Author's Note: Hehe, so I lied- this is actually my Village Square Forum contest entry for Family. I had written another story called Dysfunctional but it kinda sucked, so I replaced it with this! I think this turned out really well (I hope you did too, haha) and good luck to everyone else in the contest!
They are the providers, the fortresses of the household. They raise you to be strong and wise, to become fine men and women. They work tirelessly to ensure you get only the best in life. But sometimes, fathers go over the line...
I have heard of your new life in Leaf Valley. I always knew you would make something of yourself one day. Rumor has it you have become quite the hero down there. I want you to know that I am proud of you, my son.
However, there is another matter that I must discuss with you. One that concerns me very deeply. Word has gotten to me that you married. And now I ask you- when did you plan to tell your own family? Not once did you ever ask my permission or my blessing! Who told you that you were allowed to marry?
I am coming to visit you in one year- Spring 1, 2011. I want you to prove to me that you can support your family. 100,000 gold- that's how much I need to see for you to prove that you are successful. If not...well, do not dwell on the thought. I want you to show me what you have learned from me. Give me all you've got.
Jack growled and grimaced at the document. His father had some nerve, threatening his own son. The farmer trudged back inside of his home, slamming the door on the way. His wife, a slim silverette with a stunning black nightgown, glanced up from the kitchen counter.
"Jack," she spoke, furrowing her eyebrows, "what's the matter with you? Don't slam the door so hard, you'll break it. Goddess only knows that we need to pay for anything other than what we need to right now." Jack sighed, and his spouse's icy demeanor turned into one of sympathy. "Jack, what happened? What's wrong?"
"Alice," he said, his voice nearly a whisper, "we have a problem." He paused, trying to piece together exactly how to phrase this. "My dad, he wrote me this letter. He told me that if we don't scrape together 100,000 gold in less than a year..." Alice's eyes narrowed in anticipation. "...he'll split us up. ...Forever."
The white-haired mistress slammed her hands on the counter. Her nostrils flared and her face twisted in rage. "How dare he! He sends you out to live on your own for two years without him even sending a letter to see how you are and now he expects to suddenly come back into your life and tell you who you can and cannot be with!"
She marched about the home, screaming and shouting furiously at anything she could manage to find. Jack grabbed her shoulder, and stopped her ranting. "Stop, Alice. You'll upset the baby."
Together, they stroked her rotund belly. Alice showed a rare genuine smile, not the kind she plastered on her face in front of guests or business associates, but a smile of pure love. "Yes, I guess you're right. But what will we do? We only have 10,000 gold now and it's the 1st of Summer. How do you expect to raise 90,000 gold in only two seasons?"
The rancher embraced his wife. "We'll do this. I know we can. The Harvest Goddess was the one who brought us together, and she will be the one to keep us together."
After a moment of silence, the couple sat at the breakfast table. Alice, while not the best cook, had prepared some simple pancakes- a recipe she had learned while picking up groceries at the supermarket. While munching on a bit of the breakfast, Jack asked, "Honey, how much are you still earning from Funland?"
Silence. The silverette bowed her head, so she could not meet her husband's eyes. Shame washed over her face. Jack stared intently, analyzing her. "Uh, well you see, I don't get any money from the company anymore..."
The farmer cocked an eyebrow. "You see, when I married you, my father fired me. He never actually gave me permission to marry you. He was furious with me for even thinking about marrying you, but I didn't care."
The brunette shook his head. "Alright then, well I guess we'll have to come up with the money solely by farming. You won't be able to do any work, not with you being pregnant and all. I'm going to have to work overtime on the farm, filling up every field and the barn and coop. I may not be around so often."
His wife scoffed. "Like I would let you do all the work. Jack, have you met me? I am about as stubborn and headstrong as they come. I will help just as much as you do, forget the baby. I won't sit back and watch you work hard while I do nothing. Not a chance." Across the table, they held each other's hand.
They could do this.
Fall 1, 2010
Current Gold: 40,000
Autumn had made it's way into the valley. With it brought the aroma of freshly cooked pies and apple cider. Sweet potatoes and eggplants abounded, as did fallen leaves of crimson and auburn.
Jack was working in the fields, plowing and sowing and watering until he was ready to collapse. His faithful companion, Charles, whom they named after Alice's ex-boyfriend from Funland, sat at his heel, lazily staring at the clouds. How nice, the farmer thought, how nice it must be to have not a single care in the world. He bent down and pet the pup on the head, receiving a satisfied "woof!" in return.
Alice was covering the animals. It's strange, she thought, how I used to hate animals...until I married Jack. I've changed a lot, I guess. She stood leaning against the cow they had named Jill, after Jack's sister, and brushing her smooth skin. She patted her side until she mooed in delight. Reaching down to milk her, she pondered how her father was. She doubted that he was pleased with her for eloping and essentially abandoning the company. But she had no other family to think about.
Her mother had passed early on. She was crippled with a rare disease, leaving her weak and frail. She doted on Alice, conforming to her every whim. She would sit her on her feeble lap and read her fairy tale after fairy tale, until she fell asleep in her arms. But as she stood at her mother's death bed, she vowed to never let herself become as helpless as her mother had been. Never, never, never.
She caught herself. She told herself time and time again that dwelling on the past was futile. Mourning would get you nowhere after all. Not to mention, she too would soon be a mother. She would have to raise her own child with as much love and compassion as her mother did. She could not focus on what has already happened- all she could do was work hard to better her future.
Winter 1, 2010
Current Gold: 70,000
Winter had settled down in their village. With it brought blizzards and snowmen and hot cocoa and merriness of all kinds. But it was not merry for all. For no crops grew in winter- all was dead beneath the frozen sheets of ice and sleet. Everything had gone dormant, just waiting to be released again unto the world.
They wouldn't make it.
Not with the way things were looking right now. They had only managed to scrounge up 30,000 gold each season and that was with crops. Now that they couldn't rely on that income, what could they do? The mines were off-limits (not that they would even dare to step in their anyways- they were too frightened of Funland attacking them while they were inside) and they was not too many sources of reliable income.
So they got jobs. Jack worked with his animals in the morning, and during the day he would cut lumber for the carpenters. It earned him a solid paycheck, but some of it was used up just to pay for food. Alice left early to help at the grocery store and tend to Ronald's chickens, and at night, she cooked dinner for Dia. This way, she earned money and extra food for her and her husband to munch on to keep up their strength.
But it still wouldn't be enough. They were seated at their dining room table, calculating their incomes and expenses. Over and over they checked, and over and over they came up short. They slumped over, their heads slamming against the wood. They heaved a heavy sigh. "So, what do we do?" Alice muttered.
"We don't give up, that's what." Jack stood up and took his spouse by the shoulders. "Alice, we can do this. I don't care if we make all that money or not- I won't let us be separated. Never, never, never."
Alice chuckled- it seemed like only yesterday she also promised to never, never, never let something happen. Had it been only yesterday? No, that was a long time ago. She was much happier now.
It was Winter 24, Christmas Eve.
It was the day before a time when everyone was supposed to rejoice and give thanks to the Harvest Goddess...and then gorge themselves with presents and food and wine. Alice was never very religious, but Ronald was a devout follower, as was Jack.
As such, the silverette decided she would work. After all, they needed all the money that they could get. She toiled away feeding and grooming the chickens and baking loaves of bread. It was nearing dinner time, and the shop was closing. Alice pulled her thick winter coat on over her body, but as she opened the door and mumbled a solemn "goodbye" to her employer, Ronald gripped her shoulder and spun her around.
In his hand was an envelope, which he thrust into her open palm. His grin was gentle and kind, and he whispered, "take it" before he trotted off down to the church to pray. Alice cautiously opened the envelope, and as her eyes read the words on the card inside her eyes went wide with shock. Inside lay a simple card with the words Merry Christmas, Alice scrawled on and a check sitting next to it. A check for 10,000 gold.
Alice burst through the door of her home, to find Jack lying on their bed, dozing off. "Jack!" she nearly screamed. He shot up, sleep evident in his gaze. "What, what? What is it?" Alice threw her arms around him, and stammered, "C-check, Ronald, MONEY!"
Jack pushed her back and stared straight into her eyes, as if seeing if she was telling the truth. Then he snatched the check from her hand and studied it, savoring every number it contained. He picked her up, despite the baby, and flung her around the room. The night was full of love and laughter. They had found a reason to rejoice.
Winter 30, 2010
Current Gold: 100,000
Everything was going great. Perfect, actually. The animals were doing well, their jobs remained intact and they were happy beyond their wildest beliefs. Jack's best friend, Joe, had invited them out to drinks at the bar with he and his wife, Katie. "It'll be fun," he assured, but it wasn't until Joe told him that he would pay for his friend, that Jack agreed.
That entire night was a celebration. Joe and Katie were aware of Jack and Alice's situation, and were hoping desperately that something would happen and that they could stay. Jack and Joe (and even Katie, claiming that she was "a big girl now and I deserve a big girl drink) drank the finest wine Wallace had to offer. They sang and danced and praised their good fortune. But good times never last forever.
Alice flew in, smashing the door against the wall and flinging herself onto Jack. Tears streamed down her face, an extremely uncommon sight indeed. Jack comforted her, rubbing her back and begging her to calm down and explain. She inhaled and exhaled, in a foolish attempt to control her emotions. The brunette took the letter Alice held out to him and read it aloud:
I have received news of your marriage. Congratulations. Congratulations for betraying your job, your friends and your own family. Congratulations for going against everything I told you to do.
Unfortunately, congratulations are not all I bring. I bring a warning- you are to hand over 10,000 gold for all of the suffering and distraught you brought upon the company. If you do not comply, we will sue you. We have much we could sue you for. But all I ask for is this meager offering. I want it tonight. Charles will be stopping by- I'm sure you will enjoy seeing him.
Jack crumpled up the note and tossed it at the wall. He had no words to describe his anger. All the emotions coursing inside of him left him speechless. He could only hold his wife as she wept. "Give him the money." Alice's eyes widened in horror and she stuttered, "B-but, if I do that, then what about your father?"
"Don't worry," he assured her, "everything will be fine. Everything will be fine." He repeated it over and over, as if to convince himself more than convincing her.
Alice met Charles at midnight. She had brought the check with the money, and had finally managed to control her emotions. But her eyes were still puffy and bloodshot from her tears. Her body was unused to outbursts from her normally reserved self.
He stood there, refined and elegant as always. He had always been gorgeous, with impeccable fashion sense. But now, examining him after all this time apart, she saw the ugly she had missed before. Yet how could she have?
His once beautiful crimson mane was now a tangled web of dull red. His clothes were torn and tattered, and she swore he smelled like the sewer. Could she have so easily missed all of this before? Or did envy eat him alive?
"Hello, Alice," he spoke, his voice still that same crystal clear monotone. She merely nodded and he sighed. "Do you need to act so cold towards me still, ice princess? Do I need to melt you once more?" He approached her, but Alice shoved him away. "Buzz off." She spat and glared at him in the eyes, emeralds meeting jades. "Take your money and go."
He reluctantly took the check from her, but before she had a chance to walk away, he spun her around and drew her into his arms. "Alice, forget about Jack. Your father wants you back. If you come with me, then you'll have everything you could ever want. Fame, fortune- anything your heart desires."
She slapped him hard across the face, the smack! resonating throughout the yard. "No, I would never have what I wanted because the only thing my heart desires is Jack." She pointed to the exit of her property, "Now leave. And don't ever come back."
He never came back, and for that, Alice was glad. She shuffled disgruntled back into her abode, crawling back into bed with her husband. Jack opened his eyes and whispered, "so what happened?" She explained the events and there was an awkward silence after. Alice broke it.
"What do we do now, Jack? We don't have enough money?" Jack kissed her softly and replied, "Don't worry about it, alright? The Harvest Goddess will do something...I'm sure of it." And that was enough for her. She rubbed her bulging stomach until she suddenly felt something pop.
Spring 1, 2010
The baby. The baby was coming. "Jack! Jack, the baby!" The brunette shot straight upwards in shock and quickly lifted her out of the bed and carried her bridal style to the villa.
He thanked the goddess that Martha and Gina had been trained as nurses before moving here, or else it would have been much worse. He paced back and forth in the hallway outside of a spare room they were using as a delivery room. He was not so much nervous about the delivery- no, Alice was much too stubborn to let anything happen to either of them- but more about his father. His father would be here in exactly half an hour, and he had yet to clean the house and tend to the animals.
Was he supposed to leave his pregnant wife to meet with his father? Then again, he might be separated from them forever if he didn't leave now. Then again, he might not see his child for the first time until much, much later if he did leave. It wasn't until Gina stumbled out of the room and delivered a message to him that his mind was made up- "Um, Ms. Alice, said that you should go meet with your dad."
His father was punctual, as usual. He came right on time, not a moment too early or too late. He bore a scowl and Jack noticed how much he had aged in the short time he had been gone from home. "Father." he greeted gruffly and his dad nodded.
"Where is the money? Do you have it? Let me see it!" He commanded. Jack showed him the 90,000 gold they had collected. His father scoffed. "This isn't enough! I knew it. I knew you couldn't do this. Come on, son, I won't let you mess up anymore than you have. You can't support this family anyways." He pulled his son by the arm but his son withdrew.
"No, Dad. The truth is, I may not be rich and famous, but my wife doesn't want that. And I can provide for my family. I have plenty of crops and meat and milk and eggs for us to eat. I work hard and, you know what, I'm proud of myself! And I won't let you tear me away from my family! So I suggest you leave."
And then his father did the oddest thing- he began to clap. His scowl was replaced by a sly grin. "Bravo, my son. You pass." His son cocked an eyebrow. "I wanted to see if you had become a man, and what you just said proved it to me. You've become a fine young man." Jack embraced his father and whispered, "thank you, Dad. ...would you like to come meet your grandchild?"
The delivery had gone without error. Jack was now a father- a father to a beautiful baby boy. He had a single hair on his head- a single lock of silver, like his mother. "What should we name him?" Jack paused for a moment. "Vaughn, we should call him Vaughn." His mother stroked her child's cheek lovingly. "Vaughn, yes, I like that."
Yes, Papas were the providers.
The pillar of strength, the rock. But, they were also the protectors and the nurturers. They defended what they believed in and raised their children with love and tenderness that surpassed that of their parents. They may have made mistakes, but that is merely the human way. And that is what makes fathers truly special- they are just as mortal and capable of failure as we are.
They are love.