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Adornments of Youth

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Sumire stared at her reflection in the tall mirror, a seldom-used mirror that stood off to the side of the bedroom she shared with Lucia. She wore a shiny black dress, one with thin straps and a flared skirt that stopped above the knees. It was low-cut, although revealed little cleavage, and upon the chest was a ruby brooch with a frilly border. She also wore a choker and arm-socks made from the same material as the dress, as well as a short top hat that had a ribbon fastened in the style of a flower with attached feathers.

She wrapped her arms around herself, not once breaking eye contact with her reflection. She remembered that a year ago, before Lola had even come to live with them, she and Lucia had played dress-up once before, although Lucia had not been rather reluctant.

Running her fingers along the side of her arm, she felt the soft, unfamiliar fabric. The memory played itself over and over in her mind. She wondered if it had been at that moment she had fallen in love with Lucia. But she had only finally realized what her feelings meant a week ago, and they had only begun dating a few days ago.

"Dating." That word still felt unfamiliar to Sumire's ears. No one else knew yet, not even Nahashi, and Sumire and Lucia hadn't yet gone beyond kissing and holding hands.

She let out a heavy sigh. They were still young, still inexperienced. The fact that they were both girls was something that she had found surprisingly easy to accept, but how would everyone else react? Nahashi was bound to notice something eventually, and how would she tell her parents? Assuming, however, that her parents didn't already think she was involved with Lucia.

Sumire couldn't help but blush at the thought. If they did, it would make her explanation so much easier.

Now, they had planned to go on their first date in public. It had been Lucia's idea to dress up; they would already stand out anyway, since they were both girls and of different races, so Lucia had suggested they go all the way and pick out their very finest dresses to wear for their first date.

Reaching out to touch the mirror and stopping just before her fingertips make contact with the smooth glass, Sumire felt a shiver go down her spine. Lucia was already used to standing out, as she looked like a foreigner and even though she no longer wore a conspicuous eyepatch, few would think her golden left eye appeared natural. Lucia didn't mind; she had long since conditioned herself to not worry about what strangers thought of her.

But Sumire knew it would be different for her. She was used to blending in with the crowds, living a normal life. She almost laughed at the thought. Her life hadn't been "normal" since the day she had met Lucia, and she didn't regret a thing. She had made many mistakes, some she had yet to forgive herself for, but she was stronger now. She didn't want to be ashamed of the love she felt for Lucia.

She inhaled a deep breath. This day was supposed to be special, and Lucia had picked out a special dress for her, and it would give her strength, she prayed.

The door opened, and Sumire turned her head to see Lucia walking in. Lucia's dress was also black, and hers was form-fitting and went down to her ankles. It had a high collar, but it left her arms and upper back bare, and around her right wrist looped a cloth bracelet multiple times, and from it hung a golden fleur-de-lis. She wore her hair down, with her bangs partially obscuring her left eye.

Sumire couldn't help but smile; she had picked out this dress for Lucia, and Lucia looked more beautiful in it than she had expected. "You look lovely, Lucia-san," she said, walking over to Lucia.

A faint blush came across Lucia's cheeks. "And so do you, Sumire," she replied, smiling. "Put on your shoes and let's go now."

Sumire nodded and put on a pair of high-heeled, black boots that went up to her knees, and Lucia opted for a simpler pair of high heels that matched her dress. They then left the bedroom and when they made it to the upper level of the shop, they left a note for Nahashi detailing where they were headed.

Hand-in-hand, both Sumire and Lucia inhaled a deep breath, and then opened the door to the shop and then stepped outside.

The weather was pleasant, yet crisp, as was typical of autumn weather. As the two girls wandering through the city, stopping briefly for ice cream, they did attract more than a few stares, but people quickly looked away. No one said anything, no one did anything.

Soon Lucia and Sumire made their way to the park at the base of the mountains, the same park where Sumire had first met Yoshiki over a year ago, and it no longer had that strange lingering scent. Now, it had the scent of trees and leaves changing colors for the season.

Wordlessly, the two of them sat on a bench not far from the empty playground, finishing what reminded of their ice cream. Both of them had gotten cones; Lucia's was vanilla, and Sumire's was chocolate with sprinkles. Childish, perhaps, but Sumire saw nothing wrong with it.

The two of them were alone in this open space. There were no children on the playground equipment - indeed, Sumire realized she had never seen children playing here - and the sky was painted with the colors of sunset. It almost felt strange for Sumire to have dressed up with no one but Lucia to admire. Strange, yet intimate, and Sumire found herself blushing at the thought. No one was staring at them here; she was alone with Lucia, both of them dressed for a beautiful solitude.

As she finished off the rest of her ice cream cone, Sumire was acutely aware of the feel of her dress against her skin. It was cool, not exactly designed for warmth, and a few times the wind had nearly blown off her hat, and right now she could feel a gentle breeze rustling the frills of her skirt. Her dress hugged her close, and yet it didn't feel constricting at all.

She looked over at Lucia. Lucia's dress fit nicely against the curves of her body, accentuating her figure, and although her arms and back were bare, she didn't seem bothered by the cool weather at all. In this moment, she somehow appeared very regal to Sumire, even if she was chewing the last of her ice cream cone.

Lucia noticed Sumire's stare and blushed. "Sumire?" she said. "Is something on my face?"

Sumire giggled as she slid closer to Lucia, letting their arms blush together. "No, I was just thinking about beautiful you look," she replied. "That dress looks really good on you."

"It's a little tight, and it's not suited for this weather, but thanks," Lucia said, smiling as her eyes met Sumire's, and Sumire could just barely see her golden eye behind her pale hair.

"Y-Yeah, we probably should've looked up the forecast first," Sumire said as she let out a nervous chuckle. "But it's nice to dress up once in a while, don't you think? Even if people did stare…"

Lucia laid her hand over Sumire's, intertwining her fingers with her girlfriend's. "It wasn't that many people," she assured. "But if we're going to keep dating, we're going to attract attention, whether we like it or not."

Sumire rested her head against Lucia's shoulder, and her free hand tugged at the hem of her skirt. The fabric was soft and smooth against her fingers, and it was comforting. "I know," she finally said after a moment of silence. "We'll need to tell Nahashi-san and the others soon, and I should tell my parents…"

With her other hand Lucia gently stroked Sumire's hair, being careful not to disturb her hat. "I think he already suspects," Lucia said. "And your parents are pretty easy-going, so I'm not worried about them either."

Sumire smiled softly. "When did you get so optimistic?"

A blush returned to Lucia's cheeks. "Well, I just figured you'd get mad if I was pessimistic all the time, so…" she trailed off, her fingers tightening around Sumire's hand as she turned her face away.

Sumire didn't reply, simply pulling Lucia into a tight embrace. Lucia let out a grasp of surprise, but didn't resist and even returned the embrace, wrapping her arms tightly around Sumire's back. Sumire could feel the fabric of Lucia's dress; it was different than hers, but no less comforting.

There was nothing obviously special about this occasion; the two girls had simply decided to dress up because they could. Still, there was something special about this to them, Sumire thought. Maybe just putting on fancy clothing made "this" feel special to them. A first date had to be symbolized by something memorable, and for two girls of Venus Vangard, beautiful dresses would work just fine.

"Sumire." Lucia's voice, barely a whisper, was enough to jolt Sumire out of her thoughts. "What do you want to do in the future? Will you go to university?"

"I don't know yet," Sumire answered, gently threading her fingers through Lucia's long hair. "But I wouldn't mind taking over the shop with you, if we can. Still, I do know I want to stay by your side, Lucia-san."

Lucia chuckled quietly, and yet Sumire still felt it reverberate through her back. "Thank you, Sumire."

The future was uncertain, and Sumire wasn't naïve enough to think it would be easy. Right now, she did feel she wanted to spend her life with Lucia, but the idea of marriage seemed so very distant. Still, she did hope for a day when the idea didn't feel so remote, marriage would be an option for them.

Sumire pulled away from Lucia, and their eyes met for a moment before they came together again for a kiss. This was their first kiss in public, their first kiss outside of their bedroom, and no one was watching. In this moment, just the two of them existed.

Against the backdrop of the setting sun, the sun's dying rays shone upon the elegant dresses the two girls wore.