Note: Formal wording and sappiness abound ahead! Y'know, I'm shocked I haven't done any HM 64 stuff before, because I loved that game to death. Still do. Maria was the cutest little bachelorette in the world, and I loved all the festivals and the cut scenes and—!
We interrupt Scarlet's rambling to provide you with the more important disclaimer, reminding you that The Scarlet Sky does not, actually, own Harvest Moon. (Bummer.)
Words are probably the single most powerful tools in the world. How would anyone remember a war, if it weren't for those who documented it? Petrarch's love poems for his dearest have lasted so long, his love has truly never died. And it'd be silly to expect that in a hundred years or so, Romeo and Juliet will have stopped their star-crossed folly.
However, in a hundred years, someone may have forgotten Maria the librarian and her crush on the new farm boy. Because, at this rate, nothing will happen worth documenting at all.
It's shameful, I know. Terribly shameful. Some days, he walks in and it's all I can do to stammer out a hello and blush as red as a tomato. The whole library is filled with the scent of earth, sweat and toil whenever he enters, and I can't help but cringe at the scents he's probably tasting—namely, the dusky old smell of yellowing books. From time to time he'll come to me and ask for a book on farming, and I'll say, "O-oh, right this way, Mr. Jack," all the while piecing the words into my head I should be saying:
Certainly! I didn't know you were an avid reader, Jack! Why, I love it when people can read; so few people come here, you know, and I'm happy whenever anyone stops by. Especially you.
"Is this all you have?" Jack will insist, frowning. And being the mousy creature I am, I mumble that I shall order more soon, and that I do hope he's not too inconvenienced.
But there are some other books, if you're interested. I'd be happy to help if I can. Anything for you, Jack. Just say the word.
The door closes behind, as always, and my breath leaves in one great tidal wave of disappointment as I cover my face with my hands. "Maria, you absolute imbecile," I moan. "You complete and utter fool."
And despite myself, I keep thinking tomorrow will be different, even though both my inner optimist and inner critic know it's going to be exactly the same.
Nothing will change, and nothing new will be written.
"Top of the morning to you, Miss Maria!"
Today, as expected, is no different; just as always, Harris's smiling face greets me as I leave my home for work. I push my glasses up the bridge of my nose, and I can make out the dimples in his cheeks as he hands me an envelope, beaming. "Seems you got some mail today."
Well. That isn't particularly ordinary.
I take the envelope in my hands delicately, glancing over its pure white surface. No, it's not for my father, as it usually would be. My mother hasn't been ordering a catalogue, either. My name stares at me in black and white ink, and I blink, searching the corner expectantly. "I—I don't understand. There's no return address."
"Bit odd to want to return an unopened letter, don't you think?" Harris grins. He tips his hat my way, and adds, "Maybe they signed it for you? Could've forgotten the address, I suppose."
My pale finger snaps it open, and I pucker my brow as I unfold the stationary inside. Yes, it's stationary: scented stationary, actually, and if smelling Popuri's flowers has taught me anything, I'm willing to bet it's Pink Kat Mint. I squint to read the lettering, and soon my whole body has turned light as a cloud and I can't stand on my own.
"Who sent this?" I whisper, eyes wide. "Harris, who did you—?"
"I just found it in the mailbox," he shrugs. "Why, what is it?"
But I am not willing to share this mysterious gift, and I hold it close to my heart, stunned into silence. For, whatever this could be, it certainly wasn't anything I had ever expected of myself, and certainly not anything I'd ever thought to respond to.
"A secret," I murmur, true in more ways than one. "That's all."
For this simple letter means much more than any ordinary words. So, so much more.
Not all the words in the world could convey how I feel when I stare into the depths of your eyes, or how when the blush creeps into your cheeks it's as radiant as any sunrise. Forgive me if I may be so bold, but I have never seen such a fair maiden, nor do I ever intend to see anyone as lovely as the likes of you. If I were Shakespeare, I would write you a sonnet. No, I'd write you not one sonnet, but thousands, for one mere poem could express only a drop of water in the sea of my love. If I did not fear voicing these feelings so utterly, I would tell you now, and brave your hypnotizing stare. Yet I must tell you, for I cannot bear you living and breathing without knowing my love for you. So I, ever the coward, write you this letter.
Adieu, fair maiden, until we meet again.
Mother has been calling me to dinner for hours, but I cannot seem to pry myself from my window seat as I read the letter just once more, watching the sun light up the words for a second longer just to feel the rush through me again. It's an absolutely exhilarating sensation: terrifying, flattering, and curious all at once. I perch my pen on the windowpane, once more fighting to brave the blank paper beside me.
Should I reply?
Heaven knows I want to, but part of me recoils at the idea; he could be some stalker, or this could be some prank. It's not safe to engage in this behavior, certainly not, but…but Goddess, who am I kidding? As precious as these words are, I want to hear them spoken, and how can I see him if I don't reply?
"Maria, dear! Supper's getting cold."
"Just a moment, Mother," I answer, and the ink flies across the page, caution thrown beside it.
I must say, I'm not sure how to reply to such flattery, nor am I sure I'm deserving of it. Yet your words are quite kind, and at the very least, I wish to thank you for filling me with such a warm glow of delight. I've never been spoken to in such a way, and to be honest, yours is the first letter I've received to also mention Shakespeare. If I may pry, what sonnet of his was your favorite? It's a silly question, but I'm afraid it's all that's been on my mind.
Do you, perhaps, also read Petrarch?
"Did he receive it?" I blurt out, my heart ramming against my chest as I wait for Harris to reply. It's absolutely ridiculous to be so worked-up over one little love letter, but oh, it's my love letter! Someone out there spent the time to write me such lovely words, and I so desperately hope he isn't too shy to reply to me. Or, worse, that he has stopped liking me altogether after reading what I've had to say. I freeze in my tracks, and my hand flies to my mouth.
Oh, Goddess. What if he despises Petrarch?!
"Ah! Actually," Harris begins, fumbling in his bag, "there is, uh, something here for you today." It takes all my willpower to refrain from sighing or squealing as he pulls out another spotlessly white envelope and hands it to me, my hands trembling.
I glance up at him from behind wide-rimmed spectacles. "Do you think…?"
"Your letter wasn't there when I went through my usual runs," he assures me, grinning. "If I didn't know any better, Miss Maria, I'd say you had yourself a secret admirer of sorts."
"S-secret admirer?" I sputter, hoping my face isn't burning as red as it feels. "Oh, Harris, d-d-don't be ridiculous! I mean…I…"
It's all it takes to make him burst out in a good-natured guffaw, and I bow my head in embarrassment. "Well, it's not a crime, Miss Maria. In fact, I'm really happy for you," Harris states, starting off again. "Not many girls are lucky enough to have a secret admirer, you know."
"I know," I mumble, grinning like the fool I am.
And then in a very unladylike fashion, I tear the envelope into tiny pieces and recover my prize.
You, too, read Petrarch? It's quite incredible, the love he had for Laura. Hidden, was it not? Written in poetry, but never returned, never voiced. I suppose that's the power of words, isn't it? They are only meaningful for only so long for their writer. Of Shakespeare…Sonnet 73 did in fact catch my fancy. I take it then, Miss Maria, that you are a poet? If I, once again, may be so bold, would you mind sharing some prose with me?
I have to know him.
I sit in my library all day, staring at the door, breathlessly running all the bachelors in the village through my mind. To be sure, the whole process takes little more than a few minutes; you could count them on both hands. Rick, I'm certain, is far too preoccupied with his work to take such a fancy to me, and besides, I barely see the boy.
Yet all this…careful wording…speaks of someone with more education than Gray, the farmboy, or Cliff, the nomad. Certainly more than Kai, the worker at the winery. But I suppose I know the three of them so little, I could very well be wrong. At any rate, none of them would favor me, I'm certain. Goodness, they practically never see me!
I nearly jump out of my skin at my name, and my visitor smiles at me easily. "Hey, didn't mean to interrupt. Just looking for a book on farming today, is all." Jack glides over the shelf I'd shown him yesterday, and he frowns. "Nothing new?"
"N-n-n-nothing at all."
Jack. Good Goddess. Jack.
I study him as he moves about my territory, how his handsome features scrunch together as he concentrates on all these book titles. His hand brushes against a collection of Robert Frost, Moby Dick, and a few tutorials on raising livestock. Finally, he pauses on a single copy of another book—one about, oddly enough, festivals.
"You guys celebrate a lot of festivals here, huh?" he comments, raising an eyebrow.
"Do you mean—I-I mean, we do." I try very hard to make myself invisible, my inner voices fighting. How could Jack, this amazing man, give a girl like me more than a second glance? What did I possess exactly to make him look past all the stuttering, the blushing, the nervousness, and see…beauty?
Then again. A man like Jack, shy? Too shy to say such a thing to me?
I shake my head. How conceited, to think of such a thing! No, certainly not. It's not Jack. It's not.
Jack weighs the book in his hand and sighs. "So, I guess, when a guy asks you to dance, you have to, right?"
"Well then." Jack places it back swiftly and smiles. "I guess I'll be needing to find a partner then, won't I? Bye, Maria. Tell me if you get another farming book."
My pulse races, my thoughts all conflicting. It's not him. No, it can't be. No no no. But what was this just now? This…this festival hinting. This constant desire for books on farming—how much does one need to learn about growing seeds, anyway? Perhaps he's my admirer. Perhaps not.
I catch myself still staring at the door, and I blush, flustered.
But I wish it was him, don't I?
"This letter business is getting to your head, Maria," I tell myself, but even so, I grab a pen and begin the search for stationary.
To my fellow poet,
I must warn you that I have no training, and that therefore I'm sure to lose some of your affections through my verse. However, since you asked so nicely and were so kind as to answer my own questions, I will oblige:
How softly does a petal fall
Upon a glassy lake:
A fairy's boat propelled by leaf,
Ripples in its wake.
Let not the rain fall down tonight
For the fairies on their quest.
Sun, light their way unto the stars
So immortals, too, may rest.
You are perfectly free to laugh at me now; it's for a children's book I'm writing. I've been at work on it for quite some time, admittedly. Now, however, the gauntlet has been thrown down: I expect to receive a poem from you shortly. If you find this infinitely amusing (as well you should), at least give me the courtesy of being able to have equal game with your own art.
This is slightly off-topic, (and bold of me, for once) but have you given any thought to this season's festival? I certainly have.
"You, Maria, are one popular girl these days."
"And you, Harris, are one popular mailman."
We two stand at our usual place, him holding my treasures and I eagerly awaiting them. It's incredible how much joy can seep through you when the very messenger of your goodwill comes into view, just how desperately happy you become. Today, I am simply beside myself with impatience, and Harris's good-natured chatter is only swirling about in a buzz of annoyance in my mind. Finally, he brings out the long-awaited envelope, and I force myself to refrain from lunging and tearing it from his hands.
"So things are getting serious between you and this fellow, huh?" Harris comments. I blush; I must not be hiding my impatience as well as I'd hoped.
"He's…so unlike anyone I've ever met," I admit, eyes glued on its unopened beauty.
To my complete irritation, Harris doesn't let go. "How so?"
"For once…I'm not the truly shy one. I—I can talk about Petrarch, and Shakespeare, and I'll actually get a reply. I don't need to explain everything; I don't need to keep second-guessing, because he's the one who came to me." I pluck it from his hands finally, unable to stand this a second more. "I'll see you tomorrow, then."
Harris dips his hat in reply and turns, glancing back for brief second. Something sinks within me—guilt?—and I'm not sure why I feel so odd, watching Harris walk away.
Well, I couldn't very well keep talking with him for hours, could I? Surely he understands that.
All the same, I don't feel quite so jubilant as I open this letter, and begin to read my admirer's words.
You are far too hard on yourself. I happened to enjoy your little poem, and I wish you'd asked for something other than my own work to answer with. I don't trust myself to give you my words; they're far too crude, too unpolished. However…I don't know if you're quite thinking right about these festivals. I'm not sure you and I are quite ready to meet yet, especially in such a setting. Not that we haven't met, you and I. I'm sure you have figured out as much on your own. However, if you can guess who I am, and inquire about my festival plans, I'll be certain to say yes. Frankly, I am not ready to come to you myself. Not yet.
Jack has been standing in my library for a good twenty minutes, and this entire time, about fifty possible conversations have danced in my head. Assuming he is my admirer, he'll be certain to say yes if I ask him to be my partner at the festival, but assuming he isn't…well. Not everyone is quite so enamored with a bespectacled librarian.
He straightens up, and a pang of fear jumps through me as I assume he's leaving. To my utter relief, Jack is merely looking at the next shelf, and pulling out another book. Be Petrarch, I will him silently. Give me a sign, please!
I crane my head towards him, and I make out three words on the book's binding: The Farmer's Manual. Oh, blast it all! This fellow isn't helping matters at all. My hands latch onto my counter, hot and sweaty, and I try once more to muster my courage.
Oh, Jack, do you still need a partner? What a coincidence, so do I!
I swallow a lump in my throat and shake my head. I can't do this.
Since you're new to town, I thought I'd offer to go to a festival with you. We could be dance partners!
Jack idly flips a page and frowns. Oh, Goddess, I can't do this.
But I have to. I simply must.
He glances up at me, and I swallow once more, my throat dry with fear. "Yeah?"
My whole body shakes, leaning this way and that as the world spins about me. "I—I—f-f-f-festival—go—m-m-me—t-t-t-together—couple!" I blurt out, all the words blurring together in a horrible, tangled mess. How ironic, for a writer to lose control of her own words.
"Wait, what's this about a festival?" Jack asks, coming closer. My heart beats with each step he takes, faster and faster until I can't count them any longer. "Are you…asking me to a festival, Maria?"
I nod, my tongue clay.
Jack pauses, and he glances over my beet-red cheeks and trembling lip to meet my terrified stare with a smile. "Well. I guess I'll just have to accept, then. I can't very well say no, can I?"
My Goddess, it is him!
I stare at him, and I suddenly wonder if the sun and moon were made to revolve around this man who can wield a hoe and a pen with magnificent ease, whose smile can charm all the stars in the sky, and whose voice sounds like velvet in my ears.
"I'll see you there, then," I whisper, and I cannot keep from smiling.
I do not write a letter today. Nor do I plan to. This morning has been spent sewing the finishing touches on my old gown, erasing all the holes and worn hem from view. I've pricked my finger a few times daydreaming to myself, but how can I hold a needle steady while imagining the gentle sway of Jack's hands as we glide across the village square?
"Are you ready to leave, darling?" my mother asks me, and I nod, finally finished with this dress that's taken me five dreams to sew. I put extra effort into my bun, leaving my glasses behind me as I start for the festival, awaiting my own prince with the eagerness of a silly schoolgirl.
Normally at these festivals, I feel so silly and clunky next to the graceful Karen, or perhaps the charming Popuri. Ann and Elli always have to reassure me, tell me I look lovely, but today I tune out all such praise. I'm searching for Jack amidst the crowd, waiting for his extended hand to pull me onto the dance floor.
Ah! My scholar is here, over in the corner, hand playing with his blue cap. His bangs hang mysteriously above his eyes and the sunlight cascades just so on his exposed shoulders—
"Maria, are you there? Hello?"
A hand pulls me from behind, and I turn, fuming, to this intruder. My gaze softens as I recognize Harris, smiling at me crookedly with a half-blush. "I didn't see you this morning," he explains sheepishly. "So I guess you've finally given up on your secret admirer?"
My eyes turn towards Jack, so close but yet so far. "I—I wouldn't say given up, Harris. More like, faced my fears, I suppose." I chuckle to myself. "Nothing to fear but fear itself, they say."
But I tear myself from him and run towards Jack, slowing as he sees me approaching. He raises an eyebrow and grins, hands on his hips. "Well. Don't you clean up nice."
"T—thank you," I mumble, overcome by sheer bliss. Oh, he's so close to me—so much closer than we've ever been. His hands alight on my shoulder, and I tremble slightly at the touch of his hand upon my neck as he brushes a stray lock of hair away.
"Your bun is collapsing," he whispers in my ear, and I turn red in response.
Suddenly the music starts up—a lively, spritely tune—and I lead him about the twirls and steps. Everything is so light, I feel as if I am stepping upon clouds, not stone. This is a dream, it must be a dream, for reality has never been so lovely, nor so beautiful.
Yet a dull throbbing in my foot reminds me exactly who I am, and I blush once more before turning away. "I—I'm afraid my feet hurt," I mumble. "Do you mind if I—?"
"Sit? Not at all."
He leaves me alone on the sidelines, where I watch and massage my feet. "If only I could have Karen's grace," I mutter to myself, half-joking.
"I thought you were dancing pretty well out there, myself."
I stiffen before turning to see Harris, once again, by my side. He'd been a wallflower this whole time, I realize belatedly, and I offer him an awkward grin. "Oh, well, that's nice of you. But to be fair, Jack is a marvelous partner."
"Marvelous," he repeats, as if he's tasting the word for the very first time. "So I guess he's the reason for the nonexistent delivery today. Jack asked you?"
I can't help it; I giggle into my hand. "You're taking this terribly seriously, Harris. Don't you understand? It's him. Jack is my admirer. I asked him to dance with me, because the last letter assured me he'd say yes if I guessed him correctly. And I did."
"Did you now?" Harris replies, his voice flat. "So he admitted, yes, he was your secret admirer?"
Admitted it? Come to think of it, no, he hadn't mentioned anything of the sort. "W-well, I sort of inferred," I hedge, my logic no longer quite so flawless. "He said yes, anyhow."
"And Jack has read Petrarch? Shakespeare's Sonnet 73? A certain poem about fairies?" His voice is rising to a bitter crescendo, and Harris's gaze is so intense it's overpowering. I feel my eyes opening wide, and despite the fact that my glasses are at home, I see that up till now I have been truly blind.
Harris. Not Jack. Harris.
"I am a complete and utter imbecile," I whisper, my hand flying to my mouth. Suddenly those moments of bliss with Jack feel so contrived, so fake. Poetry had been swimming in my head as we danced, and now…now I can see all on his mind was weeds and seeds.
"I didn't know how to tell you," Harris blurts out, his normally easygoing expression suddenly awkward and unsure. "I…I love to talk to you, Maria, but I wanted to open up to you in a way only written words would let me. You're not an imbecile, Maria. I am, for thinking you'd figure it out on your own." His stare turns towards Jack, and he sighs. "You have a date. This is so rude of me."
"N-no, I feel rude!" I stammer, shaking my head. "How could I have made such a mistake when I see you every day, talk to you with an easiness I've never spoken to anyone with before? Jack—Jack is handsome, and lovely, but he's not the man I'd hoped for." Not all the daydreams in the world could transform him into the scholar I'd always fantasized him to be: a man who'd brave poetry, instead of articles on fertilizer and cow herding. "Oh, Goddess, I don't know what to do. I—I invited him all the way here, and…"
"I wouldn't worry too much about it," Harris assures me, and soon I see what he does: Ann laughing as Jack spins her about, their goofy grins identical. Harris's dark eyes center on me once more, and his smile softens. "Are you sure this is alright, though? I'm not…a disappointment?"
"When a man can quote Shakespeare," I reply, taking his hand in my own, "and measures his love by sonnets, how could he be a disappointment to any woman? I…I just feel like such a fool for not seeing it sooner." How could I have pushed him away so often simply to read my letters, when there he stood, every morning, waiting for me to notice? How could I have taken such terrible advantage of his kindness, without realizing how cruel my smiles were?
Harris squeezes my hand back. "You're not a fool, Maria."
"Am I forgiven, then?"
He stands, and I follow suit, our hands still intertwined. True adoration shines in his eyes, and I feel myself not tensing, as I had with Jack, but letting my body relax into the comfortable mold of his arms. "That depends on whether or not your feet still hurt," Harris grins.
I giggle. "And if they do?"
"Then get thee to a nunnery!" Harris says with a wink as he whisks me across the floor in a single, perfect sweep. "But this Romeo won't be losing his Juliet anytime soon, if he has anything to say about it."
Words are, of course, powerful tools. Words can document history, confine emotion into syllables, and share stories with the world. Words, however, can only do so much that actions can't. For once, I'm starting to believe that maybe the old adage is true, that actions do speak louder than words. Voices don't always speak with ink. Love isn't just a word toyed with in sonnets and letters. And the embrace of a man's arms about you and the meeting of your lips with his mean so much more than a perfectly written XOXO across the bottom of a page.
Words, you see, can last a lifetime. But it's actions that can give you a reason to live.
End Note: Warned ya it was sappy. I'm not sure if there's any other Harris x Maria in the world, but eh. Hope you enjoyed this, sappy as it is. You know what, I'll even let you review. Go ahead. Push the button, if you like. I give you my special permission to tell me what you think. ;)