Author's Note: This is my entry for the Village Square Forum's contest; the chosen theme this time was Awkward. More will be offered at the end.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harvest Moon nor its characters.
"Is there really a Harvest Goddess?"
The question was simple enough. However, when he heard it, the good pastor found himself at something of a loss for words. That in itself was rather troubling, of course, being as he was a man of the church, and as such, he should have been able to answer without a moment's hesitation. Even so, if the young woman took notice of his failure, she made no mention of it. She only waited patiently for the reply.
"Yes, Popuri, there is a Harvest Goddess," he assured her with a smile. She nodded then, her soft pink curls bouncing while she did so, and was quiet once again. This was how they often spent their Sunday mornings with him standing at the pulpit and her pacing the floor. They rarely spoke to one another, but every now and then, she would offer him a question such as the one that had come only moments before. It was his job to answer them as best as he could...
Which was becoming much more difficult as of late.
"Have you ever seen her, Carter?" He stiffened, his brown eyes flickering up from the book laid out before him, only to find she was now standing there in front of him. "Rick told me that she lives in the Spring," she explained, "so I always go there to see her. Ann does, too, but no one's ever seen her, right?"
"That's right," the man agreed with a solemn nod. "The Harvest Goddess is said to show Herself only to a select few, and so it is a true blessing to stand in Her presence."
"So you haven't seen her, either?" she asked quietly, her red eyes gazing up at him in wonder. It would seem that she would not stray from the question until it was answered, but while this was not unusual in and of itself coming from her, he was rather taken aback by her persistence. However, she accepted his silence as his reply and then pressed further. "If you haven't seen her, how come you still talk about her all the time?"
"Just because I have not seen Her with my own eyes, that does not mean my belief in Her is any less strong or pure," he replied, his voice never wavering. "After all, that is what it means to have faith." Having given his word, he became quiet once more and waited for her to continue. She was seemingly lost in deep thought, her head bowed as she nibbled on her finger, but just as he was about to return to his reading, she spoke again.
"Do you really believe in the Goddess... or are you just saying that because you have to?" Carter could only stare for a moment, his lips parted as if in anticipation of the answer that would surely come, and yet not a word entered his thoughts. The only thing he could do was remain silent...
For had he tried to speak, he would have to admit that he did not know.
"And I just stood there like a fool." He sighed then before taking a long drink from his mug. Though the wine was warm, the pastor still shivered, but whether it was because of the chill in the air of the church or the memory of what had happened, he did not honestly know. "I wanted to say yes... but there was no way I could."
Not without lying to her at least.
His friend studied him for a moment, nursing his own glass while he did so, but he said nothing at first. Trent was a quiet man by nature, though, and knowing this, the other could only wait for the wisdom that he hoped would come.
While doing so, the revered brought his gaze back towards the pulpit, but he soon found he had to look away. It was shameful of him, of course, but over the past few days, he found himself unable to so much as glance in its direction let alone stand behind it. Not only that but he had also been having difficulties in writing his sermons which left him all the more ill at ease. After all... what good was a preacher without a means to preach?
Better yet, what purpose did he serve if he had to question his faith?
"Well, Carter, I can't say that I'm a very religious man myself," the other began with a deep, even breath, "but as a doctor, I can assure you that I have had my share of doubts before. However, if I was always certain of my abilities, I would be doing a disservice to my patients."
"How is that then?" he asked, pouring himself the last of the wine. There had been times when the other had shared his concerns over his practice, of course, but never before had he spoken of them as if they were of value to him. It was because of this, and not his own troubles, that his friend was now curious, but Trent only smiled in return.
"Just consider this..." he explained. "If I was assured that all that I do for my patients is all that could be done, then what would drive me to continue my studies? After all, I would see no reason in doing so when I felt there was nothing left to learn." With that, he finished his glass and went to stand. However, just before he left the other man to his thoughts, he turned back at the door and smiled. "We all have more to learn... That's just another part of what it means to truly live."
Carter only sighed while he continued to pour over the wall of text that rested in his lap. The afternoon had been long, and though he knew it was an almost unforgivable thought, he was only grateful not to have had to share the confessional booth he was now sitting in. It was not an unusual occurrence, of course, since very few of the townspeople saw any good in it, but he was thankful all the same.
However, it was time for him to return to the sanctuary for the evening sermon, and so he gathered up his things and stepped out. When he did so, he found Cliff was waiting for him in the first pew. The young man may have found himself a job at last, but he still came each and every day to the church afterwards without fail. This was of little comfort to the preacher given his predicament, but even so, he managed to smile despite the lingering heaviness in his heart.
"It is good to see you," he greeted him, offering his hand which the other gladly took. "I hope I did not keep you waiting long."
"Not at all," the young man assured him. Although he wore a smile as well, it soon disappeared, and he began to study the reverend's face. "Is something wrong, Carter?" he asked quietly. "I know I'm always the one asking you for advice, but if I can be of any help, I'd be more than willing to-"
"There's no need to worry," the man replied. His voice wavered as he said it, and while the young man had never been one to pry, his steady gaze was more than enough to loosen the preacher's lips further. "It is only a matter of me questioning my faith. I'm afraid it's something that cannot be helped by anyone but myself."
Although he had expected for his companion to be hurt by his abrupt confession, he was surprised to find Cliff had just smiled in understanding. He stood, only reaching the other's chest by comparison, and rested his hand on his shoulder.
"You know... my mom always used to tell my sister and me that it's easy to have faith when surrounded by the faithful." His face warmed slightly then as he lowered his gaze and withdrew his hand. Carter said nothing at first as he gazed down at the young man, but soon enough he just had to smile.
"It's just as you say," he agreed, "and I thank you for that." Then, placing his own hand on the other's head, he continued. "It would seem that today it is the day when the student has become the teacher." With that, he made his way back to his pulpit in silence, and though he gave no sermon that night within the church, his thoughts were once again filled with the words that were to come the day after.
The only question he was left with was whether or not speaking them within the church walls would be able to satisfy the new hunger within him.
Author's Note: To be honest, this was nothing of what I expected to write for this contest, but although it may not be immediately apparent, I still feel that this fulfills the theme. After all, what can be more awkward than talking about one's religion these days?
If nothing else, I feel a lot better about a few things, and that's more than enough for me to say that I'm happy with this story which is something rare indeed.