The word gave off the connotation of so many different things. By simply saying, "I'm single," Ino could mean a plethora of statements. But guys more generally took the one that meant good things for them- The fact that, "I'm single," could also mean, "I'm DTF."
No, Ino wasn't. She was a new college graduate, with honors. She still lived with her parents (a Women's Studies degree gets you nowhere), and she'd just broken up with her boyfriend she'd been with for the entirety of college.
She wasn't sure what had attracted her to Shikamaru to begin with. He was tall. He wasn't huge, but he was built enough. For a lazy guy, he had a body for days. He had long brown hair. Sometimes he wore it in a ponytail, other times; he wore it with a headband, a plain, black cloth headband. It surprised Ino how soft that hair of his was. She was jealous of it. She had to follow a strict regimen to keep her long, bleached blonde hair to its level of softness and shine.
He'd called her 'high maintenance'. She'd agree. She spent an inordinate amount of time on her appearance and it didn't bother her in the slightest. People got surgery to look as good as she did. And if all she had to do was spend a couple extra hours in the bathroom? So be it.
She'd called him a 'slacker'. He'd agree. He'd sailed through high school with mediocre grades simply because teachers couldn't bring it upon themselves to fail him. He was too damn smart. He knew it and so did everyone else. But what was it to them whether he did his homework or not. If he knew the material, what was the point?
It was a word that she'd come to find to be…endearing if anything else. They'd known each other for practically their entire lives. He'd been muttering this word for as long as she could remember. When she was younger, she remembered…it would set her off.
"Who are you calling troublesome, pineapple head?"
Now it only made her smile. Even when she was sitting at this bar, alone, her hands folded as she waited for a guy to buy her a drink.
"Excuse me miss, mind telling me what you're drinking?"
Right on cue. Ino beamed the average looking guy a smile, lips painted red, framing perfect teeth like a picture. Flirting had always been her forte. Even this time, when she was driving around in her sky blue punch buggy, him sitting in the passenger's seat. She'd charmed the police officer, right there in front of her boyfriend.
She thought that would have impressed him, but it only made him mad. Shikamaru didn't get angry very often, but when he did...
He'd told her she didn't get it. He'd told her that one day, her looks would fade. One day, she wouldn't be the object of all men's fantasies. He'd told her she wasn't his fantasy, and he wanted her out.
She'd stopped herself from crying. She didn't want to ruin her makeup -the façade that protected her from all judgment other than, "Wow, she's gorgeous."
It was everything Ino had never wanted to be, but slowly, it was what she'd become. Years of being coddled by her parents, years of being their princess, years of being praised by her beauty by complete strangers, years of bragging to her friends about being offered modeling contracts at beauty pageants – it had all worked against her in the end.
Especially now, waking up next to a man whose name she couldn't recall. She knew she hit rock bottom. Why was it that…not having him, the only man who'd never told her she was beautiful, made her so insecure? She'd tried so hard to get him to say it. But he never had.
She looked around the unfamiliar room; it was 3:13 AM. She was naked. She wasted no time in going to find her clothes…the guy was cheap. She wasn't that drunk.
Her phone was in her purse. She had the local taxi service on speed dial. It was all she could do to remember where she was. She couldn't. No taxi.
She stumbled upon the guy's bathroom. She looked in the mirror. Her makeup was smeared. It looked horrible. She was lucky she kept makeup remover and the makeup she was wearing that day in her purse. She took it all off, and she reapplied, making sure she looked gorgeous again before she left the guys house.
She wouldn't mind walking until she found somewhere she recognized, even if her heels were killing her. Ino cursed everything she could think of when it began to rain.
She tried to run to get where she was going faster.
Her heel broke. Her makeup wasn't waterproof. She could only think of how atrocious she looked. That was when it hit her, and she began to cry, walking gingerly, barefoot down the street.
She didn't know how long she'd been walking and crying in the rain when…she realized whose house she'd found herself at. She wasn't thinking when she ran up the driveway and knocked on his door. Rung his doorbell, anything to get him to answer.
When he did, he almost shut the door in her face, when she yelled,
He stared at her, unresponsive, but listening.
"I'm shallow and I'm a poor excuse for a person. I act like I'm confident in myself when really, I'm insecure because I know I have nothing to offer. I define myself by my looks and couldn't care less how I treat others. I may be beautiful on the outside, but I'm ugly on the inside." She said, sobbing all the while.
He chuckled, looking at her current appearance. She was soaking wet, her makeup was smeared all over her face, and she was four inches shorter than he recalled. "Not now."
She looked at him, and continued sobbing. How could he say that, now of all times?
He stepped outside, into the rain, and he wrapped his arms around her frame. "You don't give yourself enough credit for the things that matter. You're a leader. You always speak your mind. You always give your all at everything you do, and you expect the same from others. You're going to change the world someday, Ino Yamanaka. That's what makes you beautiful."