Rhys Carew was tired.
It was a good tired, though, he mused, as he stretched out in his wide wooden farm bed. Like so many of the items in the one-room cabin, it had been a hand-me-down from his grandfather. The frame was weathered but solid, long enough for Rhys to sleep comfortably even with his unusual height.
No, the kind of tired Rhys felt was utterly unlike what he’d felt in the city, toiling away day after day for Joja Corporation. That kind of tired had left him feeling sallow and sickly, no matter how much he worked out, no matter how much sleep he’d caught up on during the weekend—though toward the end, even that had been few and far between.
This tired was something different—the tired of muscles that had been well-used, of a little too much time in the sun. It was the tired of a day spent hiking, or the morning after a truly satisfying fuck.
Though that was something else that had been few and far between of late, Rhys thought, and certainly not since he’d gotten off the bus in Pelican Town two weeks before.
Not that there was a shortage of eligible partners. Rhys snorted. Mayor Lewis had made that obvious enough from the start. The Mayor had talked non-stop to Rhys as he walked him to Good Hope farm from the bus stop, and before he left Rhys for the night, he’d pressed a three-ring binder into his hands, bulging at the seams from being stuffed with papers, maps, and recipes. Included in the “welcome packet”—if you could call something a “packet” if it rivaled the size of the encyclopedia in the town library—was a directory of the small town’s inhabitants. A dossier, really, complete with a map of where their houses were, their birthdays, and the word “SINGLE” scrawled in all caps next to the names of the men and women that were apparently available.
Though available for what, Rhys hesitated to speculate. It was less likely that Mayor Lewis intended to present Rhys with a buffet of potential bed partners than that he was looking to marry Rhys off out of some misbegotten promise to Rhys’s grandfather—the same grandfather that had left Rhys Good Hope farm.
His grandfather Dafydd had left the farm to Rhys with bewilderingly few instructions. I have been happy there, he wrote. Something tells me you can, too.
It had been a working farm in its day, though many of the buildings were either rotted through disuse or had disappeared altogether. There wasn’t any particular family business Rhys had to pick back up, and Mayor Lewis’s packet—together with the constant friendly hints from Rhys’s new neighbors—made clear that the possibilities were practically endless. The land of the almost preternaturally fertile Stardew Valley could be bent to whatever use Rhys decided to put it—vegetables, fruit trees, vineyards that fermented sparkling wines grown from his own grapes, or breweries with earthy hops he’d plant himself. Or, Marnie had suggested more than once, he could try his hand at animal husbandry—docile cows or cuddly woolly rabbits, vibrant ducks or comical, posturing chickens.
He didn’t know yet what he wanted. The luxury of his inheritance meant he had time to decide, and means not to worry overly much about whether whatever venture he eventually chose would be profitable right away. He didn’t want to rush, for once. He intended to take his time. And in the meantime, he’d taken small, earthy delight in a little vegetable garden he’d planted out front with the parsnip seeds Mayor Lewis had given him. It was something to do, a way not to be a complete layabout while he was finding his feet. And the hoeing and weed pulling, combined with chopping down trees and digging up the rocky soil, had been a big contribution toward the tight, satisfied ache of his muscles that would eventually rouse him out of bed.
Before it did, though, he reached over to his wooden nightstand and pulled off the hefty binder from Mayor Lewis. He flipped to the town dossier again, their pages already embarrassingly and obviously worn from use. As always, he skimmed over the single women without much of a second glance. They were, to a one, interesting and accomplished, and he hoped he might be good friends with at least a few of them someday. But his tastes in partners didn't run that way. They never had, really, some youthful experimentation notwithstanding.
The men, though. Rhys ran his fingers down the pages. Though some were scarcely older than boys. What Mayor Lewis thought 19-year old Sam or 23-year old Sebastian would want with a 34-year old Zuzu City burnout was just one of the enduring mysteries of Pelican Town. Still, here they were, names and photographs laid out for him like they were player icons he could select in a videogame. Sebastian, Harvey, Shane, Alex, Sam, and Elliott.
He wasn't looking for anyone, Rhys told himself again. Not once he stepped outside the four walls of this dilapidated farmhouse. But inside, for a moment, he could daydream. Just for a moment, and then his vegetable garden called.