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together forever, right?

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As a small child, you disagree with the regular repetition of rules. It is not so much that you disagree, however, that you ignore simply to ignore.

You become lonely, but never wish to be accepted by your peers.

One thing you always wish for is a friend, though.

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As a larger child, you find one in a girl named Feferi.

She is bright and sweet and courageous and you love her, even though girls have cooties, so you have to stay away for fear you get them. (The effects of said cooties are unknown, however it is best, you think, that you never find out.) She shouts, sometimes, you see, when she gets excited. You see her scrape her knee and not cry, though, so you figure that she might not have cooties too bad.

Approaching her eventually, you spend a single day together and quickly find common interest in sealife. Her dad is a fisherman, yours, dead.

She never laughs at your stutter, nor at your thick, black-rimmed glasses. She herself trips over her ees, and wears pink glasses that you think are awesome.

Together, you fight monsters and defeat villains. You scream and shout and stab at the air with your stick, then Feferi Has A Talk with it, and it peacefully moves aside. You huff at the imaginary foe once, though, just to be sure.

One day, she comes to school with a black eye, and is very, very quiet.

You sit by her at lunch, and, very gently, reach up to pat at her eye. She closes it as you ring around it, then bites her lip, bares her teeth, and slaps your hand away with a carefully measured pat. You flinch, then hug her.

She hugs back, and sheds a tear or two into your shirt.

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At thirteen, you find many things wrong with the world, though none of them are Feferi. You find her belief in beauty ironic and sad, though, as you study her body for more reasons than one. She is wearing a bikini, and you think there are bruises just below her breasts, but she crosses her arms and sways in the water right then, kicking up water with her long-toed feet and turning to you and smiling. You smile back bitterly, wishing you could make all the world right for her. Staring at the space just below the sun, you wonder if you were blind, would everything bad you see disappear?

Digging your toes into the warm sand, you ponder life and blindness and sea, and you start to wish for another thing, that maybe, everyone could die and it would only be you and Fef, forever swimming and never crying. The thought is gone as an arm is slipped around you, bare skin against your bare back and you blink, monologue broken. Her lips are stretched in a smile, and her goggles are on her face, eyelashes pressed to clear plastic, spinning away small water drops with every sweep they make. She taps your nose with a wet, salty finger, and the water drips down to your lips. You lick, lizard-fast, and it tastes of brine. She giggles, and you wipe at your nose, which is now cold.

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Snow is falling in lacy drips from the clouds, fast but unhurried. The flakes catch in your eyelashes and tinge the edge of your vision with white. You worry your lip and bite and blood blooms in your mouth, brackish and overwhelming. But then you kiss her with bloodied lips, red staining her, and you lick your lips like an apology. “Take that as you will.”

You turn your mind and your eyes back to the hills, afraid to say anything that might leave the unspoken question answered.

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