Reputation was something that Caroline was more concerned with than she let on.
She wasn’t stupid. She knew that a nineteen year old girl, unmarried and pregnant, would be frowned upon by even the most caring and quiet of small towns - perhaps even moreso than in a city. She knew that it would be especially apparent when she refused to let anybody know the identity of the father of the child she was carrying - there was no way she would tell anybody she was physically involved with the strange man that lived in a tall tower in the woods. She could hear the rumors about her, a vixen disguised as a good girl, seducing and having an affair with a married man or a tourist, and she wasn’t even showing yet. She wanted nothing to do with that.
She considered her options. She considered getting an abortion, leaving Pelican Town, telling Rasmodius that she was pregnant and demanding that they get married, and just sucking it up and raising the child by herself. But there was no abortion clinic in Stardew Valley, she couldn’t afford the bus fare to get anywhere that her behavior could be seen as acceptable, she wasn’t willing to get married to the wizard of all men, and she certainly didn’t want to be a single mother at nineteen.
Caroline was at an impasse.
A week after she took the pregnancy test, she confided quietly in her best friend and the girl she told everything to, Jodi. Jodi herself had just been married to a soldier man, and was pregnant with a son - if there was anyone Caroline would get sympathy from, it was her friend. She broke the news to her quietly, as they sat next to the fountain beside the community center, passing some fresh apples grown by the old man on the farm. Jodi was quiet for a few moments, and began firing suggestions quickly.
“How pregnant are you?” she asked, head tilted slightly and a small frown on her face. “If it’s close to when the baby is due, I can take them in and we can pretend that they’re twins.”
She shook her head. “Just over a month. I doubt we can pass two babies born three months apart off as twins, but I appreciate the gesture.”
“Can’t afford the bus fare to the city to visit an adoption agency, and if I’m going to have this baby I want to raise it myself.”
Jodi went quiet then, her expression one of quiet contemplation as she looked up at the slowly moving clouds. It was the beginning of spring, and both women were still in their warm coats, a harsh breeze biting through the valley. “You know, Pierre - the guy that owns the general store - is single. If you can get him to marry you quick, you can pass the baby off as his and be all set on money. Maybe you’ll even eventually start loving him after you get married. It’s best for you and the baby.”
It wasn’t ideal, but Caroline knew that she didn’t exactly have a lot of time to think on it. A general store would be a decent way to support her and a child considering it was the only one in the village, and she knew that if she acted quickly and got married within a month, she would be able to pass her baby off as Pierre’s without a problem. So she nodded solemnly. “I guess that’s the best option I have,” she responded, trying not to feel so grim about deciding on her future.
Even in the small and quaint village of Pelican Town, it was unusual for someone to get married after only three weeks of a relationship, but Pierre was in love with Caroline and Caroline was able to talk him into not waiting too long for a wedding. What was the point, she asked, if they were just going to do it eventually? They should get married immediately so that they could begin the rest of their lives together without waiting for such a long time to prepare and convince themselves they were in love! They were young and they were ready, after all!
Their wedding was small and quaint, consisting of mostly family, a couple of Pierre’s closest friends, and Jodi with her husband. Caroline had suffered through severe morning sickness the day of, and she was unsure whether it was just nerves or the baby squirming around in her body, but either way she found herself staring at her reflection in the mirror and wondering how she could have been through so many life changing events in such a short amount of time. She wondered if she really needed to do this - Pierre was a nice, respectable man, after all, but she didn’t love him just let. She didn’t know if she would start to anytime soon.
But she needed to.
She did, however, begin to develop feelings for him a little while after they were married. The smiles and kisses became less faked and forced, as did… some other things. Caroline settled into contentment, and any grief about losing her twenties that she might have felt faded away as she began to enjoy the position of housewife and got used to helping with the store. She started to feel like this was the life she was meant to lead, and while she wasn’t exactly happy in every sense of the word, she was definitely feeling a lot better than she had been a month or two prior.
She waited a month to tell Pierre that she was pregnant so that it would look like his and she could pretend that she was impregnated during their quick honeymoon, and though she led him to believe that she was only a month pregnant she was in reality three months along and about to start her second trimester. She prayed that he wouldn’t notice that she was showing earlier than was normal. Maybe she could say that this was just a very large baby?
The only person that Caroline told about the affair besides Jodi was Dr. Harvey, and only she did so when her husband was out of the room and on the promise that that he would keep her secret. The only reason she told him at all was because she wanted her baby to be happy and healthy, and she didn’t want to have to lie to a medical professional about her pregnancy. Though he gave her a disapproving frown, he went with it, and though he didn’t lie to Pierre he neglected to mention that Caroline appeared to be further along than she was claiming to be.
She wasn’t sure why he had decided to cooperate with her, but she was grateful.
Pierre was so happy that he was going to be a father. He talked to Caroline’s belly often, and he splurged a little more than was probably necessary on the baby’s room. He told anybody that would listen that his wife was pregnant, and at the ultrasound where they found out that the baby was going to be a girl, he cried (much to his wife’s amusement). Caroline considered telling him the truth and not leading him along with the lie anymore, but she couldn’t imagine devastating him like that - and he would be a father figure to her daughter either way, anyway.
No. Their daughter.
“I’m going to paint an underwater scene on her walls,” he had prattled excitedly to Caroline one afternoon as she walked into the apartment behind the general store. “So that way she can see bright colors and fish every single day. I read that bright colors are supposed to stimulate babies, right? And what kid doesn’t like fish?” His smile was bright, and she halfway expected him to clap his hands like an excited toddler when she nodded and approved the idea. He was so happy - the happiest Caroline had ever seen him in the time they had known each other.
No, she couldn’t tell him the truth. She didn’t want to see the shock, the sadness, maybe even the disgust that would replace that bright smile and excitement on Pierre’s face and in his voice. She convinced herself that she kept lying to keep him happy, but part of her knew deep down that she was mainly just fibbing to protect her own reputation.
Abigail was born in the fall after a long and difficult labor that ripped something inside of Caroline and dictated that she shouldn’t have any more pregnancies.
In Pierre’s eyes - and the eyes of the community - she was two months early. However, she was right on time, and Caroline was content to let people continue to believe that as long as Jodi and Dr. Harvey would keep up with her little white lie. And, much to her relief, they did, playing along and acting as though the baby was early and that it was a miracle she was in such good health. Her husband was happy to believe it.
Pierre had actually been the one to suggest her name, sitting in the chair next to Caroline’s cot and holding the newborn. He was staring at her with fatherly adoration, watching as she slept quietly after having been fed, washed, and burped. “It means ‘my father’s joy,’” he had explained as he adjusted the fuzzy pink blanket so that he could see the baby’s face better. “And never in my life has anything brought me more joy than her.”
So the wizard’s baby was named Abigail.
Again, Caroline felt the need to fess up and tell Pierre that the baby was not biologically his, that she had been pregnant when they met and that Abigail was the product of an affair with a recently divorced wizard living in the woods. But he just looked so happy, and she doubted that he would take kindly to the news that he was not actually the biological father of the baby he already loved so much. So she just smiled quietly, agreed to the name he had chosen, and went to sleep.
Time and time again during Abigail’s early years, she swore to herself that she would tell somebody that the baby was actually not Pierre’s - whether that be her husband or somebody she could confide in besides Jodi and the doctor. She never did, just covering up that one lie with even more; she didn’t know where her two year old daughter had gotten her fascination with frogs from, she wasn’t sure why her ten year old was so obsessed with the occult, she was so aggravated that her twelve year old child was lying to her about dying her hair purple. She even managed to convince Abigail herself that the purple tone of her hair came from dye instead of a strange change in the middle of the night.
She decided that she would never come clean when Abigail was sixteen. Caroline had started trying to tell Abigail that she should pursue other hobbies, and that only drove her daughter further away. Telling her to stop dying her hair went badly, as did trying to implement a curfew. She watched as her only child began shutting her out and drifting closer to Pierre, and she watched as her husband and daughter became much closer than they had been.
Caroline could never tell anybody that Abigail was the wizard’s biological daughter - she never even got around to telling Rasmodius himself. She was determined that nobody would ever find out, and as her daughter grew older, became a young woman, and eventually even married the new farmer that had taken the old man’s place, she was certain that she would never have to worry about being found out.
She became confident in this assumption, and even relied on it.
What she didn’t realize, however, was that Pierre was beginning to suspect that Abigail might not be his biological daughter after all.