An early start to the day

Bob Blackberry had gotten up before even the first rays of sunlight peeped over the Village. It was market day in Cherrybrook and he had to make sure all the produce was freshly packaged and ready for the ride to town. But even before that, he had many chores to carry out!
First, he went out into the stable where his trusty shire horse, Blacksocks was waiting for him. Blacksocks whinnied a greeting and nudge Bob’s hand with his nose. He was always looking for treats and a pet which Bob always gave him. As Blacksocks munched on the carrot he was given, Bob began to brush down his mane and coat. This kept Blacksocks’ coat shiny and clean. He also mucked out the stall and lay now new, clean straw on the floor. Blacksocks neighed in delight and began to nuzzle Bob for more treats. Bob chuckled and patted the horse. His next chore was in the greenhouses.

Bob had several greenhouses on his farm so that he could grow fruit and vegetable even in winter. He made sure all the plants were well watered and added fertilizer provided by Blacksocks! He checked the leaves and sprouts to make sure they were green and growing well before heading out into the orchard.

The orchard was made of trees which grew apples, pears, cherries, oranges and peaches. Each fruit had its own row and each bloomed and fruited at different times during the year. He was greeted by  Patrick Littlebear, his lead hand at the farm. Mr. Littlebear had been working on the farm since Bob took over the family business. Mr. Littlebear was also in charge of the honeybee hives on the farm as he was an avid beekeeper. At the moment, Mr. Littlebear was tending some the cherry trees. Last month, they had been struck by some caterpillars that had done some damage. However, this month, they were looking good, and Mr. Littlebear was confident it would be a bumper year for cherries. Overall, Orchard Farms produced many varieties of  fruit, seasonable vegetables, hothouse produce and honey. 

Yvette, his little sister, had already put a pot of coffee on for Bob and Mr. Littlebear and he could smell waffles. Fresh orange juice was on the table with some of Miss Betty’s jams. Yvette was Bob’s little sister. She didn’t help out with the farming often, but did help look after the house while Bob was working. She was more artistic and spent a lot of time on Duckling Pond in Primrose Park. She liked how peaceful the water was and spent time reading there on sunny days. Yvette was just plating the bacon and eggs as Mr. Littlebear came in. They sat down together and planned out the day. Mr. Littlebear needed to do some repairs on the beehive to ensure it was weather proof before the cold began to set in. So Bob asked Yvette to help him at the market stall. Yvette nodded over a piece of toast.
After the table was cleared, Bob and Mr. Littlebear began loading the cart. Yvette lead Blacksocks out of his stable and hitched him to the cart. Once it was loaded, Bob and Yvette clamoured to the wagon’s high seat. “Well, we’ll see you later! Won’t we, Mr. Blackberry?” Mr. Littlebear gave Bob a cunning wink then waved them goodbye and set about weatherproofing the hives. Bob scratched his head. What had Mr. Littlebear meant?
 They rode down Cottondown Road, and turned left at Broad Lane, trotted over Broad Lane Bridge and crossed Cherrybrook Road into the Village Square. They passed The Country Flower shop where Marcus Cottontail was setting out his fresh cut flowers for the day. He pushed his glasses up on his nose as he waved at the Blackberrys.
“Good morning, Blackberrys!” he called out, “And a special good morning to you, Yvette!” Yvette waved happily and Bob smiled confusedly. What was going on?
When they arrived in the Market Square, Bob began to unload the produce as Yvette hitched Blacksocks to the wagon, making sure he was within reach of fresh grass and had plenty of water.  The villagers of Cherrybrook began arriving as the wagon was being unloaded. Mrs. Keats and Mrs. Chocolat were asking about turnips and swedes  and Yvette rushed to fill out their requests.
Monsieur Blackberry,” Mrs. Chocolat whispered when Yvette’s back was turned, “You’ll be ‘appy to know, eet will arrive on time zees afternoon. Monsieur Chocolat has been working on eet all day yesterday. Eet it perfect!”
“Is it?” Bob replied perplexedly. “I suppose that is good. What…?” But Yvette returned with her vegetables and Mrs. Chocolat paid and gave Bob a sly wink as she left. It was very confusing indeed!
Then Cedric Walnut arrived with his little brother Ralph. They needed potatoes, tomatoes and some greens for dinner. Ralph was a year above Yvette at St. Francis school. But he happily greeted and chatted with her though she only made quiet murmurs in response. As they made ready to leave, Ralph wished Yvette a very happy birthday and skipped down the lane.
Yvette’s birthday! Bob smacked his forehead with his paw. He had completely forgotten!  Mrs. Littlebear had mentioned organizing a party several weeks ago, but he was dealing with caterpillars then and had forgotten! What was he going to do?
He turned to Yvette and asked her to run the stall while he ran some very quick errands. She nodded and continued to serve the Waters who had come bustling up moments before
Bob ran over to the Country Flower Shop. Mr. Cottontail greeted him and asked how the preparations for Yvette’s party were going.
“Oh! Mr. Cottontail!” Bob puffed, “I had forgotten! Is it possible to arrange some flowers for her?”
Mr. Cottontail looked confused. “Goodness, Mr. Blackberry. You need more? I’m sure what you’ve got is already enough.”
Bob shook his head. This didn’t make any sense! Just then Mrs. Keats walked in and Mr. Cottontail moved to help her. Bob rushed out of the shop and ran towards Hazelwood Toy Shop.
Mr. Waters was carving some penny whistles when he looked up and smiled at Bob.
“Ah! Mr. Blackberry, what a lovely day for Yvette’s birthday! How are things going for her party? Misty is very excited and has purchased a new bow especially.” Bob shook his head as he gathered his breath. “Goodness, Mr. Blackberry,” Mr. Waters remarked, “Are you well?”
“Birthday…(puff)..present…(puff)…forgot…(puff)…buy…(puff)…” Bob wheezed.
“Oh, did you not like it? Mrs. Waters stuffed it especially, you know. Did she want something different? Perhaps a dollhouse? A tea set?” Mr. Waters began to stroll around the store listing the many toys they had in stock and telling the story behind each of his creations. “Now this is special because it was made of white aspen which had to be ordered in specially.” he turned a wooden train in his hands, proud of his craftsmanship.  Mrs. Waters entered the shop then with a clamour as Misty and Roger rushed in and greeted Bob excitedly. Mrs. Waters smiled greeted Bob and said she thought Yvette could use a hand back at the stall. 
Mr. Blackberry rushed back out to Market Square to see Yvette busily helping the customers. He signed and hoped he’d have time to sort out a present later.
The day wore on and soon all the vegetable and fruit had been sold and it was past noon. As it was a Sunday, the shops had closed at noon. Bob was disheartened. He had not managed to go back to the shops to sort out a present and Yvette wasn’t even going to have a cake on her birthday!
The loaded up the cart and Blacksocks trotted them back home.
When they turned onto the path that lead to Orchard Grove Farms, Bob was nearly in tears. He had spent so much time worrying about silly caterpillars that he had completely forgotten his little sister’s birthday! What a poor brother he was. She was going to be so upset that there would be no presents, no cake and no party!
As they approached the house, Yvette let out  squeal of delight and clapped her paws together. There were flowers and bows and a banner which read ‘Happy Birthday, Yvette!’. Underneath were the villagers of Cherrybrook. The Waters, the Chocolats, the Slydales and Jeanie, the Maces, the Walnuts and Furbanks, the Keats,  and of course the Littlebears. Bob was just a surprised as Yvette.
She hopped down and everyone gathered around and wished her a very happy birthday. Bob hung back,  astounded. How did all this happen? The crowd parted and there was Mrs. Littlebear, holding a beautiful chocolate cake. Yvette made a wish, blew out the candle and they headed to the back garden to eat and play games. Mrs. Littlebear saw Bob hanging back and went over to him.
“Why Mr. Blackberry, what is the matter?” she asked.
“Mr. Littlebear,” Bob spoke softly, “Did you do all this?”
“Of course!” she laughed loudly, “You and Mr. Littlebear had so much to deal with, with those naughty caterpillars, I thought I had better arrange everything myself! Goodness knows you were too busy!” Bob turned to Mrs. Littlebear and gave her a big hug.
“Goodness, Mr. Blackberry!” She exclaimed. “What will people think? Now go on and enjoy the party!” She laughed and lead him to the garden.
Yvette who did not often spend time in the company of friends, was so pleased to have all the village children celebrating her birthday. There were loads of presents and one even labelled from Bob. She ran over to him with it and hugged him. It was a cute little toy bear with a ribbon on it. She thanked him for the party and present.
“Oh Yvette,” Bob choked, “I had forgotten! Mrs. Littlebear arranged it all. I’m a very poor brother who had forgotten his only sister’s birthday!”
Yvette smiled. “Silly brother.” She said, “You look after me, make sure I’m fed, clothed and have plenty to play with! If you forgot for one day, it doesn’t matter! You give me presents everyday!” They hugged each other and smiled.

It was a wonderfully surprising birthday after all.