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Golden Silence

By Mikari

Drama / Romance

Chapter 1

She was a heartbroken, rich, farm girl. He was a frustrated merchant. Such a union could be profitable, if only that. But what if it's not enough? ClairxWon

Golden Silence

Profit 01: Profitable Silence

He didn't make a lot of profit, though he would never admit it, especially not to her. Silence was golden. She always purchased his apples when he went to her farm to market them in the morning. Then she would come by around mid day, and take a lunch break at Zack's house. She often brought a small gift for Zack, usually the dessert for their lunch, and she always brought something for Won.

Won thought the young farmer was simply conducting good business relations. Zack shipped her products after all, so she needed him to make a good profit in her farm. As for Won, she must be searching for discounts, which she wouldn't obtain. Profit was what life was all about. He didn't know how kind hearted the farmer was, he didn't know how heartbroken she had become after Cliff left.

Cliff, the boy who had come to Mineral Town with no idea of what to do with his life, he was the one who stole the farmer's heart. That autumn day she left early, earlier than ever. She had many things to do. She later heard from some of the Harvest Sprites who were helping her that while she was off in the mines, Duke came by. All she could do was go to the winery and see what he wanted, but he had apparently "already solved it". She had a feeling that he simply assumed she was too busy to help and didn't want to bother her. In the end, she couldn't get Duke or Manna to tell her what this was about.

Later, when it was already too late, she found out that they needed help harvesting grapes. She hastily made it just in time to help at least carry the baskets in. In her rush she forgot that Cliff, her crush, needed a job. Besides, this was just for a day or two, it wasn't a permanent job.

When Cliff left the village, Clair saw him off with tears in her eyes. Won was on his way to sell some apples when he saw the sad goodbye. She wanted to ask him, beg him to stay, but she knew Cliff would tell her he couldn't. She was a hard worker, she could support them both, she didn't mind. She wanted to ask him to marry her, but she knew he would decline. She didn't say it, it wouldn't do any good. Silence was golden and her entire world was falling apart.

She cried as he left, and when the ship disappeared in the horizon, she continued to stare into the ocean hoping that it would return. Eventually the ship came back, but Cliff wasn't there. By then, the entire day had gone by and the sun was sinking into the horizon, yet she was still there, like a lifeless statue.

She felt as if things could have been different. She should have told Cliff about the job at Aja Winery, even if it was temporary. Then she would beg, and bribe if need be, until she got Manna and Duke to offer him a permanent job. In fact, she would secretly pay for it herself if it came to that. But that never happened; she never knew that Duke and Manna would have been happy to offer Cliff a permanent job even without the begging and bribery.

Clair had offered Cliff a job on her farm many times, but he refused. He said that she didn't need to go out of her way to help him. The Harvest Sprites could help her on the farm, it was best that way. He didn't understand.

She wanted to follow Cliff, but found it hard to leave the town she had come to love. She would ask Kai if he had seen Cliff when he came to visit every summer. Kai always told her he had not seen Cliff, but was sure he was alright. Kai didn't have the heart to tell Clair that Cliff had found a job in the city, that there was a girl who liked him, and that he was starting to accept her into his heart.

That time when Kai spoke to Cliff in the city and mentioned the farmer's name, Cliff looked regretful. He had a new life, but he missed the life he could have had. Yet he forced himself to smile and say he was alright. Cliff's past feelings would stay hidden, because silence was golden.

Kai never told Clair that he had spoken to Cliff, he never told her about the look of regret in Cliff's eyes. If he had, she would have run off, back to being a city girl without a second thought. She would miss Mineral Town, but she missed Cliff even more. Kai never spoke of such things; he thought it would only complicate the situation. Silence was golden after all.

Life continued in Mineral Town, time moved slower than usual, almost as if it had come to a stop. Then she realized that it wasn't time that had stopped, it was her. The young farmer had fallen into a routine. Maybe she just needed someone to accept her gifts, maybe she felt identified with Zack because he had lost the one he loved to someone else. Maybe Won was just there.

One day a blue feather was put for sale in the super market. The farmer purchased it, if only to hide in the bottom of her tool chest so it wouldn't mock her every time she went shopping for seeds and other necessities. Mary and Gray were married and Mary was expecting a baby. Elli and the Doctor were engaged, Clair always knew they would end up together. Ann seemed to be occupied helping take care of the inn, falling into a routine much like the farmer had. Popuri was still the same Popuri, childish and carefree. Some people moved forward and others lingered in place. Some were bothered by it, and others accepted their fate without complaints, only golden silence, but not the farmer.

Clair wanted to move forward, she wanted to live her life; she wanted to feel like everyday was worth it. It was the repetitive and monotonous life she led in the city that made her buy that farm, even if she didn't know the first thing about farming. She came to Mineral Town with a dream, it was hard sometimes, but she had gone far. She didn't want to stop.

She had shown him the blue feather fully expecting to be rejected. He asked to speak to her in her house; then he accepted. It was all a blur after that. She only vaguely remembered the wedding. "Together forever," Won had said and that was as romantic as it ever got.

More often than not, Clair would spend the night in her vacation house in town, even if it was easier to go to the farm house after finishing work. Weeks would pass and they would only see each other when she went to buy seeds. She stopped having lunch with Zack and Won; was it all one big mistake? Won didn't complain; he kept his golden silence.

Sometimes, Won would compliment Clair on her skills as a farmer and congratulate her in making so much profit. He never spoke of his profits though, and soon she stopped replying when he asked her about her profits. It could only be described as golden silence, a silence not to be broken. The silence that prevented a greater consequence, jealousy, arguments, and truths filled with emotion, things that should not be said.

He didn't attend the town's festivals and in the festivals she always shined. They celebrated each other's birthday; they exchanged gifts during their anniversary, and in the spring and winter for thanksgiving. They didn't speak too much during those times; nothing beyond "happy birthday", "happy anniversary" or "happy thanksgiving." Then they had dinner together, quietly, almost, just almost, enjoying each other's silent presence, it was peaceful, it was golden.

Won had no intentions of leaving and Clair wouldn't kick him out. He never spoke of being jealous of her business, riches, talents and success. She never told him she wished he would forget about money and just relax for once.

He never told her that, despite the resentment because he had always believed he wasn't good enough for her, he admired her greatly. She never told him that she appreciated having someone to keep her company and that was good enough. It was golden silence, the silence that held them together and kept them apart.

xoxox xox xoxox

Profit 02: Broken Silence

Flashback, this is how it all began. Won had been innocently returning home after trying his luck with door to door sales for the second time that day. Maybe people were not awake enough in the morning to appreciate his fine products.

His pace was slow and tired; he didn't sell anything that day, nothing, not a single apple, or a bag of seeds. Disappointed and exhausted, he soon concluded that, either the Harvest Goddess hated him, or the entire world did, probably the latter. Of all the things to make his day worse, why did he have to forget his spare key?

The events that occurred when he left replayed in his mind like a movie. Zack was leaving to pick up the shipment from the farm just south of town. Won's keys were sitting on his counter, which consisted of an empty box labeled as once containing oranges. The merchant hastily packed his apples into a basket and set out, exiting the house at the same time as Zack. The keys must still be sitting on the same spot inside the house. Great, why did he have to go for that long walk after finishing his fruitless work to let out his frustrations, which he still kept? Zack must be sleeping already and he wouldn't want to be woken up.

Won drowned in self pity and wondered if he should see if the inn was open so he could get a room and actually sleep on a bed instead of his sleeping bag on Zack's floor, or on a box. Then again, that would mean throwing away what little money he earned that week. That stupid walk was most unprofitable! Then he heard it, the sound of sniffles and sobs.

Won curiously approached the dock. That farmer girl who bought his apples and seeds was there on the wooden floor, curled into a ball. That was odd, as far as he knew she was rich, owning not only a large farm full of prize winning livestock and productive fertile land, but also a small vacation home in town. She was, in fact, rich enough to buy his overpriced apples, overpriced vase and overpriced seeds among other, also overpriced, products.

She was even rich enough to give things away to the townspeople. Everyone liked her because she gave gifts to everyone. True that she was poor at first and couldn't afford much in the beginning. Won wasn't fond of her then, but soon she became a customer and a little later his only regular customer. That's when Won decided she wasn't so bad.

Why in the world such a hard working, well liked, rich girl, could possibly be laying on a cold wet dock, crying in the middle of the night? Further more, why was he just standing there dumbly when he could be asking her to buy something? She seemed so heartbroken...

Good, heartbroken women ate more, and apples were a healthier alternative than a pint of ice-cream. Confident that he would make a sale, Won approached the miserable farmer. "Excuse me..." Of course he couldn't properly give his apple speech if she was just laying there.

Clair, the young farmer lady, got up and tried to compose herself. It was pointless to try to hide her tears, but she would stubbornly try anyway. "Yes?" She tried to force a smile upon her lips and failed terribly.

"I would like to offer you some wonderful products!" Won gave his usual apple speech, the same one he gave her when he tried to sell his apples at six in the morning at her door.

Clair stared at Won for a moment. Could he really be thinking about selling apples when her entire life was coming down on her? He waited for her reply and she continued to stare. Then she shook her head. "Tomorrow, come by my house tomorrow and I'll buy three apples, one of each kind." With that said, Clair started walking home. She paused at the beach and looked back at Won, who still stood at the dock. "Thanks!" Then she ran to her welcoming, warm, soft, bed.

Clair had been reminded, in an unexpected way, that she needed to go on, that it wasn't all over even if it felt that way, and even if it felt like a lie, she told herself that she would recover. She asked Won to go to her house the next morning to give herself a reason to get up.

She needed a break and hired the Harvest Sprites to work at her farm; they were funny but helpful little creatures who loved flour. She knew her animals and plants would be taken care of the next day and if she had no reason to get out of bed, then she would stay in it and sulk. That wouldn't help her at all, but if she asked Won to go by her house, and promised to buy not one but three apples to make sure he actually showed up; then it would be rude not to receive him, she had to make herself get up and face a new day.

xoxox xox xoxox

The next morning, when Clair got up, it was already nine thirty. She stumbled out of bed, rubbing the sleep and tears out of her eyes and quickly changed into her overalls. Won was probably gone by now, and not happy about wasting his time waiting for her. She was quite surprised to open her door and find Won leaning against the wall of her large house, sleeping. She approached the slumbering merchant and poked him on the shoulder. "Hello? Won? Wake up!"

Won slowly opened his eyes; by no means did he intend to wait for Clair that long. He decided not to waste his savings at the inn and not to risk having Zack kick him out; the shipper could get grumpy if his dreams about Lillia were interrupted. Instead, Won slept outside, under the stars, yet despite being used to sleeping among boxes at Zack's house, or on the floor in a sleeping bag, he didn't seem to be able to sleep outside. It probably wasn't the place but the excitement; Clair's heartbreak would be most profitable. He had arrived a little early and sat down to wait for Clair to punctually exit her house at six in the morning, then he fell asleep.

Sensitive as she was, Clair couldn't help it but to hug Won. "Thanks for being here for me!"

"Are you going to buy some apples?" Won asked.

Clair nodded, "of course." She knew all too well that Won was not there for her, he was simply there for business, but she needed someone, anyone, to keep her company at least until her heart started to heal.

Won also identified the misunderstanding. He had no interest in consoling the heartbroken farmer. He just wanted to make a sale, but if she didn't clarify it, neither would he. That; would not be profitable.

xoxox xox xoxox

Profit 03: Silent Lunch

Clair's Point of View

The sun was shining brightly directly overhead in the middle of the skies, and I was being cooked alive, not to mention starving. Before I performed an act of desperate cannibalism upon myself, I decided that for the love of all that is cute and fluffy like my puppy, I needed to find shelter and eat lunch, quickly, since the sun seems to be frying my brain.

On the bright side, it has been a while since my heartbreaking breakup with Cliff and I have found the energy to once again tend to my farm instead of taking advantage of the flour addicted sprites. Good thing labor laws don't seem to be too eagerly enforced in Mineral Town.

I glance at the large bed in a corner of my house solemnly. I didn't have a blue feather when Cliff left, I wanted to ask him to marry me even without it, but I didn't. Maybe it was best that way. Speaking from the heart can only lead to heartbreak and keeping it bottled up can lead to heartbreak too, but at least the second kind of heartbreak isn't accompanied by embarrassing rumors and gossip, because everyone knows everything about everyone in this town.

After taking a shower and changing into a different set of overalls, I glance at my reflection in the mirror and fix my hair a bit. I pack my lunch, three desserts and a wrapped box into my rucksack; then I'm off to face the world.

It turns out Zack and Won were taking a lunch break too, perfect timing. I asked Zack if I could stay and eat with them and he gladly agreed. Won wasn't too happy though, he wanted me to buy some apples for lunch instead of having my own homemade cooking.

I gave them some desserts, delicious ice-cream and Won went on and on about how apples were healthier than ice-cream, though he still ate the dessert I brought him. I blissfully ignored his apple speech and before leaving, gave him the wrapped gift box. He was surprised, but somewhat happy.

I often repeated the events of that day, bringing gifts and treats. I wondered why I did it, but didn't question my behavior for more than just a few minutes. Giving gifts felt good, maybe that was it. Or maybe I just needed to have someone who accepted my gifts without angering the girls or causing misunderstandings. Karen didn't seem to understand that I only gave Rick a few gifts out of friendship and nothing more and Mary would give me looks of pain and betrayal if I ever gave Gray what she considered to be too many gifts for just a friendship.

When summer rolled around, I asked Kai about Cliff, I knew he was hiding something, but it was that kind of something that was only tragic when seen from a certain point of view and could be happy when seen from another. I knew he didn't want to give me too much information, so I didn't insist too much.

I continued taking my usual lunch breaks until my presence in Zack's house felt natural. It seemed that even Won had somehow gotten used to having me around, or maybe he was just hoping I would buy more things. Everything was normal, natural, nothing out of the ordinary. That's why I was a bit surprised when Zack asked to speak to me one day when he came to pick up a shipment.

We went inside the farm house and sat down to talk. Zack went on about someone whom he wanted to marry, how he wished he had asked her. He was too young and she was much older and couldn't wait. Zack would always remember her. "But if you can open your heart to someone else, even if the memories are still there, then you shouldn't waste that chance."

Dear Harvest Goddess! Zack is in love with me, he's finally over Lillia! What should I do? What should I do? My sweet Cliff I'll always remember you, but you've moved on and, Zack is right, if I can move on, so should I.

Before I can blurt out that I'm willing to give him a chance, Zack clarifies. "That's why I think that you and Won are good for each other. You can keep each other company and well, you've been giving him a lot of gifts, there's a reason for that, right?"

I sit there with my mouth hanging open. What? Well I have been giving Won gifts, but I guess it's because I just need to give someone gifts, it's like second nature for me. Besides, there's the challenge in seeing how long it will take for me to actually become friends with Mr. Greedy Merchant, yes, I'm in the for the challenge, and... and the loneliness, and... and... what am I going to do now?

"Read you like a book didn't I?" Zack looks rather satisfied with his interpretation and my reaction. Great, just great... But my life has been drifting aimlessly lately; I might as well let things flow. Why just let it be? I don't know. I don't know what's keeping me from saying something, anything, and somehow... I'm not sure I want to know.

End POV

xoxox xox xoxox

Profit 04: Forever Silent

Forever is a long time, it was something that they both knew all too well, it was something that anyone could know. He didn't refuse the blue feather even if he knew his reasons for accepting it weren't the best. He admired her; that was true, even if he didn't say it.

He would never think of giving her as much as a discount, of course. Why would he? So that he could be an even bigger business failure, while she continued to be successful and he became more unworthy of such greatness that rivaled the Harvest Goddess herself? Actually, she was better than the Harvest Goddess in his opinion.

Won would have mentally kicked himself forever if he refused that feather and even more so if he accepted it. However, even if his confidence wasn't exactly going up by receiving the blue symbol of nonexistent love, he would be insane to refuse it. He accepted it happily as if he thought he deserved it and even acted as if it was her who was hardly worthy. Together forever...

Why did she give him the blue feather? Won of all people? The farmer didn't know. Maybe because Zack tried to get them together, insisting that if they didn't get married the other would marry someone else. Right... The only man she ever loved was gone far away and she couldn't bring herself to chase him. It didn't matter anymore, it was too late. It was a regret that she would carry forever even if she pretended to move on. As for Won, well... he wasn't exactly the picture of friendliness.

Maybe it was the way Mary and Gray were, seemingly different yet it worked out. Maybe that atmosphere was making her light headed. Everything moved slowly, but inside Clair was spinning out of control with frustration and pain. She needed a happy event, any event, something to keep her going at least until Mary's baby arrived.

Then Clair could play aunt and keep busy after working on her farm. She was more skilled and faster now, full of stamina. She always finished everything early, even on the days when the Harvest Sprites were off drinking tea. Then she would take five baths in a row, just to pass the time away. She had already watched every TV series that reached the air waves of that small remote town, she needed entertainment.

Then there was the news of Elli's approaching wedding to the Doctor, more happiness that she couldn't enjoy. Clair, the seemingly eternally single farm girl even after marriage, found peace in the festivals. She was always the brightest star that everyone adored. Then it ended and emptiness settled in.

Clair found consolation in Popuri, childish, carefree, Popuri. But it didn't last long, Clair wanted out of her life more than Popuri wanted from her own. Then there was Ann, it destroyed Clair to watch the heartbroken Ann go about a routine with no thoughts, just a routine. Clair wanted to be like Popuri, but couldn't, and she didn't want to be like Ann, but she was. Clair was lost.

The farmer sighed, at least she had someone. She shouldn't be so worried; she was married, at least... So she really shouldn't still feel lonely and she most certainly shouldn't stare at the man similar to Cliff with her mouth hanging open and tears cascading from her eyes forming a river down her cheeks. She was paralyzed until Popuri; her pink haired savior, dragged her away.

The vacation house that Clair had Gotz build was the closest, and Popuri needed to help Clair conceal herself from prying eyes immediately. "That was him! That was him!" The farm girl was in hysterics and Popuri had no idea of what to do.

"Clair calm down! Just try to... You should... I don't know what to do!" Popuri had never seen anyone become so broken in a matter of seconds. But it wasn't just seconds; it was something that was choking Clair ever since Cliff left.

"If I had gone with him, if I had left this town behind... I wanted to but I couldn't. I couldn't do it. Why?"

"Because this is your home," Popuri's answer was simple and to the point, yet it carried a lot of meaning and a lot of truth. "I can't leave it either, I thought about it, but I didn't leave. I didn't chase Kai and I stopped stressing about it. People can't have everything they want; sometimes you have to choose what you want the most. If you make a mistake and regret your choice, you still have to move on and make the best of it."

Clair stared at Popuri as if it was the first time she saw someone with natural pink hair. That sounded grown up, she was childish and sheltered on the outside, but inside, Popuri had matured. Clair's sobbing became quiet and her hysterics ended, even if she still cried softly. She searched for a pen and paper in a drawer and wrote. "Popuri, could you please give this note to the Harvest Sprites?"

Popuri was confused. "Sure, but why so suddenly?"

"I'm not going back to the farm so I need them to take care of the animals. Also, please tell Won to come over here. Take my hammer from the tool box and hit him if he refuses." Clair spoke in all seriousness.

Popuri looked at her with wide eyes and refused the house keys Clair was offering. "I know it won't be easy to get Won to leave his shop but hitting him with a hammer... It's not really my place. Besides, it sounds to me like you're planning to hide in here until he leaves."

"Which I am," Clair confirmed it. She wasn't going to look at Cliff, it was too painful. "I should be crying on my husband's shoulder now, even if I'm crying for another man."

Popuri stood there quietly for the longest time. Finally, she breathed deeply and left. A little later Popuri returned with her sister-in-law, Karen, who had married Rick not long ago. "Relax, the Harvest Sprites read your letter and said they would take care of everything." Popuri spoke.

"Now we're going to take care of you." Clair didn't like Karen's tone. "It's your choice but we're with you all the way. Ann would be mad, Elli would disapprove and Mary would be horrified."

"What are you talking about?" Clair asked unsure.

"Don't worry, we'll make you irresistibly beautiful, even prettier than the Harvest Goddess!" Popuri cheered.

"And we'll distract Aja the witch!" Karen made a determined pose.

"Aja?" Clair wondered what in the world did she have to do with this. The farmer had not even met Duke and Manna's daughter, who left before she arrived at Mineral Town.

"He'll be yours," Popuri giggled.

"We're on your side so don't worry. No one needs to know. Rumors travel fast, but we'll cover for you, and besides, the amazing star of the festivals wouldn't do such a thing. Use that reputation to your advantage and enjoy." As far as Clair knew, Karen spoke in riddles.

The farmer shook her head. "What in the world are you talking about?"

"Cliff, of course," Popuri smiled mischievously.

"We'll get rid of that witch who stole him away, Aja. Won is not a problem; he won't notice a thing unless it's related to his inventory. Well then shall we begin?" Karen asked.

Clair stared in confusion and then in disbelief as the wheels in her head began to turn. "You want me to date Cliff? To have an affair?" The two girls nodded. "But I'm married and so is he, right?" Aja, it was Aja, Cliff's wife, it must have been her, what Kai didn't want to tell her. Clair always asked him about the city and if he had seen Cliff. He had seen Cliff but didn't give her the complete update. She didn't insist, maybe deep down she knew and didn't want to hear it.

Popuri and Karen sat left and right from Clair on her vacation house bed in Mineral Town. "If you do it we're with you." Karen assured her and Popuri agreed.

"I can't do that... As much as I still miss Cliff, as much as it hurts. I tried to move on. I didn't chase him like I should have. It's been too late for a long time. It's best to be quiet; it's profitable as Won would say. Profit, a benefit... Won keeps me company and I... I'm just there, but we're together. We don't talk about these things. Silence is best sometimes. Silence cursed me and silence will save me. I can't mess up Cliff's life or mess up my own life further. Duke and Manna must be happy and Aja better be good to Cliff. She better make him happy or the Grim Reaper himself will fear me and my scythe." Clair was actually serious; if Aja hurt Cliff she would do something crazy.

Popuri and Karen tried to help cheer Clair by bashing Aja and reminiscing over the good times of the past. The slumber parties, the late night cooking, Popuri's secret crush on Zack and the way the pink haired girl didn't allow it to stress her. Of course they never actually expected Clair to agree with their secret affair plans and they would have been disappointed if she did.

Then there was a knock on the door. "Clair?" That was Won knocking on the door, he didn't even have a spare key for the vacation house. He had a key for the farm house but not Clair's private get away where he had never set foot before.

"I don't want to buy any apples!" Clair half yelled. She would rather focus on her friends' efforts to make her feel better and not think about her husband and his need to try to sell her apples in the worst of times.

"I'm not here to sell apples," Won replied.

"It's okay Clair, you should let him in. I'm sure he just wants to apologize for being such a big idiot, beg your forgiveness and try to cheer you up." Popuri exchanged a knowing look with Karen.

Karen looked at her watch. "Right on time, as we instructed. You need to make the best of what you have Clair, and you have two very scary friends."

Clair smiled; it was her first real smile in a long time. "Were you threatening my husband? You girls are the best!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Profit 05: Friendly Silence

Clair's Point of View

"I did that after all." Popuri's eyes open wide in disbelief and Karen smiles mischievously at my confession. The three of us are in the farm house now, a day after the Cliff disaster and the drama in the vacation house.

"So... how was it?" I have the feeling that I'm blissfully unaware of the true meaning of Karen's words.

"Terrible of course, to cry in my husband's arms over another man... He was obviously uncomfortable, he just wanted to disappear, I'm sure!" What I don't know is if he wanted to leave because he was hurt or because he might be missing customers back at the shop, probably the second. Karen looks disappointed and Popuri, who had started looking a little pale, recovered her normal color. Then it sunk in... "Gutter!" I cannot fully word what I have concluded they were thinking, but I'm pretty sure they dived into the gutter. They laugh and I change the subject. "So Popuri, how's your crush on Zack?"

The pink haired girl shrugged displaying a carefree nature I almost envy. "Fine, I suppose. It's fading away nicely."

"Fading away?" Here I thought I wasn't the only one with a love dilemma.

"Yes, just as I thought. I can't seem to hold on to a crush for too long..." Scratch the part about almost envying Popuri, I'm practically turning green over here!

"I've had the same crush for years, ever since I was little." Now Karen was married to that crush, Popuri's brother Rick. I always knew they were perfect for each other. Why can't I have a happy ending?

There's a knock on the door. It must be another of the girls, as I am sure word has gotten around that I am in need of group therapy. I open the door and I was right. "Hi Mary, come in."

Hellos are exchanged and Mary settles into the couch. Her pregnancy is rather obvious now; the baby will be coming in less than a month. "I brought this, it's a gift."

I receive the book Mary has given me and my face starts to change colors with red being the dominant shade. "This looks like a really romantic novel..."

"On the same subject, how was your honey moon? It's been a long time and you never told us." I don't think I'm following Karen's train of thought and quite frankly, I don't think I want to. Where is she going with those questions?

"She means... well." Mary tilts her head towards the little table next to the couch where I placed the novel.

It takes me a moment to process what they mean; here I thought they were asking about the actual island resort. Then there's a knock on the door and I nearly jump out of my skin. It can't be Won, it's too early for him to be home. He missed work yesterday so I really don't think he'll miss it today. It must be Elli, again my guess is correct. "Hi Elli, come in." I greet her in the same way I've greeted all the girls.

As if on cue, Karen, Popuri and Mary start laughing. "What did I miss?" Elli spots the novel and gets the picture, "do continue."

I sit down and gulp, they're not going to let me out of this. The most pitiful part is I have no idea of how to answer. "To be perfectly honest, I got drunk at the wedding party and well, it's a blank." It was more of a weekend getaway than a honey moon, with the wedding taking place on Saturday, the hangover was on Sunday and I was back at work on Monday. Some getaway... I do distinctly remember drowning my sorrows in wine, wine that made me feel worse and made me think of Cliff, the man I couldn't marry.

They stare at me as if I were a strange bug. It is most uncomfortable. Please make it stop, I promise not to stare at bugs again. Then they laugh. "It's nothing new; you do spend a lot of time in that vacation house, so action must be minimal." Karen speaks as Popuri nods her agreement. The poultry farm is right across the street from my hideaway so they should know. Then again, even the Harvest Sprites would know, since everyone knows everything about everyone in this lovely little town.

"Didn't you ask Won what happened at the honey moon?" Elli inquired.

"I had too much of a hangover the next day to be concerned with anything else. And..." While I'm confessing I might as well say it... "I was afraid that if I asked what happened, Won would say something like 'you kept calling me Cliff while you were drunk', or something like that."

"Did you?" Popuri voices their collective question.

"Not that I remember, I certainly hope not." I most certainly hope I didn't and I'll be mortified for life if I did.

"Don't worry about it." Mary speaks gently. Is she showing pity or support? Does this mean she thinks I did call Won Cliff in my drunken state? Did I do such a thing at the wedding party? I hope not... "It's okay, whatever happened, happened." That's not very reassuring. "Besides, you have other things to think about." Their collective nod frightens me as Mary delivers the news. "Duke and Manna are inviting you to dinner tomorrow, Cliff and Aja will be there. They'll be returning to the city the next day. It would be rude to refuse the invitation. Won is expected to come as well, even if he hasn't really been too social in festivals and town events." Social? More like not there. But Won is the least of my worries right now...

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Profit 06: Silent Bad Day

Today has been a bad day and it all started at the stroke of midnight. My mind was occupied with having to attend dinner at Duke and Manna's house. I had no problems with them; the problem was that Cliff would be there, worse yet, his wife Aja would be there.

I needed to be prepared and in order to do that, the first thing I did was leave my rucksack at the farm house. I feel a bit odd without it, it's just so useful, but I can't take any tools to dinner and it seems more convenient to just leave the entire rucksack at home than to empty it.

This is not something done out of simple manners, I'm doing it to avoid becoming a murderer. I'm sure I'll get the urge to decapitate Aja and having a scythe conveniently sitting in my rucksack is dangerous.

The next step I took to prepare was a failed attempt at relaxing. I stayed at the vacation house because I needed some alone time, and in the privacy of my loneliness, I started reading Mary's novel. Spicy doesn't begin to cover it.

I had completely forgotten that after my little scene, in which I cried over Cliff on Won's shoulder, I had given my husband a spare key to the vacation house. When I thought I heard a sound, I ignored it, assuming it was the neighbor's and not my door being opened. When I felt a presence behind me and a warm breath on my neck as if someone was looking over my shoulder, I thought it was just my imagination, or maybe it was my body's strange way to respond to the romantic scene I was reading.

"I didn't know you liked to read this kind of things." I shrieked at the top of my lungs and instinctively threw the book at his face before I could stop myself.

-knock- -knock- -knock- The insistent knocking on the door brought forth a feeling of foreboding and with mounting dread, I opened it.

There stood Rick, with Karen and Popuri left and right. "Is everything okay?" They live across the narrow street of this small town so of course, they heard my scream. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if my scream echoed so loudly that even Carter in one end of Mineral Town, and Gotz in the other, both clearly heard me.

"Yes, everything is fine." I tried to smile, while Rick glared daggers at Won. He motioned for me to come outside for a moment and I did. "Did he hit you?"

"Pardon?"

"Did Won hit you?" Rick repeated the question that left me dumb and unable to produce an answer.

Then Karen laughed and replied for me. "Are you kidding? Won doesn't look like he has a death wish. Besides, everyone knows Clair is the violent one." Gee thanks.

I don't mean to brag, but I am capable of wielding a hammer half my size and twice my weight as if it were as light as a blue feather. Ironically, it is the blue feather that is truly heavy in a metaphorical way. Anyway, that doesn't mean I'm violent, temperamental sometimes, emotional sometimes, very emotional lately, but not violent... I think.

"Right, of course," Rick seems to agree, how wonderful.

"If you need anything we're right across the street." Popuri sleepily smiles.

I nod, thank them, apologize for waking them up and wish them a good night.

After Rick, Karen and Popuri return home, I go back inside to find Won sitting there reading the novel. I immediately snatch it from his hands as my face turns red. "It's Mary's novel. I just wanted to be supportive and read it because the author is my friend!"

They say that what starts well, ends well. If that's the case, then what starts badly, must end badly. After that, I didn't get a lot of sleep and I occupied myself working during most of the day. By dinner time, I was so drained both physically and mentally, that I could hardly stay on my feet.

The actual dinner at the winery is a blur to me and maybe it's best that way. I do remember being on the verge of tears several times, but I am proud to declare I didn't cry. I managed to make polite conversation with everyone, polite neutral conversation in which my past relationship with Cliff was not to be mentioned or alluded to in any way. Somehow I survived, somehow they all survived, even Aja.

The food was good but the atmosphere was tense and torturous. I was relieved when it ended and I finally returned to the farm house with Won. He behaved rather well, possibly because of Karen, Rick, Popuri and Zack's death threats. Overall, I concluded that what starts badly doesn't necessarily end badly. At least that's what I thought until my tired body refused to rest, being forced to stay awake by guilt.

I married Won out of heartbreak and loneliness. He married me possibly for money. I pretended that he cared, it made me feel better. Then I contradicted all of that by becoming drunk at the wedding party to drown the sorrow of not being able to marry Cliff. Soon after, I spent my sad excuse of a honey moon recovering from a hangover. I never got around to thank Won for guiding me out of the party, to the boat and to the hotel at that island resort we went to. I didn't want to hear about what I could have said or done under the heavy influence of alcohol.

Next, I started sleeping over at the vacation house and did not give Won a key to that house until recently. I only came to the farm on special occasions, out of obligation. The strawberry on top had to be practically forcing Won to comfort me while I cried for Cliff. While I selfishly imagined that Won was another man, I failed to see that, even if he is a greedy jerk, he has feelings too.

I sigh, get out of my small bed and get into the big one where Won is. "Won, are you awake?"

"Hmm..."

"I'm sorry."

"Why?"

"For being inconsiderate and selfish."

"Never mind, Zack took care of the shop that day."

"Not that!" Of course, if it doesn't cost money, it doesn't count.

Won looked confused and actually opened his sleepy eyes now. "What did you do?"

"Never mind, go to sleep." I'll leave him with the doubt, he deserves it.

End POV

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Profit 07: Silent Lies

Cliff and Aja returned to the city, time passed, Popuri's crush on Zack faded away, time continued to pass, Karen announced that she was pregnant, Popuri's crush on Kai returned with the summer and Mary's baby was born. All in all, life went on, the storm had long since passed and panic had faded into a peaceful, almost comfortable, routine, with a few special events here and there to keep it interesting.

"He's so cute!" Clair contemplated the small child Mary held in her arms. Gray was near his wife, both of them constantly smiling.

"Do you want to hold him?" Mary asked.

Clair nodded energetically and extended her arms. The child was adorable, so small and cute that Clair almost cried. Before she became an emotional wreck, because unlike Mary, and soon Karen, she didn't have a child of her own, the farmer gave the baby back to his mother and excused herself.

"She wants to have a baby," Elli correctly concluded. Elli had recently gotten married and she wanted a child, Clair had been married for some time.

Mary nodded in agreement. "She just needs a little time to work things out, then maybe she'll be ready."

Gray and the Doctor exchanged confused looks. They had no idea what the two women were talking about. Both had assumed that Clair and Won didn't have any children simply because they decided not to have kids. The entire town knew of Clair's crush on Cliff that lasted long beyond her wedding vows to Won. They assumed she just didn't want any children in that situation; she only wanted the company of a husband. "You mean she's actually going to work things out?" The doctor asked.

Elli nodded and sighed. "I hope she does, a marriage without love can only last so long. I'm surprised they haven't divorced yet."

"But wasn't each other's company all that they wanted, not a family?" For a moment Gray thought he was falling behind in the gossip, but then again, the women of Mineral Town always seemed to hear the latest news first.

"That's how it started." Mary recalled. "Clair was lonely and Won just happened to be there. She's a dear friend but she can be a little impulsive sometimes." Had Clair been there she would have agreed with Mary.

"I wonder what her reaction would be to having a child?" With Elli's open question, a plan began to form.

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"I'm fine Elli, honestly." Clair wasn't sure what had gotten into Elli. She had told the nurse time and again that she felt perfectly fine.

Clair was in great shape and didn't tire easily. In fact, Clair was at Barley's farm when Elli had found her because he asked to borrow her hammer. When Clair went to deliver it, she watched the old man attempt to smash a boulder with it, just as Elli found her. "Let me give you a hand with that," Clair offered.

"If it's not too much trouble, I think I'm getting too old for this." Barley admitted.

With effortless ease, Clair lifted the heavy hammer above her head and with one strong hit, turned the boulder into pebbles. "Got any other boulders you want me to smash?"

"No, that was the only one. It mysteriously appeared right in the middle of the yard overnight for no reason. Thanks a lot for your help!" Either Barley really was getting old, or Clair possessed inhuman strength, probably the latter.

"No problem," Clair enjoyed helping the people of Mineral Town and giving them gifts on special occasions such as birthdays, or when ever she felt like it.

"You're strong, big sister!" May cheered.

Clair patted the little girl's head and smiled proudly. "If you take good care of yourself and help your grandpa around the farm, you'll grow up to be strong too."

"I will!" Seeing May reminded Clair of what had become obvious after meeting Mary and Gray's baby, she wanted a child of her own.

Elli approached. "Clair, I was looking for you. Maybe you're working too hard, you look a little pale. Why don't you come over to the clinic for an examination?"

Clair blinked in confusion. "But I feel fine..."

Barley laughed. "This young lady could very well be the long lost sister of Hercules for all we know." Elli's look told Barley that he wasn't helping and he tried to fix his mistake. "But you can never be too careful. Go on Clair, you should get a check up every now and then." That was how Clair ended up at the clinic.

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"I'm what?" Clair yelled so loudly that Jeff, who was in the waiting room, nearly had a heart attack. He wondered what in the world was happening in the examination room to make Clair yell like that. He would know soon enough, everything got around in that area; there were no secrets in Mineral Town.

"Pregnant," the Doctor repeated. "That is to say you are with child, expecting a baby, going to give birth in about-"

"I know what pregnant means and I know how long it takes to give birth." Clair interrupted his explanation. "I'm just... surprised." She shrugged, it wasn't impossible, it's not like she lived in the vacation house twenty-four seven, in fact she was at the farm house more often lately. She stood there waiting for her brain to process the information after the initial shock wore off. Then she screamed and startled not only Jeff once again, but also Elli and the Doctor.

"Are you alright?" Elli was starting to have second thoughts about tricking Clair into thinking she was pregnant, but the doubts quickly faded away when she realized that Clair had screamed in happiness, not horror.

"I'm fine, I'm fine! Great, actually, absolutely wonderful! Thanks a lot, I'm glad I came for an examination! You know what I want? I want chocolate, I'm going to go buy some chocolate!"

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As Clair happily skipped home, with her rucksack full of chocolate and a half eaten bar in her hand, she was in pure bliss. Who cares that she lost Cliff and he married Aja. Who cares that her child's father wasn't the man of her dreams. The point was, that she would have her own child to take care of, love and protect, and that made her happy. She had someone to dedicate her life to.

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Profit 08: Troublesome Silence

"I'm feeling a little guilty about lying to Clair." Elli confessed the next morning.

It seemed that Karen was not quite agreeing with the nurse's worry. "You worry too much."

Mary had come by to bring her baby for a check up and Karen went to pick up her dad's medicine. Jeff suffered from the incurable, yet treatable, constant belief of being sick, even if he wasn't. This condition could be treated with regular vitamins so that he would at least feel that he's doing something to get well. It was all in his imagination really.

"She will eventually figure out that it's not true." Mary pointed out. It was only a matter of time.

"By then it might even become true. We're helping them make the best out of their marriage." Karen felt confident that they were doing the right thing and that some day, Clair would thank them, and perhaps even Won would thank them.

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Clair had not yet informed Won of the news. She had planned to make a big dinner like the ones they had during festival days, except this time instead of monotonously wishing each other a happy whatever and eating quietly, there would actually be real happiness involved.

Clair was focused on the child; she had to leave her heartbreak behind if she was going to take care of a baby. Thinking that it was for the baby, she tried to stay in the best mood possible. She would still work at the farm without pushing herself. It wasn't hard since she was used to it, but she already had a plan to start stocking up on flour and hire the Harvest Sprites to take care of the farm when her condition started to show.

Maybe she just needed a little push towards healing, or just something to focus on to get her mind off the heartbreak and frustration that filled her life until recently.

That night, Clair told Won the news. She was so happy thinking about her child that she forgot her heartbreak, she forgot her marriage troubles and she failed to notice that her husband was choking on the curry rice, which she had forgotten was Cliff's, not Won's, favorite.

A child by no means would fix the situation, but sometimes couples like to believe it would. Clair was once again looking forward to the possibility of having a happy family of her own, something that a few days ago she had thought would never happen.

Won had to fend for himself and fight the curry reaper with apple juice, which he really did like. When he was finally able to breathe again, many thoughts filled his mind, now that he could think of something other than survival.

Babies came with many expenses and that was not good. On the other hand, Clair would most likely spoil the child and shower him or her with gifts, because the farmer loved giving gifts, so maybe it wouldn't be too expensive for Won. He never thought about children, he never liked them much. With their puny little allowances, kids were not good customers. But the fact still stood that he was going to be a father, whether he wanted to or not, so he made an effort to look on the bright side... Yes, he would look on the bright side, as soon as he found out what it was.

"Aren't you happy?" It was rather obvious what Clair wanted to hear.

Won didn't have the guts to tell her otherwise, or maybe it was survival instinct. "Yes! Very happy, so happy I'm speechless!"

"What do you think it is? A boy or a girl?" Cheerful as she was, Clair was in a talkative mood.

"I don't know," Won replied honestly. His mind was racing and he simply didn't know what to do.

"I think it's a girl." Clair patted her abdomen, which in reality contained nothing but her meal.

"If you say so..." It was as good a guess as any... Which were most expensive, girls or boys? If Won had to take a guess, he would say girls. He mentally kicked himself and continued replying to all of Clair's chatter with little enthusiasm, yet she did not notice. In her eyes, he was just as joyful as she was.

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The next day, Won told Zack about the news. "Clair is having a child..."

Of course Zack already knew, but he made it a point to act surprised. "That's great! Congratulations!" He was genuinely happy for them.

"That is not a good thing," Won sadly clarified.

"Why not? You don't like kids? Well this is your child so you'll like it, I mean him or her."

Won shook his head and got everything set up for business that day. Time slowly passed in silence and sometime in the middle of the afternoon, Won finally broke the silence. "I really have no idea..."

"I see..." Won didn't finish, but Zack got the message, Won was at a loss for what to do to receive the supposedly coming child. "You're totally confused and lost. Well I have no experience in this, so I might not be of much help, but try to be happy about it, okay?" It was the only advice Zack could offer and it wasn't working.

"Easier said than done, it was all convenient and profitable and we had an agreement." Won was unsure about what kind of agreement they had as it wasn't even verbal, let alone written, but it existed. Something along the lines of mutual, silent profitability and children were not included.

"What are you talking about?" Zack asked, though he knew, everyone knew. Won was meant to keep Clair company and Clair would cut his living expenses by providing a free roof over his head and food.

"I don't think I'll be getting any customers today. I'm going for a walk." It was very strange for Won to make such a choice, but Zack did not attempt to stop him.

Zack simply assumed that Won needed time to assimilate the situation, and if the thought of Clair's baby occupied his mind more than the shop, then it was probably a good sign. At least that's what the shipper thought. He knew there was no such baby, the entire town knew except for Clair and Won.

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Profit 09: Silent Doubts

"Zack! Zack wait!"

Zack stopped, frozen in place. He took a deep breath and seemed to regain the ability to move. Slowly and gently, Zack put down the wooden crate filled with supplies that would be resold in the super market. Calmly and naturally, he hopped from his boat to the dock and casually walked towards Won.

For a moment Won considered walking towards Zack and asking him for a ride back to Mineral Town. Then, a mental picture appeared in his mind, it was the image of an angry Zack. Won could see that Zack was just about to explode like a time bomb and it was not healthy to stick around to witness it.

Won stepped back. "I... ah..." 'I stowed away on your boat two weeks ago because I knew you wouldn't let me leave, but I changed my mind and want to go back to Mineral Town,' did not sound like an appropriate thing to say.

With nothing but a deadly glare as a warning, Zack started running. Won's survival instinct kicked in and he knew he better move, but he remained rooted to the spot. He closed his eyes and cringed, waiting for his inevitable fate.

"I'm angry at you! Angry and disappointed!" Zack yelled at the top of his lungs.

Won blinked. "That's it?" It was probably not the best thing to say.

"Doesn't that count?!" It was like insult on injury for Zack.

"No, I mean yes! What I mean is... You're not going to try to beat me to a bloody pulp? "

Now it was Zack's turn to blink in surprise and confusion. "You're so insensitive." He spoke with a completely serious expression and a hint of hurt. His words included both him and Clair.

"It wouldn't be the first time I hear that," Won admitted, yet ironically he hadn't heard it from Clair. She didn't really complain about his attitude.

"I'm not going to fight with you, assuming that you want a ride back to Mineral Town." Zack always delivered the goods from Mineral Town to the large city port east of Mineral Beach. He sold produce from the farms and bought products to supply the super market.

"I'm going, that's why I called you." It had been two weeks since Won disappeared and now he reappeared, just like that.

Zack nodded in silence and went back to the boat. The ride progressed quietly most of the way, until Mineral Town could be seen on the horizon; then Zack ended the silence. "Why did you leave?"

'I was unsure if staying would be profitable,' Won almost said. He held back the thoughts and they never became words. "I needed to think." That sounded neutral enough to be spoken.

"About profits?" Won did not reply. Zack did not understand that silence was best, peaceful silence. The ship approached the dock and came to a full stop. Zack anchored at Mineral Beach and both men got off the boat. "That's not why Clair was upset."

"What do you mean?" Won inquired.

"Ask her yourself." It was the last thing Zack voiced that night, before going inside his house.

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Won returned to the farm house. Luckily, he had remembered to take his keys even if he left in a hurry. He stood at the door for a moment and finally opened it. He wondered about what Clair would say when she saw him, but he never expected for the first word out of her mouth to be "ouch!"

"Are you alright?" Won walked across the house to the kitchen, making sure not to step on the sleeping puppy that was right in the middle of his path. The last time he accidentally stepped on that mutt's tail it was quite hard to get its little teeth off his ankle, but putting up with an upset, angry Clair was worse.

"Yeah, I'm fine; I just burned myself a little. No big deal." It was obvious that Clair was surprised to see Won just walk in like that, she was always careful in the kitchen. Or maybe there was more to it than the surprise.

"What are you making?" Won asked.

"Apple pie," Clair replied. It felt odd to have such a conversation with Won. It was casual, spontaneous and it had nothing to do with profits, sales, seeds or apples being sold. There were apples, but the only apples mentioned were the ones in the pie.

"I like apple pie," Won commented. Silence settled for a moment and Clair's expression changed. As much as she somehow liked the small talk, there were other things that needed to be said. "You're unhappy." It wouldn't be the first time he noticed something like this, despite Clair's frequent forced smiles. One did not have to be too observant to see she was upset.

"I have bad news." Clair spoke softly. She motioned for Won to follow her to the living room while she left the pie to bake in the oven.

As Won joined Clair sitting on the couch, he wondered if the bad news included a divorce. They weren't exactly a happy couple, even if they didn't really fight. In the past, Clair had often chosen to live at the vacation house, though lately that was starting to change. Then Won disappeared for weeks. Maybe she just gave up.

"It was a false alarm, there was a mistake on the tests and I'm not having a baby." Clair's voice was trembling and her eyes were watery.

Won was somewhat relieved but also puzzled. Sure Clair was upset because of how things turned out. But even then it was odd that she hadn't mentioned his two week disappearance. "Business trip," Won half lied about it, just to clarify that he wasn't planning to leave and never return, though in reality the thought had been quite present in his mind.

"I thought as much. You can go." Clair smiled, sad yet relieved, as if a heavy weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

"What do you mean?" Won honestly wasn't sure.

"You can go... leave, go on business trips or whatever it is you want to do. You don't need to stay here, I would prefer if you didn't. You can take the vacation house, it's yours. I don't care about paper work so our marriage can stay as it is. It's easier this way if I live at the farm house, since I need to be here to take care of things and everything."

"You're kicking me out?" There was no reply to Won's question. "Alright, I'll go, but I don't need the vacation house since I'm not staying in Mineral Town." He was actually surprised at himself that he refused the house. Even if he didn't stay, he could have sold it.

"Okay..."

"Right..." He left.

Once Won was out of the house, Karen and Popuri crawled out from under the bed. "This is supposed to help me, how?" Clair asked bitterly.

"He was supposed to stay and apologize," Karen tried to explain.

"The thought of losing you should have been enough to make him stop taking you for granted," Popuri added.

Clair sighed, with all the drama she had been through, she didn't feel like crying anymore. She only felt numb.

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Profit 10: Silent Matchmaker

"Who's idea was this?" Won asked while contemplating the farm, it looked bigger than ever today.

"It was Mineral Town's idea. I'm sure everyone had a say in it." In such a small town, that was how things worked. After Won left when Claire asked him to, the farmer didn't expect to see him back at Mineral Town ever again, let alone the next morning.

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There he was, at her door at six am sharp, wanting to sell apples. She was tempted to slam the door shut, but he saw it coming and quickly stated his business. "I have a special offer for you. Three delicious apples! These are no ordinary apples, they're..." Won drew a blank, he had completely forgotten his apples' names and for his life he wasn't able to remember them. Even if the names were sometimes hard to remember, he had never blanked out like that before. "Special, they're special! Three apples for..." Was Clair getting impatient? Why hadn't she moved her hand from the door knob as if being prepared to close it any second? "For the very special trade-price of one slice of apple pie." It was as ridiculous as it sounded and it was not a good deal.

Clair paused, she observed Won then laughed. "Does that translate to I'm sorry I was such a jerk, please forgive me?"

Won mentally kicked himself for messing up a possible sale. He wasn't sure what was wrong with him. Oh well, he hadn't slept at all during the previous night and he could use a slice of pie in the morning to make himself wake up and be ready for a day of hard work. Clair was a pretty good cook.

Before Won could actually reply, Clair gave in and stepped back into the house. "Come in, I haven't had breakfast yet anyway."

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The next day, a mysterious letter was found in the mailbox suggesting that married couples switched jobs for one day every now and then. Clair wasn't sure who wrote it, but she had reasons to suspect the involvement of the entire town, or at least the young women who had been closely following her story. Perhaps it was Popuri and Karen's way to fix the events that occurred on Won's return.

The farm work didn't look too easy, but Won couldn't waste the chance to make the kind of profits Clair made, even if it was only for one day. "Selling apples and seeds is not easy, but you have to be persistent, don't worry and challenge."

"I'll try my best." Clair headed off to Zack's house where Won's merchandise was kept. Maybe a change in the routine would be good for her.

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As the day rolled by, Clair realized that Won's job wasn't as hard as he claimed. Or maybe people just liked her best and would buy things even if they didn't truly need them. Clair felt guilty, but it wasn't like she could stop them, denying the sales would be worse in their eyes.

During the course of the day, Clair had seen everyone from Mineral Town when she went to their homes to sell apples at a decent price, though they still insisted on paying the exaggerated prices Won usually charged. Clair asked everyone about the letter and they all denied it. What intrigued her the most was that the townspeople showed no signs of hiding the truth. Then who wrote that letter?

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Won's day did not go as smoothly as Clair's. She had left him with a note listing instructions and things to do, and a box full of tools. He picked up the apples that fell from the tree and decided to keep them for when he returned to his normal job, Clair probably wouldn't mind. It was a wise choice to avoid the bee hive. He had considered the possibility of disturbing the bees with his inexperience in collecting honey and that could prove disastrous.

The list included brushing the animals, which wasn't too hard yet time consuming, and talking to the animals. Won felt like a complete idiot doing it, but he had seen Clair talk to her livestock during the holidays when he stayed home, and he didn't know anything about farming so he assumed it was somehow necessary.

"Hello cow..." The cow glared. Won consulted the notes and realized that he was supposed to call the animals by their names. He had no idea how Clair could recognize them, but he certainly couldn't. "Sorry cow but I'm a rookie at this. Be a good cow and produce lots of milk, okay?" The cow still looked slightly annoyed because she wasn't called by her name, but she made no big deal out of it.

After collecting the milk, it was already mid day and Won had only managed to snag three apples, brush the cows, sheep and horse, and milk the cows. He also needed to obtain some wool from the sheep. He started on one but soon gave up, it was a waste. He was trying to be careful not to hurt the sheep, because Clair would surely have his head if he did, but that caused him to cut tiny peaces of wool little by little and it just wasn't working. He decided that it was best to let Clair handle that the next day; he doubted he could make any profits that way, and it would be terribly mean to waste Clair's possible profits.

Taking care of the chickens proved to be very time consuming. Won decided to skip out on picking up each chicken at least once, as the list said, and instead focused on making mayonnaise and placing it into the shipping box. Luckily the mayonnaise maker wasn't too hard to use and it had instructions.

It was the first day of Fall and the chores listed included getting rid of the dried up vegetation, getting the soil ready to plant new seeds, planting them and watering. Won remembered those days when he left at five am and saw the dried up farm, then when he returned from work that evening, the withered plants were gone and Clair was finishing watering everything.

How did she manage to do all that, plus taking care of the animals and having time for a trip into town to buy supplies, Won did not know. What he did know, was that Clair's farming tools were rather heavy. He didn't understand how she ran around with a full rucksack which often contained several tools, and was still able to easily jump over fences.

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That evening, when Clair was walking home, Zack was on his way back from getting the farm products and told her of what he had just seen. Clearly, Won was not a very good farmer, though Clair was somewhat amused being reminded of her days as a rookie farmer.

By the time Clair arrived at the farm, Won was no longer battling it out against dried plants with a scythe as Zack said, instead he was passed out on the ground looking very blue. Good thing Clair had a few Bodigizers and Turbojolts, which was enough to give Won just enough energy to drag himself inside the house.

Despite the fact that the day had felt a bit odd and awkward, Clair decided that it wasn't bad. Tomorrow she would have a busy day at the farm to get things running for the season, but she didn't really mind. She only wished she knew where that letter came from.

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Profit 11: Silent Love

Clair's Point of View

Yesterday I found out that Ann and Harris are dating. Because of our past rivalry for Cliff, we never became too close, but overall she's a nice girl. It's too bad that even after Cliff left we didn't really become close. Maybe it was too late, or maybe she thought that if I hadn't interfered, then maybe she could have gotten him to stay where I couldn't. Who knows what she was thinking, who knows what anyone is thinking. We all know what goes on in everyone's life, but each mind is a whole new world.

With time I've realized that farming is easier than I thought, or maybe I just got better at it. I thought I was good at interpreting people. I can always tell what each person likes for a gift and I'm rarely wrong. Yet, when it comes to certain people, specific situations and some occasions, I don't know. I suppose some people are harder to read than others and some situations are easier to interpret than others.

Harris was heartbroken too. I should have thought of how he felt seeing Aja with Cliff. Though we're not extremely close, we're friends, not close friends, but friends. He never showed it, his heartbreak, but it was there and I didn't see it until I was looking for it.

I finally remembered what I had heard about Harris and Aja and searched for any signs of sadness, then I found a well hidden look of empty sorrow in his eyes. He didn't chase after Aja and I had not chased after Cliff. Harris and I are similar in that sense.

For me it seems that life lets me move a step forward only when it intends to knock me back two. I shouldn't complain; I have a great farm, wonderful friends, a home, good health and a husband, even if he has been so quiet lately I barely notice his presence. He seems to be lost in thought a lot; it makes me wonder if he's debating if he should stay or leave.

Of course I'm not the only one with problems. Love troubles seem to reign supreme in Mineral Town, I'm surprised I didn't notice it before. While Ann is doing well now that she has found someone, Popuri sunk into a state of depression when Kai arrived, even though it isn't summer. She was happy to see him until he introduced his fiance.

"I liked the way things were. I liked that time didn't seem to move in this town." Popuri had told Karen and me, with tears in her eyes. "He never really liked it. This was just a getaway for Kai, but if he moved away from his family, then he wouldn't need a getaway. I was sad when my friends started getting married, I didn't say anything because I didn't want to sound selfish, but I didn't want things to change. Then I was happy because things didn't change as much as I feared. We still had our girls' nights out at Mineral Beach and our slumber parties at the vacation house. I was calm and happy again. My crushes came and went with the seasons and I was okay with that, but now... Now I'm all alone. Everyone will move on and I'll be by myself, left behind."

As much as Karen and I tried to console Popuri and assure her that we would not abandon her, her heartbreak was too much. She had decided that she wanted to move forward, she wanted to walk into the next stage of her life and Zack was there for her.

Time continued to pass even if we didn't feel it. I still remember the look on Zack's face when he was walking Popuri home one evening. Rick was out watering some corn he planted. Karen was there too, with Lillia who seemed to be enjoying the evening breeze. I gave into the gossipy temptations of Mineral Town and watched from the window of my vacation house, Won was actually there too.

We watched quietly as Lillia spoke. From what I could hear she mentioned something about thinking of Zack as another son and how happy she was that he was taking good care of Popuri. Zack was shocked. It was true that Lillia was much older than him, in fact he's closer in age to her daughter, but it still shocked him. It was a misunderstanding that he didn't have the heart to clear up, for Lillia's sake, but most of all for Popuri's sake.

The seasons moved on and I noticed just how dedicated Zack could be. It seemed that he had started getting used to the idea of Lillia as a mother in law and it started becoming as if his past little boy crush never happened. Popuri occupied his every thought.

Eventually, Stu and May became teenagers. Eventually Mary and Gray's baby became a child, eventually Karen and Rick's baby became a child as well. Eventually Ann and Harris got married and a little later, eventually, Popuri and Zack got married too. Eventually Cliff and Aja returned for a visit with the cutest little boy, the image of his father. Somehow, I found it in my heart to be happy for them.

xoxox xox xoxox

"You've been coming to see me a lot lately, and you've brought me very nice flower offerings." I heard the Harvest Goddess' voice and froze, not because of her, but because of who she was talking to.

"I heard you know a lot of things," Won spoke. He looked a little surprised. I was surprised too when the Harvest Goddess actually stayed to talk to me for a few minutes for the first time, instead of thanking me for the offering and leaving. My guess is that it's the same for Won. I hid in the little hut next to the hot spring and listened. I'm pretty sure the Harvest Goddess knew I was there but Won didn't.

The Harvest Goddess looked towards my hiding place for a brief moment and smiled. Then she looked back at Won as to not give away my location. "Yes, but I've already tried to help. I thought having the two of you switch jobs for a day was a creative way to help you bond, since the dreams weren't helping." She was the one who wrote that letter! I never would have guessed.

"That was your plan? What dreams? You mean the nightmares? You were responsible for that?" Won never mentioned any nightmares to me.

"I was just trying to make you realize you don't want to lose Clair, but not all the dreams were bad. Some were happy, except I don't think you ever believed they could come true so that must have made them sad. The good dreams won't come true unless you try to make things better. If you try, then maybe things will improve."

"That doesn't answer my question," I had not heard Won state his question. I supposed he thought the goddess must already know.

"If you want to know what's best for Clair, then you should ask Clair; that is if you haven't figured it out yet. She's a nice girl and not too hard to please if you show you care." With those words of advice, the Harvest Goddess was gone and I was in shock, but it was a happy kind of shock.

xoxox xox xoxox

"You've been smiling a lot."

"I'm happy; Mineral Town is filled with happiness now." I knew that a few things would still go amiss every now and then, but it all worked out. It was alright, I've learned to appreciate life and be thankful for what I have. "Aren't you happy? Not even a little? Smile for me." It was the first time I saw him smile a real smile without having to sell something to achieve it. It was a caring smile, something I wished to see more often, I got my wish eventually.

xoxox xox xoxox

"How long has it been?"

"Hmm?" I was a bit tired and had half fallen asleep watching TV, with my head resting on my husband's shoulder. I'm not sure when we started getting along better or when the tension and bittersweet feelings melted into a peace akin to happiness. Maybe it was happiness.

"Since we got married?"

"Five years tomorrow." And the star in my calendar reminded me of that every day this season, as the anniversary approached. I had an odd feeling, I can't quite describe it, but I felt as if something was to come, a turning point in my life.

Slowly, Won took my left hand, removed the golden band from my ring finger and placed it on the coffee table. For a split second my heart stopped, then it started beating again faster than ever. For a short moment I thought this meant he was leaving and I didn't want that. Then he placed another ring on my finger, a golden ring with the words 'I love you' engraved and the biggest diamond I've ever laid eyes on. "It's midnight Clair, happy anniversary."

I'm not sure if what shocked me more was the way he did this, the diamond or the words engraved on the ring. I have some experience in mining and I can tell when a jewel is real, oh it was real alright, real and extremely rare, any woman's dream ring. Actually, somehow, the situation surprised me more than the ring, and the words even more so. I knew Won had eventually come to truly care about me, but to give me this gift at precisely midnight with such a message was something I didn't expect.

Everything is falling into place at last. He didn't expect me to reply to his message with a mutual feeling, I could tell he was a bit surprised when I did, and we shared the happy moment.

xoxox xox xoxox

This ring on my finger is a ring given to me the right way, with love, not just because it's a formality. I still kept my old ring, a thin band of gold to remind me of how this all started. During work I wear my new ring on a chain around my neck so I won't expose it to the farm work. Then, after I'm done with work, it goes on my finger again. It's funny how life can take so many unexpected twists and turns. Some people believe that there are things best left to silence, but in the end, if I've learned something from all of this, it's that sincerity is best. After all, silence may be golden, but there are things that are more precious than gold.

End

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