Note: Written for the Village Square's Writing Contest. The theme was 'dreams'. This wasn't my original entry idea, but the original was becoming far too long and I knew I didn't stand a chance of completing it (damn my procrastination! XD) so I did a bit of a u-turn. So... enjoy!
Disclaimer: Harvest Moon isn't mine.
Her Mother's Daughter
Towns didn't come more gossipy and superstitious than Mineral Town.
Marriage, in particular, was one of the topics most fiercely debated by the middle-aged wives who chattered in Rose Square every afternoon. For years, nothing happened – a complete wedding drought. There were simply no men and women of marriageable age in the village. What else could you expect in place where the population was under fifty?
Through the 'Barren Years', there were too few whispers of dates, Full Moon Festivals and Blue Feathers for the wives to feast on. Eventually, their desire for gossip was satisfied when the awkward, yet handsome Doctor Tim married Elli, the nurse who worked for him. They were a predictable pairing, but nevertheless it gave the housewives several joyous weeks of discussions about dresses and flower arrangements, as if they themselves were giddy brides-to-be. It was as if Tim and Elli had set a trend, and the years that followed brought wedding after wedding. Some were surprising – Karen, the girl who protested that she'd never settle down for good in boring Mineral Town, married Jack, a dirt poor farmer; and on the last day of summer, Popuri married the man her brother hated and promptly ran away with him. The years rolled by. The wives of Rose Square weren't middle-aged anymore; some became grandmothers.
May Thomson grew up through all of this. She was a bridesmaid for the women of Mineral Town repeatedly; she wore the same ruffled peach dress, with flowers weaved through her long, dark hair. Years later, as a teenager, she swapped the peach dress for a black one and sat in the same church, sombre this time. Ellen passed away first, then poor Lillia and finally she watched as her grandfather was buried in the snowy churchyard.
May, now a woman of nineteen, lived alone at Yodel Farm. Barley had left it to her in will – in fact, he'd left her everything he had. His daughter, Joanna, hadn't been seen for years. She got nothing, not even a passing mention. In the eyes of the villagers, justice had been done. Many were not afraid to voice their opinions – Joanna had failed as a mother and as a daughter, and she would not be welcomed back. It was that simple. Black and white.
But not for May.
She had memories – at least, she thought they were memories; memories or dreams – of being with her mother before she abandoned her. Whether they were genuine memories or not, they were happy. And even if the Mineral Town residents hated Joanna, May simply couldn't bring herself to. She was determined to find her mother – it was her deepest shame.
May was an abandoned girl, and Mineral Town and her wonderful grandfather had taken her in. Surely, to long for her mother, was the greatest betrayal of them all?
Surely, it meant that she was just her mother's daughter?
I dream of my grandfather's house. There's nothing unusual about that. The dining table is too small, though, and the stairs aren't quite in the right place. But it feels like my grandfather's house, even if it looks a little different. Even if I know, deep down, that it's not real.
But the lights are off. This bothers me. The lights are never off. "Grandpa?"
The darkness is pressing now. I can't even make out the not-quite-right dining room. My fingers scrabble at the light switch, but it's not working. On, off, on, off – still nothing. Panic bubbles inside me.
Then, I'm on the stairs, running. Footsteps echo after me and they're getting closer, closer... I'm not sure who they are, but I know I mustn't let them catch me. My arms pump uselessly; they feel like lead. On the landing I slap the light switch desperately, praying.
And nothing happens.
I can't even shriek my frustration. It's as if my voice has been strangled out of me. I run from the bathroom to my grandfather's room to my own room. Same story. The lights don't work.
By now, I'm almost crying. The ominous footsteps are my shadow. I'm running in circles, in darkness, tied up in my own panic. My hair whips behind me and, oh god, I swear I feel fingers brush through it, too close –
And then I'm in the farmyard. Choking on fresh air and still running from no one. I know it's useless to run – I'll never run fast enough, or far enough. I just want to wake up.
It feels like being suffocated.
The summer night air was silent and utterly still. May leaned further out of her bedroom window than she knew she ought to. She stood and watched the sky go from peach to pink to flaming red, through lilac, before finally darkening into velvety blackness scattered with stars. Time to go.
As she stepped back, the feathers of her dream-catcher caught in her hair. She unhooked it from the window frame and turned it over in her hands, admiring the polished wood and bright turquoise beads. Her grandfather bought it from the salesman, Won, as a seventh birthday present. In those days, May was still young enough to believe her mother would be home any day. On impulse, she flung the old dream-catcher under her bed. It didn't even work, anyway. Last night was testament to that. And the one before it.
Most nights she went through the same: darkness, circles, claustrophobia. It was all part of the usual miserable cycle. She didn't need any weird self-help books to interpret these dreams. The same sense of entrapment she felt whilst walking around Mineral Town pretty much said it all.
Maybe the dream-catcher was working backwards, she mused, shrugging on a jacket and heading downstairs. Maybe it was catching all the good dreams, leaving only the bad ones for her to fret over.
She emerged into the farmyard, feeling suddenly chilly. Looking around she felt a familiar sadness settle over her. In previous years the yard had been full of roaming cattle; she had become so used to their low mooing, it was like the soundtrack to her childhood. Now, though, the yard was empty and sometimes felt deathly silent.
May hurried through the quiet streets. She'd promised, as she often did, to meet Stu at the beach when night fell. He'd been working with Tim at the Clinic all day. As for May, she'd spent the day alone – wandering on Mother's Hill in the morning then rattling around her lonely house in the afternoon. She was welcome at the Clinic with Stu, of course – but just lately the threat of being thrown up on by Elli's new baby was keeping her away.
Sometimes May felt like the one piece of the jigsaw that didn't quite fit.
"Hey," she murmured, padding across the sand towards Stu.
He twisted around and, at the sight of her, grinned so widely that her heart clenched. It wasn't an entirely pleasant feeling. "Hey," he echoed, taking her offered hand and pulling her down onto the sand beside him. They sat in silence for a long moment. Having known each other for so long, sometimes nothing needed to be said.
For once this bothered May. Because tonight she had something to say – and it might just prove to be the most important thing she'd ever said. She shivered.
Stu slipped his arm around her. "Cold?"
"No, it's a gorgeous night," said May – but leaned against him nonetheless. The gentle whoosh of the waves calmed her. "How was the Clinic?"
Stu just laughed, knowing May wasn't one for small-talk. But he obediently reeled off the day's events: unsurprisingly Jeff was mentioned at least twice. "And how was your day?" Stu asked, half-mockingly.
May didn't laugh; she felt more like crying. What could she say? "How was my day? Empty?" Instead, she shrugged, "Fine," and left it at that. Stu didn't need to know that she'd spent the day dwelling on the herd of cattle she'd sold to Jack. No matter how hard she tried, however, she just couldn't bring herself to regret selling her grandfather's prized possessions. She just wasn't a farmer at heart.
With a start she realised Stu was watching her with round, concerned eyes. He frowned. "You alright, May?"
A second lie was on the tip of her tongue, but May bit it back this time. "Well... thing is," she said. "Not really." She paused once, before it all came spilling out, "I don't think it's really working out – Yodel Farm, that is. I think I'm going to sell it. Sell it and leave." She nodded fiercely, not looking at him. "I want to – maybe – look for my mother. And – and I can't marry you – "
At this, Stu's eyebrows shot up. "You know, you should probably at least wait for me to ask before you shoot me down." He was trying to be jokey, but failing horribly.
"Karen told me last week that she sold a Blue Feather," May admitted. "Sorry, but I assumed – "
"Ah." Stu let out a low chuckle, but didn't deny that he had purchased said feather. In spite of herself, May's heart leapt. "You're as bad as those gossiping wives, you are," he moaned. "So. It's a no, is it? Without having heard my speech?"
May hadn't let out a real laugh in the longest time; it felt amazing. "I can't imagine you making a speech!"
"Well, now you'll never now!"
Soon they were giggling like children once again. May and Stu were both Mineral Town's abandoned children. They had been thrown together by misfortune. The crucial difference, however, was that Stu's parents died when their plane home went down. Tragic as it was, they had an excuse. May, meanwhile, had no idea what her mother's was. She needed to know, however painful it might be.
"Seriously, May," Stu was saying, "I know you think it makes you weak – "
She winced and managed a brief nod.
" – But if you want to leave Mineral Town and perhaps find her, then fine. I can't pretend to think it's the best idea, but I get the feeling you need it. The one thing I don't quite understand is you thinking that leaving means we can't be together."
May stared at him unashamedly, her green eyes very wide. "What? Stu, you belong here, your work is here."
"There are other clinics, May," he said quietly. He held out his hand to her.
May wanted to tell him 'no,' but somehow couldn't. She hadn't expected this. It had never occurred to her that she could have Blue Feathers and her freedom. She hadn't realised that Stu would follow. She still felt she should push his hand away.
But she gripped it anyway. Just for now. And just in case.