Three Christmases

Sometimes, words did not need to be exchanged in order to understand those close to you. We easily forget this, relying far too heavily on what is concrete and known. And sometimes, words are necessary –a foundation of strength for perceptions that rest shakily on pillars of doubt and a means of clarification for mistaken beliefs. I let out a sigh as I tucked a lock of hair behind my ear with my chilled fingers.

Clouds of water vapor formed and dispersed with each breath taken by the blacksmith's apprentice. Shimmering blue eyes hesitantly met mine as his lips slowly moved. "Mary… this isn't working out."

Gazing up at the starlit sky, my lips formed a bittersweet smile. Neither of us were the most outgoing individuals. When it came to feelings, the words describing how we felt never seemed to be able to leave either of our lips, with us both preferring to converse about work instead. What was left unsaid though, I believed that we both knew deep inside our hearts.

An entire year had passed since then. I still felt most at home with my family and doubt that I will ever be the life of a party… but it was fine to be myself while trying to be more sociable and experienced in matters of the world, was it not?

My searching gaze fell upon Sirius, the brightest star in the sky and part of the constellation Canis Major. The constellation had been in the same position in the sky on that day. Actually, everything tonight seemed to remind me of that day. Letting out a breath, I couldn't help but wonder if things would have ended up differently if one year ago, I had been the person I was now. But it was no use wondering about such things though. I shook my head and rose to my feet, brushing off the snow clinging on to my long winter coat.

I lifted my head, turning as I heard the sound of footsteps behind me. My breath caught in my throat for a moment before I slowly breathed out. It was surprising seeing him here considering that we seldom interacted anymore. "Hello, Gray… What a coincidence." Awkwardly stuffing my chilled hands into the pockets of my jacket, I waited for him to say something.

The male blinked. His bright blue eyes were unsure as he looked quizzically at me. "Coincidence?" He remained silent for a moment. With the lower half of his face hidden beneath his scarf, it was difficult to see his expression. "I asked you to meet me here tonight… It's not like you to forget."

I furrowed my brows, unable to recall such an arrangement. We had not spoken since… Ah, so this was a dream.

Sighing, Gray approached me, coming to a stop a few footsteps away. "Mary, you're a great woman…"

I refrained from flinching though I wanted nothing less than to leave as the other continued. I already knew what he was going to say by heart. The memory was engraved in my mind so I did not need to go through it another time. Taking a step forward, I gazed up at Gray, forcing the other to stop whatever he was saying. I knew it was selfish, knowing what he was about to do, but this was only a dream and I could afford to be selfish in them, couldn't I?

I could do this because it was a dream. Because he wasn't dating Claire. Because he wasn't avoiding seeing me all the time. Because there was still hope for a different ending. Because I still loved him.

Standing on my toes, I pressed my lips to his.

Against my chilled lips, he felt exceedingly warm. The words that I couldn't say, the emotions that I couldn't properly express, I put them all into the kiss, hoping that he could feel what he meant to me. A breath later, and the warmth was gone. With hands on my shoulder and gaze averted, the male murmured solemnly, "Mary…"

The tone used made my heart drop with disappointment. I lowered my head to stare at the snow covered ground. Even in my dreams… I couldn't change anything. The silence dragged on with neither of us speaking. Slowly, his grip on my shoulders loosened and he withdrew his hands.

"… this isn't working out."

I let out a shaky breath. I should not have expected anything different even if it was a dream. It was too late to change anything at this point. I wasn't sure what I had expected this to achieve anyway. In fact, the situation had twisted into one that was even more painful than before. I was the first to break the silence. Instead of the "why" that I had asked him so long ago, I announced, "It's getting late. I should go back."

Walking past him, I slowly descended the hill. I refrained from turning around as I stopped at the bottom of the summit but couldn't stop myself from wondering what Gray was doing and thinking at this moment. Did he feel the loss as much as I did? I started to turn my head but caught myself. His decision couldn't be swayed. There was no turning back.

Closing my eyes for a moment, I took in a deep breath before continuing forwards once again. Not wanting to face mother and father at the moment, even if it they were dream characters, I walked off the path and headed towards the Goddess Spring.

"I might as well wait for this dream to end." Standing at the edge of the spring, I quietly listened to the serene sound of trickling water. Self-reflection was good for character, I knew that, but tonight, I didn't want to think about any of it at all. Instead, I focused entirely on the water and let the serenity of the spring fill me to the brim.

"We don't have real communication."

And yet, his words from long ago continued to echo in my head. Always, I believed myself to be the best listener, able to hear everything others said to me. I prided myself even, on not chattering away about my own opinions. I thought I understood people. I thought we understood each other.

"We don't trust each other."

But relationships did not fail because of one person. I had been wrong. So wrong about everything. Letting out a choked sob, I brushed away the tears that escaped from my eyes. I had already cried over this before, I did not need to do the same again. Yet, no matter how much I repeated those words to myself, the tears wouldn't stop.

"Mary?" A gentle hand held my arm as a figure stepped in front of me, blue eyes filled with worry. She always had the most soulful eyes and the open heart to match them. Having her so close in front of me brought back so many memories. "What's wrong?"

I shook my head and the other drew me into a hug. And I allowed her because she wasn't yet dating Gray. Because she genuinely cared. Because she was still my best friend.

Dreams... did they actually carry any meaning? Freud claimed that dreams were manifestations of our deepest desires and anxieties. Even so, it did not change the situation. I gazed up at the ceiling for a few moments before noticing the ceiling was different from the one I usually woke up to. It took another moment for me to realize that I was lying on the floor.

Sitting up and adjusting my glasses, I gazed nervously around the room. The area was spacious, comfortably fitting various pieces of furniture, including a large television, bookcase, grandfather clock, and table. The surroundings were familiar, though I could not quite recall whose house this was. However, such intricate detail could not be part of a dream, could it? But if this was not a dream, what was I doing here? Standing up, I walked towards the calendar pinned to the wall and noted that the day and year were correct.

I jumped as I heard the sound of barking through the door. A moment later, the wooden door swung open to reveal Claire. Apologies immediately flew to my lips because surely, I wasn't invited. Though we were no longer best friends, I knew Claire would not leave me lying in the middle of the floor of her home if I was a guest. The farmer swept past me, heading to her bed and flopping down onto it.


Her dog followed her, jumping onto the bed and licking the farmer's face. With a small smile, Claire placed a hand on the beagle's head. "I'm fine, Roy." Her normally sparkling blue eyes were dulled today, filled with a heavy emotion. Even her demeanor seemed less energetic. Then again, I had not seen her for weeks or interacted closely with her for an even longer period of time. Despite having attempted to distance myself from her, the sight of the farmer created a heavy feeling in my chest.

I wanted to know what was bothering her, to be able to comfort her but I wasn't the right person for that. The time where we could tell each other personal problems was past. Speaking quietly, I said, "I'm sorry for intruding. I'll leave now."

The farmer continued to absentmindedly stroke the dog's head. Reaching into her pocket, the blonde pulled out a gleaming blue feather, causing me to stop on my way towards the door. Her hand closed tightly around it for a moment before her fingers relaxed. The beagle approached the object and gave it a sniff, making Claire giggle and close her hand around the feather once again so it wouldn't drift away. "I love Gray… a lot." Closing her eyes, the farmer buried her face into the covers of her bed. "But I know Mary still cares for him."

My heart felt like it had skipped a beat. Drifting closer to Claire, I stopped near the farmer, not sure what to think of what she had just admitted.

Roy nudged the farmer's head with his nose. "I can't propose to him." Her voice was still muffled because she was talking into the mattress but the raw emotion in her voice still carried through. The farmer curled up on herself. "Why did it end up like this, Roy?"

I closed my eyes and leaned weakly against the end of the bed. Her question echoed in my mind and I too began to wonder how things ended up like this.

"It's nice to meet you, Mary. I'm Claire. I hope we'll be great friends."

All three of us were unhappy in the present, unable to move forward. Was it because of me?

"Why do I visit you so often? Because I like you."

Though I felt slight resentment towards Claire for being the one Gray chose, I couldn't stay angry at the blonde. One who always seemed to put others before herself, she deserved the happiness Gray brought her. Truly, she did. But unable to let go of my feelings, I distanced myself from the two. I did not mean to cause so much pain. Not for Gray. Not for Claire. Because they both deserved better.

"Please don't be like this. I'll break up with Gray!"

"Claire… " I reached forward to touch the blonde but my touch had no effect on the farmer. "Don't do this."

It was lightly snowing again. Somber gray clouds coated the sky, painting the town in a dull gray color. Rose Plaza stretched out in front of me, with the surface of the snow covering the area unmarred except for two sets of footprints. Was this still a dream? I lightly brushed a patch of snow on the edge of the bench I was sitting on. While chilly, it lacked the distinct wetness that should accompany it.

I shifted uncomfortably. While the bench was not coated with snow like the rest of the plaza –it looked like someone had brushed the snow off the bench—it was still uncomfortably cold. Seeing something shift out of the corner of my eye, I turned to find a young man sitting beside me.

Unruly brown hair stuck out from underneath his baseball cap. With his head tilted downwards, it was difficult to see his face but I was sure I had never met him before. Despite that, I didn't feel uneasy around the male. Perhaps because this was a dream. Or perhaps because he seemed too preoccupied with something to seem threatening: his hands were clasped together in a tight grip and his posture was rigid, his entire body radiating anxiousness.

I awkwardly placed both my hands on my lap, wondering if I should say anything. I did not know him, but then again, ignoring him didn't seem right either. I slowly worked up my nerves but the other seemed to beat me to it.

"I love you, Mary."

His words caught me off guard, being something I couldn't have ever imagined the other saying to me. It was not only his words though, but the conviction behind the words he spoke. This had to be some mistake. I glanced around, searching for another female in the vicinity but found that we were alone.

With his gaze still directed at his lap, the other continued, "You're always the first to know when I'm troubled and always there to listen. Sometimes… I wonder if you know me better than I know myself." A gloved hand moved to adjust the hat on his head. "I'm not perfect, but… I'll always take care of you and do my best to make you happy."

I felt my face slowly heat up, never having had anyone say such words to me before. His words were not poetic or overly romantic, but they were genuine –something he whole-heartedly meant and was able to fulfill. In a way, he reminded me of Claire.

The male raised his head to turn to face me and I found myself looking into a pair of warm brown eyes. He smiled softly, though the smile didn't seem to fit the situation. His hand reached for mine, holding onto me tightly. "I can tell that when you look at me, your eyes don't hold the interest you do when you look at him… why is it that all you can see is Gray?"

For him to be asking such a question… were we dating? Was I using him as a distraction or perhaps a replacement? My throat tightened. While disappointed and opposed to the idea of me doing such a thing, I knew that it was possible. Yet, I couldn't help but think how unfair it was to involve the male in this. Would I really have done this?

He closed his eyes, his voice strained as he continued. "Am I not good enough?"

I didn't know him but my heart reached out to the other. I wanted to fix this. I needed to fix this. "You are."

His eyes fluttered open in surprise. I, too, was slightly surprised that he was able to hear me. But then again, he was speaking to Mary, wasn't he? Feeling slightly more timid now that I had gained his full attention, I softly said, "You're far more than I deserve." And yet, he still loved me even though I had only been thinking about myself. It was time to stop being so selfish. Even if it was difficult, it was time to let go. I had to let go. After seeing this, I couldn't sit back and let things continue as is.

With my decision reached and resolve firm, I felt the dream begin to come to an end. Slowly, my surroundings began to break away and dissolve. Darkness ate away at the pale gray light of the winter morning. Gaze flickering back to the male, I gave his hand a final squeeze. "I would be happy if you would give me your name."

He gazed quizzically back at me. Just as the ground around me began to dissolve, his lips moved to form a one syllable word.

Rose Plaza was abuzz today. As with almost every holiday, Claire should be in the area. I hurriedly scanned the crowd. Spotting a head of blonde hair, I called out the farmer's name. Claire turned in my direction, her eyes widening as she saw me run towards her.

"What do you think of winter weddings?" I asked, panting slightly from having hurried all the way over as soon as I finished dressing. Taking a deep breath, I straightened myself so that I could look the other in the eye.

The other looked uncertain as she replied, "I think they're beautiful."

I smiled and adjusted my glasses. "If you propose now… we might still be able to put together a wedding before the season is over."

"P-propose now?" The farmer's eyes widened. Searching my expression, Claire opened her mouth and then closed it once again, unable to form words. Clearly, she knew what I was referring to as she did not ask what I was talking about. I don't know what she learned from my expression but a smile slowly spread across her face. Reaching forward, the female took hold of my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "You'll be my maid of honor, right?"

I smiled back at her, feeling nothing but sincerity as I answered, "I would love to."

A moment later, I was drawn into a tight hug. "Oh! There's so much work to do if we want to hold the wedding before the end of winter! Haha, I'll need all the hands I can get. Should I call in my family to help?" I couldn't help but grin as Claire rattled away about all the preparations needed, seemingly having forgotten about needing to actually propose to Gray –not that I expected the other to reject the proposal. "And Jack was so sure that he'd get married before I did."

Untangling her limbs from around my neck, Claire laughed. Her blue eyes seemed especially expressive today. Clapping her hands together, the blonde announced that she had to tell Gray before turning around and disappearing into the crowd.

The day passed by far too quickly. Despite having exhausted myself, I found myself trekking up to the summit of Mother's Hill once again as darkness slowly settled over the town. Settling down on the ground, I gazed up at the sky. The fresh air and relaxing atmosphere soothed my over excited mind, allowing me to focus again on what had been bothering me for most of the day.

They couldn't have been ordinary dreams, could they? For the dreams to be so lucid and accurate wasn't normal. But there was no logical explanation for them either. Perhaps it was one of those things that couldn't be explained.

Tilting my head back, I closed my eyes. I remembered every part of my dream clearly except for the last few seconds of it. I knew I had received a name from him but I couldn't recall any part of it at all. I wasn't even sure if he was real or not but I could not help but hold a small hope that he existed somewhere out there –even if it was an irrational hope. "If we do meet, I promise that it'll be different this time."

Author's Note: Merry Christmas The Scarlet Sky! I had to do a Mary story for you but haven't played Mineral Town before so I hope the characters aren't too far off from what they should be like. Anyway, enjoy~!