Seven-year-old Stella Morris could always be found outside, playing in her mother’s flower garden. She found solace playing alone, getting lost in her own imagination, sometimes making stone villages for the fairies she believed lived close by. She enjoyed stacking rocks as well as just studying them for the differences between them. Vibrant colors filled the garden, like a beautiful painting done by a master, full of roses, tulips, hyacinths, and hibiscus. Bees and dragonflies zipped around in the sunlight as the breeze passed underneath their wings. The cityscape of Stalwarth stood strong in the background of Stella’s home. But today, Stella’s focus was on a bunch of limestone glittering in the sun. The pile had been delivered the previous day to be used for a garden path. She intently focused on one of the rocks with curiosity and held it in her hand. It stood out to her from the others because it was strange in shape; it looked as if two limestones were fused together, almost like a head on a little torso.
Dayla, Stella’s mom, stepped outside their gray brick home, scanning the yard for her daughter, but beheld her garden. She noticed a wilting rose next to her and touched it. Her hand glowed like the sun, and light swirled around the flower. The rose stood straight, like it had just been shocked with a defibrillator, and the red petals instantly regrew. Dayla swelled with pride, since she knew no other garden in Stalwarth could compete with hers, thanks to her abilities.
Once Dayla saw the back of Stella’s head covered in dark, curly hair that matched her own, she smiled. Though she wished her daughter had more friends to play with, she couldn’t help but think Stella looked so at home next to the rock pile. “Hey, honey, why don’t you come inside for lunch? I made chicken tenders! Your favorite!”
Stella either didn’t hear her mother or was so engrossed in the limestone in her hand she didn’t care it was lunchtime.
Dayla frowned. “Stella, honey? Did you hear me?”
Stella excitedly waved her hand behind her. “Shh! Mom! Don’t you hear him?”
Dayla cocked her head. “Hear what?”
Stella leaned her ear next to the limestone in her hand, her curls covering her dark eyes. “He … He’s scared and confused.”
Dayla surveyed the flower garden as if looking for an intruder. “What? Who are you talking about?”
“The rock. He’s alive. You can’t hear him?”
Dayla shook her head, but confusion etched her face. “No, honey. I don’t hear him.”
Stella closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them, she said, “It’s all right. I’m your friend. You can trust me.”
Then something extraordinary happened; a pair of legs and arms grew from the strange rock in Stella’s hand, matching the limestone’s light grey sparkling texture. Two spots on the rock’s surface wiggled, first to the left then to the right. Then they collapsed, creating two cute, little eyes. Another spot below the eyes shifted, and with a pop, it opened to create a mouth. The little rock blinked rapidly, squealed and tumbled from Stella’s hands into the grass. He sat there, staring at its hands with its mouth agape, not knowing what to do before glancing upward. He saw Stella, a girl with a bronze glow to her cheeks and dark hair and eyes. The girl who had given him life.
Stella stared into the eyes of her new creation, not believing what she was seeing.
The rock creature released a little high-pitched scream and bolted.
“Oh no!” Stella squealed. “It’s okay! Don’t be scared! I won’t hurt you!”
The little rock scuttled between two yellow rose bushes and cowered in the safety of the shadows and thorns.
Stella’s mom stood still like one of her garden statues, staring wide-eyed at her daughter. For years, they had wondered what Stella’s abilities would be since such things typically appear at an early age but hadn’t yet. Stella was a late bloomer. “Stella, did … did you do this?”
Stella stared at her mom with large, worried eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Well, honey. I think you may have just discovered your abilities. To me, it looked like you gave that little rock life. Is that what happened?”
Stella’s finger trailed over other pieces of limestone. “I-I think so. I thought I felt him move while I was holding him.” She pointed at the little limestone cowering in the bushes. “Then I thought about how cool it would be if he were alive. I felt a strange tingling sensation in my hands, and that’s when I heard his thoughts.”
“Stella! That’s amazing! You can create little golems! I had a feeling your ability would be tied with rocks, given how much you love them. Can you … hear him now?”
Stella shook her head, her curls bouncing around. “No. It was only while I was holding him.”
Dayla kneeled next to Stella and spoke to the cute creature. “Hey there, little guy. We won’t hurt you.”
The golem blinked and looked around. His gaze rested on Stella.
The happiness that shone from Stella’s eyes could make anyone’s heart soar. “Mom, this is amazing!” Stella extended her hand toward the little rock golem. “You don’t need to be scared. I’m your friend.”
The little golem backed deeper into the shadows, no doubt of the fright in his stare. Simultaneously, a bullfrog two times his size jumped out near him. They stared at each other, both not knowing what to think. The frog lunged on top of the defenseless rock and pinned him under the frog’s weight. His arms and legs flailed underneath the bullfrog.
“Oh, no!” Stella cried out. “Get off him!” She rushed forward, and the frog disappeared into the wilderness under the rose bushes.
Before Stella could comfort the golem, he scurried away, terrified to be trapped again. He ran through a bunch of tulips to the edge of a little pond in the middle of the garden. He noticed movement in the water and peered over the edge to see two fish swirling around each other.
“Those are koi,” Stella said as she kneeled slowly behind the golem. “They’re beautiful, aren’t they?”
The golem’s eyes widened as he watched the swimming koi, mesmerized by their presence. They seemed to glow since they were mainly white but speckled with orange and black.
Stella took a refreshing breath. “This whole garden is beautiful. I love to pretend I’m on an adventure and act like a grand explorer like Sir Petaurus, the glider.” Sadness seeped into her gaze. “A lot of my other friends don’t like this kind of stuff. They’d rather go to the playground, but I love it here.” She smiled largely at her little creation. “Maybe you can be my co-explorer! Would you like that?”
A light breeze passed, swaying the tall grass and cattails around them.
The golem glanced around, beholding the view around him. He seemed curious about the world around him. His smile grew as he regarded the little girl who no longer seemed threatening.
Stella cautiously dropped to one knee, and the golem stayed still. Steadily, Stella laid her hand on the grass. “See, little guy? I won’t hurt you.”
The golem tilted his head and spied Stella’s hand with curiosity. After a moment, he waddled into her palm.
Dayla approached behind her daughter. She kneeled next to her and wrapped an arm around Stella’s shoulders. “Can you still hear his thoughts?”
Stella shook her head. “No. Not anymore.”
Dayla eyed the rock golem. “Do you think you could turn him back into just a rock?”
“I-I think so.” Stella shrugged. “I feel his energy.”
The little golem stared at them with large, round eyes.
Dayla sighed. “Maybe you should. It may be too overwhelming for a rock to be alive.”
Stella turned to her mom in one jerky movement. “What? No, no! I don’t want to! He’s going to be my friend! I’ll take care of him, I promise!”
The rock golem frowned and quickly crawled up Stella’s arm to her neck. It reached up and wiped away the tear rolling down Stella’s face.
Dayla’s face lifted with surprise from the compassion she was witnessing from a little rock. “Well, if you’re going to keep him, you’ll have to name him.”
Stella smiled and glanced at the rock golem. “How about … Lime? Since he’s made of limestone?”
The little rock golem smiled largely and squealed, appearing to agree with the name choice.
Dayla chuckled. “It seems like he likes it.”
“Are you hungry, little guy?” Stella asked Lime.
Lime tilted his head in confusion.
“Sweetheart …” Dayla laughed. “I highly doubt he needs to eat. He’s just a rock.”
“Well, maybe he would enjoy a chicken tender? Make him feel even more at home? Like he’s part of the family?’
Lime looked from Stella to her mom with a quizzical gaze.
Dayla shrugged. “I guess there’s no harm in giving him one.”
Stella squealed. “Okay, Lime! Let’s go eat!”
Lime excitedly clapped his hands together.
Stella went into the house with Lime on her shoulder, her mom following behind them into the kitchen.
Dayla put some fries and chicken tenders on a plate and gave it to Stella, who was now sitting at the small table near the window.
Lime cautiously crawled down her arm and pointed at the plate of food.
Stella smiled and handed a tender to him. “You can have one! It’s chicken, and it’s delicious!”
A look of wonder draped over Lime’s face as he took the tender from Stella. He squeaked in excitement while he stared at the tender, twisting it in his hands.
“You eat it, see?” Stella took a bite from another tender and rubbed her stomach. “Mmm … yummy!”
Lime eyed the chicken with a new exhilaration and took a bite off the top. After a moment of chewing, he smiled, and the chicken fell from his mouth onto the table in smaller chunks.
Dayla sat across from Stella, noticing the new mess. “See, honey. He can’t really eat.”
Lime frowned and eyed the chicken tender with such a longing that Dayla couldn’t help but feel sad for the little guy.
“But if he wants to act like he’s eating, that’s fine.” Stella patted the top of Lime’s head. “Go ahead and enjoy, little guy! Don’t worry about the mess!”
Lime giggled and attacked the chicken tender, pieces littering the table.
Stella laughed as she ate her own lunch.
Dayla smiled at her daughter and Lime. A new kind of delight appeared on her face, as if she knew her daughter now had someone who would be a fun companion—that this was the start of a special bond sure to be full of adventure and maybe a little mischief.
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