Damn it, I know better than this.

Honestly, I ought to know better. All my life, I've seen the end results of acting on emotion, the mistakes people make because they weren't thinking properly. I've seen people kill in rage, people commit suicide in despair, and yet more people destroy themselves for a few moments of pleasure.

But the worst damage is always done in love. Love never works. Thousands of couples, depending on basic attraction to 'make things better,' jump into bed, get married, and raise families. And every year, thousands of those families break apart because love isn't enough. Love doesn't solve your problems, it only lets you forget about the problems you need to deal with.

And yet, here I am, pining over a girl like every other fool I've met. Worse, this isn't the first time. I know this dance, and its inevitable conclusion.

By the way, my name's Cliff. Nice to meet ya.

...What? You want more information? It's not bad enough that I'm letting my feelings cloud my judgement?

...

...Sigh... fine...

--

It started this spring, when I first moved to Flower Bud Village. Well, moved isn't quite accurate, since I pretty much live on the road, but since I've stayed here for a while, I guess it's accurate enough.

I wound up here starved and exhausted. The local farmer fed me, and since I needed to rest a while before moving on, I decided to stick around. Probably the worst decision I ever made.

It's not that the forage is bad here. Quite the contrary really. I've never eaten so well just off the land. The fishing's good, too. One morning I'd caught more than I needed, and decided to repay that farmer for that good meal when I'd really needed it.

That's when my trouble began. That's when I first ran into her.

Now, when I say I first ran into her, I'm not being figurative. I literally ran headfirst into an orange-haired, blue-eyed girl wearing overalls and a yellow T-shirt. When she yelled at me to watch where I was going, I mumbled my apologies and ran off.

Am I wrong to assume most people would leave you alone after something like that? Well, for some reason she didn't. She chased me down, asking annoying questions, introduced herself as Ann, and even then wouldn't leave until I'd told her specifically that I'd rather be alone.

And then, when she did leave, I actually felt bad for chasing her off. What was that about? I'm better off alone, people can only cause trouble, right?

...Hey, don't shake your head at me like that! Trust me, I know what I'm talking about.

--

...Anyway, I didn't see her again that spring. I figured I was well rid of her, even if I couldn't stop thinking about her. Those eyes... bah. I figured I'd do some hunting, get my friend Cain some red meat for a change. Since he's a bird of prey, I like to get him something he'd normally be hunting in the wild now and then.

I'd actually done pretty well. There's plenty of game in these parts, and it seems no one's been hunting them in years. I'd set up a very basic snare and gotten a rabbit within minutes.

And then, just as I was about to dispatch the thing, that girl charged right at me and snatched it right out of my hands!

Well, that irritated me a little. We argued over it for a while, and then she released the damn bunny and stormed off!

I was angry. How dare she try to judge how I live!? And yet... for whatever reason, I actually went back to fishing.

Later that night, I started wondering why the hell I'd been angry in the first place. It hadn't been the first time someone had tried to teach humanitarian values to me, and I'd always just blown them off before. It didn't matter, because they didn't matter.

...Shut up, I was still in denial. No, I wouldn't find out until autumn.

Not until I found out where that girl lived.

--

Fairly early on, I'd started hanging out at the local bar. I didn't have the money for anything but water, but the bartender was a nice enough guy, and I liked the quiet atmosphere in here.

Anyway, you see that guy sitting in the corner? The one with the blue cap. No, not that one. That's the local mailman, and I generally try to stay out of his way. No, I'm talking about the grumpy-looking one over there.

Yeah, that guy. His name's Gray.

We've shared a few drinks, and a lot of companionable silence. He doesn't like to talk much, and I prefer someone who doesn't try to talk to me, so it works out well enough.

Anyway, one night when we'd actually been talking a little, he told me he worked at the local ranch. Well, that made me a little curious. I'd always liked animals more than people, and farm animals were really the best. So he told me to drop by the next day, and told me where to look to find the place.

Yeah, I probably shouldn't have shown up. But I didn't think Gray was too bad. He's got his problems, but he's not that bad a guy. So I showed up at his family's ranch around dawn the next day.

Needless to say, I had some time to wait. Sometime during that, I guess I fell asleep, because the next thing I remember is nearly getting stomped on by a horse.

Well, the horse and I were both a little startled. Since it was my fault though, I did everything I could to calm the poor horse down.

Then that girl came by and started screaming at me again.

Well, this time the screaming actually turned into conversation for a while. It turned out we both appreciated animals. I admitted that I was kinda pragmatic towards game, but when she told me she'd actually slaughtered a few of the animals at the ranch... ok, I threw up. I can skin a rabbit no problem, but a cute sheep getting turned into mutton? Ugh.

And of course, that devolved into another fight, and we both wound up storming off at the end. Figures, right? Only I go back the next day. And the next. And the day after that, as well.

Before I realized it, I was obsessed. And over what? An active, noisy, short-tempered tomboy with a stubborn streak a mile wide and a high school cheerleader's figure? Why the hell was I attracted to her, anyway?

--

And that brings us up to the present, a cold, snowy winter's night at the bar, with me trying to get drunk off my ass on water and fighting my emotions with every scrap of will I have.

I honestly don't know what to do. I know it won't work out. The two of us are always fighting when we meet. It couldn't possibly work out if I told her I thought I was in love with her!

And yet... I think about her laugh. She's so cheerful and active, qualities I've long lost, if I ever had them. Even if she isn't the archetype of feminine beauty, I still find myself staring at her for hours on end. And even if we do fight, she's always got intelligent arguments. Most of the time, I find myself thinking she's probably right.

But I can't let myself give in to my emotions. The last time I let myself fall in love, I found myself shut down horribly. The whole town turned against me, and knowing the type of person I am I couldn't blame them. I'm an outsider, a stranger. Unreliable, unmemorable, lazy and useless. No one could possibly want me around them.

Hmm? Oh, there's Jack. Maybe I should ask him for advice. He always seems pretty well-grounded when I talk to him. Maybe he'll know what I should do...

No. He'd just ignore me. I know people. No one wants to hear about your problems, no matter how badly off you have it. No one cares. No one can be trusted.

But I don't know how long I can keep believing that, because now I keep seeing blue eyes whenever I say it. I keep catching glimpses of an orange braid, and hearing that cheerful laugh.

Damn it, I know better than to let myself fall in love. And yet, here I am again, acting like an idiot because someone actually paid attention to my life, obsessing over someone who probably only wants to be a friend.

What can I do? I don't know, but I think for now I'll just head off for the night.

Don't do this, Cliff. No matter what, you can't win. Stop being obsessive, too many mistakes have been made because people couldn't think objectively. Let it go, don't let her mean anything to you.

I keep telling myself that, but at the same time, I keep hoping. Please, let this be the one-in-a billion chance I need. Please, let this all work out.

Please, let me be wrong.