An idea I thought up a while ago… I was 13, so… that makes it… counts on fingers… One year ago! Ahahahaha… '
Also, I don't think Kai is in town for the Starry Night Festival, but I put him in anyway. And I know its more of a family event, but I made it more public (set in Rose Square) because that game was lacking a really romantic festival!
Claire smiled and rubbed away the goose bumps that were forming on her upper arms. She shifted her position on the bench, idly swinging her legs back and forth, doing her best to look like she was having a good time.
In truth, she felt extremely awkward. Watching the happy couples laughing and dancing, the older women gossiping, the older men launching into rounds of raucous singing after one drink too many… Even Mary's boyfriend from Forget-me-not Valley had travelled to Mineral Town for the occasion. She was the only one there alone.
Plus, she was starting to feel a little silly in her dress. It was nothing fancy, just plain lilac, tight fitted at the top, then floating out from the waist, but it was far from the comfortable, if sloppy, clothes she was accustomed to. And the lack of sleeves meant the slightly chilly breeze was getting to her. She was seriously considering slipping away inconspicuously when nobody was watching. She doubted anyone would notice her absence anyway. They were all having far too much fun.
"Hello, Mrs Farmer. Sorry, Grandpa says I'm not to call you that." Came a little voice from somewhere behind Claire's billowing skirt.
"Oh, hi May." Claire smiled, smoothing down her unruly dress. "And I don't mind you calling me that. I am a farmer after all! Though not a 'Mrs' yet."
"Not a Mrs?" May tilted her head to one side like she always did when she was confused.
"Well, a Mrs is what you call someone who is married, you see?" Claire explained. "If you're an unmarried woman, you're a 'Miss'."
"Miss… Farmer?" Said May.
"Yes, May? What is it?" Claire shook her head. "I'm sorry, I interrupted you when you wanted to talk to me."
"Um…" May frowned. Claire was strange. She was always apologising, and half the time May didn't even know what she was apologising for. "Are you here all alone?"
"Ah… Yeah, I am." Admitted Claire. "I must be mad, coming to The Starry Night Festival on my own. It is for couples, after all."
"Like girlfriend and boyfriend?" Asked May.
"Yeah." Said Claire. "So, are you here with your Grandpa?"
"And Stu, too, right?"
May scowled and shook her head vigorously.
"No! I was, but no any more!" May pouted. "He's not my boyfriend!"
Claire started to laugh, which made May even angrier.
Claire stopped immediately.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to upset you." She said in a concerned voice.
May couldn't help but smile. It was impossible to stay mad at someone like Claire. She was like a big sister, kind and caring, the sort of person who would hold your hand when you crossed a busy road and teach you how to tie your shoelaces properly.
"It's ok. I'm not really mad, Miss Farmer!"
"Gray?" Stu tugged at the bottom of Gray's jacket. Gray didn't respond.
"Gray?" Stu repeated, talking a little louder and tugging a little harder.
"GRAY?!" Stu was yelling by now.
Just ignore him and he'll get bored and go away…
Stu didn't seem to be getting bored.
"FOR GOD'S SAKE, WHAT?!" Gray finally cracked.
Oh, why had Gray allowed his Grandpa to force him into coming? He wasn't exactly known for his social skills, so to speak. Standing there all alone while everyone else was having a good time was so humiliating. And now he had kid, who seemed to be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, lingering in his shadow.
Ok, Gray. Remember what they taught you at School… Take a deep breath and count to ten. He's just a kid. Kid's have lots of energy like that… It's not his fault…
"Gray, are you lonely on your own?" Said Stu energetically. "I'll hang out with you and keep you company!"
Gray ground his teeth together and clenched his fists.
Must… stay… calm…
"I don't need company. You go back to your sister." He said as patiently as he could.
"I can't. She's with the Doctor." Stu pulled a face and put on a high-pitched, girly voice.
"Oh… well then…" What else could he say to get rid of him? As much as Stu got on his nerves, he didn't want to ruin Elli's date.
"All grown-ups are ever interested in is love. Yuck!" Stu pretended to be sick. "You're the same, Gray!"
"How am I the same?" Said Gray, frowning.
"I've seen you, always drooling over Claire!"
"C-Claire?" Gray cursed himself for faltering. "She just goes to the blacksmiths a lot because of her work. It doesn't mean I…"
"Imagine being in love with Claire! Yuck, yuck, yuck!" Laughed Stu, bouncing around crazily.
"Wh-wh-what's wrong with Claire?!" Gray demanded.
"She's a farmer. Men are farmers!" Said Stu, shrieking with glee.
"W-well, obviously not, if Claire's one!" Gray hated himself even more. Despite his harsh attitude, he was terrible at disputes. He would start stuttering and could never think of a witty comeback, and when he did it came too late and was by then unworthy of being labelled a quip.
Stu just laughed even more, wrapping his arms around himself and making silly smoochy noises.
"Oh, Claire, I loooove you!" He said in a gruff 'Gray' voice. The, switching to a soft high 'Claire' voice, he said "Oh, Gray, I loooove you too! Mwa Mwa!"
"St-stop that!" Gray snapped, grabbing Stu by the wrist, hating the fact that he had been reduced to a stuttering, blushing mess by such childish antics.
"Oww! Gray, you're hurting me!" Whined Stu, writhing dramatically.
"Ah… Sorry." Gray released him, ashamed of himself for losing control.
"Jeez… why'd you have to get so angry about it, she is your girlfriend…" Stu muttered, rubbing his wrist.
"Stu…" Gray began to feel guilty. Had this all been a misunderstanding? "Claire… she's not my girlfriend."
"Really? But! But! You're always hanging out and stuff!" Stu protested indignantly. "And you get so nice around her! Not like with everyone else, you're always grumpy!"
"Ahh…" When Gray thought about it, it was easy to see how someone as young as Stu could mistake Claire for his girlfriend. They were together a lot. But just as friends! Nothing more!
I mean… Claire could never fall in love with someone like me…
Did he get nicer around her? Gray had never really noticed. He supposed he did laugh a lot more around Claire. She was a bit shy, but she was funny too. When he was around her, the fact that he was stuck in the boonies didn't seem so bad. Claire could always put a bright face on a situation. She made the once boring and dead Mineral Town a pretty good place to live, actually.
Gray was suddenly grateful for the evening darkness, because it masked the fact that he had turned very, very red.
Gah, what is wrong with me?! I've been getting like this a lot recently… I must be coming down with something…
"So… you're not going out, then?" Asked Stu.
"N-No… not… not going out."
Dammit, Gray, will you take control of your tongue already?!
"Well, that stinks!" Said Stu huffily, obviously disappointed. Then his eyes grew wide and he turned and sprinted away as fast as he could. He'd just had a brilliant idea! But before he put it into action, he needed to talk to May…
"Hi Stu. Sorry, I can't be with you any more because this is a festival for couples." Said May primly.
"Whatever! Come on!" Said Stu impatiently, seizing her arm and pulling her beneath the large buffet table.
"Stu! You're ruining my dress!" May wailed in protest.
"Shush!" Stu pressed a finger to his lips. "We're on a mission!"
May smiled. However much she hated to admit it, Stu's 'missions' were actually enjoyable, like the time they had to sneak into the Poultry Farm and scavenge an egg each without being caught.
"Ok, what's the mission, Captain?"
"Our mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get Gray and Claire to go out!" Whispered Stu excitedly. He usually couldn't stand all this lovey-dovey business, but Gray was his hero, and he didn't want him to be all alone at the festival! That just wasn't right- such a cool person not having a girlfriend!
"Go out? You mean, like a 'couple'?" May asked happily. Unlike Stu, she was fond of romance.
"Yeah, something like that." Accepted Stu. "Now, how to do this… Any ideas, Lieutenant?"
"Well, here's what I think we should do…"
Claire sighed as another song started- a more romantic one. Maybe it was time she went home…
"Um, Miss Farmer?" May came shuffling over.
"What is it, May?"
"I was trying to dance, but I can't do it properly to the music like everyone else. It's not fair." May crossed her arms and pouted.
"Oh, well, I know this song, perhaps I could teach you." Offered Claire kindly.
"Oh, would you? Thankyou, Miss Farmer!" Said May delightedly, clapping her hands. Claire was so predictable. Of course her generous nature would compel her to offer May her help. The plan was proceeding perfectly, just as planned.
As May pulled Claire to the centre of Rose Square where the dancing was being held, she gave an inconspicuous wink in Stu's direction. Seeing the signal, Stu left to activate the second part of the plan.
Gray sighed tiredly. Why was he still here anyway?
"What do you want?" He asked.
"I was looking for May, but I can't find her." Said Stu.
Gray opened his mouth to share his 'wisdom', when Stu interrupted with:
"I asked my Sis, and she told me to ask you for help instead."
Gray seethed inwardly, not quite believing Elli would foist off her responsibilities to him like that.
"Come on!" Urged Stu, and before Gray could protest, he snatched his arm and dragged him away.
"Ok, so you put your left foot here, and…"
Stu bounded over to May and Claire, dragging behind him one very annoyed Blacksmith's Apprentice.
"I finally found you!" Stu cried. His performance would rival even the most experienced of thespians.
"Hi Stu! Hi Mr Blacksmith! Miss Farmer was just teaching me how to dance." Said May, determined to out-act Stu.
"Hi guys." Said Claire, giving Stu a small friendly wave, and smiling gently at Gray.
"Hi, Claire!" Grinned Stu.
"Hey…" Gray smiled almost nervously.
"Stu, I can dance now!" Interrupted May. "Let me teach you!"
May took Stu's hand and began to lead him away, but stopped.
"Oh, but now Miss Farmer's all alone with nobody to dance with…" She said.
"I-It's ok, I was going to leave anyway…" Said Claire, shyly.
"I know!" Cried Stu enthusiastically. "Since Gray's here, she could dance with him instead!"
"M-Me?" Gray blurted out incredulously.
"N-No… I don't know how…" Stammered Gray. Curse his tendency to blush!
"It's ok, I'll teach you." Said Claire, taking his hand and pulling him back, stopping his hasty retreat.
Rats! Why couldn't she see that he really didn't want to do this? Delicacy wasn't a talent needed to be a Blacksmith's Apprentice. In truth he was terribly clumsy. He would probably step on her foot or trip and fall and make a complete idiot of himself. And he didn't want to embarrass Claire.
"C-Claire…" However, he could never refuse her. "…All right, what do I have to do?"
Claire smiled so that her whole face lit up.
Gray smiled back, wondering why he'd suddenly got a very funny feeling in his stomach.
"Right, the starting position…" Began Claire. "You put your right hand here…"
She guided Gray's hand down so that it rested at her waist, just above her hip. Gray swallowed. Why did it have to be there?
"And I put my hand here…" Claire layed her hand on his shoulder. "And… Yeah, we join our left hands… yeah." She said, taking his hand in hers. Gray had to pull it free and wipe it on his trousers before joining hands with her again. It probably made him look pretty stupid, but he was so nervous he couldn't help it.
"And the footwork is really easy… Even I can do it, ahahaha…" Claire giggled apologetically. "Ok, here's what you do…"
May and Stu giggled as they watched Gray and Claire dancing. Or trying to.
Claire, with her petite frame, was graceful as she glided across the ground. Gray on the other hand, was a complete klutz. Clare was being very patient, carefully explaining the technique, and not complaining once as Gray stumbled along helplessly, mixing up his rights and his lefts.
"Sorry." Mumbled Gray for the near twentieth time, his eyes glued to the floor and his cheeks burning.
"N-No, it's my fault…" Claire lied feebly. "I'm just not a very good teacher… Tip me back now…"
Gray did so, praying he wouldn't drop her.
"Now what?" He asked.
"Um…" Claire blushed and looked away. "I… I've forgotten. S-Sorry."
"N-Never mind." Said Grey, hastily helping her up, just glad it was over. He was making a fool of himself, and being so close to Claire was making him feel very odd indeed. "I'm no good at it, anyway…"
"No, you did great for a beginner. I used to dance as a child, so…" Claire shrugged. The two of them made their way to the bench at the side of the Square.
Claire sighed happily. It was such a beautiful night, and being with Gray made it all the better.
"So," She said. "How's your work going?"
"A lot better, actually." Gray smiled. He was a terrible liar, so when Claire usually asked how work was going, he would just shrug, which Claire learned meant: Rubbish. I left the metal in the furnace too long so the tool melted. Then I took it out too fast, so it didn't have time to cool, so Grandpa yelled at me, making me jump. I burned my hand and by the time I'd gotten the tool in the water it was just a lump of copper. I'm such an idiot.
Or something along those lines.
"That's great, Gray!" Congratulated Claire. "Hey, look."
She tugged at the neckline of her dress, to which was pinned a small brooch.
"Y-You actually wore that?" Said Gray disbelievingly. Yep, it was the brooch he made her. It was the first time he'd tried making something so small a delicate, and it didn't go so well. He'd made over ten attempts, and the clumsy silver thing that was pinned to Claire's dress had been the best result. He'd been embarrassed to give it to her, afraid she would hate it, or simply laugh in his face, but to his surprise Claire seemed to adore the small travesty.
"What? Of course I wore it, silly! You went to all the trouble of making it for me, the least I can do is wear it." Claire smiled.
"Ah… it was nothing." Said Gray, scratching the back of his neck. "I mean, I work with metal all the time, and I thought I could try something new, and since you're my friend I thought…" Gray trailed off into silence as he gazed into Claire's wide, ocean blue eyes. "Uh… I'm sorry, what was I saying?"
"Oh, Gray!" Claire giggled, then burst into peals of warm laughter. At that moment, Gray suddenly noticed how stunningly beautiful Claire really was. With her long flowing blonde hair, her cheerful blue eyes, her porcelain skin and dainty frame, she really did look like an angel. The floaty dress only added to the effect. Gray could almost see the light emitting from her like some ethereal being.
"Ah! I-I gotta go for a sec, Claire!" Gray suddenly blurted out, then stood up and walked away very quickly. He refused to call it running.
"Ahh… phew…" Sighed Gray when he was safely on the opposite side of the Square, his head still light, his heart still hammering inside his chest and his face still ridiculously beetroot red.
What the hell just happened to me? Stupid, stupid, stupid!
"Mr Blacksmith?" Piped up a little voice. May. She had seen him leaving and began to worry that their mission wasn't running as smoothly as they'd hoped. "You left Miss Farmer all alone."
"No… No I didn't… I just needed to be on my own for a bit." Said Gray. He supposed he liked May a little bit more than Stu. She wasn't as hyper.
Argh! What is it with kids and the word 'why'?
"Because… It's a grown-up thing…" Said Gray, hoping that would solve his problems.
"What's a grown up thing, Mr Blacksmith?" Asked May.
"You'll understand when you're older." Sighed Gray.
May had a feeling she understood a lot more than Gray now.
"It's this 'couples' thing, isn't it?" She said in a very worldly-wise way.
Gray swallowed and said nothing.
"Mr Blacksmith…" Said May, tugging at his sleeve. "are you in love with Miss Farmer?"
"Miss…? You mean Claire? Well…" Gray chewed his lip uncertainly.
"Come on, Mr Blacksmith, I won't tell anyone!" Giggled May teasingly.
"Ah, I…" Could he really trust this little girl? "Well, it's not like she could ever love me…"
"That's not true! You and Miss Farmer make a wonderful couple!" Cried May determinedly.
Gray felt the fire re-kindled in his cheeks. He looked unsurely at May.
"You... You think so?" He said.
"Of course!" Insisted May. "Miss Farmer is definitely in love with you!"
WHAAAAAAT?? No Way!! She… she couldn't possibly… could she?
"You're… You don't know what you're talking about." Whispered Gray. He couldn't manage much more, because his mouth had suddenly turned uncomfortably dry.
"I do! She is deeply, deeply in love with Mr Blacksmith! You two were meant to be!" May cried dramatically.
"Stop it! It's not funny to make fun of people like that." Said Gray, angry because he was blushing and couldn't stop.
May looked hurt.
"I-I wasn't making fun of you…" She sniffled. She sounded like she was about to cry. "I really do think… Miss Farmer likes you…"
"What if… she really does…?" Gray murmured to himself. Then "May!"
May flinched, as if he were going to scold her.
"Sorry for snapping at you. And that dress really suits you." Gray smiled genuinely, squatting down to May's level.
"Th-Thanks, Grandpa made it for me." Said May shyly, instantly perkier.
"I gotta go take care of some grown-up business now, all right?" Said Gray.
"Are you going to see Miss Farmer?" Asked May hopefully.
Gray scratched his cheek nervously.
"Yeah, I suppose…" He said, grinning stupidly.
"Yay!" Cheered May. "Good luck, Mr Blacksmith."
"Thanks, May." Smiled Gray. "And call me Gray."
Claire couldn't help feeling a little disappointed. Why had Gray run off like that? Didn't he want to be with her? Like she wanted to be with him?
"H-Hey Claire?" Said a voice. "Sorry I left like that… I just had something too take care of."
"Ah!" Claire looked up happily. "It doesn't matter Gray!" She could never bring herself to be cross with him.
"Hey, I know I'm rubbish at it and all, b-but I was thinking we could…" Gray glanced over at the centre of Rose Square.
"Oh! I see! O-Ok, lets try this again, then…" Said Claire, getting up and dusting herself off before she and Gray joined the other couples.
"Do you remember the position?" She asked.
"Yeah, I think so… I put my hand h-here, right?" Said Gray, hesitantly placing his right hand at Claire's waist.
"Y-Yes, that's right…" Said Claire shyly, placing her hand on his shoulder. "A-And then we…"
"Y-Yeah, th-there…" Said Gray, taking Claire's hand in his.
"You remember the footwork?"
"Ok, lets try this again…" Said Claire, giggling.
Actually thought Gray this isn't so bad once you get used to it…
They practised the same short routine over and over, so that they both knew it backwards (though Gray sometimes still faced backwards if Claire didn't keep an eye on him).
"See! You are good at it!" Said Claire. "You should have more faith in yourself, Gray."
"Nah, it was you… I mean, you taught me." Said Gray modestly. "Actually… you're the one who made me improve in my work, too."
"Nonsense! You were the one doing the training, not me!" Claire argued, secretly quite flattered. "T-Tip me back now…"
Gray did so, more confidently this time, since he didn't drop her the last time. He looked down at Claire. She looked up at him. And suddenly the rest of the world disappeared, and it was just them, in their own private, perfect world.
"Ah… I remember the ending now." Claire whispered.
Claire tilted her head up. Gray bent his down. Their lips met somewhere in the middle.
From beneath the buffet table, May and Stu grinned and gave each other the thumbs up sign.
It was getting late, and soon the wind would be too cold for anyone to stay out. Thomas, Gotz and Harris were bustling about, doing their best to tidy everything away and chase off the love struck couples.
Claire had already already bid Gray goodbye, and was about to leave herself when she felt a gentle tug at her skirt.
"Hi, Miss Farmer, did you have a nice time with Mr Blacksmith?" Asked May, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.
"Yes, I did." Claire smiled softly at the tired girl. "Thanks, May."
"Thanks for what?"
"You know what." Claire raised her eyebrows knowingly at May. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone."
May smiled gratefully. She'd be demoted for sure if Stu found out someone had infiltrated their mission!
"Goodnight, Miss Farmer."
Claire waved goodbye as May scurried over to her Grandpa, yawning and complaining that she wasn't tired yet.
MISS Farmer… Claire thought maybe… not for much longer.
For those who are wondering, Mary's boyfriend from Forget-me-not Valley was Jack, the farmer you can play as.
It's no masterpiece, but I'm actually rather proud of this story. Did you like it? Did you hate it? Will you let me know? Hopefully!