Dislcaimer- I still don't own Harvest Moon.
Author's notes- Hey! Wow...I did not realise how long it would take me to write this. Sorry about that! It is quite a long conclusion, which hopefully makes up for things a little. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed so far and enjoy!
Oh, and just so you know, there's a pretty long flashback in this. It's indicated by italics.
My Happy Ending?
Pressing my palm up against the smooth window pane, I felt the cold seep into me and couldn't help, but smile. It looked very much like snow was on it's way to Mineral Town. It was still only late Fall, but already the sky had turned an ominous shade of grey that threatened icy weather.
My grin faded a little as I retreated from the bedroom window and sat down on the edge of my bed. Well...Mine and Gray's bed now.
For a second the smile returned, but it died away almost as quickly. Thinking about Gray just made me remember what I'd been trying to forget.
I keep telling myself that it's just a mistake, a simple, easy to fix mistake. I guess it truly could be, but...all the sign are there. I remember Elli at the start of her pregnancy. She was in and out of the Library all the time, flicking through every pregnancy book we had.
Sighing, I fell backwards onto the soft sheets of my bed and closed my eyes tightly. Images of Gray and I together danced in front of my eyelids. I thought mainly of our wedding day, which was almost a whole season ago on the very last day of Summer. It was all so perfect back then. Still is. It's just...stupid things really. You know the sort, money or the lack of it, mother's constant inference. I always imagined us living in our own place when our first child came along, but it doesn't look very likely anymore.
We simply haven't got the money for it, despite Gray working almost constantly at his grandfather's Blacksmiths. Besides, this being Mineral Town, don't forget, where on earth would we move to? It's not exactly brimming with new housing opportunities, after all. And leaving to live in another town just isn't an option. I could never, ever leave Ann behind. She's my best friend. I know it sounds childish, I know it sounds like something a pre-teen would say, but, in all honesty, nothing could be truer. She practically saved me when I first arrived here at the age of twelve. I was the quietest, weirdest girl in all of Mineral Town and I would have rotted in that dusty old Library if it weren't for Ann. She was the brightest, bubbliest girl and a complete tomboy - yet, somehow, she wanted to be my friend. Mine, all mine. Still to this day, I can barely believe it worked out so well.
The Library, though dusty, dark and always empty, was without a doubt my favourite place in our new home of Mineral Town. I knew that I was definitely the only twelve year old hiding inside on a scorching Summer's day, but there wasn't much I could do about it. I didn't know any of the other children and would have felt rude by imposing myself upon them.
Instead, I rattled around the upstairs and downstairs rooms, passing by tall, towering bookcases and envisioning the day when they would be packed full of books and nothing more. I felt almost dizzy at the thought of all those stories I could read, all the lands I could visit, characters I could befriend and, last, but most secret of all, the Prince I could attract (Yeah right, to the last one). Ever since we arrived, my parents have been telling me to get outside. My father, an ethusiastic botanist, has tried time and time again to get me to accompany him and mother on journeys to the hills, but I always refuse. I just can't face it, when I have the Library now. My calm, dark sanctuary...
I leapt from my seat on the window sill of the second floor and stared desperately around. Surely that hadn't been the door? It couldn't have been because nobody ever visits. Right?
"Hello?" a voice called from downstairs. Female, a young girl. "Anyone there?" she added.
As usual my shy, stuttering self took over and I froze on the spot. I could almost feel the words bubbling away in my throat, pleading for escape, but there was little I could do about it. In fact, nothing I could do at all. There was a further 'click' from downstairs and she was gone.
My body sagged with something like relief, though deep down I knew it wasn't. The girl had sounded friendly and about my age, showing that I probably had nothing to fear in her. So was it...disappointment? Quick as a flash, I ran back to the window, peering down at the sunny street through my thick rimmed glasses. I spotted her straight away, heading along the path to South Mineral Town. She had flaming red hair, scraped into a braid that swayed back and forth as she walked - or rather bounced - along the street. Her rumpled, creased overalls were worlds away from my tidy skirts and clean white socks. In fact, the only thing our outfits had in commom was colour - and even there my deep blue dulled in comparison with her bright, sky shades.
I very nearly reconsidered, but by then she was nearing the corner I assumed to be her turning and I realised that it was one of those often heard of Now or Never moments. As fast as possible, I shimmied the rusty, old window open and gingerly thrust my head into the warm Summer air. The familiar constricted sensation rose into my throat, but somehow, luckily, I managed to cough out the words racing through my head. Or at least some of them.
I think it came out as, "Um...hello? Hello! Sorry. I - I, er, upstairs. Sorry, sorry." Utter rubbish, clearly, but for some strange reason she turned to look at me and actually seemed to understand what I was babbling about. Before I could take it in, the girl was racing back up the street, heading for the Library.
Jumping to life I scurried down the stairs, just as she crashed through the front door. There was the inevitable silence filled moment, but it was thankfully broken when the girl gave me a wide, welcoming smile. "Ann," she announced, grabbing my limp hand and shaking it enthusiastically. "That's my name."
I felt my mouth twitch into a small smile at her words, giving me just the spark of confidence I needed to reply. As usual, though, I still stuttered. "I'm Mary," I whispered. "M - Mary Parker."
Ann nodded, as it occured to me just how huge the differences between us really were. There was me, stood meek and polite behind my desk, while she was boucing about eagerly in muddy trainers. Her eyes, which were big and blue and very wide, roved curiously across the near-empty book shelves.
"Not much of a Library, is it?" she asked musingly, still with that good natured smile on her face.
I shrugged, trying to act unconcerned. "We're still getting the books shipped in from the City," I explained, wondering then, almost eagerly, if she was disappoined by this. "Do you, um, do you read much? B - by any chance?"
"Read?" she questioned incredulously, not bothering to stifle her own laughter. "No chance."
I won't lie: I was crushed to hear that. My breath hitched in my throat, but before I had the chance to even contemplate a reply, Ann went on, " So you're from the City, huh? What's it like being a 'townie'?"
Here, however, I did tell a tiny little lie. Well...okay, a huge one, but she wasn't to know. "Oh it's - it's - " I searched around my mind for positive things to say, more often than not thinking about the things I hated. Our cramped apartment, the endless noise and traffic, littered streets... I suppose to some people, living in the City is exciting and even fun. Certainly not to me though. "Oh, it's really exciting there. Butsling, you know," I told her, the words spilling as easily from my mouth as if they were blossoming on a page.
Ann leant forward on her skinny elbows, looking enthralled. I thought it was odd how fluent I was being, when usually I can only express myself through writing. "Wow," she murmured once I'd finished. "That's so cool. I've lived in the countryside my entire life! How old are you, then?"
"Twelve," I replied, causing Ann's eyes to widen even more.
"Wow!" she repeated, sounding like an eager little puppy. "I'm only ten. Nearly eleven, mind you. It's my birthday on the seventeenth. Hey...d'you want to come to the party?"
I swear I almost fainted when she asked me that. I'm not joking, either. I mean, me? A birthday party? I'd never exactly been in with the party crowd at my previous school, so to be asked within minutes of meeting this girl was a massive deal. "Um...s - sure. Thank you very much."
"No problem," she laughed, watching my expression with amusement. "It's gonna be so great, honest. Everyone's coming and my Dad's promised to cook..." Ann started pacing the dusty floor in little circles, smiling blissfully as she reeled off a long list of dishes he could make. "Pancakes, ice cream, cookies, apple pie - ooh, strawberry milkshake!"
"I like veggie juice," I blurted out suddenly - and stupidly, it transpired.
Ann stopped abruptly and pulled a face. "Eww!"
'Eww' was right, I realised too late. What on earth was I thinking, revealing something so stupid? And who, I must ask, even likes veggie juice anyway? I felt just as much a freak as my old classmates always claimed I was. Even though I knew it was stupid to get upset over something like this, I could almost feel my cheeks burning an unmistakeable shade of crimson.
But then Ann did something amazing. She actually made me feel better about the whole thing and not in a completely patronising, overly sympathetic way. No, what she did was much better. She hitched her thin frame onto the desk and leant over to me. "I'm not one to talk, though, Mary," she muttered, grinning wickedly. Her blue eyes were sparkling and caused a strange thrill of anticipation to rush through me.
"What do you mean?"
"Well..." Ann leant further forward, as though she was about to divulge a huge secret. "My Dad says I'm like a human hover. I'll eat anything, me. Seriously. Grape jam and French fries. Boiled spinach and mayonaise. Chocolate and anything. In fact, there was this one time - my seventh birthday, I think - I ate almost the entire cake myself and was sick on the remainder of the party food."
For a brief moment, I wondered if all that was true. Something, perhaps her proud tone, told me it was. "W - wow."
Ann just laughed. "That's not what my Dad said, believe me."
We both burst out giggling then. I'm not really one for losing control, but this was one of the rare exceptions. Even though it wasn't all that funny, I laughed and laughed until my sides ached unbearably and tears streamed down my cheeks. Before she left, a little while later, Ann promised she'd return tomorrow to show me Mother's Hill. Despite her seeming friendly and genuine, though, I still wasn't all that sure she'd keep her promise. We barely knew each other, after all.
But I was surprised. The next morning, just as she'd said, we trekked all the way up to the vast, shimmering lake that sat in the mountains. Once again, I was thrown: it was more beautiful, much more, in fact, than what my father had told me. And that's quite a rare thing, really, if you think about it. You know what I mean. It's like being a kid and, I don't know, you're going on your first holiday or something. Perhaps you're nervous so your parents really try and build up your enthusiasm, telling you all sorts of wonderful stories to convince you. Only then you get there and because your young, over-active brain has created this perfect image, it's not quite what you envisioned. It can't be. There was none of that with Mother's Hill, however. It hit all expectations and by far exceeded them. That was why I loved it on first sight.
Ann and I, lost for anything else to do under the searing heat of a Summer's day, lounged on the grass. My new friend lay right back, clearly unworried about the threat of grass stains and crawling bugs. I was a bit more conservative, crouching somewhat awkwardly as I tried not to crease my skirts more than was necessary. My eyes swivelled around, taking in the endless stream of sweet smelling flowers and the odd rabbit that hopped just on the edge of my vision.
"Mary?" Ann asked eventually, breaking the lazy lull in conversation. "Do you like reading?" I turned to her, half-surprised, but she wasn't looking at me. Her slim fingers were strangely deft as she hastily twined together two long blades of grass.
I considered that she might be getting at me with that question, so I hesitated. "Umm..." Then, I decided it didn't really matter. She'd liked me as I was so far, and, besides, I knew deep down I should never be ashamed of what I believed in. "I love it. I think books are amazing, Ann. The way they can affect you and make everything come alive."
"They're only words on a page, though," she pointed out. "Just ink and paper." She didn't sound as though she was making fun of me. Instead, she simply sounded curious and a little confused.
"Ah," I answered, smiling wryly. "But that's what makes them so special, isn't it? The fact that that's all they are, and yet they can be so life-altering and real."
Ann flipped over onto her stomach and grinned at me. "I never thought of it like that," she admitted. She'd now stopped braiding the grass and was twirling the result in her hand. "Here," she said, throwing it to me so I caught it clumsily. "Friendship bracelet."
I couldn't think of anything sensible or, at least, not dripping in sentiment to say in reply, so I simply slipped it over my wrist. Or attempted to, anyway. "Doesn't fit," I sighed dejectedly.
My companion, however, wasn't at all bothered by this. "Friendship...monocle, then. Only without the glass and in actual fact completely useless." I jokingly hooked her gift over one of my thick lenses in response. "Ah, glasses accessory!"
"I look an idiot, don't I?"
Ann turned over yet again, this time so she was on her back, staring up at the cloudless sky above. "A little," she informed me, glancing over. "But you still look waaay more intelligent than I ever could. Way, way more."
"Nonsense!" I finally stopped worrying and flopped down onto the grass beside her. "It's a pity there aren't any clouds today. We could cloud-gaze."
"I'm terrible at all that. I've got no imagination whatsoever."
I tried to be reassuring, but I don't think it came across too well. "Don't be silly. If you think hard enough you can make something out of anything. Out of nothing, in fact." Ann looked distinctly uncovinced and shook her head at me. "You can!" I insisted again.
Quickly, I twisted my head around and scanned my surroundings. My eyes fell sharply on the small island mine that sat out in the centre of the lake. "Let's say...there's a dragon living in there," I said to Ann.
At first, she didn't get it. "What!? But that's stupid! I know perfectly well there's not."
"Yes, but let's just say there is." Ann was still frowning at me, but I refused to be put off. Instead, I decided to change tact. "How should you know anyway?" I held her stare steadily, through my thick spectacles, adding, "You've never actually been in there, have you?"
I had her then - and I knew it. "Huh?" she asked me, visibly nonplussed. She turned her head awkwardly to face the water, and I did likewise. I could tell she was ever so slightly unnerved as she watched the island wavering in the bright sunlight.
"I'm not joking, Ann," I whispered, leaning over to her. "I swear I can almost hear it down there. Lurking out of sight, spreading it's wings in readiness. You needn't think the water will protect you. Dragons can fly, don't forget."
Suddenly, out of nowhere, there was nearby rustling in the grass, crashing through the tense silence. It was probably no more than a rabbit, but both of us - me included - yelped in terror. Soon enough, as the 'threat' passed, our panic dissolved into uncontrollable laughter. Once we'd calmed down considerably, Ann turned to me. "Is your heart hammering?"
"Yeah," I said, mirroring her smile. "Which must be the stupidest thing ever!"
We lasped back into comfortable silence for a while, until at last Ann broke it. "It's not stupid," she told me clamly. There had been quite a gap in conversation, so I was slightly confused for a moment. "You got all that from out of your head," she went on, sounding - to me, at least - undeservedly awed. "Straight from your imagination, you know."
By this point I was blushing madly. And judging from the cheeky grin on her face, Ann was well aware of this fact. I stammered, "Um...w - well...I don't - "
"You'd make a great author, Mary," she said. She was still speaking in this strangely mature, matter-of-fact tone and it was now my turn to be unnerved. "You really would."
I stayed sitting on the grass as this 'revelation' washed over me. Ann had skipped off to pick some flowers, so, even though I wanted to, I couldn't enquire further. Her words rang out in my head, over and over, reverberating off the inside of my skull and back again. Me, I kept thinking, an author? Books were there for me to pour over, to delve into when I was lonely, to admire. But I could never write them! That was the most ridiculous idea ever. You'd have to be exceptional, and I was, without a shadow of a doubt, the complete opposite. I was the defintion of average, and worse again. No, I thought, shaking my head firmly and flopping backwards, Ann was being stupid. Almost immediately, my mind travelled to thoughts of my planned career - that of a dedicated bontanist, like father. But, even though I didn't realise it just then, the author idea wasn't gone. It lingered somewhere in the depths of my conscience, burning small, but burning bright. And no amount of head shaking or reality checking would shift it.
From then on, the fire was lit. It simply took me a while to realise it.
I must have dozed off at some point later that afternoon because I got the fright of my life when the bedroom door snapped open suddenly. I jumped up into a sitting position, blinking rapidly as Gray shuffled over the threshold. As usual, his overalls were badly creased and aboslutely covered in soot. Only this time there was another little addition, lightly dusting his shoulders. Snow.
"It's been snowing," he told me rather unnecessarily. Perhaps I'd maybe been crying, too, because Gray's expression became decidedly concerned as our eyes met. Before he could open his mouth, though, I was off the bed and peering out of the window, pretending to be fascinated by the weather.
I heard Gray sigh grumpily behind me, before stomping off to the bathroom. The door slammed with a piercing snap and I winced involuntarily. Great. Just great. Something told me this wasn't the best sign, considering I had to tell him soon.
My hand jumped to the freezing pane and began drawing little circles on the glass. They started off slowly, then became more frantic as my thoughts speeded up. Tell him, this nagging voice residing in the back of my head insisted, tell him today. But then, I reasoned, he'd clearly not had the best of days and I didn't want to make things worse. Soon there was a mental battle raging inside my head, making me press my knuckles to my forehead in a bid to ease it. Even then, I knew. Knew I had to tell him. In fact, every ounce of logic in my body was screaming it. I was in no doubt whatsoever.
Huffing out a sigh, I nervously shuffled over to the door of the ensuite. "Gray?"
There was no reply for a moment, just the rushing of taps and the odd bang and clatter. I thought he simply hadn't heard me and was about to try again, when he spoke so close to the door that I very nearly jumped. "What?" he asked in his usual gruff tone.
"I've - I've - " Instead, I ended up sighing, as my words descended into my old childhood stutters.
"What is it, Mary?" Gray repeated. His voice sounded a lot softer and kinder suddenly, and it calmed me. Not enough to make me speak clearly though; my words still caught childishly in my throat. It annoyed me no end, but Gray can be surprisingly understanding when he wants to. "Mary?" he said again, before hesitating. "Do you, um, want to write it down?"
I very nearly laughed aloud at that suggestion - until it occured to me that it was probably the perfect remedy. "Okay, then." I hurriedly scattered across the room, quickly locating some paper and then finding my trusty fountain pen faster again. It took me many, many attempts to get a final note written - by which time Gray had no doubt finished using the bathroom and was only staying there for the purposes of the plan. I apprehensively slid the slip of paper under the door, with the words, by that point, engraved on my skull.
This must be the most ridiculous note I've ever written. I feel cowardly and pathetic for doing it this way, but I don't really see as I have any other option. My mouth just won't work and I don't know when it'll be back to normal. All I do know is that if I don't tell you soon, I'll go mad. And if this is the only way, then so be it. You understand? If anyone did understand my weird little ways it would be you, Gray. You don't find it odd that writing is my comfort or that I sometimes can't express myself as well in speaking out loud as I could with a pen. I only hope you understand this. I found out something a few days ago, something that shocked me. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just something that could be tricky. Something we weren't prepared for. The thing is, I think I might be pregnant. Well, there's no 'think' about it, really. However you feel is fine with me; I'm not even sure how I feel yet. Be angry with me for not telling you sooner if you want, I don't mind. Just remember this: I love you. I really do. I do.
On the other side of the door, I stood waiting. There may only have been one thick sheet of wood between Gray and I, but I'd never felt less connected to him. We could have been worlds apart for all I cared. My heart was thumping against my chest, so loud that I could feel the blood pounding incessantly in my ears. Silently, I pleaded for the door to open, for him to emerge. I wasn't even sure I wanted his reaction, yet I did know that it had to be better than this endless waiting. Moments dragging on and on, over and over, just waiting constantly...
And then the door clicked open.
I think we hugged at that point. In all honesty, I can't be sure. It was one of those moments that you assume you'll remember forever, as crystal and clear as though it happened just yesterday. The truth, though, is that certain memories blur and fade until the details are sketchy to say the least.
I do know Gray was happy, though. And so was I. Happier than I'd been in ages. Yet nothing could stop my stomach twisting in fear or my body trembling with nerves - however much my husband tried. His words got through to me a little as they were breathed into my soft, dark hair. "It'll be alright," he said, his voice level, even and surprisingly calm. "It will, I promise."
And I had no hesitation in believing him.
The following weeks raced by in a whirl. Before long, everyone knew about my pregnancy in much the same way that they all discovered about our engagement. Mother, of course. She was beyond thrilled when we informed her and, for the first time in living memory, was actually rendered speechless. Needless to say, it didn't last long and she was soon out blabbing.
Ann, my most reliable best friend, was completely delighted for us. I felt likewise for her too, actually, as, after seasons of doubt, she and Jack finally got together as a couple. I'd give them two seasons tops, before they're married.
Gray and I got an unexpected, but undoubtedly pleasant, surprise at one of my scans. We were stunned to discover that I was expecting, not just the one baby, but twin girls. I didn't know quite what to feel at that news. Daunted was naturally high on the list, but excitement was there too. I was really coming around to the idea of being a mother. Gray though...it was difficult to tell how he felt when he spoke so little about things. I tried several times to introduce the subject of where we'd live when the babies were born, but he mostly side-stepped the matter. It was difficult, but I tried hard not to mind. After all, he'd taken a great interest in other areas and by the middle of my pregnancy we'd decided on names. Our girls were to be called Molly and Jennifer. Jennifer after I'd scoured the Library and found a favourable heroine named just that, and Molly because, according to Gray, it went well with the latter. And, to be honest, I couldn't disagree. Of course, we'd never tell Molly that she was named simply because of her sister. If it was me I wouldn't have minded - I think the name Molly is beautiful and warm and so much better than my own - but you never can tell with children.
I was nearing the end of my pregnancy and fast approaching the waddling stage, when Gray suggested we go for a walk.
"A walk?" I echoed snappishly, feeling as though I couldn't even move from my seat in the Library, let alone go wandering around Mineral Town. "Are you sure?"
Gray nodded, blushing childishly from beneath his baseball cap. He helped me to my feet and we set off along the sunny streets. I wasn't in the best of moods, I'll admit, and was feeling pretty fed up with the entire pregnancy. Gray mumbled on as we headed for South Mineral Town, making less and less sense as time went by. I suppose if I was in a better frame of mind, I'd have recognised the signs. Stuttering, nerves, acting anxious; my husband was clearly up to something.
"Oh!" I cried, as we rounded the corner where the Blacksmiths were. "I didn't realise they were building something here." I hadn't been out in weeks, so it was a huge surprise to see a newly erected cottage sat in the previously empty plot besides the Blacksmiths. It was an incredibly small house, complete with a tiny garden at the front - yet despite all that it looked distinctly homey.
"Do like it?" Gray asked me, hesitantly. He was watching my expression carefully, though I think the fact that I could barely tear my eyes away was answer enough.
Nodding, I smiled. "It's lovely," I told him. "Whoever's had it built must be feeling very lucky - " Just as the words crossed my lips, the front door of the little house opened and a familiar face grinned back at me. "Ann!"
"Mary!" she squealed back, running down the short garden path towards me. I noticed, as she threw her arms around me with difficulty, that Jack had also slowly emerged and was lingering in the background.
"Have you two bought this place?" I exclaimed, thinking of Jack's farm, Silver-Ridge, just down the road.
"Don't be silly!" Ann retorted, as Jack flushed red with embarrassment and shook his head emphatically. Her eyes travelled swiftly to Gray. "You haven't told her yet?" she asked him, her eyes rolling.
"Told me what?" By that point, I guess I knew what was going on. My heart was pounding and my mind swirled with anticipation, yet I could have mouthed Gray's words along with him as he explained.
"It's ours," he whispered. Ours. I couldn't hear that word enough. We had a home, our home, at last and standing there, with all my firends, I believed I'd never feel happiness like it again. But I was wrong.
On the fourteenth of Summer, at approximately 6.35am, I finally held them in my arms. My daughters, whose lives I'd been envisioning vividly for the past weeks, were finally here. I lay exhausted in the Clinic clutching Jenny, while Gray, who was sat nearby, held Molly. They were identical in every way, from their tufty jet black hair to their big, blue-grey eyes. "I just can't believe it," I breathed over and over again, staring down at my tiny baby girl. Gray was acting similarly with Molly, gasping in awe every time she yawned or wriggled.
"They're amazing," he agreed. His voice shook slightly, while I became aware that my cheeks were drenched with tears. For once, though, Gray didn't misunderstand and ask me what was wrong. I glanced between the three of them, again and again. Molly, Jennifer and him - Gray, the husband I once believed would never be more than a dream. Only he was here and real, and sometimes things seem too perfect to be true.
You see, all my life books have been my saviour - and, for many years, my only friend. If there was ever a choice between books of fact or books of fiction, I would always have picked fiction. Always. Fiction was where I was the Princess who rode off into the sunset. I was the beautiful one, with hair so golden and eyes so blue. The Prince would never hesitate to rescue me and help me onto his white horse...
Yet now the lines of fact and fiction are blurred. It's ironic, really, how things have changed.
Because now my happy ending isn't just a story. It's not my imagination or a simple, soon-to-fade dream. It's reality - the one thing I always pushed aside.
Unbelievably, fact is my fairytale.