Characters/Pairings: Barrett x Dorothy
- - -
When she was little, she was lonely.
Seven-years-old and her only friend was a doll.
Dorothy was afraid of the dark. The dark was where monsters lurked, and she could see what she didn't like to see and hear what she hated hearing. She tried to keep from picturing the snide looks from the village kids would give her and tried to ignore their voices running through her head.
Creepy. Witch. Freak.
She would lay in bed with the faint glow of her nightlight keeping away the monsters in hiding and she would try to ignore the hushed worried whispers of her parents. Her mother's voice was barely audible but her father had never been the type who could ever keep his voice completely quiet.
Fern would always quietly speak up.
“...What is it you want?”
“...Am I not a friend to you?”
“No, I didn't mean that... I do love you, Fern, it's just...”
“...Y-Yes... I'm sorry...” She loved Fern, she did. The doll was handmade, sewn together with her mother's love. She was precious to Dorothy, but she knew well enough that having a doll as your best friend was just pathetic.
“...I want a friend... who's actually human... A friend I can really hear talk and laugh and who I could see... smile... Like that.”
“I know... Now go to sleep.”
She closed her eyes and she heard Fern's voice one more time before she fell asleep.
“I know you'll find someone... Someone who will love you just the way you are... Don't give up now.”
- - - -
When he was little, he was happy.
Nine-years-old and active, he would fish at the pier, and when he brought back a big catch, his parents would be proud of him and that made him happy and his mom would cook a wonderful dinner. His mom was smiling and his dad was working hard as the proud mayor of Alvarna.
His parents were a little concerned about how Barrett never seemed to spend time with any of the other kids in the village. Barrett didn't mind so much though, perfectly content with spending his days at the pier by himself with a fishing pole in hand. He just wished he could go to Messhina Valley to fish for salmon, but his parents disapproved of him going there, where dangerous monsters lurked. Still, the pier wasn't so bad with the view of the clear deep blue sea that seemed to stretch on so much Barrett wondered where did it stop, if it ever did.
All in all, life was good.
- - - -
“Gordon's daughter's recovering from her fever at the clinic. She sure was sick for a while... I'm glad she's feeling better. Her parents have been worried sick.” His mother started this conversation at breakfast time as the two of them help themselves to some slices of toast. His father had always been an early riser, and he already started on his work.
Her name was Dorothy, wasn't it? Her family had moved into the old vacant church next door a few months ago. He remembered seeing her around town a few times before, but he had never really spoken with her before. The few times he'd seen her, her head was bowed down and she always seemed to run at human contact, so she'd never left a strong impression on him. But recently, she had gotten sick, running a high fever that wouldn't go away for days, so bad that she had to be kept over at the clinic. His mom's been worried about that girl, almost as much as her parents, and she would stay at the clinic a little later than usual to take care of her. Well, Barrett didn't mind that so much since he'd always admired his mother's dedication to her work as a nurse.
“It'd be nice to see her up and running so she can play with the kids in the village. From what she's told me though, she doesn't seem to have many friends...”
Barrett took another bite of toast.
“How about you come with me to see her, Barrett?”
- - - -
He really wasn't too enthusiastic about it at first.
His mother had him come along, encouraging him to make new friends, which frankly, he didn't really want or need. He knew all the other kids living in Alvarna, but majority of them were just too irritating for him to tolerate in the end. Jake was annoying since he's a jerk to any kid who wasn't a “human.” Max was annoying since he talked way too much for Barrett to understand half of what he says. The village girls were just annoying and overly chatty, high-pitched voices grating on his ears. He guessed he was friends with Ray, even if he did look like a girl. But he was a pretty nice guy, so Barrett didn't mind him, though Ray usually hung out with the de Sainte-Coquilles siblings anyway. Besides, none of the kids were really into fishing. Most of them would probably just scare away the fish anyway. Barrett mulled over meeting this girl at the clinic, hesitant about the idea of becoming friends, especially when she was about two years younger than him. Not to mention the fact that she was a girl.
“Now, Barrett, smile. If you sulk like that, you'll never get a girlfriend.” His mother laughed brightly.
“I don't want a girlfriend.”
She laughed again. “Now, now. Smile! You wouldn't want to scare her, right? She's a nice girl, and she's quite cute too.” She said the last part with a wink, and he tried not to feel himself blush.
They reached the clinic, and once inside, his mother headed over to the small room reserved for patients, concealed by a white curtain. She told him to wait outside the curtain while she went in to greet the patient.
“Hello, Dorothy.” He heard her say cheerfully. “How are you today?”
He thought he heard a response, but the voice was too soft for him to make out the words.
“Now, there's someone I'd like you to meet. Barrett!” She called out. “Come here.”
Reluctantly, he walked over. There was a thumping feeling in his chest and he didn't like it.
“This is Dorothy.”
The first thing he noticed about her was her eyes.
They were red, a color he'd never seen in a person's eyes before, and they stood right out against her small, pale body, which blended right in with the white walls of the clinic. He didn't understand why he was so drawn to those eyes. They were a deep rich red, but they looked... gentle. She peered straight at him with those eyes, large and curious, and he found that he couldn't look away. She soon looked down at her lap, fidgeting a little, and he noticed the small stuffed animal she had in her hands.
She really was cute.
He quickly shook the thought out of his head. He did not think that.
“This is my son, Barrett.” His mother smiled, “I hope you two can get along.”
Dorothy slowly brought her eyes to look at him again, and he felt another thump in his heart. She hesitantly raised a hand in greeting, it looked so small and white, and she gave him a timid smile. She looked so nervous and frail, but he thought he saw something brighten in her eyes.
He gulped. His throat felt dry all of the sudden.
- - - -
“Th-this is Fern... Fern... say hello...” She talked to the stuffed animal in her hands while he tried to figure out just what kind of animal Fern was, stuck between either a dog or a deer. His mother had left the two of them alone while she went to talk to Natalie.
“...U-umm... B... Bar... rett...?” She called out his name, quiet and a little uncertain, like his name was some sort of foreign language and she was worried she'd mispronounced it. That soft voice broke his train of thought and he focused his attention on her.
She gulped and fidgeted with the doll nestled on her lap. He could see her mouth moving, but no sound came out of them, he could see her struggling with trying to speak, and she was shaking slightly.
Finally, she took a deep breath. “A-are you okay... with being... fr-friends with... me?”
He's a little taken aback and took a moment to contemplate how to answer. He was fine without friends, and aside from Ray, most of the village kids were just annoying.
...He couldn't say he thought she was or would be annoying though. She was quiet and pale, so different from how loud and cheery and bright everyone else were.
“...I don't mind, I guess...” He said, slightly awkward. “...What about you? You're okay with me?”
Her face seemed to slowly light up, and he was surprised when she nodded enthusiastically. “Y-yeah... I-I'd like that... a lot...”
“Fern... would like it too...” She giggled, the sound made him think of the ring of a little bell. Her fingers gripped the doll's tiny arm, holding it out toward him. “I-it's nice... to meet you.”
He was hesitant for a moment, then held out his own hand, taking the doll's “hand” between his index finger and thumb. His fingers lightly brushed against Dorothy's.
“...Nice to meet you.”
- - - -
Since then, he'd go with his mother to the clinic to see her. She was released from the clinic a week later, looking much healthier than when Barrett first met her, and she would tag along with him around the village. He didn't mind her company, though there's no way he'd admit he actually liked it. Especially to some of the local kids, like that annoying Alicia who'd tease Barrett whenever she saw him, sing-songing, “Going to see your girlfriend?” and pestering him to have her take his love fortune and evaluate his chances with a “certain someone.” Barrett would just tell her to shut up.
But he did like spending time with her. He could remember how surprised he was when he found out she loved fishing too, and she ended up going with him to fish at the pier. She had a tendency to let out a small scream when she reeled in a fish with how it flew through the air for a brief moment before flopping onto the pier, twitching with its scales glittering in the sunlight. But gradually, she seemed to get more and more used to it, and eventually she stopped screaming, which was good for the both of them. Whenever she managed to get a big catch, she would laugh and smile at him and he would feel a ticklish feeling in his heart that he couldn't say he really disliked.
She would share stories her father told her, of brave heroes venturing to save beautiful princesses from ferocious fire-breathing dragons. He wasn't the type for fairy tales, but somehow, he felt drawn into those stories. He liked seeing how lively she seemed to get when she told him those stories, and he could feel her admiration for her father. Sometimes he'd hear her playing the piano in the church and would stand near the entrance, just listening, soft notes rolling in his ears. Then Dorothy's father would loudly greet Barrett, announcing his presence to everyone in the church, and Dorothy would stop playing to see Barrett in the doorway, caught with his face red. She'd just giggle and shyly wave hello.
- - - -
It was one day when they were fishing at the harbor, legs swinging off the edge of the pier as they waited for a bite on the end of their lines. Barrett managed to get a couple of good catches so far, but he couldn't feel entirely satisfied about it. His eyes kept glancing at Dorothy beside him who seemed to be out of it. Her hands limply held her fishing pole with Fern tucked between her arms. She looked bothered and that bothered him.
“H-huh?” She seemed to snap back to reality at the sound of his voice.
“What's wrong? You're all spaced out.”
“Yeah. So what's wrong?”
She bit her lip, hesitant, before sighing. “M-my father... wants me to get a haircut soon.”
He raised an eyebrow at that. “That's it?”
“...What's so bad about that? It's just a haircut.”
“W-well, it's just... my bangs... they've been growing pretty long lately, and well, Father doesn't want them to cover my eyes, s-so...”
Come to think of it, they have getting been long, haven't they?
“...Still, what's so bad about that? If you trim your bangs, you won't have to worry about trying to see.”
She seemed to shrink into herself for a moment, her hands curled tightly around her fishing pole.
“...What is it?”
“M-my eyes... Do you... Wh-what do you think about them?”
He's surprised by that question. “Why... ask that?”
She bit her lip.
“...I-in the town... I used to live in, before my father moved us here... w-well, the k-kids there... didn't really... like me...”
He's just dumbstruck by that.
“I-I guess, my eyes... looked... weird... to them, a-and I was called... witch or... freak...” Her voice was fading, trembling more as she talked. “S-so, that's... why...”
Now he was just mad. Not at her, but at those stupid kids. He clenched his fishing pole tightly.
She's trembling now, and he saw her clutching Fern tighter. Please don't let her be crying...
He tried to search for words, any words that could make her feel better. But he wasn't good with words and he wasn't good with comfort, so he sat there. He felt useless and he hated feeling useless. So he blurted out, “They're stupid.”
She jerked upright, her face meeting his, and it looked like a mixture between shock, confusion, and hurt.
“Those kids, I mean... They're stupid. For not knowing you and thinking that... That's just so... dumb,” he said. He might've sounded stupid himself. He didn't care at the moment though. He just didn't want her to cry. He would've said just about anything that could cheer her up and he ended up blurting out, “I mean, I like your eyes, and I like you--”
He stopped then, and he realized what he just said. All of the sudden, his face felt hot. He saw Dorothy's cheeks turn red too, shifting from confused to just embarrassed, stunned into shy silence. The two of them remain quiet, a feeling of embarrassment sat between them.
“...I meant... as friends. That's all.”
“O-oh, um, r-right... I-I know... Umm...” She fidgeted slightly, holding Fern tightly against her.
“...It's getting late... Wanna go home now?”
They walked back in silence with red faces, almost heading the wrong direction toward home. They did make it eventually, stopping in front of the church.
“W-well... see ya, I guess...” He started to walk toward his house.
He stopped, turning his head to look at her. “...Yeah?”
She smiled at him, and her eyes looked so warm. “Th-thank you... and... I l-like you too...” She trailed off before adding quickly, “Ah, b-but as a friend! I'm happy... to be friends with you... A-and so is Fern...”
“Uh, yeah.” He wasn't blushing. He wasn't that happy about hearing her say that. He wasn't. Maybe. “...I'm glad too.”
“...What is it?”
She looked down at her feet, squeezing Fern a little tighter. “C-could... we... could we... a-always... be friends?” Her voice trailed off at the last few words.
He couldn't help but glance away while he thought about how to respond. “...Sure. I... guess I don't mind you. I-if... you want to keep being friends, then that's fine.”
When he glanced back at her, he saw the bright smile spreading across her face.
“R-really? I-I'm glad... r-really... glad...”
He was not blushing when she smiled. He wasn't.
“A-anyway, I'll see ya...” He turned to leave.
He heard light footsteps behind him, and soon Dorothy was standing right next to him.
She looked away for a moment before reaching up to quickly embrace him, one arm wrapped around his shoulders, and he could feel Dorothy's hair brush against his cheek and Fern pressed against his chest. Okay, now he was blushing, his face set aflame at the contact.
She pulled away quickly, her cheeks a deep red shade. She was holding Fern so tightly, he thought the doll must've been choking.
She pursed her lips tightly before quickly saying, “Bye!” With that, she ran straight toward the church doors, fumbling with the doorknob before opening the door and dashing inside.
He was floored to the ground, but his head was floating amongst the clouds until a small growl from his stomach reminded him he had to go home, which was just next door. It took him five minutes to get there.
His father asked why he looked so dazed at dinner, worried when his son wasn't wearing the scowl he always wore whenever they had eggplant for dinner. His mother only smiled.
Barrett paid no mind to them. That ticklish feeling was in his heart again, but he didn't mind that either. Right now, he was happy.