The town was an avenue of cornstalks. The strange disaster was in many ways disheartening, but as Lanna strolled beneath the broad, swaying leaves she couldn't help feeling like a princess descending a lush green tunnel into another world. She needed to harvest more vegetables for the party Pierre intended to hold, but she was in no hurry. She would buckle down and put some work in when she found a spot that called to her.
Swinging around the street corner, Lanna spotted a familiar, peaked black hat swaying down the avenue away from her.
“Vaughny!” she exclaimed in delight, clasping her hands and offering the young man a beatific smile.
While Vaughn ceased his clipped progress down the street, the face he turned toward Lanna was marked with distaste. She acted as if she did not notice, and from her bright words and excited stare, it was a genuine possibility that she simply did not pick up on Vaughn's exasperation. Fortunately for her, Vaughn was perfectly willing to make his displeasure clear.
“You're so cold,” Lanna pouted, when he tried to brush her off.
Vaughn restrained himself from rolling his eyes, but it took a concerted effort.
“You're never gonna get any ladies acting like that!” Lanna scolded him, her lips maintaining their happy curve despite her affronted tone.
“Fine with me,” Vaughn told her, not a hint of hesitation. “I like it quiet.”
Lanna's face contorted in clear disbelief. Romance was clearly something she held in high esteem, and she could not understand a handsome man like Vaughn finding no interest in a pretty girl wanting to give him some special consideration.
“And how many times have I told you not to call me 'Vaughny'?” he continued, when she was blessedly silent. After a moment more, he decided to take the opportunity being provided. Again, he attempted to disengage from Lanna, citing the urgency that he leave and the fact that really, he was busy.
Lanna wouldn't let him leave so easily. For all of her perky comments and all of his bristly responses, this was still something familiar. For some absurd reason, Lanna enjoyed Vaughn's company. She assigned him obnoxious nicknames, and pried into his life despite indications that she was unwanted. And when he tried to quit her company, she coaxed him into a harvesting duel.
Lanna might be a bit of an airhead, but she wasn't stupid. She knew Vaughn had a somewhat convoluted sense of pride, and he would not simply walk away from her challenge. To sweeten the bait, she even offered to stop calling him “Vaughny.” She would hate to do it – it was the cutest nickname, and it suited him perfectly. But bets simply weren't worth making if there wasn't something at stake.
And Vaughn accepted.
Lanna enjoyed fantasies of being a princess, enjoyed a little everyday magic and believed that the world could be an unbelievable place. Her time as a pop star had accustomed her to luxury, but her time fishing since then meant that she was no stranger to hard work. It took different muscles to constantly bend and rise picking vegetables than reeling in a big catch, yet she was constantly slanting her gaze over towards Vaughn, watching him race her down the rows of crops, his motions sure and paced, as if he was barely breaking a sweat keeping up.
It was frustrating to see him work so easily, but thoroughly enjoyable to watch him neatly pick cabbages, pluck eggplants, dig potatoes from the ground while hardly slowing down as he switched from one variety of produce to another in his progress. It was gratifying to watch his white bandana dampen with the sweat of his labor, and Lanna wiped her forehead dramatically as she swung up from a crouch with a carrot in each hand. She did not lose easily, and she would not be underestimated.
Lanna did not fail to notice that Vaughn paid her no similar concern. She could have assumed that it was because he didn't consider her a threat, that he was just focused on winning their little competition and in harvesting the crops for whatever purpose he would put them to. But what many people in town frequently failed to consider was that Lanna could be quite astute in the realms of her personal interest. She knew all of the fish local to their island homes, knew the best spots to catch them and what bait each species enjoyed. And she knew a thing or two about love.
When Lanna spent time with Denny, his eyes were always on her. She could feel him watching when her back was turned, and she enjoyed twirling and prancing a little, letting the curtain of her hair swing out around her like a fanciful cloak. Even his silly bird knew that he was easily caught, and Lanna quite enjoyed the attention. It was a particular look, evident in the way he would jump as if caught at something untoward when questioned during his affectionate gazes.
Lanna had been, for a while, put out that Vaughn never looked at her that way. She knew she was pretty, cultivated a particular “cute” look that had served her well in her career as a musical diva. She was meant to turn heads. It was simply unthinkable that Vaughn would pass his gaze over her as if she was transparent. But there was an honest truth to it, when she probed deeper.
Vaughn wasn't going to get any ladies acting the way he did. And his unconcern over the fact was no ruse.
Vaughn beat her in the contest. Lanna was no slouch, and she could not be disappointed with her own showing or the volume of crops she had harvested. All the same, Vaughn was a powerhouse of a farmer and she could, if really pressed, give credit where credit was due.
“Meanie,” she pouted, realizing that she might have to keep her promise of dropping the nickname. But there was no true invective behind the gentle insult.
Again Vaughn would try to part ways, but before he could escape, Lanna grabbed him by the bandana around his neck. Pulling him down to her level, she chastely brushed her lips to his left cheek in a gentle kiss.
“Enjoy your quiet, Vaughny.”
It was an amicable parting, and there was perhaps a trace of a smile twisting Vaughn's mouth in spite of the silly name as he walked away.