Chapter 12

Empath woke up the next morning still not feeling good about himself, about what Papa Smurf had told him about his past, and about what he did to him. He didn't feel like being around anybody that day, and as he dressed up in his daily clothes, he also began to feel like he used to -- naked and exposed, fearful of prying eyes. So he put a bathrobe over himself after dressing and headed to the forest, where he could think things over in peace before he could even consider talking to Papa Smurf again.
The Smurflings, who were already up and busy playing their jugband instruments, saw Empath heading toward their treestump playhouse and then just passing it. They noticed him in the bathrobe and called out to him.
"Hey, what's up, Empath?" Snappy asked. "Gonna take a swim by the falls or are you just gonna sunsmurf out there? We'll smurf with you if you like. So what do you say?"
"Not today, Snappy," Empath answered glumly, not stopping. "This smurf just wants some time alone for myself. Maybe tomorrow we can do something together." With that, he continued on his way as the Smurflings just watched.
"Poor Empath," Sassette said. "I wonder what's wrong with him. Maybe he's sick!"
"More like he's sick of us, just like all the other grown-up Smurfs in the village," Snappy whined. "I thought he was gonna be more fun than those smurfs in the mud, but oooooooooooohhhh-nooooooooooooooooo!"
"Don't be so hard on him, Snap!" Natural scolded him. "Whatever is wrong with him, he'll smurf out of it in time. Just like all the animals in the forest, even a Smurf needs his own space to heal."
"Well, I know one thing for smurftain," Slouchy commented. "Empath sure smurfs like he's bluer than blue!"

Around the same time, Smurfette was just stepping out of her house, watering her flowerbeds and feeling really good about herself at the start of her day, when Hefty came huffing and puffing toward her house with more than just the day ahead of him on his mind.
"Well, Mr. Unismurf, you don't normally smurf up outside my house just to say good morning to me," Smurfette greeted him, surprised but not showing much suspicion by his presence.
"Hey, what can I say, Smurfette?" Hefty grinned slyly, all confident about himself again. "A lovely Smurf like you can always put smurf in my strides!"
Smurfette rolled her eyes at that comment. "Gee, and I thought you'd be too busy on your exersmurf machines to even bother with me. So tell me, Hefty, what's with the change in your daily routine?"
"Well, I'm just wondering," Hefty started to say when he caught his breath, "if you're smurfing nothing at the end of the day, maybe me and you can smurf something together..."
"Hefty, stop," Smurfette interrupted politely, still smiling. "I like you just as much as any Smurf here, but I can't keep doing this. You can't keep expecting me to smurf up my mind about whom I'm going to smurf with for the rest of my life with...all you Smurfs asking me for a date or something. I want to smurf my own things and make up my own mind...I want to smurf far beyond the reaches of the forest, maybe even smurf the world...and I want a Smurf who can respect me and give me all that!"
"So you'd rather not smurf around with someone like me, huh?" Hefty asked, starting to feel hurt and jealous, already suspecting something. "I don't suppose this has anything to do with Empath being here!"
"Empath!" Smurfette exclaimed in disgust. "What are you smurfing about, Hefty?"
"Oh, how could you not be taken in by him, Smurfette?" Hefty remarked. "All your life, you said you couldn't love any Smurf more than any other Smurf, so I thought maybe you'd smurf around someday and take me as yours. But now this Smurf who could be Mr. Perfect smurfs up and you won't even consider someone else!"
"Hefty Smurf, who I decide to be with is none of your smurfness," Smurfette said coldly.
"So let me guess," Hefty went on, "if you were to decide, you'd rather be with Empath -- the star-smurfed freak who probably wouldn't feel anything for you if he could?"
Smurfette decided that she had enough of Hefty's personal questions.
"If Empath had any feelings for me, he would feel them more from his heart than he would from here!" With that, Smurfette jabbed her knee into somewhere that made Hefty double over and clutch himself in pain.
"Just you wait and see, Smurfette!" Hefty howled, cursing in pain as she dropped her watering pitcher and walked quickly away from him. "I'll smurf you what kind of a Smurf that Empath really is!"

Smurfette needed to put some distance between herself and Hefty's personal questions. On her way into the forest to calm herself down and collect her thoughts, however, she saw Empath up ahead wearing a bathrobe over his day clothes. "Empath! Wait up!" she called out.
Empath stopped and waited until Smurfette caught up with him. "Salutations, Smurfette," he responded in the same way he did the Smurflings.
"Empath, you look like smurfthing that Puppy dragged into the village to bury," Smurfette said with some concern. "Are you feeling okay?"
Empath let out a heavy sigh. "This smurf is functioning normally, Smurfette. It's just that before this smurf came to the village, this smurf never knew what it meant to feel shameful. This smurf always took what I knew for granted, that this is how this smurf is, and then Papa Smurf comes along and changes everything, and it makes this smurf feel so confused, so vulnerable. He did this to me years ago, and now he does it again!"
Smurfette didn't quite understand what Empath was telling her. "Let's go down by the waterfalls and you can smurf me what Papa Smurf did to you."
Empath accepted the offer. When they reached the spot by the River Smurf where the waterfalls were, both of them sat under the shade of a tree mushroom. Then Empath began to tell Smurfette in brief detail what Papa Smurf had told him -- that Papa Smurf was his father, and how he left him with the Psyches -- and how it all made him feel angry enough to hit Papa Smurf.
"Part of this smurf felt so avenged when I hit him because he deserved it for all the trouble he caused me," Empath said sadly, "but most of this smurf feels so lowly because I hurt somebody that this smurf had always cared for and respected. No Smurf can ever look at this smurf the same way again because of that!"
Smurfette put her hand on Empath's shoulder. "What you did to Papa Smurf wasn't a smurf thing to do, but believe me, you're not the only Smurf who has ever hurt any other Smurf out of anger. Even a good Smurf like Papa Smurf can do the worst things possible to the people he loves. Besides, whatever happened between the two of you is only between the two of you. No other Smurf needs to know what you did to Papa Smurf."
"This smurf just doesn't feel like I'm being like all the others," Empath said, feeling futile. "Being a Psyche was easy for this smurf. There's only one way to do anything that needs doing, and you do it because it is the right way. Here there's so many ways to do anything that needs doing, they could all be the right way, but when this smurf does it, it feels like the wrong way. How can I ever hope to be a real Smurf when I'm not allowed to find out all the ways that I can be one?"
"Well, I know what it's like trying to be a real Smurf myself, Empath," Smurfette said with some empathy, "because five years ago, I wasn't even a real Smurf."
Empath looked at her incredulously. "You are only five years old? Great Ancestors, this smurf thought that you came from another Smurf village or something!"
Smurfette laughed, though not insultingly. "Actually, I came from the cauldron of that human wizard who's gone crazy over destroying the Smurfs!"
"Gargamel," Empath figured out.
"You see, Empath," Smurfette explained, "after Gargamel's first plan to capture and turn the Smurfs into gold had failed, he smurfed some time alone to study them, both from books and from careful obsmurfation. What he noticed was that there were no female Smurfs in the village to smurf another generation. So he smurfed some blue clay, used a spell to bring a clay figure to life, and...he created me. Only thing was, I was created by Gargamel to charm them long enough to destroy them."
Empath saw that from Smurfette's mind, as well as how she used to look -- with long stringy black hair and not much pleasant features. "This smurf couldn't see how you could've charmed the pants off this smurf's fellow Smurfs back then!"
"I admit, I really wasn't much to smurf at," Smurfette confessed, laughing at the thought of herself, "but that was the plan, and when I was accepted into the village, it had almost worked. However, when I tried to flood the village by smurfing open the sluice gate, I fell into the raging water and had nearly drowned. The other Smurfs saved me, but when I was ready to be exiled from the village, I confessed who I really was, and that Gargamel was controlling me."
"What you did back then wasn't your fault, anyway," Empath pointed out. "So how did you become a real Smurf?"
"Well, Papa Smurf took it upon himself to transmurf me into a real Smurf so that Gargamel would no longer control my actions," Smurfette answered. "I don't remember all of how he smurfed it, but I felt my clay body melting away onto the floor while my spirit was floating in a peaceful sleep. With each spell Papa Smurf cast on me, I felt myself changing more and more into who I am now. Finally, I found myself smurfing back into the clay and then smurfing into how I currently look."
Empath saw from Smurfette's mind the transformation that took place. To Empath, it looked like Papa Smurf made the blue clay come to life as it morphed into the current version of Smurfette. "That must have been incredible!"
"Well, what was more incredible," Smurfette continued, "was how I was greeted by the other Smurfs when Papa Smurf showed them how I turned out. They were more than awestruck, they were also lovestruck!" She laughed at that briefly before she went on. "But even then, I still haven't yet felt like a real Smurf. It wasn't until Gargamel had captured the other Smurfs did I prove myself by disguising myself as a male Smurf, and then Gargamel knew his plans with me had backfired."
"And when you became part of the Smurfs?" Empath guessed.
"Exactly," Smurfette replied. "It was hard trying to be a real Smurf, but after that I was having a problem with being accepted as anything other than a female Smurf. Every Smurf here, before the Smurflings came along, seems interested in me in only one way -- being in love with me. I don't mind their affections, but I don't want them to keep smurfing after me just to get me to marry them. I'm too young to think of smurfing the knot yet, and besides I can't even decide which Smurf I love more than any other -- well, at least until you came along! Even Papa Smurf tried to ask me to marry him!"
"Papa Smurf was in love with you?" Empath asked, surprised by what he heard. "This smurf could never think of Papa Smurf still being able to..."
"It was just a crush he had!" Smurfette cut him off, still laughing. "Anyway, I love Papa Smurf more like a father that I never had!"
"It must have been lonely being the only female Smurf in the least before Sassette came along," Empath mused. "This smurf wonders how Sassette came to be, because she told this smurf that she was a creation of Gargamel, and the Smurflings say otherwise."
"Actually, Sassette was a real Smurf," Smurfette told Empath. "Three years ago, Miner found her inside a crystal in a mineshaft he was digging in. He couldn't break her out of the crystal with his tools because the crystal was smurfed of magic, so Miner brought her to Papa Smurf, who was going use a magic spell to release her when he was smurfed on an emergency. The Smurflings, meanwhile, were about to recreate the same experiment Gargamel smurfed to create me when they came across the crystal in Papa Smurf's lab, so they just proceeded to release her with the magic spell. Needless to say, the Smurflings were punished for going into Papa Smurf's lab without permission."
"But Sassette was released?" Empath guessed again.
"You know the story," Smurfette nodded. "Anyway, when she awoke, she knew nothing but her name, so we smurfed up this story about her being a magically-created Smurf just like me. We weren't prepared for her smurfing onto Gargamel like he was her real father, but me and Sassette got along very well since then, like we were sisters!"
"That sounds dangerous, telling Sassette that she wasn't a real Smurf and that some evil human wizard created her," Empath noted. "Why didn't Papa just tell her the truth about herself?"
"I don't think even Papa Smurf knew how she wound up in a crystal in the first place," Smurfette answered, "but the reason must be the same as why he smurfed you the truth about yourself now. Papa may make mistakes at times, but he cares enough not to hurt anybody, and he only wants you to feel like you're part of this family so you won't seem so by yoursmurf all the time. We tried for years to get Grouchy to open up, but even he knows that we care about him."
"You're truly amazing, Smurfette," Empath commented, his eyes opened wide as he looked at her and thought about what she said. "You make this smurf wonder why they don't call you Empathy. You understand this smurf better than this smurf does myself, and you don't even have a smurfmark or a minds-eye!"
"Well, at the very least I have two ears and a heart!" Smurfette said, showing her two ears to Empath. "Anyway, you don't have to feel ashamed of smurfing yourself, not even in front of me. I have seen enough male Smurfs to not be embarrassed by how they look. Besides, if I may be so bold to tell you, you do look good in just a hat and pants!"
With that, Empath eased himself as Smurfette helped him out of his bathrobe. He felt a little more comfortable in her presence, being alone with her.

Hefty still felt angry at Smurfette for her outright refusal of him and the following action that would have left him hitting the high notes for the rest of his life. He went into the woods after her, heading to that private spot by the waterfalls that Smurfette would usually go to. He hid in the bushes when he saw Smurfette and Empath there, talking to each other and laughing. Hefty never heard Empath laugh as loud as he did now, so he suspected something of him as he listened.
"You actually did that to Hefty?" Empath asked, surprised. "This smurf knew that Hefty can have such a big ego on him sometimes, especially when he brags about how strong he is."
"Well, some Smurf had to put his 'big ego' back in its place," Smurfette replied. "It makes me wonder why he smurfs his heart on his shoulders when it really should be elsewhere!"
"Some do need the little things in their lives in order to make themselves feel big," Empath commented before he found himself bursting into uncontrollable laughter.
Hefty felt outraged, seeing Smurfette and Empath together, talking about him with such mockery, being together like this. It was like Smurfette had forgotten about him almost completely. It was so unfair...he exhausted himself and fell on his face many times just to get her affections, and she still turned him down. Empath barely knew her and had hardly done anything for her, and now she only had eyes for him.
Hefty felt his hands balling into fists. Somehow, sometime, someplace, he swore to himself, Empath would have his fall from grace even if Hefty has to take him down himself.