Disclaimer: I do not own Harvest Moon or anything associated with it.
Author's Note: This is the first Tale of Two Towns fic I've ever written! I adore this cast of characters very much, and I'm looking forward to fleshing them out a bit more. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it.
"At night I dream that you and I are two plants that grew together, roots entwined, and that you know the earth and the rain like my mouth, since we are made of earth and rain."
Rain (Rapa Nui) – Pablo Neruda
The energy of autumn was dwindling, the flower petals drooping and the tree leaves darkening. Lillian felt the same sort of lifeless despondency in her as she watched the town swell towards its death. Winter would bring the gorgeous town to quite a blasé standstill. It would be her first time seeing Bluebell in such a state. Her footsteps echoed throughout the empty town square. Almost everyone had closed up their shops due to the intermittent rain, but she knew one boy would be standing with an umbrella propped against his stand, tending to the remnants of autumn's flowers.
Cam was intricately putting together a rather stunning bouquet of gerberas and nadeshikos, tying the collection together with a simple white strip of lace. His eyes did not move to her when he saw her approaching, but when Lillian finally came to rest before his stand, he held the bouquet out with a timid smile.
"You can keep this. All of the flowers will be dead once winter finally comes around, and nobody seems to want to buy any of the last of my flowers. I've had a lot of free time today." Their fingertips brushed against each others as the bouquet was passed into the eager hands of Lillian, who smiled at him in thanks. The fact that Cam's words came to her so easily now were a great comfort, as she had spent the past three seasons coaxing him into full-fledged conversations rather than stunted hellos and goodbyes.
Their relationship had truly deepened into a respectable friendship. Lillian had come to Cam on that day, however, to move it to something even more.
"It's lovely. I don't see why more people wouldn't want to buy them, especially since they're on discount now," she told the florist, bringing the bouquet to her nose. The flowers smell was rich and comforted her immensely. Holding them made the act of confessing her feelings seem much more doable.
"People don't want something that's going to end in just a couple days. They'd rather get flowers the beginning of the season so they can last longer," Cam murmured, staring down at his feet for a moment before looking back at her. "So, what did you come here for?"
Lillian felt her chest begin to pound as she looked up at Cam, her cheeks bright red. His eyes widened as he caught the fear in her eyes. "Cam…I know we've only known each other for a few seasons, but…getting to know you has been my favorite part of living in this town and…I've come to really value our friendship. And even more I…I've come to fall in love with you."
The florist's face reflected his shock, and for several moments he simply stared at her. Finally, as tears began to gather in her eyes, he murmured, "Oh. Thank you." "…You're welcome," Lillian stammered out, unsure what else to say. It was becoming rapidly evident that her feelings were not going to be reciprocated. He had pulled his hat down over his eyes to the best of his ability, and was staring down at his feet again. When he looked back up, it was not at her eyes, but somewhere off to the side of her face. "I think…I'm going to close the shop early today. Nobody is coming by anyways. Er…I'll see you around." He left everything there on top of the stand and started heading into Howard's, leaving Lillian to stand by herself, holding the bouquet of flowers. "I'm…I'm sorry, Lillian," he mumbled when he looked back. Before she could tell him it was okay, he had opened the door and slammed it behind him.
"…You're welcome," Lillian stammered out, unsure what else to say. It was becoming rapidly evident that her feelings were not going to be reciprocated. He had pulled his hat down over his eyes to the best of his ability, and was staring down at his feet again. When he looked back up, it was not at her eyes, but somewhere off to the side of her face. "I think…I'm going to close the shop early today. Nobody is coming by anyways. Er…I'll see you around."
He left everything there on top of the stand and started heading into Howard's, leaving Lillian to stand by herself, holding the bouquet of flowers. "I'm…I'm sorry, Lillian," he mumbled when he looked back. Before she could tell him it was okay, he had opened the door and slammed it behind him.
The rain started to fall again, initially in slow confusion, and then in melancholy torrents, leaving Lillian a sodden mess as she stared down at the bouquet of flowers that had been doomed to die before she even received them.
The winter frost was already edging away despite there still being a week left of the season, and Lillian felt that she could almost touch spring even as she trudged through snow. The slightly warmer weather was highly anticipated throughout Bluebell, and everyone who passed by her seemed to be wearing cheerful, expectant faces. The worst of the year was almost over. The farmer wished she could say the same about her heartbreak. She looked across town to where Cam was selling flowers. For a moment it seemed like he was returning her gaze, but then he turned to strike up a conversation with Laney. The twinge of sorrow struck her, a well-known ally in her loss.
"Hey!" The now wildly familiar voice of her fellow farmer came close to her left ear, but when Lillian spun to see Ash, there was nobody there. She felt his fingertips brush against her right cheek and spun around again, but once more he had evaded her. This time she turned around once more as fast as she could, catching his shirt by the collar. She attempted to glare at him, but it faded quickly as she looked at his teasing smile and daring blue eyes. It was impossible to be mad at this boy, who had helped her through the season so much.
"You're a jerk," she finally told him, releasing him with a small grin. "Shouldn't you be doing something productive, like, you know, working?"
Ash sighed, folding his arms. "Here I thought my best friend would be a little glad to see me – it turns out that she is, in fact, feeling quite the opposite." He stared expectantly at her, but Lillian copied his pose and stared steadily back. Finally he grinned and told her, "I finished work early today and I wanted to know if you wanted to do something with me. Maybe go communicate with Cam rather than hide from him, but that's just a suggestion."
Lillian shook her head, letting loose a small sigh. "Ash, you know that I feel really uncomfortable-"
But Ash did not let her finish that sentence, for he simply said, "I know," and then grabbed her hand and began to tow her towards the flower stand with a surprising amount of strength she wouldn't have typically expected from the boy. She initially attempted to plant her feet firmly in the dirt and pull back, but when the spectacle caught Cam's attention she decided to come willingly. Part of her was still reluctant to hurt Cam in any way, despite the pain he had caused her, and she couldn't stand to think he might suspect she didn't want to see him.
"'Lo Cam," Ash began cheerfully. "I want to buy a snowdrop for Lillian here so she'll smile rather than insult me for once."
Lillian shot him a furious look, narrowing her eyes. "I don't always insult you, and I wouldn't insult you near as much if you didn't go dragging me around like a child you know-"
"Do you see?" Ash told Cam, leaning towards his friend with a very serious look on his face. "I do everything I can to make this girl happy. I help her with her farm work, I take her out to eat, I carry her things for her, and now I try to buy her a flower, and still, not happy. It's like dealing with a teenage Cheryl – it's impossible!"
The farmer tried not to laugh at Ash's words, willing herself to instead maintain her annoyed act. "Well, if you'll see what I see Cam, it's rather different. I try to do farm work, Ash comes and demands I wait to feed the animals until I hang out with him. I'm in the middle of eating at Georgia's, Ash takes me by the arm and tries to tow me away to Howard's for dessert. I pick up some lumber to take to Eileen and he picks up me and the lumber and carries me through town while making sure everyone sees me in such a state."
"Po-tay-to, po-tot-o," Ash shrugged, though he was laughing as Cam glanced at Lillian, a small, reluctant smile on his lips. "How much for one snowdrop? I'd rather change the subject now then let this girl corrupt my oldest friend."
"630 G," Cam told Ash, still wearing a faint smile. It looked like he was struggling very much to hold it on – his eyes dropped to Ash's hand for a moment, which was still holding tight to Lillian's, and then he glanced at the girl, who was grinning at Ash. He pulled a snowdrop from the mix and held it out far more forcefully than he had intended, taking the money Ash offered with a swift gesture.
Ash took the snowdrop far more delicately than Cam would have anticipated and worked it slowly into the grasp of Lillian's headband, smiling when he stepped back to see it firmly in place. "Now, doesn't that make you a little happier than you were five minutes ago when I found you trudging towards my barn?"
"I wasn't heading towards your barn!" Lillian argued, reaching her hand up to touch the snowdrop. It was with a smile that she replied, "You're too full of yourself for your own good. But…thank you, Ash."
The boy offered a much more sincere smile than his previous ones, pinching her cheek. "I just like to see you grin. It looks good on you."
Cam hadn't expected Lillian to react at all. It appeared that most of what Ash said had little effect on her, though he recalled very small, subtle things he had done had been enough to make her entire face flush. However, at this compliment from Ash, her cheeks turned a faint shade on pink, and she swatted his hand away, avoiding his eyes. "I'm going to go talk to Laney and Howard for a bit," she excused herself quickly, gathering her skirt up as she inclined her head towards the florist. "It was nice seeing you, Cam. I'll see you later, Ash."
With that farewell, she hurried into the shop, looking more shaken than Cam could ever recall seeing her. He turned back to Ash, who was leaning against the stand with a grin on his face. "Do you…" Cam drifted off, clearing his throat awkwardly. "Er…do you like Lillian?"
Ash continued to stare after the girl for a moment longer before finally turning to face his friend. "I suppose that's for you to find out," he replied, winking. "I better get back to work now. I didn't actually finish early. Have a good day, Cam."
Cam stared after his friend, frowning. For the first time in the several years they had known each other, Ash refused to answer a question – and, in refusing, had answered it in a way Cam wasn't sure he liked.