All the Bushel came fluttering and tumbling into the open, keeping their wide eyes on the looming figure.
THUNK! went the cage over the pile of berries on the banana leaf! All the leaves and moss they had stuck on it bounced onto the ground by the force of the landing. As planned, they drew their swords and flails in case the cage was not heavy enough.
“ROAR!” screamed the monster in the cage…but then it was silent.
Lemon Bat, standiong behind the rest of them, picked up the lantern and handed it to Lime, who passed it to Watermelon, who stepped out in front of them and lifted it high. The light was not very bright, and all they could see at first was a black lump on the banana leaf. How odd. Where had the monster gone?
“Hey, you in there,” Mandarin said, taking a step forward. “What’s the matter? You’re the one who likes to hop out of bushes at folks. Hellloooo.”
Just then, the sky showed signs of dawn. It started to glow pale, faint blue. They could see the lump in the cage shiver, and one ear with a tuft of fluff on the tip lifted up and wiggled. A moment later, a glowing purple eye appeared! They all took a cautious step back. Soon they could see from the new light in the sky that this ear and eye were peeking out from between two wings. Slowly, both the ear and the eye had a twin, and a purple nose emerged as well. To all of their surprise, this face looked a lot like the ones they saw in the mirror!
“Go away!” the face abruptly said, and immediately hid back behind the wings.
The Bushel all turned to look at each other. Everyone looked confused, except for Grape Bat.
“See,” he told them in a low voice. “This was my other idea. There wasn’t a monster at all, it’s BlackBerry!”
Lemon fanned himself, “Oh, good!”
“But why does he want us to leave?” Blueberry asked. “Does he hate us?”
Mandarin snorted “Why? He doesn’t even know us!”
Strawberry looked around and noticed Batnana was not beside her anymore.
“Batnana? Where did you go!”
They all turned back to the cage and there she was, her face up to the bars, her wings trying to lift the edge.
“Stop!” They all cautioned her.
“Are you fermented?” asked Mandarin
She looked at them funny. “Boop-de-doop?”
“Because,” Strawberry insisted, “We don’t know him yet.”
They gathered close to the cage, but pulled her back a few steps.
“BlackBerry Bat?” Watermelon asked.
The lump wiggled. “Go away,” it repeated.
“Yes, we got that part,” Mandrin Orange said. Watermelon waved for him to be quiet.
“We don’t want to go away, we want to meet you properly.”
BlackBerry Bat stuck his face out again and glanced them over, apparently seeing clearly in the dim light. “Why?” he asked with suspicion.
“Well, you are a FruitBat, and we are too, so we thought you might want to come live in the grove with us.” Blueberry told him with a smile.
His eyes went to their weapons. “Awefully funny way of showing it,” he said. “Trapping me, pointing pointy things at me. Why should I?”
They looked guiltily at their swords and flails.
“These things?” Mandarin said, poking the dirt with his tulip pistol sword and the tip broke off. “They’re just for games. They don’t do much, really. Besides, all that scaring us made us think there was a monster so that’s why we made the cage.” They dropped the weapons.
Blackberry sat up a little more. “Maybe I am a monster.”
“What’s so funny about that?”
“You don’t look like a monster, with those fulffy tufts on your ears,” she told him.
BlackBerry covered the tops of his ears with his wings and they all suddenly noticed that at each point of his wings there was a purple thorn!
“Ooooo,” Batnana said.
He saw them staring at his throns and his face contorted like he was going to cry. “Oh no, this is what it was scared of! You think I’m weird looking, don’t you! I have thorns! Thats why I have fluff on my ears, it hides them on my ear tips! And my eyes glow, too!” He curled back into a ball and covered his face again.
The bushel just blinked for a few seconds, then they all exchanged nods and grabbed the vine that attached to the op of the cage and lifted it up off of the scared trapped bat. When it was up high enough, they pushed it off to the side and let it bounce into the undergrowth. That finished, they all went back to BlackBerry and sat down around him.The sun was truly coming up now, warming the sky to pink and orange.
After a minute of quiet, BlackBerry peeked out again.
“Please come with us,” begged Blueberry.
“We are really sorry,” Watermelon told him. “We thought that whatever was trying to scare us off might have eaten you. We didn’t know you were scared of us!”
“I’m not scared of you,” he insisted. “I just, I thought you wouldn’t like me. It would be easier to scare you away.”
Batnana shook her head and laughed a squeeky laugh. She walked over and spread her wings in front of him.
“I think… she wants to hug you,” Strawberry told him.
“Oh, um…ok?” he replied, sitting up.”
Batnana gave a bounce of joy and swooped over, wrapping her wings around him.
His eyes got big from the tightness of her hug “Ack!” he managed to eek out.
The Bushel giggled. Luckily, Batnana didn’t get any thorn prickles this time.
“I’m thinking that means you should come with us,” Watermelon suggested when she let go. The others all looked at him with expectation.
“Pleeease,” Blueberry said, leaning in and smiling. “We don’t think you’re weird, or scarry. We want you to come to the grove. It’s so pretty, and the bush you came from is there and it has yummy berries to eat!”
“And you can see the ocean,” said Pear.
“And I will make a cake to celebrate!” Mandarin chimed in.
“And we can have a proper welcome party at my place!” Lime added.
“Yes! You have to come. And if you don’t like it, then you can come back here,” promised Watemelon.
Blackberry looked around at all of them He felt a little overwhelemed, but maybe it wasn’t in a bad way. “Well, I guess I could give it a try-”
“YAY!” the Bushel cheered all together. Batnana did loops as they all took off.
“Follow us, BlackBerry Bat! We’ll take you home!”
A big smile grew on BalckBerry’s face. “You know, that sounds great.”