Note: To make up for my initially bad Popuri oneshot, in which I realized too late that she was dreadfully OOC. Hopefully, this is more true-to-character, and has more depth. It's something I think a lot of people can relate to, and….yeah. I lost my train of thought. Darn.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harvest Moon, do not, do not, do not.

You Never Knew

You never knew what it'd be like to kiss me. Which, I suppose, is more your loss than mine, isn't it? If only, if maybe, if somehow, if, if, if…oh, I wish drawing the line between us could be as easy as that. 'If' isn't definite enough of a word. It's too vague, too general. It could apply to many a dream deferred, not simply my own. 'Deferred.' Ha. A fancy word for a simple thing, isn't it?

Didn't you ever wonder, as you watched me among my flowerbeds, what it'd be like to sit down beside me and lend a hand? Well, I'll tell you. I'd have let you hold my hand, and we would have both blushed. I would've giggled, let your hands feel the warm earth beneath our palms, and explained that first, we had to water the flowers, because they were absolutely parched. I don't know why you never asked. I think you thought about it, but I can't be sure. I could never tell what you were thinking.

You've always been so serious. Some nights, I actually stayed up in my room and made faces in my mirror, trying to mimic your nonchalant frown and narrowed eyes. Of course, I always ended up laughing at myself; I'm no good at being anything but the smiley, bubbly girl I am. Which is fine with me. I only worried that it wouldn't be fine with you.

When you'd walk by, I'd feel so tiny—so lost in your shadow. You held your head so high, and your eyes were so critical on all they surveyed, that I felt I'd lose their interest. I began to have an unfounded dislike of Maria…because, deep down, a part of me suspected you wanted a girl more like you than like me. I tried to suppress my giggles when you walked by. I tried to fight back my smiles. All for you, all for you.

See? I liked you, too. I did. I liked you, I liked you, I liked you. So all those days you almost offered to invite for a walk, and all those compliments you wouldn't let leave your tongue, were all missed opportunities. You slammed your own doors in your face. I waited, though. I waited and waited, which is all I could do.

I built a game for myself; how many words could I get you to say today? I would keep count, and remember the questions that prompted the longest response. It usually went something like this between us:

"Wow, Gray, it's so nice to see you! How've you been?"

"Fine."

"How is Ann?"

"Fine."

"I don't suppose you're going to the Horse Race this year, are you?"

"…no."

My record, I think, was fifteen. Fifteen whole words at once. We'd been waiting outside the Church, paying our respects to the old farmer's death. I had noticed a new visitor among us, a young man whom I both knew and didn't all at once.

"Who is that?" I'd asked, and you'd answered.

"The old man's grandson," you grunted. "You'd think he'd have come to see him long before now."

My eyes followed him, this new arrival veiled by a film of grief, and only then did I realize I had won my game. Yet out of all the fifteen words you could have chosen to say to me, they had to be about a complete and total stranger. It was ridiculous—I knew you liked me. I just knew, by your actions, but your words never seemed to prove it. My game had failed me in that regard.

So I quit.

I began a new game with myself, one with far lower stakes. I would find out about this new farmer, I decided. I would get more out of him than I had out of you. Never had the thought of replacing you entered my mind. Never had I thought to learn to see him in ways I had reserved for you alone.

But once the game started, I found it hard to stop.

The first thing I noted about Jack was his smile. I remember thinking how much it transformed his face, how his features were so visibly brightened outside the funeral setting. I always smiled back, because I had no reason not to. When I played the game with Jack, he played right along with me.

"Do you like living here, Popuri?"

"I love it! Do you?"

"It's close-knit, very homey. Nothing like the city."

"…Oh. Is that bad?"

And his laugh. Oh, when I first heard him laugh, I felt as if a thousand butterflies had been set free inside my soul, and they were tickling me so hard that I just had to giggle, too. Being with him felt warm, felt cozy, like a comfortable chair. I didn't want to get out. I didn't want those moments of laughter to end.

I don't think I'd ever heard you laugh. I wonder what it would have sounded like.

Jack found out what it was like to sit beside me in my flowerbeds. Jack discovered the answer he'd receive when he asked me to go to festivals, or on walks, or told me I looked pretty that day. Did you ever do so much? Did you ever try?

"Gray thinks you're getting too close to Jack," Ann told me one day.

"Too close?"

"I think he's jealous," she stated simply, and with that, I started to feel guilty. Which, actually, wasn't fair.

Every day, I counted the minutes until Jack would show up with a flower for me to place inside my vase—which was brimming, day by day, with fresh blossoms—and sometimes, I hoped for you to come, too. You never did come, which is fine. It's your choice. I can't make you say hello, just as you can't make me say good-bye to Jack. It evens out.

Did you ever write me a card for my birthday? Did you even know when my birthday was? I honestly have no idea how much you knew about me. You're so mysterious, I swear, I could watch you all year long and still learn nothing about you. You're an enigma, Gray, you know that? I can't read you.

Jack…if I had to describe Jack, I'd say he was like the sun, and I the blossom drinking in its warmth. I'm not sure, Gray, but I think you were water. Cold, and shuddering at initial contact, but something just as beautiful and just as needed as the warm beloved sun. I think we could have made something work between us, water and flower. But 'we' requires me and you, and I had yet to see 'you' anywhere.

"Have you seen the way Gray looks at you?" Jack asked me once, tense as he held me by his side. I sort of shrugged in response; I had, but yet I hadn't, and I didn't feel like yes or no really qualified. "It's strange," Jack added with a sigh. "Almost as if…I don't know…he's claiming you or something."

People aren't land. You can't point someone out with your eyes and shout, "Oh, look, I want that one! I call dibs!" But you can say things, make choices. You could've claimed me. You could've tried.

I made a bet with myself; if you changed your mind and said hello to me today, I'd invite you on a picnic. If you surprised me with a flower, I'd surprise you with a kiss. Jack had a different pull on me, an easier tug, and somehow I felt setting these goals for you was making the scale even. Things came simply for Jack. For you, Gray…there was always a barrier that you never could breach, some kind of fear I couldn't help you dissipate.

I'd loved you first, so I owed it to you to help you overcome that wall.

Sometimes, I'm sure, you thought my visits at Green Ranch were some kind of fate-imposed torture: me in plain sight, but still out of your reach. I actually came because of you, Gray. True, I came to make small-talk with Ann, but I also came to wonder if you'd catch a word or two, join in the conversation. I wanted to open your doors just a little wider. I wanted to let some light in. Yet you just crept back, further and further, into your shadows.

Everything changed that day on the mountaintop. You weren't there, Gray, but if you had been, I think you would have seen the end of an era. The beginning of something new, you see. Jack finally tipped the scales so irrevocably that I don't think you could've done anything at this point to even them out. See, I discovered something there, Gray.

I'd loved Jack, first, all this time.

I'd been young, maybe six or seven, and I'd been picking flowers. I'd been a silly girl even then, easily distracted by pretty things and colors. Papa had told me about a Blue Mist flower, how rare they were, how special. The day I found one, I decided it was a sign, and ran forward to pick it eagerly. Papa, I knew, would give me a big hug, and tell anyone who'd listen how his beautiful princess had found such an equally beautiful treasure. Oblivious to the world around me, I basked in the glow of my dream, when it happened.

The ground gave way beneath my feet.

The flower fell, useless, from my shaking hand, the other gripping the cliff's edge desperately. "Help, help!" I'd screamed, tears staining my cheeks. "Mommy! Daddy! Help me!"

Then a small hand took my own, and slowly I let my legs find ground as my eyes met his. My hero was a 'big kid,' a ten year old, and I remember how my eyes averted from his shyly, how I learned for the first time that people didn't blush only when embarrassed or praised. I had forgotten him, this boy with the mesmerizing brown eyes. I had forgotten my savior.

Then, once history repeated itself, both our eyes were opened.

I think part of you understood what had happened. I think this because of what happened after; rows and rows of flowers began to grow outside your ranch, the aroma beckoning me like nothing else could. You fought, too late, for a claim you could have had. You tried, too late, for a heart you could have won.

Gray, I used to beat myself up over you. I used to wonder what it was that stopped you from saying anything, from showing your love as Jack had. I wondered and wondered until my brain hurt, but now I think it's doing me no good to wonder.

Jack and I have been planting this flower together, a Blue Mist flower. The thing about a Blue Mist flower is it's so rare, that if you don't water it every day, it will die immediately. Other plants can survive, but will just lose quality, day by day. People, I think, are like that. If you don't water them, day by day, how do you expect them to thrive and grow? They can't wait forever.

I know I couldn't.

I'm not sure why I've told you all this. I'm not sure if it's because I feel obligated to you, or if I still feel guilty over something I can't control, or if maybe because, deep down, I'll always love you. I think there's a part of me that always will, at least. It's just not all of me. You never fought enough for that. I guess…overall…I want to make amends. I want to say the words we always thought but never expressed. I want you to know that there's nothing to be afraid of.

I want you to have that chance to find someone else, to overcome that barrier of yours.

You never knew what it was like to kiss me. You never knew what it was like to hold my hand, to hear my secrets. You never knew that I liked snuggling up with someone on cold winter days, counting the petals on a rosebud, or keeping on the lookout for shooting stars. But you could've known, and I think that's what hurts the most: that you had that chance.

Tomorrow, you'll be at the Church, and I'll be walking down the aisle, bouquet of flowers in hand. I'll be smiling, and you'll be frowning, just as always. Nothing will have changed, nothing at all, and that's a shame, Gray. You'll be looking at the groom, and you'll be wondering, why weren't you so lucky? Why was it that he was the one waiting for my hand, while you were the one hiding in the pews?

You know the answer to that question better than anyone.

So here's what I want from you, Gray. I want an understanding. I want for you to just…stop beating up on yourself, stop scaring yourself into silence. Life doesn't have to be terrible. You don't have to be afraid of someone saying no, or someone laughing in your face. You never knew that. You never knew that, and yet, it's something so simple.

All I've wanted is for you to be happy, Gray. Because you'll find life isn't quite as scary if you're looking at it with a smile on your face.

Try one on. I think, if you look at yourself in the mirror, you'll like what you see.

--

End Note: Speaking from experience, going the Gray route turns up zilch in the results department. I think a lot of girls want to shout out this kind of thing to a guy at some point or another…haha, or maybe it's just me. Who knows. Anyway, I'm just hoping that Popuri isn't too OOC here--I'm not good at writing in her voice, I get too metaphorical sometimes. o.O

Oh yeah, and seeing as Popuri and Gray are opposites and Gray and Jack are opposites, I guess I should enter this in The Village Square's daily Writing Festival Contest, this time an 'Opposites' theme. Vote me or don't—I really don't think it matters. But if you could check out the other entries, that would be awesome.