The summer after sophomore year, everything feels a little like an exhale. An unpleasantly warm exhale, but an exhale all the same. Aguefort puts the sun back in the right place just in time for it to get ridiculously hot in Elmville. Jawbone agrees to a pool on the grounds of the manor. Ayda comes over and Fig invites her to spend the night, and the next one, and the next one until they work it out over a contract, that Ayda is welcome in perpetuity.
significant-FIGure: she;s like,,, u know fantasy waterloo
fabian-aramais-supportcaster: the locale???
significant-FIGure: no fuck that i mean the popular song fantasy waterloo
krtsn-trackerbees: ohhhhhh like the one that goes WATERLOO
significant-FIGure: ya anyway
significant-FIGure: when im w her,,, it feels like THat
significant-FIGure: ohgod shes texting me
boggys-buddy: we live together. you see each other literally every day.
fabian-aramais-supportcaster: adaine shhhhh
significant-FIGure: is anyone at ice cream rn
krtsn-trackerbees: i’m building?? a house today??
krstn-trackerbees: so no
significant-FIGure has logged off. Don’t break the PrayerChain!
THE-ball: is something wrong at basrar’s?
fabian-aramais-supportcaster: @THE-ball probably not
jorjuj: no ayda asked me if that was a good place to go on a date and i was like “yeah” so it’s probably cool
Somewhere between the booth at Basrar’s and the bus stop Fig slips her hand into Ayda’s and pretends she isn’t blushing. Maybe it’s silly, seeing as how Ayda’s seen her bleeding and messed up and likes her anyway, but it still feels so vulnerable to just be together. It’s a different kind of intimacy, telling someone they’ve got chocolate ice cream on their face instead of breaking into a high-security prison.
When Ayda had texted her the invitation to go out and consume frozen custard-based foods together, Fig had given her affirmative and then caught sight of herself in the mirror. Then she’d messed with her hair for nine minutes. Then she’d walked directly into the door instead of opening it. That part wasn’t fun.
This is, though. It’s so good to sit on the cushioned bench and accidentally ignite napkins together, so good to watch Ayda watch people pass by the front window, so good to walk side by side on the concrete in the sun.
After a while, Ayda wraps an arm around her waist and tilts her head skyward in invitation. Grinning, Fig nods and Ayda whispers a spell around them both that lets them leave gravity behind.
On the doorstep, Ayda says, “I think this was a successful date. What are your thoughts on our excursion.”
“I really like you,” Fig blurts, like she hasn’t said it before. “I really like you, this was great, um, do you wanna—”
“May I kiss you.”
“Do you want to?”
“It is the standard end to a date.”
“I only want you to kiss me if you want to,” Fig says more firmly, and means I want you to kiss me because you like me and I know you do, and I’ll do anything for you, anything you want.
Ayda kisses her on the porch once, twice, a third time, until Fig feels dizzy and light-headed, face so warm that it must match Ayda’s glow, it must.
significant-FIGure: @krstn-trackerbees kristen
krtsn-trackerbees: thought you were calling roll
significant-FIGure: WHY would i be doing that
krstn-trackerbees: anyway sup
significant-FIGure: need advice... about... girlf
krstn-trackerbees: take ur time i know theres a Lot
significant-FIGure: ayda took me on a ice cream date what do i do now
krstn-trackerbees: awwww how was it
significant-FIGure: it was perfect and good n stuff she likes pistachio what do i. do now.
krstn-trackerbees: i mean when me and tracker got together she took me places a lot
krstn-trackerbees: maybe you should invite ayda somewhere back
significant-FIGure: but WHERE
krstn-trackerbees: hang on ill ask tracker
significant-FIGure: ............................... its been fOURTEEN years kristennn
krstn-trackerbees: ok so she said “1) it’s not a competition so dont worry if ur idea doesnt seem as good. 2 - go somewhere that makes u happy that u think she’d like and 3. talk to ayda to see if shes having fun”
krstn-trackerbees: i spent a lot of our first dates hiding in bathrooms and leaving early so maybe dont do that
krstn-trackerbees: good luck trackers home gottago
krstn-trackerbees has logged off. Don’t break the PrayerChain!
Fig invites Ayda to the Elmville Botanical Garden, also known as ‘the outdoor section of the Elmville Hardware Emporium.’ It’s another hot day, but there’s shade in patches over the plants and neither of them really worry about heat, anyway.
They walk between high shelves of planter options and slightly wilted pallets of flowers when Ayda asks why here, specifically.
“This is fun,” she says quickly, “I was just curious about the reasoning behind the location.”
Fig shrugs a shoulder like she hadn’t agonized over tabs on her crystal, flipping between movie times and perfect date quizzes and guides on what magical plants react well to fire. “When I was a kid, when mom and Gilear were married, we used to come here for stuff for the yard a lot. I always liked it, and I—I thought it might be cool if we had something plant-y. Something growing.”
Ayda bursts into fiery tears.
“Oh, fuck,” Fig yelps, a little too loudly if the glare the woman by the baronese zinnias sends her is any indication. “Hey, I’m sorry, we don’t have to get a plant! I swear we don’t need one! It’s cool, we can go somewhere else, I can make this up to you—”
Ayda starts shaking her head. “I don’t want to go somewhere else,” she says as her tears burn little patches on the floor. “This is simply a very kind and romantic gesture. You have shared a place that holds dear memories with me and it is. A lot for me to process.”
The knots in Fig’s stomach begin to unclench. “So... I didn’t mess the date up? It’s okay still?”
Ayda wipes away the last of her sudden tears and turns the whole of her focus on Fig. She smiles and bobs her head in a single nod, before looking a little troubled.
“We need a plant that is at least partially fireproof,” she starts looking at the labels on some of the pots, concerned.
Fig pulls out her crystal and opens her list of plant notes. “I started researching a little already,” she says, and it feels a little like an apology. “I know you like looking stuff up but I thought it would be good if we had some parameters set, so I pulled up the store inventory and started filtering stuff...”
Ayda is staring at her.
“Was that... okay? That I did that? I just didn’t want us to start from scratch, and I know you like to have as much information as possible when making a commitment like this.” Once Fig starts talking the words just come faster and faster, tumbling out of her.
Ayda puts a hand on her shoulder. “You started research for me.”
Fig nods, uncertain.
“That’s incredibly attractive,” Ayda says, and her kiss is euphoric.
They plant lavender on the east side of the house, under Fig’s window. On Ayda’s windowsill, three small cacti grow happily in a series of differently-sized ceramic pots, each a little wonky from the amateur hands that molded them.