Sometimes there's a feeling that we get that is simply inexplicable. It claws at us, raking our hearts with such intensity that often it burns. I have felt that mostly every day since I met him. There are so many restrictions set upon us, both by the towns we live in and our families. Almost a year ago, I moved to Konohana with my parents. It's a small, pretty town where crops thrive left and right. I immediately liked it there; however there was always something that felt off.
One day while I was exploring the town the first week I moved, I discovered a tunnel in the mountains. It was blocked off by large rocks and rubble. After asking the mayor, Ina, about it, I learned that the tunnel led to another town not far from Konohana called Bluebell. She told me that the two towns were once connected and lived in harmony. However one fateful day, the mayors of the town argued to the point of angering the Harvest Goddess and as punishment, she caused a cave-in that closed off the tunnel for good. Ina said that the argument was started by the mayor of Bluebell… and angering the Harvest Goddess is simply an unforgivable crime. For generations, the towns have hated each other, only gathering for competition to promote superiority over the other.
This new information immediately sparked my curiosity. I tried to explore in the woods, away from the farm, but to no avail. My parents always had me busy. If I wasn't sowing or watering the crops, I was out running errands. Even during town events, I was kept busy on the farm. My parents said that work was a priority over all else, giving me little time to explore.
My luck changed, however, when Ina came to personally invite my family to that week's cooking competition. Since it was winter, and my parents slowed down the harvest, they deemed it fit to attend. We made the trek up the mountain to the peak; all the while I was looking around and taking in my surroundings. The forest was beautiful and mysterious, blanketed in a thin layer of snow. I looked down at my feet, admiring the way the snow molded with each step I took.
We arrived at noon, right on time. My mother handed over her dish to Ina and the competition began. As both mayors stood together announcing the beginning of the competition and its rules, I thought of how natural they looked together. There was no discomfort in their demeanors like I thought there would be. Their body language almost announced that they were friends after all. I heard whispers left and right on the Konohana side. "We'll win for sure." "There's no way we could lose to people like them." People like them, huh? I looked over to the Bluebell side. They seemed the same as the Konohana side. They gathered, smiled, and whispered amongst each other, half-heartedly paying attention to the mayors.
When Pierre, the judge, walked in, the entire place fell silent. He introduced himself and then he began judging the food. All of it looked wonderful, from both the Bluebell and Konohana teams. "Their food looks disgusting." I heard someone say. "All of their animals are probably full of fat… our vegetables are much healthier and much tastier."
I turned to the girl who had just made that remark. "I think the best meals have a mixture of meat and vegetables." I didn't know the effect my small words could have, but she immediately snickered at me and gave me a dirty look. My mother scolded me for saying such a thing out loud. "That's not something that's acceptable around here. Try to just fit in", she said. My mother's main motto was always "Stay out of trouble."
In the end, Konohana won by only a small percent. The villagers cheered and watched as the citizens of Bluebell expressed their disapproval and swore to win the next time around. It was then, when I looked over that I found a Bluebell citizen staring at me. He was leaning against a tree, arms crossed with a blank expression on his face. He shot me a quick smile before turning and walking away down the path towards Bluebell.
On the way home, I couldn't stop thinking about him. His golden hair and emerald eyes were vivid in my memory… and that smile. At that moment my mother turned to me and interrupted my thoughts by placing her hand on my forehead. "You're burning up", she said. "And your face is all read... gosh it must be this cold mountain air. Tomorrow, you're taking a break. No farm work for you until you get better." My father agreed and that was that… except I wasn't sick. If felt fine. No sore throat, no sneezing, no coughing… and no fever. But I knew why my mother would think I had one.