Love Potion No. 19 : Chapter Twelve
Eep, completion! Please see my important notice at the end!
Chapter 12: Love is Sharing, but Sometimes Keeping
"I brought muffins!" Makoto sang, walking into Minako's apartment without bothering to knock.
As her baking had taken longer than she'd planned, Makoto was the last to arrive, and the other girls quickly swarmed around her, trying to snatch one of the still-warm poppy seed muffins.
"Makoto-chan, you're amazing," Usagi said through a mouthful of dough, savoring the muffin only for a moment, before gulping it down and reaching for another. It only took a moment for the girls to gather around on the floor of Minako's living room, giggling and chatting and gossiping and making fun plans for the evening.
"But before we do anything else," Rei said, holding up both hands, "I want to know the story behind Minako and Motoki."
The girls instantly shifted their focus to a beaming blonde as she began innocently pulling her doughy muffin apart bit by bit and slipping it into her mouth.
"Yeah, girl, spill," added Makoto anxiously.
Usagi frowned. "What are you talking about? Did I miss something?"
"Oh, it was after you left the arcade today, Usagi-chan," answered Ami smugly. "Motoki brought Minako her food and called her beautiful and smiled very adoringly, right in front of everyone."
"Even Mamoru," included Rei, as if that fact played an important role in the story. Usagi didn't even blink at the mention of his name, instead turning her focus to Minako, who looked as though she were about to burst with an untold secret.
They all leaned in closer and Minako laughed giddily.
"It isn't much, really," she said. "Not yet, at least. But he found out that I have a bit of a crush on him and when he found out, he…"
"He…?" the others asked in unison.
"He kissed me!"
They all gasped.
"When was this?"
"Where was this?"
"How come you didn't tell us?"
She hushed them with her hands. "Yes way. It was last night at the arcade, right before closing. And I wanted to tell you all at once, but we haven't really seen each other since it happened. Except for earlier today, but there wasn't much room for gossiping then."
Usagi held the courtesy to blush, though she quickly changed the subject back to Minako's newfound romance. "And you said it wasn't much! You liar!"
Minako giggled again, her face glowing. "No, no, it wasn't a kiss kiss. It was only on my temple. Right here." She tapped her face where he had kissed her and the other girls swooned. She shrugged cheerfully. "Then I had to go, so I gave him a kiss goodbye. Just on the cheek, but… well, it's a start!"
They all laughed in agreement.
"You lucky girl," said Makoto, shaking her head. "Motoki's such a cutie."
"And a sweetheart," sighed Ami.
"Yep, there are lots of girls who would gladly trade places with you tonight," said Usagi with a wink.
"I'm so jealous," said Rei, though her laughter and twinkling eyes made her statement difficult to believe. "Of both of you! First Usagi kisses Mamoru, Hottie Numero Uno, and now Minako goes kissing—"
"Hey, I did not kiss Mamoru-baka!"
A quick hush fell on the group as they turned to see Usagi who only a moment ago had been so cheerful, now glaring at Rei with unmistakable anger. The priestess shifted uncomfortably for a moment before shaking her head and meeting Usagi's gaze.
"How would you know? You have amnesia, remember?"
Drawing her brow down, Usagi folded her arms. "Yeah, and the last thing I remember is dumping a milkshake on the creep's head. You must all think I'm crazy to believe that I could go from that to kissing him in 72 hours."
"Not crazy," Minako said determinedly, "but maybe crazy about him."
"You too?" Usagi huffed.
"Usagi-chan, don't get angry," Ami said logically. "We aren't criticizing or judging you for anything. We're only telling you what happened."
"But I did not kiss him!"
"Yeah, you did."
"No, I didn't! I wouldn't!" She realized that she was screaming now and forced herself to take a deep breath.
In her silence, Makoto asked, "Why are you rebelling so hard against this?"
Though she couldn't voice her discoveries to her closest friends, Makoto's question stirred a voice in Usagi's head that she'd been trying to ignore since her strange awakening from the three-day memory lapse. A little voice that kept telling her that maybe she didn't hate Mamoru. That maybe, given very strange circumstances, she even liked him. Maybe she liked it when he teased her. Maybe she held her breath when he looked at her. Maybe she hoped she would crash into him on her way to school. Maybe she longed to hear his voice, and even the dreaded nickname, before her day felt complete.
Maybe, given very strange circumstances, she would have even acted on those feelings.
But if that was the case, if she admitted it to herself even for a moment, if she let herself believe that she had kissed him, then everything had changed. And she wouldn't be able to regain the comfortable teasing, taunting relationship she'd worked so hard for. She wouldn't be able to look him in the eye without melting, and without wondering what the kiss had been like. If he had liked it. If she had liked it.
She simply couldn't let everything change so drastically, not if it could be avoided. And so far, denial seemed to be her only means of achieving that end.
She bit her lip, realizing that the girls were still waiting for an answer.
"I'm rebelling against it because I hate him, and nothing anyone ever says or does will change that," she spat. "And I did not kiss him. I would not kiss him. End of story."
Standing, she grabbed her coat and headed for the door of the small apartment.
"Usagi?" Makoto called after her worriedly.
"I'm going to get some chocolate. I'll be back."
Minako tugged on her blonde hair as the door slammed behind her friend. "But I have a whole drawer of chocolate," she murmured.
"Honestly!" Usagi huffed, storming into the supermarket. She'd found that by diverting her attention to all of the annoying quirks Mamoru had displayed over the months that she'd known him, it was much easier to bring her anger to the surface, which was helpful because in thinking about all of the wonderful quirks of his, it had begun to fade. She needed that anger. Without it, who knew where her thoughts, and emotions, would lead her.
"The nerve of those girls! To assume that I would ever have feelings for that… that… jerk! Any feelings other than annoyance, of course. The thought of ME kissing HIM is absolutely, positively…"
Her feet and her ranting came to a simultaneous halt as she rounded the corner into the candy aisle to see Mamoru standing there with a shopping basket on one elbow and a Dove bar in the other hand. He glanced up at her and she heard a sharp intake of breath as their eyes locked.
A moment later, Mamoru's surprise began to melt away and his lips quirked upward. "Fancy meeting you here, Odango."
She almost didn't hear him over the sound of her heart beating in her head, but she managed to break from her trance, huff her shoulders, and turn her attention to the shelves of chocolate. "Don't start, Baka."
When Mamoru didn't respond, she focused all of her energy on making it seem as though she was immersed in candy selection instead of trying to analyze Mamoru's every word and action. Those conflicting thoughts were why it took Usagi almost a full minute to realize the Godiva dark chocolate box was empty. She gasped and pulled it off the shelf to see if there was another behind it. There wasn't.
"Oh, this can't be happening to me!" she wailed.
A nervous Mamoru cleared his throat behind her and she jumped, having momentarily forgotten he was there, then turned to glare at him for interrupting her moment of self-pity. The glare dropped when she saw him pull a gold-wrapped candy bar from his basket.
"I think I got the last one," he said sheepishly.
Pursing her lips, Usagi forced herself to inhale deeply and slowly turned back to the chocolate selection.
"You can have it," he admirably suggested.
"No, I'll choose something else."
"You seemed to really want it."
"It is my favorite, but it's fine."
"I insist. I'll pick something else."
"No, I insist. You got it first."
"Mamoru! I don't want the stupid candy bar!" she screamed and was shocked to find tears welling up in her eyes. Quickly, she grabbed a Hershey's with Almonds and stormed up to the cashier. But as she was reaching into her purse, a $20 bill passed beneath her nose. Looking up, she saw Mamoru smiling at her in a most infuriatingly charming way.
"How about we share it?"
So stunned by the weakness in her knees, Usagi could only stare at him as he passed his basket of groceries to the clerk—though groceries was a loose term.
Usagi raised an eyebrow as the checker scanned candy bar after candy bar.
"Have a sweet tooth, Mamoru-baka?"
He chuckled and glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "It's been a long week." Collecting his change and the candy, Mamoru directed Usagi out of the store with his fingertips on her lower back. The touch made her shiver and she prayed he didn't notice.
"Are you cold?"
So much for divine intervention. "No."
"Really? Running around after dark in your pajamas and you're not cold? I'm impressed."
Usagi blushed, looking down at the pink pants speckled with moons and stars that she'd forgotten she was wearing.
"It's a nice look on you," he said teasingly, but before her temper could flare he had draped his jacket over her shoulders and was coaxing her down the sidewalk. She didn't rebel, though she felt as though she should have. "How does the park sound?"
Romantic Usagi thought. She said nothing.
And so Usagi found herself sitting on a park bench in her pajamas, beneath a star-filled sky, eating chocolate beside the man that she positively was not in love with.
As she nibbled away on her Hershey's treat, surprised at her own subconscious attempts at ladylike manners, Mamoru gingerly unwrapped the Godiva bar, broke it into chunks, and set it down on the wrapper between them. She ignored it at first, but soon felt that she was being silly and if Mamoru wanted to split his treasure with her, she really shouldn't complain. So temptation won out and she found herself snacking on the confectionary paradise.
It was at about that time she realized Mamoru wasn't talking.
The silence quickly became unbearable and Usagi tried to amuse herself by digging her sneakered toes into the dirt. Then her hand met with something warm and she gasped and turned to see her fingers intertwined with Mamoru's, hovering over the chocolate.
A moment later he pulled away and if the moonlight had been more reliable, she could have sworn he was blushing.
With her pulse racing, Usagi quickly grabbed a piece of chocolate and shoved it into her mouth, trying to think only of the melting warmth on her tongue and not of the sudden warmth in her cheeks or at the base of her stomach.
"So…" Mamoru said, clearing his throat.
Usagi breathed a sigh of relief at the broken silence.
"What are you doing out at night in your pajamas, anyway?"
She froze mid-chew, puckered her lips, and forced herself to swallow. "Well, er…" Giggling, she tugged on a strand of hair. "I was at Minako-chan's with the girls. We were having a slumber party, right? But then, they just… well, kept teasing me. You know how girls can be. And I needed to take a break from them, so I came to get a snack."
Mamoru didn't respond at first and Usagi found herself pulling his coat tight around her for comfort.
Suddenly, as if the quiet had become too much for her to stand, Usagi groaned and tossed her head back. "It's just that they won't drop this stupid prank!" she yelled to the empty park.
"Oh, don't pretend like you're not in on it! You know, this 'Usagi has amnesia so let's all pretend like she made a fool of herself and kissed Mamoru, ha ha ha!'"
Mamoru's silence reigned again as she stuffed the last handful of chocolate into her mouth with a vengeance and let her irritation simmer.
If she'd looked, she would have seen the affectionate, reminiscing smile on Mamoru's face, but she didn't.
Finally, he whispered, "You did kiss me."
"I did not!"
Crickets began thrumming peacefully around them.
"Okay," he said noncommittally. "But you did try to do my dishes."
"Fine. But what about taking my jacket to the dry cleaner?"
"In your dreams!"
"If you say so. Oh, but you also baked me cookies."
"Why would I do all of these things?"
He smiled teasingly. "Maybe you like me."
"I do not like you."
"Then why did you kiss me?"
"I didn't kiss you!"
"Okay. Except, yeah, you did."
"No, I didn't."
"I never kissed you!" she yelled as loud as she could, jumping to her feet and effectively silencing the chirping insects. "I never kissed you! It didn't happen! It didn't!"
Mamoru looked at her through lowered lashes, a hint of a smile still on his lips, and deliberately stood up beside her. His imposing height and the look he was giving her made Usagi feel suddenly very small and very foolish.
She gulped and took a half step back, but then Mamoru tilted his head to the side and his bangs fell over those piercing eyes and she couldn't move.
"I didn't," she whispered, shaking her head as Mamoru inched closer. Then his arms were around her waist and she felt dizzy and lost and confused and nervous and excited. Her hands landed on his chest to balance herself and she found herself licking her lips on instinct. "I would remember."
"Okay," Mamoru whispered back, watching her intently, before leaning down and brushing his lips along hers.
She gasped and closed her eyes.I'm dreaming, she thought, letting her body melt into him as he pulled her closer. As Mamoru's sensual mouth slowly pulled away, Usagi felt her hands sliding over his shoulder and entwining around his neck as if to hold him there. At least one of her questions was answered: she did like kissing him.
"You also said you loved me," he breathed, the warmth tickling her barely-parted lips.
"Uh-uh," she mumbled, shaking her head, afraid to open her eyes. "I never said that."
"Yeah, you did." He tenderly kissed the corner of her lips.
She whimpered softly at the touch. "No, I would remember."
Again, he closed the space between them.
This time, Usagi was more prepared and returned the kiss as much as her unpracticed mouth could. Mamoru responded by deepening it, crushing her body to his and parting her lips with his tongue.
Moaning, Usagi dug her fingernails into the cloth of his shirt and allowed him to explore her mouth, dazed and weak and trembling. And though it felt as though the moment lasted for hours, Usagi couldn't help but feel that it ended far too soon.
With one last, affectionate peck to her lips, Mamoru pulled a hair's width away.
"Tell me you love me."
"I love you," she replied, the words escaping her as if she had no control over them.
Gasping, Usagi's eyes snapped open and her hand came down to clasp over the mouth that had betrayed her.
"You tricked me!" she screamed.
Mamoru chuckled, unable to hide the elated grin, and lovingly pulled her back. "I know. Now you can't deny it anymore."
Her blue eyes, filled with fear, danced between his.
"It's okay," he said, laughing lightly again and gently kissing the back of the hand that remained over her mouth. "I love you, too."
Nervously, she peeled her hand away. "You do?"
"Yeah." He kissed her forehead, finding that it would be more difficult to stop kissing her than he had thought.
"Really." The trail of kisses led down to her temple and cheek.
"Oh." Suddenly, Usagi's face lit up in a smile. "Oh! Well... but... well, okay!"
Burying her fingers in his hair, she kissed him as fully and passionately as she could.
Almost an hour later, Minako opened the door of her apartment to find Mamoru on her doorstep, grinning like an idiot and carrying a giggling Usagi and a bundle of chocolate. The other three girls soon appeared in the hallway at the commotion, a mixture of pride and surprise on their faces.
"I believe this belongs to you," Mamoru chuckled.
Laughing, Minako shook her head. "No, you can keep her," she said and closed the door on them.
And that's just what Mamoru did.
Aaah, I'm always a little relieved and a little heartbroken as a story comes to an end. I hope you all enjoyed and would appreciate all of your responses!
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed, darling Stormlight for editing, and whoever figured out that the bitter cocoa bean could miraculously turn into a delightful treat!
ANNOUNCEMENT: December 7, 2010
Hey everyone! Guess what!
I am going to be published!
My debut novel, CINDER, is scheduled to be released from Feiwel & Friends (an imprint of Macmillan) in Spring 2012, under my real name Marissa Meyer.
Here's the summary as posted in Publisher's Weekly:
"In Cinder, the first book of the futuristic, fairy-tale inspired series, Cinderella is re-envisioned through teen heroine Cinder, part girl and part machine, who must piece together her mysterious past before she can fulfill her destiny and save the kingdom from an otherworldly enemy. Cinder finds allies loosely based on other fairy-tale characters-Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlet), Rapunzel (Cress), and Snow White (Winter)-as they join forces to conquer evil and find their happily-ever-afters."
You can stay updated by visiting my blog or signing up for my newsletter (links on my profile).
So many of you have been following my stories since I started writing (twelve loooong years ago!) and I'm so thrilled to be able to share this news with you. I hope you will read and enjoy CINDER, the entire Lunar series, and all my novels in the future!
With endless love and gratitude for your constant support and encouragement,
a.k.a. Marissa Meyer