A/N: This isn't a one-shot! It might be a two or three-shot. Originally, I wanted to make it a one-shot but it was getting too long that I figured I should expand it. Anywho, this story is about Gray and Popuri. I was playing Harvest Moon 64 the other day, and started wondering… how in the world did those two end up together? So I decided to write about it, and make up my own little story to how they fell in love, especially since they're complete opposites. By the way, I know that in the actual game, Popuri has lived in Flowerbud for her whole life. But I had to tweak it to fit the story. This also takes place about a year before 'Jack' moves in. So please enjoy this first chapter! I will be posting the other chapter or two in a bit! Oh, and the title 'Colorblind' comes from the Counting Crows song. If you pay attention to the lyrics, they directly relate to Gray. It's scary accurate.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harvest Moon!
It was a regular sunny day, just like always. The cap I wore was snug on my forehead, causing the heat to make me sweat like crazy. Grunting, I swung the sickle with force and sliced some blades of grass before taking a moment to wipe my moist brow. It was the second of Spring, around seven in the morning, yet why was it so hot outside? Straightening up, I glanced around the pasture. Ann hadn't yet woken up, probably still suffering from a hangover from New Year's. Hell, probably everyone in the town was hung over. Well, except me.
After a few more hours, I had covered half the field. Usually manning the sickle was Ann's job, but seeing as she hadn't woken up yet, I took the liberty of doing it for her. But now that I realized how tough it was, especially with the sun beating upon my shoulders, I understood why she was never in a good mood when she had to cut the grass. Glancing at the house, I sighed and wiped my brow once more, wondering why Ann hadn't yet stirred from sleep. Almost as if on cue, she stumbled out of the wooden door and yawned sleepily.
"Oh, hello Gray!" She greeted me, passing through the fence before stopping and grinning from ear to ear.
"You didn't have to do my job, you know…" She said in a silly tone, clearly grateful that her work was almost done. I shrugged.
"No skin off my back." I commented, swiping at another patch of grass. Before I knew it, she was hugging my shoulders lovingly, giggling as she did. I shrugged her off. I didn't like being touched, yet alone hugged, even by my own younger sister. She was used to this kind of reaction, and let go immediately without questions.
"Anything you need me to do?" She asked, glancing over at the barn. I knew what she was about to inquire, but I wasn't too sure about it. Ever since we started working on the farm, she had always wanted to tend to the animals. Which of course, our father let her do. But the one animal that I never wanted her touching was Cliffguard… my horse. It's not that I didn't trust her as an animal caretaker, or anything. Cliffguard was mine, and we sort of understood each other.
But today, I hadn't yet taken to Cliffguard because I was cutting the grass. And unfortunately for me, Ann absolutely adored my horse. Every chance she got; she was trying to go near him without me seeing, brushing him and rubbing behind his ears. She knew I didn't like anyone near him but me, yet she just loved him.
Groaning, I looked down at my seventeen year old little sister. Her blue eyes were wide, filled with hope. Her usual braids were not yet woven, leaving her hair to be wavy and wild, shining in the sun, which always seemed to accentuate the red hue. At times like these, she looked like our mother used to. Hopeful, carefree, untamed.
"Fine. You can take to Cliffguard today, but only today." I told her sternly, swinging the sickle at another scrap of grass. She squealed, and leaned in to hug me, but stopping just as she remembered my rule. Which was: no touching unless I'm in immediate danger.
She skipped off to the barn, and I finished the rest of the grass just in time for her to waltz outside about an hour later with a large grin on her face.
"Cliffguard is just beautiful," She said as she approached me. I nodded in response.
"Hey, who's that?" She asked me, pointing towards the entrance of the farm. I peered into the distance, squinting my eyes, to see a petite, pink-haired girl wandering into the front area. When she spotted us, she headed over slowly, seemingly cautious.
"Yoohoo!" Ann yelled cheerfully, waving her over to where we were standing. I felt the need to smack my forehead. Why must Ann be so kind to strangers? The girl walked steadily across the grass, eyeing us. I frowned a bit, before crouching down and picking at a weed.
"Hi!" The girl greeted us happily. Ann smiled in return. "I'm Popuri, my mom and I just opened a flower shop in the village."
Popuri? What a silly name.
"I'm Ann, nice to meet you! This is our farm, we sell animals and such, if you ever need to buy some." Ann said on default, telling her what my father always told us to tell guests. We could always use more business, he would say.
Popuri glanced over Ann's shoulder and looked at me, almost expecting an introduction. I kept pulling at the weed. Ann's voice came in a sharp whisper as she pulled Popuri aside for a few moments. I stopped pulling to see if I could make out what she was saying.
All I could make out were the words "…brother…Gray…antisocial…might not want to get involved." It was Ann's natural disclaimer, always telling the new townspeople that they 'might not want to get involved' with me and that I 'wasn't too keen on strangers'. Whatever.
However, this girl seemed to ignore Ann's little warning. She approached me as I examined the blisters forming on my palms from pulling the pesky weeds.
"Hello," She said in a melodic voice, outstretching her delicate, pale hand. "I'm Popuri, what's your name?"
Wiping my forehead, I looked at her bright, pink eyes and gleaming smile.
"Gray." I replied curtly, before crouching down and pulling at another weed. She retracted her handshake, and placed both of her tiny hands behind her back. Leaning forward to look at what I was doing, her glossy hair swooped in front of her face gracefully. I looked up at her again, wondering what she was doing.
"Looks like you're working hard," She observed, "Weeds are a pain."
I grunted in response, gliding my thumb against the peeling skin on my right palm. My lack of reaction didn't faze her.
"You know, my mother and I just opened a flower shop in town. We always have to deal with these things. But we do have some useful weed repellent…" She spoke, her voice high-pitched and merry.
For the second time today, I was reminded of my mother. The way that Popuri ignored Ann's little advice and talked to me anyways was, well, brave. Usually new townspeople would listen to my sister's forewarning and leave without a second glance in my direction, and usually they wouldn't talk to me again. Her pluck was very much like my mom's. In a way, it was calming.
"We don't sell the repellent, but we always have a few extra. It would do good for those palms of yours," She continued, looking down at my tattered hands. I shrugged. Truth be told, I didn't mind the blisters so much. It was a sign of achievement, letting me know that I had worked hard. But cutting all that grass was exhausting, and now pulling the weeds was taking a toll on my stamina.
"Just a thought." She said finally, after standing silently next to me as I contemplated her offer. Straightening up, she smoothed out her pink dress meticulously. I too got up from the ground, figuring that I better grab some bandages for my hands.
"Well, it was very nice to meet you Ann," She spoke, looking at my sister, "Gray," She faced me, gazing at me imploringly. I pulled my cap lower, shielding my eyes.
"Oh, and don't forget about the repellent, okay?"
I shrugged as she turned and left the farm with a spring in her step. That girl was jolly, all right.
After I found some old bandages and wrapped up my dirty hands, I returned to the field. Staring out onto the vast land, I noticed how many weeds were left for me to pull. Sighing with exhaustion, I trudged back on to the field.
I pulled more weeds for about another hour when I realized how long this would take, and how much my hands were aching. I looked down at them, noticing that the old, cheap bandages were peeling off already. I got up and brushed the dirt off my pants, before strolling over to the farm shop.
"Hey, dad?" I called when I entered the store. He was in the back room, shuffling about with a load of boxes in his arms.
"Yes?" He asked, his voice strained.
"I'm… going into town really quickly. To get something." I said hesitantly. I never went into town, unless it was at night to grab a drink or two at the bar.
"Um, sure, son." He replied, gazing at me from the back room, probably checking to make sure I was okay. I nodded brusquely and left the farm store.
As I left the farm, I stared down at my feet intently. I didn't want to be in town long, I just wanted the repellent. I could feel my hands stinging as I walked, still staring at the ground. Until I ran into someone.
"Ouch!" The man exclaimed, a package flying into the air as the both of us toppled to the ground. I looked up to see Harrison, the mailman. He occasionally waltzed around the farm, claiming that he loved animals and that he was jealous that we had so many. Of course, I never had a one-to-one conversation with the guy.
The package that was sent flying into the air promptly landed on Harrison's head with a thud. He rubbed his head slowly, wincing a little. I looked away, feeling a blush creep onto my face. Why had I left the farm, again? I didn't need that repellent; I needed to just turn right around and-
"I'm sorry about that, I wasn't looking where I was going!" The man said jovially as he stood and brushed some dust off his backside. I stood too, flustered.
"S-Sorry." I stammered, still not looking at him as I passed him and headed for the village. I figured that I did need that repellent, seeing as when I looked down at my hands, they were beginning to bleed from catching myself on that fall. This time, though, as I walked I made sure that I was at least glancing up every once in a while to make sure no one was in my way.
Finally, I looked up when I approached a building I hadn't seen before. The sign read 'Lillia's Flower Shop', festooned with floral décor. I pushed the door open hesitantly, hearing a ding above my head. A tiny bell was attached to the door.
"Hello! Welcome to my shop, I haven't seen you before!" A woman greeted me, looking an awful lot like Popuri. I looked away, turning red again. Why were people so… friendly?
"I'm Lillia, what's your name?" She asked me.
"Uh, Gray." I told her, looking around the quaint little shop with curiosity. They seemed to sell seeds here, too. I stared at the color-coded bags, which read crop names and flower seeds.
"Would you like to buy some seeds? Or maybe it's flowers you're looking for. Oh, and there's the notebook right on the table to help you out, or you can just ask me!" She said with excitement. If I didn't know any better, I was her first customer. I actually felt kind of bad that I wasn't actually buying anything. Suddenly, a door to the left of me opened and Popuri sauntered out, looking surprised when she saw me.
"Gray! Hello! Are you here for the repellent?" She asked cheerfully. I nodded slowly.
"Follow me," She said, motioning for me to come with her. I obeyed, but not before catching a quick glance back at Lillia to see her face fall.
"Oh, well, if you need seeds or anything, let me know…" She said softly. I felt bad for her, it looked as if no one had bought anything yet. But I just nodded and followed Popuri into a small storage room in the back of the shop. It was a tight fitted room with boxes upon boxes of seeds, piling up to the ceiling of the dimly lit closet. She looked puzzled as she searched through the boxes.
"Aha!" She exclaimed, pulling out a smaller box that was labeled 'repellent' with a little smiley face next to it. Damn, these people were cheery.
Pulling out a bottle, she handed it over before shoving the box into the middle of nowhere and brushing past me, out of the closet. I timidly followed.
"Uh, thanks." I said quietly, before heading for the exit.
"Oh wait, Blue was it?" Lillia called.
"Mom, it's Gray." Popuri corrected her.
"Oh yes. So sorry, you look just like another farmer I know named Blue. What a coincidence, you both have color names! Anywho, you've lived here for a while, right?" She asked me. I nodded slowly, not looking at the woman. I just wanted to get out of there.
"How pleasant. Nice town, isn't it? Anyways. I was wondering if you know any good foraging areas around here. See, my husband is off in Forget-Me-Not Valley at the moment, researching the plants. He's a botanist! He recently sent me a letter saying that he would like to come live with us for a while, if there is good plant life so he can continue his job. Would you say so?" She asked me. I froze. How was I supposed to respond? I could barely say my name to these people, for Goddess' sake.
"I-I don't really… leave my f-farm. I have to g-go." I stuttered, pushing open the jingling door and swiftly making my way out of the shop.
Generally, I'm not a nervous person. I just… don't like talking to people. And when I have to talk to someone other than Ann or dad, it's a difficult task. People like Popuri and her mom are just different. It used to be that mom gave me courage to talk, and be marginally friendly. And it was hard for her, I can tell. I was not the most outgoing kid, I was far from it. And when I started to make progress, she… died. And now everything that anyone has to say is just unimportant to me. It sounds horrible but it's how I function.
Over the next few days, Popuri visited Ann often. They grew to become close friends due to their similarities. Granted, Ann didn't like flowers as much as Popuri did, and Popuri didn't like animals as much as Ann did, but everything in between was almost identical. Talk about scary.
This meant that she was at the farm pretty frequently, always leaning on the fence by the field, her lustrous hair flapping about in the wind, her pink eyes fixed on me. I don't know what her deal was, but she just kept talking to me all the time. Even if I didn't respond, she didn't care. It was weird, almost everyone I had ever met in this town thought I was some unfriendly jerk who hated the world. I wasn't like that. I never hated, I just… didn't deal with bullshit.
Popuri was different. She… cared? She knew about my passion for animals, and she talked about it with me. I didn't respond often, other than shrugs or 'uh, yeah's. But it didn't stop her. It never stopped her. You would think someone like me, a hardworking stiff who didn't get along with most people, would be annoyed by this kind of behavior. But to tell you the truth, I was intrigued. Why hadn't I scared her away by now? Why hadn't she realized that it was going to take more than a welcoming smile and mesmerizing eyes to get me to speak? She had the same persistence that mom had. That sheer force to keep trying.
I woke up one morning to Ann, prancing around in a silk dress with flowers adorning her red hair. I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was seeing correctly.
"Wake up, sleepy head! It's the Flower Festival!" She cheered, her grin spreading from ear to ear. I groaned.
"You know I hate festivals, Ann." I replied plainly. She looked at me, blue eyes big with disdain.
"Gray, you know this was mom's favorite festival. You always come."
I rubbed my temples thoughtfully.
"Yeah, well… maybe it's about time I stop going. Besides, I have a ton of work to do on the farm."
Ann looked absolutely crushed.
"How could you say that? You have to come. Do the work before hand, please? The festival doesn't even start until nine. And I won't make you dance this time, I promise. You can just sit in the corner and sulk."
I sighed, clearly perturbed at her whining. She was right; it was mom's favorite festival. She loved seeing all the girls in their silk dresses, flowers galore, dancing excitedly with their partners. She even told us that once; she was one of those girls in the pretty dresses. It was hard for me to imagine, for she wasn't exactly a girly girl.
"Fine. But we're leaving right after, no buts." I told her, angrily getting up and throwing on my cap. She squealed happily.
"Great! I'll see you there, I have to go meet up with the other girls to find out who wins queen!" She exclaimed, bouncing off. Smacking my forehead, I started out to the fields.
About an hour later, I found myself heading towards town in the same fashion I had before, head down. I reached the square within minutes, due to my speed walking, and climbed the stairs to the festival. The square was decorated with flowers galore, and I was pretty certain that a particular someone would absolutely adore this festival. Popuri, I mean.
Dozens of times, she had commented that out farm would look better with flowers. Yellow ones, to be exact. I grunted in response. Truth be told, I quite fancied flowers. Not in the way Popuri did: in huge bouquets, overly exaggerated, and just… too embellished. I liked flowers in their pure form: singular, and in the ground. I've always thought them to be very beautiful. They're like a breath of fresh air when everything around them is far from it. Of course, I marveled at flowers quietly, and alone. Not even Ann knew about my adoration, and I wanted to keep it that way.
When I arrived, I settled on a bench in the corner and waited for the festival to begin. Everyone around me mingled idly, commenting on the beautiful scenery or how nice the day was today, etcetera. Honestly, it was dull. That is, until the girls came out, dolled up and looking merry. Even Karen, the somewhat bitter barmaid and vineyard worker was looking jovial.
How did I know she was bitter, you might ask? Her and Ann happen to be inseparable. Lucky me.
I looked around for Popuri, who didn't seem to be anywhere in sight. Maybe she had decided not to come? Although, I have no idea why. Her mom was there, along with a man who seemed to be her dad. Almost suddenly, my thoughts were interrupted by the mayor's booming voice.
"Here comes the queen!" He exclaimed. Popuri emerged, looking, well, breathtaking. It was easier for me to think than say, believe me.
Her dress was long, flowing, and silky. Her hair was pinned behind her, and only a few bangs were left to frame her delicate face. She wore deep pink flowers in her hair and yellow ones on her dress. As soon as the applause came, she blushed furiously and smiled a twinkling smile. If I didn't know any better, it looked as if she was about to cry from happiness.
After all the praise, the girls grabbed their dance partners. Popuri's dad left his wife's side and took his daughter's hand with a grin on his face. The music began, and all of the couples danced the Goddess' dance. Peering over Popuri, I caught Ann dancing with Kai, another vineyard worker. I sighed unhappily. Ann always fell for the worst boys.
At last, the dance had finished and the girls all gave a bow. After a closing speech, the mayor dismissed the townspeople, and they all excitedly left the square, talking fervently about the girls. As soon as I got to the village, I spotted Ann a few paces in front of me.
"Ready to go home?" I asked her dully. She looked at me, and then winced. I knew what she wanted; she wanted to stay out later. I groaned.
"Ann, I told you that we would go straight home afterwards." I said, the 'parent' gene in me kicking in. Ever since our family of four became a family of three, it seemed as though dad didn't know exactly how to handle Ann and her recklessness. So, I stepped in, hence the reason I always felt some sort of authority over my little sister.
"Yeah, but Kai and I wanted to grab a drink at the bar… you could come with?" She asked hopefully. Kai popped out from behind her, flashing me a goofy grin. I seethed.
"No." I stated firmly.
"Come on, Gray! Just one drink, and I'll send your little girl home." Kai joked, still with the goofy grin. I glared at the boy.
"Excuse me, I don't remember asking you. What do you want with Ann, anyways? Get out of here." I replied angrily, clenching my fists. Ann's eyes widened.
"Okay, okay, let's go." She pulled me away as Kai stared at Ann in confusion.
Oh. I guess I neglected to mention that even with my extreme dislike for talking to people, I had quite a protective shield when it came to Ann. She always fell for the dumbest boys. She always argued that I was too hard on most of them to begin with, but I shrugged that notion off.
The next year seemed to pass by quickly. Everyday was work (which lately had taken much longer due to Popuri's visits) and then the bar. The same routine, all the time. And Popuri visited about once or twice a week, cheerful as ever. Always having something to talk about. I still couldn't respond.
Sometimes, it seemed as if she was just talking to herself. Rambling on about the farm, or the shop, or Ann, or me, or the animals, or anything that popped into her head. The odd thing was that I didn't really mind. Sure, my work was taking a little longer, but sometimes just having someone there was kind of comforting. Oddly enough. Especially when Ann was out at the vineyard with Karen, or climbing trees by the cave. I had someone to talk to. Well, not really talk to.
What was weird was that every day, I felt more inclined to talk back. To tell her that I agreed with her, or disagreed. And I have never really had the actual urge to talk to someone. Not since I was younger. I knew she was waiting for the day, too. The day that I would actually say something back to her. But I wasn't quite ready. Just seeing her leaning on the fence, smile on her face… it was okay for now.
A/N: So how did you like that first chapter? I hope it wasn't too long. Now, I still need to decide if this will be a two-shot or a three-shot. I'll see how the next chapter goes. Let me know what you thought!