It all happened so long ago. And yet I remember it so well.
That day.. I remember it in perfect detail. All was well - I had woken up, early as usual, to daydream by myself in my bedroom. I had always been a bit of a dreamer; Romana delighted in telling me so every day, certain that perhaps, one day, I would accomplish some great feat involving my imagination. Sadly, her eagerness died a few years ago - recently, I haven't been making any effort to do anything; not even to dream.
Dreaming was a fun thing to do, when I was a child. Perhaps I still am a child? I hardly know myself anymore. I used to know myself inside out. After what happened to my parents, I learnt to be strong and learn from my mistakes. I learnt a lot about myself. I thought I knew myself completely. Obviously not.
When Jack came to Forget Me Not Valley, I was but thirteen years of age. I was young, too young perhaps, but I didn't have any friends of my own age. When I still spoke to other people, I would enjoy discussing great musical classics, or books with Sebastian. He would tell me that I had an old woman's head on my shoulders. I took it as a compliment.
Jack was certainly older than me - he never told me his age, but he could not have been older than 25. I didn't mind - infact, I didn't really notice him at first. He was just the new boy, the farm boy, the very generous boy. He was certainly generous - in the Spring of that first year, he would finish his work very quickly and take the time to speak to all of the villagers. Sometimes he would even bring gifts. He was, of course, very popular. Especially with the women of the village.
It was Muffy, beautifully blonde Muffy, who noticed Jack first. I was taking a rare evening walk along the valley river, when I heard them talking. I didn't like to eavesdrop, so I took a sharp cut through Jack's farm. Even though I knew that strolling through someone else's land without permission was far worse than eavesdropping, it did not seem a strange thing to do at the time. Jack's farm did not seem menacing to me in the darkness - of course I wasn't scared of the dark, I never have been; I've been through worse, but unfamiliar surroundings can appear frightening during the hours of nightfall. But Jack's farm, as ridiculous as it may sound, felt like how a home should feel. It felt as if I belonged there - I loved everything about it. Just the smell of it, the hoards of tomatoes growing cheerfully in the fields, the fat cows grazing happily nearby, the chickens clucking eagerly around my feet. It just felt right.
When I reached the manor, I came to suddenly think - was this, this grand mansion, really my home? Were all of these fine luxuries inside these walls of gold precious to me? Or were they simply mere echoes of what could have been a happy life? That was the first night I became confused with myself, the first night, the first time. The first time in a long time.
After that walk along the river, I found myself avidly walking around the valley much more often, hoping for another glimpse of Jack's farm, Muffy, or Jack himself. Why I wanted to see Muffy, I was not sure. It was with my great pleasure that I found, once I walked down the cold cobbled street towards the Blue Bar, Jack, sitting calmly on a clean rug, a basket at his side and some goods strewn out nearby.
"Hello," he smiled, as I walked past. "You must be Lumina, Romana's granddaughter." I smiled shyly back in return, suddenly wishing that I had stayed inside and practised on the piano.
"Hi," I returned the greeting, and, as something to break the ice, picked up a toy flower from a stack of brightly coloured plants nearby "Is this for sale?"
"Yes, it is. It's 10g, but I suppose I could let it go for 9g.. for you,"
I handed over the money graciously, and held the flower gingerly in my left hand. It was a very nice one - I knew it was a toy flower from what Romana had carefully told me about the plants that grew in Forget Me Not Valley. I had always simply presumed that all of the flowers were Forget Me Nots - but when I shared this theory with Romana, she had scolded me.
"Would you like anything else?" Jack was now chewing on a piece of grass, his brown eyes searching around "How about this Ore?"
"Thank you," I nodded "That would be lovely."
"Of course, you can have it for free," he grinned at me, handing it over as he did so.
I shook my head "No, no. That would not be right, please, allow me to pay." I started to rummage around in my shirt for some gold, but Jack reached out and touched my arm, preventing me from taking any out. I raised my eyebrows.
"And why would it not be right?" he looked as if he truly wanted an answer to this, so I took a deep breath.
"Because nothing ever comes for free in life," I smiled tightly "You've got to work for everything, even if you don't want to. Even if it's hard, you've just got to."
"But that's not fair, surely. Not when someone is giving you a present," Jack gently lifted my arm up and opened up my hand. He pushed the ore gently into my palm. My fingers closed automatically around it.
"It isn't my birthday," I said stonily, staring down at the place where Jack's hand had been on my skin moments before.
"I know," he grinned again, and turned away to talk to Nina, who had just appeared from behind the tree.
"Thank you," I breathed, uncertain that he had heard me until he nodded his head slightly in acknowledgment. My hand clenched around the ore and toy flower, and I turned away to walk slowly back up to the manor.
iFive days later.../i
"Lumina, my dear, when on earth are you going to start playing your piano again?"
I looked up to meet the strict stare of Romana, my Grandmother. I automatically folded the page that I had reached in my book, and closed it sharply.
"Don't fold the page like that!" Romana's eyebrows shot up into her hair.
I sighed, and put the book down onto my armchair. It was a sunny day, an early Summer day, and I had not seen Jack once. Not even a glimpse.
"Now, come and sit next to me right here, there's a good girl..."
I sat down next to Romana and began to play, at first wary of Romana's sharp eye taking in every wrong note that I played, but then I began to relax and let the music flow through me...
"Excellent, Lumina, you're playing wonderfully," Romana nodded in approval of me, and I smiled, a proper smile. I iwas/i playing well, better than I had since.. since.. since the accident...
"Ooh!" Romana exclaimed "Sebastian, door!"
Sebastian's bedroom opened almost at once - of course he had probably been passing the day alone in his room, sitting on his bed. He hadn't been himself at all lately, and yet nobody knew why.
As he walked past Romana and myself, he bowed deeply and smiled before opening the front door. I did not look up from my piano - I was used to visitors, usually nosy townsfolk wanting to have a good peer around the manor.
"Why, it's young Jack! And my, Rock too. Come in, come in" Sebastian's voice almost smiled as he saw who was standing at the door. My stomach gave a sickening jolt, and I skipped a few beats of the song I was playing. Romana tutted, and turned to Jack and Rock. What were they doing here, anyway? Rock had never really spoke to me personally before.. but of course, he wouldn't be here to talk to ME. He just wants to have a look around, to eye up the manor and try and sweet talk Romana. It was a known fact that Rock was a plain golddigger.
"Hello Jack, Rock. How lovely to see you both here - do make yourselves at home," she smiled at them both, and then she stood up and turned to me, "Lumina. You play well.. you can play what's written on the score, but you need to play a little more freely."
I winced, and ceased playing at once, hardly noticing as she carefully walked away and retired to her room.
I felt Jack sit down beside me. I didn't look at him, only gazed down at my hands resting on the piano keys.
"I think you play brilliantly," he told me.
I looked at him, "Do you think so?" He nodded, and I sighed, "Piano hasn't been much fun lately. Romana's been on my case. I wonder what it's like to play piano freely?"
"Don't worry - just try harder? It should work, maybe," Jack reasoned.
"I just don't know how I can try any harder!" I confessed, and was surprised to feel a tear sliding down my cheek, "It's just too much for me."
"Don't look so sad," I heard a different voice reply to me. I spun around - I had forgotten that Rock was in the room, too. "I don't really know too much about piano, but why are there things like sheet music?"
"For.. for performing. For singing a song. I can't do that," I heard my voice crack pathetically, and inside I scolded myself.
"That's it! The composers wanted to express their melodies to many other people, and so they made sheet music!" Rock exclaimed, as if he had made the greatest discovery of the century. "It's not mean't for just enjoyment. That's why you're not enjoying playing the piano.. I don't want to see you upset like this."
I looked at him for a moment. How odd. He was talking to me.
"I'll always support you," he told me. I didn't reply - I just watched as he walked past me sitting at the piano, past Jack, to the door - and before he passed through it, he spoke to Jack, "There is a fine line between advice and a lecture."
I frowned - why did he always have to be mean to Jack? He had been spiteful to him ever since he had moved to the valley. Apparently, Jack seemed to think along the same lines.
"Arrogance," he muttered under his breath, and then turned to me "Look, I'm sorry. Maybe I did lecture you - but I have a farmers mind."
"It's okay," I reassured him, staring once again into those very big, brown eyes, "I don't like Rock that much, either."
Jack grinned, "Well, that can only be good news."
I didn't reply, just smiled back at him. The tears had dried now - I couldn't even remember what I had been crying about anyway. Why was I crying when Jack was in the same room as me? Now it seemed like such an impossible feat.
"So, what kind of music do you play?" he started to flip through the scores in front of me, and frowned, "I have no idea what this stuff means. Have you ever thought about composing your own stuff?"
I nodded, "It never works out quite how I plan, though."
"Nothing works out how any of us plan," Jack said quietly, and I raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"It doesn't matter. Well, I better be going.. things to do, crops to water, animals to feed, fish to.. fish," he frowned again at the ineffectiveness of his words, and I giggled. He looked so cute when he was confused.
"I'll come back tomorrow!" he was at the door now, about to step out into the brilliant sunshine.
"That would be lovely."
"And I'll bring fish!"
"Goodbye, Jack," I laughed, and walked over to the door to slam it for him.
Jack DID come back. He came back a lot - almost every single day. At first, he only watched me on the piano, making small, helpful suggestions here and there to try and be of good use. I was grateful for the company - I didn't really have any friends, not since I had to come to live in Forget-Me-Not Valley. I had lost contact with them all a long time ago.
Sometimes, Jack and I would go for walks around the valley. That was nice, to stroll around, next to someone I could pour my heart out to, enjoying the sunshine beating down onto my back…
But the sunshine didn't last forever. Nothing does. Soon it was Fall, and Jack took me to his farm. We had a lot of good times. I even helped him with his work, but even though I enjoyed it immensely, he didn't seem to want me to work too hard - he would approach me with his brown eyes concerned, asking if I was alright after watering just ten or so crops. I would laugh at his over-reactions, and then we would return to his little house for some hot chocolate, or back to the Manor to talk some more.
We made memories, Jack and I - and for them, I thank him. Those memories I can always recall with perfect detail, and I know in my heart that they will never fade.
Three perfect seasons came and went. My affections for Jack grew with each passing day, and I actually felt that he was a good friend, a very good friend. I felt that, perhaps, maybe, definitely, I loved him.
But when Winter came, everything changed. Jack's visits became less and less, and whenever he came, though his visits were still enjoyable, he seemed slightly distant than before. I was confused - especially when he stopped visiting me altogether. I asked Romana if there was something wrong with him - if he maybe had some troubles on the farm - but whenever I tried to talk to her about Jack, she became very tight lipped and quiet. It was as if she was hiding something from me.
I even went to Jack's farm - I knocked on his door, and when he finally answered, his eyes looked blank and unidentifiable; not even remotely like the warm brown eyes I was used to. There was something, hidden behind the blankness, but in that moment, I never really identified it.
I decided to, just for the time being, let him be. He would come back to me, for sure. We loved each other - though we had never admitted it, though we had never kissed, though we had never shown our love in any physical way, we did. Very much so.
At least, I thought we did.
At the end of the year, on a normal, fresh Spring morning, Romana, Sebastian and I had decided to take a quick stroll around the gardens. I personally found this pointless - why restrict yourself to a dignified lawn walk when there was a whole world out there to explore?
Jack appeared around noon. I was surprised to see Muffy with him. They were both beaming, looking very happy. Muffy seemed to almost glow.
When they broke the news, Romana and Sebastian were overjoyed.
I was, quite literally, lost for words. It felt like my heart was breaking, breaking, breaking. I decided that the best thing to do would be to leave, quickly, to run back into the house and lock myself away - to also quite possibly stay there, forever. I couldn't seem to move myself, though. It was like I was frozen into place, punished for my foolishness of believing that Jack loved me by being forced to listen to Romana's congratulations and well-wishings, Muffy's happy, bubbly tone of voice, Jack's warm words.
I could feel the tears running down my face, and I turned to hide them. I didn't realise that everyone had stopped talking until I felt a hand on my shoulder - Jack's hand, I couldn't mistake his hand, it was always so warm, so gentle. I turned quickly to catch a glimpse of his face, to just see, to glimpse those brown eyes once more before he said his vows and was forever untouchable to me.
I stared into them, and I didn't see the blankness that I had seen a few days ago. I didn't see a broken heart. I didn't see sadness, or sympathy. What I did see, was pity; and I couldn't bear it.
The wedding I did not attend.
That was six years ago - I still see Jack to this day - I've seen his son, too, and he of course looks just like Muffy, with the startlingly honest characteristics of Jack. I know this, because Jack invited me to his farm one day in the early Spring. Perhaps he held himself personally responsible for what had happened. But it wasn't the same. I couldn't bear seeing Muffy, happy with Jack. My Jack.
I like to wander around by the farm nowadays, just pass by it, pretending that I'm visiting the Spring. I stroll past casually, as if in a dream…
I didn't get what I had hoped for. But I could still pretend.
Because I was a dreamer.
And what do dreamers do best?
They dream, of course.