007. Part of my 100 Songs Challenge.
Inspired By: La Vie en Rose, Louis Armstrong
A/N: Just something cute for V-Day, despite being a bit belated. (: Italics = flashback.
In Mineral Town, inclement weather on Valentines Day was almost a tradition. Snow, hail, freezing rain, and once even a typhoon had blown in on the day of love, causing unnecessary problems for all those who wished to celebrate in romantic tranquility. People often joked that Mineral Town was the worst place to fall in love – it almost seemed as if the Goddess was conspiring against anyone who dared at romance.
Many years before, on Valentines Day, the town had experienced its worst snowstorm of all time. Unlucky lovers had been trapped inside their homes, separated from their significant others by walls of snow four feet or higher. Reservations and outings had been cancelled, bouquets of flowers had wilted, and many a woman had thrown a fit by the time the whole ordeal was over.
It was one of Ellen's fondest memories of her youth.
She sat in her rocking chair as she usually did, gazing out the window at the pouring rain that was now falling on Mineral Town. Bad weather again – what were the chances? Stormy grey clouds paraded across the sky, not allowing even a sliver of light to pass through. Occasionally, lightning crackled violently and illuminated the fat droplets of rain that continued to fall. The lightning was then followed by thunder that shook the earth and the air with its massive vibrations, making the foundations of the small house shudder.
Ellen didn't mind so much. At her age, a thunderstorm was no longer a hindrance, even on Valentines Day. The holiday had become a time of reflection and reminiscence for her, in which she thought back on all those to whom she had once given her love.
Ellen closed her old, tired eyes… and remembered.
How he had managed it, she hadn't the faintest idea. But somehow, Saibara had trudged through nearly two feet of snow at four a.m. that morning simply to be with her.
He had chosen wisely in doing so. By noon the amount of snow outside had doubled, and it was no longer possible to open one's door. She and Saibara were stuck inside the house, unable to venture outside, much less take a romantic stroll around the lake like they had planned. Ellen frowned and glanced nervously at the young man across the table from her.
They had been alone together before… but never like this. This time, there was no escape. Saibara seemed to notice this as well, as he seemed to be fidgeting uncomfortably in seat. His handsome young face, clean-shaven and still with a boyish innocence, looked anxious and uncertain about what he was supposed to say and do. Clenched in his hand was a worse-for-the-wear bunch of Moon Drop flowers, which seemed to have been battered by the vicious storm outside.
Ellen smiled slightly. "Here," she said gently, taking the poor flowers from his vice-like grip. "I'll find a vase for these."
"Ah, um… I'm sorry. They looked so much better before I came…"
"No, need to apologize. I think they're beautiful." She smiled again, and his cheeks turned a delicate shade of pink.
As Ellen entered the kitchen and found an elegant glass to vase to put the flowers in, she wondered what she was going to do. The storm outside showed no signs of letting up – at this rate, Saibara would have to stay with her all day… or longer. She loved him, yes, but at this stage in their relationship it was as awkward as love could be, complete with flushed faces, stuttered words, and embarrassed silences.
She ventured back into the other room to find him sitting and staring out the window as if he had never seen snow before. She cast a glance around the room, and her eyes finally settled on the old phonograph in the corner of the room.
"It's too quiet in here," she said. "I'm going to put some music on, if that's alright with you?"
"Er… Yeah, that's fine. Whatever you want."
Ellen picked up a record that had been gathering dust, unsure of what it was but desperate for something to banish the intense quiet of the room. She placed the record on the turntable and positioned the needle…
The sound of a trumpet being played drifted through the air. The phonograph was very old, and the sound quality was poor and scratchy, but it still worked, and that was all that mattered. Ellen smiled widely when she recognized the tune of the song – what a fitting song to play on Valentines Day!
She snuck a backwards glance at the nervous blacksmith and was struck with a sudden, ingenious idea.
"Saibara, would you like to dance?"
He was given no time to respond – he simply blinked in surprise as Ellen pulled him to his feet and dragged him to the "dance floor" in the middle of the room. She smiled angelically up at him, positioning his rough, calloused hands so that they were holding her around the waist. This intimacy was almost too much for poor Saibara to handle; his face and ears were both flaming red in embarrassment.
"I… I'm not a very good dancer," Saibara muttered. "This might not be a good idea."
"Nonsense," Ellen admonished as she put her own hands around his shoulders. (When had he grown so tall?) "I'm an atrocious dancer as well. But there's no one here but us, Saibara. There's no need to worry about looking foolish."
She could tell that he wasn't convinced. His eyes were still averted from hers, darting around the room as if he was being watched by imaginary spectators. Ellen sighed inwardly and took the lead, showing the clueless blacksmith how to properly sway back and forth.
Music drifted lazily through the room, creating a calm, snow-shrouded world for two.
"Hold me close and hold me fast,
The magic spell you cast,
This is la vie en rose…"
Ellen leaned in and rested her head against Saibara's chest. He was like… an anchor. Yes, that's what he was. He was always standing strong, always dependable and down-to-earth. He was the everyman, nothing special, and yet in a way he was beautiful. Imperfect? Yes. His flaws sometimes seemed to outweigh his virtues – his workaholic ways, his shyness, his inability to speak his mind. But perhaps… That was what made her love him. These imperfections only made him more real to her. Somehow Ellen knew that he would always be by her side, even when everyone else had left her behind.
He would always be there, standing strong, never wavering, despite what life might throw at him.
As if he knew what she was thinking, Saibara suddenly rested his chin against her head and wrapped his arms further around her waist, pulling her closer to him.
Outside, the angry blizzard was subsiding once again into the silence of winter. The howling winds no longer rattled the frame of the house, and the snow was falling gently, like white petals from the grey branches of the sky…
Ellen's reminiscence was interrupted by two things: a sudden thunderclap and a knock at the door. It was the knock that surprised the old woman the most – Elli was off on a date with the good Doctor, and Stu was being forced to be May's Valentine for the entire day. She wasn't expecting any visitors... And who in their right mind would come calling in such terrible weather?
"Come in," Ellen called, curious as to who the visitor could be.
The door opened and Saibara stepped into the house. His long white hair and beard were sodden with rain water, giving him the appearance of a bedraggled old cat. He closed the door behind him and stood, looking nervous, much like he had done all those years before.
"Saibara!" Ellen exclaimed. "What a lovely surprise! Please, come sit by the fire with me and dry off. We wouldn't want you catching anything, would we?"
The old man walked over stiffly and took a seat in the chair opposite Ellen.
"You know…" she said softly, "I had a feeling that you might be stopping by."
Saibara looked embarrassed. "Well I couldn't just leave you alone on Valentines Day, Ellen," he said gruffly. "I thought you might be lonely, so I decided to pay you a visit."
Are you sure it wasn't you who was lonely? Ellen thought, smiling sadly back at the blacksmith.
"I was just thinking about you, Saibara," she said. "I was thinking back to that one Valentines Day all those years ago, when we got snowed in and couldn't even get the door open. Do you remember?"
Saibara looked pensive for a moment, and then he nodded, chuckling quietly to himself. "Yes, I remember. You forced me to dance with you, and I was a nervous wreck! I kept thinking that I was going to make such a fool out of myself that you would never speak to me again."
Ellen laughed softly as well, her eyes crinkling in amusement. "You were such an awkward young man, Saibara. But you had a good heart. You still do."
A comfortable silence fell between the two. After fifty years of love and friendship, silence no longer bothered them the way it had in the past.
"Sometimes I wish I could go back and relive my younger days all over again," Ellen said finally, staring into the crackling flames that danced in the fireplace as if they held the answers to all of life's mysteries. "And I wonder… What would I do differently if I got that chance?" There was a certain wistful regret in her voice that hurt her own ears to hear.
Saibara stared at her from underneath his bushy white eyebrows with understanding in his eyes. He had always been able to tell what she was feeling deep inside the secret places of her heart.
"But then again… I suppose everything in our lives happens for a reason, doesn't it?" Ellen nodded as if agreeing with herself. "The choices we make when we're young… In the end they always end up being the right ones, because I don't think regret is something humans are meant to have. We're supposed to enjoy what we're given and take what fate has delivered to us. Don't you agree, Saibara?"
The old blacksmith said nothing. He simply rose to his feet and walked over to the corner of the room, where the old phonograph still stood. If it had been an antique all those years before, at this point it had faded into a relic of the past. It looked as if it hadn't been used in ages and had become simply an interesting conversation piece.
"Oh, don't bother with that old thing," Ellen said. "Hasn't worked in nearly twenty years."
But Saibara would not be dissuaded. He fiddled with some knobs and switches, blew the thick layer of dust off the top, and miraculously turned the phonograph on as if it were brand new. He then rummaged through the stack of records before selecting the one he wanted, placing it on the turntable, and positioning the needle.
The sound of a trumpet being played drifted through the air.
Ellen smiled widely; it was exactly what she had hoped to hear. Saibara walked back over to where she was sitting, and he held out his hand to her.
"Ellen, would you like to dance?" he asked. And when Ellen looked up at him she saw not the wizened old man with rheumatism in his joints but the tongue-tied young boy who had bought her flowers and complimented her cooking and tried so very, very hard to win her heart until the bitter end.
"Yes, Saibara," Ellen said, her eyes lit with happiness. "I would love to dance." She took his hand, far more calloused and rough than she remembered, and slowly rose to her feet.
Her legs ached as she stood up. Like the rest of her tired old body, her legs had weakened into a state of neglect and disrepair, and moving them too much was like being pricked with hundreds of sharp needles. But Ellen disregarded this fact as she put her arms around Saibara and leaned against him just as she had done so many years before.
He held her close to him, and once again they swayed in time to the tune of the music, lost in their world for two.
"Give your heart and soul to me,
And life will always be…
La vie en rose."