's and Isabelle's wake. I felt so weird. I had seen images of my brother on TV. I had watched him grow into a competent politican, leader, and man through the media, but I never saw him in person. How would he look? Would he look different? Would he be different? All these questions were rushing through my head. Digby pushed open the door and let me and the others enter first. When Noah saw us, he stood up. A polite smile adorned his face. "Mayor Noah..." trailed Digby, "Mayor Megan, her secretary Isabelle, and her lawyer Olaf are here."
Noah looked the same as he did on TV, but there was a different air about him. It wasn't an air painted on to please the public. It was a real air. It was an air I wasn't used to. Noah's hair was shorter than I remembered it from the last news broadcast. He must've just gotten a haircut. He also hadn't shaven either; a light fuzz tickled his lips. He really looked like a man. It was weird. I remembered a boy. A boy who was eager to copy his sister. I wanted to let those grudges down...I had to. At least for right now. I needed to be vulnerable and human, for my brother. I felt awkward and was going to just shake his hand. I know that sounds weird, but this was the first time I had seen my brother in person since that dinner. I wasn't really ready to be affectionate.
wasn't given the opportunity to play the aloof, estranged sibling. I felt Noah's strong arm wrap around me and bring me close. He was hugging me. "Hey, sis." he greeted. "Long time no speak. How you holding up?" he asked, bringing me away from his body to look me in the eyes. I was forced to look at him. Those gray eyes. They shined so brightly. They looked identical to my father's. It was hard not to think about things like that. I blinked and gulped.
"I'm okay. I could be doing better. They're all battering me pretty hard." I chuckled. Noah kept his hand on my shoulder.
"Hey, if I were in your situation, I would be barely together. You're a strong girl." he said, rubbing my shoulder. Before the fight, we were close. Before the fight, our family was affectionate. But after years of having that absent, it was weird to be exposed to it again. We both sat down; I sat down besides Noah. "So what brings you here on such short notice?" he asked. I sighed. Neither Isabelle nor Olaf could speak for me. I had to be the adult.
"I wanted to talk to you about a few things..." I trailed. I managed to look at Noah's eyes. He looked sincere and open. Open to reconcilation? I hoped so. "Firstly, I wanted to apologize to you. For all the years of tension and absence. I wasn't there for you and I wasn't a supportive sister. It was wrong of me to be so antagonistic and I hope you could find it in your heart to forgive me...even though I don't deserve it." I blinked away tears. I had to be strong. Just a few seconds ago, Noah said I was strong. I had to be strong now. Noah's lips curled into a comforting smile.
"Nonsense, Meg. I forgave you ages ago. And don't say you didn't deserve it. We're all human. We have faults. I understand completely." I sighed with relief.
"Thank you. I feel so guilty for harboring all this. It passed down to the people and that's why there are so many rivalries between our two towns. I don't want it to be like that." Noah shook his head.
"Nah, these people are all adults. They're not sponge children. Just because their mayor felt a certain way at a certain point doesn't mean the residents have to feel the same. Those people are just...stupid. The same sentiment can fly in my direction too. There are definitely 'Lakers' who resent 'Beachers' for no reason..." he trailed, using air quotes above Lakers and Beachers. "I don't even like using those terms. In our towns, they have such derogatory meanings behind them." He paused and looked towards the window. "I wish we could both create a world where there are no divisions between 'Beacher's and 'Lakers' anymore. Whaddaya think?" he asked. I nodded.
"You're right. The people who use those terms say it with such hatred. I want to get rid of those terms too." I looked at Isabelle, Olaf, and Digby who were watching us with such caution and care. "I want to pave a new road, a fresh start between you and me. I don't want this tension or rivalry anymore. Noah, I just want to say that...even though I did harbor a lot of hatred towards you and your town at one time...I would never try to sabotage you. I told Chief Lionel and Mr. Bryan that, but I want to tell you again." I choked back a tear. "I would never do that to Coral Lakes. You never did that to me and I didn't want to hurt you like that. Deep down--even though we still had our issues--you still were my brother. Family doesn't hurt family like that." Noah nodded and put a hand on my shoulder.
"Don't get yourself worked up, sis. I already know you didn't do it." I narrowed my eyes and picked my head up.
"Really?" I asked, unsure of everything at this point. He nodded.
"Really. Now, that doesn't mean Rocket isn't out of the clear." he added with a wink. Gog, I missed that wink. It was such a sly wink--Dad winked the same way-- that I grew up with. I missed it. "But I know you wouldn't do that, sis. I have my suspicions on someone different. I hadn't told Chief Lionel yet, but I plan on telling him later. It occurred to me this afternoon, after some...eh...recent developments." I wanted to ask what recent developments were at play but he shook his head. "Nevertheless, tell me why you're really here." Noah said with a wry grin. I chuckled, feeling more comfortable around my brother.
"I want to fight against Nook. Not just a little repel. I want to fight against him and have him be defeated once and for all. He has done so much to me and my town. He ruined my conservation project because he had to have his casino and now he botched our conversation and released that soundbite...I want to finally fight back but I don't know how. I need your help." Noah nodded.
"I feel a little uncomfortable telling you this, but I'm going to tell you anyways. I've been working with Resetti to keep an eye on Nook. We...run a surveillance center underground and we've happened to stumble across some information. We just came across it recently, but now that we're both sitting here, I feel like it's a sign for me to tell you. You'll want to know." I opened my mouth but Noah stood up. "Maybe it'll be easier if you come with me to the surveillance center..." He grabbed my arm and glanced at the others. "Everyone but the lawyer can come. No offense, Mr. Fredrikson." The anteater waved us off, grinning and saying he'll wait with Porter.
Isabelle, Digby and I hurried after Noah.