Workshop Wednesday

Today's submission comes from Rebecca Finkelstein, regular contributor for this site. She's given us a Stardew Valley fanfic that she wrote for the 2018 NaNoWriMo. We have the prologue today, and future weeks will see the posting of additional chapters.

Enjoy.

Connie - a Stardew Valley Fanfic

Prologue

The softness of the air was plain in the room. Most sounds kept their distance besides the small whispers of the natural intake of air from those sitting around the hearth. All humidity of the season was chased away by the fire, which gently crackled at its audience. No one had any desire to move or to look away from the glowing embers - it all seemed to be a grand metaphor for what they were experiencing at that very moment.

"It's going to be tonight, isn't it?" The first to cut the long silence, an older man who sat closest to the fire and wore a heavy tweed jacket with a humble riding cap. His face pulled down with the weight of too many worries and his shoulders hunched forward with depressed acceptance. His eyes didn't move from the heat source of the room, finding it to be an odd comfort.

"Yeah, I think so." The woman next to him touched his tweed-covered arm. She had a younger look about her, hair loosely pulled up, but the first evidence of lines were beginning to find their home around her eyes and lips. "Connie, I think it's your turn to go in."

The next in line among the small arch of visitors was a teal-haired woman. She pulled her jacket more snugly around herself and glanced to her parents. They were worn out, evidence of being away for far too long and letting not only the physical, but the emotional fatigue set in. She couldn't remember a time when they looked so... heartbroken... lost even. Their lives together had largely been without any harsh events until now.

And Connie knew a lot of that was because of her grandpa.

With a sigh, she forced herself to stand and proceeded to walk to the back of the room. There, the sturdy door waited. It was rough with shadows playing upon its surface from the dwindling fire. Her own shadow blocked out the somber dance of light as she approached. Her movements were more on auto pilot now, barely registering to her brain until long after she had already completed that part of the task.

The door gave a low, heavy creek as it swung aside.

She did have the mind to keep a hold of it, making sure to softly close it behind her. Her grandpa had built that door. His personality was all over it - plain, simple, a little rough but not overly so. And as sturdy as a door (or old man) could be.

"Connie..."

His voice was strained, but she could tell he tried for it not to seem that way. As she turned around to take in the lowly lit room, her eyes stung with the threat of tears. Her grandpa was there, just a few feet from where she stood. With a nightcap on and blue-and-white striped pajamas, he laid in his small bed with his single pillow.

And an envelope near his hand.

"Grandpa..." It was all she could say, but he lifted a hand and attempted to wave her troubles away.

"Connie... someday... you are going to grow tired of where you are in life. Your job will not be as satisfying as it was before and you will feel lost. That is when you should open this envelope - it is my gift to you."

His hand shook as he edged the letter along the blanket towards her. Connie reached out and gingerly took the small ivory packet. With one hand she hugged it to her chest while her other hand held his. He gave her a light squeeze and she knew he was trying to reassure her, but she could feel just how much his strength was fading.

"Thank you, Grandpa." Her eyes finally looked to his. He looked satisfied through the gauntness which overtook his features. A weak smile stretched across his face as he gave her hand another squeeze.

"You better get back to your parents. Just remember what I said - don't open the envelope until then."

She nodded and gave him a hug along with a kiss on his forehead.

"I promise." Her voice cracked at the end as she backed away. She offered a smile, though she feared her grief would find a way through it. Her grandpa replied with his own weak smile and gave a small wave to bid her off. The entire exchange was short, filled more with feelings than with words. But that was just how her grandpa was... simple.

The door closed behind Connie with a hollow thud. Her parents looked back at her and her mother moved forward for an embrace. She returned it, but didn't feel it fully. The numbness was setting in and she was thankful for it. Without it, she knew there would be no stopping the emotional dam from breaking and the tsunami of tears that would follow. Instead, she clutched the envelope over her heart as she settled into the warmth of her mother's arms, watching the shadows from the fire dance upon the wall.

He looked to be so very much at peace...