There was always something going on around me it seems. Once or twice a week, the boy would come by and drop one of his buckets at my feet, for reasons I never did really figure out.
Then he would seem to vanish like a benevolent ghost.
His best friend was the one I saw the most, always approaching the buckets, or seemingly on the verge of approaching them. He always seemed to be arguing with himself whether he wanted to come over or not.
Apparently his friends had convinced him it wasn't healthy for him, but maybe that just made him want it more. Sometimes he would just sneak a few glances at the bucket from behind a bush before quickly running away. Other times he came close enough to touch it, and many times he did without reaching inside.
"There is no harm just touching the outside," he would mumble to himself, as if trying to justify his actions to his own inner critic. Sometimes though, he would reach in for a small taste, then quickly back away as if full of shame or guilt at his inability to control himself.
His carrot-top friend was the most outspoken, always loudly proclaiming this or that as if they were the most obvious things in the world. Carrot Top seemed to be the happiest of the bunch, bouncing here or there, as if he needed nothing but himself to enjoy this world. He would always be saying stuff like "the contents of the bucket aren't really worth your health" or "there are so many other great things we could be doing instead," and he would bounce away, as if having convinced himself that there was suddenly some important mission calling to him.
The timid friend was a bit more understanding. I didn't see him alone that much. It seemed they usually came together, discussing health issues, or the buckets and their effects on health. He was a bit of a worrier but had genuine concern for the welfare of those around him, though at times perhaps too much concern to allow others to enjoy themselves.
The broken friend didn't come by too much, and if he did, he was very slow going, never expecting anything good to come of the buckets at my feet. But he didn't really try all that hard to convince anybody of anything, not seeming to expect much would come of winning any arguments either.
It was always interesting watching them though, even if I couldn't do much for them, besides offering them a place to gather occasionally. Sometimes I would imagine things none of them would discuss though, but I had no idea if my imaginings were true or not.
Maybe Carrot Top wasn't always as happy as he let on. Sometimes it seemed I would catch a forlorn moment in his eyes before he shook it off and bounced around his friends again. Maybe his role as the cheerful friend had now become an act, a mask he was now expected to wear, and he felt pressured to maintain his past identity. To let down his guard would leave him too exposed.
Despite the constant worry expressed by the timid one, I wondered if he secretly wished his friends would help him accomplish things he never dared do himself, like pirates ransacking a village, while he just tagged along for the ride. Maybe he would pick up a few pieces here or there, as his friends plundered the buckets or reaped the results of whatever other success they went after.
Sometimes I wondered if the broken one was not as broken as he seemed, secretly relishing moments of joy among his friends, but afraid that if he let loose, his friends would think he no longer needed their help and move on to other things. Maybe he feared abandonment most of all, and the only way he knew to keep his friends was to play the part of someone that always needed their help. I have definitely seen joy in his face, but I couldn't tell whether that was short-lived or intentionally suppressed in order to present the proper image.
So yes, while their lives did not revolve around the buckets left by the boy, that was my point of view into their world, where my life and theirs intersected. And yes, there were quite a few times when the boy's friend would lose his willpower and empty the buckets of their contents. Apparently this brought shame to him and he would always immediately feel guilty about it afterwards, not just in terms of the supposed damage to his health, but also in terms of the mess he would make while drinking the nectar.
And his friends would gather around him as usual to comfort him and offer encouragement on how to do better next time. "You shouldn't ever have to need anything besides yourself," Carrot Top would always remind him. His other friends would all nod in agreement, but I'm not sure if anybody else truly believed it deep down.
I'm going to miss their faces when I'm gone, and I'll wish I knew what ultimately became of the whole bunch. But one thing I've learned in my time here is that everyone moves on eventually, and the only story we ever completely see, is our own.