Original wasn’t all that happy to be back in the woods after the fiasco he’d encountered with Teriyaki Beef Jerky. On the other hand, he was excited that the quest he’d spent his entire life thinking was his alone now actually involved two others. Teriyaki walked right beside him, whistling as they made their way past the trees. Honey Barbecue Beef Jerky walked on his other side, and he loved that. She was such a wonderful girl, and he was pretty sure she was starting to like him just as much as he liked her. She smiled as he glanced at her. “Aren’t these trees beautiful?” she asked. Of course, with her accent it sounded like, “Ahn’t theys trees byatifool?” He always got a wonderful chill when she spoke, and he thought it was pretty exciting to get to hear her voice all the time.
He looked around. The woods were indeed beautiful, and he smiled and nodded. About half of the trees had lovely pointy leaves, and since it was fall here they seemed to come in all sorts of lovely shades of brown, orange, yellow, and red. The rest of the trees were really neat. They were filled with plump, red cherries. When they first got to the woods, Teriyaki had climbed a tree and started throwing down heaps of the wonderful fruit. Original hadn’t admitted it to his companions but he’d never tasted a cherry before. He was definitely going to be eating them in the future, though. They were sweet and juicy and just wonderful. For some reason he couldn’t understand, he really thought a cherry would be perfect on top of a pile of whipped cream.
“Hey!” The voice was really sweet which made the tone a bit shocking. “Why are you all following me?”
The voice belonged to a pretty nice looking girl. In fact, if there was one thing Original thought accurately described this girl, that thing was SWEET. She almost glistened with sugary happiness. “Um,” he said. “We’re not following you. But if you’re Cherry Maple Beef Jerky, we’ve been looking for you.”
The girl inclined her head and he immediately noticed she was nice and thick, almost like Honey BBQ but without the same Southern smokiness. “Well, I guess you came to the right place if you’re looking for me. This is my forest, and there’s all the cherries and all the maple trees anyone could ever want.” She stepped closer and Teriyaki stepped behind Original.
“Hey,” Teriyaki whispered. “Introduce me!”
Original smiled. It looked like Teriyaki had a crush. “Um. Let me introduce you to my friends.” He moved to the right and pointed back at Teriyaki. “This is Terry. He’s a great outdoorsman and we know your cherries are wonderful because he climbed a tree to get some for us.” Teriyaki looked bashful. Original decided he could do him a favor. “He’s the best teriyaki beef jerky online or anywhere else.” She seemed impressed and Original felt like he’d done his duty. He pointed to Honey. “This is Honey, and she’s the best honey barbecue beef jerky available.”
Honey curtsied. It was cute. Cherry Maple rushed up and gave her a big hug. That was sweet. Honey smiled and said, “And he’s O-rig, the Original beef jerky. He’s the whole reason we’re searching for the ones like us. Without O-rig, there wouldn’t be all the varieties.”
Cherry Maple stepped back clearly impressed. She walked toward Original and said, “You can call me Cherry. Sure, maple syrup is a big part of why I’m me but call me Cherry.” O-rig worried that maybe he was going to end up in trouble with Teriyaki but she turned and talked to Terry after all. “I like how climbed the tree,” she said. “I also like that you have neat friends.”
Teriyaki looked so happy with the attention that Original thought the poor guy might explode. He managed to stammer out, “W-w-would you like to come with us on our journey?”
Cherry’s eyes brightened up for a moment but then she looked confused and a little sad. “You mean leave my woods?”
Teriyaki, of course, looked crestfallen. O-rig thought it was time to give his pal a hand once again. “Oh not forever, Cherry,” he said. “I still have a nice house in the suburbs and I’ll go back to it when the quest is over. Haven’t you ever wondered if there were others like you? I mean, haven’t you ever wondered if you were the only beef jerky made with really high standards by people who really believe in building up lives with kindness? Haven’t you ever just wished you could see others crafted from pure love of beef jerky and how it can—”
“I declare, Fancy Pants,” Honey said. “That speech would have sounded a lot better if there’d been an orchestra behind you playing patriotic music.” Original felt a bit embarrassed but he also felt happy just because Honey talked to him. She sighed and said, “Look, Cherry. Just come with us. It’s going to be more fun than a Sunday picnic in September.”
Cherry laughed. “Well, I’ve never had a Sunday picnic in September but hanging out with you,” she looked at Teriyaki, “sounds like a lot of fun.” Her sweet, glistening cheeks suddenly grew bright red. “I mean you guys! You guys! Hanging out with you guys will be fun.”
It was too late, of course. Teriyaki looked like he’d just won a baseball tournament. Honey gave Original a knowing smile that warmed him right down to his tender, all-American USDA beef insides. He smiled back and said, “Well then, let’s be on our way.”
Cherry nodded happily but then turned to Teriyaki. “Will you be sweet, Terry, and get us a bunch of cherries before we leave so we can eat them on the way?”
Terry rushed to one of the trees and shimmied up. Cherries started raining down. “Of course,” he said. “But you’re the one who’s sweet.”
Original looked at Honey and smiled. At least it looked like those two would be wrapped up in themselves most of the time. That meant he almost had Honey all to himself.