Have you ever felt misplaced? Like you don't belong?

I do, all the time. I'm worse than a puzzle without a piece; I'm the piece to a missing puzzle.

Why am I so unlike everyone else? Grandpa Saibara says he knew I was a lunatic the day I was born - but that's not what I mean. For a long time, I though it was because I was just getting used to living in a slow, small town far outside the city in which I was born and bred...

Turns out that's not it, either.

At my age, kids should be searching high and low for a wife/husband (whichever is preferred). I pursued a girl only once, for a short time, and gave her up.

I shared a large room at the Inn with another bachelor, Cliff, and Kai during the summers. I worked in Grandpa's smithy, learning how to listen to what the metals say.

I had friends, of course: Jack, the farmer; Grandpa (if he counts); Ann, the daughter of the Inn's owner; Doug, the Inn's owner himself; Cliff, a transient, absentminded guy that worked at the winery; Kai, who ran his own beachside restaurant; Rick, who helped his mother run the poultry farm; and the resident nature specialist's daughter that ran the Library, Mary.

Mary. Oh, that name brings back memories…

Hair, thick, black, and silky, wound into a braid that fell forward over her left shoulder. Too-big glasses over brown eyes that made her every expression seem timid and shy. A blue knit vest, given her by old Mrs. Ellen next door, over a short-sleeved, white, button-up shirt. A knee-length blue and green plaid skirt. White, knee-high socks and black buckle shoes, polished to a shine. Pale skin, predisposed to blushing. Pink lips, sharp mind, confidence when pushed…

Mary was a masterpiece in ice, carefully carved to be like glass. But, unlike glass, ice will melt if you get too close.

I loved her once. Oh, how I did love her…

Everyone had their match, their soul mate with whom they could grow old. Cliff had Ann; Kai had Popuri, Rick's spoilt younger sister; Doctor had Elli, they both worked in the Clinic together; Rick had Karen, the daughter of the man that owned the General Store. And I had Mary. Everyone else was either married or six, and the boy and girl of the town were obviously also meant to be. Everyone had their place in the tapestry that is life in Mineral Town.

And then Jack came and inherited the farm. That one thing threw everything off.

He was kind to a fault, conscientious, hard-working, minded his own if you did yours. He mostly dealt with the poultry farm, the dairy farm, and the general store. He enlisted Grandpa's help when he wanted to boost his tools' durability and efficiency. Still, we were friends.

So, now that you're somewhat caught up, what say you to beginning our tale?

Very well.

I am Gray.