Vaughn gazed out at the sea's horizon. The setting sun basked the seashore in golden yellow and fiery red, but Vaughn couldn't bring himself to admire it today. He barely saw it, too engrossed in his own thoughts.
A mistake. He had made a stupid mistake. Maybe Sunny Island just wasn't the place for him. Maybe that was the reason this had happened. He just wasn't ready to settle down yet.
He blinked and sighed. The ferry was due any minute. He would board it, and leave the island... forever.
Immediately after Chelsea moved onto the island, she began making friends. Like Mark, she would do her chores, then run around the island talking to anybody and everybody. When she came to Vaughn, he coolly introduced himself, then went back to his work. He wanted nothing to do with the bright, energetic farm girl. Mark and Pierre were enough.
Chelsea was not one to be fazed, however. She came to talk to him the next day, too. While he was helping Julia in the barn. He felt the urge to kick her out, but Julia was enjoying her company too much to let him.
Then, the next week, much to his horror, she was waiting for him when he got off the ferry. She chatted at him about himself and the unusually cheery weather. He managed to shake her off at the entrance to Mirabelle's, but of course, the next morning, she was there again.
And then the next week, she gave him doughnuts. It appeared that Sabrina had told her that he liked them. In actuality, Vaughn did not like doughnuts, but had only accepted Sabrina's to please her. He accepted Chelsea's present as well, because he didn't want word to get around to Sabrina that he didn't really like sweets. But then Chelsea began giving him a present every week.
She gave him milk sometimes, which he appreciated, as he would never refuse the opportunity to save money, especially if it was in the form of free food. But then once she gave him ice cream. Just because he liked milk didn't mean he liked ice cream! He ate a little, then hastily gave it to Julia.
Eventually, however, he managed to warm up to her. It was not really a matter of choice after all. If somebody insisted on seeing you whenever you were around, you either learned to like them, or suffered. After a few years, he was quite friendly with her, and didn't really mind when she came to see him, even if he was in the middle of working.
That was still okay. The real trouble started on his fourth year on the island. The start of everything in his life suddenly tumbling downhill.
He and Mark were lounging on the beach together, basking in the warm summer sun. The two were chatting somewhat amiably when Chelsea ran up to them, clutching something in her hand. The two men leapt up as she approached, shielding their faces from the sand she was kicking up.
'Hey, stop that!' Vaughn yelled.
'Chelsea, you're going to blind us!' Mark cried, half-laughing.
She stopped a few feet from them, breathless and grinning widely. 'Sorry,' she said and they both lowered their arms and looked at her. 'I just feel so happy and excited today!'
'Like you do every day?' Vaughn offered.
'But today I feel extra happy!' she chirped. 'Guys, look at this.' She held up the item she was holding in her hand.
'A blue feather!' Mark said enthusiastically. Vaughn watched indifferently. 'You've found that special someone already? Wow I'm jealous. Who is it?'
'Don't pretend you don't know,' she beamed. 'Eh, Vaughn?'
'Alright, I'll pretend I do know,' he said.
'It's for you, silly!' she said, pretending to be offended by his obliviousness with a pout.
Vaughn gave a start at this. 'Wh- for... me...?'
'Yeah!' she said, suddenly blushing shyly. 'We're really good friends now, but you know, I've always –'
'Okay okay, let's take this somewhere else,' he said hastily, pushing her away. He didn't want Mark to hear it. The farmer had looked as surprised as Vaughn at first, but was now grinning broadly. Not wanting to be heard saying anything embarrassing in front of Mark, Vaughn ushered Chelsea away.
At her house, she nervously stood in front of him, one hand twirling a lock of hair around her finger, the other clutching the blue feather. He watched her closely, his own heart beating loudly, unsure of how to look or feel. He and Chelsea had grown to be friends, but as to being more... he'd never even thought of it.
'So...' she began awkwardly.
'You sure like surprising me, don't ya?'
'Heh... it's who I am.'
'Never thought a girl would like me,' he said with a shrug, putting his hands in his pockets. He turned away slightly as he continued 'Well I'm pretty fond of you too, Chelsea.' I guess. 'Maybe it's time I did settle down. Find a home. Start a family...'
'Really?' Chelsea said eagerly.
'Yeah. Thanks. I'll accept your feather.'
'Yay!' She launched herself forward and hugged him tightly, knocking him over. 'I'm so happy!' she squealed, squeezing his middle.
And Vaughn hoped he would be too.
It was almost exciting to be engaged. After they got the word around, they began making arrangements. Vaughn decided he would be gone from the island only three days a week maximum. Mark pushed him to hire a tuxedo for the wedding, and he begrudgingly took out his precious savings to do so. But he felt quite happy when he was complimented for it.
Then he moved in with Chelsea. The house wasn't particularly large, but it was comfortable and cosy. They slept in separate beds, which apparently only Vaughn and Chelsea did not find odd. And it was nice to always have the thought of going home after a hard day's work.
But then came the fights. At first it was just a little squabble, over the placement of the radio. They said sorry afterwards. Then a few weeks later, they argued about Vaughn's work hours. Then it was that Vaughn didn't contribute enough t their family in terms of finance. Then, (much to Vaughn's horror), Chelsea began wailing about wanting a baby.
'You're not the person who I thought you are at all!' she screamed in a fit of fury.
A few hours later, they hugged it over. Then, tentatively, he asked her exactly what she meant by her outburst.
'Oh well, I –' She gulped and gave a shuddery sigh, the sort that came after a lot of crying. He felt guilty seeing her face, blotched from tears. 'I always thought you were a good and considerate guy, Vaughn. Ever since the moment I saw you, I knew you were right.'
So why did he feel so wrong? He wasn't good or considerate, and he never wanted to be. He was always selfish and aloof, never having reason to behave otherwise.
Despite their best efforts, the fights never stopped, and they had only been through three seasons of marriage. He felt as if he was slowly being strangled by red string. He liked the moments of calm after they made up, but far too often, bitterness was clouding their little house.
Her words from that day had him thinking a lot. Why did Chelsea think he was so much? He was only himself after all. He didn't think marriage had changed him. Did Chelsea expect him to romance her with flowers every week? Present her with outrageously priced chocolates for every other occasion?
Thank the Goddess he had Mark. The young farmer was engaged to Natalie by this time, and was in the throes of bliss. However, when Vaughn asked for a bit of his time, he didn't hesitate to invite him to his barn while he was doing his afternoon chores.
'What does she expect of me?' Vaughn asked angrily. 'I've never tried to be affectionate or anything - I never even thought I might like her before she proposed! Does she want me to change? I can't and I won't. I won't do it for anybody.'
'Vaughn...' Mark sighed sadly. 'Have you told her this?'
'No because we'll just end p fighting again!' he yelled furiously, startling a few chickens into clucking angrily. 'She'll just say that because she's given me so much, she only expects me to return what's due!' He turned away, fists clenched by his side, seething.
'Hey, are you... okay?'
'No,' he said bitterly.
'Listen, Vaughn, can you turn around?'
'This is killing you. You can't hang on anymore, and you won't make room for her.'
'She won't make room for me –'
'If you can't do it Vaughn, then stop it. Her expectations are killing you. I think that's what it is – her expectations. It happens, doesn't it? Two people get into a marriage, not because of who they are, but who they expect each other to be. I – I don't want to ay anything that might hurt either of you, but you act like you can't handle it, and if that's what it is, you have to stop.'
'Divorce is the final option,' Mark said, spraying water over his dirty horse. 'I hate the thought myself. What does Chelsea think?'
'I don't wanna know what she thinks,' Vaughn retorted rather rudely.
They were both silent for a while. Then Vaughn sighed as if a wall had come down inside him, and rubbed his temples tiredly. Maybe Mark was right. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe he had to escape before the red string severed his neck altogether.
Maybe he could use a fresh start. He was a born wanderer after all. Maybe it just wasn't the time for him to calm down yet. He'd never been able to envision settling down before, and he still couldn't now. It just wasn't right.
'Hey,' he spoke up, extending his hand to Mark. Mark looked up from brushing his horse's legs with a curious expression before clapping the offered hand. 'Thanks. You're probably right. I'm not ready, not yet. And if there's someone out there who'll accept me for who I am, then I'll meet her. I don't need to rush. I'll leave by Thursday.'
'You've made up your mind already?' Mark asked, startled.
'Yeah. Woulda done so ages ago if I'd thought of it.'
'Sure, but it's her fault too. She's the one who asked to get married without knowing what she was going in for. Keep an eye for her and make sure she doesn't do anything else stupid. I'll mail the papers. Where can I get them?'
'Court, I guess. Talk to a lawyer.'
Vaughn nodded. 'Be seeing you. Maybe.'
Mark sighed. 'Bye.' He patted Vaughn on the shoulder and turned back to his horse. Vaughn stepped out of the barn to face the setting sun, and could almost feel the red string loosening, slipping over his shoulders, falling at his feet and setting him free. He was his own man again, just as he was supposed to be.