The Unexpected Friend

Painting by Jean-Jaucques Bachelie

Shelly was out playing with her cat Princess, when Princess was distracted by a bird and off she ran. “Princess! No, come back here, you silly cat.” Shelly ran after her, half yelling, half laughing. She loved her silly cat, and joined in on the game of chase.

The game was fun for a little while, but Shelly’s little legs were growing tired and the distance was growing wider between her and Princess. “Princess, Stop!” Shelly’s yell turned into crying when Princess got out of sight. She stopped and looked around, where was she? Shelly trembled, she didn’t know how far she had ran. In the middle of the woods everything looked the same, all she saw were trees around her. Mommy had always warned her about going into the woods by herself. But she hadn’t been by herself, she had been with Princess. Sitting down on a tree stump she let the tears flow. She was lost and didn’t know what to do.

A cute, cotton tail bunny ran in front of her and that interrupted her tears. Then she watched a squirrel running up a tree. Feeling a little better, she started singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, it was the only song she could think of. As she sang it she started worrying again, what if she is still out there when it gets dark and the stars come out? What if noone finds her before then! She was afraid of the dark! Poor Shelly began to shiver with fear, when a loud noice startled her. The sound was pretty, but different, she was sure she had never heard it before.

Shelly’s eyes grew big when she saw what was making the noise. A long neck hippo was coming towards her. She didn’t know if she should be frightened. It was impossible for her to move because of being overcome with shock. The hippo had its mouth open and it was singing. The hippo was the one making that strange, but pretty sound. It was singing! When the hippo came up to her, it stopped singing.

“Hi sweetie, what is your name?”

Shelly’s face brightened like a sunbeam, the hippo talked! She knew animals could talk, but her brother laughed at her for saying that. Oh, would she have a story to tell him, and big brothers thought they were so smart, HA!

“HI! I am Shelly.”

“I am so glad to meet you Shelly. My name is Henrietta, I heard you singing one of my favorite songs and it made me want to sing. I hope you didn’t mind.”

“You have a pretty voice.” Shelly said.

Henrietta blushed. “Oh sweet child, you are so kind. I know that not everyone would say that about my singing. I try not to let what others say bother me, I love to sing, so I sing! If they don’t want to listen, they can cover their ears.”

Shelly laughed, she covered her ears when her brother practiced playing the piano. He needed a lot of practice.

They chit chatted for awhile and Shelly forgot that she had been scared. Henrietta was so fun to chat with. She told stories of her friends, Bobo the bear, Myrtle the turtle and a cow named Betsy. Shelly wanted to meet them all!

“Can you take me to meet them, please?”

Kindness radiated out of Henrietta’s eyes. “That would be so fun to have you meet my friends, but your Mommy and Daddy would be really scared if they couldn’t find you.”

“I don’t know. I don’t even think they miss me, for I am still lost. They didn’t find me. Do you know where my house is?” Shelly’s bottom lip started puckering out and Henrietta could tell she was getting scared again.

“What about we sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star again”? Maybe they will hear you singing and know where to find you.”

Shelly nodded her head and wiped the tears out of her eyes, as they started singing together.

“Shelly! Shelly! Where are you?”

“Mommy, Daddy! I am here, I am here!” Shelly jumped up from the tree stump and went running towards her mommy’s voice.

Oh it felt so good to be wrapped in her parent’s arms of love. She was safe! Shelly hugged them with all her might. Then she remembered.

“Mommy, Daddy! You have to meet my new friend!”

“Your new friend?”

“Yes, its Henrietta , a hippo!”

Her daddy raised his eyebrows, “A hippo you say? In the woods? These woods have been behind our house for all the years we lived here, and I have never seen a hippo. Wow! Show us.”

Shelly took her daddy’s hand and turned around to lead them to where Henrietta had been, but she was gone.

“Oh No, she is gone! I didn’t even say goodbye.” A deep frown appeared on Shelly’s face.

Her daddy wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “Well maybe Henrietta was shy about meeting us. Its okay honey, I am real glad you had a friend to be with.”

“She helped me to not be scared. We sang together.”

“Henrietta is sounding like quite the hippo, I hope we can meet her someday.” her mommy said, with a smile.

“I wanted you to meet her now.” Shelly still looked sad.

“I am sorry dear, but you know what, we have to hurry back for there is a party to go to.”

“A party?”

“Yes, a party with cake and ice cream.”

Shelly’s face instantly broke into a smile. “Cake and ice cream! YUM!” She was feeling happy again.

It didn’t take long to get home and once again Shelly was wide eyed as she looked into her neighbor’s yard. “Mommy!! The cake is on fire!”

“No, no sweetie, ” her mom laughed, “The cake is not on fire, its just many, many candles for Anson’s birthday.”

Anson saw that they were back and called over to them, “Shelly, do you want to come help me blow out all these candles?”

Shelly was delighted to help him, she liked her neighbor Anson. He was funny and always nice to her. Just wait until she told him about Henrietta! She bet he had never seen a long neck, singing hippo before. She still was in awe about all the candles. Her birthday cake was never that bright.

Later that night after her mommy had tucked her into bed and left the room she looked out the window. When she spotted the twinkling star, she smiled. “Twinkle Twinkle little star… I won’t forget you Henrietta”, she whispered to the sky, as she closed her eyes, drifting off to sleep.

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