It took over a year of planning, interrupted by saving the world, along with plenty of goading and just a bit of friendly blackmail, but Balamb Garden's first-ever Garden Festival was now in full swing. Selphie flitted from booth to booth, making sure everything continued to run smoothly: each game had enough prizes to give away, each food stall had enough supplies; the trash cans were emptied at regular intervals, and the bands on stage stuck to their schedules.
She'd insisted during committee meetings that she wanted nothing more from this festival than to see people happy, but she hadn't realized just how rewarding the parade of smiles and symphony of laughter were. By the time the last reveler left, and she and her friends began to clean up, she was positively electrified by the overall response. She stopped dismantling stage equipment for a moment and looked out over the remains of the festival, feeling very much like some fairy-tale warrior queen, exhausted but triumphant.
She didn't recognize the bespectacled young man standing at the bottom of the steps, but out of politeness and leftover adrenaline, she waved to him anyway. He smiled and approached her.
"Selphie Tilmitt?" he asked.
"The one and only!" she responded, hoisting an amplifier and moving it to the side of the stage. "How can I help you?"
"Oh, I don't need anything. I just came by to congratulate you." He held out his hand. "I'm Wimbly Donner."
Selphie froze and stared at him. "The Wimbly Donner? You came to the Garden Festival? I thought you'd given up on the whole idea!"
"No, I just ran out of time here, that's all." He began to pull his hand back when Selphie caught herself and lunged forward to shake it.
"Wow, it's such an honor meeting you! You laid the groundwork for this festival. I went over all your ideas and plans when I first got here, and they were solid. They saved me a bunch of time figuring out the basics. Thanks!"
"I'm glad to see I was able to be of some help, after all."
"Were you ever! I'm just sorry the rest of Garden didn't see that. They can be a bit hard-headed where festival planning is concerned."
"Indeed. How did you ever get them involved?"
"Oh, you know, the usual: endless yammering, a bit of arm-twisting, dredging up a juicy secret here and there." She shrugged.
"Ah, clever! I don't think I have the social skills to pull that off."
"It doesn't take social skills. Just a lot of stubbornness and very little shame."
Wimbly laughed. "However you managed it, you have my utmost respect." He reached for Selphie's hand, drew it to his lips, and kissed it. "Congratulations, Ms. Tilmitt, on a wonderful Garden Festival. May you host many more!"
Selphie blinked, feeling a blush creep up her neck to the roots of her hair, then withdrew her hand with an awkward giggle. "Thanks! Wow, no one's ever done that before!"
"Then they are fools." He smiled at her a moment longer than necessary, then nodded and waved. "Well, I should be going. Congratulations, again, Selphie."
"Wait." Selphie looked at her hand and rubbed the spot where Wimbly had kissed it. "This is only the beginning for me. There are gonna be a lot of awesome festivals here, from now on. Can I expect to see you at any others?"
"Perhaps, if my schedule allows it."
"Pretty busy, huh?"
"Quite. I'm working with a party planning company in Dollet, learning how to turn my passion into my profession. But when I overheard some tourists talking about the Garden Festival, I just had to see it—and its organizer—with my own eyes. And," he added with a wink, "I'm not averse to seeing more in the future."
Selphie swallowed hard and nodded. Wimbly pulled a card from his jacket pocket and handed it to her.
"My business card. Send me an invite to your next event, and I'll see what I can do." He turned to leave. "And should you ever decide to leave Garden, I can put in a good word for you with my boss."
Selphie watched him walk away, waving weakly at his back. She looked from the card to her hand and back again, uncertain exactly what had just happened, but absolutely sure she had enjoyed it.
A clatter behind her startled her back into reality, and she jogged across the stage to help several SeeDs dismantle a light tower, slipping Wimbly's card into her pocket, along with all the possibilities it represented, professional and personal.
The next festival would be even bigger than this one had been, and the one after that, bigger yet. She'd always wanted to produce the festival for her own sake, but knowing someone else was watching—someone interested, someone with connections—fueled her ambition further. Wimbly might have laid the groundwork, but the details were all hers. She would show him, and Garden, and the world who Selphie Tilmitt was.
And she had a feeling he'd like who he saw.
After all, she already did.