Harvest is a collection of short stories, depicting life in Tipa through the eyes of one little girl. It's my first story since my multi-year hiatus, and I'm more confident in my ability now.

The narrator is a child, so I tried to keep the language simple.

The Final Fantasy franchise is property of Square-Enix.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Celia

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

She always walks by the flowerbeds outside our door, stopping and kneeling to have a smell. I watch her dust imaginary flecks of filth off her skirt, tightening the knot on her bonnet. She looks my way, smiles and waves, then goes to Emil, the old Yuke's, house, to read and work. My older sister, Ellie, works at Emil's bakery as well, and every once in a while the smell of fresh bread she brought home from the job wafts through the door of our house. I think I have seen Celia, too, carrying a plump loaf to her home, her mother.

Celia is a girl a year or two younger than my sister, tawny hair, awkwardly tall for a Clavat, with pretty green eyes. She is old enough to be in a caravan, but like Ellie she is not brave or strong like my brother who left two years ago. I have never heard Celia speak, though I have seen her mother around the village. Mama invited her in on more than one occasion, and she gave Ellie and me some fresh vegetables. They were crisp and sweet, until Mama put them in her stew and clogged up the flavors with cabbage stink and stewed meat.

This afternoon, I have nothing to do. Celia pulls herself up from smelling the flowers, looking at me for a brief second. As she waves, I decide on what seems like a good idea. I am going to follow Celia. I want to see her home, her life, I want to finally hear her voice. Celia turns her head and walks to the center of town, to Emil's bakery. I watch her for a few minutes. With a yawn, I turn away, going to a patch of sand and trees by the windmill. Mama and Papa said that there was a salesman here, a Selkie, who would come here every few seasons and sell things. They say, with frowns on their faces, that he dressed like a beggar and had an ugly accent, that he'd eye over the other people with contempt and even that he pickpocketed from his customers. Mama and Papa say he never showed his face around the village since before I was born. I would so like to meet him to see if these things are true.

I don't understand. Mama and Papa don't talk about the other people in town like that. Emil is only looked on as strange, and the Clavats in most of the village bring almost no reaction at all. But a mere mention of Selkies conjures up spitting and frowns, insults and gossip. I even hear the whispering and see the frowning from other people in the village. Should I be afraid of them? I have never seen a Selkie in my life. Are they plain-faced and tall like the Clavats in this village, or do they stick out, like Emil?

As I lie in the sand, I notice footsteps and someone coming down the path. Celia! And Ellie is with her. I hear Celia's voice at last as she kneels to my sister's level: hushed whispers into my sister's ear, then standing up and staring straight ahead as she walks home, loaf of bread in her arms. My sister has found me.

"Ingrid!" Ellie says, grabbing my hand. "Your dress is all dirty! Mama is going to be so mad…"

"I was visiting you." I said.

As we walk home, I notice a group of old, hunched people in the square. They say a lot of words I don't understand, and from what I do understand, they're talking about Celia. I frown.

The next day as I saw Celia in front of our house, I tell her about the old people in town. She remains expressionless, like a doll, then takes my hand.

"Don't you care?" I ask her, looking up at her tawny hair and pretty eyes, her face sharp like stone.

"No." she says simply, walking to her house. "And I think Emil would understand if I didn't come to work today. I have something for you."

Celia's voice is clunky and metallic, like machinery, like clockwork.

I accept this, though I am a bit confused. I follow Celia, noticing once again the people whispering. Again, in the words I don't understand. Again, about Celia. There are things about her mother too, and all sorts of words that seem rude or gross. Mama once slapped Ellie for saying one.

"Are you sure you don't care?" I ask, and again she shakes her head. We enter her house, and she leads me to a shelf.

"Stay here, applehead, I'll get it." Celia says, standing on her toes. She feels around for a while, then pulls out a dusty old book. I take it from her, flipping through it.

"It's a cookbook." I finally say, and she nods.

"Your sister left it here."

We begin our journey home after I wave goodbye to Celia's mother, a kindly, somewhat pudgy Clavat woman. Mama says she used to be beautiful. Celia and I walk on, until I come to the patch of sand with trees.

"There used to be a Selkie merchant here, my mama says." I tell her.

"Yes."
"Have you ever seen him?"
"No."

I sigh, hoping that she had. She finally tells me:

"I've never seen him, Ingrid. My mother and he were friends though."

My eyes go wide, and I ask her to tell me.

"My mother used to be in the caravan. They met a lot. Talked a lot. Sent letters. Sometimes they'd camp together and share meals. The rest of the old caravan just used that to get their hands on the good stuff."

I am satisfied. She walks me home, telling me some members of the old caravan- Emil, and Eric, the other Lilty man besides Papa in the village. I tell Celia about how Mama and Papa and Eric and some of the other villagers talk about Selkies, these Selkies I have never seen. She keeps a straight face.

"I'm not going to do that." I say. "It doesn't seem nice."

Celia remains silent as we walk home. I see the rows of houses and finally the yellow and blue flowers, outside our house with their sweet smell. Celia sniffs them for a bit, but doesn't smile. Before I go inside, I look at Celia one last time.

"Are you sure you don't care about what those men said back there?"

She looks at me, smiling, and waves goodbye.

"I really don't, Ingrid. They're probably right."