Here is my Secret Santa gift to the amazing HmGirly. I haven't played any of the games you requested, so I'm crossing my fingers in hopes that my interpretation of the available information wasn't too far off. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Shades of Sweet
Really, there wasn't much to do during winter. Jack stuffed his hands into his pockets as he languidly strolled past the various buildings in the village. His footsteps slowed to a halt as he found himself in front of one of the least visited establishment in town. Blanketed in a thin layer of undisturbed snow, the building had a peaceful kind of charm.
"Are you visiting the library?"
Mary stood behind him, keys in hand and coffee colored eyes gazing inquiringly up at his face. The hint of excitement failed to hide itself beneath her smile and Jack knew that he would feel like a jerk later if he didn't reply, "I am."
The farmer absentmindedly stirred the steaming bowl of soup in front of him. Even with layers of clothing, staying outdoors for long periods during winter was unpleasant for anyone. His eyes gazed past the foggy inn window and were greeted with a surprising sight. The farmer blinked when he saw Mary, dressed in a marshmallow-white jacket, passing by with her eyes glued to the pages of the book in her hands. Though clouds of condensed droplets formed each time she breathed out, the young woman appeared completely oblivious to the cold. Smiling, Jack wondered if the novel was set on a tropical island.
He found himself in the library again, if only to see the welcoming and happy expression on the librarian's face upon having a visitor. Visiting the library wasn't a bad thing, really. He needed to brush up on his farming knowledge anyway… though the task of actually doing so was proving to be difficult.
Half an hour later, he had managed to learn nothing about farming and a lot about Mary's writing habits. He found that her lips would unconsciously reveal her mood as the story progressed. There were times when she would smile, her scribbles on the page becoming lively and quick. Other times, she would frown, her hand slowing to the flow of molasses as she stared listlessly at the page.
By the end of the hour, he could decisively conclude that watching Mary was much more interesting than reading about carrots –not that the topic of carrots had any real chance in winning against anything.
It was most likely because she was the only intriguing thing in the library because for the second day in a row, Jack found his focus sliding off the dry farming book and onto the librarian's form. Today, her lips were pressed into a frown as she sat unproductively on her chair. Jack propped his chin on his palm, wondering what she was thinking about.
Theory Five: She had forgotten her pencil sharpener and couldn't write with a dull pencil… thus, decided to stare at the page for the rest of the day. Though, if that was the case, she most likely would have chosen to read today. Giving up his quest after a few more unsuccessful theories, his gaze shifted from the librarian's cute lips to her dark orbs…
And found them looking quizzically back at him.
After an awkward moment of staring at one another, Jack flashed Mary a wide smile. The librarian turned away, her cheeks a candy cane red.
She kept her head down today as she read –abnormal behavior. Jack leaned back in his chair, balancing on the hind legs as he once again tried to figure out her thoughts. Probable Thought Number One: Jack is creepy and if I don't look at him, he'll lose interest and go away.
Jack frowned slightly, believing this theory to be more probable than the ones he had conjured yesterday. He couldn't have that. After a moment, he picked up his book and chair, and set them in front of Mary's desk, opposite of the ebony haired woman.
Mary gazed up with a start. It took her a moment to respond to his appearance. With a delicate voice like spun sugar, she inquired, "… Do you need help with something?"
"I'm not creepy," Jack stated.
"Do I bother you?"
The librarian fumbled with the book she was shelving. Readjusting her grip on the object, Mary turned her focus back to the bookshelf. Her movements delicate, as if she were handling a brandy snap, she gingerly slid the book back in place. "You… don't. At least, not really."
She was gazing unproductively at her notebook again. Jack propped his head on his right hand and thoughtfully watched her. "Why aren't you writing?"
Her eyes lifted for a moment to look at her visitor –who was sitting at her desk again— before returning to gazing down at the page. Nibbling on her lips, the librarian appeared to be carefully choosing her words while Jack curiously watched. Cheeks tinted cranberry red, she murmured, "It's difficult to write when you're watching."
Jack turned his chair around and faced the wall.
For most of his library time that day, the farmer had the pleasure of staring at the wall if he got bored of reading. It wasn't as interesting as Mary, but she was no longer holding herself rigidly like a ginger snap. He lifted his eyes from the book when he noticed that the sound of pen on paper had faded away a while ago. Turning his head, he found the librarian gazing intently at him. Tables turned, with him catching her staring this time, Mary ducked her head and started scribbling distractedly in her book.
He found her precariously balancing two stuffed bags of groceries in her arms as she exited the store. Casually strolling beside the librarian, Jack leaned over and lifted a bag from her arms.
Mary turned her head, words forming on her tongue; however, upon seeing Jack, she closed her mouth. The farmer took a brief moment to consider the situation before grinning and asked, "Am I that scary?"
The librarian shook her head, rose pink cheeks deepening to a deep scarlet. When they arrived at their destination, the librarian turned to Jack, saying softly, "Thank you for helping me carry the groceries. I really appreciate it."
As Jack carefully shifted his bag back into her arms, he couldn't help but take longer than necessary because he found the vanilla scented soap Mary used very pleasant.
She was like a wrapped box of chocolates in that she was quite a mystery.
"You're staring again," Jack stated. The librarian snapped out of her daze, blushed, and turned away. The farmer drummed his fingers on the desk, wondering about her actions. He had confirmed that she wasn't using him as reference for a horror story –which was a relief –but was left even more clueless about what she was doing staring at him.
"I was trying to figure out your thoughts. I find that I don't understand the reasoning behind your actions at all."
Jack arched an eyebrow. He supposed that they were on equal footing after all.
Her laughter was like champagne. As he watched her grasp her sides, he considered making her laugh more often. After she had regained her bearings, the librarian apologized. "I'm sorry; I think you might have misread the sentence."
Jack thoughtfully folded his hands together, his brows furrowed in thought. "So plants living in hot deserts don't open their stomachs at night to eat CEOs?"
A smile tugged on her lips once again.
"Reading is much more fun when you're not forcing yourself to do it," Mary commented as she watched Jack place the open book over his face. He nodded and then lifted a hand to steady the book as it began to slide off his head. Biting back a grin, she hesitantly held out a novel. "This one is one of my favorites. If you want… you can borrow it for a while."
Lifting the book off his head, he accepted the one she held out. Turning it over in his hands, he noted the off-white pages that revealed the age of the book. Despite its age, not a single tear marred the pages nor any of the corners bent. Her trust was bitter sweet like dark chocolate.
Even though the library was near empty almost every day, the librarian continued to lovingly maintain it. He had long since decided that it wasn't duty that kept her bound to the library. Rather, Mary loved what she did and continued to stay with it despite the challenges. Like a gingerbread house, her passion strengthened over time rather than crumbling away –or, at least, that was what he thought.
Jack turned away from the dusting librarian and attempted to refocus on the farming book once again. The devotion tied with doing something one loved… it was inspiring.
It was interesting seeing how quickly her pale, shortbread-white complexion could turn to flaming poinsettia-red. Mary only made it easier by being so easily flustered –not that he enjoyed teasing her… at least, not that much.
"Have you been busy lately?" The female asked one afternoon.
Jack smiled as he processed the words and slowly pulled his attention away from the wall. Twisting around in his chair, the farmer leaned forward onto her desk, eyes sparkling mischievously "Do you miss my long visits?"
The young librarian flushed and distractedly readjusted her glasses. "It's not that… I'm just worried."
His grin widened. "You worry about me?"
"O-of course, it's natural to worry about others, right?" the librarian clumsily opened the nearest book and hid her burning face behind its upside-down cover.
Mary didn't say much when Jack left early that day, merely wishing him luck with his work. Despite the pleasantness in her voice, she was unable to hide the disappointment in her eyes. When it came to emotions, her true contents were as easy to see as a pumpkin pie.
Perhaps he had been spending too much time in the library. Jack gazed contemplatively at his slowly dwindling bag of gold. As he trudged through the slowly building snow towards the mines, the male tried to go through the few money raising methods available during winter. Even as he was contemplating ice fishing though, his mind still drifted back to his sweet addiction.
"What to get?" he murmured as he rummaged through his near empty fridge and cabinets. Nothing he owned seemed to be able to procure the honey-sweet smile he liked on her face. Slamming the fridge door shut, the male pinched the bridge of his nose, and tried to recall her favorite items that were obtainable during the winter. After a moment, he grabbed his hammer and began heading towards the mines again.
Something that I want to give my best to work towards… even if it is difficult… I'm beginning to understand what that is now.
The library, he found, was a kind of sanctuary, momentarily shielding him from the busy bustle of reality –at least, on most days.
Concern dusted her voice like powdered sugar as she said, "Even if you are busy, please remember to take care of yourself."
Jack furrowed his brow, not wishing to hear a lecture today. Keeping his forehead against the cool surface of the desk, Jack mumbled, "Tasks won't get done nor money produced if I don't do anything."
"I understand that, but your health is more important than either of those," she persisted.
He couldn't help but find himself thinking that it was easy for her to say. Before he could say anything he would later regret, the farmer pushed back his chair and left the library.
Her unhappiness had the coldness of peppermint ice cream, chilling any warmth he found upon managing to make up the money to fill his fridge once again. Sighing softly, the farmer closed the fridge door and slid to the floor. Gazing out the window at the dark night sky, he wondered if it was best to leave things as they currently were. Too many sweets were poor for one's health, were they not?
Yet, no matter how much he attempted to convince himself of that thought, he couldn't leave things as they were.
"I'm sorry about my behavior the other day," Jack said, rubbing the back of his neck with a gloved hand. "There were so many things going on… but it's no excuse. I'm sorry."
The librarian shook her head and offered him a small smile. "I wasn't angry. I think I understand now."
The male held out a large box. "Happy Birthday, Mary. I wanted to get you something that would last longer but wasn't able to find it. I hope this would do instead."
Mary smiled as she lifted the lid of the box, her delicate features forming the expression he wanted to see –even if the gift was merely a chocolate cake. Moving her books aside, the librarian offered to share the present. Before he even tasted the cake, he knew that it would taste more delectable than any other chocolate cake he had ever eaten.
"I'm fine. There is no need to worry."
Jack idly turned the page of the book. "I'm staying because I need to research carrots."
She made no reply, and hesitantly continued to occupy herself with her book. Even so, sniffles occasionally broke through the silence of the library while she pulled at the ends of the blanket wrapped around her like a Yule Log. Though he still needed to procure money, the farmer couldn't help but stay with her until the library closed. Upon reaching her home, he gave her head an awkward pat and wished her a speedy recovery.
Life continued. The farm needed to be run –his animals fed and tools maintained. Like a flaming Christmas pudding, the fire will inevitably fade away when time had run its course. For now, he merely wanted to make the most of the time they had to spare.
"Would you… like to attend the Starry Night Festival with me tomorrow night?" Her cheeks were a dusty rose pink, reminding the farmer of the time she had caught him staring at her. Chuckling, Jack ran a thumb across her soft cheek. Her flush deepened to the shade of velvet cake.
"I would be honored to go with you," he murmured.
Perhaps they both knew that once winter was over, Jack wouldn't have the time to visit her as often anymore. The two spent the last minutes of the day watching the stars twinkle softly in the dark night sky.
"Do you believe in magic?"
If she had asked him a season earlier, he would have answered negatively without any hesitation. At length, he quietly questioned, "Why do you ask?"
"I think all humans, at some time or another, wish for something they can't obtain," she replied, turning to look sadly up at him. Shaking her head, she forced a smile to her cherry lips. Jack gazed up at the stars and wished that things would be able to continue like this, if only for a little longer.
"Merry Christmas, Mary," Jack greeted, strolling casually up beside her. He held out a box of shortbread cookies which, after a moment, she carefully accepted.
Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, the librarian smiled softly at her friend. "Thank you. I wish that your Christmas will be filled with joy as well."
The two walked in silence for a moment, enjoying the winter scenery. Snowflakes drifted lazily down from the sky, similar to the display put on by the cherry blossoms in the spring.
"I really enjoyed your visits during these past few weeks," the librarian said, breaking the silence.
The farmer grinned. "I'll be busier when spring arrives, but…"
Leaning forward, he placed a kiss on the female's cheeks. His little dessert was as sweet as he had imagined. Smiling, the farmer drew back from the flustered librarian.
"I'll find time to visit. I promise."