Author's Note: It has been a long time since I had last played Harvest Moon: Magical Melody. Quite a long time. It used to be my favorite game of all time. Then, around the onset of high school, I just stopped playing it. It was probably because of being more busy, but it made me sad, looking back. And you know what? I realized that if time were kept while you were gone, that all my animals and plants would be long dead. And that one boy that I wanted to marry? He probably would have forgotten me and moved on. So, thinking about that, I wrote this short story about what it would be like for my character coming back to her ranch after all these years.
I let the truck coast down the hill into the sleepy town. The sun was only just starting to peek over the tops of the hills, and it had yet to dispel the morning mist. I rolled the windows down, enjoying the scent of the cool air. In a short while everyone would be awake, doing their morning chores and starting their day. But for now I was alone, and that was fine with me. I wanted a little time to myself for this sort of homecoming.
I passed the town square, empty of course, and slowly wound my way across the bridge and down towards the shore. As the air started to get that wonderful salty smell, I finally turned down the lane to the largest plot in town- Mist Ranch. ...my ranch. It had been years since I had been here. I parked the truck in front of the two story farm house, and sat in the silence. The memories that this image brought back... They were as deeply imbued in the timbers as the salt was. I finally swallowed my unfounded nervous emotions, and got out of the truck. The key easily undid the lock, and the door opened without a sound. I was surprised. I thought that the salty air would have gnawed away some at the hinges by now. Inside it was like stepping into a time capsule. Everything was exactly where I had left it. I walked up the stairs. My kitchenette and bedroom were still all in place. Even the appliances were sitting on the counters where I had left them. I gave a sad smile as I felt the nostalgia. It was like I had never left. I closed my eyes, picturing stepping out the back door and seeing the pasture and hay fields. My little garden would be full of tomatoes and corn, while the feed grass would be tall and green. The chickens would just be coming out of the coop while the cows, sheep, and horses would start grazing in the pasture. The cows would be lowing, as it was almost time for the morning milking. Such a long, low sound...
Mmmoooooooo... My eyes blinked open. I couldn't have just Imagined that, could I? I walked back downstairs, keeping as quiet as I could to listen for other sounds. It was pretty hard though, as my heart seemed to be filling my ears. I finally reached the back door, and after some fumbling I got it open. I was met with a wall of corn stalks, cabbage heads, and tomato cages. I stopped dead. These shouldn't have been here. Or, at the very least, not in this obviously intentional manner. These were not "volunteers" as my mom used to call the random wild plants that would pop up in a garden. Cluu- clu- clu-uck. I started running, needing to see into the pasture proper. I reached the fence, and stopped dead. There in the pasture were an assortment of animals. They were all ambling about, waking up and chewing on the dew-covered grass. I looked to the side, and saw that the fields were full of hay, the kind that would provide the winter fodder for the livestock. I couldn't believe it. This shouldn't have been possible. My ranch should have been long dead and abandoned.
I hopped the fence, deciding to take the quickest route to the barn. The sheep scattered as I approached, flocks always tending to be flighty. I got closer to the barn door, and as I was almost to it I was bumped into by the cows attempting to get in. A pileup ensued as I tried to get out of the way and the creatures bottlenecked getting through the barn doors.
"Hey, what's the hold up?" I heard a deep voice call from behind the cows, probably in response to my getting in the way. The tall figure of a man on horseback herding the cows threaded closer to where I was causing the pileup. Before they got too close a soft, wet nose met my hand. I looked down at an adorable beagle. It whined, its tail twitching uncertainly.
"Mo-moonshine?" I stuttered out. The dog instantly dropped to the play position before twirling around and yapping joyfully. "Oh, Moonshine, it is you!" I sank to the ground, hugging the mini herding dog against my chest as he licked my face. "It's been so long!" I laughed, so happy and carefree. I almost didn't even remember that this place was supposed to be empty. That none of this belonged here. Or maybe I did know it, and I just didn't care. It didn't matter in the moment. I heard an indignant squeal, and saw Moonshine's little shadow, Truffles the pig, pawing at me for his turn. I laughed, remembering the pig I had rescued from the butchers, and how he wouldn't stop following my dog around the farm. I scratched behind his ears, and he plopped down next to me.
"Miss, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to ask you to leave. This here's private property. You're getting in the way of the herd, and I need to be milking them." The slight southern accent caused me to look up into the silhouette of the man on horseback that I had seen before my attention was distracted by old pets. I slowly stood up, and Moonshine seemed to quiver with indecision. This was obviously who had been taking care of him in my absence. He was deciding who he needed to stand by.
"I understand this is private property, but last that I checked, it was my private property." I wished that I could see the rider's face, but the rising sun was to his back, and his face was completely in shadow beneath his rancher. The figure dismounted, coming over to me. I continued to speak anyway, hoping to avoid some sort of messy confrontation. Obviously if this was the person who had 'taken over' my ranch, they may not be so willing to give it back.
The voice caught slightly. "Bri- brittany? Is that really you?" Recognition dawned as they removed their hat and I got a better look at the man.
"Bob?" I was probably just as shocked to see him here as he was to see me.
"Yeah." He looked over and then back at me, gathering his thoughts. "So... You're back." It wasn't a question.
"Umm, yeah." I bit my lip, feeling highly self-conscious.
"I don't know. I thought this place would be long dead by now." I wrapped my arms around myself, trying not to blush.
"Yeeeaaahhhh." He drew out the word with a long exhale. He looked like he was going to say something more, but the horse he had been riding nosed him from behind, forcing his attention back onto it. "Seastar, behave you." To him that was just offhand. To me, it was a firework. A spotlight. A signal flare.
"Seastar?!" I walked the few steps closer to the young stallion, holding my hand up in wonder to let him sniff it.
Bob chuckled, seeming relieved to have something else to focus on.
"Yep, it's him. I've been training him up as he's grown. I've not been able to enter him in a race yet, but he seems to have all the star qualities of his mother." I stroked the silky chocolate hide, thinking how the tiny colt that I left was now a fully grown stallion, albeit a young one. And a racer like his mother? Oh, that was too great! His mother had belonged to me, and she had been one of the greatest racing horses the town had ever seen. Sheila had been born of a happy accident, and her original owners didn't have enough room for her. So I bought her off them. She quickly made it through every race with flying colors. She was one of my favorite animals by far. And then... Shortly before I.. left, she gave birth to a colt, Seastar. And then I lost her. I had started bottle feeding Seastar, and we had bonded quickly. He must have been devastated when I left. To him it must have been losing his mother all over again.
"Brittany. Um, hey, you there?" I was all too happy to jump out of my bittersweet reverie.
"Yeah, sorry. Just.. memories." I walked over to the fence, climbing to sit on top of it. This was why I had wanted to make this first trip alone. I just didn't think the pain would come from quite the memories that were causing it. He twiddled his fingers before turning to take the saddle and bridle off of the stallion. He hung them over the fence with his hat, then hopped on himself, the cows forgotten. We sat there, an awkward silence. Bob fiddled with the radio, nervously tuning it until a song came through relatively clear. The notes drifted across to me. The song was just starting. Sometimes I think what turned her on, were my old, rolled-down boots. She wanted her a real cowboy; it was a phase she was goin' through.
"I'm sorry. I know I didn't listen. I couldn't just let it sit, you know." I stopped listening to the song and turned to Bob again. "I know you said to sell everything, but I just couldn't bear to see everything you worked so hard to build just disappear. You cleared all the trees and rocks to build the house and fence, and all the animals..." He sighed, rubbing his lucky red bandana over his short black crew-cut and down the back of his neck. "I just couldn't bear to see this place silent and decaying, because then it would really feel like you were gone." She changed direction, headed out west. She changed her tune to some hip-hop fest.
"I'm sorry too. I just- I needed some space to think. I needed to be alone for a while." I looked away, unable to face him and my shame. I had run away; just left everything. "I'm not proud of it."
"Brittany, the reason you left-"
"There's nothing to talk about. What's past is past." I still couldn't meet his eyes. My gaze was doggedly downward. Oh, why couldn't I have just had a few hours to myself to think things through like I had wanted!? She was sitting beside the ocean, looking out at the waves, watching how they keep on rolling, and yet always seem the same.
"... But you came back." She called and said she'd been thinking about all those quiet country nights. And whatever she'd seen so wrong with me, suddenly it seemed alright.
"Yeah. I guess, I sort of felt lost without this place." I let my gaze rise from the scruffy stalks of grass at my feet to the pasture proper. I snuck a glance at Bob. His hands were finishing tying his bandana back around his arm while he looked at the last of the cows going into the barn. He was still the 6' tall, muscled behemoth that I remembered. He looked a little tired, though. I noticed more frown lines on his forehead. A pang of guilt rocked me before I squashed it.
"I always knew you would come back." She changed direction, and headed back home. He chuckled self-deprecatingly. "Or maybe it was just my own selfish delusion. I couldn't let anything change around here until you got back, because if I let it change it wasn't yours anymore, and then you would never forgive me. You would feel like you didn't belong here. Have more guilt-"
I finally looked at him, placing my hand on his arm so he would stop rambling. He looked surprised but pleased. "It's alright. Past is past." My fingers drummed against his muscled arm for emphasis. I really meant it. I had finally moved on from most of those memories.
His eyes flooded with relief and apology as he nodded. He rolled his eyes humorously. "I was a jerk." She changed everything when she couldn't change me. A smile touched my face as I let out an amused sound. Things were getting less awkward and more like before I left. I was remembering that charming, goofy, sensitive cowboy I had fallen for. "Am a jerk still." Suddenly he leaned in, planting a gentle kiss on my cheek. I blinked my eyes, but I wasn't sure what to feel. Before I could decide, he slipped off the fence, heading towards the barn. Right as he was about to reach the doors I leapt off and sprinted towards him, grabbing his hand. As he turned with an elated grin, I leaned against his chest.
"I- I missed you, Bobby." I choked out past the lump in my throat.
"Obviously me too. I only spent the past four years obsessively working your ranch, Bri." I laughed as tears streamed down my cheeks. His arms gently circled around me to hold me in a hug. She changed direction, she's back in my arms. She thought it through, had a change of heart. She said 'I guess when you love someone, you just have to let it be.' She changed everything when she couldn't change me. I basked in the warmth of the sun rising on my ranch, supported by the person I had wanted to see least, but needed most. She changed it all when she couldn't change me.
Author's Note: So, not quite what you were thinking, hmm? Well, I did set you up for it. Today I actually did get on my account, just to see how it compared to my memory (which is what the story is based on). Man, was I off! It turns out that before I stopped playing, I sold my chickens and chicken coop, and stopped planting actual crops. My whole seaside property was grass and orchard trees. And most of the wild land next to me and in town was orchard trees. I obviously had gotten fed up with the farming aspect. XD Also, it seems that that horrendously controversial sale of my beloved Sheila never happened- it was her colt Seastar that I sold. I had somehow gotten it in my head that I had finally given in to that large some of 1 million currency for my racing champion. But, getting on my file, I find her in the barn, a few days away from having another foal, and Seastar nowhere to be found. So, I guess that I sold him instead for whatever ludicrous (but less than 1 million) amount of currency he was worth. And just for those of you out there who will carp about it- yes, I did pick Bob. I have seen the hate he gets from most people (He's scary! He's weird! He's a suitor? He deserves to be left out.), but I really like him. He's a gentle giant. He's a towering jock who just wants to work with horses and be strong enough to care for those he loves. He is the sweetest, most sensitive of all of the bachelors in the game, wearing his heart on his sleeve. And yet he gets so often overlooked or shunned. So, go ahead, say what you will, but I will defend that he is one of the best suitors if you are just willing to learn his personality more than his looks.
Final note: As you can tell a song is heavily woven into the story. I listened to it while writing this, as it seemed to mirror what my emotions were regarding the story. Kudos if you know the song and who wrote it! ;)