Early Autumn was gorgeous around Nix’s town. The leaves were turning and harvest was coming in bountiful this year. He could think of no one he wanted more to share festival day with than Trixie Hatter.
Trixie was not so keen on spending her afternoon with Nix, though. Nix had to invite her best friend stroke business partner stroke roommate to join himself and his best friend Mossy, and then just counted on her to convince Trixie to come along. And bring her along she did.
Sierra and Trixie stepped out of their shared hatchback and into the crisp autumn air and sunshine. Sierra made some observation on the weather holding for the day’s festivities, then turned to spy Nix and Mossy. She grinned wide and waved at them before grabbing Trixie’s hand to drag her over.
“Nix, Mossy, hi!”
“H-hi, Sierra,” Mossy replied, smiling so the gap in his teeth showed as he walked up to meet his girlfriend. She kissed his forehead and they waved a goodbye to their respective friends while walking off to enjoy the festival on their own.
Trixie stood with her arms crossed, pretending she’d rather be anywhere else.
“The harvest festival is the biggest one in Larch Mollrow,” Nix stated conversationally. “All the local crafters have booths, and there’s a hay ride as well. I think a few folks set up a little car show at the other end of the festival area, if you’re interested.”
Nix could see right away from how Trixie shifted that he had piqued her interest. “Well, alright, I guess. The car show sounds interestin’.”
Nix grinned and offered his arm for her to take. She refused — he tried not to feel too hurt about it — but she did walk almost companionably next to him as a happy compromise. Nix pointed out the booths he thought she might find interesting on the way, and they actually managed a few minutes of slightly awkward conversation.
It was when the lot full of classic cars came into view that Trixie became truly animated. She all but ran up to an old Volkswagen Beatle to inspect the work that had been done under the hood.
“Used to work at a mechanic fixin’ up old cars like this’n for folks what don’t know top from bottom on the engine. Always wanted one ta do up for meself ‘n’ go drag racin’.”
“Why open a bookshop with Sierra, then?”
Trixie shrugged. “Make better money off a business ‘n fixin’ cars, least in our town. Sierra always got crazy ideas, an’ a bookshop full o’ little gadgets doin’ fun things is one o’ her brilliant ones. Couldn’t pass it up.”
Nix couldn’t stop himself from smiling. This was probably the longest conversation he’d managed to hold with Trixie since the day he moved away in elementary school.
“And why’s it called ‘Hatter’s Wonderland’ if’n Sierra’s the one with the grand idea?”
“‘Cause she loves reading Lewis Carrol ‘n’ thought it worked better on account of my workshop in the back. B’sides, ‘Kidd’s Books’ don’t got the same ring to it.” She straightened up from peeking inside a classic Aston Martin. “You ain’t got your fancy Impala ‘ere?”
Nix shook his head and shrugged. “‘M sure Moss told you how I am about Vega. If’n I can hardly sit still with him driving, how do you think I feel havin’ half the town and dozens of tourists I don’t know sticking their hands all over her?”
“Fair ‘nough. He said you put it together yerself. Shipped all the parts in from America, right?”
“Tha’s right! Had no spending money for all of Middle School because of that, but Vega’s been worth every penny.”
They’d gone through most of the cars by this point and Nix had begun leading Trixie back up the sidewalk to the vendor booths. There were trees overhead with brightly coloured leaves acting as a ceiling and floor.
Now that they were away from the cars, conversation had slowed to a halt. Trixie kicked at the fallen leaves as they walked, hands in her pockets.
He’d had her, for a few brief minutes, but he’d lost the connection again. There had to be something….
A bright yellow leaf drifted past his head, and instinct made him catch it neatly by the stem. Beside him, Trixie let out a low whistle.
“Tha’s good luck, that,” she remarked, nodding to indicate the leaf. “Catchin’ it out the air all perfect like, I mean.”
And the smile returned to Nix’s face. “I know. Who do you think told you that in the first place?”
Her eyes went wide for a moment, then she let out a laugh. “Shoot, yer right! An’ here I’d started thinkin’ I just thought that because Da’d loved Fall so much.”
“You seem to like it fairly well yourself.”
“Yeh, I guess. I like the colours an’ kickin’ the leaves about, Sierra starts makin’ soup this time of year ta offset the cold, and havin’ an excuse to go buy pies for pudding is always nice. Don’t like the rain too much, though. Too much of it.”
“Well, hard to escape that on the British Isles, now, isn’t it? Be glad the sun decided to visit today.”
Trixie rolled her eyes, but she was still smiling. That was a good sign. It was so long since she seemed this comfortable around him.
He spied Sierra and Mossy at a booth across the street, looking at the soaps and crafts made by one of the local families. Sierra turned and spotted them, grinned wide and flashed Nix a thumbs up. Mossy turned to look as well when Sierra nudged him. He waved and pointed at a paper cup in his hand, then pointed down the road.
Nix’s eyes widened as he realized what his friend meant. “Have you tried the local apple cider tea?” He asked, turning back to Trixie.
“Nah. Wot’s special ’bout it?”
“Come see. If we’re lucky, there’s still enough left.” Nix took Trixie’s hand and took off at a light jog down the street. He was pleased to note that she was keeping up alright and not trying to yank her hand out of his. In fact, he thought he could hear her laughing at what he knew was childlike excitement.
They finally reached a booth just off the main line of vendors that had a line of ten people in it. Nix pulled Trixie with him to the back of the line and bounced on the balls of his feet. She raised an eyebrow at him but said nothing in the two minutes it took for them to reach the table.
It was being staffed by two old women, one with greying dark hair and the other with her hair as white as a storm cloud. On the table were a few dozen little silver packets, a menagerie of charms and trinkets, and a large carafe with a stack of paper cups beside it.
“Minerva, Grandmere Dei, good to see you two!” Nix leaned over the table to give each lady a kiss on the cheek. “How’s the orchard this year?”
“Doing very well, Songbird,” the younger woman replied with a smile. “We had a good harvest this year. Plenty of tea to go around. Who’s this lovely young fairy you’ve brought along?”
“This is Trixie Hatter, the girl I keep telling you about. Trixie, this is Minerva and her mother, Deirdre. They basically raised me when I was younger.”
“You say that as if we ever stopped,” Deirdre retorted with a chuckle as she served up two cups of a dark whiskey coloured liquid. “Honey in your tea, dear?”
“Try it,” Nix said, nudging her elbow. “Enhances the apple flavour.”
Trixie gave him an odd look, but nodded and accepted her cup once it was ready. “Thank you, ma’am.”
Nix could see Minerva looking Trixie up and down with a motherly eye before she plucked something off the table and pressed it into Trixie’s hand.
“On the house, dearie,” she smiled. “It’s for confidence.”
“Oh. Thank you?”
“No need for thanks. Now off with you two, you’re holding up the line.”
The day passed all too quickly. Trixie had enjoyed her tea, as Nix had hoped, and had even suggested going back for another cup. At the table they met back up with Mossy and Sierra and spent the rest of the daylight enjoying the festival. There was a hay ride, traditional folk music, and even a cute little play put on by the local church’s Sunday school.
So soon, it became night, time for the bonfire dance and leaf burning that always signalled the end of the festival.
He didn’t want it to end. Trixie didn’t seem to want it to either. They stood beside each other and stared into the dying flames of the bonfire, watching them dance and flicker.
“I had a nice time today, Nix,” she finally said.
He smiled. “That’s good. I’m glad.”
“Maybe… you’re not so bad as the nuns at my old school kept telling me you were. You’re actually a decent person.”
“Haha!” Nix had to laugh. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all this time.”
“Yeah, well, I’m stubborn.”
“I can tell. Thank you for giving me a chance anyway.”
“Mhm.” There was silence for a few minutes. Only the fire crackling and the low murmurs of Sierra and Mossy from the opposite side of the pyre could be heard. “You know, I kinda always wanted to keep liking you. Even though I forgot. I still like you.”
“So we can be like Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker like we promised way back?”
“Hm, I dunno. I still ain’t seen that DeLorean you said you were gonna buy.”
“Oh, I keep that one sitting in the garage mostly. It looks great, but it’s unbelievably unsafe to drive.”
Trixie snorted. “Well, a’right then! Looks like I got no choice now. I’ll be your Jennifer Parker.”
Nix beamed. “Trixie Hatter, I’ve never been happier in my life than right now.” He put a hand to the back of her head and touched his lips to hers, holding her close.