(Author’s Note: A friend asked for this story. She wanted it to be about a gumdrop. Not quite sure if I covered everything she asked for, but, as all my stories seem to do, this one took off on its own. I make no excuses for the leprechauns. That’s all on them. There is also a brief cameo by another good friend who many of you may know.)
It was Gelling Day on Gumdrop Island and Ali was excited. She wondered if she would be red and cherry, purple and grape, or orange and, well, orange. She would even be happy if she was green and spearmint. Some gumdrops got spice flavors while others got fruit flavors. She sat and waited until it was her turn and her name would be called. She watched as name after name was called. She was very excited.
All this excitement was very tiring and Ali started dozing off just as she realized that she was the only one left and a name hadn’t been called in awhile. She quickly woke herself up just as a faded yellow gumdrop in a lab coat approached her.

“Ali, right?” The gumdrop asked and continued before Ali could answer, “We apologize for the delay but there was a problem with the gel. Seems someone gave the last gumdrop to process extra gel and we weren’t sure that we would have enough for you. But, we managed and we are ready for you now.”
Ali’s excitement mixed with confusion as she followed the gumdrop to the gelling area. There, she entered a mold and began to gel. The mold opened and she stepped out, the excitement uncontrollable.
The faded yellow gumdrop in the lab coat looked at her strangely. “My, aren’t you lovely?” She said. She then motioned Ali to the viewing room and the big mirror there.
Ali looked in the mirror and was shocked. She wasn’t  red and cherry, purple and grape, or orange and, well, orange. She wasn’t even green and spearmint. She was all of them. And more. She was red and green. She had a yellow stripe, black and white large dots, orange polka dots, and purple freckles. She was disappointed and confused. It wasn’t at all what she had expected to look like. Ali looked around for the faded yellow gumdrop in the lab coat but she was nowhere to be found. So, Ali did the only thing she could do. She walked outside to where the rest of the newly-gelled gumdrops were.
Outside, Ali saw a very large red gumdrop that smelled strongly of cinnamon. He was surrounded by most of the other gumdrops. Ali knew him: Mik, the Mayor’s son. He was the reason they ran out of gel. Mik saw her and started laughing. The other gumdrops looked at her and laughed too. Ali was mad and sad and tried not to cry as she turned and ran.
She hadn’t run far when she crashed into another gumdrop and fell.
“I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.” Ali said as she picked herself up.
“Wow. Just wow.” Said the other gumdrop. He was slightly smaller than Ali, black and smelling slightly of licorice.
“I truly am sorry,” said Ali, helping him up. “Are you alright?”
“Wow. I mean, of course. Yes, I’m fine.” He said, standing and staring. “You. You’re just. Wow.”
“It’s okay. You can laugh too.” Ali said.
“Why would I? I mean, no. I’m Jaq.” He said.
“Ali.” She looked at Jaq and then to the distance. “I just want to get as far away as I can.”
“Why?”
“No one will like me like this.”
“I… I mean, I’m licorice. No one likes licorice.”
“Of course they do. Why wouldn’t they like licorice?”
“I know, right? Licorice is awesome.”
“Yes. You are awesome. I’m not. I need to go.”
“The leprechaun at the end of the rainbow can help. You can go anywhere from there.”
“Really? He will help me?”
“Why not? Just watch out for his pot of gold.”
“Thank you, Jaq. You’ve been great. I have to go now. I don’t want anyone to see me like this.” With that said, Ali ran again, this time towards the rainbow and an escape from the laughter of Gumdrop Island.
“But, I think you are beautiful.” Said Jaq, watching her go. Ali was already too far away to hear him.
When the leprechaun saw Ali coming towards him, he pulled a golden joint out of his mouth and stared at it as if it had somehow betrayed him.  He waited for her to stop and catch her breath.
“I need your help,” she said at last. “I need to go far away from here.”
“Why?” Said the leprechaun.
“Because, I don’t want people to see me when I look like this.” She said, the most obvious thing in the world to her.
The leprechaun looked at her closely, then at the joint in his hand, then at her again. “Why?” He said after awhile. “What do you look like?”
“I’m red and green. I have a yellow stripe. There are big white and black dots and little orange ones. And,” she exclaimed with the utmost frustration, “I have freckles! Purple freckles!”
“Ah. That’s good. Thought something was wrong with my pot of gold.” He promptly put the golden joint back in his mouth.
“No. It’s something wrong with me. I’m all wrong.” Ali was ready to burst into tears.
“Still don’t see the problem.” Said the leprechaun, exhaling smoke in the shapes of clovers, moons, stars, and horseshoes.
“I don’t want to be like this!” She screamed. The leprechaun was quite a bit smaller than her and Ali was sure she could take him if it came to that. But, she didn’t want it to come to that. She just wanted someone to help her.
“I don’t really see anything wrong with you, but I can send you to someone that should be able to help.” The leprechaun put out his golden joint and stuck it to the brim of his hat.  He turned to the rainbow and opened a control box. He spent several minutes turning dials, pausing to think or stare at a bird flying by or talk quietly to a cricket that might have had an umbrella, then turning the dials again. Eventually, he sighed and pulled a switch. The  entire rainbow vibrated and hummed.
“Yes. That should do it. I think.” Said the leprechaun, turning to Ali. “Just touch the rainbow and it should take you where you need to go.”
“You mean where I want to go.” Said Ali as she moved closer to the rainbow.
“Where you need to go. Not always the same. Not always the same at all.” The leprechaun lit his golden joint, took a big inhale, and blew a large clover at Ali.
Startled, she stumbled back into the rainbow. Her whole body vibrated and she found it rather pleasant. The leprechaun with his pot of gold and Gumdrop Island disappeared and a different leprechaun wearing a parka and smoking an icicle was standing before her. The ground was covered in snow.
“Well, that’s something new.” Said the leprechaun.
“Where am I?” Asked Ali.
“Where you need to be, of course.” Said the leprechaun, puffing his icicle. “Wasn’t that where you were going?”
“Yes. But, I’m not sure how I can find help here?”
“That depends on what you need help with.” The leprechaun exhaled snowflakes after each puff.
“Look at me.” She told him.
“Yeah. I am.” He said. “So, what’s the problem?”
“I don’t look anything like the other gumdrops!”
“Why would you want to?”
“Because, they laugh and I don’t belong and I’m ugly!” Tears ran down her face, making her purple freckles sparkle.
“You think you are ugly because you don’t look like everyone else? Then, that’s the real problem. I’m going to show you something.” The leprechaun took a deep inhale of his icicle and blew out a dozen very large snowflakes. They glistened as they slowly spun through the air, each a different size and shape.
“They’re beautiful.” Ali said, her tears forgotten.
“That can’t be right.” Said the leprechaun. “They are all different. Not one looks like the others. They must all be ugly.”
“No. No, they are all beautiful. They don’t have to look like each other to be beautiful. I know what you are doing and it won’t work. I’m not a snowflake. I’m not beautiful.”
“That was a nice attempt, leprechaun.” Said a voice behind Ali. “I’ll take over from here. I think she was sent here to see me, anyway.”
Ali turned to see that a large reindeer had come up behind her. He had no antlers and a nose that shined a bright red light.
“Rudolph?” Ali asked in a mixture of awe, confusion, and delight.
“Rud.” The reindeer said and started walking. “Come along.”
“Rud? Why Rud?” Ali struggled to keep up with the reindeer.
“For some reason, names only have three letters in this story. You have to go with the flow and all that.”
“What about the leprechauns?”
“Leprechauns don’t have names or, if they do, they don’t tell anyone what they are. They think it’s hilarious when someone is trying to find a certain leprechaun and can’t ask for them by name. Have to admit, it can be kind of funny.” Rud said as he continued walking with Ali almost running by his side.
Behind them, at the rainbow, the leprechaun laughed. “Or you tell us apart by what we smoke.” He inhaled on his pot of cold and blew out a small flurry of snowflakes.
After walking for what seemed to Ali like forever but was probably about ten minutes, she asked Rud, “Where are we going?”
“To the Mirror of Truth and Perfection.” He said. “But, before we get there, I should tell you my story.”
“Everyone knows your story, Rud. Small reindeer with super bright red nose. Picked on. Sad times. Big fog. Santa. Your nose saves Christmas. Happy times. That about it?”
Rud stops and looks at her. “Well, yes. But, accepting yourself and knowing how beautiful you are is a big part of it.”
“Were you ever red and green? Have a yellow stripe? What about big white dots and big black dots? Don’t forget the little orange dots. Tell me this, Rud, did you ever have purple freckles?” Ali almost screamed the last part at him.
“Uh, no?”
“Yeah, didn’t think so. You got a bright, shiny red nose. Boo hoo. Put some concealer on that and you are good to go.”
Rud stared at her for a moment, then made a loud huffing noise. He turned and walked away. Without looking back, he said, “It’s just over here. Try to keep up.”
Quietly, Ali followed Rud. She was very sad. She hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings. She had been mean. She wanted to apologize but couldn’t make herself do it. Rud was beautiful. He couldn’t understand what it was like to look like her.
Together in silence, Ali and Rud walked until they came to a pond with a large mirror standing beside it.
“This is the Pond of Acceptance.” Rud said softly but Ali still jumped at the sudden end of the silence. “Here you can see reflections of all those who have accepted who they are and love themselves for it.”
“Why is the pond so small?” She asked.
“Not many learn to accept or love themselves.” Rud replied with a deep sadness.
Ali looked into the pond. She saw an elephant with extremely large ears and flying, then there was a meowing puppy and barking kitten chasing each other around a talking tree, and then a ladybug that also seemed to be a dinosaur.
“Here,” Rud said, his voice pulling her attention from the pond. He was standing in front of the large mirror but she couldn’t see a reflection. Just a white cloudy surface.
“This is the Mirror of Truth and Perfection.” He continued. “In it, you won’t see yourself how you see you. You will see yourself how you truly are. No opinions, no bias, no laughter, no emotions at all. Just Truth. There is nothing scarier than Truth. You have a choice. You can stay here and we will find a place for you or you can look in the mirror. If you look in the mirror, everything will change. Do you understand and accept?”
Ali nodded slowly and Rud moved away from the mirror. She was terrified. She wanted desperately to tell him she would just stay there. But, she had been mean to him when he was only trying to help. And, while she was sure he had understood and already forgiven her, she couldn’t forgive herself.
Ali forced a smile at Rud, took a deep breath, and walked up to the mirror. The cloudy surface began to clear. Ali looked into the Mirror of Truth and Perfection. Before her was a gumdrop. She was red and green, bright and cheerful. She had a yellow stripe that fit like a sash as if she had just won a beauty pageant. There were big white dots and big black ones that gave her highlights and shadows. There were small orange dots that traced the lowest part of her near the ground and seemed to dance as she moved. And, her freckles. Those purple freckles sparkled. Ali found herself starting to smile and the freckles smiled with her. She had never seen a gumdrop like her. She was beautiful. Ali was beautiful. Ali was perfect.
She felt tears run down her cheeks, tears of happiness and joy. And, she laughed for the first time since her gelling. She looked into the Pond of Acceptance and saw her own reflection. Just as she was about to turn away, she saw Jaq. He was standing by the rainbow, waiting. Ali wondered if he had been waiting all this time.
“I think it is time for me to go home.” She told Rud, who seemed to have shed a few tears himself.
“I agree.” He said. “Hop on. I’ll fly you there.”
“Can’t I take the rainbow back?”
“Of course you can. Wouldn’t you rather make an entrance?”
They both laughed as Rud helped her onto his back and she continued to laugh as they flew to Gumdrop Island. Mik was still holding court so Rud flew low over him and, startled, he fell in a caramel puddle. Ali laughed even harder and almost fell off Rud. She waved at Jaq as they landed at the rainbow.
“Thank you for everything.” Ali told Rud as she dropped to the ground. “And, I’m sorry for what I said.”
“Already forgiven. I understand. I’ve been there myself. Also, concealer can do wonders.” Rud smiled, then laughed, and flew off into the sky.
Jaq ran up to Ali. “Wow. That was Rud. I mean.. Hi. I’m glad you are back. I was waiting but that leprechaun isn’t very friendly. Wouldn’t even tell me his name. You look happy. I’m glad.”
Ali couldn’t seem to stop smiling. “Jaq, will you be my boyfriend?”
“Yay! I mean.. Yes. But, I m a girl. Okay?”
“I thought you were a boy.” Ali said, not that it mattered to her at all.
“Oh. I was. Just not now. Probably, later I will be.”
“You can do that?”
“Of course. Said Jaq. “We’re gumdrops. We can be whatever we want.”
“You mean I could have changed the way I look?”
“Do you want to?” Jaq asked.
Ali thought for a moment. “No, I don’t. I don’t want to change a thing.”
Jaq smiled. “So, what now?”
“Now,” said Ali, “you be you and I’ll be me and we’ll be us together.”
“Perfect!” Said Jaq. “Ali, do you know you are beautiful?”
Ali smiled and blushed a little. “I am beautiful. You are beautiful too, Jaq.”
“I’m also licorice. Licorice is awesome!” Said Jaq.
Ali laughed. “Licorice is awesome.”

The leprechaun at the rainbow took a puff of his pot of gold and pulled a switch, starting sunset. Ali and Jaq walked off into the sunset filling Gumdrop Island with the best kind of laughter.

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