Everyone is given an image when they grow older. Sakura was the strong medic nin. Shika was the lazy genius. Hinata was the shy heiress.
And me, I was the bitch, the whore, the brat. I would admit that all those years ago I was short tempered and snappy to mostly everyone I knew, but times changed. My image, however, did not.
People had labeled me that way and didn't plan on changing it anytime soon. I wasn't a whore. That one I was damn sure of. I'd kissed only two boys my whole life and had never gone any farther than that. Yes, Ino Yamanaka was waiting for that one special guy to go all the way with. I'd gone on dates with a few other boys, but we hadn't connected enough for me to want to pursue the relationship.
I'd long since grown out of that conceited, bitchy stage and did my best to control my temper, but it wasn't enough for people to want to change the way they thought of me. Nasty rumors about me sprung up every week, and I couldn't do a damn thing but ignore them.
But it got harder every day to ignore the whispers and sneers and dirty looks that shot my way when I simply walked down the street. I held my head up high, nonetheless. Because I was Ino Yamanaka, and it was my job to be strong and hot headed and unaffected by what others said. But everyone failed to see that I was just as breakable and fragile as a young girl. That I was exactly like glass.
At seventeen, I wasn't a young girl anymore, and I had to face every one of my problems head on or be pushed and shoved to the ground. Sakura did a lot to help me. I had once been the one to protect her from all the jeers and taunts when we were younger, and now she was trying to return the favor.
It was hard, though, seeing that she was either training with Naruto or working at the hospital. I had long ago accepted the fact that she would always be a better medic than I, but the disappointment had hit hard. I missed her. I missed our late night chats and our stupid giggle fests. I missed having my best friend by my side.
She was probably the only person who understood mostly everything about me. Because there is no one in the world who could completely understand me. It was just impossible for someone to understand everything about me.
It had started a few months ago. Those rumors carried to my other friends, and some of them had actually started to believe them. They were horrible rumors, saying that I had slept with this guy and had dumped him right after that, only to be seen at seen at another's house the next day.
Each rumor was ridiculously untrue, but I was a t a loss for what to do now. My parents no longer trusted me enough to go out on my own. They did whatever they could to keep me busy, making me train constantly and work at the flower shop. We delivered the flowers now, and I was the one who had to haul my ass across the village to every costumer.
It was like I no longer had a life of my own. There was either someone creating it or controlling it.
I glanced sadly into my mirror. My features were so perfect, so defined, so frustrating. My creamy skin was flawless, smooth and unblemished. My azure eyes were lined by dark, thick lashes that made the blue in them even more vibrant, almost to the point where they were glowing.
And the golden blond tresses that I had so treasured hung in a thick plait just a few inches below my shoulders. They'd once fallen all the way to my waist, but I had cut them in an effort to gain the attention of my former teammate and direct his interest away from a certain blond ninja from Suna. The attempt had been in vain.
Shikamaru didn't look at me like the other men in the village. He wasn't interested in me in the least bit, and it drove me insane. Maybe that's why my other relationships hadn't worked. Because their attention wasn't the one I wanted.
These looks were such a waste. If they didn't give me the one I wanted then I didn't want them. I wished I was plain looking. It would give guys the chance to find something they like inside me. Falling in love and getting married was one of my secret dreams, just like any other girl, but people would find that hard to believe.
I gazed into the mirror more closely, taking note of the things other people seemed to miss. I had small bags under my eyes, barely noticeable but they were obvious to me. My mouth was pulled into a small
frown, and my eyes would appear dull and practically lifeless if anyone got the nerve to look me in the eye anymore. It was like there was a crack in my glass shell.
I squeezed my eyes shut and reopened them, hoping to see a different girl there. Nothing changed.
With a heavy sigh, I grabbed my coat and headed out of my house. The glare of the sun glinted off the thick snow, and I had to squint to see appropriately. Maybe I should go see Shika. It had been nearly two months since I'd seen him. Surely he wasn't avoiding me too.
That thought sent a chill of fear down my spine. He knows better than to believe those lies. Didn't he?
I bit my lip and trudged through the snow with difficulty. Why the hell had Shikamaru chosen to gaze at clouds in a place that was so damn far?
I giggled when a tiny snowflake landed on my nose, and I brushed it off. Finally raising my eyes, I saw a group of girls looking at me and whispering. My smile faltered slightly. No, I couldn't let them know that I cared.
So when I passed by them, my head was held high and my eyes were straight ahead. "Whore," one of them commented as I passed, and I swallowed the lump in my throat and tried my best not to let my façade physically falter.
"Well, hey there," a deep, masculine voice said, and I looked up and glared at the tall young man that stood before me.
"What do you want?" I asked, eyeing him warily, and he flashed me what he probably thought was a sexy grin.
Shin was the guy involved in the latest rumor about me, in which we did some very…..inappropriate things that I really hated to think about, especially when they're with him.
He leaned against the building to the right, blocking my path if I wanted to walk away. I raised an eyebrow. "Well, I'm sure you've heard the rumors about what the two of us have been up to lately." He leaned in closer, and I waited patiently for him to continue. "What do you say we make those rumors fact." He whispered that last part in my ear, and my eyes widened.
Was he serious! I shoved him away from me, and he only smirked and leaned in again. Anger making my blood boil, I threw a fist into his face and stepped back.
He cried out and clutched his nose, which was now oozing blood and some of it seeping through his fingers. "Damn!" he all but screamed. "Crazy bitch!"
The group of girls behind me was laughing, but I wasn't sure if it was at me or at the way Shin was practically crying. Somehow, I got the feeling that it wasn't at him, though. Either way, I didn't care and hurried off.
The anger reverberating through my chest made it difficult to breathe, and I had to stop and lean against a tree to calm myself. The rough bark beneath my hands scratched my palms, but I ignored the stinging.
Where did he get the nerve to say that to me! A small cloud of fog hovered above my lips every time I exhaled, and I remembered Shika. Slowly and muttering profanities to myself, I stumbled all the way to the field where Shika always seemed to be.
I stopped suddenly. Would he really be there in this weather? Now I felt like a fool, getting all excited about seeing him again when he might not even be there. I shrugged. This was Shika, the guy who had lay down rainstorm saying that storm clouds were just as fascinating as those white, puffy ones. He was bound to be there.
As I came upon the snow covered field, I smiled at the sight. It was beautiful. The glittering whiteness stretched on for as far as I could see like a blanket, and right in the middle of it was a figure with dark hair.
My grin stretched from ear to ear, and I ran toward him, nearly falling a couple times. I plopped down beside him, the snow poofing out from beneath me in a small explosion like manner.
"Hey," I greeted cheerfully.
He opened one eye to look up at me lazily before shutting it and mumbling a barely audible 'hey'. I frowned when I noticed the strain in his voice and the slight frown that turned down his lips. Was there something I missed?
I chose to ignore it and start a small conversation. "The clouds look especially fluffy today," I commented with a smile.
He didn't respond, and I glanced down at him again. He had this weird expression on his face, like he was annoyed or angry. I continued talking about anything that came to mind, mostly the costumers that came to the shop and things around town that I'd seen.
Shika remained oddly silent throughout my babbling, which wasn't anything new, but he usually made it look like he was listening or insert a hum or opinion occasionally. There was definitely something off here.
Before I could ask him what was wrong he spoke up. "Ino, isn't there someone else you could tell all this nonsense too, like maybe one of your boy toys or something," he drawled out lazily.
My mouth dropped open in surprise, and I felt an odd pricking in the corners of my eyes. His face was set hard as stone, though his eyes were closed, and there had been an icy edge to his tone. What had I done?
Too hurt to even speak, I stood, not bothering to wipe the snow from my pants, and began to walk away slowly. Two years ago, I would have told him off and demanded to know what was wrong with him, but right now I couldn't find the courage to face him.
Did it really only take two years to turn me into some sort of china doll, the kind that would shatter if you dropped it or squeezed too hard?
I fought tears the whole way to the flower shop. I was Ino Yamanaka, and I wasn't supposed to cry when a friend of mine made a remark about me. Shika and Choji had done that to me all the time when we were on the same team. But in the past two years, every remark seemed to cut a little deeper than they probably intended. In the past two years, the little pieces of glass seemed to chip off more frequently.
But Shika had meant that one. I could tell by his tone. Damn, it worked too.
I loved the way the flower shop smelled when you first entered it: fresh, earthy, and somewhat like rain for some odd reason. I slipped out of my thick blue jacket and wool scarf and set to work.
"Where have you been?" my dad asked as I slipped behind the counter. He studied me through narrowed eyes, no doubt checking for a smudge on my lipstick or a mark on my neck. I don't know why he did that. He never found anything.
"I went to go see Shika," I replied, leaning casually against the counter.
My father nodded and returned to whatever he had been doing before. Why couldn't he ask me anything else? Like how my day had been so far or how my meeting with Shika had gone.
As I worked on a bouquet a costumer had called in and ordered, I caught my reflection in the vase that I was placing them in. Fragile, breaking, alone, unwanted, pitied. I could see everything so clearly, and I was suddenly wanting the image to go away.
With a swipe of my hands, I pushed the vase off the counter. It fell ever so slowly, and I was sure I would have been able to catch it with my fast reflexes, but I just let it fall. All the while, I watched the girl falling with it.
And then my reflection shattered into dozens of little pieces on the floor. The sharp edges of the glass glinted in the light, and I realized that vase was beyond repair. Would that happen to me? if I broke like the glass, would I too be in too many small pieces to put back together?
"Ino, what happened?" my mother asked, hurrying in from the back room.
"I dropped the vase," I stated simply, stepping aside as my mom grabbed for the broom.
She sighed and looked up at me. "Could you just go deliver all these for me?" she asked, motioning toward the basket on the counter.
There were a few bouquets inside, and I reached for it and the slip of paper with the addresses and orders on them. I left without another word, anxious to escape the room and my mom's exasperated tone. I was just a nuisance to her.
I studied the contents of the basket. Roses; the symbol of love. Maybe for an anniversary or a sweet confession . Forget- me -nots; perhaps a parting gift. Carnations; A sign of admiration so maybe a first date. They made quite a beautiful collage, and eyed them with a slight smile.
It wasn't until I had delivered the second bouquet of flowers, the forget-me-nots, to the home of an ANBU member that I realized I had forgotten my coat. I was wearing nothing but my long sleeved red shirt and my pants, and the cold was really biting. Man, I must have been out of it for my first delivery.
There was no point in going back to get it now that I only had two more deliveries left, and they were both somewhat close. As the sun began to set, the people in the streets began to disappear into the warmth of their homes, and I continued on.
The cold was nearly unbearable now. The wind had picked up slightly, gently pushing back my hair. I sighed when I noticed that a few roses had come loose from the bouquet that I had delivered only moments before. Hopefully the old woman didn't notice. That particular costumer was very picky when it came to the flowers she bought.
I finally arrived at the last house and rapped gently on the door. A woman with graying hair opened the door, and I smiled and held out a bouquet of lilies to her.
She didn't return the smile, instead eyeing me with that same look I got from other villagers everyday: disgusted, disbelieving, pitying. She took the flowers wordlessly and closed the door. My throat was hurting, closing painfully and thickly.
I stared at the door for a minute before hurrying back down the moonlit sidewalk.Adults too! How far would this gossip go?
"Oh, look, that's her," I heard a group of teens claiming loudly, pointing in my direction.
I did my best to ignore them, but their stares were so piercing and accusing, and the wind seemed to carry their words to my ears.
"Yeah, I heard Shin broke up with her today, and she attacked him."
"No, he just refused to continue having sex with her. They weren't dating."
"I feel so bad for her parents. It would be mortifying to have a daughter who got around like that."
"Poor thing. She just needs some help."
I walked faster, barely even able to breathe now. The group continued on talking, and I stumbled blindly along the darkened and empty streets. Tears were gathering in my eyes at a rapid rate, and my breathing was erratic.
I wasn't going to cry. I'd never cried before, and I wasn't going to let them break me now. Their words didn't matter to me.
I cried when I tripped and flew forward into the snow, landing on my hands and knees. And then the tears came. The tears that I'd managed to hold back for so long burst out in loud, heaving sobs that shook my freezing body madly.
The cold air burned my lungs every time I inhaled, and my chest was aching. It literally felt like my glass had broken, a large crack right down the middle. I couldn't believe they'd actually gotten to me. People I didn't give a damn about had actually ruined my life and tore me up from the inside out.
The cold was biting into skin savagely, and weakly grabbed the basket and picked up the fallen roses that lay on the snow, red petals looking like blood against its pure whiteness.
A rose was suddenly thrust under my nose, and I jumped in surprise. Shikamaru stood above me, one hand in his pocket and the other holding out the flower to me. Kami, this was mortifying. I must have looked pathetic, sitting alone in the snow with tears still running down my face.
I lowered my head, wishing that he would just go away. When I heard the crunching of snow, I thought that he had done exactly that, but when I lifted my eyes upward he was squatting before me, eyeing me with that analytical gaze of his.
He was still holding the rose out to me, and when I reached and took it his hand shot back out and wrapped around mine. For such a lazy bum, he sure was fast.
"What happened to your hand?" he asked, nodding his head toward my knuckles.
They were a semi dark shade of purple and slightly swollen. I hadn't even noticed.
"You must have punched that Shin guy pretty hard, huh?" he continued, and I blinked in surprise. "I saw you talking to him earlier. I was too pissed to stay and watch the rest, so I missed the best part."
"Is that your way of apologizing?" I asked him hoarsely, and he sighed.
"No, you troublesome woman," he said, pulling me to my feet. "I'm sorry. There. Are you happy?"
"You've been avoiding me," I stated, and he sighed once more.
"I have today," he admitted. "I've actually been busy for the past couple of months."
I swallowed the lump rising in my throat and let my eyes land on his hand that was still covering mine and the rose beneath them. What you could tell someone with a simple flower was amazing. If only he knew.
"Did you..did you actually believe all those things they've been saying about me?" I asked, struggling to speak with my teeth chattering and the damn tightening of my throat.
"No," he answered. "But when I saw you with that guy and the rumors just happened to be floating around about the two of you…..I was severely pissed and somewhat scared."
Shocked, I raised my eyes to stare into his dark ones, only to find them closed. "Of what?" I asked, more like whispered.
His hand released mine, and my body mourned the loss of the warmth that had spread throughout my body at that simple touch. Instead, he let his hand float to my face and cup my cheek, and my heart jumped.
"That you didn't pick me," he answered softly, as if he was embarrassed. His lips were hovering right above mine now, and I blushed.
"Do you know what people will say?" I whispered before he could move any closer.
"I don't care," he responded, moving another centimeter closer. "They can say whatever they want as long as you belong to me."
I stopped breathing when I could feel his lips brush mine so softly, it was like a kiss from the wind. "What about Temari?" I asked quickly.
He growled. "Ino, will you just shut the hell up for once."
He didn't give me the chance to retort because he pressed his lips to mine right then. Bright lights exploded behind my eyelids, and there was a sudden wave of heat rushing through my body.
I raised myself onto my toes, and he slipped his tongue inside my mouth, pushing through my lips in one graceful swipe. Those other two kisses were nothing compared to this. This kiss my heart pound, my blood rush, and my head dizzy.
We parted for air, and Shika chuckled. "Temari? Seriously?"
I blushed deeply. "Well, you hung out with her a lot, so I thought that maybe you liked her as more than a friend and stuff…" I trailed off, and he shook his head but then frowned suddenly.
He slipped off his jacket and placed it over my shoulders. "I thought you knew how to dress for every occasion," he said, and I glared at him lightly.
I noticed that the rose was still in my hand, and I had clutched it so tightly that it had wilted. "I killed it," I said, feeling a sort of remorse at loosing an object I was about to deem very important.
Shika sighed and grabbed another one from the basket. He held it out to me, and I stared at it for a moment. A rose, a symbol of love.
I smiled brightly, which he returned in a more lazy manner. And I took it.
A/N: Wow, that was my longest one shot yet. I know I portray Ino as loud and a total party animal in my other stories, but I decided to change it up here. I think she's just a little misunderstood sometimes. Sorry for any grammar mistakes that I didn't correct. I'm too damn lazy. Lol.