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There is space for a garden outside of her home, and she hates it.

It is an empty lot. A pile of dirt. An ugly, barren thing. You could put lavender there, or catmint, or roses.

Roses. She is so fucking sick of roses. She leaves the garden empty out of spite. She has been held to a standard of pretty so long that she longs for ugly things. The garden and I can be ugly together, Anthy decides. She will be as ugly as the dirt and as loud as the crows and as angry and spiked and thorned as she feels like being, and no one will stop her. She is free, goddammit.

Anthy lives in her tiny little hardly-a-house and she knows that it is hers and hers alone. She throws herself onto the couch in a heap and laughs, loudly, and Chu-chu doesn't seem to understand why but he laughs too. Then she gets to work. She searches old newspapers, directories, yearbooks, everything. She goes through every Tenjou in the phonebook but no one has heard of a girl dressed like a prince. She makes herself tea and stays up too late.

She leaves out milk for the stray cats so often that they start raising their kittens in her yard, and she loves every yowling, scraggly thing that passes through, and names them all. They leave dead things on her back porch as gifts. She lets her snails out free in the grass and makes friends with the unsightly creatures that root through her trash at night. She misses her octopus, just a bit.

She burns dinners so terribly that Saionji would have slapped her, and she does it with great abandon. She cleans until things are good enough, but not spotless, because now she gets to decide what good enough is. When a man at the market brings his hand too close she almost cuts it off, and she doesn't know what kind of rage was in her eyes but it must have been something because she has never seen a man look that afraid of her. She allows herself to take up space again, little by little, until she demands it so well that people on the street get out of her way without a word. It must be something in the way she walks. She likes it.

She misses Utena.

Every flash of pink catches her eye, but it's never who she's looking for. Her brother is in the back of her head, laughing. Did you really think you could do something like this on your own....? Idiot. Empty-headed bitch. You're going to fail, and you're going to go crawling back to where you belong.

It's strange, how when the weight of the world was on her shoulders she hardly broke a sweat, but now that she is free of the burden even thinking of it makes her want to claw off her own skin. She hates it. Sometimes being free and loud and ugly means crying loud, ugly, heaving sobs until three in the morning, until your chest aches and you run out of tissues. Sometimes it's seeing someone at the coffee shop who's voice you swear sounds just like him, and running away because suddenly you need to be anywhere else, and it's so stupid and she hates it, because he doesn't have any power over her anymore but if that's true then why can't she stop shaking?

She paces her house back and forth with balled fists and an anger that has no target, rehearsing every awful word she'd like to say to him, imagining a conversation where she rips him to shreds. She wants to scream until her throat is raw. She wants to hurt him or herself or someone else entirely and it simmers. Anger is so unbecoming of a lady, he says. She has earned her anger, though. It is her right to be angry. She wants to scream it from the rooftops but instead she whispers it to the garden snakes, and listens to the cicadas hum, and imagines that the animals love her too.

She feels so much but maybe that is the price of being free, and maybe that is better than being numb again. It has to be better. She knows it is. She makes more tea and grits her teeth. She is never going back to where she was. She would rather search forever fruitlessly, alone, than give up what little she's made here.

There are weeds growing in the garden. They are dark green and hardy and will gives you an awful rash if you are not careful around them. They are nothing like roses. She lets them stay.

Anthy breathes.

Anthy still reaches up to adjust glasses that aren't there, and flinches in anticipation of pain that never comes. She spends saturday nights at home. She feels safe there. Anthy keeps searching.

When she finds her, she will be ready to shine.