Chapter One

The farm was on about 3 acres of land; not very big, as farms go. The sight of it was not some spectacular vista, as many farms tend to be. There weren't dozens of typical farm animals wandering around, grazing, making typical farm animal sounds. Nor was there a handful of eccentric farmhands making the rounds. In fact, there was nothing typical about this farm. Even the owners sold what crops they had at a very low price, just enough to get by. It was plain, dull.

But there was something very special about this farm, despite its outward appearance. Well, actually, there were three very special things about this farm. The first two were the people who owned and operated this ugly little farm. Their names were Joe and Estella Pinder. They were married; they had been married for 45 years. They had met as teenagers, and fell in love instantly. They got married when Joe was 19 and Estella was 18. When they had been married 5 years, they found the farm for sale. They asked the previous owner why he was selling it at such a low price; he told them he could never get anything to grow. Joe and Estella thought it was a good opportunity to build a future for themselves, and decided to take the chance. They were still very much in love, as they had been since the day they met. They were completely devoted to each other, and they were completely devoted to their little farm. Every morning they got up, they enjoyed a breakfast of homemade biscuits and fresh marmalade. They stared longingly into each others eyes as they ate, barely speaking; just smiling. When they were done eating, before beginning their day, Estella would lean over and kiss Joe ever so gently on the lips. They tended their crops, they made repairs. At lunchtime they would share a meal, and at the end of the meal, another kiss. They went to the market, they came home, they shared dinner and went to bed. Just as she did each morning and each afternoon, each night before turning out the lights, Estella would give Joe a sweet kiss on the lips. Joe and Estella had no children, as they had been unable to conceive after many years of trying. They had no workers on the farm; it was just the two of them, but they made it work. Everyone who knew them felt lucky and better for it. They were special people, for many reasons, but one reason in particular.

The other special thing about this small farm, was what it produced. It produced one thing, and one thing only. It didn't produce vegetables. It didn't produce fruit. It didn't produce grain. No, none of your typical farm produce. If it did, it wouldn't be such a special farm. The very special thing that this very special, small, ugly farm produced was cotton candy. Yes, cotton candy. There were cotton candy trees, cotton candy plants, fields of cotton candy. All different colors; pink, blue, purple, green, orange, yellow, red and even white. Each color with a subtle difference in its flavor. All soft, sweet and delicious; the best cotton candy in the world. The bright, sweet colors spread all around the farm, as if the trees and plants and fields had been painted with a childs imagination.

Nobody could understand how or why this farm managed this. I mean imagine! Sweet, colorful, delicious cotton candy growing right out of the ground! It was a mystery to all. All except Joe and Estella. They alone knew the secret of their farm. People had always wondered how this magic occurred; they had asked the Pinders of course, but were never given an answer. When asked, Joe and Estella would simply smile and look at each other, lovingly, knowingly. Perhaps they just didn't know how to explain it to people. It was just a special kind of magic for a special little farm.

Chapter Two

One afternoon as Joe and Estella were having their lunch, a woman came to the farm to see the Pinders. Neither Joe nor Estella had never seen this woman before; she introduced herself as Vanessa Russell. She was a younger woman, perhaps early 30's, slender and attractive. Miss Russell claimed that she worked for a large candy company, and that company would very much like to purchase the Pinder's farm. Estella immediately declined, saying the farm was not for sale.

"Is there anything we can do to change your mind?" asked Vanessa.

"I'm sorry, Miss Russell" replied Joe, "but this farm is very special to us, and we could never sell it to anyone at any price."

"I understand" said Vanessa. "I can't say I'm not disappointed, but I shall return to my office and inform the company that you won't sell. Thank you for your time, and goodbye."

"Goodbye Miss Russell" said Estella.

After the woman had left, Joe turned to his wife and remarked how he thought this incident was a bit curious.

"Why do you say so?" asked Estella.

"Well, it seems she drove quite a long way to attempt to buy the farm, but she seemed rather nonchalant about it, didn't she? I mean it didn't take much to convince her we weren't selling. I guess I just thought those people never took NO for an answer."

"I suppose you're right; it does seem somewhat odd. Still it's not the first time we've had offers on the farm, and I'm sure it won't be the last."

"I'm sure it won't. I remember the very first time someone offered to buy the farm. It was right after our first harvest. Do you remember? There were two men all dressed up in their fancy suits, and they said they'd pay any price to take this "burden" off our hands!"

"Yes", said Estella. "And I remember you telling them that selling the farm would be just like selling our lives, and our lives were simply not for sale. Boy, the look on their faces when you said that, it's something I'll never forget. I think I fell in love with you all over again that day." Estella smiled.

Joe smiled back. "Do you wish sometimes that we told the secret of the farm? To just one person? I mean so that everyone didn't think we were so crazy."

"Never once, my love. What we have is a gift. We need to cherish it, and take care of it; not exploit it."

They finished their afternoon meal, and as usual Estella gave Joe a sweet kiss and they returned to their chores.

That evening, as they lay in bed holding hands, Joe was still thinking about their visitor.

"Dear?" he said.

"Yes, Joe?" asked Estella.

"I'm still thinking about Miss Russell, the lady who visited us today."

"What do you mean?"

"Well" said Joe, "You know that's the first time in a long time anyone from a candy company has personally come to the farm to ask us about selling. Why the sudden interest again?"

"I can't imagine" replied Estella. "Everything happens for a reason, perhaps they're just more interested now than ever before."

"But if that is the case, then I still wonder why she didn't push a bit harder to get us to sell. Just seems strange is all."

Estella looked at Joe. She stared into his eyes for just a moment or two and they smiled at each other.

"I wouldn't worry about it, dear" said Estella.

Chapter Three

Early the next morning there came a knock at the door.

"Who could that be at this hour?" exclaimed Joe.

He opened the door, and it was the very same Miss Russell from the day before.

"Why, hello again Miss Russell. What brings you back this morning?"

"Well, first I would like to apologise for the early hour. I hope I'm not disturbing you by being here now", answered Vanessa.

"Certainly not, Miss. Would you care to come in? We were just sitting down to breakfast, I'm sure there's enough for you."

"That's very kind of you. Perhaps just a cup of coffee?"

"Of course" Joe replied.

Joe opened the door and allowed Miss Russell inside. She stepped into the house and was somewhat taken aback by what she saw. Inside the Pinders' home was beautiful. Not lavish by any means, but wonderfully clean and decorated. It was a far cry from the outward appearance of the farm.

Joe led her into the small kitchen, where Estella was just pouring three cups of coffee.

Vanessa caught her eye and Estella smiled.

"Why good morning Miss Russell! How lovely to see you again. Won't you sit down?" asked Estella.

"You are too kind, Mrs. Pinder. I want to apologise again for my early disturbance, and thank you for inviting me in. I'm sure most people would not be so accomodating."

"Think nothing of it dear. We're usually up and about before sunrise."

Joe invited Vanessa to sit at the small table in the kitchen, and sat across from her. Estella served the coffee and joined them.

The aroma of the fresh coffee filled the kitchen; it reminded Vanessa of her childhood, when her father would be up early each morning brewing a fresh pot. For a moment, she was lost in the memory.

"So", said Estella, "What can we do for you, Miss Russell?"

"Mrs. Pinder, after your warmth and generosity this morning, I almost feel ashamed to say. I wanted to see if you might reconsider selling us the farm."

Joe and Estella both sipped their coffee, but did not respond.

Vanessa thought for a moment.

"Perhaps you don't want money. What would you like? I'm sure we can come to some sort of arrangement."

"The truth is, Miss Russell, we can't sell the farm. It's hard to explain, but we're connected to this farm. We need it, and it needs us."

Joe's answer confused Vanessa, which she conveyed with a look of dismay.

Joe continued.

"You see, This place is even more special than people realize. I can't get much more specific, but my wife and I depend on the farm for so much more than what you see on the surface. And in many ways, the farm itself depends on us. Like I said, we need each other. You wouldn't want this farm. I know you think you do now, but you don't really know what this place is."

Vanessa started to reply.

"Uh, Mr. Pinder, what..."

Estella stopped her.

"We apologise Miss Russell, but we need to get to work. I'm sure you understand."

"I do understand, Mrs. Pinder. Thank you both so much for your time. I'd be less than honest if I didn't mention how intrigued I am by what you've told me, but I've taken up enough of your time. I'll go back and tell the company that the farm simply will not be sold. Good day to both of you and thank you again."

Vanessa stood up to leave; Joe stopped her.

Outside, the cotton candy swayed ever so slightly in the gentle breeze. The bright colors moving in accord made for a beautiful sight. The cotton candy field seemed to be moving in a musical harmony, a colorful choral. At was if they were singing a song that could not be heard, and dancing to a tune that did not exist. The cotton candy was ready for the harvest.

"Would you care to join us for lunch tomorrow, Miss Russell?" asked Joe.

The question surprised both women in attendance.

"That's very kind of you, but I have to be getting back home" came Vanessa's reply.

"I'm sure one more day won't be the end of the world. Would you think about it?"

"Joe..." Estella said hesitantly.

"I'll think about it" said Vanessa. She turned to leave.

Estella looked at Joe. Joe looked at Vanessa. She left.

CHAPTER FOUR

Vanessa arrived at the farm around 11:50am. As she stepped out of her car, she took a look at the nearby cotton candy trees. Somehow, they didn't look as full and healthy as they had the day before. She could tell that Joe had harvested some of the candy, but the trees themselves looked weak, dry. The candy colors were less vibrant than they had been. Then she noticed something else. The farmhouse where she had had coffee the previous morning, seemed to be a paler color. She wouldn't have noticed something like this usually, except for the fact that she had found that the past few days, for some reason, she had been more aware of the things around her. The color and brightness of trees and flowers, the smell and taste of food, even the sky; it was if her senses of sight, smell and taste had improved. These things she attributed to her few days spent in the open air of the country as opposed to the dark, industrial city where she made her home and living.

Joe invited her in. Whatever Estella was making for lunch, it had an indescribable smell. An intoxicating aroma that made Vanessa feel homesick for the first time in many years.

She entered the kitchen, and Estella was at the stove.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Pinder. How are you today?" asked Vanessa.

"I am well, dear. How are you?" came Estellas reply.

"Very well, thank you. Thank you so much for the invitation. Don't worry, I won't bring up the subject of buying the farm anymore."

"Oh, I know. You are a lovely young lady. I can see why Joe likes you."

Estellas statement caught Vanessa off guard. Joe was outside for the moment.

"Uh, I'm sorry? What do you.."

"He likes you. Not in any serious manner, but there's something about you that he likes. I understand. Don't be alarmed dear."

Joe entered and sat across from Vanessa, as he had done yesterday.

"How are you ladies getting along?" asked Joe.

"Just fine, Joe. Lunch is just about ready" said Estella.

"Speaking of which, what are you cooking, Mrs. Pinder? It smells wonderful!"

"Oh, just some soup. It's my own recipe, and Joes favorite. I hope you like it."

"It sure is!" said Joe. "After this nothing will ever taste the same for you Miss Russell!"

Estella served three bowls of the soup. Vanessa looked at it, startled. It was the most colorful soup she had ever seen. The most colorful meal she had ever seen. She wondered for a moment if perhaps it had been made with the Pinders famous cotton candy. She tasted it, and she felt herself go limp for the briefest of moments. Without a doubt, the most delicious thing she had ever eaten in her life. The tastes, the aroma, the colors, it was almost overwhelming.

They sat and talked while eating their lunch. Joe did most of the talking, but Vanessa never felt uncomfortable. He spoke of how he and Estella had met, and how they had found the farm. It was the most she had heard him speak since she first met them. Estella did not have much to say. Vanessa noticed that Joe and Estella seemed less affectionate than she had seen them previously. She couldn't put her finger on it, but something wasn't quite right.

Vanessa was more right than she knew.

Joe and Estella had not kissed since two nights ago, the night before she visited them yesterday morning. This was quite out of the ordinary for them. Vanessa of course had no way of knowing this. They finished their soup.

"Mrs. Pinder, I have to tell you this was the best meal of my life. I think your husband was right when he said nothing would ever taste the same for me. Would you tell me what's in it?"

"I'm sorry but it's my secret recipe, dear! I can't just give it away like that!" responded Estella.

"I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Miss Russell. You know we don't get that much company around here, it's nice to have a guest. When do you go back home?" asked Joe.

"Early tomorrow morning. Why?"

What Joe said next shocked Vanessa. And more seriously, Estella.

"We would love for you to stay the night, Miss Russell! We have an extra room, and you can't imagine what it's like at night when the smell of the cotton candy carries through the air. It will be the best nights sleep you ever had!"

"I...I don't know what to say! I really can't." She was flustered.

Estella looked at Joe for a moment, then turned to Vanessa.

"Please. You simply must stay for the night. We insist. I know you'll love it."

Somehow, Vanessa just couldn't refuse the offer.

"Thank you so much!" said Vanessa. "But I insist on cooking dinner tonight. It's the least I can do."

"That will be fine" said Joe.

Joe got up and went outside to continue his daily routine. Vanessa helped Estella clean up, then excused herself to go to the market. Estella went outside to continue her day as well. She and Joe did not kiss.

CHAPTER FIVE

As the evening approached, Joe and Estella finished their work and returned to the farmhouse. Vanessa returned from town with what she needed to prepare dinner. She stepped out of the car and immediately something caught her eye. The cotton candy trees were drooping sadly. The field was all but colorless. The farmhouse looked old and delapidated. Just the sight of it made her sad. Vanessa really didn't know what to make of it. She saw Joe sitting outside. He too looked tired and worn. He was an old man but he had seemed vibrant and young at heart when she first met him. This was the first time he showed his age.

"Hi, Mr. Pinder! How are you? How was your day?"

"Good, good Miss Russell. And yours? Did you have a successful trip into town?"

"That I did. I have everything I need. I know I could never compare to Mrs. Pinders talents with food but I hope you'll enjoy the dinner anyway."

"I'm sure we will" answered Joe. "You know, I often do the cooking for us, but I've just been so tired the past couple days I haven't been able to manage it. Estella loves to cook, thankfully." He smiled at Vanessa.

"Go on in and make yourself comfortable. Estella is resting but she'll be out shortly."

Vanessa went to the kitchen and began to prepare. Shortly thereafter Estella emerged and greeted her warmly.

"Such a nice young lady! You really didn't have to go to the trouble."

"Oh it's no trouble at all ma'am. You have been so warm and welcoming, it's made this trip a success even without the farm. I really hope you enjoy the dinner."

Estella sat down and watched her. Vanessa noticed that Estella too looked tired, as if she hadn't gotten enough rest. She seemed weary.

As they ate dinner, it became apparent to Vanessa that she was the focus of the evening. Both the Pinders interacted with her just fine, but the couple barely acknowledged each other. It was a strange thing to see. After they finished eating and cleaning up, Vanessa remembered a question she had wanted to ask since she first met the Pinders, but hadn't found a good time to bring it up. She decided now was the time.

"I was curious about something" she began. "You two are the proprietors of a place that must be magical somehow, and I imagine would be wondrous to children. Do you have any children?"

They sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, but in truth was barely a minute.

Joe answered "We don't have any, Miss Russell. We tried for a long time after we got married, but were never able to concieve."

"I'm sorry" said Vanessa.

Joe continued "We were very sad for a long time. We really wanted children of our own, and it felt like a curse when we couldn't have any. That all changed after we bought this farm."

The winds outside shifted. The last blossoms of candy that were on the trees came loose and drifted slowly to the ground. Each and every plant and tree on the farm was now bare. Gone were the beautiful pinks and blues and the lovely purples and greens. The bright oranges and yellows had disappeared; even the sweet reds and whites. It was a rather sorrowful sight.

"We decided that we would start over with this farm" Joe said. "We were not going to let the situation tear us apart or destroy the love we had for each other. We put the love and care that we wanted to give a child into the farm. It was tough at first, especially since nothing seemed to grow. We perservered. We held to each other, and our devotion grew, to each other and to the farm..." he trailed off and looked at Estella.

"Eventually things did turn around" Estella said, while still looking at Joe.

"That is beautiful. I hope some day I can find a love even half as strong as yours" said Vanessa, half longing and half hoping.

The Pinders said goodnight to Vanessa and they went to their rooms. Once again, Estella and Joe retired without a goodnight kiss. Vanessa set her alarm for 4am; she had decided that she wanted to leave before the Pinder's awoke the next morning. It was an inexplicable thought she had that because she liked the Pinders so much, the best thing she could do was to leave them.

The alarm went off at 4, and Vanessa got up, readied herself and slipped out the door quiet as a mouse, and left for home. The start of her car awoke the Pinders. Estella looked at Joe, who was looking at the ceiling.

"She's gone" she said.

"She is. I hope she finds what she needs. She's a kind, loving person, but she needs more in her life."

Joe went silent. Estella reached to him and gently ran her hand down his cheek. Joe smiled. He turned to her and said "I think we need to get to work."

Estella kissed him as she hadn't done in three days, but had done a so many times before.

Outside in the fading moonlight, a thousand blossoms of pink, blue, purple, green, orange, yellow, red and even white were brightening each plant and tree of the farm. The cotton candy was growing.