** Wooow! Long time no update, huh? Sorry about that... I have been having a bad case of writer's block and I didn't have very much motivation to write this chapter until now. The motivation to write this chapter just sort of appeared out of nowhere! I'd like to say my writing has improved at least a little since my last update on this story (though I feel that this chapter seems sloppy for some reason :S), but I'll let you be the judge of that! :)
Also, I plan on revising some of my previous chapters. I made some pretty stupid mistakes in them and I really want to go back and correct them. For example: in the first chapter, I wrote "Inn" as "INN". xD I have no idea what I was thinking back then, but that was almost a year ago, so I forgive myself. :P **
Claire sat by Roy's bedside for hours, worried deeply about his sick condition. He coughed and breathed fast as drops of sweat emerged from his skin. But all the while, Roy still had a smile on his face when he looked up at his granddaughter and I.
"This isn't a cold…" Claire muttered.
I nodded in agreement. "He's been like this for days…" I reached out my hand and touched his forehead lightly. "And he still has that fever. I think it's time we take him to the Clinic."
Claire looked at Roy sternly, but gently said, "And we don't want any objections. You're going to see the doctor no matter what you say."
Roy didn't say anything. He just kept looking up with a peaceful smile, as if he were staring up at something so beautiful that it distracted his stubborn side. The only things that would disturb this were the heavy coughs that came with his illness.
After the doctor examined Roy thoroughly, he concluded that Roy had come down with pneumonia. Roy rested in the patient's bed with Claire, once again, sitting by his bedside, holding his frail hand.
"This could explain why you find him out of energy much more easily recently," the doctor said. "Working the way he does with this condition is very reckless."
"Will he be okay?" Claire asked.
The doctor, who I learned was named Trent, sighed. "Not bringing him here sooner has made the disease prolong. He's in rough shape, but we can give him some antibiotics to help. He needs plenty of rest and fluids. I strongly recommend that he stay in the Clinic until he has recovered."
"Of course," I said.
The next few days were terrible. Claire spent most of her time at the Clinic. It took a lot for her to return home to go to sleep and sometimes Elli would generously offer her bedroom so that she could spend the night there.
There was no way I could expect Claire to be in shape to do work, so I took care of the chores at the farm with the help of Ann, Gray and Cliff when they weren't busy. They didn't seem to mind helping out and I was very grateful.
After finishing work, I would visit Roy to see how he was doing. Roy seemed to look worse and worse every day; I had never seen him so lifeless before. He wasn't responding to the antibiotics. But it all ended when one day, when I went for my visit to the Clinic, I walked straight into Roy's room and found his bed empty and made. Confusion and fear welled up inside of me. Then, I felt a hand rest on my shoulder cautiously.
"It happened this morning…" Dr. Trent said in a whisper. I turned around to look at his face. He was bowing his head in shame, as if he blamed himself.
My voice cracked when I asked, "Where's Claire?"
"She's upstairs with Elli. She took it very hard… I'm so sorry."
I offered my hand out to him and shook his. "Thank you for being there."
I then went upstairs and knocked on Elli's bedroom door. Elli opened it and gave me soft smile before saying to Claire, "Look, Claire. Jack is here."
I saw Claire lift her head from the pillow on Elli's bed, as if it weighed a thousand pounds, and sniffled. "Jack?"
"How are you, Claire?" I asked.
She took a deep breath. "Better than how I was earlier…"
I didn't say anything right away. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say in this kind of situation. "I'm…I'm sorry Claire… I'm going to…miss him too." She stayed quiet, so I tried something else. "Would…it make you feel better if Cliff was here with you?"
"No. I think I just want to be left alone… Thanks."
I did what she requested and left her alone. Maybe that was what she needed: a little time alone to think. I walked to the Inn and noticed how tense my body was. My jaw was clenched, my eyebrows were furrowed, and my hands were closed in tight fists. I had a staring contest with the paved road as I walked. Then, I felt a warm tear fall victim to gravity by traveling to the tip of my nose. I removed it from my face when I drew close to the Inn.
Walking into the Inn, I was immediately captured in a hug by Ann. It caught me off guard, but I hugged her back, burying my face in her neck. I needed that hug.
"How did you know?" I asked.
"Elli let me know a little while ago. I'm so sorry," she said quietly.
"He was like a grandfather to me…"
There was a big funeral for Roy. Everyone in Mineral Town was there, even the town's con artist, Won. It was evident that Roy was highly respected among his peers. I had never seen so many people wear black at the same time. There were also so many people shedding tears over the loss. The whole time, my throat felt like sand paper and my stomach felt empty. I looked over at Claire and was surprised to see that she wasn't crying at all. She was, instead, staring firmly at Roy's coffin.
Claire stayed with Elli for a while; we didn't want for Claire to have to stay at the farm all by herself. But she came back to work on the farm with me. Whenever we worked, she still had that mournful expression that would reoccur, but she quickly shook it out when she noticed it was there. She was also silent when we worked. She wouldn't talk to me unless I was to talk to her first, which was odd because she always flapped her jaws when we worked together.
One day, not too long after the funeral, Mayor Thomas visited Claire and I while we were still harvesting the crops. He asked for us to speak with him, so we all met inside the farmhouse. He sat on the living room couch quietly, thinking of what he was going to say and how it should be said.
"Kids," he began, "let me first say that I'm sorry for your loss."
"It's fine… We're okay," Claire reassured him. "Was there something you wanted to talk to us about?"
Thomas nodded. "Roy had a will. He wanted me to keep it for safekeeping." He pulled out a big, yellow envelope that was sealed by a red ribbon.
"W-What does it say?" I stammered.
"Roy requests that Claire takes over his farm and that you work under her. But…if Claire declines the ownership of the farm, then you are to take over and Claire may work under you…if she wishes. If both of you decline, then the farmland will be handed over, half and half, to Lillia of Poultry Farm and Barley of Yodel Farm." He turned to Claire. "It's your decision, miss."
Claire and I looked at each other. "We can't just hand over Grandpa's farm," she said. She looked around, gazing at her grandfather's furniture and belonging inside the farmhouse. She cleared her throat before she spoke. "I'll do it," she breathed.
"She's not herself anymore," Cliff told me while he twirled his fork around in a plate of cold, untouched spaghetti. He pushed the worm-like food from one side of the plate to the other from nervous habit. "I can barely get her to talk to me… I'm worried."
"I am too," I said. "You know what she does sometimes when we're working? She'll just start crying out of nowhere… She won't even tell me why."
"I know what you mean. I've tried asking what's the matter or if there's anything I can do to make her feel better, but she insists on not talking about it. It's kinda frustrating when she won't let me help her."
"Maybe she needs to get out a little more. Do you think we can invite some friends here and all have dinner together or something?"
"Yeah, that's sounds great! Maybe being surrounded by some friends will help. We can invite Gray and Ann and she can invite Popuri. Isn't she friends with Elli? We can invite Elli too!"
I smiled. "I swear, Claire won't be able to stay upset with little-ray-of-sunshine Popuri around her! Tonight?"
"Sure," Cliff agreed. "I'll go ask Elli if she can come now!" He threw himself out of his chair and began to run out of the Inn, yelling behind his shoulders, "This is going to work!"
I chuckled. Ann then walked out from the back with a puzzled expression, but her face changed when she looked down at the cold food Cliff left behind.
"Hmph! I took time to cook that spaghetti and he didn't eat one bite!" Ann fumed as she picked up Cliff's dishes.
"He did play with it though," I said, still chuckling.
She walked to the backroom kitchen to put the dirty dishes away, so I followed behind. "I can tell," she said with a hint of a smile creeping up on her lips. "It's all on one side of this darn plate. What a waste!" She picked up a sponge and scrubbed the plate diligently. "So, what was Cliff yelling about when he left?" she asked.
"Well, we were thinking about inviting Claire and a bunch of friends to dinner here tonight to cheer her up."
"That's really nice of you guys. She does seem under the weather lately," she added.
"Yeah, hopefully this works. She isn't taking Roy's death very well."
"I don't see why she would," she said, putting the now clean plate with all of the other spotless dishes. She leaned on the kitchen counter beside me. "He was the only family she had left."
I sighed. "I feel so bad for her right now…"
Ann smiled gently and slipped her hand in mine. "It'll be better. Things will work out in the end."
"How do you know?"
She shrugged. "I just do," she softly said.
That night, everyone we invited was at the Inn. There were so many smiling faces, so it was face to say that the dinner was going great. But to be sure, I looked over at Claire. She was not smiling. Her mouth was in a straight line while she held Cliff's hand and listened to him talk to her. She looked much more afraid than sad. That was when I tried to get Popuri to talk. Popuri started talking in her high, squeaky voice about things that made her giggle like flowers, boys, and chickens. It seemed to make Claire the slightest bit happy, judging by the new look in her eyes, but I failed to see a complete smile.
At the end of the dinner, when everyone who didn't live at the Inn was preparing to leave for home, Claire stood up and gave everyone a long hug, which they were not expecting at all. Cliff exchanged the same look that I had, which read confusion. It was pretty weird that, after acting rather vapid throughout the dinner, she then turned her attitude around and embraced everyone as if she were to never see them again.
"Cliff," Claire said, "I want to stay with you tonight."
Cliff flushed instantly. "Y-You mean…in my room?"
Gray shared the same scarlet face as Cliff. He nudged me with his elbow. "Hey, I think I'm taking that spare bed in your room tonight…"
Cliff then shot him a look, but Claire ignored what Gray said. She only looked up into Cliff's blue eyes. "Yes, in your room."
"Uhh, w-well, I-I g-guess if you w-w-want to…" Cliff stumbled upon his words. "Ann, c-can she?"
Ann nodded. "No charge," she said to Claire.
Claire smiled. It wasn't very big, but it was the biggest smile we got out of her that night. "Thank you, Ann. You've always been so nice to me. I want you to know that I've really appreciated it."
Ann raised her eyebrows. "Oh, well, you're welcome, Claire."
"Well, I'm really tired, guys," Claire said, stretching her arms out over her head. "I think I'm going to call it a night. Are you coming, Cliff?"
"O-Oh, sure. I'll see you guys in the morning, I guess," he said, following Claire upstairs.
The next morning, a loud banging on my bedroom door woke me up. I heard an irritated groan from the bed beside me.
"Argghhh," it moaned. I could tell then that it was Gray. "Who the hell is banging on the freakin' door?"
I rubbed the sleepiness from my eyes a opened the door. It was a panicking Cliff, holding a piece of paper in his hand.
"She's gone!" he said.
He shoved the piece of paper in my face. "Read it!"
Gray was getting up from bed now that he saw Cliff freaking out. Cliff paced the floor as I read the note.
If you are reading this, then I've already left Mineral Town. Yes, I'm leaving Mineral Town. Grandpa's death is just too much for me to handle right now. Everything that I look at in this town some way or another reminds me of Grandpa…
So I want to spend some time away from Mineral Town. This will give me some time to clear my head and get over everything. I'm sorry that I'm leaving so suddenly, especially to Cliff and Jack, but I need to do this.
Cliff, I love you. I really hope you aren't angry with me for doing this. I promise that this is for the best. I don't know where this puts our relationship, but I want you to know that there won't be anyone that I love more than you.
Jack, I decline ownership of the farm. According to that will Grandpa wrote, you should have the farm now. I'm sorry for leaving you with all of this work on your hands. You are my best friend and you are like a brother to me.
To whoever is reading this, don't think I'm leaving forever. I promise I'll be back… I just don't know when. I'm doing this because I feel like I have to. Time away from Mineral Town will do me good. Good luck to everyone. I'll see you all soon… Goodbye.
** Sorry to end the chapter on a depressing note. :/ I'm not sure when my next update will be... Just giving you a heads up if you don't see an update for a while... **