Mæja was in trouble.
How could it have come to this?
When she FIRST considered becoming friends with this…strange new visitor who had taken her spot at the bottom of the fruit basket food chain, she was of course, elated. Here was someone, strange as she was, who didn’t see her as just a tiny fruit, or as free labor, or as a target to pick on.
No, this stranger saw her as a friend.
Mæja had never had a friend before, but she knew immediately that this smiling carrot was going to be a good one. She was the very first person who had EVER told Mæja that the way she was treated by everybody else was wrong. In fact, she seemed angry about it on her behalf! She just…made Mæja feel like a person, rather than a slave. She made her feel like she DESERVED to feel like a person, and that she deserved equality right along with everyone else in the fruit basket.
The day was an absolute whirlwind after that. Bringing all the other fruits to their side, stopping the coronation of Immi Ananas, never before had she done such tumultuous things, or felt so…alive! Nervous, scared, excited, defiant, determined, powerful…she was willing to risk her life, to face Immi’s wrath and the rotting hole, just to improve her station in her own home, hand in hand with her new friend Gedda.
When she came out in her new outfit and started to sing on that fateful day, something happened in that room. It didn’t matter how different they all were, or what misgivings any of them had about the Unity Festival, Gedda’s voice made it all fall away. Slowly, as if in a dream, everyone came together and joined hands, singing in chorus.
Gedda was a force of nature, her clear sweet voice casting a spell over everyone listening that kept their rapt attention the entire time.
Mæja had never seen or heard anything more beautiful in her entire life.
Problem was, when the final note had disappeared into the wind, everybody ELSE was released from the spell. They happily chatted with one another about the future of the fruit basket as the night wore on, and slept well and peacefully that night.
Mæja, however? Mæja felt as if she were still in its grips. That feeling hung over her as she tried to sleep, looking distantly across the room where she knew that Gedda was laying. She had stopped singing hours ago, but whenever Mæja caught a glimpse of her orange color, rising and falling with each breath, she still felt light and airy, like she was treading on top of the clouds and walking amongst the stars themselves.
That was the moment when she realized–she was in big trouble.
She was in love.
It wouldn’t have been that big of a problem, before. Before, the other fruits didn’t care what she did, thought, or felt. But after the Unity Festival, they were taking a page from Gedda’s book and making an effort to see her as a person.
And since Mæja was always doing chores with Gedda, playing with Gedda, whispering with Gedda, LOOKING at Gedda, and truthfully? Falling DEEPER for Gedda all the while…
It really shouldn’t have been a surprise that, eventually, they NOTICED.
Ribbon-twirling was something that Mæja had picked up in her newly found spare time. Teaching everyone else in the fruit basket how to do basic chores could be extremely frustrating at times(especially with Immi), and watching the ribbon spin gave her a sense of calm.
And that was what she was doing–walking along, watching the ribbon twirl, when Eva approached her by the slide.
“Ah, Mæja dear, tell me–where is your girl?” asked Eva, hands held ever-daintily up like a ballerina.
Mæja raised an eyebrow. “My GIRL?” she asked in confusion, letting the ribbon flop down. “Who is that?”
“Why, Gedda, of course!” Eva said, turning back to the mirror. “I reallyneed to show her something.”
“I, uh, I don’t know,” Mæja sputtered, a little disoriented by that wording. What did Eva mean by that?
“Oh,” Eva said, slightly disappointed. “I just thought, because, you are with her MOST of the time, you might know.”
“I don’t know where she is ALL the time,” Mæja grumbled.
“Well, next time you see her, which is PROBABLY very soon, just tell her that I have some new make up for her to try that goes WONDERFULLY with an orange color, okay?” Eva patted Mæja on the head. "Now, go and find your girl, she’s probably looking for you as well. Shoo!“
Mæja’s indignant response was cut off by some faint whispering from above them.
”Strawberry and car-rot, sitting in a tree, K I S S I N-woah!!“ the pear twins tumbled down the slide and landed in a pile at Mæja’s feet with an "oof!”
Mæja crossed her arms, laughing a little at the pile of pears. “Oh, YOU know that it’s not like that,” she said, nudging Poddi with her foot.
“Oh?” Poddi said, a sly grin on his face as he climbed to his feet, “Well Eva just said she was your GIIIRL…”
“And YOU didn’t say she waaa-sn’t,” Palla said in a singsong voice as she also got up from the ground.
“Yeah, but-but we’re not-”
“Of course, there’s nothing WRONG with it, a strawberry and a carrot together,” Poddi assured quickly, cutting off her protest, “It’s just thaaaat-” Poddi elongated his last word and gave his sister a glance.
Mæja groaned. She knew what was coming.
And sure enough, they launched right into their twin routine, alternating words at a rapid pace.
Poddi and Palla looked at each other, gasped, then spoke in unison:
“WHAT will the CHILDREN look like?!”
Mæja swatted at them as they made their exit, laughing and leaping all the way.
“Woah, woah, woah, did I HEAR that right?!” Rauða popped her head out from behind a bush, probably summoned by all the commotion the pears were making. “ Mæja? And Gedda?! All together like-smoochiesmoochiesmoochie?!”
Mæja’s stomach curled in embarrassment at Rauða’s kissy noises. "No! That was just a-“
"A-ha ha!” Rauða pointed at Mæja’s traitorously blushing face, “You’re turning redder than ME! You ARE in love with her! I knew it!”
“Oh, don’t be RUDE, Rauða!” Eva said, swatting her on the arm. “In love she may be, but! She hasn’t SAID anything to her yet!” Eva gave an exaggerated nod toward Mæja, mouthing you should at her.
“I am n-Eva! I will do no such thing!” Mæja attempted indignantly.
Eva tutted a few times. “Come now, Mæja dear, it is VERY clear to all of us around that you like her-” at this Rauða nodded in agreement, “-and we have all known for some time. And, if you want MY personal opinion, I think she would be just be THRILLED with the idea! You should go say something to her. Ask her out on a date!”
She was spared from answering that by the mixed blessing of Poddi and Palla’s return.
“Well, they MIGHT not be together, but I know ONE thing for sure- Mæja is in love with a carrot!” Palla squealed in impish joy.
“ Mæja’s in love with a CAR-ROT, Mæja’s in love with a CAR-ROT,” the pear twins sang together, while Eva tittered behind them.
“She-she is the only one who has always been NICE to me, that’s all!” Mæja yelled over their taunts, stamping her foot, “That’s why I talk to her the most!”
But, they were undeterred, even Rauða joined in the taunting.
“Mæja’s in love with a CAR-ROT, Mæja’s in love with a CAR-ROT,” the three of them sang together, eventually dragging Eva into the chorus as well.
“Well FINE then! Tease me all you want, just like always! I thought you all were DONE bullying me, but I guess I was WRONG!” Mæja shouted, stomping away with angry tears forming in her eyes.
Angry tears, because they were RIGHT. And, that they could say it so easily, when she just COULDN’T!
There was only one thing that Mæja EVER regretted about her friendship with Gedda, and that was that she never had the courage to tell her how she really felt. There were so many quiet moments where she could have told her everything, with the night sky stretching above them and their hands clasped together, but her courage would always completely fail her at the last moment.
So instead, she got THIS whole ridiculousness, with everyone else getting involved in it too, and it becoming a huge fiasco!
“Typical,” she muttered to herself.
Usually the first thing Mæja wanted to do after dealing with the nonsense of all the other fruits was go see Gedda. Oftentimes, she was a welcome and calming breath of fresh air from the antics of the others. But this time, Mæja definitely did NOT want to talk to Gedda about this.
No sooner had she thought this, than she actually saw Gedda, skipping along.
Mæja ducked behind a bush, watching her joyfully skipping and humming. Despite her situation, she found herself letting out a sigh. Gedda was just so…adorable.
And looking curiously at the approaching pears, who were still chanting MÆJA’S IN LOVE WITH A CAR-ROT over and over-
“No!” Mæja gasped in horror, but could only watch helplessly as Gedda and the pears approached each other.
“ Mæja’s in love with a-oh, he-llo Gedda! Didn’t see you there,” Poddi completely lied, not bothering to conceal his enormous grin.
Gedda tilted her head. “What…what were you two saying?” she asked slowly.
Mæja didn’t stick around to hear the rest, she turned and ran.
She ran, not knowing where she was going, wiping tears from her eyes. All she knew is that she wanted to be ALONE, someplace that no one would ever, ever find her! But oh, Gedda KNEW all the places that she was likely to go!
Eventually, she ducked into the room that Immi had been saving for his throne room, occupied only by a single half-finished throne, collecting dust.
She crawled into the empty space underneath the unfinished armrest. It wasn’t very comfortable, but it was at least relatively safe.
She put her head back with a sigh. Finally, a moment of peace.
But, unfortunately, it was just a moment.
“Trouble in paradise, Mæja dear?” came a deep voice from above her.
Mæja looked directly to her left, saw a pair of brown boots with a cape swishing around them, and made a disgruntled noise. “Not NOW, Immi.”
“NORMALLY I wouldn’t care about that, of course, but…” he paused, “You seem to be hiding in the base of my old throne. That I never got to use. Because none of you would let me crown myself king!”
Mæja looked up to see Immi pouting, with crossed arms.
“You kept me as a SLAVE, Immi,” Mæja said exasperatedly. “And you were going to throw Gedda into the rotting hole just for existing! Sorry if I don’t want a king that does those kinds of things.”
“Ah, yes, the VEGETABLE,” Immi said, in disgust. "Blegh.“
Mæja put her head into her hands. That vegetable was why she was hiding there in the first place.
"Speaking of,” Immi said carefully, crouching down so he was next to Mæja, “I’ve heard through the grapevine, as it were, that you and Gedda were having…relationship issues,” he said stiffly.
Mæja frowned at him. “No, Immi, because there IS no relationship. I’ve been TRYING to tell everyone that, but they just don’t LISTEN-”
Immi held up a hand to silence her, rolling his eyes. “Ugh, it’s…INCREDIBLY obvious, Mæja dear,” he said condescendingly. “All your giggling, and WHISPERING, and FANDALAGGAHOJ-”
“That’s enough, Immi,” Mæja warned.
“You’re clearly, and disgustingly…SMITTEN,” he said, wrinkling his nose. “Bleh.”
“Okay, maybe I AM!” Mæja yelled, causing Immi to fall backwards onto his behind and look at her in shock.
Mæja climbed out of the throne base and started to pace in front of Immi. “Maybe I WANT to be in a relationship, like everybody has been saying I should be, but, maybe I’m scared! Maybe I’m scared that she doesn’t like me back, or that she wouldn’t want to be my FRIEND anymore if I told her that I have FEELINGS, and then I’d just go back to being a-a-” she sighed and slumped down, “a tiny…lonely little strawberry. Without a single friend, in the entire world.”
“Well, uh,” Immi said from his position on the ground, clearing his throat, “If she doesn’t like you, then…uh…I could throw her in the rotting hole. If it would help, of course.”
Mæja pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. “Oh…don’t you have somewhere else to BE, Immi?” she asked.
“Um,” he said, looking past Mæja, his face breaking out into a smile.
“Yes,” he said, standing up, “In fact I do. My work here, is done.”
He swished his cape, smirking, and stalked past Mæja, toward the open door.
“But…but you didn’t do anything,” Mæja started to protest, turning to watch him leave, but froze as she laid eyes on her best friend, who saw her at the same time and ran into the room toward her.
“Gedda!” Mæja half-shrieked, “I-”
“There you are!” Gedda exclaimed, giving her a hug. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” she said, holding her at arm’s length with a warm smile.
Mæja suddenly felt very silly for avoiding her.
“Oh, you know, I’ve just been…cleaning up,” Mæja said lamely, brushing some of the dust off of the old throne.
Gedda nodded distractedly. “While I was trying to find you, I ran into Poddi and Palla.”
Mæja’s blood froze. “You did?” she asked, casually.
“Yes,” Gedda said, “They were repeating an…interesting new rhyme of theirs,” she said, looking everywhere but her friend in an uncharacteristic display of timidity.
Mæja felt a cold pit sink into her stomach. “O-oh?”
“Well, I’m not really sure if they were saying what I thought they were saying,” Gedda admitted sheepishly, rubbing the back of her neck, “ I did ask them, but they said to go ask YOU. And I haven’t SEEN you all day, so I went to look for you and…what are you doing in Immi’s old THRONE room? Is everything okay?”
“Oh, everything is FINE, they’re just trying to TEASE me!” Mæja complained. “They’ve been following me with their new taunt all DAY!”
“Oh,” said Gedda, looking down at her hands, then back up at Mæja, right in the eye. “So it’s not true? What they said?”
“No, no, it is true, but-” Mæja clapped a hand over her mouth at the slip up.
Gedda’s eyes widened.
“I mean! It’s n-I just-ohhh…” Mæja simply didn’t have it in her to lie to her best friend straight to her face, so she just grimaced and put her face in her hands, letting her silence speak volumes.
“Oh,” Gedda said, in dawning comprehension.
There was no saving face now, she KNEW.
Mæja felt tears forming in her eyes.“I’m sorry,” she said muffledly, shoulders shaking with a few small sobs. “I’m so embarrassed,” she squeaked out, voice breaking as she began to cry.
“Oh, no, Mæja, don’t cry, don’t-” Gedda pleaded, touching Mæja’s shaking shoulder, “This isn’t something to-don’t you know why I’m here?” she asked, gently tugging Mæja’s hands away from her face.
“Because you want to tease me too?” Mæja accused, sniffling.
“No! No no no, I mean, do you know why I am-” she waved an arm around, “Here! In the…in the fruit basket.”
Mæja wiped at her eyes, her confusion at the subject change briefly stopping her tears. “I thought you said it was an accident.”
Gedda smiled shyly and nodded. “Well, yes, it was at first. But, I could have left. I could have left right when I realized my mistake, right after Immi nearly had me murdered…” Gedda’s breath caught in her throat briefly, but she cleared it and moved on.
“Guffi and-and Græni, they…didn’t keep a very close eye on me. It would have been very easy for me to go, and at almost any time, too! Do you know why I stayed?”
Mæja shook her head.
“I stayed because,” Gedda sighed heavily, “Because of what I saw when I first got here. Everyone was sleeping peacefully, except for this one little strawberry,” she said, face turning melancholy as she remembered, “Who was laying awake. She…she was the saddestlooking fruit I’d ever seen.”
Mæja looked curiously at her. She never knew that Gedda had seenher that night.
“And then, when I saw the way the rest of them treated her,” Gedda continued, gaining an edge to her voice as she paced around, “I told myself, I cannot LEAVE this place while they treat her like a slave! Before I go anywhere else, I MUST help her!”
Gedda looked at her with such intensity that Mæja had to look away.
“You did help me,” she said softly, staring at her own shoes, “You helped me more than-than anyone ever HAS before. It’s because of you, Gedda, that I am no longer the slave that I was when you met me. But,” she said, looking back up at her friend, “Why did you stay after you helped me?”
Gedda’s face lit up with a genuine smile. “Well, that’s easy-it’s because I found that I LIKED that little strawberry,” she said, suppressing a giggle as she reached out and wiggled one of Mæja’s braids. “So much, you see, that after that?"Gedda softly stroked the braid in her fingers, "I didn’t WANT to go anywhere else.”
Mæja’s heart lit up like a firecracker, but she tried to contain her excitement, pursing her lips. “You, uh, like me that much, do you?” she asked carefully, a small giggle escaping her in the end.
Gedda nodded enthusiastically. “Of COURSE! You’re so nice,and-and so pretty, and even a little bit feisty!” Gedda winked and bumped Mæja with her hip.
That did it, they both dissolved into giggles.
Mæja sobered first, as she realized what she had to do.
She had to make things very clear, right then, without any pears or oranges or apples getting in the way.
“Gedda-” she started, but stopped. What could she tell her? How could she convey the depth of her love in a simple confession? All the pining nights, the thrill of holding her hand, how she felt whenever she so much as LOOKED at her-
No, it was all too much. Keep it simple, Mæja, she thought.
“Gedda,” she started again, stronger, “I-I like you SO much, and-and you are my friend. But would you ALSO like to be my…GIRLFRIEND?”
Gedda gasped. “Yes yes YES!” she said, hugging Mæja tightly and peppering the side of her head with kisses.
They broke away with matching dazzling smiles, giddy with happiness.
“Do you know what Poddi told me?” Gedda asked, touching Mæja’s face gently. “When I asked him if what he said was true?”
“He didn’t say go ask Mæja. He just told me to go ask my GIRL.”
Mæja smiled. “Well…I AM your girl,” she said boldly. “Now, that is.”
Gedda laughed a little, touching their foreheads together. “I have always thought so,” she admitted, before she was stroking Mæja’s cheek and bringing her in for a kiss.
Mæja’s eyes fluttered shut as she leaned into it, wrapping her arms tightly around Gedda, hoping to never let go. It was breathtaking, and spellbinding, yet sweet, as if she were being welcomed home.
Just like hearing her sing.
They skipped back to the common area, holding hands.
Poddi and Palla saw them, looked at each other, and grinned widely.
“ Mæja and Gedda sitting in a tree! K I S S I N-EEW!!!” they screeched as Gedda and Mæja actually DID kiss each other, right in front of them.
“G!” they crowed together at the retreating pears, falling all over each other with laughter.