Words Like Love

Anzu is happy to be herself.

After she came out, people judged her and sneered at her, but the funny thing was that she didn't seem to care.

She has her friends, and despite the fact that they are all males, they're the best she could ask for, better, living in Domino, which doesn't have high respect for people who have some inclination towards the same sex.

But she truly doesn't care, because some day, she knows she can leave and be the best at something.

She's always been an optimist.

Mai hates who she is.

Well, not who she is, per se, because she's hot and smart and knows how to dress and the boys love her.

No, she just hates that she doesn't like the boys. She pretends to, and it's not like she hasn't had her experiences with men before. She has. But the problem is that she couldn't feel anything, not like the times she, deep undercover, goes to the gay bars that dot Domino's more liberal side and picks up some girl.

Then the thrill is like nothing she can imagine just by herself.

God, she hates it, hates being a senior in high school without a boyfriend--not because men have done her wrong, as everybody seems to suspect, but because she just can't fall in love with them.

Their meeting is simple: Anzu sits at Mai's table in a coffee shop, and gives her a dazzling smile. "Hey! I'm Anzu."

Mai almost feels drawn to her, this pretty younger girl with the lustrous, short brown hair and the sparkly blue eyes. (She thinks she might be flirting, but has no experience with this, she can't know.) She holds out a manicured hand, and decides to take a chance. "Mai."

They talk for a while, and, unsurprisingly, Anzu makes the next move. "So...would you like to meet for coffee again some time?" Her eyes sparkle innocently with just a pinch of wondering, because she doesn't know if Mai is into girls, and thus, she wonders if the girl understands her ambiguous plans for making a date, and knows it's a bit presumptuous of her to think Mai wants her too, from the way she can feel the attraction in air, tangible, palpable.

Mai looks at her through painted eyelashes, an eyebrow raised, as though trying to decipher her meaning. She knows she knows it, but for a second falters, wondering if she should agree to this girl that she's so drawn to.

"Fine." She smiles her sultry smile, showing Anzu that she's interested. "It's a date."

"Cool. Seven o clock, Friday?"

It's a date, a real one, with a girl, and this can only end badly and for a moment Mai wants to say no, but then...she doesn't.

(And she thinks it might be the biggest mistake of her life, but swallows her sense of what-have-I-done and throws caution to the dogs. Nobody has to know.)

Anzu smiles back in triumph, her eyes wide and happy.

For her date, Mai wears a short black dress that flares out at the hips, black tights, and black shoes. The dark colors contrast easily with her golden-blond hair and light eyes.

Anzu wears a modestly long-but-not-too-long dark blue skirt and a white blouse.

They're a sight to see, together.

Anzu can't help but feel, next to this girl, pretty.

They decide not to have dressed up for nothing and go to a restaurant instead. Anzu insists on paying.

That's usually the guy's job, Mai thinks, but she goes with it because there is no guy there.

The idea hits her hard, and there it is: the thrill.

The night isn't perfect.

The food arrives too early, before they have a chance to talk, and it's awkward for a while, as they attempt to eat their cheap Italian food with some sense of dignity.

Eventually, though, the ice breaks--and there it is, that tug, that string that has all of a sudden connected the two and does nothing but just pulling them closer and closer.

But there are some things between them. When Anzu's hand softly leaves hers and begins to move up her arm, something that seems suddenly intimate, Mai shakes her away.

They, to the untrained eye, seem like just friends. Awfully well-dressed for a simple outing, but still.

As they leave, they make plans to meet again. Maybe the next day in a nice little park they both, by some odd stroke of luck, know? Yes.

They wait to kiss until they part ways in the long alley behind the cheap pretend-fancy restaurant.

Mai initiates it, because she's suddenly hungry for warmth, and she feels it easily as her hands tangle in the girl's hair and the other girl's hands travel softly down her back. She never felt like this before, like she used to feel when she drank black coffee on cold nights all alone. Only it's better, because she has a person to share the sudden hotness with.

Anzu feels it too, and as they pull away she feels a chill.

When they meet in the park the next day, there is nobody else there. It's a sheltered little place, but it is alive with the fragrance of dying flowers.

They talk and talk, about everything that comes to their minds. Anzu talks about her friends with such love that for a second Mai feels a kind of jealous zap, a possesiveness she's never known before.

Mai talks about how she doesn't know why she agreed to go out with Anzu in the first place, because she's not nearly ready to admit she's gay, and nobody should know about this so keep quiet, and the way that she says it is sharp, but it is easy to hear that she doesn't quite mean to be hurtful--her beauty is full of sharp edges, and so are her words.

Eventually, they can't quite stand it anymore, and kiss with more passion than behind that alleyway, because there is no way anybody can see them, behind a pretty weeping willow in the Springtime.

Mai's hands travel under Anzu's shirt, and she shivers at the feeling of ecstasy that rolls over her flesh and Anzu's flesh, and feels her hard shoulderblades, that have always looked so carved and graceful under her shirts.

They've only known each other perhaps a week and a day, and already they are intoxicated.

It's a secret that nobody knows.

For the next few months, neither say they are dating--which is what they must be doing by now--and instead they meet at parks, at a lake, places where other people don't often go.

It's almost like bliss, a shiny window into perfection, except for the ever-so-thin coating of dust and grime that mars it at every moment.

They go to Anzu's house one day, and all of a sudden are in her bed naked and they melt together in one moment of passion.

Mai smells like lavender, and Anzu like fresh-baked cookies.

One day, perhaps six, seven months into their relationship, as school begins to end.

"Don't you think we should tell somebody?" Anzu says quietly, interrupting their silent strolling along under the moon, which Mai thinks is so romantic even though they run into things in dim light.

"About what, babe?" Her voice is light but guarded.

"Us. I'm sick of lying."

"I can't."

"Well...I hate it! We're always so alone! Sometimes, sometimes I want to have somebody to show off at parties." Anzu's voice is raised, and it isn't their first fight but their first big one.

"What?" Mai laughs derisively."Is that all I mean to you? A doll?"

"No! Never! I want to show you off so people can see how perfect we are! I hate in when you do this, acting all holier-than-thou...acting all cold...Acting like this isn't a big deal!"

"Well I don't like it when you're so careless! Don't you care...about me?"

"Yes! But sometimes I get sick of this. Sometimes I think I might leave if it goes on too much, and I don't want to..."

"So don't," Mai whispers, caught up in the moment, and pulls the girl in closer so that they rest their foreheads together. And it is one of those moments that both of them think that this, this fling, will somehow last forever, "Don't ever leave me."

The anger is suddenly washed away and there is only defeat. Anzu doesn't answer, but kisses Mai just on the side of her mouth. It's good enough.

Anzu grasps her lover's hands, her soft tan stark against the paleness of their skin. "I'm in love with you." She whispers it, and it's the first time either of them have uttered that word.

Mai blinks softly, and wonders if this is not going all to fast. But it's under the moon, which she still thinks is romantic, and it's shining against Anzu's face and body and makes her look like an angel.

And even though it doesn't last, can't last, won't last, for just that minute, the emotions are so strong that even Mai, guarded, sharp Mai who ususally doesn't spend more than a week in a relationship, whispers back in what she knows are words dusted by forever, "I love you."

Neither of them realize then that some words last forever. Words like love.

It falls apart when Mai begins to get ready to go out of the city for college and says, in that voice full of sharpness and a thin veil of pain that she can't have a relationship with somebody so far away.

She just can't, and she's sorry, because she thinks this might be love--but she doesn't want to hurt Anzu, she doesn't want to hurt herself.

Maybe it could have turned out better, all of this, but they give up so suddenly and so easily, it all dissolves.

And the clock begins to tick away on their time together (three days, just that, just that for nine months), and it hurts, anybody can see, because both their eyes, behind confidence and sweetness and coldness, hold a certain kind of sorrow, and grief for a loss that is coming.

When Mai leaves for college in San Francisco, and the relationship begins to end quickly as it began and the pain permeates their senses every minute they are together, because it just can't last, can't be trusted to last too long with one of them so very far away.

Their love becomes frantic and almost obvious, stolen kisses here and there where people can see, and Mai doesn't care if some throw her dirty looks because soon she'll be out.

The day she goes to the airport, Anzu waits in the chilly morning air to see her off, her girlfriend who won't visit (is ready to close this chapter of her life) and won't write (tries to, but feels the pain of separation, of not being able to hold and kiss).

They kiss.

They kiss with such passion and such electrifying love that over the day, their lips swell and gloss over with bruises in reminder of their last moment together.

And then when the bus comes they pull apart.

And turn away from each other.

And leave.

And don't look back.

Years later, ten years, when Mai is a successful businesswoman milling around after a play, hoping to find somebody to maybe share the night with because she broke up with her last girlfriend a year ago, and Anzu is a beautiful ballerina, dancing for the San Francisco Company, both lovely as they ever were, she looks up.

And it must be the most wonderful coincidence in the world.

Because across the room, her eyes meet electrifying blue.

And there is the connection.