If you like something, take it.
I watch from the back of the studio. It is a clean area, filled with fashionable people and expensive equipment. And Ichigo. The room is overflowing with her, her scent of motor oil and nail polish and bubblegum and cigarette smoke.
She doesn't know I'm here, she must imagine me at home, perpetually floating through my cloud of strawberries and frills, sowing needle in hand and a cup of red rose nearby. Johann Strauss is always playing.
But I'm here and she looks adorable in that frilly dress, beautiful even. They've pushed her bangs from her eyes and she isn't wearing that gaudy purple lipstick, but I still think she's beautiful. There's a decal on her cheek, a tiny heart. I smile.
"Lift your chin," the photographer is begging her. Ichigo's lower lip sticks out further, her shoulders hunch. She's strangling the teddy bear prop in the crook of her arm.
An assistant hustles forward at the complex hand signal of the photographer. The man fluffs the frills around Ichigo's thighs, straightens her bonnet, moves her hair around, it's when he touches her shoulder to pivot her that she explodes.
She head butts him, I'm not surprised. She doesn't stop there however. Well, we all know that when she leaves she's broken two cameras and left five of the crew with ugly bruises.
Is it wrong of me to notice the color of her nails as she's tearing the place up? Black: they'd missed a spot of her.
I stay out of her path but, of course, when she spits it has to land right on the toe of my shoe. I frown, inflating with beautiful childish petulance. I release it quickly and follow after her out into the stairwell.
I just got these shoes, a gift from Mr. Isobe; he's still trying to win me over, albeit half-heartedly. They're called Honey Cross Shoes, I took them in pink, naturally. And now they have Ichigo's spit on them.
I've told her a million times to stop spitting, but… I suppose you can take the Yankī out of the bōsōzoku but you can't take the Yankī out of Ichigo. Or something.
As I open the door, she spits in my face this time.
Before I know it I've pushed her up against the wall, the little origami butterfly glued to my right index finger wobbles cutely in her face. The little rhinestones I attached to it shine, even in the terrible lighting.
"Stop spitting!" I shout.
Her face is cute; her mouth is a little slack with surprise. I like the ugly purple lipstick better than this light pink gloss though.
"I didn't know you were there," Ichigo tells me, still a bit surly but she doesn't hit me.
I smile at her, lean in at the waist, up on my toes, and peer up at her before rocking back. Ichigo looks back at me suspiciously before she reaches out and wipes my cheek. I tilt my head into her touch and grin softly, eyebrows raised.
Her eyebrows are too harsh for the Lolita look, maybe that's why she looks so interesting today.
"You also got it on my new shoes," I explain to her. She frowns.
"Like I care."
"New shoes," I reiterate. She shudders; I've gotten through to her. She kneels down and makes the same ritualistic show of wiping off the toe of my Honey Cross shoe.
When we're back on the same level again she tugs irritably at her frilly collar. "I hate these clothes, they itch. How do you stand it?"
I school myself into an expression of wide-eyed oblivion. Ichigo flushes.
"They don't itch," I tell her innocently. "I love them."
Ichigo wipes her mouth on the back of her hand, smearing light pink gloss up her skin. She says something, I miss it in the garble of flesh, she's only grumbling to herself besides.
"Let me help you out of them," I offer.
Ichigo freezes, staring at me strangely. She's rather transparent. She's wondering what I mean. Sweet Momoko is certainly too innocent to mean anything sexual, but what if she does? If she accuses me and I deny it, she will have been the one to breech the subject, not me.
There really is no crime to manipulation, I decide.
"Y-yeah," Ichigo answers. I smile and bounce towards her, I did my curls a bit loose today, Ichigo's eyes follow the soft honey-brown strands closely.
She inhales deeply when our chests touch. I fiddle determinedly with the ribbon at the base of her spine, wiggling as much as possible. I also diligently undo the clasps up the back, sliding my arms securely beneath hers.
I pull back after a moment and look her in the face. Her cheeks are red and bloom crimson when I kiss her.
I know she's never been kissed. Shy little Ichigo would never have dared, and loud brash Ichigo of the future is just as shy, but hides it better.
To her credit, she kisses back immediately. She's tentative and awkward and I am smiling, very pleased with myself.
"Momoko?" she asks me uncertainly when I leave her lips and drag my nails against her skin.
"Oh, Ichigo," I say to her brightly. "Don't you know how this works? You leave the gang for love and I haven't seen anyone else but myself around."
She looks down, trying to avoid my eyes and finds my chest instead. Her mouth opens and closes and then she wets her lips. I didn't even have to show a touch of skin to win her over, how wonderful.
"We're both girls, Momoko," she mutters. But she's fiddling with a bit of lace at my hip, rolling it between her forefinger and thumb. I remove her hand immediately, she'll wrinkle it.
"So? Marie Antoinette slept with women." Princesses, queens, wives of dignitaries, daughters of dukes, handmaids, visiting country girls, cousins; I'm sure.
"Well… I." Ichigo's eyes are burning when she looks at me. She's made this a challenge, I giggle and undo her bra.
To my surprise, she bats my hands away. "All right, Momoko."
I watch, shocked, as she does up her clothes, even though they're frilly and itchy. "Ichigo?" I complain.
"You can't always have your way, Momoko," she says pleasantly. She smiles at me; her eyes are all squinty and horrible. She's being quite cruel. "I may have left the Ponytails, but I always like their rules. No loose women."
"Ichigo!" I cry petulantly.
She grabs me by the chin, my lips puckered like a comical little fish. She kisses me hard and awkward before she lets me go, still smiling that mean smile.
"Shut up," she growls, but her violence isn't in it, I can tell. "We're going on a date Friday. That gives you plenty of time to pick out your outfit, right?"
Through my indignation, I hear what she's saying and I smile. Ichigo is so old fashioned. I nod pertly, but can't resist teasing her, just a little. I reach out and brush the frilly edge of her skirt, leaning forward enough to touch her thigh. She jumps back, scowling.
"You look very cute in Lolita clothes," I tell her airily. "We should role play some time."
Her face turns pink again, good. She goes stomping off down the stairs, her heavy footfalls ringing off the walls, terribly unladylike. I smile after her, leaning over the railing.
A few floors down she pauses and looks up at me.
I wave to her, calling, "Don't forget to wear your kamikaze coat! And say 'Momoko, 'tis thee I'm seeking! Can thee bring fair Momoko forth?' in the proper keigo from outside my window. Bring flowers! And chocolates! Don't forget to make reservations at a restaurant, Ichigo!"
Her mouth falls open, she barks something indignant up at me, but I know she's hurriedly memorized every word.
The door slams, loudly, when she leaves.
I am very happy with myself and on the way home I treat myself to some cakes and eat them on the train.
It would have been nice of Ichigo to offer me a ride, but I am willing to forgive her this time. I did get to kiss her twice, after all.
It's difficult to skip in the Honey Cross Shoes, so I don't. Instead, as I'm walking beneath my parasol, I imagine I'm flying.
I imagine the moment when I will hear the klaxon of Ichigo's horn in front of my grandmother's house. I imagine the way my heart will pound, how the lace will feel against my skin; how Ichigo would feel against my skin. I smile at my own wickedness.
Friday… that might be enough time to pick out an outfit, maybe.