Note: I have no earthly clue where this idea came from. Just roll with it. XD
Disclaimer: Gosh darn it, Natsume, why don't you just sell me the rights to Harvest Moon so I can stop putting this redundant disclaimer in all these fics! Give a girl a break!
Looks Like Love
Show me what love looks like.
Oh, I'm sure we all know what love is—most of us have felt it at some time or another—but if every person in the world had to draw a picture of what love actually looks like, you'd find yourself with a very diverse collection of art. Maybe love is that first kiss that instills a hot, tingling sensation under your skin. That passionate night that leaves your heart beating and beating as it begs for more. The first time your ears hear the words, "I love you," and realize that they actually mean something.
I highly doubt you'd get stacks and stacks of trendy magazines as your answer.
So, this leaves me with a question: how much do looks matter, really? I'm not blonde and I'm not buxom. Heck, I'm nowhere near skinny, but I've been called cute. I couldn't be any happier with myself, because hey, if my stomach isn't as flat as an ironing-board, than I'm definitely winning the fight against anorexia.
Though that's really no problem. God, I love food.
Anyway, this whole spiel has a point. Honest, it does. I'm just wondering if anyone could shed a little light on this issue of mine, 'cause it's been bugging me for a while:
Where on earth does it say that it's wrong to love a guy who's the furthest thing from an Abercrombie and Fitch model?
Don't give me that look. Oh, sure, people say that "looks don't matter," but if you've been dealing with same crap I've been shouldering lately, you'd know that saying it doesn't mean a thing unless you actually believe it.
So let's step back a bit. Rewind.
I live on a farm. It's a nice set-up, I'm not gonna lie, because once you get that produce going, you can bake up the best homemade dishes from scratch. (No artificial ingredients, thank you very much.) The problem lies in…well…
I can do the obvious part: putting the eggs in the mayonnaise maker so that mayonnaise pops out, putting the milk in the cheese one for cheese, and so on. But whenever something problematic happens—as it often does—I can't tell a cord from a wire and a switch from a knob.
Pathetic, yes. Career-crippling, no.
This is where he comes in. My personal knight in shining armor, my Victorian sweetheart wielding his trusty tool belt.
His hesitant knock on the door sounds once, and as he waits to see if I've heard him, I immediately run to the mirror instead, checking my teeth and brushing my hair before doing some last-minute touches on my make-up.
Yes, I'm a hypocrite. But I'm a woman, and as far as I'm concerned, being one gives me the right to a little vanity.
His knock rings out again—a little louder, in case I'm upstairs—and this time, I acknowledge him and open the door. His dark eyes blink at me, and his hands in his pockets, he murmurs, "So, uh, I hear you broke your cheese maker again."
Ignore your first impressions. Don't be distracted by the messy brown hair on his head, or the large glasses sitting atop his nose. And whatever you do, don't complain that suspenders died in the 80s and large baggy shirts aren't meant for skinny guys.
Just look at his smile. Look at the way he shyly lets it creep across his face—like when he's talking about his inventions, or the way the fireworks dazzle the night sky, or maybe just because he's happy.
The first time I saw that smile, it was summer, and the fireworks lit the sky with a passionate fire. I stood on the beach and watched the lights flare in night, whistling with a shrill cry of celebration.
"They're amazing, aren't they?"
I jumped at the sound of this stranger; he'd actually been standing by me for quite some time, though I hadn't noticed—Louis easily blended into the background. I tilted my head towards him, and swiftly taking in his dull appearance, the stereotype set itself into motion, and I classified him as nothing.
"The fireworks always bring me back to Flower Bud," he continued, oblivious to my scrutiny. "Every summer, no matter what, I make time to come to this festival…no light in the city can compare."
And then, he smiled. The small, goofy grin spread from one dimple to the other, and I found myself staring at him in some sort of strange fascination. I'd seen people smile before, of course, but there was something about the way he did it—so sincerely, genuinely, with no pretenses.
"You're not from here, are you?" I asked finally, stating the obvious.
He blinked, then shook his head, still not giving me his full attention. "No, I'm not. I wish I was, though; Flower Bud's such a beautiful place. Do you live here?"
"Yup. I'm with the New Rancher Plan," I explained with a forced laugh. "You get free land and hard labor. But I'm originally from the city, too."
He nodded again slowly, his eyes lingering on the spectacle ahead before turning towards me, asking, "Really? Why'd you leave?"
"Because," I shrugged, "sometimes you just need a change."
Then the fireworks illuminated the sky once more, and the conversation died as the crackling of fire echoed through the air. Hours passed as we let our eyes remain fixed on the radiance overhead, the reflections sparkling on the waves. As the final light fizzled into the stars, we gazed at the suddenly dark night, and Mayor Thomas's voice called, "That's it for the Fireworks Festival this year! See you all next summer!"
I turned to see my new companion, and I said finally, "Until next year, then."
He watched as I extended my hand forward, and took it cautiously.
"Until then," he smiled crookedly.
He walked off, and in a daze, I watched him leave, wondering why I hadn't moved as well, and wondering why as I stared at him the words 'dork,' 'loser,' and 'geek' weren't springing to mind as readily as they had before.
"Jill? Jill?" Someone was shaking my shoulder. I jerked about to see Nina behind me, her green eyes wide. "Do you know what you just did?" she whispered, obviously awed.
"What? What did I do?" I insisted, suddenly panicking. I wasn't tracking chicken poo again, was I? Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.
"You just went to the Fireworks Festival with Louis," the girl breathed in disbelief. "Louis never spends the Fireworks Festival with anyone."
So that was his name. Louis.
Say what you want about love at first sight; I don't believe in it. I believe in attraction, and I believe in curiosity—and after that first meeting, I think I was experiencing a little of both. I didn't obsess, and I didn't dream, but I did wonder.
I wondered a lot.
The barn expanded, the animals grew up, the crops were harvested, and I kept on wondering. Had I even told him my name? What did he do in the city—had I met him before? Should I have?
It was while wondering that I careened into an oblivious villager straight ahead of me.
"Oh, I'm sorry," I apologized hurriedly, the man I had bumped into rubbing his bruising shoulder. "I was kinda thinking, and not paying attention to where I was going."
"That's okay," he assured me, adjusting his glasses from their lop-sided position on his nose. I stared for a moment before his appearance fully registered in my mind:
"Louis?" He raised an eyebrow at the sound of his name, and I continued, "You were at that festival—with the fireworks on Moonlight Beach. I was the girl who stood next to you—"
His voice kindly interrupted mine: "Oh, yes, I think we did meet then. You're Jill, right?"
"So I did tell you my name," I sighed in relief. "Good, I thought I had forgotten."
Chuckling softly, Louis explained, "You had forgotten. Ann told me who you were. And to be fair, uh, I don't think I told you my name, either."
Touché. "Nina told me," I answered, finding that my cheeks had turned a faint shade of pink. "Um, what are you doing in Flower Bud, anyway?"
"Just strolling through," he shrugged. "It's my day off, and I needed a break from the city air."
"Huh. So you're just taking a walk?" I gathered.
I smiled, and standing beside him, said, "Well, it'd be more fun to walk someone else, am I right?"
Louis paused, a little hesitant, then agreed, "All right, then. Maybe you could show me around better? I always tend to get lost in this big village."
And I gladly became his guide.
Louis was a pretty quiet sort of guy. He'd kind of just let me point stuff out to him, sometimes he'd ask a few questions, and then he'd nod at the answer. The guy was also nice enough to laugh at my lame jokes—which were normally acknowledged with eye-rolling by the rest of Flower Bud.
I didn't really love him or anything. Not then.
Curiosity satisfied with the brief encounters we'd share, I went along with my life normally, making friends and remodeling my house and hanging at the Moonlight Café after dark. Festivals, of course, continued as they normally did, and I'd randomly go with whatever guy showed up at my door. Once it was Blue. Another time Ray. I think Kurt asked me once. None of the festivals, though, remained as vivid and memorable as the one shared with Louis at Moonlight Beach—with fireworks brightly staining the night sky.
And I couldn't for the life of me understand why.
"Jill, you should stop by."
Ann drummed her fingers on Duke's counter, and she continued, "The Junk Shop's been completely remodeled—new stock, an upstairs story, and I've even got an assistant."
"Assistant?" I repeated. "I hope he's got good health insurance if you're the one hiring him, Ann."
She made a face at me, and continued, "He's not gonna get blown up, Jill. The guy's an inventor, actually—I met him at a conference some years ago, and we've been talking on and off for a few years. He's been a scientist in the city, but he's been begging me for ages to let him work here in Flower Bud, and—well, now he's here."
"Must be a pretty brave guy, if he's willing to tinker around machines with you all day," I commented; I got kicked under the counter for that one. After a few minutes of "ows" and "shut ups," normal conversation resumed, and I asked, "So, when am I going to meet him?"
"I think you already have," the redhead spoke. "You know Louis, right?"
My drink sprayed onto my shirt as I coughed in surprise, the soda spurting out my nose and staining my clothes. "Um…yeah," I said, taking a napkin and attempting to clean myself up. "Yeah, we've met before."
Louis knew Ann? Since when? And since when was he an inventor, a scientist? All the stupid comments I made must have seemed so immature, so uneducated to a guy like that…
But if I annoyed him, then why had he been looking at me like that?
I'd been knocking a good few minutes before a very disoriented Louis opened the door, his face smudged with something dark—oil, perhaps?—and his clothes a bit more disheveled than usual. "Jill, it's nice to see you," he smiled, making me smile right back.
"You didn't tell me that you were an inventor."
It sounded more like an accusal than I had intended, and his smile soon fell, stammering, "Oh, b-but I didn't think it mattered, really—"
"That's incredible," I exclaimed, coming inside and sitting myself down on a stool. "Seriously, I mean I always thought it was cool that Ann knew how to invent, but—well, I'm sure by now you've seen just how well her creations work."
This brought his smile back. "She just needs a little supervision. Her ideas themselves are pretty brilliant. Together, we've completed a few projects that Ann had started last year."
He gestured towards the machines lining the wall, and explained, "See that over there? That's a mayonnaise maker, and that beside it can spin sheep wool into yarn, and that over there makes butter from milk. Oh, and next to it is the cheese maker, too."
"Wow…that's actually…pretty useful stuff," I commented, staring at it all. "Like, farming-stuff."
He blushed a bit. "We had a few villagers in mind."
And I blushed as well.
Needless to say, I dedicated myself to farming all that fall. Jamie gave me weird looks in the street when the percentage of my shipments shot up; how was he supposed to understand that I needed those machines, gosh darn it! Yes, obviously because of the fact that there were useful for farming and all that, but also because I felt that…that he had made them for me.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. I'm a weirdo. And yeah, I won't deny it; not many people would feel the way I did just then about Louis. Looking back on it now, I realize there'd always been something between us, but back then, I didn't really know what to call this fascination with him. We'd only been to one festival together, for Goddess's sake; what kind of infatuation can grow from that?
Or so I told myself.
My persistence came through, and the first day of Winter, I paraded into the Junk Shop and announced, "I'll buy them all."
"You'll do what now?" Michael sputtered.
"All those machines in the corner," I repeated. "I'll buy them all, please."
The storeowner stared at me, speechless, and soon a very curious Ann and Louis walked in. "What's going on, sir?" Louis asked, and Ann nodded.
"She's, uh….she's buying them all," Michael grinned, a disbelieving laugh coming from his lips. "She's buying all those machines!"
"Alright!" Ann exclaimed, giving Louis a high-five. "She's buying them all!"
The scientist looked on at me, stunned, from behind large round glasses. His hand remained in the air, and shaking his head, he smiled. "I'm glad," he spoke softly. "You'll enjoy using them, won't you?"
"Definitely," I replied. "Oh, definitely."
Louis's machines were a blessing that winter season. Honest, they were. Once I'd proudly presented Louis with the results of the mayonnaise maker's maiden voyage, I'd found that it—and all the other machines, actually—were what pushed my profits through the roof.
But you don't care about my finances, so I'll skip all that.
There are a lot of festivals in Flower Bud. I've probably already made that clear, but in winter, they lose that country innocence that makes them so endearing—they become sort of…well…
And that's why when the New Year's festival dawned, I slammed the door in Kurt's face. Not because I was guy-phobic; the opposite, actually. Because I didn't plan to do something like that. At least not with him.
"New Year's is tomorrow."
Louis nodded at my comment as I sat cross-legged on the bottom of the stairs. "Yup, it is," he agreed, fumbling about his tool belt before sighing, "Could you pass me my screwdriver, Jill?"
I passed it to him and continued, "Ann's going with Blue, apparently. I saw her writing the invitation this morning."
"Uh-huh." He tinkered about with the machine and I sighed, crossing my legs.
"You're not…going with anyone, are you?" I asked, my voice squeaking unprofessionally. "Because, you know, I'm just curious."
He wiped the sweat from his brow and grunted as he gave a bolt one more twist. "I don't know, I guess not. The Tool Shop might need some help, seeing as Ann will be busy, and I know it's a festival day, but in case of an emergency—"
"Oh, y-yeah. Totally." I slumped a bit, biting my lip as I shook my head. "In case of an emergency. Yeah."
For some reason, my hands were sweaty, and I folded them in my lap hurriedly. Wait a minute, were they shaking? To my shock, I felt not only my hands trembling in my lap, but my entire body quivering, and suddenly I had a very strong desire to faint. Louis, however, didn't notice my little anxiety symptoms and kept working away. I could swear he was whistling, too.
And knowing that now my face was betraying my embarrassment a little too well, I scampered off with a hasty good-bye.
I started for home, shaking my head as I wiped my hands on my jeans. Geez, since when did I get all fidgety around Louis, anyway? I was acting like Ray when Eve offered him the daily special—namely, like a blubbering idiot. This was how I was supposed to act when Alex smiled and instructed me not to pass out so often, this was how I was supposed to act when Kurt actually softened up in my presence, this was how I was supposed to act when Blue offered to help me farm. But …around Louis? Louis?!
Urgh. At a confusing time like this, a girl needs food.
Perch Inn was a quiet little place in the afternoon; Calloway Café had started hogging a little of the local lunch-breakers, and while that was bad news for business, it was good for someone like me, who hated noisy crowds. Unfortunately, today Carl had decided to take the day off, and the quiet sanctuary I had been seeking had turned into a mob of hungry villagers. The only table I managed to grab was smack dab by a particularly nosy group of gossipers—though "gossiper" may be a tad harsh of an accusation. Because, hey, who doesn't like to gossip every once in a while?
"So I hear she told him no."
"No way! I don't believe it!" Nina gasped, green eyes widening. "A guy like that? You'd have to be crazy."
Katie shrugged. "Well, that's what I heard. At least, that's what Joe said. She slammed the door right in Kurt's face."
"Wow…I had no idea anyone would do that to him…" The pink-haired maiden shook her head, curls bouncing. "What is she planning to do, skip out on the New Year's festival?"
"Maybe. But seriously, what are her options?" The waitress chuckled, and Nina stared at her at a loss. "I mean, without Kurt, who is she supposed to go with, anyway? Bob?!" At that, they shrieked in laughter. I sighed and turned back to my salad, wondering why they had to go and laugh at someone for turning down Kurt--
Wait a second, Kurt?
Before my mind could fully register that information, a loud slam of plates against the tabletop was heard as a furious voice snapped, "You want a knuckle sandwich with that?"
At the sight of the blonde waitress, both girls shut up pretty quickly, and with a decisive shake of her head, Gwen replied, "Huh, so now you have nothing to say? Well, let me finish up your sentence for you: 'Bob?! That huge freak with the muscles and the tattoo, he's so like ew, gross!' Am I right?"
"Wow, you're all are talkative today," the blonde scoffed, crossing her arms. "Now what? Am I supposed to start making fun of your boyfriends? We could start with Basil's obsession with plants, or maybe Joe's bandana, or maybe we could go pick on Gwen's boyfriend because she actually likes the idea of dating a guy who gives a great bearhug!" Throwing the napkins onto the table, she turned away, her ponytail bouncing. "Get over yourselves. Your opinion doesn't really matter, anyway. Not to him, and not to me."
Cliché, right? Looks don't matter. Opinions don't matter. But you know, things become cliché for a reason, don't they? I guess there's a sliver of truth in every cliché. But after hearing Gwen's little spiel, I began to mull over this Louis situation.
How we met. How thrilled I was to see him again on accident. How anxious I became to see him at Ann's. How I bought all those machines. How I got excited when those machines broke down. How I started shaking when talking to him about a single festival.
When considering all those memories, I realized one important thing: I hadn't thought about his looks once. I didn't care that he didn't have Kurt's muscles, or Kurt's moody nature, or Kurt's grasp on poetry, or what have you. In fact, I didn't care about Kurt. I never, ever had—but Louis, Louis had been someone I'd looked forward to seeing, to spending time with.
"Um…is this the Junk Shop?"
I twirled the phone cord in my fingers, biting my lip as I heard his voice answer, "Why, yes it is. Louis speaking; may I help you?"
Yeah, could you totally just go to a romantic festival with me? Because as of five minutes ago, I've decided I really, really like you. And the festival is starting tonight, so no pressure or anything, but you need to decide ASAP.
"L-Louis, uh, could you just, uh…" Crap. I was talking to a scientist while using the vocabulary of a five-year-old.
"…Ma'am, are you alright?"
"Um, I'm Jill! This is Jill!" I explained. "I'm, well, you see—my, uh, my—"
"You're what? Wait, is everything okay? Something didn't happen, did it?!" his panicked voice blared through the phone.
"No, no! Not exactly," I assured him. Great. Now I'd made him just as freaked out as me.
A long pause lasted before Louis said, "So, uh, why are you calling?"
"Weeeeell," I began, twirling the phone cord once again. "You, that is, uh, my—"
This shouldn't be difficult. It's an easy sentence: "Will you to the festival with me?" Or maybe it could be even simpler: "I like you." Subject, verb, object. Simple grammar, right? And it wasn't like my life would be over if he said no, would it? So this should be easy—I just had to speak clearly into that phone and say:
"My cheese maker broke down again."
Way to go, Jill. Way to go.
So here I am, in the barn, watching as the object of my affections messes around with a perfectly-functioning cheese maker. He squints one more time as bends down, calling, "You sure the problem's under here?"
"Uh, maybe." I shrug. "You're the mechanic, not me, right?"
He straightens up, scratching his head of shaggy hair in thought. "You know," he admits, "if you didn't tell me this was busted, I'd think it was working just fine. What exactly wasn't working, again?"
What indeed? "The, um, the knob thingy," I explain, pointing to some shiny object under the huge machine. "I think it's busted."
"…First of all, that's a switch. Second of all, it's perfectly fine." Louis pushes up his glasses and raises an eyebrow at me. "Maybe it'd help if you showed me how it wasn't working."
"Put some milk in there."
Oh, wonderful. Simply wonderful. Let's do the logical thing and expose my big fat lie, Mr. Mechanic. So of course, I'm pulling out a bottle of milk and chucking it into the machine, and sure enough, a nice wheel of cheese pops out. "Hey look, you fixed it!" I grin, hoping I look like the airhead I am.
Louis, however, is crossing his arms, eyebrow still raised. "Just as I thought--it's working fine. So I suppose I'm not needed here after all."
"Wait, you're just going to leave?" I muster up my puppy-face, and wielding its pouty power, I say, "But you just got here! I mean, wouldn't you like to, I don't know, hang out for a bit?"
Great, Jill—you've even got some whine to go with that cheese you're holding.
He's hesitating a bit, and looking at me and my puppy-face, he says, "Well, I'm sure Micheal would like some help with Ann gone—"
"But it's New Year's, right?"
He blinks those big brown eyes. "Well, yes, but—"
"You don't really want to spend New Year's all cooped up in there, talking about machines and screwdrivers and knobs and whatever else it is mechanics talk about in their spare time, do you?" I insist.
"I suppose, but—"
"Wouldn't you rather spend time with a friend, eating cheese and celebrating the coming of the New Year? I've got a big screen TV, and a refrigerator full of junk food, and even a few kazoos for when it strikes midnight--"
I cease blabbering and hold my tongue, waiting as Louis cocks his head in thought. "Jill, you…you really want me to spend New Year's with you, don't you?"
Someone's a genius. Way to use that scientist brain!
"Yes, Louis, I really want you to spend New Year's with me," I sigh, already regretting all my stupid ramblings about—wait, food? Did I just blabber on about food and big screen TVs? And kazoos?
"That's…well, that's a little funny," he remarks, scratching his head again as he averts my gaze.
I can feel my heart sinking already; funny? Urgh, it was the kazoos, wasn't it? I blame the kazoos.
"I mean, no one's ever asked me to celebrate New Year's with them before."
And suddenly I'm not thinking about kazoos anymore, and I'm turning to him in a mix of shock and surprise. "Seriously?" I exclaim, dumbstruck. "You never celebrated New Year's with someone before?"
He shuffles his feet in embarrassment, murmuring, "Um, yeah. No one's ever asked. I kind of never expected anyone to. To be honest…that Fireworks Festival? The one we accidently spent together? That was the first festival I'd ever shared with anyone, and I mean, you were a total stranger." He blushes. "I never thought that someone would ask me. And I was too scared to ask someone myself."
"If it makes you feel any better," I grin, "rambling about stuff like that isn't easy on me either."
I stand there as a few moments pass in silence. He's looking away, and I'm looking away, but I think it's pretty safe to admit that we both have a goofy grin spread across our faces.
I don't know, I can't really explain it, but I feel like something's going to start. I guess you could say it's already been starting, that ever since that summer festival I sort of knew this day would come. That I'd be blushing, and he'd be blushing, and neither of us would care that I'm holding a wheel of cheese and he's holding a wrench. And we'll go inside, and stay up late talking and eating and waiting for the ball in New York City to drop on the TV screen so that we can whip out the kazoos and blow like crazy. But for now…
"…Your cheese maker wasn't really broken, was it?"
But for now, I'll be content just to watch his smile, because when he smiles, the whole world seems just a little bit kinder, and that little bit makes all the difference.
End Note: Wow. This got long. It kinda veered away from what I was intending, and I didn't like the Gwen scene. And I can't help but think it's a little rushed at the end; this is what happens when you write simply because you're procrastinating on all your other fics. I dunno, it could have been better, but hey, at least the world got a little Louis x Farmgirl action in it. No one ever writes that pairing, you know?