Ami looked up from her coursework.
"You said you like manga, right?" It was Yayoi asking. She had that gentle smile she always seemed to have regardless of what she was thinking about.
"Huh? Yeah, I suppose," Ami answered. She wasn't reading as much since she got into cycling, but back when she didn't really have much to do it had been a decent way to pass the time.
"Well, I found one I think you'll like," Yayoi said, and put her bag down on the table so she could take something out of it.
"Oh?" Ami watched as Yayoi pulled out five volumes, and stacked them on the table in front of her. "Uh... shouldn't I be starting with just one?" she asked.
Yayoi pushed up her glasses. "Don't worry. I'm very certain you'll like it, ufufu~."
* * *
It turned out to be a romantic comedy sort of series, with a slice of life angle. Ami typically preferred more action-focused series, but she had never actually told Yayoi that, so she supposed she couldn't fault her for assuming. Except she wasn't sure if she was happy about giving off the impression that this was the sort of stuff she liked.
On the upside it was well written. The characters were a little tropey, but that was hard to avoid those days, and it was put to good use for the most part. She actually found herself quite invested by the end of the first volume, and immediately got started on the second. Seemed like Yayoi had been correct, which also gave Ami some conflicting feelings. The thought that someone else might know her better than she knew herself was not comforting.
Perhaps the most interesting part was that this was romance between girls. Ami hadn't really considered that as a thing before. When she thought back on what she had previously read, there were a couple that had had similar sub-themes. She just hadn't realised it at the time because it wasn't as blatant as it was here. It had flown over her head. The story had one established, but secretive couple as side characters, and then there were the two leads. The big issue getting in the way of the romance was that one of them was a bit too dense. It was clear that she was interested in girls based on how she looked at them, and thought about them, but she didn't realise it herself. A frustrating aspect to be sure, but it also made Ami want to read on to find out when she would finally get it.
She was about to reach for the fourth volume when she noticed how late it had gotten. It was tempting to stay up longer, but she had an early lecture, and then she was going cycling with Aoi in the afternoon. She could keep going when she got back home the next day. Perhaps she should ask Yayoi about the following volumes already. It was possible she'd get through the next two pretty quickly.
* * *
Ami woke up from a rather vivid dream. While she could only vaguely remember what had actually happened, the feelings she had gotten from it still sat with her.
It was quite dark, so it had to be the middle of the night. She should go back to sleep right away, but her thoughts felt like they were scratching at something. What could possibly-
Wait a minute, she suddenly thought. She's me!
* * *
"You did that on purpose, Yayoi-san," Ami said accusingly. She had finally found Yayoi sitting together with Hinako in one of the college's study lounges.
"Hm?" Yayoi gave her a puzzled look.
"That manga. You gave it to me on purpose."
"Yes? Was there a problem?" Yayoi asked.
"You knew. You knew she was just like me," Ami said. She had not gotten the most restful sleep after last night's epiphany, and was feeling rather grumpy at the moment.
"Yuna. She's just like me."
Yayoi's smile grew wider. "Oh? In what way?"
"Uh..." Ami froze. It suddenly occurred to her where she actually was, and what she was saying. "That... that I... I'm into... um..."
Hinako was looking back and forth between Yayoi and Ami with a confused expression. "What's going on?" she asked.
"Our dear Ami-chan is finally blossoming~," Yayoi said in a chirpy tone.
"Eh?" Hinako didn't seem like she got it.
"I'll explain later," Yayoi said, before looking at Ami again. "Any other things you... realised~?"
Ami blinked. "Uh... no? Just... that." Part of her was relieved that she didn't have to spell things out, and another part of her was still annoyed that she was apparently so easy to read. Had everyone else realised before she did? Well, maybe not. Hinako looked confused, so maybe it was just Yayoi who had figured it out. Ami wanted to ask how, but had a feeling she wouldn't get a satisfactory answer.
"Oh me, oh my. Well, baby steps, I suppose~," Yayoi said.
Ami had no idea what she was referring to. Was there supposed to be something else?
"So, did you want to borrow more of that manga, then?"
"Uh..." Ami felt like she was blushing, but couldn't help it. "... yes..."
Yayoi pulled out three more volumes on the spot, as if she had predicted this would happen. That didn't really make Ami feel better, but she hurriedly picked them up before Hinako got too good of a look at them.
"Thank you..." Ami mumbled before wandering off. The final look Hinako had shot her made her wonder if she had also figured it out by the end there. How embarrassing.
It was only three volumes though, not five like last time. She'd have to look up whether that was the whole series when she got home.
* * *
Ami and Aoi made it to the Milkhouse with ease. It was weird to think how much trouble she'd had getting there when she first started out. Technically they didn't need to take a break there. Ami had no problem going longer distances any more. But it was sort of a tradition. And she had something she wanted to tell Aoi. It had been her gamble that even though the dairy was reasonably popular, they'd be able to find somewhere quiet to sit outside.
"Is something the matter, Ami? You've barely touched your ice cream," Aoi asked.
Ami realised she had completely spaced out. Her strawberry soft serve had started to melt.
"Er... well... not... as such... certainly nothing wrong," Ami said. She realised she hadn't really put a lot of thought into how to say this. "I just... there's something I want to tell you, Aoi-chan."
"Oh?" Aoi put another spoonful of ice cream into her mouth.
"Yeah, I... hm... I had a bit of an epiphany, I guess?" Ami thought that was the right word.
Aoi had a curious expression, but she didn't interrupt.
Probably best to get it out there quick. "You see... I think... I might be gay."
Aoi's eyes went wide, and she nearly dropped her ice cream. "W-what?"
"Uh, I mean like... I think I'm a lesbian," Ami clarified.
"Wh..." Aoi was staring at her, and it made Ami feel a little uncomfortable. "W-why are you telling me?" Aoi asked.
"Well... you're my best friend. So it's important to me that you know, because... it's important." Ami wasn't sure if she was making sense. "I don't want to hide things that are important."
Aoi finally looked away. "I don't understand how you manage to be so blunt, Ami." She sighed.
"Well..." Ami didn't really have a good answer.
"But you're probably right... it's not good to hide things that are important. Maybe I should take a page out of your book."
"Aoi-chan?" Ami felt confused.
"I... um..." Aoi smiled awkwardly, and scratched at her cheek. It took a couple of moments before she continued speaking. "I... I've had a crush on you... for a long time... Ami." She seemed to be growing pinker with each word she said. "So... m-maybe... instead of your best friend... I could be... your girlfriend?"
"Huh?" Ami's mind went blank for moment. "But... I like you as my best friend," she blurted out. Aoi was always there when she needed it. There was no way she would have been able to get into cycling without her. Maybe she wouldn't even be handling college without her around. She relied on her for so much.
Aoi's posture sagged. "Oh... yeah, of course... I... sorry, I shouldn't have..."
"Uh, no! I-I mean... that's not... uuhhh..." Ami could feel panic rising from within. She didn't want to see Aoi with an expression like that. "I mean... I meant... w-why not both?"
Ami was in no way sure of what she was doing, but she was doing it anyway. "W-well, even if we become girlfriends, we'd still be best friends, right?" That felt like how it should work, at least.
"You sure?" Aoi asked.
"Um... no?" Ami answered honestly. "But there's no one else I'd rather find out with." She didn't know what she would do if it didn't work out, but that was a problem for another day. Or hopefully never. "Just don't expect too much of me, please."
Aoi smiled, then turned her nose up in a huff. "You really scared me there, you know."
Aoi opened one eye. "But... I guess I can forgive you." Her smile returned as she relaxed.
Ami smiled back. "So... what now?"
"What do girlfriends do, exactly?" Ami hadn't gotten to that point in the manga yet.
"I... am not sure." Something about Aoi's tone made it feel like she wasn't telling the whole truth. "Any ideas?"
"I'm still a beginner lesbian," Ami said. "You're the more experienced one."
"Hey, having a crush isn't experience!"
Another epiphany hit Ami. If she was like Yuna, then Aoi was kinda like the other lead Rikka. Always trying to get Yuna's attention, while Yuna was too dense to notice. That had to have been what Yayoi had been referring to. She giggled.
"What's so funny?" Aoi asked.
"Oh, just... never mind. I'm sure we'll figure it out, Aoi-chan."
Ami felt something cold on her finger. "Eh?" The melting soft serve was finally spilling over the sides of the cone, and onto her hand. Threatening to drip onto her legs. "Ah!" She quickly moved the cone away, which spilled ice cream onto the table. Aoi quickly went to get more paper napkins.
That ended the conversation, but Ami had a feeling it would work out somehow. There was no one she trusted more than Aoi, after all.