I remember when everything used to be such a big deal to me.
When you're young, you're so innocent and sweet that you can only see fractions of the bigger picture, claiming you know what you're doing and working at that little piece of the picture you've got. You live it, you live for it, and then you realize you've been missing out on what's really important.
Maybe it isn't innocence. Maybe I was just naïve.
Because I remember it all: I remember waking up the second the alarm clock rang and flinging myself out of bed before it could make its second round. I remember hurrying to get dressed…delicately and quickly sliding into the outfit I'd prepared the night before. I remember bolting and tripping my way downstairs, eating the simple breakfast my mother made me every morning, and chewing like I could never chew again just so I could get out the door a split-minute quicker.
I remember pecking my dad on the cheek and then rushing outside—kind of weaving between buildings—as I jammed the key into the building right beside my house. When I pulled the key back out, my hands wringing and itching, I yanked at the doorknob. The instant the door flew open I would feel a sense of happiness and completion I couldn't feel anywhere else. My eyes were met with brand new wooden shelves, a shiny desk and chair set up for me, just me, to sit in, and even a duplicated second floor. Best of all, though, were the mounds and mounds of books, the stories, the tales, and the lives that had been published in those manila pages—emotions only able to be expressed in writing.
This was my library I was seeing. My library. My sanctuary. It used to make me so, so happy. It was my pride and joy…my life, my obsession.
I suppose you're beginning to notice the past tenses here.
Two years later, I sat at the desk in my library, reading a book. Nothing out of the ordinary…but that was just the point: it was all the same. Nothing had changed. I hadn't changed. I was reading about other fictional people's lives more frequently than I was actively living my own. And most importantly, I hadn't found the bigger piece of the picture that could complete me.
Of course, I hadn't realized all this on my own, despite how my father had always praised me on my knowledge and studies—my intelligence, my logic; my mother proud of my analogies, my strategic thoughts, and my sensitive mind. I always believed I was the smartest person in the village. It was true, I was well-read—in more ways than one—but I had help finding my own truth. One person assisted me, reached to me through the darkness I surrounded myself in, dug me up from the sheltered hole in which I resided, and thawed the cold mask that had grown accustomed to my face.
I still blush as I think of it, how he did this all for me. Me, Mary, the small-town librarian, who had nothing to give him in return but a small stock of books and a quiet place to read them at.
Because there was never, ever a reason.
"Hello." That was the only word he said to me as he opened the door to my sanctuary, as he took a step, with double meaning, into my life. He was short-spoken, as was I—and for that, I was very thankful.
At first, things were a bit awkward. I shot him a brief smile, welcomed him, and then returned to the book I cradled, trying to lose myself in it. But for the first time in a very long time, I could not concentrate on those ink-drizzled pages. Instead, I watched as he, unlike many others who visited the library on very rare occasions, quietly settled in with his own book. He sat at a square table pushed up against the wall, his back almost to me, as if he was avoiding me.
I don't know why, but I was curious. I peeked up at him over the top of my book, watched with great interest as he took a long time to take in the words on the pages before turning them, his tan fingers sliding down the page's length before flipping it to the other end of the spine—as if delicately. I found myself absorbed, almost obsessed, with his tiny and precise movements.
I jumped in exaggerated shock when he suddenly pushed his chair out lightly and stood up, an immeasurable amount of time later. The book in front of me collapsed onto the wooden floor, open, on a page I had not marked. My cheeks burned as I sat in uncomfortable silence, staring down at the fallen book, and trying to decide whether or not I should pick it up. I didn't know why it was such a difficult option, why I didn't just scoop down and grab it like I would've if I were all alone.
"I'm sorry, did I scare you?" There was an enormous helping of sarcasm embedded in his deep, boyish voice, but when I looked up at his face, still inexplicably mortified, I saw it suddenly change.
His raised, rough eyebrows descended slowly, shaping his deep blue eyes, which studied me with a new expression. The half-smirk that raised one end of his lips fell, not quite into a frown, but into a contemplative pout. His mood swung from sarcastic to pensive in an instant.
"U-um," I stuttered, my heart pounding in my chest. For some strange reason, I was light-headed. I swept my eyes away from his, already having received more attention than I usually did in a day, and bent over to retrieve the book, but suddenly something warm and rough pressed into the back of my hand. I snapped away out of reflexive unfamiliarity.
"Sorry." He still had that same, rough tone that matched his touch, but it was different somehow. He didn't seem bitter but…sarcastic? I couldn't see his face because his unruly blue baseball cap covered it. It shifted and I didn't look in time to see the book land with a smack on the tabletop.
"Oh," I uttered in dazed alarm. His eyes were still hidden, but his chin was tilted down, staring at the cover of my book. "Thanks," I said, finding my voice, which broke embarrassingly.
He looked up with a snap, and he seemed to share my shyness. The cloud of coldness that had drifted above him had disappeared so quickly. "No problem," he muttered, and he opened his mouth again, as if to say more. But he simply pivoted and stumbled out the door, a quiet "bye" resonating in the still air.
I stared after him, blinking less often than usual, before looking down reflexively. Bold pink Trebuchet MSprintsmiled back at me, spelling the words "How to Write." I collapsed back into the chair, feeling foolish for whatever reason, and wondered why it had caught his eye. Then, in a rush of anxiety, my head jerked and I scanned a pile of lined papers at the corner of my desk, and fortunately, they were turned facedown. My "book."
I took a deep breath, surveying the room for anything out-of-place, and was startled to find it was five to seven: way past closing time. I had never, not in my whole two years, been late closing. I tucked the unprofessional pages of my book into a small drawer and sauntered out before I could allow myself to realize why this was.
That was day one.
The rest of the afternoons were mostly the same, though less eventful, as if dropping a book could count as an event. He murmured hello, then made a beeline to "his" table in the corner, dropping into one of the four chairs tucked into it. Sometimes he left a pile of books there, and instead of merely taking the one on the top, he would shuffle through them and then pick one meticulously, as if they'd been sorted. I continued to be distracted, unable to fully assess the words on the page in front of me, and a few times I'd seen his brow furrow as well. An instinctive part of me believed he felt the same frustrated, unexplained emotions as I did, but another, more realistic part believed he was just very into the book.
But one day, and though I couldn't remember the exact date, it couldn't have been far from the time we met—we had our second conversation.
He was coming into the library, but it was different this time. He did not hold his usual calm, fixed, relaxed expression. The same tranquil air that normally followed him was not present; a smile could not be seen on his face when he entered. In fact, even his "hello" seemed a bit muffled and reluctant.
But like he always did, he trailed off to the table in the corner, and suddenly I felt deeply upset and insignificant. I don't know why; after all, was I expecting him to come to me and tell me everything that happened on the spot? Perhaps it would be that way if he were my close friend, if we talked often, if we uttered any words to each other besides "hello" and "have a nice day." Yet I didn't even know his name, and I doubted he knew mine, so we simply sat in silence, and read—at least, he did.
The lack of answers further frustrated me. I could not read a single page without needing to flip back and reread the previous one to understand the situation. I didn't know why I cared what troubled him, or yearned so badly for him to share his thoughts with me, but I did. And this led to the impossible happening: I asked him what was wrong.
I hadn't heard my own words, but I hoped they hadn't shook or seemed uncertain in any way at all. After all, the worst he could do was simply ignore me, but if I thought about that I would probably just give up altogether, so I kept on hoping.
His head rose slowly, and his eyes seemed wider when he looked at me, so the words must have been adequate.
We gazed at each other for the longest moment, and I thought he would never reply. But before I could look down to hide the tickle of pink spread across my cheeks, I heard the familiar, quietly firm voice I found myself often replaying in my head. "Nothing to concern yourself with; my grandfather's just been a bit of a pain."
Reading so many unrated narratives had left my mind highly creative and overdramatic. Something along the lines of abusive flashed into my mind, but there was not a visible wound on his body, and I pushed the thought away before I could voice it.
"How so?" I pressed on, surprised I could keep my voice levelled. It felt like there was a suction cup at the end of my throat, weakening my words as they escaped.
"Well." He still seemed a bit surprised that I was the one who had initiated conversation, but he continued, carefully. "You see, I'm a…blacksmith, in training, that is, and I'm not very good at what I do." The lack of apparent confidence in his voice surprised me. He had never caught me as conceited with what he did for a living, but he sounded so weak, so derailed,that I was forced to take notice.
"I'm my grandfather's apprentice, basically. He taught me the basics, but he refuses to teach me anything more." His voice went mockingly deep, like a growl, and I jumped infinitesimally. "You're always jumping into everything you try. You'll never fully learn the art of blacksmithing if you're so pig-headed. It took me years, and you think you can master it in days." His voice turned normal again, that same bitter voice I'd heard the first day. "I'll never be good enough for him. I'll never be the same as his son. That's all he's expecting of me; he wants me to be his shadow. He doesn't even bother to get to know me."
I was listening so intently that I hadn't realized this was the end of his rant. I looked up slowly, hating the sadness he felt. "Have you talked to him about this?" I asked quietly. I knew it was over-said, but I couldn't think of any piece of advice that could help him.
"There's no point," he answered flatly. "He thinks he already knows who I am, and what runs through my head. The only thing I can do to change his thick-skulled, biased, senile mind is to be just like my father." I was surprised by the icy tones in his words, and the meanings behind them I was oblivious to.
His face was so furled, so unnaturally angry, that it actually hurt me. "…I'm sorry," I said finally, looking down at my closed book. "It must be hard for you, not having a choice in this. You deserve better."
His features softened ever so slightly. "I only wish my grandfather could understand that too," he sighed.
The quiet that filled the air was no longer awkward and uncomfortable, but appeased. He continued to read his book, seeming much less distracted. I made an effort to open mine back up and continue on, but I had no idea where I left off, and I didn't really care regardless.
"I should get going now," he murmured a few minutes later. He placed his book on top of the pile, not answering my theory of his sorting, and pushed his chair out. I wanted to tell him to wait as he set off slowly for the door, but my throat closed, out of words.
He stopped when he reached the threshold and turned, suddenly shy again. "Thanks for talking to me about this, Mary… I…usually don't talk about this with other people, but it…um, it felt like I could with you." He tugged on the nose of his hat, and I sensed a habit in the making.
"It's—it's no problem, really. I'm happy that you could…talk to me about it." My cheeks tightened; hopefully he didn't notice the double meaning in my words, and the small emphasis I'd put on me.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he reminded me, and took a step outside.
He halted instantly and turned around, eyes curious. "Um…tomorrow's Monday, right?" I asked absentmindedly.
He nodded instead of saying anything, and I imitated his gesture. "We're closed tomorrow…sorry."
"Closed?" For some reason, his noticeable disappoint made my heart flutter.
"Yeah. My father decided he wanted to have weekly family outings now…we're going down to Mother's Hill tomorrow for some fresh air."
"You're going with your family?"
I blinked. "Yes."
He seemed to dwell on that, thoughtful, and a knee-jerk reaction made me spit out more words. "Y-you can come, if you, if you, u-um, want," I mumbled quickly, my words tripping over each other.
There was another small gap of silence, unsaid words sprinting chaotically back and forth in my mind, and I was almost certain he'd reject my invitation.
"Sure." Familiar warmth, warmth present whenever he was, filled my chest. "I'll come by tomorrow morning." With another nod of farewell, he left, his walk light.
I sank into my chair, my heart flapping and dancing. That was when I realized he'd said my name, and I wondered rapidly if he'd been talking about me with someone else. It was an instant feeling of flattery, and then humiliation at what could have been said at my part. The happiness was overpowering and I found myself wallowing in it.
I hopped up from my desk, pushing the chair in with my foot and getting the lights. I would be closing early for the first time in over two years.
A/N: You have no idea what I sacrificed to finish writing this. And you won't know, ever, otherwise you'll probably call me obsessive or something, haha.
The prologue of this story was written a few months ago, but I found myself continuing it when I was leafing through my documents. Also, since they are the most patient, most amazing writers I've ever met and grouped with, and since they are unhealthy lovers (I kid) of Gray x Mary, this is dedicated to Kuruk & The Scarlet Sky. This is probably a threeshot or something along those lines, since I cut it off before it could get too long, so stay tuned.
Lastly, and I swear this is it with my rambling notes, I haven't played FOMT in a long time—in fact, the version I played was hacked, lmfao—but I think Mary hung out at Mother's Hill with her parents on Mondays. Correct me if I'm wrong, because if I am, well, let's play pretend, guys.