Author's Note: This story is a response to a request from farmermum on the Village Square Forums, but I won't tell you what she asked for since that'd ruin the whole story. I actually the first draft for this written out by Valentine's Day, yet with so many people heartbroken as it was, I decided to put off posting it until now.

Even so, please enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own Harvest Moon or its characters.


No Other Way

Maybe I could just... No, that wouldn't be right. Wait, I could always- He's looking at me now, isn't he?

I glanced up from my glass, unsure of what to say. We'd been sitting here in silence for far too long, and I knew it was my turn to speak. However, I simply couldn't think of anything to say which meant I could only continue to fiddle with my cold, clammy hands in the hopes that maybe he'd forget I was even there in the first place. When I caught his lingering gaze, though, I knew I'd have no such luck after all. His brown eyes were expecting a reply, one that I didn't even have, and that meant I had to bite my lip and wait for the inevitable.

"You're awfully quiet today," he observed smoothly, brushing aside his stray bangs. They were almost always in his face, even with his hat, but I suppose it was understandable since he refused to trim his unruly brown hair. But you used to like it when he grew it out. Well... that was then, and this is now. I didn't want his hair to be long anymore although I was too nervous to tell him so. It wasn't about his hair anyway, so there wasn't any real point in bringing up the matter. What was the point in giving him false hope that things might still work out if I was just going to...

"Well, you see, I..." My words, like my thoughts, fell away into nothingness, and I realized that this was going to end badly no matter how I went about it. I was merely clutching at straws while he was gripping his silverware in anticipation. He was clearly tense as well, but I knew it was for a different reason all together. He was always on edge, it seemed, which was one of many things about him that frustrated me to no end. It was like walking on eggs with him simply because I never knew when something might crack. Even though he never wanted people to see it in his face or hear it in his voice, I'd knew his weakness all too well. It wasn't his fault, though... No one can be strong all the time, you know, and he was certainly no exception.

I only wish he'd admit it to himself.

"Didn't you like it?" he asked, motioning towards my half-eaten sweet potatoes. I shrugged in indifference, but the problem clearly wasn't the food. Doug was the one to make it for us, being that neither of us were the best of cooks, so we both knew that dinner had been wonderful which was how I was able to tell he was laying a trap for me. Not to mention I had plenty experience with his clever ways.

He'd always been so good with words... That's how I fell in love with him in the first place, you see, yet I suppose I should've known I couldn't stay in love with that alone. After all, a man is hardly his word in the end.

"No," I replied with a soft sigh, "it's quite delicious actually." As if to make my point, I took another bite. However, it was more or less cold by this time...

"Then is it about me?" he challenged while trying to keep his voice smooth and even. I knew just as well as he did that he was getting angry with me, but we both forced a smile all the same. I don't recall how long we sat there, waiting for the other to make a remark, even though I certainly knew the tension was rising between us. I never could've imagined I'd be faking contentment, yet there I was... playing the part I no longer was right for. I'd become the star of the whole production, only to wish I was nothing more than a supporting role. I'd rather be in the chorus than the leading lady if it meant I could truly be happy, set apart from the drama within the show.

All the world's a stage, indeed.

"Should I assume you're taking the blame then?" I countered with surprisingly little effort. I hadn't expected to be so tactless, yet at the same time, I must admit that I felt an exhilarating rush of self-confidence. It was a rather queer thing... being that I'd never felt anything like it before. However, I couldn't deny my readiness, either, since I knew I'd let things go too far. I really should've ended this long before, and if I hadn't been so unsure of myself in the very beginning of the downfall, I would've taken care of it to keep things from possibly getting out of hand.

"Could you say that again?" he growled. "I didn't quite catch that..." Although I wasn't known to, I glared across the table at him. He was so smug to think I was going to go along with whatever mind game he was trying to play with me, but I was not going to have any part of it. Not this time...

"You heard me," I replied coldly, without any hint of emotion, taking another determined bite of my meal. I believe I nearly bent the fork, too.

"Oh so it's my fault you're being so uppity tonight?" he snarled before he threw down his knife on his empty plate with a clatter. I held my breath to try and calm myself down, but even with this careful precaution, I still felt the surge of anger beginning to boil and threaten to overflow.

"Jack..." I began with a slight chill in my voice as I admonished him. "Could you please be more considerate of the other customers?" However, I knew full well that all eyes had already turned to themselves towards us since it was Saturday, and that meant Manna was also in attendance to witness my rather spectacular performance. I must admit that watching Mother's theatrics with Father had certainly been a wonderful influence for my own acting skills.

Perhaps I would even mention her in her my acceptance speech after I'd been offered an award for Best Actress...

"Considerate?" he snapped, standing up abruptly which knocked his chair over onto the floor with what was nothing less than a bang. I have to say it was a difficult matter not to smile, though, since I hadn't really expected him to comply to my wishes so readily. I hadn't even done anything yet, and he was already making a fool of himself!

"People are staring," I reminded him harshly in a low whisper, glancing over my shoulder at Manna just for good measure. She was all but bouncing up and down as she watched us, and she simply couldn't hide that almost giddy grin of hers, either. Not that I minded any, of course, because it seemed to fit the absurdity of the whole situation.

"So what?" he replied. "Let 'em!" Just as expected, he brought his fist down hard to exaggerate his point, like he was accustomed to doing.

The sheer force of it caused our glasses to tip over and water spill out across the wooden table which I thought was a nice touch. He might've been an uncultured sort, but he knew the dramatic quite well for being such a simpleton.

For the sake of effect and not to be undone, I flew back from the mess with a slight yelp before the liquid had even managed to dribble my way. By now, the town gossip wasn't the only one curiously gawking at us, and I could see Jack's face beginning to turn a deeper shade of red. Whether it was from embarrassment or frustration, I couldn't tell, but it was surely just what I was after. He didn't seem to realize it, though, since he was too busy glaring at me. Once those warm, brown eyes of his had seemed so inviting... comforting even, yet now they were almost red with an inner fury I couldn't begin to imagine.

Though I'd always known he'd had a temper beneath that seemingly placid exterior of his, I'd never seen it at such an extent. It was so raw, perhaps so far as barbaric, and if I had been a mere spectator, I might've been taking notes.

After all, it would certainly make for an interesting character in the future...

"Who is it?!" he demanded as he stepped away from the table, apparently choosing to ignore the fact that the front of his overalls were soaked. "Is it that other guy again, the one who sees you at work every day?" he continued while taking firm, decisive steps towards me. However, I stood my ground, and I even puffed up my chest for good measure. I wasn't going to be bullied by some... man, especially one as weak willed as him.

Yes, that's right. He didn't have a spine at all, and being that I was probably the only one who had any idea of this, I knew I had no choice but to make the most of it. After all this time spent under his thumb because of his clever, yet manipulative, ways... I was finally going to stick up for myself. If I didn't do it now, somehow I knew I'd never have the courage to try it again, and I couldn't let that happen. My mother had always told me to stand tall and be strong, but it wasn't until this very moment that I chose to remember her wise words. Maybe that's just how it has to be for children to learn.

"No..." I corrected him sternly. "It's because of you that I'm leaving, Jack." He blinked at first, too stunned to even keep his mouth from hanging open like a codfish, but soon enough his face darkened while he seemed to grit his teeth in aggravation. "That's right," I continued, "I'm leaving, Jack, and I won't be crawling back now or ever."

"Like you didn't the last time?" he countered with a raised brow and a smug grin. My cheeks flushed, but it wasn't for the reason that made him fold his arms across his broad chest so victoriously.

"The last time you came to me crying," I reminded him cruelly with a self-assured smile of my own as I rested my hands on my curvaceous hips. "The only reason I broke down was because you went and called me 'hun,' but it's not going to be that easy this time." Unfortunately, that one little, affectionate title had reduced me to a quivering, apologetic little girl. I'd been ashamed of myself at the very moment I realized what had happened, too. "It won't be like the last time."

He only waved me off and scoffed, "You say that now, but-"

"But nothing!" I cut him off. "I'm done playing these games with you!" I shrieked as I slammed my own hands down on the table and sent the whole thing toppling over onto the floor. Manna gasped dramatically, of course, and I made a mental note to thank her for being such a willing participant in our little drama tomorrow when I dropped off some homemade pudding, courtesy of Mother. Without her, I was certain our play would've been nothing more than a simple skit, and all of my talent would've been wasted. She really knew how to bring the whole scene to life...

"You know what?" he snarled. "If you want to be a bitch about it, Mary," I felt my eye twitch slightly upon hearing that little remark, "then that's just fucking fine with me."

With that, the angry, young man and his red face turned on his heel and stormed out of the inn which left me standing in not only a puddle of water but a mushed pile of cold sweet potatoes as well. The entire place was silent then, and I heard myself hic-up slightly as I stank down to the floor, exasperated and yet vindicated all at the same time. Even though I knew my voice would only crack should I try to speak, I still managed to keep myself from becoming a sniveling brat with snot and tears rolling down my face. For a while anyway...

"Good!" I screamed at the now closed door in one last act of defiance before I let myself begin to cry. However, it wasn't out of regret for what I'd done, but rather, it was the result of all my frustration coming to an end. Finally... after so long, I was able to just let it all go...

After all, there was simply no other way for me.


Author's Final Note: I know that some might feel I depicted Mary as severely out of character, yet I felt like she'd be the type of girl to hold it all in until everything burst in the worst way possible. For me, she was the perfect choice to reflect that very thing which most of us have experience at some time in our lives.

Still, I hope it was worth waiting for 'Jack not to get the girl,' famermum!