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Rose-Tinted Cheeks

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Maho gave Fujiko a small smile. "I think these flowers are ready to sell at the plant fair. What do you think?"

Fujiko held up a pot of roses to her nose and breathed in the sweet fragrance. "They're beautiful-"

Maho glared at her. "If you say they're beautiful like me, I'll hit you." Fujiko laughed. Maho thought the laugh was as sweet as the roses, but she would never admit it. The memory of Fujiko confessing her love to her swirled around her mind like flowers put in a bowl of water. They had not talked about that event for months and Maho had to admire her friend's patience in waiting for a response.

"I wouldn't say something like that. It would be too embarrassing." Fujiko's cheeks were tinted with a rose colour. Maho wanted to point out that she often said embarrassing things, but her tongue was less sharp than what it used to be. Had Fujiko softened her?

Maho looked down at her flowers as she spoke. "Do you... still have feelings for me?" Fujiko gently placed the pot of roses on the balcony's rail. She looked up with a smile that failed to hide her anguish.

"I... I do... I'm sorry if you think it's strange. Don't worry about it too much."

Maho frowned. "I don't know what you see in me. I'm a mess, plain and simple. I'm always getting drunk, annoyed or both. How do you put up with me?"

"It's not a matter of putting up with someone. I can see that you're more than just that. You've broken out of your frame, so-"

"Enough about that! I'm sick of talking about 'frames'. Is it so bad to want to fit in a frame? I... I just want to...."

Maho wiped her tiny tears away before they had a chance to be noticed. She looked at Fujiko. "It's ridiculous how you keep cutting your hair short. Are you trying to be like a man to get closer to me? Why do you bother when you still look like a woman? Why do I bother trying to pass for a woman?"

"But... you are a woman. And I'm not trying to look like a man. My hair just feels constricting. Cutting it off makes me feel free, like I'm out of my frame."

"What did I say about the frame?"

"I don't care! Unlike you, I'm not content in being what's expected of me!" Fujiko shouted, startling Maho. Maho stepped back quickly. Her back almost folded on top of the rail as she fell backwards. Her eyes widened as she saw concrete that darkened with raindrops, which began to dive into the air until they reached the ground. Despite the now stormy weather, Maho's thoughts became clear.

She finally allowed herself to cry as she felt Fujiko's warm hand holding her arm. She looked up and saw the pain in her eyes. She shook her head.

"Just let go. Let me die," she said in a gravely low voice.

"Now's not the time to be joking about things like that."

"I'm not kidding this time. I really want to go."

"And leave me all alone?" Maho furrowed her eyebrows. "It's okay if you don't like me back, but you can't forget that you and Koko are my only friends. I... I would crumble if you died. My world would shatter to pieces."

Fujiko was a big fan of using clichés and dramatic metaphors in her speech, whether she realised it or not. Sometimes this quirk made Maho grumpy, but on other days, such as when they first talked about social 'frames', she found it endearing. As Fujiko's hold on her arm tightened, Maho reached an epiphany.

"I... I do return your feelings. Can I live?" Fujiko grinned like a child high on sugar. She pulled up her friend with all her strength until Maho was sitting on the balcony. "Thank you. I still don't know how you can stand me."

Fujiko wrapped her arms around Maho's broad shoulders and held her close. "It's okay. I'm sorry for complaining about being lonely. I shouldn't have been such a burden."

Maho held Fujiko's chin up and crashed their lips together. She tried to remember kissing someone like this, but all of her memories of being with other girls were filled with judgement and harsh words. She remembered coming out as a woman to her first crush.

"You're... not a boy? Are you some sort of tranny? No offence, but you could never pass for a girl. Just be a guy and we could be together."

She knew that this would never happen again. She had Fujiko and that was all that mattered to her at the moment.

Fujiko ended the kiss, her beam growing wider as her heart warmed up like a heating pad. She wiped away more of Maho's tears. Maho smiled back at her, showing no traces of her earlier depressed state. Both women had cheeks as red as roses.