Sakura weaves pink flowers through Ino's icy blonde hair and says, "You look beautiful, Ino."

"I know," replies Ino, smug, and she admires her reflection in the mirror. It's her first date with Kiba, and she's got to look exquisite. He asked her out after a mission and, determined not to be outdone by Sakura, recently spotted making out with Sasuke by the river, she accepted. Kiba is gorgeous and so is she. They are shallow and superficial and they won't last the summer, she knows, but she is seventeen, and there is so much time left to waste. Too much time. This date won't make a difference in the scheme of things.

She spins in her pink dress and Sakura slaps her a high five.

Sakura weaves white flowers through Ino's icy blonde hair and says, "You look beautiful, Ino."

"I know," replies Ino, joyful, and she admires her reflection in the mirror. It's her wedding day with Kiba, and she's got to look exquisite. Two years of shallow, superficial dating, fighting, raucous sex and tears of laughter, and she's beaten Sakura to the altar. Kiba is gorgeous and so is she, in glittering white and makeup, and no one has ever been more beautiful, she is sure of that, and Sakura smiles and shakes her head because who knew Ino would marry Kiba, of all people? So much time. The rest of their lives.

She spins in her white dress and Sakura yanks her in for a hug.

Sakura weaves black flowers through Ino's icy blonde hair and says, "You look beautiful, Ino."

"I know," replies Ino, and she smiles, because she has practice in this. "I'm used to burying the men in my life."

She stands off her stool and admires her reflection in the mirror, admires the way the black satin clings to her shapely hips, her legs, her swollen breasts and her rounded stomach, heavy with a child Kiba created and will never meet.

She didn't know she would be a widow at 21, but she's used to this. Her sensei, her father, her husband, all dead and gone while she survives, a little less whole with each funeral and still sadly present. She will look beautiful, she vows, regardless of the extra thirty pounds that she carries, her swollen ankles and the stretch marks across her stomach. She will look beautiful at his burial with flowers in her hair, because flowers look beautiful and then they die. So much time, she thought they had, and where did that time go? It was supposed to be a fling.

He wasn't supposed to take her heart with him when he died, but that's just what he did.

No more time. She will be beautiful.

She smooths out the wrinkles in her black dress and Sakura holds her hand.

...

note.. merry christmas :)

xoxo daisy