Okay. I know I said on my profile that I wasn't going to write anymore Harvest Moon for a while... but I love this little fandom way too much and I was assaulted with plot bunnies so... this short, introspective oneshot came to mind. Oh, and as if I need to tell you: I don't own Harvest Moon, and those quotes belong to the names underneath...


Portrait of a Marriage

'All weddings are similar, but every marriage is different.'

-John Berger

The bride is blushing in that beautiful, white dress. She is young and full of life, and her porcelain cheeks turn a little pink when her groom captures her lips in their first kiss as husband and wife.

The people gathered at the Church clap and cheer joyously as the new couple walks down the aisle, hands clasped with large, splitting smiles on their faces as rice is tossed and congratulations are cried and they are infected with the beauty of it all.

Almost every marriage starts like this. The promise of a new life together is intoxicating, because when you love someone enough to marry them, to want to be with them for every day for the rest of your life, you cannot wait to be together. You want to experience the world's every sensation together, see everything it has to offer through two sets of eyes. Everything is new, and good, and there is new hope.

Yes, every marriage starts this way.

But many end differently.

'Love: a temporary insanity, curable by marriage.'

-Ambrose Bierce

The reception is just as joyous, if not more so.

Now, in addition to the intoxication that the promise of a newlywed couple brings, they are further intoxicated by wine-- the alcohol clouding their senses and inhibitions and bringing out a bit of what people really are, underneath all their facades they are so careful to put up.

Alcohol does that to you. It is a poison that races through your system and forces all those walls you've put up-- the social graces, the lies you tell to make yourself look better, the fact that you really like that younger woman even though you are married-- to suddenly come down. It makes you euphoric and carefree, and yet it is a poison all the same, because one night in an alcohol induced stupor can destroy years of commitment and hard work.

Manna hates this poison.

She sits at a table near the dance floor, her glass of wine untouched and forgotten, just as she is.

Sasha and Anna are dancing with Jeff and Basil, giggling like school girls as their tipsy husbands twirl them around and around a bit more than they usually would. Manna has a bittersweet smile put on for her friends.

They're lucky, but she's not.

Duke isn't with her on that dance floor, twirling her around and around until her eyes are barraged by twinkling stars and her breath is stolen away by fits of giggles. Her husband is collapsed in his seat across from her, awakening every once in a while to down a bit more wine-- more of the poison that has put him in this state.

Manna hates this poison.

Perhaps it is because it has seeped its way into her marriage through Duke, through her work...

She remembers clearly when she and Duke were young and intoxicated not with wine, but with each other. Back when every caress was new and intimate and every smile would breed another. Back when things were new and beautiful and the cares of life could not taint their happiness.

It could be a distant memory, because they have not felt that way in years.

Manna sighs as the bride is led onto the dance floor by her groom, giggling as he takes her in his arms and sways with her. It is anything but graceful, but it is promising-- maybe it will be graceful, one day.

She remembers when Duke held her that way-- when he twirled her and held her and swayed with her, when she looked into his dark, handsome eyes on her wedding day and planned the life that lay before her. She had imagined that when they were old and wrinkled they would still sway at weddings like this.

Alcohol ruined that.

Perhaps she cannot blame alcohol. She knows that she is childish in blaming something with no will of its own, but it is better than blaming Duke. Because when she blames Duke she becomes angry with her husband... and she forgets that with this man, it is justified... because she holds Duke to the standards she used to hold the young man who danced with her on her wedding night.

And Duke is not that young man. He is a husk of him, a man that was once him. But he is not him. He has not been him for years...

So Manna plasters a smile of her face and ignores Duke's unsightly posture and cheers for the bride and groom, hiding the envy she feels... because she would give anything to go from the gossipy, bitter dealer of the poison she loathes to the young, intoxicated bride she was.

Perhaps that is what we all do.

We blame other things-- trivial things, instead of blaming those that should be blamed... Because those that should be blamed really can't. Not anymore.

We spend our lives bitter and passive, wishing with all we are to go back when we were intoxicated-- when we didn't care about our responsibilities and all that mattered was the way you swayed together, promising to be graceful...

'He that hath a wife and children hath given hostages to fortune.'

-Francis Bacon

The reception is dying down in the absence of the bride and groom, who have left long ago, blushing and embarrassed, to spend their first night as husband and wife together.

The alcohol that once had people laughing and giddy now has them tired and lackluster. Everyone talks tiredly and after they finish reminiscing and sharing stories they drift back home where sleep takes them with open, comfortable arms.

Duke hates the poison for this.

He hates it because it can give him solace, and yet afterward, he awakens in pain. Sometimes he has no idea why he keeps using the poison he brews himself to poison himself into unawareness. It is on mornings when he wakes up and the sunlight makes him wince, and loud noises are like driving nails into his skull... it is on mornings when Manna sighs and already has a cup of the blackest, most bitter coffee ready for him.

But soon, as the day wears on and the pain ebbs away, his reasons return.


She always seems to be at the center of everything.

It isn't her fault, he knows. She has her own way of coping with Aja leaving, and he has his. But their daughter's abandonment has left her a different woman than the one he married. She is not the same woman that could sing the entire version of 'American Pie', or argue with him about trivial things like which way to go on a road trip and end up laughing about it later. She wasn't the woman whose smile would light up his world, or would laugh like a little girl when he would dance with her... when he would twirl her around and around until she got so dizzy she would stumble... and he would always be there to catch her.

She isn't her, and not seeing her anymore drives him to doing the things he does.

It hurts him when he blames her, but he is bitter, and he is angry, and who he blames doesn't matter. Nothing matters, really.

Everyone is gone by now except a few people that linger at some tables, and Manna turns to him, gives him a look with empty, dull black eyes that were once full of so much life, and Duke grunts and rises, ready to head home... when he stumbles and falls.

He expects Manna to sigh and reprimand him like she has taken to, but instead, she laughs, and for the smallest fraction of a second... her eyes light up, and Duke can see a part of the woman she was-- his wife.

Without thinking, Duke rises and grabs his wife. Her eyes widen, but she does not protest as he leads her to the dance floor. The light isn't gone when he embraces her, and begins to sway to a music only they can hear, a music from long ago.

Manna buries her face in the crook of his neck, her arms holding her close to him, and his arms wrap around her waist. For this moment, dancing to a music that should've been forgotten along with their past selves, every little problem, every little trouble, fades away... It is not graceful, it does not promise to be, but it is enough.

It is moments like these that we live for. Moments that we can see the one we fell in love with underneath everything that has changed them. These moments make their marriage worthwhile, when the memory of their intoxication haunts them, and they remember together...

Perhaps that is what we all do... wait for moments that do not make us grow old together, but those that make us grow young together instead...

'Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up.'

-Joseph Barth

A/N: Sad, sad, sad. Depressing. Sigh. Makes you not want to get married... :(

Hope you liked it! Review, please and thank you. :)