Other [Fanfic] Choice of Roots (CH7 Updated 6/24)

Discussion in 'Fan Works' started by InvaderRoxas, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. InvaderRoxas

    InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer

    [Author Note: Hey guys! Jumping on the bandwagon like the rest of the fanfiction writers here, and deciding to post a thread with my work. Going to essentially try to update this as I do on my WattPad account, but I may be a chapter behind or ahead at times. If you're looking for around the clock updates, the story will be posted here for all those looking for it on WattPad!

    This fanfic is essentially revolving around events that the protagonist/player (Roxane Beauchene) experiences after she moves to Stardew Valley. The story will aim to convert the game into a type of story--using both cut scenes from the game and those that I make up! Most of the content won't deal with much of the games actual mechanics (although they will be mentioned and described with detail), and more to do with the antagonist (Joja Corp.), relationships with characters, and love interests. Speaking of romance, this story will be semi-written along the format of a reader insert (if desired to read it this way), with the exception that the protagonist, or "you" are named. (Writing "Your Name" over and over again was not something I wanted to do, so I put in a player instead! X3) That being said, there will be chapters which will ask you to pick "Path A" or "Path B", based on your preference! Most likely these will have to do with the romance Arc of the story, or the once in a while dilemma of what to do in a dire situation. Once the fanfiction is complete (if I get that far :badpokerface:), there will be two different endings pertaining who "you" would like to marry. Actually, there will be more like 5 different endings--depening on which character the player decides to marry, as well as the possiblity of a neutral route, OR a some sort of "bad" ending. Probably sounds complicated...but that'll be down the road!

    I should probably mention that each season will be around 10-15 chapters long...and there are 4 seasons....and this will most likely span at least 1 year & 1/2...so expect this to be an epic of a fanfic (I'm talking 70+ chapters here folks...oh boy...). But if you're up to committing to reading it, then so am I in writing it! I should also put out there that this is a Sebastian X Player X Elliot fanfic, so those be our bachelor options of the story. You is welcome Sebastian and Elliot fans. But I warn ye o' angst. *waves pirate hook*

    Without further ado, enjoy! And as always, thoughts about the piece, or ideas for the story, are very much appreciated and welcomed! (I'm bound to run out of ideas from time to time...heheh) :DD -IR]

    ^Edited on 6/24/16


    There are countless bunches of people who don’t give a care in the world, and would love to spend a season in a quaint little village west of no-where and east of never-been. Getting up and moving along in life to have a fun vacation is the norm for these types of people. Life is good, life is stable—why not put it on hold for a while? Press the pause button. When I come back to it, everything will be right where I left it! They make it so simple, and yet to someone like myself, they sound so naïve.

    You see, not everyone can just press the stop button, and freeze their life. To the rest of us, we have to surf through the waves of motion, and continue onward. Unlucky are we, to have to suffer through the bouts of loss and destruction, as life gives us the good and the bad times. We were unfortunate enough to open our eyes a little too wide, and find that everything around us was either good, or not so. We don’t just call things a day when things don’t work out right, which is a shame. Instead, we dwell on them until we can no longer find another emotion to help us deal with the wave. That is—until we do, and continue to roll through the motions.

    So while I’ll sit in my stubborn little coop and imagine what it would be like to be naïve, I remember that ignorance is a reluctant bliss for some, and a factor of life for others. Deep down, I regret not being so clueless, and enjoying life. Being pessimistic comes straight from the heart, and like that beating organ, never stops reminding you that it’s there and present. But, like the heart, it has to have a reason for beating.

    I didn’t want to come to Pelican Town on my own accord. No, instead, some somethings and some someones told me that I needed to go; it didn’t matter if I wanted to or not. Like so many other decisions and life events, I had no choice. So, like always, I went swimming through the motions.

    My grandfather died when I was a young tot, maybe around the age of 10 or 11. While that was many years ago, I remember it didn’t affect me as much as it did now. I was just a kid, I didn’t really know what death was—as much as I insisted that at that time, I knew everything about anything there was to know about. But aren’t all stubborn brats like that at some point in their life? Nevertheless, that great man gave me a letter—back then I didn’t really know what it was supposed to be used for, nor when to open it. I was but a child, remember? “In a time of crises, when your life is bleak, and you need an escape,” he must have said—or rather, something along the lines. “Open this letter.” I opened the parcel 12 days ago.

    Now I’m 25, more or less the same child, just a bit more stubborn-witted and realistic when it comes to what life gave me. I could understand the letter’s contents now, and rather, when I found the letter tucked away in a far desk-drawer as I scrambled to find it, I knew that I needed to understand its contents.

    My grandfather’s death may affect me now more than ever, but that may be because of the fact of me wandering back to a place he once roamed. While I hate to admit it, the real reason as to my need for a place calm and quiet, was my mother’s death. Both unexpected, unlike his, but all the more real, I needed to find an escape from all of the pain and suffering while I still had a chance. Working at a dead-end job, with no hope in sight, wasn’t good for anyone’s mental health. Even before the strain of her passing, I could feel my hair turn grey with the passing seasons, and my outer limbs developing arthritis. Things weren’t looking good for me, right from the start.

    This is why I came to Stardew Valley—to find my escape. Not a fairytale land of fun and adventure, but one that could take me back to a better time, or at least a better place. I knew not much of what I was going to find as I limped groggily off of the stingy bus, other than an old cabin and 20-acres of land. I was just hoping that it was all going to be worth it, and at least help me cope as I selfishly aimed to try and escape from the life I was presented.

    So let us begin on that path.

    A rather muddy one, being as the ground was wet from a combination of an evening shower, and a foggy morning. My mustard-tinted rain-boots squashed as they met with the muddy ground—internally forcing me to wince. A swift creeeak was heard as the plastic door to the bus closed behind me; I didn’t even have to turn around to know that that was it. A plastic life’s sounds always remains the same. However, every other sight and sound was brand new. Not exactly…as, er—well, as appealing as I’m sure nature looks in comparison to a sunny morning—but I was already starting to warm up to the joint. Even if my socks were already soaked.

    Before I was engulfed in a cloud of gas, I quickened my pace away from the road as the mighty beast of a car shrieked. I looked back for a second, to find the black wave of debris brush out against the landscape, before retreating into the atmosphere. The bus’s wheels scattered to catch their grip on the dirt path, mud spraying about, but this is where I stopped looking back. I had seen it all before, and I don’t find mud that entertaining.

    Heaving my only parcel of luggage, a duffel bag, onto my shoulder, I started down the damp path to the village. I had half-expected a bird to be chirping somewhere in the distance, seeing as it was early spring. However, I suppose the little pleasures such as these would have to wait for another day, as the afternoon seemed set on reflecting my mood. The sky was tinted slate, with hints of dampened violet off in the distance. A soft breeze would make its way through to me every now and again as I made my way, but other than my brunette hair being tugged at, all was still. Well, as still as it could be, considering that every step I took ended with a plop, plop.

    Being impatient isn’t one of my best qualities, which is why I was grateful that the pathway to the village was short, sweet, and to the point. It was only a matter of minutes before I found myself turning a corner, and gazing down another muddy mess of a trail. To my left, the fog covered whatever there was to be seen. I could have been for a loss at where to turn, if there hadn’t been a crooked sign across the way. Etched out, no doubt with a sharp knife or hatchet, were the words ‘Pelican Town’ directing to my left. The other sign, pointing obviously to my right, displayed a phrase I felt like I would never get used to seeing. ‘Beauchene Farm’. Since when did my surname belong somewhere so fresh and unpolluted? I felt like all it had ever known was the city sidewalk covered in slime, while ads for Joja Coke were plastered against every surface. Never did I think that my surname was meant to be somewhere like this. Maybe that’s why Papa wrote it on a note, I wondered in a curious, and almost childlike, fashion. It doesn’t sound right when you say it aloud.

    I forced myself to stop my starring at the sign, and continue onward to my right. I wasn’t in the mood to go wandering out into town in the late afternoon, especially when I couldn’t see 10 feet in front of my face. While the atmosphere felt, for the most part, safe—there was a part of me that wasn’t yet comfortable in meeting the townsfolk. Call me an introvert, or insist I must be some loner, but I just wasn’t in the mood to open up my mouth and talk.

    Instead, I wandered on to the plot of land that I would soon call ‘home’, if I decided it should be such a place. The idea of going back to the city wasn’t appealing, but if things didn’t work out…I would have no choice but to go back. But, who knows? Maybe there is a profit to be made on such a farm as this one ought to become.

    This is where my habit of thinking too quickly comes into play.

    Just before I entered the clearing, I was half-expecting a vast field filled to the brim with apple trees, and the sunset on the horizon. Maybe a rusty gate here and there, signifying the last of the crops my grandfather had reaped the many years beforehand. Instead, I felt like I had been cheated out of an astounding offer. Instead of a valley, I was introduced face to face with a thick forest as soon as the fog cleared around my form. Brambles and weeds covered the forest, not to mention overgrown grass that ran up and tickled my ankles. The ground may have been blessed with a pleasant mix of soil, but there wasn’t an inch of it that was not crushed by boulders, stones, or pebbles. Amidst the thick wood lie a cabin that looked like it had gone to hell and back. Some windows were cracked, not to mention the outer layer of wood, while the deck looked as if it was too unstable to walk upon. The top of the chimney had corroded away to reveal a moss-covered brick, while cobwebs draped every corner of the shack.

    For a split second, as my jaw lay agape at the scene before me, I thought about turning back. Leaving this all behind. What a waste of a trip this had been, only to find some land that hadn’t been touched by human hands in more than decade, and a wrecked mess of a house that didn’t seem suitable for even a lousy pig-sty! Didn’t anyone give a damn in the world to clean this place up every once in a while after my grandfather had left it? Didn’t anyone care at all? How could they be so selfish-

    Oh. That’s right. All of this was supposed to be my responsibility now. As much as I hated to think of the idea that, yes, this was it, I remembered how reality loved to hit me in the face as often as possible. This was one of those times. And just like every other, I had to power through it with a cup of coffee (or six), and with the help of a hoe or axe. I forced myself to let my anger and regret subside, just for a moment, before I took another couple of steps onto the plot. My hands were still clenched, but I didn’t dare release them. One of my many odd coping methods for stress. I’m sure we’ll discover more as soon as work is under way.

    I tried my very best not to look further into the forest, in fear that I might become overwhelmed with a sense of dread. Instead, my eyes wandered to an open crate—the only object that looked brand new, or at least not as ruined as everything else. Curiosity guided me over to it, to find a batch of tools lying out in the open. I guess some people care…at least, now that there’s someone actually living here.

    Along with an axe, hoe, watering can, and plethora of other items, I found a note taped to the side of the box. It read:

    Thought you might need these to get yourself started on out here—consider these as housewarming gifts from a dear friend.

    -Lewis

    Immediately I recognized the name, and for a split second a smile made its way to my face—as well as a hint of pity. Lewis was an old pal of my late grandfather, and in a sense, one of the only people left on this earth who knew a great lot about him. Shortly after I had decided to move to Stardew Valley, I had conversed with him by letter on the matter of making my way down to town. While I didn’t know much of him, other than vaguely meeting him when I was a little tot, I knew he was someone I could lean on if I needed to. It’s not everyday someone goes out of their way to buy you some tools that could have costed me all that I had left. At least I didn’t have to worry too much about my expenses now.

    Setting the note back into the crate, I planted my duffel bag on the top step to my new abode, and grasped out at the hoe I had been presented with. The grooved in the handle complimented my smooth hands, which were no doubt going to eventually turn rough and coarse with a healthy amount of tough labor. Taking a look at the stone edge of the tool, I found that it wasn’t as sharp as I had been expecting. More on the blunt side, I knew that I could make do with it. With the ground being as moist as it was, there was a good chance that I could pull off an easy start right off the bat. Before the ground turned hard and dry, anyway.

    With that, I went to work. My grip on the hoe tightened as I made my way back towards the entrance of the clearing, finding a small area that hadn’t been littered with neglect. Picturing a short row in my mind, I nervously clawed my tool into the soil in an attempt to toil the dirt. As I had expected, it was soft to the touch of stone, and seemed to willingly move out of my way as I pleased. There, you just found something that went right in your day. In an attempt to fight back depression from what I often considered was from my bleak life, I made an effort to find something that was good about my day. No matter how small. Didn’t fall when coming down the stairs? Good. Didn’t get into an argument with someone on a bus terminal? Fantastic. Had a delicious salad for lunch? Outstanding. If I could start with the little things, maybe I could make some grand memories out of the big events in my life. I hope it works.

    Maybe things won’t be so bad from here on out, my short spurt of optimism rang out from my conscious, and I couldn’t help but think that maybe I was right for once.

    That is, until it started to pour with the strength of a weeping infant 15 minutes into plowing at the land.

    I cursed up a storm, as did the sky above me, as I put on a poor effort to shield my form from the torrent of wind and water as they bit at my form. Spring rain wasn’t as cold as it was back in the city, and I found myself unimpressed in my choice of outfit for the day. Jean-shorts, red flannel with a black tank underneath. Just wonderful. At least my rain boots were in order, if you didn’t count the fact that mud had already found its way inside far before the weather turned hostile.

    With my lack of proper attire, my body pleaded that I make do with what I had accomplished in the short span of time, and head indoors. However, I had different plans. Tucked away in my back shorts pocket, was a bag containing a lot of parsnip seeds. My going-away-gift from my father, as he insisted that they would come in handy, and I suppose that he was right. I fought at the icy droplets that clouded my vision, and forced myself to plant each individual seed where I had disturbed the soil. Just get this over with, and I promise that you can sleep in tomorrow, I compromised with my body. There wasn’t much I could do to reject the offer, so I limped on with my task of placing each seed where I may. I’m sure the chore could have taken mere moments in pleasant weather—but tonight, it took me more than 5 minutes.

    Twenty-one minutes after I had originally started plowing at the ground, I found myself soaking wet inside the stingy cabin. At that point in time, I didn’t think of it as a creepy, unorderly, dirty, or even unwelcoming as I had originally judged it to be. Whether that was due to false judgement, or the fact that my body was practically begging for a sheltered bed, I could not tell. Probably both.

    Without a care in the world, I tossed the filthy hoe onto the doormat besides the entrance, and gazed at my surroundings. An entire room was all that the cabin was made up of—not that I was expecting three floors and a basement or any luxury such as this. A mini-stove and fridge lined the back wall, along with a small dining table with four matching chairs adorning the center of the room. Off to the opposite side of the ‘kitchen’, rested a television (approximately the size of my head) on a wooden stool. My brow clenched at the unexpected item, but I shrugged it off, allowing myself to be grateful for whomever it had been who had installed the piece of technology. At the very least, I would be able to know about what was going on in the world as I rested out in the middle of nowhere.

    The pièce de résistance of the entire room, was a small bed adorned with an auburn set of blankets. Quickly making my way to this piece of furniture after I stripped myself free of my boots, I observed that most of the blankets looked to have been sewn by hand. Had they been Papa’s pieces? I wasn’t aware that he was able to create such a fine piece of cloth, but I suppose anything was possible. If I had a chance, maybe I should write to my father with this proposal.

    But for now, all I wanted to do was rest. Not bothering to change out of any clothing, I tore apart the peaceful display that was a made bed, and covered myself in the warm blankets that had been left for me. My—literally speaking—cold feet, were immediately reintroduced with warmth’s embrace once they left the clutches of open air, and disappeared under the cotton. I sighed in disbelief; I hadn’t experienced such comfort in ages. Much better than those cheap, 10-gold a piece bargain mattresses, that’s for sure, I thought with slight glee.

    It was then, as I started to drift off into what I would vaguely remember as the most wonderful sleep I would have had in many years’ time, when I noticed the sound of dripping rain and howling wind outdoors. Instead of sounding like the harsh beckoning of something ominous as they had felt like outdoors—inside, they sounded like a lullaby. Nature’s little bed-time story for the tired young-adult. I let the thoughts of each individual grouping of raindrops clatter about in my sleepy consciousness, instead of letting something downcast take its hold. Mom’s departure. Quitting work. Traveling afar. Leaving it all behind for something new.

    I just hoped that at the end of this road, I would believe that it had all been worth it.


    Waking up in the morning wasn't as pleasant as I hoped it was going to be. While I could hear birds cheerily chirping outdoors, I found that even this slight disturbance was already starting to give me a headache. Weakly forcing myself to open my eyes, I found that half of my body had reclined off of the bed in the middle of the night. My right foot touched the cold ridges of the stained floor below me, before instantaneously lurching back to the warm comforts the sheets provided. For a moment, I cursed myself for forgetting to grab my slippers or put on some socks before I fell into a deep slumber.

    I sighed, and let my eyes wander to the roof of the creaky old cabin. While the boards didn't seem so sturdy before, they surprised me in the fact that not a droplet of water was dripping into the room below. I guess there are worse cabins, I thought for a split second. Shaking my head, I turned my attention back towards a new objective—what was I supposed to do with myself now? Well, that couldn't me more obvious, my consciousness muttered sternly, in a more than mocking manner. Go out there and get some work done. It's not like you can just lie down for the whole day. Now that's just lazy. I might have been right, but even with the rest I had earned in the previous night, my physical form yearned to rest for just a little while longer. With all my mental might, I vetoed its request and sat up in my bed.

    The springs of the mattress almost literally sprung to life with commotion, squeaking with every soft movement I made. Seeing as the sound was far from pleasant, I heaved myself off of the mattress to give my ears some comfort in silence. This is where I was, again, greeted with the stone-cold floor. Internally wincing, I looked about to see where I had left my duffel bag-

    Until I realized that I had left it outside. In the rain.

    Cursing aloud, and bringing my palm to my face in sheer embarrassment over my stupidity, I quickly ran forth to the entrance of the cabin, and gazed out onto the deck. A clean layer of sunshine kissed my cheeks as I peered around the door, almost warming my body in an instant. I would have loved to take my time and enjoy the sunshine, if it weren't for my eyes gazing upon the dripping duffel bag three feet away from my grasp. My fists clenched in a mixture of frustration and sadness, before I stepped forward and took the bag by its leash, and threw the mass into my cabin. It skidded across the floor, no doubt covering the floor in a liquid mixture of dirt and water—but I didn't care. Instead of worrying about any messes, I quickly began tearing open the parcel to collect my belongings.

    Some items came out of the storm unscathed, such as my journal and a few grocery items. On the other end of the spectrum, my entire collection of clothing articles—from my jeans to my sweatshirts—had been drowned overnight. I didn't expect anything different, and so I gathered up a ball of all that I could and set it off to the side. With no washer or dryer, I was going to have to resort to washing everything by hand—at least under I could afford some an expensive commodity. Some hard labor should do you good, I insisted.

    I took a couple moments from my time to organize all of my little knick-knacks I had taken with me in my travels, before I hesitantly picked up the dripping lump of clothing. Immediately I could feel my tank-top become drenched from the contact, but I forced myself onward. Taking my barefoot steps out into the wilderness, I stepped across the front deck and looked about. The atmosphere from the previous afternoon had completely changed. As you may have guessed, the sun was shining through even the tallest, thickest tree tops, and the sky from above looked a mighty cyan. The distance appeared to possess the storm that had disappeared off into the night, now retreating out westward. The vague appearance of clouds created the illusion of an ultramarine sky out into the distance, which blended nicely with the sky overhead.

    On the ground, the forest before me looked abundant with life. As they were moments before, birds were singing their songs into the early morning, and fluttering about as they may. Here and there an acorn would drop, giving notion that a squirrel was nearby. A grin made its way onto my face for a small portion of time—before I could feel water dripping down the leg of my shorts. Without bothering to put on my boots nor sneakers, I walked with my feet in the nude off of the front porch and onto the earth. I tried my best to avoid any sharp pieces of gravel that adorned the ground, but every so often the bottoms of my toes felt a sharp pinch. Talk about my feet becoming calloused—what about my feet?

    Around the side of the house I went, before I found what I was looking for. Two long poles, loosely connected by string—a clothesline. I figured, if I didn't have the regular means of washing my clothes, there had to be the old-fashioned way, and I was right. Other than the fact that the string was thin and worn, and the wooden poles had shifted in last night's storm, they seemed sturdy enough for my interest. Seeing as I didn't have any means of pining my clothing articles to the line, I just decided to fold them half way across the line individually. For now, it was good enough for me. Setting the large pile down at my feet, I grabbed each piece one by one, and hoisted them upon the line. I was only able to go half-way through the pile of laundry before I ran out of useable line, so I started on back to the front of the cabin to put the rest out of harm's way. About to turn around, I suddenly realized that I wasn't alone.

    "Hey there! How's it going?"

    I flinched, my eyes immediately widening at whoever it was who had snuck up on me. It was a woman, no doubt a couple of years older than I. Her pumpkin colored hair hung in a loose ponytail, pulling the bangs out of her eyes in a middle part. She wore an amber t-shirt, light hooded parka, and combat boots that were similar to ones I owned. Despite her friendly appearance, I was a little more than suspicious as to why she would come over unannounced—whoever she was. Then again, in tight-knit communities such as this one, this could just be the norm. Either way, I tried to not let this sudden surprise bother me.

    Before I could say anything, she chuckled. "A little jumpy I see! Well I guess with as rough of a night as it was, I suppose I can understand," without hesitation, she held out her hand. "I'm Robin, the town carpenter. You must be Roxane, am I correct?"

    I nodded, and let a small smile make its way to my lips. "Yeah. Uh...nice to meet you," I muttered a little too nervously for my liking, and shook her hand.

    "I came over here to-woah...that cabin sure is a bit...old, isn't it?" Her gaze had travelled from me to the farmhouse, and I couldn't help but instantaneously agree.

    "Yeah," I sighed, smiling out of pity. "It's, not much."

    "Well I don't mean to sound like an advertisement, but like I said, I am a carpenter!" Robin beamed, forcing me to inwardly chuckle at her enthusiasm. "I could fix up the place for you in no time! Add a full-on kitchen there, a bathroom over in that corner..." She trailed off, her mindset becoming consumed by her trade as she thought out the placements.

    Wanting to move the conversation along, I asked, "Well, how much would it cost?"

    Robin turned back to me, putting her hand to her chin in thought. "Hm...I'd need some raw materials to finish the job up right, but with the lot of land you have here I'd expect that it would be more than enough to cover that cost!" Her arms stretched out in the direction of the thick woods, and I nodded in a curious manner. She's right about that, that's for sure. I guess I could make something of all of this mess. "All in all, about 10,000 gold would do the trick in payment," her face turned a little apologetic once she saw my eyes widening. "I don't mean to be quick with you about all of this, so don't worry about payment right now! If you're ever in need of this place getting fixed up, just drop by and ask and we can get the details sorted out later."

    I chuckled a bit, "Right—that does sound like a nice plan though. I'll admit, when I saw the place at first I was a little more than shocked."

    Robin nods, "I'd be the same way! Unfortunately it doesn't look like anyone has been back here in a couple of years," she then glanced at me in a peculiar way. "I know that your grandfather lived here many years ago; Lewis talks about him from time to time at the Saloon. Do you know why he bothered to move away? I've tried asking Lewis, but he doesn't seem to want to touch the subject too much..."

    I shrugged my shoulders, just as confused as she was on the matter. "He never told me why. In fact, he never really mentioned this place too much when I was a kid. Only really found out about Pelican Town in great detail once I read a letter he gave me; that's how I got the deed."

    "Huh, interesting!" She remarked, a smile returning to her face. "Well, I don't mean to keep you waiting around with all of this small talk. I was originally coming over here with a request from Lewis—he'd like to meet up with you and chat back in town whenever you've got the time."

    I returned the smile and nodded, "Sounds good to me."

    "Great!" Robin started to head back the way she came, turning her head back to me one more time for a final greeting. "Hope to see you around town, don't be a stranger! Oh, and if you haven't heard it from anyone else, welcome to Stardew Valley!"

    ✧ ✧ ✧

    As soon as I had finished tending to most of my laundry, I moved on to watering the crops. The second that was done, I weeded the plains. Then I cleared out some land. Dug into the dirt. Planted some parsnips. Watered the newly planted seeds. Collected some wood. Made myself some brunch. By the time all of these chores were completed, it was past 4:00, possibly going into 5:00 if I hadn't counted the minutes correctly. I was sweating profusely, and every so often I dunk my sweating forehead into the cool, clear lake over by the first parsnip cropping. The mini-lake felt like heaven as the liquid cooled my sun-kissed skin (although I do believe that a better term would be sun-punched), and was the only comfort I could receive next to a salad I wiped up with whatever I had left in me.

    With my stomach full, and my body slightly singed, I looked into the pool of water as soon as the ripples dissipated. My hair, which I had woven into a tight bun in the hours previous, had almost come undone and was lying on my left shoulder like a mop against a closet door. My cheeks were rosy, and my eyes glossy as they starred back at me. I was literally a hot mess—and not the good kind. One day in, and I was already looking like I was born and raised on a farm. Not that I was going to complain though, I'm sure that with time, this sort of labor would come with ease. Just need to work up the arm strength first, I thought—for once, in an optimistic manner.

    As my panting slowed to a silent breath, I glanced back at the land behind me. The farm was actually starting to take shape! Weeds had been cleared out in the generally vicinity, and I had two standard 15x10 foot parsnip crops lined up. Sure, the rest of the property was large enough to create this setting ten times over, but I wanted to start off small for now. I didn't plan on raking in any cash anytime soon.

    Seeing as I was satisfied with my day's work, I brushed the sloppy bangs out of my eyes and headed towards the crate towards the cabin—hoe in hand. I almost lazily dropped the tool in with the rest of them, before looking off to my right to see the path out of my lot. Still a little foggy in the distance thanks to the previous night's storm, and possibly blown in by the sea's current, I couldn't see too far down the path. Even so, I knew that it wouldn't be too much of a walk down there and back. With this in mind, I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to go meet Lewis face-to-face.

    Not wasting another moment in time, I headed down the path—despite still feeling a bit icky from head to toe. If I had both the time, and a running shower, I would have no doubt freshened up right then and there, but I didn't want to keep him waiting for me any longer. I might be socially awkward in most scenarios, but I'm not impolite.

    I took in my surroundings as I started on my walk, using them as a sort of entertainment for my buzzing brain. A fence lined the entrance to my small estate, and lead out into the dirt path to the city. Where it ended, I wasn't sure of, but beyond the fence was a thicket full of wildlife. You couldn't see much beyond a couple of rows of bushes, ferns, and oaks—even without the present fog. My city-life mindset wondered for half a moment: Why is this land just sitting here like this? Doesn't anyone want to use it? Mentally face palming, I realized the error of my thought and forced myself to rethink it in a different manner. No one's using it because it's already being used. Ever heard of scenery? I asked myself in a mocking manner—second time I did so in the last 48 hours. I guess I did that more than I thought.

    I let myself stare into the woods for a period of time, letting my mind drift to subjects near and far, before I felt my boots hit something other than dusty old dirt. Peering down at my feet, I saw that the road had changed into a cobble brick, which gave the straight street a much cleaner look. As I stared off ahead of me, the small village was within sight, as well as what I assumed was the town's center, although still hazy with the thin layer of fog. Seeing as it was all just within my grasp, I quickened my pace until I was seemingly out of the barren edge of the valley, and entering true civilization.

    As the mist cleared, I noticed an array of small shops and houses line the streets surrounding the square. Off to my right as I entered was what appeared to be a back entrance to a mini-subdivision, completely covered in patches of lilies and tulips. They must be thriving with all of this dew in the air, I thought for a moment as I gazed at their sherbet and pearl tinted petals. I moved my thoughts back over to the shops that were lined up against the front of the center of town; and when I say "shops", I mean two of them. A bit humiliating when I thought about it in a critical sort of way, until I reminded myself that the population of this town wasn't New York City's—not by a longshot. Things are small and tidy here, I noticed, before I gazed upon some cracked cobblestone next to my left foot. Well, for the most part, it seems.

    Anyway, back to the two shops-or...well, one of them was a shop. Labeled Pierre's, it appeared to be some sort of farmer's market crossed with your average small town's goods store. For a moment I wondered if there was a possibility of being able to supply food to this vendor, seeing as their window display of fruits and vegetables looked a bit...stale. I made a mental note to myself to ask Lewis about the matter, if I was ever going to find-

    "Ah, Roxane! It's so good to see you dear!" I almost jumped, literally, once I heard this exclamation from behind me. Immediately I turned around, and as expected, I found Lewis walking my way. He looked just as I vaguely remembered him from my early years; a man of average height (that meant slight taller than I), with a full mustache and a beret covering the full head of hair he still possessed. Other than looking a little more grey than brunette, he still appeared as the jolly man I had met many years prior. He still wore vibrant dress shirts, today he chose a bright shade of evergreen, and sepia overalls. I'm sure that I, on the other hand, had grown much more over the years. I mean, the last time he saw me, I'm sure I was just going on 4 feet tall.

    "Nice to see you too, Lewis. You look well!" I replied, my smile wide and genuine. Seeing as he was the only person I had the nearest and dearest connection with, it would be only natural for me to loosen up a bit. I had to stop being so jumpy some time or another.

    Unexpectedly, Lewis brought me into a tight hug—which I wasn't exactly prepared for. Internally I winced as he pat my back a couple of times; physical contact was not my strong suit, but I just went with it for his sake. "So do you! How many years has it been? Ten? Fifteen? It can't be more than that, can it?" He asked me, once I left his embrace.

    "Can't really say anything for sure, but it surely can't be more than that!" I chuckled, twiddling my thumbs. "So...there was a woman named Robin, who told me to come meet you out here-

    "Ah, yes!" He nodded, closing his eyes for a second and putting his hand to his chin in thought. "Robin's a good neighbor around these parts, despite her interest in self-advertisement—but I'm sure you got to hear a mouthful of that," he joked with a smile. "Anyhow, there was something important that I'd like to discuss with you, if you don't mind my being lengthy about it!"

    I gazed at him in an intrigued manner, "What would that be?"

    Lewis motioned for me to walk with him, as he slowly walked past me and continued down the lane of the town square. "In short, about Pelican Town! As you can see, we are a small village, almost in the middle of nowhere! But without a doubt, in the middle of a haven. You'll understand why soon enough," his eyes almost twinkled at me as he spoke. "But, like every town, we have our problems. Would you mind telling me what exactly drove you here," he paused with a frown. "Besides, your mother's passing, if you don't mind my asking."

    I laughed slightly, "It's fine! But...if you get down to it, for a long time I guess you could say that I was unhappy with how life was turning out for me, you know?" My voice was a bit quiet at first, but as Lewis listened to what I had to say, it grew in volume. "I worked for this company; Joja was the name of it. It was the only option I had after college, seeing as how hard it was to actually find a line of work anywhere back in New York. Next thing I know, the job that seemed simple enough turned into long work hours of the same boring routine..." I suddenly jerked and blushed as I realized how that sounded. "N-not to say that I'm not a hard worker! I just wasn't...really into the whole 'desk-job' scene, if you catch my meaning."

    Immediately Lewis nodded, oddly enough with a sigh. "I understand what you mean completely, Roxane."

    He paused, which gave me a small window of time to notice that in my little rant, we had moved out to the edge of the town square, about to walk over to a bridge. This walkway overlooked a clear river—but you could only really call it that because of its shimmer, and if you chose to ignore all of the waste that clogged the stream. I frowned at the site, and immediately turned back to Lewis.

    "You see, I actually know a bit more about this Joja than you would think. I don't like to say that it's karma for how the town has been treated in recent years, or suggest that your troubles may have followed you, but I guess it would be best if you got a look for yourself."

    Confused, I furrowed my brows in trying to understand what exactly Lewis was going on about. My troubles have followed me? What's that supposed to mean? I thought that this place was supposed to be my sanctuary for all of that city crap! Through my perplexed thoughts, I tried to focus on what Lewis was trying to direct my attention to. He motioned ahead of us, as his head hung in a lower manner. As we moved off of the bridge, and onto another small area of Pelican Town, I realized exactly what he was referring to as the fog cleared.

    The windows were a cold, calculating, clear icy blue, while the walls as white as a blinding ray of sunshine. Neon signs decorated the outsides of the building and almost hurt your eyes if you starred at each one for two long. They described ludicrous offers, most of which didn't make much sense. Not to mention the smell of a factory—which I can only describe as gasoline drenched in shampoo in an attempt to clean things up (if that even makes any sense)—that Lewis and I could detect from meters away. There was no missing the place, and I'm surprised that I couldn't even see it at first through the fog.

    A JoJa Mart.

    Perfect, just perfect! Here I am, trying to get away from the disgusting moral views of a desensitized, corporate-run life, and it just decides to ruin my plans and sprint into Stardew Valley! No wonder Lewis held his head down a smidge—I'd be embarrassed too! However, in this instance, I was feeling furious more than anything else.

    "How on earth did this happen?" My voice sounded shaken as soon as I opened my mouth, which caused Lewis to gaze at me with slight concern.

    "Not too long ago, years after your grandfather left this land, Joja bought the deed to this slot of land. There was no way around it—as much as I hated watching them build the market, I knew that there was nothing I could do to prevent anything. There's no legal system for preventing monopolies like this one come into villages nowadays, it seems." He paused, looking back across the bridge. "It's affecting the town more than you might realize. I'm sure you noticed Pierre's little shop on your way into town, am I correct?" Quickly I nodded in response, my eyes still trained on the doors of Joja Mart in the form of a deadly glare. "He won't talk about it, but I can tell that he's having a hard time competing with Joja's prices. Their food may be ridiculously unhealthy, but the folks here can't always afford the best crops in the land, even if it means the alternative is junk. I fear that if things continue as they are, Pierre's store may close—or worse."

    My gaze had stranded up to a smoke stack placed on the top of the market. It spewed out the deep gray gas with the speed of a fire hose, lifting the toxin up into the atmosphere. It's then that I realized that the fog wasn't fog at all—it was smog. Talk about a metaphor, if I've ever seen one.

    I ripped myself out of my little daze as my curiosity grew. "What could be worse than that? Closing the only other food supply in town sounds like the worst of it to me."

    "The way I see it," Lewis replied, "is that Joja has the man-power to produce more than just the common goods. What if they moved on to the fishing market? The mining industry? Or even medicine? Roxane, the people of this town—and the folks across the world—who run their family owned businesses would run out of business in no time flat. Joja is becoming more of an obvious presence in this town with each season that passes. I see it in the way that the workers there, such as Shane, act. Their eyes are groggy, and their voices sound so depressed—it's almost as if..."

    "It sucks the life out of you," I sighed, finishing his sentence. Crossing my arms, I paused for a couple of moments before I could think of anything else to ask. "So, what are we going to do about it?"

    Lewis chuckled half-heartedly, "There isn't anything for us to do, unfortunately. All I am able to do is warn you about their presence here, as they will no doubt affect your farm whether you like it or not. As I said, there prices are hard to beat." I immediately gulped after he spoke these words. Talk about the small businesses, but can they run a small-town farm out of business too?

    Lewis must have caught wind of my worried glance, as he placed a firm hand on my shoulder and gave a warm smile. "Don't let this bother you for now, Roxane. I'm sure that in no time, you will be as prosperous as your grandfather! You just have to keep your spirits high, and optimism present!" I replied in a curt nod, which he accepted as my final word on the subject. "Well, I've got some important matters to attend to with Robin. I'd love to give you a tour of the town sometime, if you don't beat me to it!" He chuckled, and I gave a faint snicker as he started to walk back the way we had come. "You take care now, and try not to feel too overwhelmed with the move here. I'm sure that you'll do fine, farmer Roxane!" Lewis winked at me, which almost made me utter a true-blue laugh at the cheesy sight. Before I could, he too was out of my vision as he disappeared back through the smog in a hurry.

    There was still a lot I wanted to talk about with good ol' Lewis, but he was right—I really shouldn't stress myself so much on the matter of Joja. I was here to get away from them in the first place, so why let it become my problem? I didn't plan on staying in town for more than a year anyway. So why should I care so much? As I looked solemnly back at the glossy windows of Joja Mart, a thought whispered through my mind with great speed. If you won't care, then who will?
     
      Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
    • InvaderRoxas

      InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer


      In the days following my meetup with Lewis, I tried to follow his advice and not think too much about Joja. At times, I'll admit I couldn't help but dwell on it, but my work kept me busy enough to have a clear mind about me. Day after day, I took care of the bundles of crops that were beginning to adorn my farm. Whenever I felt up to the task, I began to clear away sticks, stones, and overgrown grass from the acres of land before me. It might take a season or two before I was going to be able to bring back the land from nature's entangled grasp, but tiny steps were enough for the time being.

      It was starting to overturn to the middle of the spring season, when I got wind of an exciting event to take place in town. The Egg Festival. I assumed it was mostly for kids, seeing as the egg hunt was the main event of the day, but Lewis encouraged me to take part it in regardless. "I'm sure you'll have so much fun!" He had insisted with a smirk. "You'll be surprised—those young'uns will beat you to it if you're not careful!"

      Whether or not I was going to participate really didn't matter at this point (although I'm sure I'd eventually force myself to, no matter how hard I made a fool out of myself). What was important about this event, was the preparation that was to be taken in the days prior.

      I had found out about the hard work and dedication the village had for its events while walking into town on an early morning, aiming to buy some seeds from Pierre's shop. As much as I had wanted to take a little job around the area, to make myself familiar with the layout of Pelican Town, I didn't really have much of a chance unless I was forced to via work or chores. On this particular day, I had found multiple citizens hard at work in preparation for the Egg Festival. Tables that were needed were being put together by scratch, dishes for the large lunch that were to be held were being planned, and of course—they had to decide where they were going to receive all of the eggs from (I suspect Marnie was always the first choice).

      For some reason, their hard work captivated me enough to stare—which was eventually noticed by Robin as she passed me by.

      "Why don't you come and help out sometime, since you look so intrigued?" She has grinned at me, while carrying what looked like a couple pounds of timber.

      I had shrugged, offering a half-smile in response. "If I could find time, I'd love to. But, I mean...I don't know anything about this festival. How am I supposed to be able to help?"

      Robin had snickered, patting my back as she started to walk back towards the town square. "Don't worry so much about what you can and cannot do! We could use all the help we could get, I assure you!"

      I tend to have a bad habit of not following the advice I am given, with a few exceptions. Luckily, I decided that this should be one of them. Despite my nervous manner, I ventured out one rainy morning en route to the town square. The crops didn't require much care on damp, down-poured, days like these, so in a sense I had all the time in the world. Deep down, I couldn't really find an excuse not to help, other than the silent tug in my chest that was still a bit jumpy when it came to meeting new folks. Back in the city life, nobody knew your name unless you grew up in the same apartment complex. Here, everyone wants to get to know you, and sometimes get up all in your business. Like the new weather, and new labor working its way into my brain, I suppose that this was something I also had to get used to.

      Dressed in a yellow rain jacket and matching hat, my stand-by boots, and rugged denim shorts underneath, I made my way onto the path that connected my world into theirs. While the rain came down overhead, I remained perfectly dry underneath all of my resistant clothing. Meanwhile, the air was oddly warm enough for my legs to be exposed. It's only spring, and the air is already getting used to warmth, I observed. Well, no complaints here. I'd like to be as far away from winter as nature can allow.

      As I started to trudge along onto the more developed parts of the path, I began to hear a muffled chatter of voices in the distance. Very quiet at first; softer than a whisper. Before long, as I emerged from the overgrowth, I came into view of the petite village. The vast area from the shopping center, to the road marking the way south, was covered with tents and tarp overhead as the crowd worked. The jabber was still soft as I strolled on in, making the atmosphere quite pleasing for my reserved preference.

      No one was out cooking anything, which was something I fancied in seeing—but it was still a couple of days before the event, so none of that was necessary. I can see it now, cinnamon buns, apple pies, and chocolate muffins as far as the eye can see, my sweet-tooth craved. Instead of finding any preparation of food, I saw a tiny group of what I could tell were young adults (there aren't many children in Stardew Valley, so I suppose we have to make do with the younger generation of adults) being led by Marnie. I mentioned her previously, but specifically, Marnie runs the ranch in Pelican Town. From what I've spoken to her of, I can tell that she's got a big heart, and much of it is reserved for animals of all kinds. Her tawny-brown hair on most days, such as today, was wrapped in a neat braid which extended past her shoulder on her left side. Her bark-colored eyes were always warm and inviting, which is probably what drew me to talking to her in the first place. She had welcomed me to the valley with open arms, and offered a discount on the first animal that I would purchase from her ranch. Sure, that was far into the future, but it was a very kind gesture.

      It seemed to be that she was organizing those who showed up to help into groups, so I quickened my pace and joined in on the conversation. I looked around me, and didn't find anyone who I had met before—they were all new faces. You've got to start somewhere.

      "...So we'll split all of you up into groups! Alex, Abigail, and Haley—you three can fix up the rest of the benches. Make sure to dry them off too! Maru, Sam, and Leah—how about you all go find some good hiding spots for this year's egg hunt?" I watched as those who were already called to their duties around me head off to accomplish some work, leaving me and two others behind for the last task. Marnie gave me a kind smile before she spoke, "And that would leave Shane, Roxane, and Sebastian! You can tie all of the ribbon and banner decorations back together. Sound good?"

      I quickly gave a smirk and two thumbs up as my response, looking at my two partners to find similar enthusiasm. Except...for the fact that neither of them expressed this at all, and rather looked quite bored.

      Marnie seemed to ignore their expressions as she continued to speak, "Wonderful! You three better get to work, you have a full day ahead of you. And get to know each other while you're at it!" She winked at me, before quickly heading in the opposite direction. While the smile remained on my face as she disappeared, I was internally begging her to stay.

      Why? Well, maybe this will help you understand:

      The first of my two partners, Shane, didn't look all too friendly. He was wearing a grimy Joja jacket for one thing, which subconsciously must have given me a bad feeling. His expression was almost of the pissed-off kind, especially with bags under his eyes, and you could clearly see that he hadn't shaven in weeks. A shadow was cast over his eyes thanks to his plum hair, and not once was I able to make eye contact with him (up until we would finally speak). Yeah...I was not getting the idea that he was a friendly guy.

      The other—Sebastian—had a different look about him, but he still made me wary despite my attempt to suppress my nerves. He wore a midnight black hoodie, along with some denim jeans that were soaked from the ankles downward. The noir theme he seemed to possess continued into his spiky, jet hair. He held his hands in his pockets, and looked at me for a moment with a neutral sort of expression. Not pissy like the other guy, but he didn't seem too eager to make a new friend. I immediately shied my gaze away, and tried to focus on the task at hand.

      Twiddling my thumbs out of habit, I looked around for the decorations we needed to set up. "So...where's the supplies...?"

      Shane sighed, seemingly out of annoyance. "Right here," he simply stated in a gruff voice, leading us over to a table a couple of yards away. On it, rested dozens of decorative banners neatly folded into piles based on their color, as well as beautiful ribbons with striking spring colors such as teal, rose pink, and leafy greens.

      What seemed like what was supposed to be a simple task, immediately fooled me at first sight. Picking up a cerulean banner, my mind suddenly went blank on where I was supposed to attach the ribbon, no less how. I'm not too creative, nor did I pass 'how to tie your shoe laces' back in elementary school, which was a bad sign. I tried my best to observe whatever Shane and Sebastian were trying to do, but I could tell that they had taken part in helping out with this event for years on end. They worked swiftly to fasten each ribbon to its correlating banner with ease, developing a beautiful display with each decoration they completed. Meanwhile, I just stood there dumbfounded.

      I hesitated in speaking up, and I had good reason too. "Uh...so...um...how do you-

      Before I was even able to utter a question, Shane shot me a quick glare. "Look lady, I just wanna get the hell out of here, so I can go to the saloon and drink. So if you could either learn to help out on your own or shut your trap-!

      "Just be quiet, Shane." I'm pretty sure both Shane and I were surprised when Sebastian spoke up, as even in his soft manner, he was able to stop Shane's rant in its tracks. The oncoming feeling of regret and shock of Shane's rude exclamation was transforming into a wave of confusion as the other man took the banner I was holding from my hand. "It goes like this, watch."

      With his eyes downcast, Sebastian displayed the process of making the completed banner step-by-step, without a word. As I watched his movements, my concentration seemed to be scattered between three places at once. The first was pretty obvious, and that was following the direction of making the decoration. The second watched Shane's expression grow annoyed as he glanced every so often at Sebastian and I. Finally, I noticed the lack of expression Sebastian showed as he helped me with what must have been a simple task. Was he annoyed like Shane was that I couldn't grasp something so easy? Was he helping me out of pity? Or maybe he's just an OK guy and you're overthinking everything, I insisted to myself. Just relax. No one's going to bite you. Literally, that is.

      "There. Get it now?" Sebastian handed the finished decoration back to me, and for a split second I'm sure that I appeared dumbfounded. His expression was both neutral and unmoving, and kind. I couldn't explain it.

      "Um...yeah! Thanks..." I muttered, trying my best to appear thankful through my initial shock. Not too sure if it worked, as he didn't do or say anything else.

      Now that I got the hang of things, I worked my hardest to catch back up to speed to their progress. As I did so, a part of me became absorbed in the environment around me. Gazing ever so often into the distance, I watched as the waves of rain would dim to subtle drops here and there, only to grow into a howling breeze of a storm moments afterward. The wind would screech overhead, but I wasn't unlucky enough to behold its wrath thanks to the make-shift trap covering my head. However, a draft did make an appearance every other minute, and cause my legs to shiver with the freezing air. Maybe wearing shorts on a rainy day wasn't actually the best idea.

      As the dull day continued onward, I found myself becoming quickly bored with the silence presented. For once, I was so eager to start up a conversation and thought that I ought to—if I hadn't been a bit intimidated by that Shane character, of course. Why should you let some grumpy jerk prevent you from igniting some small-talk? A rebellious and charismatic voice roared inside me. If he doesn't want to talk, he doesn't have to! Inwardly sighing, for once I considered this type of argument. I guess it wouldn't hurt to try...

      "So! How long have you guys uh...lived around here?"

      My sudden outburst must have shocked the two of them, as I saw Shane jump at the unexpected noise, and Sebastian's working hands just stopped in their tracks for a moment, before continuing onward. I presented a sheepish smile, genuinely trying to make it look...well...genuine. While I noticed that Sebastian was giving me some sort of curious look once again, I could only hold eyes with Shane, who you could see from a mile away was giving me a death glare.

      "Do we have to answer that?" Shane asked, his tone of voice sounding like that was the obvious thing for him to declare. "I mean, I don't even know you, so..."

      "So, what?" I answered, looking downward at my palms as I folded a banner inward and back. "I'm just trying to make conversation, is all."

      He snickered, before his face contorted back to a grimace of sorts as he looked down at me. "Sorry not sorry, but I liked you better when you were quiet."

      "I don't think that that was the answer to my question that I was looking for," I simply replied, starting to inwardly laugh once I found that I was annoying him. If he wasn't going to make nice, then I wasn't going to be less irritating for certain.

      Shane threw his hands up in the air, and set the rest of what he was working on down. "Yup, that's it! I'm not going to sit around doing shitty labor with some chick who can't tell when I don't want to be talked to!" Quickly making his way out from the array of tents, I watched on as he lit a cigarette, and hurried on out—but not without shooting me a harsh scowl first.

      I tried my very hardest not to laugh, and I did a damn good job of doing so, seeing as I had officially decided that my aim was not going to be to make friends with that guy. Sure, I didn't plan of making any enemies of the sort, but I did enjoy my share of messing with a grumpy-grouch. Especially if he couldn't take any pride in doing the littlest share of work.

      However, I was now placed in another sort of 'dilemma'. Was this other guy going to turn on me now? Is he going to be just as pissy as Shane was? What was he even like? Was he even going to say anything? Do anything? Well maybe if you go back to your original plan of making some small-talk, you'll find out if this guy is friend-material or not. Oh, right.

      "Well now that we're stuck together..." I trailed off, making a bit of an awkward stretch of eye-contact with Sebastian. "Er...that sounded weird. I mean...so...um, back to my original statement-

      "All my life," He simply replied, keeping eye-contact with me for a moment before looking back down at the chartreuse banner he was finishing up.

      At first, I didn't get it. "I...um...I don't think I-

      "You had asked how long I've lived here, so that's my answer." Ohhh...

      I smiled to myself, trying to suppress a goofy grin and act nonchalant about things. You're going to soon learn that that's something I fail to do. "So I take it you're not going to be all rude with me like that guy was?"

      He shrugged, "I mean, as long as you don't interfere with my work, I don't see why I would be."

      Instantly, I flinched. "Oh! Uh...I'm s-sorry-

      Sebastian shook his head, "I'm not talking about making banners. I've got an actual job you know. Serious stuff."

      My eyes widened, and I did another internal 'ohhh'. It was one of those days. "I see...well, I'll be sure not to mess with you when you're working then!" To my surprise, this got him to smile. I hadn't seen that sort of expression, and despite not having known him for very long in the slightest, it looked like a rare site. "What're you smiling about?"

      Sebastian shrugged again, looking down at me. "You've just got one of those awkward 'I'm a newcomer, and I have no idea what I'm doing' attitudes. It's pretty funny. And how you acted with Shane. I guess that that was the best part."

      This time I couldn't help but snicker, "Well I hope that by funny, you mean in a good way!"

      "Sure, sure," the smile faded from his face, although I didn't see this as a bad thing. "Are you going to stay around for a while?"

      "I'd hope so, just not too long." I replied honestly—to be honest, I doubt I would have told Lewis the same thing. I'm sure he was imagining that I was here to stay.

      "Well then if I'm going to have to see you again, I'm Sebastian. But I think you understood that from Marnie."

      I immediately nodded, "And I suppose you got the tidbit that I'm Roxane?"

      "Mhm. That wasn't hard to figure out," This is where he paused, and looked down at the table directly in front of me. "Hey uh...I think there was actually something you misunderstood."

      "What's that?" I inquired, looking up at him with what must have been my signature, curious expression.

      "You tied all of the banners wrong."
       
      • InvaderRoxas

        InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer


        The days started to blur together as I started to find myself becoming more comfortable with my surroundings. Spring carried itself well, and grew me a plentiful bound of cauliflower and parsnips before the middle of the season was ought to arise. I can’t deny that the work was still tough, even after the days went by. It was going to take more than just a season or two to really get used to the sometimes dirty, grueling, and intimidating lifestyle I had set out to live.

        Whenever there was a rainy day (which in spring, there were many), you could count on my wandering into town to find something to do. In the past week, I had gone about meeting a wise fisherman named Willy. At first, he had appeared to be a fellow of few words, but the second you got him going about the art of fishing he didn’t want to stop! Whenever I saw him, especially as he was about to go out on another fishing expedition, a shaggy brown hat adorned his head of umber hair, complementing his captain-like beard quite nicely. The older man had taught me a bit about fishing in the few conversations we had had so far, and was even nice enough to give me my own fishing rod.

        But enough about all of that—the more interesting events of the spring were about to befall me on the day of the Egg Festival. The day started out sunny, which I immediately noticed when I first walked outside in a thick turtleneck (trust me, I changed out of that real quick). The sun’s rays were a far different feeling than the atmosphere of fog and condensation in the air, and in turn gave me a cheery feeling. There was a moment, before I left my cabin to go out to the day’s event, where I considered wearing sunscreen since the star was so bright. Ah, who cares, I had foolishly thought. It’s spring, not summer. Besides, it’s cloudy! And when was the last time you got a sun burn anyway? You’ll be fine.

        With that last thought slipping away, I briskly walked the path that led into town. Wearing a short-sleeved yellow and violet checkered flannel, pearl tank-top, and ripped jean shorts, I appeared to be all set for the sunny and hot weather. To even get in the spirit of the festival, I plucked a yellow lily from its resting place and tucked it into the middle of my hair bun. Now you really look like you’re a farmer, I reflected in an almost jeering manner, causing me to smirk.

        The forestry around me, as I’m sure you are able to guess, looked exactly like spring. The grass that would cover the forests and fields around the town was a fresh, leafy green just as the budding trees appeared to be. Evergreens would stand tall, towering, and thick above your head—occasionally dropping a pine cone every time the wind howled through the air. The sky’s dreary grey on some days would fade into a delightful sea-green aura, which was reflected in the ocean’s current. Then as the sun would dim into the horizon at sunset, bursts of sherbet and vibrant violets would decorate the sky instead. Spring in Stardew Valley was a beautiful sight—one that I would catch myself dazing off into if I let myself.

        The day of the Egg Festival started out in a similar manner, with a light breeze in the air, greenery all about us, and as I mentioned the sun’s rays kissing our skin. What I was most eager about, as I made my way from the rugged path to the cobbled square, was the display of food. Covering almost every inch of the beginning area were chocolate muffins, pancakes, waffles, toasts, mushrooms, and especially eggs (both the scrambled, and hard-boiled kind). Seeing as I had skipped breakfast, my stomach was already starting to rumble and become far too eager to start gorging itself. Instead, I forced myself to look away and try to hide how hungry I was—I didn’t want to be rude.


        I must have been standing towards the entrance for way longer than deemed normal, as it didn’t take long for someone to want to come over and make small talk with me. This time, it was a girl by the name of Abigail. We had met in the weeks prior, and talked from time to time about our interests among other things. I found that she had a keen interest for the paranormal, and complained to me once or twice about her mom scolding her about hanging out in the graveyard. Abigail’s hair had been dyed a vibrant amethyst (which, no surprise, was also something her mother disliked), which matched her ultramarine eyes harmoniously. At first, she didn’t really strike me as the type of person who would sneak out after dark and traverse the creepy parts of the town, but you can’t go stereotyping people. She was actually very kind, and during our conversations I found that I related to her a little bit—although I’m not exactly sure why.

        Nevertheless, here she was coming over to talk to me now. Like before, she had a shy, but pleasant, smile on her face as she came to greet me. I tried my best to give the same sort of expression, but around her it wasn’t very difficult.

        “Hey Roxane,” Abigail muttered in a cheery attitude, giving a small wave. “I was hoping that you would show up.”

        I quickly snickered, “Why wouldn’t I? It sounded like this was going to be a fun event, and from the looks of things, I don’t believe I was wrong.”

        She shook her head before sighing, “Yeah, it can be fun and all—but until the egg hunt starts, I just find everything so repetitive.”

        Confused at first, I looked out at the display as I asked, “Why is that?”

        “Well,” Abigail crossed her arms as she followed my gaze. “Attending it year after year has slowly become a drag. I guess if you’re outgoing and all, it can be more fun, but it gives my parents another excuse to pick on the way I dress since this is supposed to be a ‘fancy’ event.” Immediately after making that comment, she snickered, “How can they even say that? I mean, Lewis is just wearing his overalls and a simple flannel as always, and the kids are running around with mud on their jeans!” Her comment both got us laughing for a split second, before she continued on. “I just think it’s more for the older adults with all of the conversation, and the young tots with the games. Us ‘youngsters’ usually just slip into the background if we’re lucky enough not to be dragged out by our parents…”

        “I see,” I meant to continue the thought further, but we both must have noticed that I was at a loss for words.

        Abigail quickly stepped in, “It’s ok if you can’t relate completely—I mean, it is your first time at the festival, so you’ll have some fun! Especially in the egg hunt…which, you’re doing, right?”

        Immediately I nodded, “Yeah! I mean, I’m sure it’s meant for the kids and all but-

        Before I could get another word in, she unexpectedly burst out a laugh. “Meant for the kids? At this point, almost everyone that doesn’t have a kid plays the game! Sam, Sebastian, and I have never stopped playing, even after we got a couple weird looks and a few ‘aren’t you too old for this?’ comments. No one really cares anymore, so you don’t have to be embarrassed about wanting to!”

        I scratched my neck with a grin spreading across my heated face, “I never said I was em-

        “Your cheeks say otherwise,” her index finger pointed out—but before I had a chance to retort, I watched as Abigail’s gaze wandered off into the tree-line near the graveyard. “Oh! I just realized! Do you…maybe want to hang out with the three of us?”

        “The three of us?” I asked—and even without giving an answer Abigail was already pulling me off towards the graveyard.

        “Sam and Sebastian are the other two! I’m sure you’ve met them by now, am I right?” Her tone was eager, which gave me a sense of reassurance, but I was suddenly feeling a tug of dread at my heel.

        “Uh…I don’t believe I’ve met Sam…but I have met Sebastian-

        “Great!” She grinned, her pace quickening as we neared the shaded area. “I’m sure you’ll get along with Sam as well—we’re all pretty friendly and chill.”

        I went silent in the moments preceding her last comment, but not for any good reason. A mix of emotions were starting to overwhelm my brain, ranging from embarrassment, to being nervous, and out-right shy. Leaving out those last two to just my nerves of meeting new folks getting the best of me, left something my thoughts couldn’t help but want to explore. Sure, Sebastian and I had had a decent conversation the many days before now when I helplessly failed at making a single decoration, and upsetting the town’s grump—but I was feeling fluttering butterflies in my stomach. He was different from the other folks I had met, even if you put Shane back into the picture. He had displayed so little emotion, that I couldn’t help think about him even if he hadn’t done so much as help me a bit. Why did he act like that? Was that just what he was like? Did he really not like me? I might be a nervous sport, but if there was something I couldn’t stand, it was if someone didn’t like me. I want to be on everyone’s good side—is there something wrong with that? (Except for Shane. Screw him.) Call me a goody-two-shoes, but I guess I just don’t feel right if I’m upsetting someone unintentionally. But, had I upset him? Most likely, you’re just freaking yourself out because you’re embarrassed that he had to do all of your work for you, and ended up staying there longer than he had most likely intended, my rational brain called out. Seriously, you’re being stupid. He might think you’re not good with crafts, but he probably doesn’t hate you. Ah,right.

        Just as I had gone through with a good dose of internal conflict, I realized that both Sebastian, and who I assumed was Sam, were before me. Both of them were leaning on their own respected tree, but appeared with two very different demeanors. Sam looked cheery, in a similar manner to Abigail, but not overly so. His blonde hair had been spiked up with layers of hair gel, which matched his ripped jeans and rock-star t-shirt he was sporting. He didn’t even have to utter a word, and I could already tell that he was either obsessed with rock n’ roll, played an instrument of the sort, or both!

        Sebastian was wearing all black—which wasn’t so much surprising, as it was realizing how much he was going to sweat with how hot it was outside. His onyx haircut covered most of the left side of his face by the way he was positioned, but what was most noticeable about him was that he had a burnt out cigarette in his right hand. So, he smokes. I don’t think I was too surprised by the fact, but I didn’t really know what to think about it. A ‘life lesson’ society drilled into my brain from the time I could think clearly was that ‘smokers are bad’! Instead of instantly criticizing it like I would have with anyone I saw smoking across the street, I made an effort to toss that reasoning aside and ignore it. For some reason, I wanted to desperately give him a chance. I never really was a judgmental person anyway, so I guess doing so wasn’t going to be too hard. I just wished he didn’t do that to himself, the caring part of me whispered.

        “Hey guys—have you met Roxane yet?” Abigail asked the two of them, as I looked on silently.

        Sam immediately looked up at me with a soft grin, “I don’t think I have—nice to meet ya! The name’s Sam.” I gave a curt, nervous nod in response.

        There was an awkward pause in the air, which I only realized was coming from Abigail moments before she spoke. “Sebastian?” She had been eyeing him for a response, and as I looked over at him I noticed that he didn’t look to keen on giving one. His eyes had briefly wandered over my form for a few seconds, before he looked back at his hand.

        “Hm?” He simply replied—if you can even call it that.

        Abigail put her hand to her temples, “Could you at least give a bit of a greeting to her? It’s not hard.”

        “I met her already,” he muttered in a dull tone of voice as he crossed his arms. “And I’m not in the mood for making small-talk, so yes—it is kind of hard.”

        “Oh come on-

        “It also doesn’t help when you act like I have nothing better to do than be here, when in fact, I could be working,” Sebastian uttered with a swift glare at Abigail.

        Sam stepped in, “Dude—can’t you just relax for once? Being on that laptop all day has got to exhaust you eventually…”

        Sebastian’s harsh stare quickly turned from Abigail to Sam, “I don’t need your input on what I should and shouldn’t be doing. You both sound just like my parents!”

        “Well, we worry about you!” Abigail replied in a soft tone, although I could still tell she was offended. “You never come outside unless we force you off of your damn computer games—

        “Games?” Sebastian’s fists clenched after she had uttered the word, forcing the burnt-out cigarette in his clutches to fall to the ground in petals of ash. “They’re not games! I have an actual-

        For a moment, it looked as if he was about to go on an elongated tangent, before he stopped himself. “Can you just go? If you can’t tell, I obviously don’t want to have to talk to anyone right now.”

        It looked as if both Sam and Abigail were going to protest, but prevented themselves from doing so. Abigail, with a somber look, gave the simple reply of, “Fine.” She motioned for Sam to follow her out of the graveyard, while giving me an apologetic look. I managed to come up with a smile, specifically an ‘it’s ok, don’t worry about it’, smile.

        Putting my hands in my short pockets, I was just about ready to go off and leave with those two, until I stopped myself. Something, probably my stupidity, told me that I should stay in Sebastian’s company. Are you crazy? Do you want another villager hating your guts? Yeah—that didn’t sound nice. He already wasn’t in a good mood, so why would it be a good idea to talk to him now? He just said he didn’t want any company. And yet, you’re going to try and cheer him up anyway, aren’t you? Unfortunately, I was.

        Folding my arms behind my back, I took a step forward. “So…”

        “Sorry kiddo—not in the mood, if you didn’t just hear me go on and on about that,” he bluntly hissed—going out of the way to not even look me in the eye.

        I still didn’t feel deterred, oddly enough. “Well, you don’t even know what I was going to ask you!”

        “Do I want to know?” Sebastian asked in a gloomy manner.

        “Maybe…”

        I could hear him breathe in and out sharply, before he looked over at me with a neutral expression. Even without the notion being handed over to me on a silver platter, I could tell that he was pissed, but was trying his best to hold it back. “Just ask it—and when I answer it, leave.”

        “Alright,” I briskly replied—seemed like a fair deal to me. I fumbled with my words a bit, before I started with, “Ok, so…what’s your job?”

        Immediately after I had stated my question, Sebastian starred at me in disbelief, “What?”

        I recoiled out of confusion, and immediately twiddled my thumbs in spite of myself. “I…I just wanted to know what you’re working on…I guess? I mean…you seem to bring it up a lot, and I can tell you’re passionate about it,” Internally I cursed myself for sounding like a deer caught in headlights—but from my perspective, his query sounded like he thought my question was stupid.

        Immediately, I felt my cheeks grow hot, and I had an extreme desire to run far away from the graveyard, and hide behind the gigantic pile of pancakes a couple of yards west of here. “Look, i-if that was a stupid question, I u-understand—

        Sebastian immediately cut me off, waving his hands in dismissal. “No! I mean…I’m just surprised that that’s what you wanted to ask me.” Wait, what?

        “Why is that?” I muttered, now more curious than embarrassed.

        “No one really ever asks about it,” he shrugged. “And with that being said, they sure as hell don’t care. You just saw what went down…I mean, they think I just play games all day! That goes to show how good it is to have friends-

        The second after he said that, he stopped, and looked about in an awkward fashion as he scratched his neck. “Uh…sorry. That probably sounded pretty vain…”

        I couldn’t help but giggle a little, “It’s fine! You obviously have a lot on your plate—but you didn’t really get to the part where you tell me what you actually do…?”

        “Oh, right,” He looked down sheepishly. Was he the embarrassed one now? “Well, I do a load of computer programming, to put it simply. I find it pretty rewarding I guess, since I can make my own cash, and I find it easy—although time consuming.”

        As he spoke, I found that I had subconsciously wandered away from the graveyard entrance, and was leaning on a tall oak not too far from the man speaking to me. His explanation had gathered my interest, no doubt. I didn’t want to say that I was surprised that he was a programmer, as the idea seemed to fit, but you didn’t really hear of such a profession living in the middle of nowhere. No offense to Stardew Valley and Pelican Town, but that’s sort of where they lie. Maybe that’s why no one really understood his job—that sort of thing was unheard of in places like this, where farmers and miners were far more abundant.

        “My parents don’t really get it—but when your step-dad’s a scientist, and your mom a carpenter, I guess they just don’t really have an interest for it. They at least try to give me space, but that doesn’t stop my good ol’ friends from trying to give me some ‘fresh air’!” He grinned after his sarcastic statement, which caused me to give an amused smile as well.

        “You ever try explaining it to them?” I asked, although I probably already knew the answer to that question.

        “What you just saw is probably the best example of me trying to. I know they’ll just chock it up to me trying to be an anti-social bastard, so I don’t bother with it,” this is where he peered at me suspiciously. “So…why don’t you think I’m an anti-social bastard?”

        “I never said I didn’t,” I joked with a sly grin, “…but I do think that maybe you just need someone to talk to about it before you explode from all of the stress.”

        Sebastian quickly laughed at me, “So you just think I need some company in order to fix all of my problems? Well, you’re optimistic, I’ll give you that.”

        “Or…maybe I’m right, and you should give it a try,” I quickly insisted. For a moment, I had an odd urge to nudge his shoulder, but quickly stopped myself. You don’t know him that well.

        “Right,” His grin persisted for a couple of moments, before his look turned into the shocked sort. “Hey! Didn’t you agree to leave me alone after you asked what was supposed to be one question!?”

        There was no stopping myself from laughing at that point, but after my outburst I was quick to utter a retort. “Well you didn’t seem too keen on stopping the conversation until now! Maybe some nice, calm company and a good laugh was actually what you needed-

        “Oh god, please don’t get cocky with me,” he grumbled. “Now you’ve had your fun, so leave me be.”

        I was about to do as he asked, and head off to join in on the egg hunt (which, no doubt, was going to occur momentarily), before I paused. “Don’t you want to join in on the egg hunt?”

        “Why would I?” He asked in a gruff tone, although I could tell it was fake. “It’s for kids.”

        “That’s not what Abigail told me…and besides! Do I look like a kid to you?”

        “You act like one.”

        The pause between his last comment, and what was soon to be a pit of laughter from both of us lasted a mere 5 seconds. I’ll give Sebastian some credit; he might have tried to act all lonesome and brooding, but he could definitely make me laugh.

        “Just shut up and come with me!” I exclaimed when I was finally able, wiping the tears from my eyes.

        He smirked at me, while reluctantly (then again, he sort of seemed eager) following me out of the graveyard. “Fine, if you insist-

        Sebastian was interrupted by the sharp crack that echoed underneath our footsteps. We both looked at each other with piercing, wide-eyes glances, not wanting to look down at our feet to see what that was. In a way, we knew what one of us had stepped on already, it was just about finding out who had stepped on it.

        Spoiler alert—it was me.

        I peered down first at the cracked egg under my toes, and I was most likely the first of us to wince. The sky blue egg had been shattered immediately upon impact with my heel, and was already vomiting up the murky, clear goop with a yolk on the side. Talk about sunny-side up. In an effort to clean off my foot, I dragged it across the mossy ground, only to drag the yolk with me and smear it on the earth. I have the best of luck.

        “You’re prone to these types of situations, aren’t you?” Sebastian asked me, looking at both me, and then at my foot.

        I sighed, “Pretty much.”
         
        • InvaderRoxas

          InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer


          The egg hunt ended up being a fun little event, for me and Sebastian both. The eggs ended up being very well hidden, but not hard enough to make the game impossible for the youngsters. I could tell that Sebastian wasn’t as eager to take part in the event, and mostly was doing it just because I had asked him to. Which, of course was nice of him, but I couldn’t help but feeling a little guilty (even if it was sort of hilarious to watch him stumble around as he did).

          At the end of the day, I wasn’t really setting out to win the little scavenger hunt—and instead, let the kids beat me to it. I thought that was more fitting than letting myself wig, seeing as the kids were so excited and hopeful that they might win. I believe a kid named Vincent won? I’m not that great on remembering names, so forgive me if I end up being wrong.

          By the time the egg hunt was finished, the entire village enjoyed the brunch that had been set up this year. Personally, I had mouthfuls of pancakes, bacon, potatoes, and of course a hardboiled egg or two. I must have been eating at a quicker pace than what seemed to be normal, as Sam thought it was pretty entertaining and had the audacity to point out how I was stuffing myself. Ok, I admit it—I laughed too.

          The rest of the day’s festivities consisted of having conversation with those I did know, and those I had yet to meet. For the most part however, especially as the evening hours started to dawn amongst the town, I hung out with Abigail, Sam, and Sebastian. I tried my best to be outgoing as I talked with them, but for the most part I must admit that I let them do all of the talking. That is, unless Sebastian happened to bring up a private conversation with me for a couple of moments. Oddly enough, when I talked with him I felt the most comfortable. Maybe because we were the less-talkative type around everyone else? Possibly—but for whatever reason, it was nice.

          Eventually, as the sun started to disappear off into the western horizon, and the young ones went off to bed with their parents, the real party started to begin. Everyone who planned on staying out until the evening had gone into the later hours started to migrate off towards the saloon. I was on the fence about whether or not I should join in, or head back to my quaint cabin—especially when I realized that Sam and Abigail were both going to head on home. Sebastian and I had waved to the both of them as they left with their respected families, walking off into the indigo night.

          It was here were Sebastian had turned to me and asked, “So, you going to head out too? I’m sure your exhausted from listing to so many people go on and on today. To be honest, I am too.” He looked down at the grass under our feet, the heels of his converse digging into the dirt.

          I shrugged, looking up at him. “I suppose I am a bit tired…but are you staying out for a bit longer?”

          “Sorta have to,” He muttered in annoyance. “Parents aren’t ready to head in, and my sister is having the time of her life—so I’ll be stuck with them since it’s the ‘polite’ thing to do.”

          “Then maybe I should stick around then,” I gave a small smile. “You’ll be pretty bored otherwise, right?”

          In a melancholy sort of attitude he sighed, “I suppose…”

          Immediately, I nudged my elbow into his ribcage lightly—giving a mischievous grin. “Hey! No need to feel guilty about it. It’s not a crime if you want me to hang out with you.”

          I was a little wary of what his reaction was going to be—but relieved when I saw an amused look on his face as he put his hands in his pockets. “Alright, alright! Fine…”

          With the awkward tone long and gone, Sebastian and I proceeded into The Stardrop Saloon—a place I had yet to visit on my own time. Upon entering the tavern, I noticed that the room was vast and open, with a long bar set up against the wall in front of me. The air around me smelled of sweet, with the occasional bitter, elixirs—making my mouth water. No matter whether you looked to the right or left, there were tables and chairs set up—so many in fact, that it looked as if you could set the entire town inside. Speaking of which, most of the townsfolk had already made their way in before us, taking up most of the seats adorning the saloon.

          I looked around for a spot where the both of us could sit, but before I could find a place, I felt a tug on my sleeve. Looking over at my companion, I saw him trying to lead me over to two vacant spots at the end of the bar. I swiftly followed suit, making sure not to bump into anyone or anything as I made my way along the hall. For an open place, it was quite crowded now that most of the town’s residence was inside.

          “Pretty packed in here, isn’t it?” I exclaimed over the buzz of chatter that filled the room, while sitting on the barstool next to Sebastian.

          He nodded, “Yeah, it is—it’s not usually like this, although I don’t go here much.”

          With his statement, a question suddenly popped in my head. “So, where do you frequent?”

          As I asked the question, Sebastian signaled the bartender and owner of the establishment, Gus, to grab us both a water. Once his attention returned to me, Sebastian gave me a confused look. “Pardon?”

          “Where do you go when you’re not working, I mean,” I asked with a soft smile.

          “Oh, well…not anywhere significant, if that’s what you’re looking for,” he remarked simply. “Maybe to the lake for a quick smoke—or…” he paused, wincing.

          “Or, what?” I asked, befuddled.

          Sebastian avoided my gaze as he replied hesitantly, “I…probably shouldn’t mention anything like that.”

          “Anything about smoking? Why?”

          “I’m not going to try and be oblivious to the fact that most of the word looks at smoking as a taboo, nor am I going to ignore the way you looked when you saw me holding one earlier,” he looked down at me for once, while I sat there—still confused. Did I really stare at it enough for him to notice? Or at least, did I give a grimace once I saw it!? Oh god, I hope I didn’t!

          Immediately I shook my head as my face grew hot, “I d-didn’t mean to give a weird look, or s-stare, or-

          “It’s fine,” He reassured me, stopping me in my tangent. “You didn’t do any of that—I could just tell you noticed.”

          Sighing—mostly out of relief (and it appears that I had been holding my breath)—I gave a weak smile. “Well it didn’t really bother me…so I don’t care if you mention it. I guess I was just…surprised. You’re sort of taught to act that way when you find out someone smokes where I’m from. I guess it’s just not as common there.”

          He lightly snickered, “Well at least we got that out of the way.”

          “Yeah,” I trailed off for a moment, before the thought entered my mind once again. “Oh! You never really finished your answer before, did you?”

          “Oh—well, I pretty much just go out to the lake near my house to chill out whenever. It’s pretty nice out there, and mostly quiet, unless there’s a landslide and you have Joja all over the property trying to clean it up.”

          His mention of Joja immediately caught my interest, and caused me to be perplexed. “Landslides? Those happen a lot out here?”

          Sebastian nodded, “Pretty much once every couple of weeks or so. Joja’s got some interest in the mines north of my place, and their equipment can get pretty glitchy from the looks of things. It takes them forever to clean up all of the shit once they’ve made a mess of the place. I can’t even stand going outside near my yard if they’re around—way too loud for my taste,” With a quick grimace, he gestured lightly to the atmosphere of the saloon. “Just like this place.”

          “Yeah, it is a bit loud,” I agreed—moments after I spoke these words, both of our drinks had arrived. I ran a finger along the glass of water, the droplets feeling harmonious against my skin thanks to the warm temperature of the tavern. “And pretty warm. How are you not sweating in that hoodie?”

          He shrugged with a slight chuckle, “Just used to it I guess.”

          It appeared that Sebastian was about to say something else, before his smile ceased, and his gaze turned away from me and off to the other end of the room. As his face contorted to that of an unamused look, I forced myself to look back towards the entrance of the saloon to find what he was looking at. Or rather, who.

          A tall man, dressed in a carmine overcoat, was making his way through the tavern at a nonchalant tempo. His ginger-blonde hair, parted from the left, wafted past his shoulders to end midway down his back. Evergreen eyes are what stuck out the most from his face, other than a sharply defined jawline. But as I took in the man’s physical appearance, I also noticed a few glares shooting out towards him from a handful of townsfolk. What’s got everyone on edge all of a sudden? I wondered to myself. He doesn’t look like he’s bothering anybody.

          This is when I nudged Sebastian, forcing him to look back at me. “Hey, what’s the glare about? Who’s that?”

          It took him a moment to finally speak, sort of putting me on edge for an answer. “That’s Elliot…and as you can guess, there’s a tiny amount of people who don’t really like him too much.” Before I was able to even ask as to why, Sebastian muttered, “And you want to know why, don’t you?” I quickly nodded, peering back at the man as he continued to speak.

          “He’s a drunkard—if you want me to be blunt. I wouldn’t go to the extent to say that he’s a trouble maker, but he does tend to piss off a few folks whenever he and alcohol mix. Even if you toss his ‘problem’ out of the way, he rarely attends any of the town’s events, which the older folks in the town find to be extremely rude—especially Lewis. I’m sure you saw how hard Marnie worked to organize the egg hunt, so I suppose they take Elliot’s no-show as a sign that he doesn’t care.”

          I gave Sebastian an accusing look, “Now hold on—don’t I recall you wanting to ditch this festival altogether?”

          My comment managed to drag out a sheepish grin from him for a moment, before it disappeared as he grew grim and serious. “That’s different. I at least have the nerve to show up to these events year after year—but he’s never around. Or, at least when he is, not for long. Mostly to talk with Lea or Willy maybe…but I’ve never had a decent conversation with the guy.”

          “Maybe he has a reason that he doesn’t show…?”

          “Not too sure about that. From what I hear, is that he’s always working on some writing project that I would guess isn’t going to amount to very much. At the end of the day, I just find him kind of odd.”

          While I was trying to put two and two together and share the same mindset as Sebastian, I found that I was unable to do so. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see any reason to hate the guy. I was about ready to give the mysterious mister another look-over, until I realized that he was right behind me. Literally. Right. There. And boy, was he taller than I expected (although, I am pretty short). Our eyes met upon my realization that he was looming over me, and I instantly felt goose bumps run up and down my spine—and then back again.

          “Is this seat taken?” Elliot asked me—his voice deeper than I had expected.

          Immediately I shook my head, both to inform him it wasn’t, and to try and knock myself out of my daze. “N-no…”

          He sat down, giving me a kind grin as he did so. “Well then I hope you don’t mind if I sit here,” for a moment he paused, looking behind me at who I assumed was Sebastian. “Sebastian—you look well.”

          I was convinced that Sebastian wasn’t going to make any remarks, or even acknowledge that Elliot was even present. But this time around, he surprised me. “Don’t talk to me like you know me.” His voice was sharp like a sword’s edge, but at the level of a mutter.

          Oddly enough, this didn’t faze the man on my right’s attitude one bit. “No need to be up in arms about a simple greeting, but I digress,” he looked back at me again, while in turn I’m sure I gave a wimpy yet curious look. “I don't believe I've seen your face around here before, which must mean that you're the newest member to our humble community; I've heard a bit about you from Willy. Oh! But where are my manners? I'm Elliot, and it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance young farmer!”

          And with that, he warmly shook my hand, forcing me to produce a half-cooked smile. “It's nice to m-meet you too…I'm Roxane, or Miss Beauchene if that's what you prefer.”

          “What an alluring name,” he remarked as his fingertips grazed over my own, before returning back to the bar.

          It surprised me how quick Sebastian was to utter an offensive remark, but I would soon learn that this was going to be the norm for most of the night. “Poser,” he growled with a sharp glare towards Elliot, which didn't last much more than a second or two, before he gazed at his glass of water in a way which resembled disgust. There was a moment where I thought I should intervene, but I didn’t really know how to do so.

          “Is there something you’re trying to make a point of, Sebastian?” Even with the hostility in the room, Elliot’s expression didn’t change to one of pessimism. “Or maybe is my presence making you uncomfortable? I don’t think I’m harming anyone by sitting here-

          “Well maybe you’re bothering me.” Uh oh. Sebastian’s voice may still have been soft, but it was more than obvious that he had been set off—I guess he just wasn’t one to yell, or he didn’t want to cause a ruckus. Yet.

          “I don’t see how that could be possible…”

          “Can you not sense how pissed off you make some people around here? You can’t just miss festival after festival, or never turn up to help, only to show up in the evening to get yourself wasted! Can’t you understand how that might make some people feel?” Sebastian’s voice may have been rising in volume, but luckily it was drowned out to any audience that could have heard it thanks to the chatter of the saloon. I on the other hand, was starting to feel a tad bit overwhelmed.

          This is when Elliot’s kind expression faded to an unamused look. “What I choose to partake in should be none of your business. Besides, I have an important project I’m working on-

          As soon as he heard this statement, Sebastian was quick to interrupt. “Yeah, sure—some fantastic writing project that’s going to really work out for you.”

          “Guys…” I tried to step in, or say something to stop their quarrel, but I was too quiet to be heard.

          “That’s funny—out of anyone in this valley I thought that you would understand the same feeling towards your work,” Elliot suddenly sneered. “But maybe you just haven’t understood the level of passion, and dedication of time, that should be put forth on these sort of personal endeavors.”

          The second he had finished shelling out this statement, Sebastian went oddly quiet—and frankly didn’t even appear to have any sort of retort or exclamation handy. Instead, he and Elliot exchanged a sharp glare for a couple of moments, in which I stood (or rather sat) on edge. There was a moment where I feared that this was going to get ugly, but I wanted to believe that neither man was capable of such reckless behavior. Luckily for my assumptions, I was right—and as soon as Sebastian left Elliot’s gaze, he stood from his seat.

          Grabbing a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, he didn’t even glance my way as he began to make his way towards the exit. “I’ll be outside,” he plainly whispered to me, causing my eyes to widen.

          “W-wait, hold on-

          “Don’t follow me.” He hissed, still not even bothering to look me in the eye as he left me alone with a man who I still felt was practically a stranger. What got to me the most, was that I couldn’t do anything to ease his anger. Look who screwed up—again.

          Not wanting to mess up any more than I had already had, I forced myself to stay put, and leave Sebastian to go out and smoke. Who was I to stop him? However, I was sort of presented with a new dilemma—even if I am exaggerating. I didn’t know what I was supposed to say to Elliot—a man I had met and in no less than 2 minutes, had gotten into an argument with my sort-of-kind-of-hope-we-can-be-friends-acquaintance-friend. How was I supposed to react to what had just happened? Be upset? Angry? Maybe staying befuddled and confused would be a better plan of action. Whichever way I was going to choose, I couldn’t help but notice that there was more to the argument I had just witnessed. A part of me wondered if this sort of thing had happened in the past, or maybe even occurred often. Was Sebastian’s hatred for Elliot exaggerating how little he showed up in the community, or was that the truth? Not everyone around me seemed distressed at his appearance, and some hadn’t even noticed him. So, was what Sebastian said true? I would like to believe him entirely, I remarked, but there’s some sort of resentment afoot. That, and a wannabe-author living on the beach doesn’t sound like a public enemy #1 for a small community like this. I guess I’ll find out what’s true soon enough. With that last thought, I tried to leave the subject alone. Procrastination for the thinking process, if you will.

          Lucky for me, Elliot was the one to speak up first after Sebastian had left. He was going to have to, as I was dumbfounded on what to say. “I’m extremely sorry that you had to witness such an awful display, Roxane. I hope this doesn’t allude to me having a distasteful sort of character, but I should point out that Sebastian and I aren’t on friendly terms.”

          Giving a nervous smile was all I could muster as I replied. “That's alright,” I half-lied. “Things happen.”

          I could tell he wasn’t convinced (not that I'm a convincing person in the first place), as a frown had decided to spread father onto his lips. “Nonsense! That was inappropriate example of conduct—would it be appropriate if I bought you something to drink? I don’t feel that a simple apology can describe how embarrassed and sorry I am on its own,” his eyes immediately glanced to the floor after saying all he had to, and I couldn’t deny that he did look embarrassed.

          I didn’t drink—not because I hated the taste of liquor or anything like that, or for any philosophical reason either. Mostly I had just never really taken much of an interest, but if I was ever offered one I wasn’t one to decline. “Sure! That’s fine, if you insist…” I offered a cheery, almost over-energetic, smile to try and pick up the mood. “You honestly don’t have to though,” I couldn’t help but add.

          Luckily, his expression did peak up at my response as he offered me a gentle grin. “Well I do insist!” Without a moment of hesitation, he flagged Gus down and ordered the two of us glasses of ‘his finest wine’. I thought I noticed an odd sort of glare from the saloon manager, but after doing a double-take I found his facial expression was relaxed (or, as relaxed as it could be during this busy hour). Had that just been the light? Or another reason to side with Sebastian’s point of view—or at least a warning.

          “So, tell me about yourself young farmer!” Elliot called me out of my daze, forcing me to look back into his emerald orbs. “What caused you to come out here to this quaint little town, almost in the middle of nowhere, to sow your roots into the soil?”

          “Mostly a bad job,” I replied after a second or two of thought. As much as I could have shared the death of my mother—I didn’t want to. A part of me didn’t really want to burden a fresh conversation with the idea, nor did I want the conversation to sway to the depressing sort. “I used to work for Joja, and eventually got sick of the place. I suppose the city air was starting to get to me too.”

          He nodded, “I don’t blame you—in fact, that’s a similar reason to why I ended up here as well. There’s a sort of fresh air that surrounds this town that I find quite pleasant!”

          “Yeah, it is pretty nice around here,” I agreed in a swift manner, before raising a brow. “But…I heard mention of a writing project you’re working on? Is that why you’re out here? For inspiration of sorts?”

          Elliot chuckled, pink dusting his cheeks. “You could say that, but I am in fact working on a novel. It’s nothing big at the moment, and I have a few ideas circling around and about in my head, so nothing is really final as of yet. I’m sure it will soon start to fall into place eventually—but things like that take time.”

          Gus had been quick to deliver our drinks, both served in crystal clear glasses brimming with a thick, plum-tinted liquid. Residing next to those was a tall bottle of the same elixir, opened and ready to be poured if needed. I slowly took the glass in my hand, and took a couple of sips of the bitter liquid. Actually—no. It was a little sweet in its aftertaste, and nothing of the awful sort. Why not try something, or drink something, new?

          Moving the conversation along, I looked back towards Elliot after I had taken my first sip. “So how long have you been working on your novel?” In comparison to my nervous drinking, he seemed to be downing the glass just fine. By the time he was finished with a first sip, or gulp rather, the glass was half empty. I tried not to look dumbfounded, or even oddly impressed, as I waited for his answer.

          Elliot’s olive-like eyes looked at my own for a second, before they shyly turned off to the left. “Er…just a few months actually!” He laughed a little, scratching the back of his neck while still refusing to look up at me. A little odd, for a question I didn’t think had been prying—but I tried not to think too much about the behavior. “While it has been something I’ve been wanting to do for most of my life, you could say that not everyone back home really wanted that for me. So, more or less, I wasn’t able to work on much of the writing sort out in the open as I am now—if that makes sense.”

          I nodded, “Well it’s nice that you can do what you want now! I felt a bit constricted back home too, i-if I’m saying that correctly…”

          Just as I was about to take another drink, Elliot erupted in a short spurt of laughter, causing me to almost spit what I had taken back into my drink. Luckily, I didn’t, but what I was concerned about more was what had made Elliot laugh. I observed him chuckling to himself, and then finishing off what remained of his first glass. His left hand firmly grasped the full bottle of wine after he had finished, to which he began pouring himself more of the potion. As he did this, he looked back at me with an entertained grin of sorts. In turn, I felt my face grow hot in a mixture of confusion and embarrassment. Was it something I said?

          “You’re a nervous sort of person, aren’t you Miss Beauchene?” I was befuddled with this odd sort of statement, and thus couldn’t protest or say anything relevant or new. I just let him talk. “I hope that doesn’t sound offensive—as that’s not what I’m trying to say. I just notice that you seem to possess a timid aura about you in the presence of a new figure. Unless, I’m just an intimidating person, but I hope that is not the case.”

          Well, just letting him talk wasn’t really helping the blush morphing my complexion, but I nodded anyway. He was right—I am nervous and shy.

          After the pause, his gaze immediately softened from one of interest, to that of the caring kind. “Well I hope that if I am allowed to get to know you better, that you can become more comfortable around me. And not just me, but everyone in this valley! We truly are a kind sort of folk, and would love for you to stay around for as long as you can muster. In the short span of time that I have made your acquaintance, I can suspect that you will become a positive contribution to the community—and I’m not just saying that because you’re a farmer. You seem really sweet.”

          Breathe. I forced myself to inhale what seemed like gallons upon gallons of air, and exhale. Had I been holding my breath the entire time he was speaking? Nonetheless, I tried my best to calm myself down—what’s wrong with getting a compliment!? Other than looking like a cherry? Not much, but that’s enough to make me want to stop blushing like some idiot!

          When I was able to finally react to what he said, I playfully nudged his side. “Hey now, don’t try and get on my good side by complimenting me left and right!” I grinned in a sarcastic manner, barely suppressing a giggle. “But…seriously, that’s nice of you to say.”

          I could tell that I had amused him, as that familiar grin came back again as he looked down at me. “My pleasure~ But, if you don’t mind if I ask a bit of a favor from you, unless you don’t think you are up to a challenge…”

          I scowled, “Ok, now you’re just trying to tease me!”

          He laughed, his deep voice echoing the halls of the saloon like an organ playing in a silent theatre. “Now, now…if you’re willing to help me out with finishing off of the rest of this,” he paused while holding up the bottle of wine in front of me. At this point, it wasn’t completely full—but still intimidating to a light-weight such as myself. “…I would be very grateful.”

          “It depends,” I held my hands to my chin as I looked the bottle over like a sleuth. Damn, was I feeling goofy. “Is this a dare or a plead?”

          “Maybe a little bit of both,” Elliot replied, taking a couple of sips from his glass—but never taking his eyes off me. “But are you up for it?”

          There was a moment where the introverted, wise-eye part of me wanted to politely decline. In fact, that half of me was starting to feel a bit woozy, and dreaming about the comfort of my spring mattress. However, I couldn’t deny this new feeling that I had been presented with this evening. I wanted to have some fun, for what felt like one of the first times in a period of emotional drought. Why not?

          I playfully tore the bottle out of Elliot’s hand, and poured as much as I could to fill up my weak glass. Shooting him a sly grin as I set the wine bottle down on the wooden bar-table, I held my full glass up in a determined poise. “You’re on!”

          Once more he laughed at my exuberant behavior, his warm hand momentarily brushing against my own which had rested on the bar as he reached out for the wine bottle. “You’re sure you can handle it?”

          Quickly nodding, I bellowed out a short statement, “Try me!” before I began what would become a 2-hour long turn of events. Never did I believe that I would partake in any sort of wine-fest, but everyone does something stupid and ridiculous at some point. While I don’t remember most of the rest of that night with Elliot, I knew that for starters, he and I had gotten off to a grand start. I’ll just try to ignore the fact that we quickly became drunk while doing so.
           
          • InvaderRoxas

            InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer


            [Sebastian’s POV]

            After the fun little confrontation I had with that bastard author, you could say I wasn’t in the best mood. Even more so, when I realized that I was going to have to wait outside on a cold spring evening until the saloon would clear out—which most likely meant a couple of hours. Going back inside was out of the question. I didn’t want to have to stand sitting near Elliot for that period of time, nor did the embarrassment of walking back in after my outburst sound like something I wanted to experience. So instead of taking that route, I made my rest leaning up against the outer walls of the saloon entrance where it was warmest. For what was supposed to be a mild season, the nights of spring in Stardew Valley could get pretty chilly, especially after the evening hours drew on.

            My entertainment for the evening consisted of lighting a cigarette and listening to my own thoughts as the breeze swept through the atmosphere. There wasn’t much to look at or gaze upon as I stood there, seeing as the cloudy night sky drew out any possible light from the moon. I could only smell the burnt scent of smoke whenever I took a good breath of my cigarette, which was the only calming or familiar feeling I didn’t resent. Everything else just felt cold, forcing me to cling to the thin fabric of my jacket. Might as well have brought my winter coat if I knew I was going to end up out here, I remarked as I glared out into the abyss.

            The only thing I really have left to describe are my thoughts, and at the time, I bet you can guess they weren’t so happy-go-lucky. I’ll start with the worst vibe I was consumed by—hatred. I don’t want to go off ahead and say that I hate Elliot, seeing as I didn’t know everything in the world that there was to know about him. But, from what I had heard and seen before now, and with what had just occurred, it was safe for me to assume that I dislike him. There was something about him that didn’t really swing in my direction, although I couldn’t put my finger on it. Was it the fact that you could often find him in a drunken state of mind? Or, maybe because he never helped out in the community like the rest of us? Was it because he was so consumed by his goddamn novel? I hoped that last bit wasn’t it, as that would have been pretty hypocritical of me now that I take a gander at it. In a way, we were both in the same situation give or take. I didn’t want to be one to judge, but at the same time I couldn’t ignore my gut’s feeling. Especially now. But, why?

            It wouldn’t be too dramatic of an assumption to guess that I had consumed most of my thoughts to answer that question, as that’s what I ended up doing. I couldn’t really come up with an answer other than my ‘gut feeling’, since I barely knew the guy. Maybe I would find out with time, but I frankly wasn’t too interested in seeing any more of him around town. Letting his presence ruin another potentially nice evening is not something I was going to look forward to again.

            That’s when my train of thought had paused—was I pissed because he ruined my night with Roxane?

            Well the answer seemed rather obvious—yes! The part that was a bit confusing was that I had gotten pissed enough to want to hate the guy so badly…which is a bit odd. It’s not like I was best friends with her anyway, even if she seemed like a pretty nice person under all of that shyness. I don’t mean to sound so cruel, but I don’t tend to make connections pretty quickly, if at all. When was the last time that I was upset that I couldn’t hang out with Sam or Abigail? Never, since I find programming a bit more important than getting into some mischief. Er…no offence to them. I’m not just not the go-to sociable fellow in the valley more often than not, so the fact that I was so upset that the night was ruined was odd. It was different. And to be completely honest, I didn’t like it.

            So like everything I don’t like, I tried to ignore the suspicious feeling. Hell, I tried to ignore what had happened altogether, and convince myself that I didn’t care that he went and butt-in on our night. Why should I care if he’s in there sweet-talking her!? Go ahead, make nice with the new girl! I don’t care.

            Except, I did.

            Some part of me was afraid that that asshole was going to get drunk. I didn’t know what he was like when he was wasted, and I really did not want to find out. He could end up just looking like a fool, or maybe some harmless emotional roller-coaster! Or, if he was what some suspected, he could be the angry drunk. When the thought that he could be that sort of person crossed my mind, my immediate instinct was to insist otherwise. She’s just fine. I growled to myself, clenching my hands as I thought. You’re just worried—stop that.

            So I did, and instead wandered along a new path of wondering—one that was more optimistic. Maybe they were just having a nice, pleasant conversation with no alcohol involved. Sure, I wasn’t a part of it, but what of it. As long as I don’t have to see him walking out like a drunken fool, I’ll just forget this ever even happened.

            But there’s a reason why I’ve never really been an optimistic person, and what ended up happening next just proved why I never am.

            It was moments after I had just finished praying that I was going to be able to head out soon, before disaster struck. I was just about to consider ditching the place and heading out for home, no matter what the consequences were going to be. Demetrius yelling at me? I can take that any day, so be it. It was just after I was beginning to ponder my best escape route, when the doors to the saloon swung open erratically, revealing two figures in its doorway. I could hear their endless laughter first, although I couldn’t tell what was so funny to them—not that that mattered. But the tone of their laughter allowed me to guess who it was, and I was both surprised, and disgusted, when I found myself to be right.

            Once they were out of the doorway, I could give the pair a good look-over. Of course, it had to be Roxane and Elliot. Drunk, and somewhat out of their minds, they were slap-happy and looking awfully different from when I saw them just two hours prior. I won’t go into much detail about Elliot, seeing as I really don’t give a crap. His face was reddened from whatever elixir he had decided to pump into his veins that evening, and his long golden locks far from neat. His maroon trench coat was trailing behind him wherever he walked, drooping off of his shoulders and hanging on by his elbows. The most annoying part about his appearance had to be the fact that he was holding an empty wine bottle in his left hand. Sure, it’s just a bottle, but the fact that there was context that he had had at least an entire bottle of wine with her was vile. That coming from an addict who sucks on smoke all day is a bit ironic, but I’m not going to ignore how it made me feel.

            Roxane didn’t look as disheveled, seeing as her hair was all that was messy. Torn from the neat bun she had placed it in for the festival, strands were now hanging from every side of her face, dangling with droplets of pure sweat. The bun had figuratively been ripped to shreds, leaving it hanging by the few bobby pins that remained near the nape of her neck. Like Elliot’s, her face was also a bit red—and that realization is what got me most up in arms when she was concerned. I guess that there was a small, tiny part of me that was hoping she wasn’t drunk too—but the expression on her face confirmed that my hopes were not going to be realized.

            I took all of this in—their appearance, laughter, all of it—for a couple of seconds. I must have been wide-eyes with all of the shock that was filling my form, combined with all of the anger. It look a load of determination and will power to not immediately run up to Elliot, and punch him square in the jawline. How could he just allow her to get drunk?! Does he have any idea how foolish it would be to have her wandering around in a drunken state of mind on her own back home? What if she got lost? What if she ran into some weirdo on the street? What if she got hurt, and it was all my fault because I was so close to leaving before I even saw her like this? What if someone tried to take advantage of her-

            Oh god.

            I blanked out, and before I could realize what I was doing I had grabbed Elliot by the collar with both of my hand, gritting my teeth as I glared at him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing!?”

            In his drunken stupor, it took him a second to realize what I was going—his eyes raised and wide-eyed as he gazed back at me. “I-I-I…what?”

            My arm began to shake from my sudden burst of rage, “Don’t think I’m so…so s-stupid! Why did you get her drunk, huh!?”

            It was more than obvious that I wasn’t going to get an answer from him, seeing as his mind wasn’t where it was supposed to be. He could only muster some odd smirk and a, “I…I d-don’t know…what a-are you…” amongst a couple of hiccups.

            Trying to calm myself down, I took an attempt to slow my breathing to a quiet tempo. I didn’t hesitate to push him aside once I realized that he didn’t really know what he was doing—at least now. He was quick to fall to his feet, and soon after I heard a sharp clink and crack as the wine bottle he had been holding shattered as it made contact with the ground. I didn’t bother to look back at him, assuming that he had passed out in one form or another. Instead, I gazed over at Roxane, who looked both tired and confused. I couldn’t blame her for that—if I had pumped myself with quart upon quart of alcohol, I’d be feeling the same way.

            I sighed as I looked over at her, clenching my eyes and scratching the back of my neck. Oddly enough, I felt a little embarrassed at the scene I had been thrown into. Not really sure why that was, other than I was most likely overthinking some things. Either way, I knew that I was going to have to be the one to make sure she would get home safely. I wasn’t really to risk leaving her off by herself. Stardew Valley doesn’t really have a crime record or anything of the sort, but I was still oddly worried about what might become of her if I just left her like this. Way to go Sebby, my brain growled at me. Thanks to your little outburst earlier you’ve got to walk her alllll the way back to her ranch. Have fun!

            Shaking my head, I tried to ignore all the negative that was lunging itself at me, and focus on getting her home safe and sound. “You ready to hit the hay?” I asked Roxane. She didn’t give me much of a response, other than a slow nod and soft yawn afterwards.

            Hesitantly, I took her by the hand—if she had been completely conscious, I’m sure she would have found my fingers to be quite cold. Being as I had been out in the freezing spring evening for a few hours, there was no denying the fact that I was freezing, if only just a tad. At this point in the night, I had tried to ignore the bitter bite of the night air, but a nice warm fire did sound pretty nice right about now. Another reason I wanted to get her home quickly—maybe I could catch a small grasp of a warm cabin for a brief moment.

            Nevertheless, I started our (hopefully short) journey back to the woods from whence she came. Her walk stumbled a little bit at first, but in her drunken state of mind she soon figured out how to walk at a slow pace by my side. The simple hand-hold quickly became a full on grasp of my arm on her part, seeing as she either desired more support, or was cold. I’m sure I would have been if I instead wore some shorts, tied-up flannel, and thin tank top, so again I didn’t blame her. Still—I found it pretty uncomfortable to be that close to another human being. Not sure if you can tell by now, but I wasn’t really fond of getting to close or ‘touchy’ with other people. Call me cold-hearted, but I’m not going to pretend I’m otherwise. Now if only Sam and Abigail could learn that…

            The two of us were heading across the town square, and past Pierre’s shop and Harvey’s clinic when I started to wonder what exactly her farm looked like. I’d only known her for a short while, so there was no possible way for me to have seen her abode at this point in our friendship. Or, if you can call it that. Not really sure what she thinks of me at this point…but I’m fond enough of her to call her a friend, I suppose. Anyway, I’m straying from the topic. I pictured an abundant, petite, and cute little farm that bordered the edge of the city no doubt. However, I wasn’t afraid to propose that it could have instead been a bountiful burst of plants and crops as far as the eye could see. Maybe something in the middle was more probable, but no matter the way it looked there was a part of me that was excited to see it. The ‘new-girl’ was interesting. When you live with the same group of thirty or so people all your life, things get a bit boring. I guess I was just waiting for someone or something to come along and be a bit different. God knows I’m as different as this town can get.

            The texture of the ground beneath our feet changed from sturdy cobble, to dusty dirt as the two of us continued on the path. Forestry began to surround us as the tiny town dissipated into the night behind us, and I instantly found the walk much more calming. I’m not nature-buff, but it does calm me down more than a bustling village does. There’s something about it…something that I can’t exactly explain other than the fact that everything feelings so much more natural. So real. It’s enchanting, and I found that there was no wonder that Roxane had decided to ditch her life in the city. When you’re along in these woods, everything seems so simple. And you’re the one who wants to move to the city scene. You sure that’s the best decision for you? I didn’t know, but right now I frankly didn’t care.

            As a small breeze flew through the air, I took another look down at Roxane. Her eyes were closed, and her breathing shallow. For a moment, my breath had hitched in its place as I feared there was something wrong with her. Instead, I quickly realized that she was just tired. Drunk and exhausted, but just tired.

            “You awake?” I whispered, trying not to be too loud if she was indeed fast asleep. I offered up a small smile as she shook her head—at least she could understand me enough to give a simple response. That was a good sign.

            “You…you really drank a lot, didn’t you?” Immediately she had nodded, a clumsy smirk making its way to her face. “What, find that funny?” Again, she nodded, and I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit. Just a little.

            “That’s not the best idea, though,” I insisted, even though I bet she couldn’t find the serious tone in my voice. “It’s not the best idea to go doing that, especially with someone like Elliot.”

            Of course, she didn’t give me a nod—or even respond—after I said that. Not sure if that choice was just her being so out of it, or if she plainly didn’t agree with me. I was hoping it wasn’t the latter. The last thing I really wanted was the two of them to get so close; he was undoubtedly a bad influence with his alcohol issue. There was a part of me that feared that my walking her home was going to become a common event if they grew to get to know each other real well, but the other part of me tried to be assuring, and insist that there was no way that would happen. Not after tonight. Roxane was going to get a hell of a hangover in the morning following, that I’m sure she’d shout the famous line, “I’ll never drink again!” to the heavens. And maybe with some luck, she’d keep her word. That’s wishful thinking however, and my pessimistic whole was looking forward to giving Elliot a piece of my mind as soon as he was well and able to understand it.

            So I was stuck thinking about what might have happened after I had left Roxane alone with Elliot, until I more or less stumbled upon her farm. In the dark of the night, I couldn’t see the entire property as clear as I had wanted to, but I could at least gather from my limited sight that the area was pretty vast—more so then I had assumed. However, the fact that I couldn’t see far into the acres upon acres told me that most of them were filled with a thick forest. This forced me to utter a frown, as I had hoped things might have been kept nice in the time between the last resident, and Roxane’s appearance. Ah well. It could be worse.

            Off to my right there was a generous plot of land growing some cauliflower and parsnips—almost ripe. A few torches gave me enough light to see their blooming leaves and the crisp soil they had been planted in. You could tell that Roxane cared about her farm, which was sort of a surprise. From what I knew, she didn’t have any history or years of expertise in the subject. All she knew was that she got the farm, and that’s that. That left me to two possible conclusions—the first more hopeful then the last. That would be that she actually had a gift for gardening and taking care of the place, and this was just the hobby she never knew she was talented at. My second possible assumption—whatever she had left behind in her past life was so horrific, she didn’t care where she had to go to escape it, or what she had to do. Like I said, I don’t know everything about her. Heck, I don’t know much of anything (which, is something I kind of hope I can change now). But from what I overhear, she left something in a desperate manner. I want to know what it was, as I can’t help but be curious. Village gossip does that to you. But at the same time, if it was something really awful, I don’t know if I could forgive myself if I embarrassed or upset her. I’m not the type to go and make someone angry or throw them to tears. Unless, they make me pissed.

            Moving along, literally, I started to guide Roxane past all of her crops and to the door of her cabin. It was a rugged sort of shack; every step I took on its porch crated a chorus of creaks and cracks. The door had its own solo, and bellowed out a swift sharp note as I opened it with my free hand. I was quick to half-carry the limp woman beside me inside, as we were both followed in with an alarming SLAM of the front door behind our backs.

            Again, it was pitch black inside the establishment. My hand and eyes wandered around to find a light switch, before I mentally face-palmed. This place is as old as my grandmother’s mother—they didn’t have switches back then, dummy! With an annoyed sigh, I heaved Roxane up to support her on my right shoulder, as I searched around for something I could use for a light. I must have stumbled around for a couple of minutes before I found a dusty oil lamp sitting on what I assumed was a nightstand. My left hand fumbled around with the old piece of lighting as I desperate clang to Roxane (who I guess it was safe to assume at this point, was unconscious from a night of partying). Eventually, to my relief, a small radiant light emerged moments after I began to tamper with the old thing. With the room now dimly lit around me, I could make out a simple array of furniture—a dining table, some chairs, and a soft bed. My eyes widened with relief, and before my arm gave out, I carried Roxane over to her bedside and set her down as gently as I could manage. Seconds after I did so, I collapsed at the foot of her bed as the pain from lugging her around started to seep in. My back was on fire, and my right arm shared its fate. However, even with all of this pain I was able to utter a sheepish smile to myself. Hey, you got her home. That’s all that matters.

            While I regained my strength, I kneeled and looked over at the sleeping girl in front of me. Yup, she was out, no doubt about that. With her eyes closed tight, her mouth was open slightly as her body rose up and down as she gave each breath. One of her arms had fallen over the edge of the bed, draping down helplessly. To be honest, her entire body was like that of a doll’s which had been thrown across the room by some rambunctious child. So I decided to change that.

            I was a little uncomfortable about it at first, but I insisted that because I wasn’t some pervert, I had no reason to be. As soon as I could manage getting on my feet again, I lifted Roxane off of her bedspread, fumbled around with the sheets for a second or two, before I was able to tuck her into her bed. I wasn’t just going to leave her out in the open like that, especially since this cabin seemed eager to emit a cold draft from all four corners. If I was going to be some ‘gentleman’ and bring her home, I might as well make her comfortable. There, that wasn’t so hard, now was it? I’ll say it again and again—I’m not fond of getting too physically close to another human being.

            Now that I was on my feet looming over her, I got a better look at her. She really did look tired lying like that, and I was glad I hadn’t awoken her. There was a clump of hair that had wafted over and rested over her eyes; with more moments of hesitation than I could count, I shakily took the knotted strand and brushed it out of her face. Immediately after I finished, I recoiled. There was still some part of me that wanted to run the hell out of her cabin, as it thought that in any second, she could wake up and freak out that I was here alone with her. Nothing spells ‘hey, I’m a peeping Tom!’ more than this! With that thought in mind, I was eager to take a couple of steps back from where she slept. Now I was faced with a dilemma.

            Should I go home, or stay here? Risk looking like a pervert, or risk her getting sick from alcohol poisoning without anyone here to help her? I might have gone straight to Harvey, if the whole town wasn’t absent at the Saloon. But who knows—she’ll probably be just fine! For all I know, she’s a heavy drinker, and has been through this shit before. Well I don’t want to be judgmental, some matter-of-factly voice in my head uttered. But that does not look like the face of a frequent bar-go-er!

            My brows clenched, and I couldn’t help but curse under my breath as I tried to decide what to do. Stay? Or go? As I put every pro and con of the situation into place, I started to formulate what the best solution was going to be. Looking over at her sleeping face, I sighed. Please don’t let this be a mistake.

            In a hesitant manner, I whispered reluctantly to myself. “I guess I should…”

            TBC in next Chapter.

            ✧ ✧ ✧

            Author’s Notice:

            Hello everyone! Just want to give you a head’s up that the next chapter will be the first of many ‘choose your own path’ parts! I will construct two chapters, one of which you can choose depending on how you want the story to unfold. Obviously the choice for the next chapter will be whether or not Sebastian stays or leaves, but one option will resonate with Sebastian X Roxane, and the other will lean towards Elliot X Roxane. To make it easy, either parts will be labelled for those set on who they’d like to spend a chapter with! To those scratching their heads, feel free to pick the chapter that matches what you think Sebastian would most likely do in this situation. The result might be the best for you!

            While this ‘choose your own path’ chapter does not affect the entirety of the storyline, future options will. In this case I will make note of which past ‘CYOP’ chapters match future ‘CYOP’ to the best of my ability as to not confuse events that occurred in one storyline, and not in another. In basic terms—for the most part, if you choose Elliot, stay with Elliot’s chapters! Choose Sebastian? Stay with his! If at any point in the story you feel like switching from one bachelor to another, knock yourself out! Just be warned, as the story gets longer and longer, some inconsistencies may arise if you decide to switch over. Most of the time, I will try my best to keep the flow as consistent as possible!

            But in short, you’ve got nothing to worry about—for now! ^^;

            Anywho, because I will be constructing TWO chapters for the price of ONE (damn, sounds like an advertisement), it will take me a bit longer to release the next part. I’ll try my best to move swiftly (shudders as Exam’s lean over shoulder), seeing as some parts it’s just a simple copy-n’-paste, but others er….not so much. Just try to bear with me!

            Also, I’d like to thank you all for your support! Seeing as this is my first fanfic, I’ve been trying my hardest to be as accurate with the characters I portray, while adding my own special twist to make things interesting! All of your feedback is appreciate, from comments to critiques!

            Thanks again guys! <3

            Invader-Roxas
             
              Gabaw, Satashi26 and Firepaw Da Cat like this.
            • Satashi26

              Satashi26 Phantasmal Quasar

              If it's one thing I needed in my life today, it was more roots that offered choices! :D :D :D :D :D
               
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              • Gabaw

                Gabaw Scruffy Nerf-Herder

                Not really into the romance or the choices available but I do love me some choose-your-own adventure. You don't see that too often in fanfic format. Finished the prologue and you got this whole imagery thing locked down :confirm: It's so real that I find myself wishing you'd write some straight up fistfights. It'd be better than the UFC :rofl:

                P.S. you wrote a book here so it'll take a while to get through the rest lol...
                 
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                • InvaderRoxas

                  InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer

                  :rofl: Thank you! I'm glad you are enjoying it! I'm so happy that exams will be coming to an end for me--I'll be able to be more active in producing some stuff and reading your fanfic and others as well. You have an awesome writing style, so it's an honor that you're liking my work thus far. :DD
                   
                  • InvaderRoxas

                    InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer

                    Haha, thank you for the input! Totally get where you're coming from--and because there are a portion of readers interested less in the romance section of the story, this fanfic will include a large portion of 'adventure'(?) with a conflict needing a solution separate from the romance plot. I was a bit worried at first that many may not be too interested in the detail of the story, and instead more of the actual romance aspect, but I'm happy that there are those who really appreciate it! :DD

                    Lol, yeah there is a lot. Luckily I won't be updating til later this month, so I shouldn't be chucking out chapters left and right. Thanks again for your feedback! :D
                     
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                    • InvaderRoxas

                      InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer


                      My brows clenched, and I couldn’t help but curse under my breath as I tried to decide what to do. Stay? Or go? As I put every pro and con of the situation into place, I started to formulate what the best solution was going to be. Looking over at her sleeping face, I sighed. Please don’t let this be a mistake.

                      In a hesitant manner, I whispered reluctantly to myself. “I guess I should…stay.”

                      After making the decision, I looked around me to find some place to stay for the night—but I didn’t have many options. She must have moved in here with little to nothing, since there was just a small set of dining furniture besides the bed before me. No couch. No comfy chair. Not even a padded stool. And there was no way I was going to…share…her bed. I already established that I was going to try to stay as far as physically possible to not suggest that I was some perv. If I was going to have a friendship, I wanted it to last more than a week.

                      Out of embarrassment over my situation, but dedication to stay close by, I ended up on the porch after prodding the front door open. If she needed anything, I’d be the first to know it, but I wouldn’t surprise her with my appearance as much if I were the last to wake up. My sleeping space consisted of the creaky floorboard below me, thick cabin wall prodding at my backside, and half of a roof above my head. Thank god it wasn’t going to rain.

                      There wasn’t much I thought of while I slowly drifted off to slumber. As a matter of fact, I really didn’t want to think of much after the ‘fun’ evening that just took place. I guess I was only hoping for a better day to come my way sometime soon.

                      ✧ ✧ ✧

                      [Roxane’s POV]

                      On most of my mornings, I was greeted with the (for the most part) relaxing sound of nature calling from behind my front door. Unfortunately, this morning was far from pleasant. Instead of being awoken by the beckoning of a robin in the distance, I was met with an intense headache. The pain pounded in my ears, and with each pound a beat of maroon flashed into my sight—despite my eyes being closed. The uncomfortable sensation, along with a quickening heartbeat, forced me to open my eyes as I suddenly felt an odd force of panic. There were a few moments where I couldn’t recall where I was, before the surroundings finally came into full focus. You’re just in your cabin, I reassured myself. Nothing’s wrong…unless you count this headache.

                      However, a headache wasn’t the least of my problems. As I attempted to stand to my feet, I realized that it wasn’t just my cranium that was aching, but my entire body. From head to toe, I, for lack of a better term, felt like shit. It felt like I had gone on a rollercoaster too many times, then was thrown in front of a bus. Or two. Or three. The unrelenting pain caused my limbs to shake uncontrollably; I clenched my fists to stop their trembling, which only made the pain worse. What’s wrong with me?

                      I looked at my surroundings to find a couple of clues. Nothing looked disturbed, which wasn’t suspicious in any manner. In fact, everything was in its place just as I had left it the previous afternoon. The only thing that was out of place, was me. What happened last night? Some dreadful thoughts started to come into view as I nervously sought to answer that question, only to stop once I started to accurately account for the events of the previous evening. Egg Festival…hung out with Abigail…Sam was there too, I pondered—my thinking process a bit scrambled thanks to the pounding in my head. Can’t forget Sebastian…and of course we…the Saloon—Elliot! Ah, I remembered now. Elliot and I had gotten drunk after he and Sebastian had gotten into an argument. The reality that I allowed myself to get drunk so recklessly stung, almost literally to some degree.

                      But if I had passed out at the bar, seeing as that’s the last thing I can clearly remember, why was I here!?

                      The question sent a chill down my spine, as I was reluctant to think that someone had done something with me. But, seeing as I was...ahem…fully clothed…and I couldn’t really find any evidence of some foul play, I forced myself to think in the opposite direction. But what explanation was there to come up with? Had I actually wandered from the saloon all on my own in my drunken stupor? Was there a point in time after I passed out, where I was only a bit tipsy and able to make it back to my estate—but I just couldn’t recall? Both seemed like unlikely answers, even though they could be possible. However, I wasn’t a regular drinker. If I had gotten as drunk as I had last night, I knew that I was going to be barely understood in any sense even if I was awake. More likely, there was no point where I was. Reluctantly, I forced myself to come to the conclusion that I had not arrived here on my own accord. But had the person at my side been a helpful villager, or a silent predator?

                      As the idea started to bring out goosebumps in my skin, I had absent-mindedly wandered towards the front door. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but it was indeed left ajar just a crack. Just enough to lead some light in from outside, to bless my face with warmth. With no purpose, at first, I went to open the door and look out and about at the farm, covering my eyes from the blinding sun as I did so.

                      The second I looked to my right, I was shocked.

                      “S-Sebastian!?”

                      The announced was curled up on my porch, sound asleep with his hair ruffled in every which way. He looked exhausted, and even more so when he was forced awake by my alarmed exclamation. Sebastian looked around sporadically, obviously startled. The second our eyes locked, his expression turned to that of an embarrassed once, while his face became a subtle shade of rose.

                      Before I could say anything, he held out his hands. “D-don’t freak out!”

                      Immediately, I was confused. “What are you talking about? Why would I freak out…?”

                      My response only furthered the blush on his face, before he scratched his neck and looked off to the side. “I…I don’t know. Most people would kind of…you know…find it a little strange that someone was asleep on their doorstep?”

                      “Well you aren’t harming anybody,” I chuckled as I crossed my arms. “Why should it freak me out? You look tired as it is—I should be offering you something to eat.”

                      Sebastian looked like he was about to give me a retort, but he ended up just sighing, and forcing himself off of his feet. “Don’t you at least want to know why I’m here?”

                      I shrugged, turning my back to him as I started to walk back into the cabin. “Sure, if you want to tell me.”

                      He followed after me, and started telling his tale as I sought for something for the two of us to eat. “So…uh…well, you got drunk. And…I was around, so I uh…just brought you home—“

                      “And that’s not all, I’m guessing?” Cupboard after cupboard I rummaged through to find something sustainable for the both of us. For the most part, I had a grand lot of cereals lining one of the slots, and started to pull box after box out of its place. Seeing as I didn’t exactly know of Sebastian’s taste, I sought to at least give him some sort of variety.

                      His voice was still a bit shaky as he spoke, which made me feel a bit guilty for waking him up as I had. You didn’t have to scare him like that, now he’s a nervous wreck because of you. “Uh, no…it’s not. You see, I didn’t want you to get sick without anyone around to help you. I don’t know how much you had…but I just wanted to make sure you were um…safe.”

                      A small smile dawned on my lips after he gave his explanation. In the city, if you didn’t count your friends and family, you wouldn’t find a single stranger who would give you a helping hand in times of need—unless they got something out of it. But here, you could actually find someone like that. The idea of someone taking the time to help me was new. Odd, even. But undoubtedly I thought it was a nice gesture. There’s got to be something I can do in return, I insisted to myself. Well, you can start with giving him something to eat. He must be starving.

                      The smile continued to grace my face as I looked back at him. “Well thank you for helping me out! That was very kind of you to do that. I should apologize though, since you having to sleep uncomfortably on my front porch is my fault.”

                      “N-no, it’s ok…it wasn’t the worst. You shouldn’t have to apologize; we all screw up every once in a while.”

                      His comment, although he said it in a serious demeanor, made me laugh. “Oh come on! At least have something to eat then, won’t you? You have to be hungry.”

                      He looked at me for a moment, most likely thinking about whether or not he should take me up on my offer, before he stepped forward. “Alright, fine.”

                      Being satisfied, as he looked over the different cereal boxes, I went over to my mini-fridge to grab a half-gallon of milk. There wasn’t much in the compartment, other than a few boxes of eggs and a small crate of vegetables. I made a mental note to grab some apples or oranges from Pierre sometime soon—I could use a helping of fruit, if I didn’t end up growing some, that is. Strawberries were in season, but I couldn’t find any seeds of their kind at Pierre’s. I’ll have to ask him about that. For now, the only greens that were able to line up themselves in my fridge were some cauliflower, parsnips, and green beans. Potatoes too…but I’m not sure if you can count those as ‘greens’.

                      Once I had grabbed the half-gallon of milk, I started to walk back over to the lot of cereals where Sebastian was still standing. He had chosen his box, but was still looking over the cereals in an odd manner. Almost as if he was studying them.

                      “Something wrong with the cereal? They’re not expired, I promise,” I grinned—looking for some bowls for the two of us.

                      Immediately he shook his head, but didn’t take his eyes off of them. “No, it’s not that. I’ve…just never really seen any cereal boxes that weren’t from Joja Mart. Where’d you get these?”

                      My eyes widened the second he mentioned Joja, but I simply responded with, “From Pierre’s. He has a whole lot of them, even though no one ever buys them. They’re more expensive than the Joja stuff I’m sure, which is why. But I prefer shopping at his place anyhow,” I held in my urge to ask him why he was so surprised, but I ended up receiving my answer anyway.

                      “Huh, that’s funny.” With his chosen cereal in hand, he started to open its seal as I handed him a bowl and the carton of milk. “You never see anything that isn’t Joja in this town. It’s all people can really afford, since it’s so cheap. I hate the stuff though—can’t ever stand it. Nothing they sell tastes like anything, but my parents aren’t about to do anything about it. Like you said—Pierre’s stuff is too expensive compared to Joja.”

                      I nodded, “I hate their brand too—trust me,” I deliberated whether or not I should tell him a little spurt about my ‘past with Joja’, and for the most part I was leaning against doing so. However, I decided to go on ahead and hang out on a limb. “I used to have to work for those jerks.”

                      As Sebastian poured the milk into his bowl, he looked at me in a surprised manner. Not that I expected anything else. “Really? Wow…that explains a lot.”

                      “How so?”

                      “I…I don’t know…” He looked embarrassed again, and almost conflicted. He set the half-gallon off to the side before he decided to speak again. “You just seem like you’re running from something. That’s…not meant to be taken in a bad way! I just…noticed.” God, he looks as nervous as I do sometimes.

                      I put on a fake laugh, trying to brighten up the mood a little. “No sweat, I get it. It was awful working for them anyways, so I’m sure you must’ve noticed something off with me.”

                      Sebastian didn’t speak for a couple of seconds, and instead stuffed his mouth with some cereal. I started to fill my own bowl with milk, while wracking my brain with something to talk about. However, he wasn’t done on the topic of my past employment. “So…what was it like?”

                      I thought for a moment of the best way to put it, even if it wasn’t so complicated. “Boring. Dull. Full of relentless workflow. Basically what everyone says it is.”

                      “I’m sure. How long did you endure all of that crap?” He was looking at me now, obviously intrigued.

                      “A couple of years maybe? School really didn’t put me on the right career path, so that was all that was available. I went through the ranks at a steady pace, but never got high enough to leave a desk. I was in charge of stock management by the time I left, which isn’t too notable. You have to have an ‘energy about you’ to really make your way to the top.”

                      He scowled, “I can imagine that. Every time the damn place is advertised you have some creepy cheery folks talking in overly-excited voices. Gives me the chills, if I’m going to be honest with you. The whole place is unnatural,” Sebastian looked out the window, at what I assumed was my farm’s landscape. “Is that why you became a farmer? Seems like the total opposite of Joja to me.”

                      “More or less, yeah. My grandfather used to run this estate, and he gave the deed to the place after he died years back. There was no where else for me to run, so I sprinted here once I was convinced I couldn’t do anything else with my life.”

                      Sebastian gave me room to swallow down a couple bites of cereal as he gave his response. “That sounds a bit depressing when you put it that way. Not that I’m going to try and force you to sprinkle some cheery lies on the matter. My sister calls me the embodiment of somber gloom every once in a while anyway.”

                      I couldn’t help but chuckle a little after he said that, and luckily, he was smiling as I did so. “Why does she call you that!?”

                      “When you spend 90% of your time in a basement, the whole town thinks of you like that. Besides, I sure do look the part.”

                      The mention of his appearance subconsciously moved my eyes to gaze at his looks, and I couldn’t deny what he said. Every once in a while his thick bangs would hide parts of his face from my view, creating a shadow on his complexion. His posture was a bit slouched, and with his hands resting in the pockets of his midnight hoodie, it wasn’t too surprising that people thought of him that way. It’s a nice community, I’m sure. But I didn’t doubt that some held prejudices about what one should and shouldn’t look like. That made me feel a bit bad for those like Sebastian—people, as nice as they could be, weren’t willing to understand them.

                      “Well…I hope that doesn’t stop you from doing anything you like,” I remarked, even though I knew what his answer ought to be.

                      “It doesn’t. If I want to play an MMORPG, I will. If I want to program something for a client, I’m going to. It used to bother me when I was a bit younger, but I just ignore people like that nowadays. I’ve learned not to care.” His words almost stung—even if they weren’t meant to be harsh or intimidating. I just didn’t like that things had to be that way for him. No one should be rejected from a community like that. Wish I could have been here a couple of years earlier. Maybe I could have given him a friend sooner than now.

                      Again, I made an attempt to lighten up the mood. The second I finished gulping down the last clumps of my cereal, I beamed at him. “Maybe you want to show me some of your work sometime? Or…you could teach me how to play one of your games?”

                      His eyes widened, and his mouth fell open mid-bite. He rested his spoon back into the cereal bow, and looked directly into my amber orbs. “Seriously?”

                      “Yeah, why not? Sounds like it’d be fun!” I exclaimed, taking my milk-filled bowl and putting it in the sink. I waited for a response as I turned on the tap, and felt cool water rush over my hands and through my fingernails. It was a relaxing feeling, as I washed the bowl thoroughly—even if the water was icy to the touch.

                      “Uh…ok. I’ll make plans for it, then,” Sebastian replied. I could tell in the way his voice carried, that he was more than unsure on how to react to my suggestion. Has anyone ever taken interest in what he likes to do? I wondered. If not, that’s just plain awful. No wonder he doesn’t enjoy the company of his friends half the time. He can’t fully relate.

                      “Great! Here, I can take your bowl for you if you’re all finished.” Without a word, he handed it to me—still with a look of slight disbelief on his face. “And if you want to use my shower real quick, that’s fine too. You look more than uncomfortable in that hoodie, so some warm water should do you good.”

                      The pink blush dusted his cheeks again, as he looked off to the side. “You sure? I can just run home—

                      “If I cared, I wouldn’t have offered it,” I simply stated with a kind grin. “Make yourself at home!”

                      ✧ ✧ ✧

                      Damp atmosphere, scorching sun, and moist dirt. It was only half-way through spring, and the land was already appearing just like summer. The sweat pouring down my heated face made it hard to think, but not that I needed to. I mindlessly plowed through my farm at a steady speed, only focusing on my aim and rate of my heartbeat. Keep a calm pace. Don’t overwork yourself. If I kept these things in mind, I would be able to plant a brand new field of potatoes before sundown. Luckily, in the days previous, I was able to cut down a few oak trees which stood in my way from creating another plot. Now was the time for planting. If I did so any later, I wouldn’t gather enough potatoes to even count as a plentiful harvest.

                      So I continued in my effort, gloves adorning my callused hands, and muddy boots digging into the ground below. My hair was tied, once again, into a bun—my attempt at pulling the air out of my eyes to see all that I could. Of course, in the hours that followed the tough labor, the neat bun had changed into that of a messy birds’ nest. Typical, and expected. But when you worked as hard as I had to, you learned not to care too much about your appearance. Leave that for special occasions and parties. The only audience I had here was nature, and she didn’t give two craps at how I looked. She wanted me to use and treat her well, and that’s all.

                      Today was different.

                      In my time out in the field, I had forgotten about Sebastian almost entirely. Maybe that was due in part to the unrelenting sun’s gaze on my short form, or the fact that I expected him to leave without so much as a quiet wave—one that I might miss. However, this wasn’t the case. As I worked the earth to my favor, I hadn’t noticed that I had been watched by a curious eye for quite some time.

                      I finally noticed him when his converse made an audible contact with the muddy ground behind me. “Damn…you’ve got to be tired. Aren’t you?”

                      The second I heard the familiar voice, I looked to see who it was. Of course, it was Sebastian. Who else was I expecting? His appearance had slightly altered—obviously from taking that shower. His raven hair was still wet from washing it, and every second or so a droplet would fall from his bangs. He wasn’t wearing a hoodie (if he had been, he would have had to change out of it with all of this retched heat), and instead a white undershirt with sleeves that reached his elbows. Same jeans, same shoes, and that was all. The curious look was one he still possessed, and one I had realized that he wore often. I was starting to like that about him.

                      While my breath wanted to heave and howl, I refused to give him any reason to think that I was exhausted. “N-no, I’m alright. Just another day’s work for me. I suppose you’re going to head out now?”

                      He gave me an unconvinced look, “You don’t look like you’re anything that isn’t exhausted. Have an extra hoe? I should help you…”

                      Immediately, I was astonished. “Really? Are you sure you want to? It’s not too fun…and aren’t your parents going to get worried soon—“

                      “Nonsense. I’ve run out on them time and time again, they won’t start to wonder where I am unless I don’t show up after a week or so. Now you can either hand me your hoe, or show me where an extra is. I’m not going to leave you to do all of this yourself.

                      I couldn’t help but smile at his generosity, and as I sighed I pointed to my toolshed on the left side of my cabin. “There should be an extra in there.”

                      Satisfied, Sebastian made haste towards where I directed his attention, while I continued to work the land. However, I was unable to do so absent-mindedly anymore. Instead, I was starting to wonder why exactly Sebastian felt obligated to help me so often. He sure as hell didn’t seem interested in talking or assisting anyone else for that matter. Could it be just because I was the new girl in town, and he thought I needed some assistance? I didn’t think so. He didn’t seem like the type of person, and if he was, I expected that I would lose his company in a couple of weeks’ time. The other possibility, was that because I held in interest in him, he held one in me. It seemed pretty probable. If you had been long rejected and misunderstood by those around you, the second someone actually seemed interested in who you were and what you loved, wouldn’t you jump on the occasion to at least get to know them a little? Maybe find out what they’re like, and what they love to do? I liked this idea most, and stuck with it. That’s one way friends are made, after all.

                      Before I knew it, Sebastian was back by my side with a hoe in hand. “Mind showing me the ropes?”

                      I nodded, clawing my tool gently into the dirt at a slow manner. “This is how you pull up the dirt, alright? Don’t need to be harsh with it—in this weather it’ll do most of the work for you. Dragging can work if you want to make a straight line, but otherwise, the hassle comes in picking it up, and putting it down again. That’s what will give you the workout.”

                      “So…don’t mutilate the dirt, and pace yourself?” He asked, seeming impressed that it was ‘easy’. Well, we had our work cut out for us.

                      “Pretty much!” I nodded, but pointed out a couple hundred feet towards a looming oak in the distance. “From here, to there, is where we’ll plow. Doesn’t look too hard, but you’ll be sweating by the time this is over. You sure you want to help? You really don’t—“

                      He held a hand up to shush me, before he started to dig his hoe into the dirt. “Just let me get a taste of this before I regret it.”

                      I couldn’t help but laugh at his sly comment, but I let him on his way. His balance wasn’t perfect, that’s for sure—and as I watched him walk at a quick tempo across the field, I could tell that the path he was plowing wasn’t straight. Good enough, I remarked. Who said anything needs to be perfect? I’ll take any help I can get. With that positive outlook in mind, I dug my own hoe into the ground a few inches or so away from Sebastian’s path, and began to follow him in the direction I had given him.

                      For most of the day, we ended up working in silence. There was a lot to do, and not too much time to get it done. Seeing as we had both slept in (must have been around 3PM when I was finally able to break my tools out of the shed), I was more than a couple of hours behind my intended schedule. Part of me was thankful for not having to get up at six in the morning to plant a new outcropping in the pouring rain, but I knew that I would have to pay the consequences in the days ahead. Or, at least both I and Sebastian would. I guess I needed his help more than I estimated I would.

                      Nevertheless, our day continued on into the later hours of the day, plowing away at the soil and planting seeds in the seemingly endless pathways we made. It wasn’t until we had bunkered down to our knees just before sunset, planting the seeds carefully as we kneeled in the earth, when we started to chatter as we had before.

                      “So, have you ever been interested in farming?” I asked, striking up the conversation as we both carried a handful of tulip seeds (a new ‘crop’ I had started to plant in the days prior).

                      He shrugged, “Not really. Getting down in the dirt really isn’t my kind of thing.” Ironically enough, here he was, mud and grime covering him from head to toe. His hair knotted, shirt stained most likely beyond repair, and I couldn’t even remember what color his converse had been.

                      “Really now?” I scoffed, gesturing to his appearance. “Your shirt and jeans say otherwise.”

                      Sebastian snickered, giving me both a glare and grin as he gazed back at me. “Hey, I just came here to help. I’m not ready to join the ‘Farmer’s Prestigious Academy’ just yet. Like I said, it’s not my thing.”

                      “And yet you want to help me anyway?”

                      He shrugged, “I would have felt guilty if I didn’t.”

                      “But you’ve already helped me more than enough,” I insisted. “You took me home when I was a drunken mess! More so, you probably saved me from a bit of embarrassment in the process. Haven’t you done enough?”

                      “You’re saying that like you don’t want me here,” he said softly. “I know that’s not true—but you shouldn’t feel so guilty for someone helping you out. People do kind things sometimes.”

                      I couldn’t help but scowl, “And here I thought you would be the last person to say something like that…”

                      “Why is that?” Sebastian looked at me in a peculiar manner, but I could tell he already knew what my answer was going to be.

                      “You always seem to be, well…just on the pessimistic side of things. Especially when you talk about this town,” I wasn’t going to sugar-coat it, especially when he couldn’t deny that fact. He had practically said it already.

                      He nodded, looking down at the dirt as he planted each seed. “I can’t deny that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do something nice for someone else.”

                      “That’s not what I meant—“

                      He laughed, nudging my shoulder as I looked on confused and flustered with embarrassment. “I know, I know.” I sighed after he spoke, looking away from him and down at the earth. I should get the ‘Most Embarrassed Person on Earth’ award at this point. “Hey, Roxane?”

                      “Hm?”

                      Sebastian’s voice sounded hopeful, which was undeniably different than the way he usually spoke. “Promise me that when someone offers to help you out, you take it. Don’t refuse on the fact that you don’t think you’ve done enough for them. Helping someone out just might be the very thing they need. Got it?”

                      It was then that I finally understood why he was helping me. He wasn’t doing it out of guilt (at least entirely), but he knew it would benefit us both. He needed something to do, or maybe even someone to be by who wasn’t too affiliated with the town—a place he most likely resented at this point in his life. In that case, Sebastian didn’t care if it meant digging graves, or plowing holes. Being alone in your own thoughts for too long, knowing that you don’t have at least that one person that you can talk to, and know you won’t be harshly judged for what you say or do, is mentally exhausting. It can turn you bitter. There was a moment where I pondered, looking over at him as he had his eyes on the seeds, where I was worried. I was petrified that he might have gone too far down lonely lane only to take a left at rancorous avenue. Was he trying to warn me because he was too far gone?

                      I refused to believe it. “Fine—but you have to promise me that you’ll do the same thing!”

                      After my words tumbled out, there was another pause in time where we looked at each other. The two of us wearing very different expressions; mine was soft, while his was surprised, but almost emotionless in a sense I cannot explain. I tried to ignore it, and luckily as the seconds ticked by, and he took in what I said, his expression changed into a similar smile in comparison to my own. If I was a poet, I would comment more elaborately on how his cheery, but almost somber, look blended well with the vibrant colors of the sunset behind us. Gold, fuchsia, periwinkle, violet, and ultramarine. Brilliant, but grave hues.

                      “I promise.”

                      ✧ ✧ ✧

                      Author’s Notice:

                      Sorry this chapter took so long to publish! School is finally out for the summer, so I should be pumping out chapters regularly—especially since I don’t have to work on two at the same time. Anywho, I hope you enjoyed the first of many CYOA chapters! Feel free to comment on anything about the chapter, and critiques on either are appreciated! I’ll try my best to keep both chapters around the same length, as to not give one an ‘advantage’ over the other. Also—if you have any ideas for upcoming chapters, feel free to let me know! I’d be more than happy to incorporate some of your ideas!

                      Cheers!

                      -IR


                      My brows clenched, and I couldn’t help but curse under my breath as I tried to decide what to do. Stay? Or go? As I put every pro and con of the situation into place, I started to formulate what the best solution was going to be. Looking over at her sleeping face, I sighed. Please don’t let this be a mistake.

                      In a hesitant manner, I whispered reluctantly to myself. “I should go. This…isn’t where I belong.”

                      In all honesty, I didn’t feel like I was making the right choice. Instead, I felt like I was doing what was most comfortable for myself. That being said, when was there a point where I had some time or a decision to myself? These days, it appeared as if every choice I had was made by my friends or my family. If I wanted to go home, I should. Besides, I insisted as I took some sturdy—but quiet—steps towards the front door, I don’t want her to think I’m some creep. That’s this damn town’s job.

                      It wasn’t long after this thought was uttered, before I departed into the woodlands.

                      ✧ ✧ ✧

                      [Roxane’s POV]

                      On most of my mornings, I was greeted with the (for the most part) relaxing sound of nature calling from behind my front door. Unfortunately, this morning was far from pleasant. Instead of being awoken by the beckoning of a robin in the distance, I was met with an intense headache. The pain pounded in my ears, and with each pound a beat of maroon flashed into my sight—despite my eyes being closed. The uncomfortable sensation, along with a quickening heartbeat, forced me to open my eyes as I suddenly felt an odd force of panic. There were a few moments where I couldn’t recall where I was, before the surroundings finally came into full focus. You’re just in your cabin, I reassured myself. Nothing’s wrong…unless you count this headache.

                      However, a headache wasn’t the least of my problems. As I attempted to stand to my feet, I realized that it wasn’t just my cranium that was aching, but my entire body. From head to toe, I, for lack of a better term, felt like shit. It felt like I had gone on a rollercoaster too many times, then was thrown in front of a bus. Or two. Or three. The unrelenting pain caused my limbs to shake uncontrollably; I clenched my fists to stop their trembling, which only made the pain worse. What’s wrong with me?

                      I looked at my surroundings to find a couple of clues. Nothing looked disturbed, which wasn’t suspicious in any manner. In fact, everything was in its place just as I had left it the previous afternoon. The only thing that was out of place, was me. What happened last night? Some dreadful thoughts started to come into view as I nervously sought to answer that question, only to stop once I started to accurately account for the events of the previous evening. Egg Festival…hung out with Abigail…Sam was there too, I pondered—my thinking process a bit scrambled thanks to the pounding in my head. Can’t forget Sebastian…and of course we…the Saloon—Elliot! Ah, I remembered now. Elliot and I had gotten drunk after he and Sebastian had gotten into an argument. The reality that I allowed myself to get drunk so recklessly stung, almost literally to some degree.

                      But if I had passed out at the bar, seeing as that’s the last thing I can clearly remember, why was I here!?

                      The question sent a chill down my spine, as I was reluctant to think that someone had done something with me. But, seeing as I was...ahem…fully clothed…and I couldn’t really find any evidence of some foul play, I forced myself to think in the opposite direction. But what explanation was there to come up with? Had I actually wandered from the saloon all on my own in my drunken stupor? Was there a point in time after I passed out, where I was only a bit tipsy and able to make it back to my estate—but I just couldn’t recall? Both seemed like unlikely answers, even though they could be possible. However, I wasn’t a regular drinker. If I had gotten as drunk as I had last night, I knew that I was going to be barely understood in any sense even if I was awake. More likely, there was no point where I was. Reluctantly, I forced myself to come to the conclusion that I had not arrived here on my own accord. But had the person at my side been a helpful villager, or a silent predator?

                      As the idea started to bring out goosebumps in my skin, I had absent-mindedly wandered towards the front door. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but it was indeed left ajar just a crack. Just enough to lead some light in from outside, to bless my face with warmth. With no purpose, at first, I went to open the door and look out and about at the farm, covering my eyes from the blinding sun as I did so.

                      It was just another breezy, bright, and blissful day in Stardew Valley. The sun was just beginning to fully rise out of the treetops in the distance, and I could tell it was sometime after 10 AM. The hustle and bustle of the wind made it almost impossible to hear the birds calling out to one another, as Mother Nature’s breath answered for them. Even with such a nice day outside, standing in the doorway was enough for me to sense that the sun’s rays were particularly hot to the touch. I’ll be sweating up a storm by sundown, I sighed—sarcastically looking forward to a day full of all work, and no play.

                      This was when I noticed it—a piece of parchment paper sticking into the edge of my door’s frame with a black thumb-tack. It definitely caught my interest, seeing as I remembered strictly not having put it there (unless this, too, was clouded by my hazy memory), or at least not having a reason to have done so. With a slight tint of haste, I tore the paper off of my door to give it a look-over.

                      Roxane –

                      You were a bit tipsy, so I took you home.

                      Feel free to drop by if you need anything.

                      -S

                      So it was Sebastian, I resolved, only taking a moment to put two and two together. A mixture of emotions ran through my mind as I thought about him taking me home—the first, was outright embarrassment. Did I say anything stupid!? Was I a total goof? I had never gotten drunk previously, so who knows what I was like whenever I took in a couple glasses of whiskey…or…whatever it was I had. Hopefully if I had done anything, it wouldn’t make things awkward between us in the future.

                      Speaking of which—the second idea running through my brain was a mixture of relief, and gratitude. Who knows what type of mischief I could have run into if I hadn’t had someone to take me home? I didn’t even want to think of all of the possibilities. If there was anything I was going to take away from this experience (besides not drinking in excess), it was that I definitely owed Sebastian a favor. Who knows how long he had stayed outside—most likely in the cold—waiting for the night to be over, before I came along? There was no doubt in my mind that he was uncomfortable, chilled, and exhausted by the time he had gotten me home safe and sound. I’ve got to do something for him in return, I decided. Not sure exactly what that would be, but I’ll make a note of it for now at least.

                      As the cauldron of emotions bubbled around in my brain, I crumpled up the note in a delicate fashion—disposing of it in my kitchen after I shut the front door. The sound of creaky floorboards echoed in my ears as they had the day’s previous, and I was beginning to find their sound all too familiar. Which, I suppose is a good thing. The last thing I wanted to do was have this place, my home, feel foreign. It might be natural for the first couple of months, but the sooner I felt like I was in the right place, the better off the farm and I would be.

                      I didn’t think about my actions too much as I strolled over to my cabinet, and took out a box of my favorite salty-sweet cereal (it shows—I can’t even remember what type of cereal it was). Instead, I was trying to piece together what I could remember from last night. The entirety of The Egg Festival was clear as day, as well as Sebastian and I departing for the saloon, but after this things started to grow weak and fuzzy in nature. I suppose it doesn’t really make the best of sense when I describe my memories as ‘fuzzy’, so let me elaborate. The fight between Sebastian and Elliot was as if I was looking through a window on a rainy day. I could remember most of the details, but the water droplets staining the glass would distract and obstruct my view of things. Therefore, I couldn’t remember the specifics of what was said. As for the conversation I had with Elliot afterwards, most of it was as if I was trekking through the forest during the full moon. While it would be dark, I could still make out some specific details—so I did remember that the conversation was pleasant. Everything after this is covered in shadows, and draped in colorless dreams, but what I found most peculiar was that I couldn’t remember exactly what Elliot looked like! Maybe I could remember his maroon coat, or the fact that his hair was spectacularly long, but nothing specific as I wanted to. It truly was strange, seeing as I had spent most of the night with him. I couldn’t really compare the anomaly to Sebastian either, seeing as I knew him before this had all occurred.

                      I forced myself to eat some breakfast, and shrug the idea off. I’m sure I would see Elliot sometime soon—I would have to recognize him then! There was no possible was I was just going to forget everything that happened that night, even with a gallon of beer pumped into my veins…or…whatever it was we had shared. Besides, there was something about him that I liked. I’ll admit that I couldn’t specifically remember what it was, so I had to guess. Ideas such as the way he spoke came to mind, before they were whisked away by ideas of the way he thought. That seemed far more appealing. But, whatever it was, I was sure that the next time I saw him, I would remember a bit more about what sort of connection the two of us had made.

                      ✧ ✧ ✧

                      Damp atmosphere, scorching sun, and moist dirt. It was only half-way through spring, and the land was already appearing just like summer. The sweat pouring down my heated face made it hard to think, but not that I needed to. I mindlessly plowed through my farm at a steady speed, only focusing on my aim and rate of my heartbeat. Keep a calm pace. Don’t overwork yourself. If I kept these things in mind, I would be able to plant a brand new field of potatoes before sundown. Luckily, in the days previous, I was able to cut down a few oak trees which stood in my way from creating another plot. Now was the time for planting. If I did so any later, I wouldn’t gather enough potatoes to even count as a plentiful harvest.

                      So I continued in my effort, gloves adorning my callused hands, and muddy boots digging into the ground below. My hair was tied, once again, into a bun—my attempt at pulling the air out of my eyes to see all that I could. Of course, in the hours that followed the tough labor, the neat bun had changed into that of a messy birds’ nest. Typical, and expected. But when you worked as hard as I had to, you learned not to care too much about your appearance. Leave that for special occasions and parties. The only audience I had here was nature, and she didn’t give two craps at how I looked. She wanted me to use and treat her well, and that’s all.

                      I was out towards the very edge of my farm, almost literally brushing up against the wrangled beast that was the forest beyond. Even if I hadn’t dared mess with it yet, there wasn’t a moment where I didn’t admire its beauty. Untouched, evergreen, and full of life. Such a beautiful sight during the day, even if at night its dark shadows haunted me whenever I stared out the window. Despite having worked the land for a few weeks into the spring season, a good 75% of the land was still covered in natural forest. In all honesty, I wanted to keep that number high! I was never fond of deforestation—a subject you either didn’t care about, ignored, or outright resented when you lived in a polluted city as I had. Stardew Valley may not have been lacking in forestry, but I still liked the idea of having such a magical and mystical looking woods as my own backyard—and frontyard for that matter.

                      The leafy green shrubs and vibrant flowers would capture my gaze every now and again as my mind drifted, but that was apt to change. While the bright day may have been lively with life spilling out of the woods in the form of blue birds and bumble bees, there was a thick silence. Through the hours I worked, I never notice the silence stir or fade, even if my breath heaved or faltered. However, I suddenly heard a growing rumble through the thicket. At first it was so soft and distant, that I couldn’t even recognize the sound, no less care about it. As the crackling of twigs and breaking through leaves drew closer, I realized that the amount of sound didn’t sound like just a bunny or squirrel rummaging through the forest. Whatever was slowly creeping my way, was much larger than a harmless creature.

                      Immediately suspicious and wary, I picked up the axe at my feet—old, but sharp enough to do some damage to anything harmful. I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions that the racket was anything dangerous, but I didn’t want to be naïve either. After the constant confusion this morning, I was admittedly on edge. My heart started to pound in my chest, and a waterfall of sweat continued to wave over my face, as the questions started to pour in. What was making the noise? Was it an animal? Something dangerous? A bear? Do bears even live around here? What about mountain lions? Or wolves? What about—

                      My endless train of worrying thought was abruptly halted, as neither a bear, nor mountain lion, nor did a wolf stumble out of the woods. Instead, it was a confused man who I wouldn’t recognize until our eyes met.

                      “E-Elliot?” I asked nervously as I realized who it was, the grip on my axe loosening. I noticed first that his clothes were a bit ragged, as they were covered in grimy mud stains. His long, ginger-blonde hair looked as if it was trying to desperately keep itself neat, but instead was matted and covered with knots. His hands were a bit cut up, most likely due to brushing away all of the thorny plants that resided deep in the forest. “What on earth are you doing out here?”

                      His emerald orbs looked up at me in surprise, while a sheepish smile spread across his face. “Oh, R-Roxane! I er…well…this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for when I would see you next…”

                      I couldn’t help but snicker at his commend, scowling down at him with a grin on my face. “Well I’m not sure what you were imagining would happen after trekking through my forest.”

                      “N-no! That’s…not what I meant!” He sighed, brushing what he could off of the navy pin-stripe undershirt he wore. “I didn’t plan on,” he gestured to his appearance, “this. I noticed a sign to your farm and decided to follow its direction to, you know, pay you a visit and an apology!”

                      For the second time in a minute, he caught me off guard. “Apologize? For what?”

                      “First of all, would be the fact that I frightened you just now—

                      I scoffed, looking away from him and crossing my arms. “I wasn’t scared…”

                      Even before he responded to my bluff, I could tell that he was bound to offer up a sly grin. “Sure you weren’t.”

                      “I’m serious!”

                      “Right, right,” For a moment I could have sworn that he rolled his eyes playfully at me before he continued on his short list. “The second thing I have to apologize for would be the entirety of last night.”

                      A part of me could tell that that was bound to be what he would say, but I was still confused on why he wanted to apologize. “Why? I had fun,” I insisted, tossing away the axe I was still holding, and replacing it with the plow. “Why would you want to apologize for that?”

                      He walked closer towards me, pulling the stray strands of golden hair out of his eyes. “Why wouldn’t I? It was reckless and foolish of me to get you and I wasted in such a public setting…on our first introduction no less!”

                      “It’s fine…you shouldn’t have to be sorry for that. It wasn’t just your fault,” I insisted, resuming my activity of plowing the soil. “I might not remember the night so crystal clear, but I know that there’s no way for me to get drunk unless I want to myself. We were just…having fun! While also being a bit stupid.”

                      Elliot chuckled, standing behind me as I worked. “Fine, I’ll leave it at that, then.”

                      “Any other reason why you decided to drop by besides sending some un-needed heartfelt apologies?” I asked, my mind slowly drifting back to my work—seeing as I didn’t really know what else to say.

                      From what I remembered about the night previous, I understood that Elliot was good at keeping conversation. Which is why when he didn’t say anything for a good while, I became a bit confused. Not trying to arouse suspicion, I briefly looked over my shoulder to see what it was he was so focused on. To my surprised, he seemed intrigued with what it was that I was doing. For the few—but seemingly long—moments where he was speechless, he just observed the way I worked the land. I forced myself to look away from him, and pretend that I was actually focused—but I couldn’t help but let a tint of raspberry touch my cheeks. Having someone so intrigued and observant of my actions always embarrassed me in one way or another. It always made me feel like I was about to do something stupid—especially whenever it came to my favorite pastimes, such as painting.

                      Luckily, he broke the silence after a couple of seconds as I blushed in misery. “So…you do this every day? Work, I mean, on your farm like this…for hours? In rain or shine?”

                      I shrugged, “As long as it’s not too stormy, I would say yes. The first day I got here I had to work in a cold wave of rain. Why?”

                      He walked in front of me, forcing me to look into his evergreen eyes. “It just…seems like it’s a bit much for one person to do all by themselves. Would you,” he paused, looking off to the side as he scratched the back of his neck. For a split second, he almost appeared as if he was the nervous wreck. “...would you like some help?”

                      Immediately I looked up at him, surprised that he would think to offer assistance. Then again, I probably did look pretty exhausted in my attire drenched in sweat and covered in dust. “S-sure, that would be great actually! You ever worked on a farm before?”

                      “Not exactly, but I’m sure Stardew Valley’s very own farmer could teach me everything I need to know,” he smiled, pulling up the sleeved of his shirt as high as they could go.

                      Once more, I scoffed. “Oh please, I’m not even close to being an expert. I’ve only been here a few weeks!”

                      Elliot instantly gestured out to the rest of my farm, “And yet you’ve still managed to create a healthy-sized farm in that short span of time. I’m starting to think you don’t give yourself enough credit for what you accomplish!”

                      “We can talk about all of my faults after you grab a hoe from my toolshed,” I pointed off towards my not-so-distant toolshed. “Which you’ll find right in there.”

                      He looked at me as he snickered, continuing to look on at me for a moment or two before he departed in that direction without another word. I suppose I amused him.

                      ✧ ✧ ✧

                      “I cannot believe, that you insist on forcing yourself through this every single day!”

                      Hours had passed since Elliot’s stumble onto my property; while we had gotten a great amount of work done for the day, there was still much more to accomplish and we were both filthy and weary. While I may have succumbed to nature insisting on covering me in a thick coat of grime, and tearing bit by bit at my bun, Elliot was still struggling. He had pinned his flowing hair up in a ponytail, keeping it out of his eyes as he planted each tulip seed (a new crop I had purchased from Pierre) with care and precision. He had put up with the plow for a long while, but I could tell as the day drew on he was struggling, so I insisted that he just planted some seeds for me instead. If you weren’t used to working to the point of physically draining yourself day in, and day out, digging for hours on end was a death-sentence.

                      While he tried to put up with the labor without a word of regret or complaint, he eventually ‘gave in’ to the urge. Not in the sense where he was trying to get out of helping me, but in acting so repulsed by the idea that I did this every day for hours. In a way, it was flattering—which I’m sure is how he wanted me to feel (in a way, he was pretty charming to talk to). You could tell after talking to him for a while, as well as looking at his attempt to keep up his appearance, that he was a gentleman at heart. I’m sure writing poetry, something he would talk about every now and again, was the sort of task he could grow accustomed to without struggle. If I was placed in that position, I’m sure that I would have a hard time too. I’m not the best when it comes to stringing words together in an artistic fashion.

                      “Like I said, you can stop whenever you like if you’re too tired. But, yup. This is the daily grind for me,” I replied, wiping a gob of sweat off of my forehead and wafting my hair to the side.

                      As he had whenever I mentioned the idea of him taking a break, he rejected the offer. “No, that would be rude of me. I offered to help after all—I won’t take it back just because it is…difficult. I just can’t believe that you make yourself work this hard.”

                      “Thinking of it in terms of my livelihood sort of helps get me through the day, and being out here is pretty relaxing,” I replied, offering up a content smile.

                      “I agree! The atmosphere is one of the very best aspects of living in such a quaint town such as this.” There was another pause, as the two of us thought of something to remark on. As usual, Elliot beat me to it. “I hope you don’t mind me asking a question…”

                      I chuckled, “Why would I? Unless it’s something private, ask away.”

                      He nodded, “Alright—if you didn’t have this farm to come to, to escape your previous occupation as you described, where would you have gone?”

                      His question, although pretty simple in format, actually got me thinking. Where would I have gone if grandpa hadn’t given me the farm? It’s not like I had any distant relatives living out in the middle of paradise who would have taken me under their wing—the only family I had were a few distant cousins who called me on my birthday (if they remembered), and my dad who had only lived a few blocks away from my apartment in the city. College didn’t exactly prepare me for anything that wasn’t a dead-end desk job, and without the sum of money I was granted, and a pre-paid plot to use as a farm, I would have never been able to make it in the way my grandfather would have liked me to. The idea almost made me shudder—without his deed, did I even stand a chance of leaving Joja like I did?

                      While the idea haunted me, I felt like it needed to be said aloud. “I…don’t think I would have been able to go anywhere, if I’m going to be frank. This transition was a spur of the moment thing, for the most part. I didn’t have any plans before now on leaving the city, so I’m sure I would have stayed if things didn’t happen like they did.”

                      “Then I suppose it’s good that things happened the way they did!” He remarked, kneeling into the dirt and looking over at me. “That is…as long as you like it here.”

                      I laughed, “It’s a huge difference from the city, which is what I was looking for. So, yeah! I do like it here. Not sure how long I’ll be around, but I guess we’ll see how it goes.” I thought for a moment, before I spoke next. “Do you like it here?”

                      It took him a second or two to respond, but as always he was well-articulate in his response. “It’s funny you ask that…as I feel like I should. This was supposed to be my ‘writing paradise’, but,” he trailed off, as if he didn’t know what to say next.

                      “But…what?”

                      “It’s just,” we gazed at each other, and despite his voice containing a pinch of somber attitude, he still smiled warmly towards me. “Sometimes I feel lost from the world. I don’t really feel as a part of the community as I wish I could. I doubt that’s just because I live on the very outskirts near the ocean, but I’m sure that plays some sort of part in it.”

                      Instantly I remembered Sebastian’s remark on how Elliot was often a no-show when it came to helping out the townsfolk. “Maybe you should try helping out the town once in a while? That might make the difference, as I know we could use the help when it comes to the seasons’ events.”

                      He sighed longingly, looking up at the sky—practically lying down in the dirt. “I know that that’s the right thing to do, but I just can’t bring myself to be so social with them. Most who don’t know me have this attitude towards me whenever I enter the room…and as you can probably guess, it makes the idea of helping them less…appetizing.”

                      Ditching my tools into the dirt, I couldn’t help but sit next to him and also watch the clouds roll by. “Well you have to start somewhere! People aren’t just going to start being nice to you if you don’t do anything to earn their trust. In fact, I wouldn’t say that you aren’t doing anything, as arguing with Sebastian sure was something…just not the something people are looking for.”

                      Elliot’s emerald orbs looked over at me, a sly grin forming on his face from amusement. “So, you remember that much?”

                      I nodded, “Unfortunately I do—but seriously, why did you two have to go at each other’s throats like that?”

                      “If you remember correctly, I was polite to him—

                      “At first!” I retorted. “Then the two of you started going at it. Trust me, everyone who saw it wasn’t exactly impressed with either of you, I’m sure.”

                      He nodded, his smile fading. “You’re right. It was uncalled for…but I can’t reverse the past. I’ll try my best to change my relationship with the village-folk, but I can’t guarantee much out of simply wishing for things to change. Writing takes up most of my free time, and the rest? Usually thinking about what I’ll be writing next.”

                      I thought about his dilemma for a moment, leaning back into the earth and crossing my arms behind my head. The view above us was a mixture of peach, fuchsia, and salmon as the fluffy light pink clouds flew above our heads. For such a hot day, it was incredibly peaceful and calming out—especially when you stopped to look up towards the sky.

                      That’s when I thought of an idea. “What if, to start, you and I both help out during the next event together? That way you don’t have to be on your own, and it won’t be as awkward.”

                      Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Elliot turn his head to look directly at me. “You’d do that for me?”

                      I nodded, looking back at him with a cheerful smile. “Why not? If it would make you feel more comfortable, I’d be happy to! Hell, it might even be fun!”

                      He stared at me for a moment or two—his expression full of surprise and amazement. “You haven’t known me for very long…and you’d actually like to make my acquaintance? After I argued in front of you with Sebastian? Got the two of us drunk? Made you feel uncomfortable?”

                      I couldn’t help but giggle at his astonishment. “Of course! What, have you never met someone who didn’t care to be the slightest bit of nice to you?”

                      Elliot shrugged, “I have…but it’s just not so common nowadays. Either way, thank you, Roxane. It’s very kind of you to help me out like this,” He then turned on his side, towards me, and looked out towards the sunset. “Also, I should thank you for allowing me to take in such a gorgeous view. It’s such a breathtaking sight here,” he paused before grumbling, “…well, despite being covered in mud and our own filth.”

                      I nodded, following his gaze to observe the sunset behind us. Gold, fuchsia, periwinkle, violet, and ultramarine. Brilliant, vibrant hued decorated the scene to almost make it magical. I may have noticed the beautiful scenes of nature around me before, but never the sunset—or at least not like this. It was even more relaxing with Elliot with me, for a reason I can’t really explain. Maybe it’s because he was so poetic, which added to the surreal charm of sitting around on an alluring summer day. Or, it could have been because I understood a bit of what he was going through. Even in a place as wonderful as this, I didn’t feel like I was truly home just yet. I hoped that this was going to change sometime soon, but the pessimistic side of me worried that this was not where I belonged. Maybe I didn’t belong anywhere.

                      “You’re welcome,” I finally remarked—smiling to myself as I continued to take in the view with him at my side. “Thanks for being here to enjoy it with me.”

                      ✧ ✧ ✧

                      Author’s Notice:

                      Sorry this chapter took so long to publish! School is finally out for the summer, so I should be pumping out chapters regularly—especially since I don’t have to work on two at the same time. Anywho, I hope you enjoyed the first of many CYOA chapters! Feel free to comment on anything about the chapter, and critiques on either are appreciated! I’ll try my best to keep both chapters around the same length, as to not give one an ‘advantage’ over the other. Also—if you have any ideas for upcoming chapters, feel free to let me know! I’d be more than happy to incorporate some of your ideas!

                      Cheers!

                      -IR
                       
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                      • Pudassassin

                        Pudassassin Hard-To-Destroy Reptile

                        Now, if this isn't 'Life is Strange' style of SDV fiction, I have no idea what to describe when it come to life-changing decisions...
                        Great work and worth the time you took to make it out, also cheer up -- this dilemma style isn't the traditional and take hefty amount of time for sure.
                        Finally, do you mind if I will read out every single alternative of choice? It is for not putting your effort in vain if one was neglect for not choosing it.

                        Edit : and both choices each did have interesting story. Surely you can't judge someone by the first look or just one perspective.
                         
                          Last edited: Jun 22, 2016
                          Gabaw and InvaderRoxas like this.
                        • InvaderRoxas

                          InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer

                          Thank you very much! And yeah...this took me 2x as long as I thought it originally would, but I shouldn't be writing another chapter like this until around chapter 11...and even then summer being around will help me a bunch.

                          And sure, I don't mind at all! I had a reader on fanfiction.net who had an interest in sampling both sides, and I'm sure I would do the same thing. Thanks again for the feedback! :DD
                           
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                          • Gabaw

                            Gabaw Scruffy Nerf-Herder

                            The split begins! I'm just now seeing how ambitious this is. Looks like we're in for a ride. If Puds is going the double route, I'll go the single choice route and see how that unfolds. Maybe I'll flip a coin each time :p This is gonna take some serious continuity skillz but I think you seem ready for it :up:
                             
                              InvaderRoxas and Pudassassin like this.
                            • InvaderRoxas

                              InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer

                              Thank you! And yeah...this is going to end up being an awful lot of work. When I start a project (that I actually plan on finishing :unsure:) I usually go big or go home. This fanfic might end up being 50+ chapters long, seeing as Spring lasts until Chapter 14, and I'm going to try and have each season be just as long. As far as keeping consistency, for the most part it shouldn't matter which chapter you choose--the next CYOA won't matter if you went with the Elliot or Sebastian in the last CYOA part, but waaaaaay into the future there may be a strict guideline in order to prevent any plot-hole nonsense. When that comes up, I'll be sure to write a note to clarify at the end of the part before. Anywho, thanks for the comment! :love:
                               
                                Gabaw and Pudassassin like this.
                              • InvaderRoxas

                                InvaderRoxas Industrial Terraformer


                                Being as it was spring, rain was almost constant throughout the week. The continuous onslaught of thunderstorms forced me to grow accustom to the damp weather—but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate a rainy day as oppose to a hot one. I eventually found the pitter-patter of raindrops plopping onto the roof of my cabin, or simply the ground outside, to be relaxing. In the evening hours, just before darkness covered the area like a thick blanket, I would sit outside on my porch and stare out into the wilderness. The cool air, thin breezes, and thin layer of condensation that covered my face would relax my strain after a long relentless day.

                                Whenever I could, I would take a rainy day as an excuse to go out into town to explore, or simply buy some supplies. Today was one of those days, as I could be found walking down the cobblestone path towards the town square with a content look on my face. I didn’t bother to bring an umbrella or poncho with me, as the wind was calm and downpour light. Instead, I let each water droplet coat my hair and skin naturally without a care in the world. My jeans may have been damp, and my black tank top and fern green overcoat covered in dark spots, but I didn’t care.

                                It was too delightful of a day to not at least go out for a walk. While no birds were found to be chirping, the sound of the rain surrounding the area was all that was needed. The sky may have been grey, but tints of light navy and dark mauve added the touch of color needed to prevent the day from looking so depressing. Speaking of which, why wasn’t a light pour like this seen as a nice day? No matter who you talked to it seemed, rain and storms were seen as an omen, or at least thought of as a sour experience. Having them so often now, I couldn’t help but admire them (and not just because I didn’t have to water my crops, mind you). A part of me winced at the thoughts of the summer months starting to approach—I didn’t want to leave spring. Hopefully, the downpour would follow Stardew Valley as the year continued, but I wasn’t so sure. Enjoy it while you can, I remarked.

                                With my brisk walk, I eventually reached the town square, and eyed the entrance to Pierre’s General Store. I didn’t exactly know what I was going to buy, seeing as I was fully stocked with seeds of every type I could manage. Maybe some fertilizer? I haven’t really messed with those too much…and I’m sure it would be good for the crops. Or what about some fruit trees to plant? Apples or peaches would sound good right about now. As I deliberated on what I was going to get, I quickened my pace towards the entrance to the shop.

                                Every time I made my way into the General Store, I would be immediately greeted by Pierre, or even Abigail on occasion. However, despite the soft sound of the entrance bell ringing, the store was silent. I didn’t understand why, until I turned away from the door, looking towards the cash register. Two men were standing there, and the only one who I could recognize immediately was Pierre himself. Everything in terms of his appearance was normal—as he could be seen with kept light brown hair and his signature glasses—but I could tell from his nervous expression that something was off. The man next to him was dressed with a dapper raven suit, which was adorned with a venetian red bowtie. Spectacles covered his eyes, while short, slick, midnight black hair covered his head. The both of them stared at me the second I entered the room, which forced me to stare back with an expression of unease and confusion.

                                “Am…I interrupting something?” I asked, looking back and forth between them.

                                “Roxane—

                                Pierre tried to respond to me, but before he could say anything, the man in front of the register cut him off. “Let me take an educated guess—is this the farmer most in this town seem to be doting over? Roxane I assume?” His voice was calculated, cunning, and in an odd way sounded cruel and demeaning. The odd smile growing on his face didn’t help much either, as it seemed rather vicious.

                                Every inch of my being told me not to let my guard down as I replied sternly with, “That’s Miss Beauchene…who are you?”

                                From the moment I started asking my short question, he started to walk towards me. “Excuse me for not introducing myself sooner; you can call me Morris—I’m the head manager, supervisor, and PR assistant at Stardew Valley’s local Joja Mart,” he stopped, standing in front of me with a hand outstretched.

                                Even before he mentioned Joja, I could tell he was bad news. The way he had Pierre poised in an anxious manner wasn’t normal, and nor was his cold, but inviting attitude. I wasn’t stupid to not know that there was something going on here—hell, you could even taste it in the still air. This, Morris guy, or whoever the hell he was, wanted something from Pierre, or at least his shop. But what?

                                Knowing this, I didn’t even bother to shake his hand, and I kept my arms crossed as a glare contorted my brows. “Gotcha…but what exactly is a Joja employee doing here?”

                                “Just making friendly conversation between competing companies! Nothing more than that,” He replied swiftly, slowly putting his hand to the side. “It’s commonplace to—

                                With my anger getting the best of me, I was quick to cut him off. “Cut with the bullshit—I can tell that friendly competition is the last thing on Joja’s mind. I worked for the bastards too, you know. You don’t just ‘compete’ with competition, hell, you squish them. Now I’ll ask again; what are you doing here?” My voice rose far above my usual tone, but I didn’t care. I was too pissed to care.

                                His fake smile faded into a sneer, which gave me more than just the creeps—but I didn’t dare show it. “Well, well, well…I never thought I’d meet a farmer who knows what type of game I’m playing. I’ll skip the chit-chat and let you in on a little secret, seeing as you must know so much about the company.”

                                Don’t mock me, I thought with a sharp glare in his direction. If there was one thing on this planet I couldn’t stand, it was anything or anyone who was affiliated with Joja. Couldn’t there be just one village on this planet that didn’t have a Joja Mart? Talk about an obsessive and manipulative corporation!

                                “Our corporation’s goal is to give our customers the best, to beat out all the rest,” Morris continued, his speech sounding almost like rehearsed lines from a play. “In Stardew Valley, we have the best prices—as far as our membership deals are concerned, but this little general store here is a bit of a drag in our way.” His gaze shifted about Pierre’s shop, scowling at every inch he sought after. “Catch my meaning?”

                                “You can’t just ruin all of the competition, especially something family-run with twice the amount of fresh produce. From my farm. Besides, last time I checked, monopolies are illegal and immoral,” I countered, hands on my hips while I wished I was a foot taller. Maybe then I could appear as more of a threat.

                                “That may be so, but we can’t argue with what the public demands.” His voice suddenly dropped to just above a whisper, making it seem like I was stuck in some dark alley arguing with the devil’s advocate. “The entire population of Stardew Valley, give or take a few outcasts, have a Joja Membership. Given the math, how long do you think it’ll take for this mediocre shack to shut its doors once everyone has a membership?”

                                “That’s impossible! Those like Lewis would never even consider—

                                “Are you so sure of that?” He asked, his cold-blooded sneer still prominent. “One more additional member might make the difference between a stalemate, and the rest giving in. What if I could make you the offer, right now, to be that first addition?”

                                My heart almost stopped after he uttered those words—but another part of me almost expected that I would be asked this. Joja was the sort of corporation (if it wasn’t already obvious) that wanted to absorb everything around it, and destroy what wouldn’t comply. Seeing as now I was a farmer, I could prove to be a huge asset to their Stardew Valley district. It would not only force Pierre to find another supplier, but would influence others to shop at Joja if that’s who their very own farmer was working for. There was no doubt that I would be paid a handsome sum to hand over my crops, and maybe even more if I gave up my land. What terrified me the most, if not the idea of working under Joja’s deceptive eye once more, was the idea that I might be tempted to do it. There’s no way…

                                “How could you even ask me to do that?” I hissed, instinctively curling both of my hands into a fist. “I could never do that to Lewis, to Pierre, to this entire valley for crying out loud! I may not be some fancy business woman, but I’m not a complete fool!”

                                Despite my harsh demeanor, the threatening grin on Morris’ face didn’t dissipate. He simply sighed, and quickly replied in a nonchalant manner with, “Fine then—have it your way. Joja has enough man-power to employ millions of farmers, and even more-so to influence the population and keep our corporation alive and running. In one way or another, we’ll crush you and this little, dinky, crap-shoot of a store within a year’s time. Mark my words.”

                                As he started to walk past me and out the entrance door, I fought and wracked my brain for some type of rebuttal. I didn’t just wanted to stand there, mouth slightly agape, with nothing to say! However, before Morris made it out of the doorway completely he muttered, “If you ever change your mind, you know where you can find me.” And with that, he finally left.

                                The second Pierre and I were finally left alone, both of us seemed to emit a heavy sigh of relief. At the same time, a barrage of curses ran wild through my head as I wished I had something to say to that bastard after his threat was made. Instead, as usual, I stood there silently. It pissed me off. I wasn’t usually a hot-tempered individual, but when someone messed with me I always wanted to have the last word, or something like it. No doubt I would meet Morris again, but next time I didn’t plan on getting any cold-feet. In the meantime, I would have the pleasure of proving him and the entirety of the Joja Corporation wrong.

                                I finally got the urge to look over at Pierre, who had his hands on his temples, and glasses on the surface of the register counter. Knowing him as a successful—albeit small—businessman, it was almost terrifying to see him so shaken up like that. You could almost feel the cold sweat running down his forehead with the way he looked. Now, I never really discovered what specific threats were made before I entered the room, but I could imagine it was something along the lines of what Morris threatened me with. When you really thoughts about it, running up against a huge corporation like Joja, whose reach spanned far and wide, was more than just intimidating. It seemed impossible. Oddly enough, I wasn’t frightened in the least, although I chock this up to my false sense of optimism and thirst for a goal to reach. If I was in Pierre’s position, things might have been a bit different. I didn’t have a family to support. There was just me, and if my farm fell through, I had my Dad to run to. But someone like Pierre? If Joja ruined him, that would be the end.

                                ✧ ✧ ✧

                                By the time I had finished my shopping at Pierre’s, the light downpour had turned into a hail of rain. The second I had left the store’s company, I sought shelter under the thin, outside roof near the town calendar and events space. Sure, I could enjoy the light pitter-patter of rain coating my hair, but a full-out storm? That wasn’t something I was ready to envelop myself in. Maybe if I was in a better mood I wouldn’t have cared about getting wet, but right then and there I was fuming mad.

                                It was hard for me to hold back my anger as I rummaged around, collecting all that I could have out of pity to purchase from Pierre. Extra seeds, a range of fertilizers, and a few saplings—way more than I actually needed. After Morris made his threat, I felt like I had to do everything I could to help him out, so buying in surplus was the best I could do. Other than keeping my farm open, of course.

                                So I stood there, trying to keep myself from cursing up a storm as I waited for the rain to calm. However, I feared that it wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. The sky was a murky midnight violet, mixed with a tinge of raven and ash grey. Rolling, rumbling clouds whisked through the air as the wind picked up, giving the atmosphere an ominous tone. My own hair flailed about in the wind, forcing me to move the stray strands behind my ear to keep them from clouding my vision. Today was the most violent storm I had ever seen in Stardew Valley, and luckily, there was no lightning. If there had been, I would have high-tailed it to the Stardrop Saloon.

                                Being pinned between a nasty storm and a cold wooden wall with a large pack of supplies in hand forced me to think even harder. What could I do to stick Joja in their place? The questions sounded stupid at first; what could a lone farmer do to mess up an expansive corporation? Not much, it seemed. I didn’t have any ‘explosive’ secret that could rip them apart, although with the suspicious products they sold, I’m sure something like that wouldn’t be too hard to find. I just wasn’t too interested in becoming some private corporation investigator—I wasn’t that obsessed. I was just pissed.

                                I must have been in a deep pit of thought, as it took me longer than it should have to realize that someone was calling my name.

                                “Roxane! What are you doing out here?”

                                His deep, kind, but also concerned voice woke me up from my daze, forcing me to look out into the storm to see who had called my name. I was surprised to see that it was Elliot standing out in the rain, a Prussian blue umbrella covering him from the storm’s wrath. He was wearing a Byzantium trench coat, lined with golden buttons, as well as trim on the edge of the coat. A black scarf was wrapped loosely around his neck, while the rest was tucked neatly into his coat. Tight black dress pants were also donned, the ends of which were tucked into the tall, heeled, black rain boots he wore (which in turn made him even more looming to my small size than he already was). His ginger-tinted hair was as neat as it always was, if not for a bit damp thanks to the weather. Even though it was almost as gloomy as dusk, his spring-colored eyes were bright as usual. He looked down at me with a concerned look on his face, which…is when I realized I should probably pipe up and answer his question.

                                “O-Oh! Um…hey, Elliot! I’m just…waiting for the rain to chill out. I just finished a little shopping, is all,” I replied, my hot-headed attitude calming down now that I was in his presence. I tried my best, despite my stutter, to keep a calm attitude and make it seem like it was just another normal day.

                                “You don’t have an umbrella, or anything, with you?” He asked in a compassionate tone of voice.

                                “N-no,” I answered honestly, a sheepish smile spreading across my face. “It’s cool though—I like the rain, so I can wait it out.”

                                Even before I finished my sentence, he shook his head, “That’s nonsense; why don’t you come with me? I can’t just leave you in the rain like this—that would be rude of me. Besides, it doesn’t look like the storm will improve anytime soon…” He trailed off, looking at me hopefully.

                                I didn’t have to be asked twice—trust me, leaning up against a stone wall in a rainstorm isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. “Sure, t-thank you! That’s really nice of you.”

                                I stepped out from under my little spot under the General Store’s outer roof, and under the umbrella with Elliot. Holding my pack with both of my hands (good god was it heavy), I held it close to my chest to create as much room as possible under the umbrella’s shade. It wasn’t exactly large, so I was forced to sacrifice a bit of personal space in order to stay dry—not that that mattered. Since the last time I recorded Elliot in my company, we had had many talks—long and short—whenever I made my way near his cabin by the sea. We weren’t strangers to one another anymore, which is probably why I felt so comfortable around him. He was someone I really enjoyed talking to, no matter the object of the conversation.

                                Why not tell him about Joja?

                                The thought sprinted through my consciousness, and almost made me shiver. Did I really want to bring that up? The last thing I wanted to deal with right now was the antagonist of my new lifestyle, and instead, I would rather have a pleasant stroll with Elliot in the rain. Maybe talking about it with him will make you feel better! You never know? But did I want to know?

                                The sudden touch of Elliot’s hand on my right shoulder jolted me out of my line of thought. He was guiding me under his umbrella while he muttered, “I apologize how petite this space is, but at least I can get you out of the storm’s way. Would you like me to carry your pack for you?”

                                I shook my head, “It’s fine! I can carry it by myself, no big deal. Thank you though!” Pausing for a moment, I decided to keep out conversation on a positive note—for now. I didn’t want to unload all of my troubled on him right then and there. If I was even going to, that is. “So, what are you doing out here?”

                                He grinned, “It probably sounds crazy or improbable, but I was planning on taking a stroll to simply enjoy the weather, and gather my thoughts.”

                                Forcing myself to stifle a laugh I replied with, “Today? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s raining cats and dogs out!”

                                “I know, I know,” He sighed, looking out across the square into the distance. “It probably sounds strange, but I admire storms. There’s something about them that’s so much different than a simply cloudy, or an especially sunny day. Even if a roaring thunder and striking bolt of lightning is involved, I find the setting to be more than just a bundle of discord—

                                He suddenly stopped, his expression turning sour as his eyes widened. “And there I go again, off on another tangent. I apologize if that seems to happen often, it’s in my nature…”

                                I immediately shook my head at him, “Don’t apologize! It’s actually kind of nice to hear you talk all poetic like that.” What I spoke was the truth, and I wasn’t sure why on earth he would think I would be bothered by it. I just liked hearing him talk. He was more expressive in his speech than I could ever be, which was probably why. No wonder he was a writer.

                                “Really?” He asked, looking a bit surprised as he gazed down at me, but also thankful. “You actually like hearing me go on and on like that?”

                                “Why not?” I asked, giving him a wide smile. “It’s calming, actually. I can see why you write now, n-not to say I couldn’t see it before! I just…can really tell that that’s what you love to do, when you talk like that.”

                                Elliot chuckled after I spoke, his deep tone of voice echoing through the empty plane of the town square. I hadn’t realized it before, but the two of us had drifted away from Pierre’s and were making our way along towards the southern stretch of town. “I’ve never had anyone say that about me before. In fact, all I’ve ever been told is to, for lack of a better phrase, ‘shut up’.”

                                “Well whoever told you that is a moron,” I growled.

                                “I don’t think my mother would appreciate you calling her that…” He trailed off, his look changing to that of an amused one once he saw my eyes widen.

                                Oh crap…I didn’t mean to—

                                “You’re fine, darling,” He swiftly replied, his hand on my shoulder (which, I had actually forgotten about) becoming firm, but still a soft touch. “I was just messing with you. In all honesty, although I know that there’s some part of me that regrets doing so, I’ve called her far worse than that.”

                                Now he had me intrigued, and if I hadn’t been carrying my pack o’ goods, I would have put my hands on my hips. “Ok, now you have to tell me about your mother.”

                                “Technically I don’t have to…” He teased, while looking out into the distance.

                                “Yes you do! You don’t just say something like that and then give me no context! I can tell you want to talk about it too!” I retorted, my hands instinctively wanting to curl up into fists.

                                He uttered a deep sigh, still smirking at my attitude. “Alright, alright. Where should I begin?”

                                I shrugged, “You’re the one telling the story.”

                                He thought for a moment, biting his lip as he looked down at the cobblestone touching our feet. “Well…I guess I can start with when I was younger. I used to live in a very populated little town miles and miles east of here, in a house large enough to fit myself and my extended family. It was decorated—but messy—and the house was vast—but tight with all of us packed in there. The most important thing back then was that we kept our family close, but in doing so, it seemed like my elders—my mother especially—wanted to dictate my life.”

                                I nodded as he spoke, watching as his expression changed from that of a neutral, thinking face, to one of conflict and anxiety.

                                “They enrolled every one of us, including my siblings and cousins, into these ‘top of the line’ private schools, which as you can guess were assigned to train us to the finest level. They taught us complex arithmetic, sciences, business strategies, and the like. However, I took up an interest in the arts, specifically the art of writing and poetry. The exact subjects that they didn’t teach us in that program. This…wasn’t exactly what my family expected me to want to explore, and they encouraged me to drop my habits altogether and continue with what they had planned for me—which was becoming a lawyer.”

                                The idea of Elliot being a lawyer was a bit silly to me, seeing as becoming an author was such a different move. I really couldn’t see him doing it, especially since he had such a great interest in pursuing a career in writing. For a moment, I saw a little bit of myself—the old me working for Joja—in him. Could you imagine if I had actually stayed in that damn dead-end cubicle job? I didn’t want to think about it. Just like I didn’t want to know what differences there would be if Elliot had taken a different path. You probably would have never met him, that’s for sure.

                                I cut my thoughts away as Elliot continued his tale. “I tried to drop hints, to my mother especially, that I didn’t plan on becoming a lawyer. It wasn’t until she started to enroll me into private college, set specifically for up-and-coming attorneys, that I realized that she wasn’t understanding those hints. Eventually, I brought up the courage to demand that I take a different alternative. She...didn’t exactly take the news too well. My mother insisted that I put my writing aside, calling it a ‘petty hobby’, and focus on creating a name for myself,” He paused, a frown enveloping his face. “She was always a strict, unforgiving person. Whenever I tried to stray away from the family I could always count on her dragging be back in one way or another. For instance—whenever she found one of my poetry journals, she’d stow it away in a locked chest in the basement. As I grew older, she started to burn them instead.”

                                I gulped; the idea of someone coming along and trying to forbid you from partaking in your calling was a despicable action. It was starting to become painful to listen to him talk about his past like that—with everything being forced on him. I couldn’t imagine what that must have felt like. Sure, maybe I felt a similar pressure with Joja, but never from my family. If anything, they were the ones trying to get me to partake in something lively and new. Elliot had it rough.

                                “Eventually, as I’m sure you can relate to and imagine, I became fed up with her antics. The constant controlling and manipulative behavior she possessed was something I didn’t want to deal with any longer. As soon as I turned 21, I packed up my things and set off for a new home. Of course my family protested—some of my older cousins tried to even physically force me to stay. Like I said, to them, family is everything. Eventually I was able to leave, but not without half of my family weeping, and the rest cursing at me in a vulgar tone. Oddly enough, the day I left was the most emotionless day of my life as far as my own feelings were concerned. I guess, at that point, I didn’t care any longer. I just wanted to write freely again,” He finally looked down at me as he finished. A small smile finding its way back onto his face as my amber eyes met his jade orbs. “It didn’t take me too long to find Stardew Valley after that. I ended up purchasing the little cabin I reside in from Willy with half of the earnings I took with me, saving up what was left over for the rest of my needs. I kept on writing ever since I set foot in this valley, and I’ve never been interrupted since.”

                                I stared at him, wide-eyes after he had finished. “Wow…that is…quite the story.”

                                He shrugged, “I suppose. I don’t really like to talk about my past in such a detailed manner, but I don’t really mind sharing a bit of it with you.”

                                Immediately I was confused, “Why me?” In a muddled manner I peered ahead of us to see that in all of our talking, we had wandered all the way to the outskirts of the town square. From here, you could barely see the beach with the sand kicking up into the sky, and the ocean’s waves jumping to and fro as they crashed onto the shore.

                                Just like before, he chuckled at my befuddled question. “Because if we’re going to become close friends, why should I keep my past from you?”

                                He was right—why should he? If anything, I also wanted to know more about him. We weren’t exactly going to move to a close relationship if we were going to keep important things, such as our pasts from each other. But still, I was hesitant to show him mine. I didn’t want to put any burden on him with knowing where I came from, and exactly what I was running from when I came to the valley. It was still too personal, and the wound had not yet closed. Maybe someday, just…not today.

                                Before I was able to answer his rebuttal, the storm starting to kick up around us. A harsh blow of wind came rushing violently from the right of us, threatening to blow away Elliot’s umbrella. To prevent that from happening, Elliot swiftly grabbed the base of the umbrella with both of his hands while the wind strained underneath us. Unfortunately for the both of us, in his struggle our cover had been shattered, and a gush of rain water splashed onto our clothes, faces, and skin. Within seconds, we were soaked. I looked over at Elliot, who was slowly losing the fight as his umbrella flipped inside out. His hair had become a damp mess just as mine was, with auburn locks sticking to the sides of his face. His trench coat, while waterproof, appeared slimy as liquid ran over its surface. As for myself, my overcoat has protected much of my body from the blast of the storm, but my knees shook violently as the cold overtook them. Matted clumps of hair stuck to my face, but I quickly brushed them aside as I struggled to put up my coats hood to prevent any more water from splashing me in the face.

                                Elliot eventually gave up fighting the wind, and threw the folded-in umbrella into the dirt. He put his hands to his temples, which is something I noticed he did whenever he was stressed or upset (not that he was very often, I just happened to notice the habit). Before he turned to face me, he tried to fix up his now wild ginger mane—but it really wasn’t any use with the storm coming down on us as it was.

                                Of course, the first thing he could think of to say was to apologize. “Oh dear…I guess this storm isn’t exactly one we should be strolling in. Roxane, my dearest apologies—

                                “Oh come on Elliot! You don’t need to apologize for every single mishap! Lighten’ up, won’t ‘cha?” I exclaimed, offering him a childish smile before I collapsed into the muddy soil. “See? Mud and water don’t sting you know. Come over here and relax!”

                                My tone must have surprised him (or maybe just the fact that I was lying in a pool of mud), seeing as his dark, green eyes were wide in a mix of curiosity and distaste. Still, he grinned. “Darling, you can’t be serious…”

                                “Oh, don’t worry! I am!” For comedic effect, I rolled once around in the soil so that it covered my legs, coat, and face from head-to-toe. In actuality, the ground might have been cold to the touch, but the earth rubbing against my skin was murky, but soft. “Come on in, the mud is fine!”

                                He crossed his arms, scowling at me—but I could still tell in his tone of voice that he found my appearance amusing. “I….think I’ll pass. Thank you for the offer, though.”

                                Nope, that wasn’t going to cut it. I was suddenly insistent on finding some way to get that silky, auburn hair of his covered in muck and grime. My hands were instinctively clawing at the mid for a while, before they gave me an idea. Slowly, I gathered a thick, bistre colored gob of mud, and started shaping it into a ball. The second he wasn’t looking, I chucked the mud-ball at him as hard and as fast as physically possible.

                                Splat! Well, I didn’t hit exactly where I wanted too, but I still consider it a bulls-eye. The gunk had landed square on his chest, covering his trench coat in a chunky coating of taupe mud. A few drops of the substance had also splattered onto his arms, neck, and cheek. Yup, I had definitely gotten him good.

                                For a moment, his surprised expression made me a bit nervous. But just as he started to take it all in, he looked back at me with an evil, dastardly sneer. “Oh…you are in big trouble now! I just bought this coat!” He shouted, before lunging at me.

                                “It’s just a coat! They’re meant to get filthy!” I retorted, quickly scrambling to get up and off my feet to escape—but I was too late.

                                I felt Elliot’s weight pull me down the second I was on my toes, and before I knew what was happening he had tackled me back down to the muddy depths. The both of us were laughing to the wind as I tried to make my escape, and he kept pinning me to the ground. Turning myself around, I saw that he had a firm grasp on the both of my legs, despite my efforts to kick him off of me. Eventually this turned to me trying to force him off with my arms, but he caught on quickly, and used his own hands with the rest of his bodyweight to restrain those.

                                “Let go of me!” I growled, still trying to kick up with my feet—or do something to gain a leverage.

                                “On the contrary, I don’t think I should. You threw mud on me after all,” He replied in a calm, mocking manner.

                                “So? You were the one who was being all Mr. ‘I’m gonna keep my sharp look about me’!” I hissed, trying to grab as his wrist specifically to get my arms free.

                                “And that’s a bad thing?” Elliot asked, snickering at how childish I was acting, no doubt.

                                I quickly nodded, “In my opinion, yes! I think you could use a gob of dirt on your classy frocks and pantaloons!”

                                “Roxane…that’s not what they’re called…”

                                For a split second, my left hand became free from his grasp, and I didn’t hesitate to grab another large ball of muck and gunk. “Well that’s what they look like!” I teased, before rubbing as much dirt as I possibly could into his wet, gorgeous locks.

                                His mouth fell agape, shocked at the fact that I had just ruined his perfect mane. I tried my best to stifle all of my giggles as I looked on at him, but that grew increasingly difficult given the expression he gave. For a few seconds more he remained in that state of shock, before he decided to collect his own mound of dirt, and spread it across my forehead. I couldn’t take it anymore—and just as he started to snicker at my dirty form, I gave in and laughed at our situation as well.

                                It was at this moment, while tears pricked at my eyes and I felt my heart jumping in my chest as I giggled to no end, where I was glad I hadn’t mentioned Morris and the incident with Joja. I didn’t want that to come up while the two of us were in such good moods such as this. Maybe another time I’d bring it up to him, and ask for Elliot’s advice. Knowing his attitude towards things, I’m sure he would at least be willing to listen to me, if not also give a helping hand. But as for now, I’d rather be laughing my heart out.

                                Elliot and I continued to laugh with one another, chucking balls of dirt and mud at each other’s faces and clothes, as the rain continued to pour down on us. Suddenly, off in the distance (but close enough to shock us both—almost literally), a gigantic bolt of lightning struck the earth and uttered an ominous roar with the wind. The air around us seemed to go static, and our laughter ceased instantaneously. We both exchanged surprised glances with each other, pausing to listen to the crackle echo over the valley. I turned to look back towards the ocean, and noticed the waves rising higher and higher towards the milky, midnight, murmuring sky. The wind was also picking up at an alarming rate; all of the warning signs of a nasty storm on the rise. While I gazed around to look in a mix of awe and fear, Elliot’s warm hand firmly grasped my own—forcing me to gaze back at him.

                                “We…should probably find some cover!” Elliot exclaimed, helping me up and onto my feet as he stood up.

                                He didn’t have to tell me twice—after that lightning strike, we ran for the hills.
                                 
                                  Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
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