Beep! Beep! Takara shut the alarm clock off. She groggily opened one eye and shrieked when she saw the time.
She dressed herself with the speed of Idaten despite fumbling for the fasteners. After tripping over the carpet mat underneath her bed she hobbled towards the kitchen.
When her hand met the cool sturdiness of the kitchen bench, her smile was as maniacal as it was triumphant. She made herself some toast and decided that the best course of action was to put in in her mouth and eat it on the way to school.
The race against the clock to her destination was made more exhilarating by the toast’s constant reminder of her similarities to many anime characters.
The word ‘Dojikko’ repeated inside her head until she reached school, then reality set it. No one at this school described her that way.
The way people looked at her made it clear that, behind her back, they would call her either an annoyance or a freak.
A list appeared in her mind of acceptable topics of conversation: fashion, school, boys and…. sports. Images of Tsubaki’s strong legs invaded her mind, her memories scattered ofuda in the temple of her mind.
Takara had not seen Tsubaki, the girl she had met and quickly befriended at a convention, since the day they met. They had exchanged emails, but for Takara it wasn’t enough. She contemplated praying to any god who would listen to let her once again see that beautiful and kind girl. She would do anything to discover where things between them would go.
“How many times did she trip over on the way here?”
Takara turned around and saw a group of girls in exemplary uniforms. Their perfectly tied bows and expertly ironed skirts were almost as impressive as their muscled arms and legs.
Takara scanned each girl, her hope getting the better of her, until she recognised a girl with dyed blonde hair and peridot eyes.
She leapt towards her. “Hi! It’s so great to see you!” When Tsubaki frowned and shifted her eyes away as if trying to protect herself from a horrible sight, Takara’s smile faltered. “Don’t you remember me? It’s Takara, you know, from the convention? I was dressed as Megumi and you were Junko. We had so much fun together and-”
Tsubaki cut her off. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh. You are Tsubaki, aren’t you?”
“Well, yes, but I don’t know how you know that, because I don’t go to conventions. I’m not some sort of crazy otaku.”
Takara scrunched her eyes, as if when she opened them the harsh words would disappear. A girl with a fluffy orange ponytail chuckled.
“Wow, she must be some crazed fan or stalker or something. Do you feel flattered or freaked out?”
Takara escaped into her school, just barely noticing that Tsubaki’s eyes were half-closed in dejection. She took a piece of paper containing the other girl’s email address and hurled it to the ground in frustration.
“Damn you, you… you… hypocrite!”
‘What’s so weird about it?’ Tsubaki had asked her with regards to being an anime fan.
“I wish Junko had really died in the final episode when that monster nearly ate her alive!” Takara yelled, earning many a confused glance from other students. “How would that feel, Tsu-baka? You would have dressed up as a dead girl, and you would have been the crazy one!” Her voice lowered to a tear-choked whisper. “If our relationship is dead, then the relationship between our favourite characters should be dead as well.”
Takara spent lunchtime chatting about popular topics, but the raised eyebrows and awkward smiles suggested that everyone knew she was a fake.
“I’m a hypocrite too,” she muttered when class resumed.
That night she received an email from Tsubaki, apologising for the incident that morning and explaining her hesitance to out herself as an anime fan.
Takara almost laughed at this. ‘At least you won’t have to out yourself as something else,’ she thought. ‘Or…. Huh.’ In her mind, a gust of wind blew away some of the ofuda with her memories inscribed on them, leaving one behind.
Tsubaki was a yuri fan, just like her. Did she also like girls?
Takara sighed happily at the possibility, but mentally kicked herself for not realising that she liked girls sooner. Surely her choices in anime were a sign, right?
She typed up a response to the email.
‘Why are you a yuri fan?’ she asked.
Tsubaki replied. ‘I don’t know. When I was little, I thought lesbians in anime were gross, but as I grew older I saw how cute their relationships were and even started supporting relationships between girls in anime who weren’t couples. It just happened gradually. Something about their relationships seems sweet and innocent.’
Takara gulped. Nights of dreams following the convention proved that her feelings were not entirely innocent. ‘Do you like girls too?’
‘No. Real-life relationships between girls aren’t as cute as those in anime.’
These words bubbled in Takara’s brain as if they were in a kettle. Her entire body felt hot with anger and shock. She desperately wanted to escape this furnace of rejection.
She turned off her computer and groaned. “Well that’s it, then.”
The next night, the two decided to meet in secret so they could discuss anime together. Part of Takara wanted to reject Tsubaki’s offer and never see her again. However, her conscience reminded her that it would be cruel of her to end a friendship just because the other person did not return her feelings.
Their meetings were both heavenly and painful for Takara, who desired to kiss Tsubaki more and more each day.
“Are you okay?” Tsubaki once asked. “Your face is all red. Do you have a fever?”
Takara released a tiny squeak, refusing to admit that her friend’s proximity to her was making the situation worse. She nodded to say that she was fine.
She changed topics. “So, um, did you hear about the remake of Merry Merry Megumi they’re going to make? They better keep the relationship between Megumi and Junko close.”
It seemed that the only thing Takara could do to escape awkwardness was to talk about anime. Was this all she and Tsubaki shared?
“I had no idea!” Tsubaki replied, drowning Takara in a false state of delusion before she realised what her crush was talking about. “That anime does need an animation upgrade, but I can’t help but be worried that they’ll mess up the characters. What if they try to make it darker and make Megumi some sort of antihero? She’s too cute to do evil things!”
‘You never called me cute when I was dressed up as her,’ Takara remembered sullenly.
For some reason this was the last straw. Takara stood up. “I… I’m sorry, but… I can’t hang out with you anymore.”
“W-why? Did someone spot us?”
Takara’s fists were so tight that they trembled. “No, but… this is too painful. I want to be your friend, but then I’m reminded that we’re just that- friends.”
“You never call me cute, or hold my hand, or kiss me or anything! It’s like you said. Relationships between girls are cuter in anime than real life.”
She ran out of the coffee shop, angry tears penetrating her tear ducts like an invading army. Tsubaki sat, dumbfounded, trying to piece together what had just been said.
A man put a warm hand on her shoulder. “I know what that’s like. Sometimes you think it’s fine to be afraid of intimacy in relationships, until she dumps you.”
Tsubaki glared daggers at him. “We weren’t in a relationship. I didn’t even know she wanted to… kiss me!”
That night Tsubaki decided to visit the website she frequented to read yuri manga for free. She slowly breathed in an out before turning the ‘anti-Not Safe for Work’ filter off.
When morning arrived and she was travelling to school with her friends, she was unusually quiet. She felt disgusting for what she had done and couldn’t bring herself to talk in fear of it accidentally spitting out of her mouth.
She noticed Takara tripping over a rock on the pavement and fought the urge to hold her close and help her up.
‘Now you’re convincing yourself of something that might not even be true,’ she told herself.
At home she decided to rid her mind of her confusion and worries by drawing. However, each drawing ended up being of either Megumi or Takara herself.
“If only cupid wasn’t so cruel,” she murmured. “He’s driving me insane.”
Before she knew it, her room was littered with drawings. She separated them into piles based on the character and the focus of the drawing, keeping pictures of Takara’s eyes away from those of Takara’s hair.
She pushed the piles into a corner, causing them to look almost like a shrine to Takara. “Damn it. Why am I so obsessed? This isn’t just love anymore. It’s downright creepy!”
She turned her computer on and was surprised to see a message. ‘I’m sorry about earlier. I was being selfish and made things awkward for you. Can we be friends again?’
Tsubaki had the feeling that if she didn’t tell at least one person about her new obsession, she would not only regret it but would also fall into a downward spiral of insanity.
‘I don’t think we can be friends again after that. Sorry, but the things you said in the coffee shop really stuck with me. I think you’ve somehow turned me into a lesbian.’
‘How does that work? I don’t think you can just turn someone into a lesbian. Maybe you’ve liked girls all this time.’
Tsubaki grit her teeth in courage and determination. ‘But I haven’t. I haven’t had romantic feelings for anyone except for you.’ She considered erasing the last few words before sending the email, but some instinct in her gut stopped her.
Takara bounced off her revolving chair and collapsed onto her bed, pushing a pillow against her face as she squealed. After a good two minutes of squealing and dancing, she finally replied.
‘It’s the same here. I’ve liked you since the convention and I was surprised when I noticed it. So should we start dating or are you not ready for that?’
‘I don’t know. Dating you sounds nice but who am I going to tell? I haven’t even told my parents that most of the anime and manga I’ve bought are yuri! And I go to an all girls’ school, so I’m sure everyone will be uncomfortable around me.’
‘Well, I don’t want to date in secret. The idea is too exhausting. I did just come up with a plan to help us come out, though.’
She outlined the plan and told her friend and possible lover to see her on the way to school. ‘Bring your friends,’ she ordered.
The morning’s wind was not the only thing that chilled Tsubaki to the bone. Her teeth were jittering and her mind was being attacked by negative possibilities.
“What’s wrong?” the girl with the ginger hair asked her. “We don’t have any tests today, do we?”
Tsubaki shook her head. “You’ll find out,” she creaked like a door being opened.
Takara, as part of the plan, tripped over near the gate. Tsubaki shivered as she walked up to her and grabbed her hand.
“Are you okay, beautiful?”
Takara blushed. “O-onee-sama!” she cried. Tsubaki cringed at this term of endearment. ‘Why do I have to be the onee-sama?’ she wondered. ‘We’re the same age.’
“Onee-sama?” the redhead asked in a voice that held back laughter. “I didn’t know you two were sisters.”
Tsubaki closed her eyes and put on the air of the coolheaded love interest. “We may not be sisters but our bond will last a lifetime.” She turned towards Takara and held her hands up to their chests. “She is a sweet girl whose clumsiness only serves to make her beloved by all. I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep her for long. Don’t you agree, Kisa?”
The redhead blinked quickly, trying to make sense of the events placed before her. “You two are acting like the characters from a yuri anime…. n-not that I’d know anything about that. I… I have a friend who’s into that stuff.”
Tsubaki’s heart leapt. “There is no use in denying the beauty of two girls’ feelings for each other blossoming. It is the same in both the fictional realm and in reality.”
The rest of Tsubaki’s friends stared at the couple like they had transformed into giant monsters. One girl asked how long they had been together and why they didn’t tell the group.
It was Takara’s turn to talk. “Like I said, we met at the convention. Tsubaki loved talking about anime with me and we formed an instant connection. She does not feel comfortable talking about something with you that you do not understand. Because of this, she kept her love for both anime and me a secret. Isn’t it adorable? Does your heart not jump for joy at the romanticism of it all?”
“You two are joking, right?” another girl spat.
Takara shook her head but was unsure how to prove the truth to this girl. Tsubaki took the initiative.
She caressed her lover’s cheek and smiled when Takara touched the hand placed on her cheek. She leaned in and kissed her tenderly.
All of the girls except for Kisa contorted their otherwise beautiful faces into a frown. Kisa simply blushed and looked away.
“I can’t believe we did that,” Takara whispered into Tsubaki’s mouth.
“I know. I thought we would wait for the third date or something.”
The couple squeezed each other’s hand before letting go of each other and giving the other a farewell.
Tsubaki’s smile lit up the sky when she realised that her friends were still talking to her despite their disgust. She knew Takara was a genius when she used the method that made Tsubaki begin to accept love between two girls.
Takara, meanwhile, had sorted all of her memories in her mind’s temple, leaving it clean and open.
 Idaten is a Buddhist god of the kitchen who is known for his speed http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/kankiten-idaten-other-tenbu.html#idaten
 These are pieces of paper inscribed with the name of a Shinto god or the shrine of the god http://www.greenshinto.com/wp/2011/07/30/ofuda/. In this story it’s a metaphor for the cluttered wishes inside Takara’s mind.
 A pun on the Japanese word for ‘idiot’