The next morning, the three siblings were up bright and early.
Cypress had never looked this delighted to about his own cooking before! Clover and Citrus savored every bite. It was the first time any of them ever tasted anything.
Bloom, though decidedly happy for his children, did not understand their excitement about food. He had never really been interested in it, as he had told them many times before.
For Clover, however, this experience was divine.
Later that day, Citrus and Cypress announced that they would be moving out together, that very night. Clover was a tiny bit hurt that her brothers hadn't asked her to join them - after all, they had always been together - but she only wished them luck and smiled.
After all, they were two young bachelors now, and having their sister living with them might have ruined their chances with the ladies, or something, she reasoned to herself. Besides, Clover didn't know if she would have been able to leave their elderly parents behind.
They moved to a little cottage, not far from Cypress' workplace. Citrus announced that he was going to try his luck as a freelance photographer. Not living with her brothers, with whom she had been so close, was going to be tough for Clover, but she was glad to see them pursuing their passions.
Clover was pursuing her own... passions as well. Her parents had invited Darwin to stay at their house for a while and the young couple was making the best of every minute spent together.
Bloom had not let his sons move out before having them pose for yet another painting. Matilda was here to share these moments with them now, but it had become somewhat of a tradition for him.
Clover showed Darwin around Hidden Springs, finally arriving at the family cemetery her uncle had created.
"These are my grandparents.", she explained. "They were scientists or something. I never got to meet them."
"Clover. It's raining."
"So? ... Oh! You're right! I... I can't absorb it anymore.", she ran her hand over her forearm, where water droplets had collected. "So weird! It really feels different, you know?"
"No, I don't know. Now come on under the umbrella or you'll catch a cold."
Clover turned to Darwin and embraced him fiercely, causing him to drop his umbrella.
"Hey-", he started, but when she took his face in her hands, Darwin quieted.
"Thank you for taking such good care of me.", Clover murmured, studying his familiar features. Darwin smiled softly, putting his arms around her waist.
"But... there is something different about you.", she observed. "You seem... I don't quite know how to say it... grumpier than back in Bridgeport. Did something happen?"
Darwin sighed as he stepped back, then rubbed the back of his neck while staring at the ground for a moment. Clover waited patiently.
"You know me too well, huh?", he let out a joyless laugh. "I was kind of hoping to just relax here and not think about it for a while, but apparently it's not working anyway."
Clover said nothing, waiting for Darwin to collect his thoughts.
"It's my mom. I don't know what's wrong with her! She left Dan for some douche. Just like that."
Clover knew only too well how his mother's flighty nature had always troubled Darwin, ever since he was old enough to understand. Following her failed romance with the former teen rapper Lil Bling, which had resulted in and ended with Darwin's birth, there had been one man after another. But then things had started to look up, when Hannah married Dan Gordon. Darwin loved his step-father like a real father, even taking his surname. And now she had dumped him, just like that.
But before Clover could think of what to say, they both noticed something tiny running toward them.
"Hey, little buddy!", Darwin cooed as he stooped down to let the puppy sniff his hand. "What are you doing out here, all by yourself?"
Gently picking up the little ball of fluff, Darwin examined the dog's neck. "He doesn't have a collar. Where's your family, little buddy? Should we help you find your family?"
Clover only smiled. This was the Darwin she knew, sweet and caring and loving.
They agreed that they should head back to town and ask if anyone had reported a missing puppy. Maybe they could try the police station or something. They really weren't sure about how to proceed in this situation.
The police officers at the station sent them to the local animal shelter, where they found out that no one had reported any missing animals.
"We can take him off you of course, but we're pretty full as it is.", the worker informed them. "Maybe you could leave your number with us and take care of him for a while. We'll call if anyone claims the pup."
And so little Dusty stayed with them and accompanied Darwin and Clover as they explored Hidden Springs together.
Darwin was fascinated when they came across a herd of wild horses. For an outdoorsy type who had grown up in Bridgeport, this was like a fairytale world.
More often than not, they spent their nights cuddled up in a tent. Sometimes little Dusty had to wait outside though.
They lived off the land, picking fresh fruit and vegetables and eating them right where they had grown.
"Hey, this is amazing! These rocks around here... there are actual gems! Really rare and valuable...", Darwin called from behind some bushes. Clover barely heard him. She was too busy enjoying the fresh produce.
Sometimes they'd spend their nights at the house.
Bloom and Matilda had taken an instant liking to Dusty, and bought him the highest-quality pet supplies available.
"Dad! That bed is way too big for the little puppy."
"Oh, you just wait.", Bloom smiled. "He's going to be a big one. You can tell by their paws."
"But we don't even know how long he's going to stay with us, dad."
To be honest, Clover also hoped that no one would come forward to claim Dusty as their own.
When the days started growing shorter and the temperatures dropped, Dusty was still with them. Darwin, too, still remained a welcome house guest. Clover was glad her boyfriend was still staying with them, especially when she noticed a strange sensation in her belly one evening. She couldn't be sure yet, of course, but she had a very strong feeling that yet another addition to the household was on its way.
For a while, they carried on as usual, occasionally seeing the extended family around town.
Clover's favorite pastime was still making music. Evidently she was getting better at it, since now people had started throwing money into her guitar case on the floor.
She barely noticed when crowds gathered around her to listen though. When Clover was playing, it was just her and the music. She never even realized when rain started to pour.
When she heard Darwin's exasperated tone, she finally put down her guitar.
"Oh", she murmured, looking around. "It's raining again, huh?"
He sighed. "I know you're not used to getting soaked and catching colds. You've never had to deal with it until now. I... I guess I understand. I've almost given up on getting you to carry an umbrella.", he said softly, obviously trying to stay calm. "It's just that..."
He bent down, stroking her belly. "I wish you'd be a bit more concerned about this one here."
"You... you know?"
"I think I can tell, Clover."
He pulled her into a tight embrace, pressing his lips against hers.
"Come.", he said, letting go of her. "I need to show you something.
It was a lovely little park in the middle of the forest. The rain had slowed to a soft drizzle, and for once Darwin did not pull out his umbrella.
"This really is a beautiful place. Thanks for showing me!"
"I knew you'd like it, but this is not what I wanted to show you.
He knelt down and reached into his pocket.
Darwin had found this amazingly clear and large diamond right here in Hidden Springs, he told her, and had it made into a ring.
They swore they would always be together.
Then they were off to the local Fall Festival to tell Clover's parents the good news.
They found Bloom and Matilda bobbing for apples, giggling like little children. Bloom had even gotten his face painted!
They were as excited as Clover was. She took this chance to also tell them about her pregnancy, at which they only laughed.
"I thought you'd never tell us.", Matilda grinned.
"It's pretty obvious, Clover.", Bloom added.
"No, we actually thought about getting a house in Hidden Springs. It really is too beautiful here."
"Well, in that case I insist that you two stay with us. There is far too much space in this big house for only two people."
There was no arguing with the green man and his tiger's face.