Here is a bedtime story about the power of a girl’s love.
“Lily of the Forest”
“So, are you ready for a story?” Zeke asked, sitting on the edge of the couch and looking down at Lily, dressed for bed and eager to be entertained by one of his silly imaginative tales.
Lily nodded, smiling sweetly behind her pacifier and sitting up on the couch, waiting patiently for her bedtime story like a good girl.
“Somewhere tucked between the dreams we remember and the dreams yet to come, there is a forest where dreams are kept until they are made,” he began, taking the blanket down from off the back of the sofa and spreading it out on the cushion. “Dream elves run about this forest, keeping all the still-undreamt memories together. But within this forest there is a sprite that connects every living creature to its dreams. Her name is Lily.”
Her eyes opened wide and she smiled brightly behind her pacifier, drawing up her legs up and sitting in a ball. She loved when Zeke told stories about her. She knew that practically every female character in the books he wrote was based on her. It was yet another way that he showed how much he loved her.
“To Mr. Woody, she is known as LilyGirl, but to the world of dreamers, she is Lily of the Forest. And she has the most important job of all in this Forest of Dreams. For it is she who keeps a heart of gold when trouble arises. All who see her are taken in by the never-ending optimism she possesses. They are inspired to do the same and because of this, dreams come true for all who have them when they sleep at night,” he continued, easing her down onto the blanket. “A few months ago before the snows of winter fell, Lily of the Forest was faced with several challenges in the blinking of a single day’s time.”
He began to wrap the blanket around her and she wiggled a little, knowing she was about to swaddled.
“That morning began like every other: greeting the sun as it rose at dawn, picking fruit from the bushes down Blueberry Grove and on the AppleTree Trail, getting loaves of fresh bread to tear up and scatter about for the smaller animals of the forest to eat and helping the dream elves to collect any undreamt memories that had wandered too far away from the Lake of Dreams,” Zeke continued with the story, finishing her swaddling and making certain her feet weren’t sticking out of the end of the blanket. “But with Bella the bunny rabbit, Lily’s most-trusted animal friend and companion, news was brought from a frantic beaver that the beaver’s dam, a few miles north, had given way and a near-tidal wave of water was rushing through the small stream of the forest – making it a not so small stream. Flood waters were fast-approaching the Lake of Dreams. Lily knew that if those flood waters reached the lake, many undreamt memories would be lost forever.”
He picked her and then sat down on the couch, placing her across his lap and cradling her in his arms. Oh, this was definitely the right way to be put to sleep for sure.
“Lily of the Forest quickly gathered all the nearby forest animals and dream elves, instructing them on what they needed to do to save the lake. She asked that frantic beaver to run to the tree at the forest edge where the small stream emptied into the lake and begin to chew the last tree down. She asked the dream elves to gather stones and pebbles, placing them into one big pile next to the small stream. And she asked the deer to run through the nearby forest and gather all the twigs and branches that had fallen, placing them in a big pile next to the small stream,” Zeke said, as he traced her eyebrows with his thumbs. “All sprang into action. The frantic beaver ran over to the tree at the forest and began to gnaw on its trunk. Being frantic as could be, the beaver was able to make faster progress than normal.”
He began to rock her back and forth, keeping eyes irises in his gaze.
“Lily asked the blue birds above to soar into the skies and keep reporting to her on how far away the flooding waters were. The dream elves scurried about, picking up every stone, pebble and piece of gravel they could find, beginning to make a pile taller than any of them were. So they started a second pile of stones and such until it got too high to stack. And they began a third pile of stones, continuing to make these piles alongside the stream,” Zeke said as he began to lower the volume of his voice. “The beaver kept chewing away at the tree trunk, having made it a quarter of the way through the wood already by the time the first bluebird returned with a report of time. Lily held up her hand and the bird landed on her wrist.”
Zeke placed his fingertips on her forehead and slowly drew them down her face, causing her to close her eyelids for the first time and with a softer tone, he began to usher her in the direction of sleep.
“Lily of the Forest asked that little bluebird how long it would be until the waters arrived. The sweetness in her voice calmed the situation as much as it could be calmed. And the little bluebird replied with a tweeting ‘Only two minutes’. The deer were sprinting as fast as they could through the forest, picking up as many twigs, sticks and small branches as their mouths could hold before returning to the side of the small stream and making a pile of the sticks along the small bank. That frantic beaver kept gnawing away at the tree trunk, nearing the halfway point with such speed that the little chunks of wood it chewed off were flying up into the air,” Zeke whispered with animation. “Then a second bluebird arrived, landing on Lily’s wrist and reporting that the rushing flood waters would soon be seen in the nearby forest trees. The waters were blazing a straight trail, taking the small stream and widening it as they traveled straight towards the Lake of Dreams.”
Lily’s eyelids drooped a bit but she fought the coming-sleep, eager to stay awake to hear the story’s conclusion.
“All seemed as if it was going to be lost, but the frantic beaver kicked his chewing into overdrive as the sounds of rushing water began to echo through the leaves of the forest’s canopy. All the wildlife within the forest rushed out of it and gathered at the lake’s edge, turning back to catch the first glimpse of the rushing waters,” Zeke said, touching his fingertips to her forehead once again and lightly drawing them down over her face. “As if fate had timed it correctly, the tree that the frantic beaver had been gnawing on relentlessly began to making cracking noises just before it fell over, landing directly across the small stream, but the waters rushed under the tree and the ever-nearing flood waters would still make it into the Lake of Dreams.”
“ ‘Quickly, push the sticks into the stream!’ Lily instructed as all the dream elves ran up to the pile of sticks, gathered by the deer. The frantic beaver lied on his back, breathing heavily and exhausted from having chewed a tree down on its own. Several deer ran up to the beaver and took hold of its paws with their mouths, pulling the frantic beaver away from danger. The dream elves kept pushing the sticks into the water of the stream and the sticks floated down to the fallen tree, collecting themselves in front of it. On the other side of the fallen tree, it could be seen that the stream waters had slowed down a bit, but they were still flowing through and as soon as the flood waters hit, there would be no saving the Lake of Dreams,” Zeke said, patting her diaper bottom through the blanket and slowing down the back-n-forth rocking. “ ‘Now the stones!’ Mr. Woody proclaimed as all the dream elves began to push in the piles of stones, pebbles and gravel they had collected. The deer ran over and helped the cause, kicking the stones in as much as they could. Lily gathered all the squirrels of the forest into a huddle and asked them a final favor to help save the lake. They stones flowed into the stream water and floated down to the sticks that had gotten trapped behind the fallen tree. The stones crashed against the sticks and on the other side of the fallen tree, it could be seen that the stream water was really starting to slow down, but unless the stream water could be stopped before the arriving flood, the lake would have no way of surviving.”
He kept patting her bottom and tummyflies ensued as she felt her sleep coming on. Her eyelids began to droop to half-mast and Zeke decided to bring the story to its end.
“Suddenly, the squirrels jumped from their huddle with Lily and raced over to the stream, lining themselves on either side of it and beginning to dig into the ground. As they dug, the dirt they scooped up went flying up into the air and landed in the stream. That dirt would then flow down to the sticks and stones that were being kept in place by the fallen tree,” Zeke began to conclude with an even softer whisper than before. “The dream elves joined in as well as the deer and all the dirt which was being scooped and kicked into the stream flowed down to the sticks and stones, continuing to clog up the stream waters. Then all jumped behind the fallen tree, just in time to avoid the arriving the flood waters.”
He stood up and slowly carried her back to her nursery, walking in and over to her crib.
“Everybody waited patiently as the flood waters stopped rushing and began to settle behind the fallen tree, but it remained to be seen as to whether the dam they had built would hold,” he said, lowering her onto the crib mattress. “A few seconds passed and then a few more seconds passed and finally they knew they had save the Lake of Dreams.”
Lily’s eyes went shut and she drifted off to sleep. Zeke walked out of the nursery and out to the kitchen scooping up the four kitties who were still looking under the fridge for that runaway watermelon seed. Snapping his fingers, Pretzel hopped off the couch and followed him back to the nursery, jumping up into the crib with Lily as he placed all four kitties around her.
“To be continued. Good night, Lily of the Forest,” Zeke whispered before kissing her eyelids and raising the side of the crib up.
He sat on the rocking chair next to the crib, closing his eyes. And there he would remain, by her side, for this night.
(The following morning, during her bath:)
“Let’s see,” Zeke said, picking up the wash cloth and kneeling alongside the tub. “Where did I leave off in the story?”
“The animals and elves just stopped the flood waters from going into the Lake of Dreams,” Lily answered, proud that she remembered.
“Ah, that’s right,” Zeke said, dipping the washcloth in the bathwater and helping Lily to sit up to clean her face.
“Lily of the Forest had the elves gather stones and had the beaver chew down a tree and had the deer gather sticks and had the squirrels dig holes and had the bluebirds report on how far away the flood waters were,” Lily added in, proudly recapping the story.
“That’s right, and I thought you were falling asleep as I told you all of that,” Zeke said, smiling. “You never cease to surprise me, Princess.”
Lily straightened her back as he dipped the washcloth in her bath water again. She was adorable when she was shy and she was adorable when she was as proud as a peacock. And she was adorable when being anything in between that. It was Zeke’s pride as well to know that he had her for the rest of life to help her raise her chin when shyness lowered it and to help her spread her feathers as wide as they would spread when pride was something they shared. Dynamic was the word they started with, basing a lifetime spent pursuing something together on a single, shared emotion. There had been points in time when those feathers were ruffled more than displayed proudly. But what made the destination they both could see remain as something that was worth the journey it would take to get there was a belief that they also shared together: Moving forward was the only direction that made sense.
“Hmm-hmm!” Lily said, clearing her throat.
Zeke smiled, dipping the wash cloth in her bath water again and easing her back to a resting position in the water before he picked up the story where he had left off last night.
“So Lily of the Forest rejoiced with the animals that had helped to save the Lake of Dreams,” Zeke began.
“Don’t forget the dream elves!” Lily added, making certain he got all the details right.
“Yes, and the dream elves as well,” Zeke said, smiling at Lily’s innocent spirit. “Everyone was cheering … except for one deer who kept looking into the woods, frantically.”
“What was the deer looking for?” Lily asked as Zeke dipped the wash cloth in her bath water and starting bathing her legs.
“The deer was missing her fawn. It was only a year old and had been right by her side as they gathered sticks, but now it was gone. So Lily sprang into action again, sending the animals into woods and the birds to the skies and the elves the edge of the lake to follow any deer tracks they might find. Lily stayed by the mama deer’s side and told her that all would be okay,” Zeke said, turning the tub faucet on as he had Lily spin around and tilt her head back to wet her hair in the running water. “Mr. Woody came running up to Lily’s side, telling her the birds weren’t finding the baby deer from their views above. But he told Lily that there may be another way to find the little deer if they go to the Cave of Dreams on the far end of the forest.”
Zeke lathered her hair with Herbal Essences and lightly drug his fingertips along her scalp, that delightful feeling of a massage that always felt so good when he did it. Oh, he was magician with those fingers of his.
“But the journey to the Cave of Dreams was a lengthy one on foot and no animals could make the climb to the Cave’s entrance. So it fell to Lily of the Forest and the elves to travel to the Cave. If only there were some faster way to travel through the forest,” Zeke said, rinsing the shampoo from her hair and waiting for Lily to add to the story what he was deliberately keeping out of it.
“The Unicorns!” Lily exclaimed. “Maybe they could ride the two unicorns, Daddy! Moonbeam and Magic!”
“But who should ride them?” Zeke asked, adding the conditioner to her hair.
“Mr. Woody and Lily of the Forest could ride on Magic,” Lily said, thinking about whom else might be able to make the ride. “Mr. Woody told me he has a nephew. And his nephew could ride on Moonbeam!”
“That’s a good idea,” Zeke said, working the conditioner into the tips of her hair. “So that’s what they did. Mr. Woody turned to face the high hill just beyond the Lake of Dreams, stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled. Appearing on the summit of that hill were the two unicorns, Moonbeam and Magic, who raced down to Mr. Woody’s side. Mr. Woody and Lily jumped up onto Magic’s back and Mr. Woody’s nephew …”
Zeke paused for a moment and then asked Lily a question.
“What did Mr. Woody say his nephew’s name was?” he asked, tilting her head back to rinse the conditioner out of her hair.
“He didn’t say,” Lily answered.
“Well, we’ll need to give him one then,” Zeke said. “What should we call his nephew?”
“Hmm,” Lily said, thinking for a moment as Zeke turned off the tub faucet and began letting her bath water out before he stood up and went to the bathroom closet for a towel. “How about we call him … Neph?”
“Perfect,” Zeke said returning to the tub side and working her hair up into a towel that he wrapped around her head like a turban. “Neph hopped up onto Moonbeam’s back and away they went, tearing through the forest as quickly as they could. Such a tiny little deer certainly wouldn’t survive on its own for long. But the concern grew worse as it began to rain. Because of the canopy of leaves above them, they were able to make good time through most of the forest before the leaves gave way to the raindrops landing on them.”
Lily stood up and Zeke wrapped a beach towel around her – the one he always used to dry her off after a bath. It was long and thick and could easily swaddle her like a blanket. Picking her up into his arms, he carried her out to the living room and took a seat on the couch, placing her across his lap and cradling her in his arms. Lap time was never more necessary than it was these days. Lily needed that bonding time to be reassured that all was still well and that her pregnancy wouldn’t change anything between them. He understood why she was worried because they both knew that a lot would have to change when Lucy was born, but nothing would change between the two of them.
“By the time they reached the far end of the forest, they were soaked and as the unicorns took off into the green field leading to the mountain that contained the Cave of Dreams, Mr. Woody began to instruct Lily on what she would need to do when they got there,” Zeke said as Lily nestled herself up against him, her eyes lost in his and in the story. “Mr. Woody told Lily that she would need to climb the trail to the Cave with Neph and when she got to the Cave she would need to place a single wish into the small pool she would find in the center of the Cave. In the water of that pool, she would see a reflection of where the baby deer was, whether it was dead or alive at this point.”
The events of the morning so far were trying on Lily. It was her first experience with morning sickness and, mixed in with her terminal illness currently being untreated as she went through pregnancy, Lily was one tired soul. She would only need a short nap until lunch when she would try to keep food down again, but just like last night, Zeke’s story was something she had to stay wake to hear the end of. In that sense, it really wasn’t a very good bedtime story. But it was his touch and his voice which would take care of the rest at this point. And all Lily had to do was lie there and make it to the end of the story.
“Lily of the Forest and Neph, climbed the trail up to the Cave of Dreams and entered it. In the middle of the Cave was a small pool of water, just as Mr. Woody said there would be. Lily touched her forehead with her fingertips, making a wish and then touching the surface of the water with her hand. The surface of the water seemed to sparkle with light, though the sun’s rays didn’t reach the center of the Cave from the entrance and it was raining anyway just then. But what Lily saw was a tiny shivering baby deer under a tree with long dangling branches. And right away, she knew that the baby deer was in the Grove of Willows,” Zeke said, placing his fingertips on Lily’s forehead and lightly dragging them down her face. “Lily of the Forest and Neph ran down the trail and jumped up onto the unicorns with Mr. Woody. On the way they explained to Mr. Woody where the baby deer was.”
Lily yawned lightly, listening as her eyelids began to droop.
“They traveled the small trail around the mountain to the Grove of Willows, realizing when they got there that the long branches of the trees dangled down so far that no bird in the sky could’ve seen the deer. They rode the unicorns throughout the Grove, searching for the deer and hoping they weren’t too late to save it,” Zeke said, beginning to lower the volume of his voice. “But as they searched, a mishap took place and Magic caught its hoof on a root that was sticking up. Mr. Woody and Lily of the Forest were thrown from the unicorn’s back as it fell to the ground. Lily sat up, shaking her head for a moment before seeing her wish come true.”
Zeke lowered his voice to whispers at this point as Lily’s eyelids were at half-mast.
“There, under the dangling branches of the willow tree in front of her was the baby deer, curled up and shivering. Mr. Woody tended to the twisted ankle of Magic as he told Neph to take Lily and the baby deer back to the Lake of Dreams. Only the baby deer’s mother would know what to do at this point, but what they needed to do was keep the baby deer as warm as possible on the way,” Zeke whispered. “So, Neph hopped up onto the back of Moonbeam and Lily hopped up onto the unicorn as well, sitting in front of Neph and facing him as they intertwined their legs. Mr. Woody lifted the baby deer up to them and they placed the poor, shivering thing between them. Lily of the Forest leaned in and wrapped her arms around Neph’s chest, keeping the baby deer as warm as possible as Neph made Moonbeam take off as fast as the unicorn could run. They blazed a trail back out of the Willow of Graves, around the mountain, across the green field, back into the forest and to the Lake of Dreams. When they got there, they saw that the animals and dream elves had built a bit of a makeshift shelter from the rain to put the baby deer in with its mother. The shelter was lined with soft grasses picked from the forest ground before the rains had soaked them and lifting the baby deer down to the dream elves, Neph and Lily got off the unicorn, instantly sprinted back into the forest to return to the wounded Magic and Mr. Woody.”
Zeke slid himself off the couch and turned around, gently placing Lily on the cushion and reaching to the diaper bag at the end of the couch. Getting out a diaper and trying to unfolded it without any noise, he concluded the story.
“The baby deer lived, Magic the Unicorn’s ankle healed and all were blessed by the love of Lily of the Forest,” he whispered, seeing her eyes going shut. “The End.”
————————————-Samples: “Being Zeke & Lily“ “Lily’s To-Do List“ “When Mr. Woody Helped Lily Put it All Together” “Lily of the Forest“ Kindle – Nook – Smashwords – Kobo – PDF Ebook – Google – Lulu Paperback – CreateSpace Paperback
Also attached to this series is: Aria and the CountrySide
Taking place simultaneously with the end of book 6.
And: The Story of Lucy
Taking place years later.
If you like Zeke and Lily’s saga, I would also recommend: