For awhile, Yuzu lived under the notion that life was about having fun and living in the moment. Mei lived under the belief that duties and obligations come first before partaking in life’s simple pleasures.
However, there would be times where these mindsets would be slightly reversed.
For the past few weeks, Yuzu had been hammering away at her homework, meticulously checking her work for accuracy. Oftentimes, she would ask Mei for help whenever she struggled in her studies, to which the other girl didn’t mind. Mei liked seeing this hardworking side of Yuzu and secretly praised her efforts through quick kisses, cuddles, and the occasional breakfast whenever the blonde overslept. Other ways she displayed praise was by “rewarding” her every night with their nightly activities.
But recently, while Yuzu relished the attention she received from Mei, Mei couldn’t help but notice a change in the other girl’s behavior. Yuzu had been acting strangely distant over the past couple of days. Her newfound independency, days spent away from home, and occasional neutral feelings to their intimate moments started to throw Mei off a bit. Yuzu hadn’t even asked Mei for help on her homework for the past few days. Initially, Mei brushed off the blonde’s recent quiet demeanor and workaholic nature to allow her to focus.
Back in high school, Yuzu didn’t know if she and Mei would continue to be together after graduation, or risk having to maintain a long-distance relationship. Long-distance would have been manageable, but both knew the risks of fading communication over time. Plus, there was always that saying, ‘distance makes the heart grow wander’. It was true they both held strong feelings and promised each other forever, but Mei’s uncertainty often made her question how long ‘forever’ really was. Deep down, she feared that saying would apply to Yuzu; that if one day they were separated, her heart would wander off into better hands and belong to someone who truly did deserve her.
So, Mei wanted to make a compromise as a backup plan. While she was confident in her abilities to be accepted into any university she wanted, she was willing to attend a school nearby or even the same one Yuzu chose to go to instead. However, Yuzu didn’t agree with her step-sister’s plan, and remained persistent in achieving higher grades. Despite the need to stay together, Yuzu didn’t want to hold Mei back.
There was also the issue of Mei’s grandfather getting in the way of their relationship.
Despite an awkward conversation with their parents, they slowly warmed up to them being together. Yuzu and Mei knew they had to let their family know at some point, and that included their grandfather as well.
It was everything the both of them expected. Bewilderment, shouting, constant arguing--he fluctuated throughout the five stages of grief, minus the acceptance. And of course, he laid all the blame on Yuzu for dragging his granddaughter down such a path. The last statement utterly infuriated Mei.
After kicking them out of his mansion, they didn’t think he would’ve wanted to speak with them again. A few days passed after the explosive conversation, and both prepared for some sort of scheme he would come up with to separate them.
But to Yuzu and Mei’s surprise, they found him in their house, having tea and peacefully engaging in simple conversation with their parents. All five of them sat down at the dining table to discuss the whole ordeal.
It was beyond an understatement to say Mei’s grandfather was unsatisfied with her relationship with her step-sister. But despite ranting how immoral their relationship was, he couldn’t help but admit some good Yuzu brought to the atmosphere of the school and his granddaughter.
He knew that the two of them would be graduating high school soon and used it as an opportunity to establish an ultimatum. If he wanted to accept their relationship, he needed to be convinced they were good enough for each other--or in this case, Yuzu needed to prove she could be a capable partner. That meant raising her grades and getting accepted to a well-known prestigious university...or at least something that provided good enough education for her future.
Yuzu accepted his ultimatum without any hesitation. Mei on the other hand, thought it was a rather ridiculous request from him. What more did Yuzu have to prove? If anything, Mei believed the roles should've been reversed.
After strenuous months of late-night tutoring sessions, all-nighters, and reluctant shopping spree cancellations with Harumin, Yuzu pulled herself up to the top 20, leaving Mei’s grandfather surprisingly impressed.
Unfortunately, when the time came around to hearing back from universities, Yuzu didn’t know what she was more disappointed in. Reading the rejection letter from the same school Mei applied to, or knowing her hard work wasn’t enough to overshadow how much she slacked off in her earlier years of high school.
But Mei reassured her hard work wasn’t for nothing. She pointed out that the next best school the blonde could attend would be in the same area as the university she chose.
Although the two of them wouldn’t be attending the same college, they both agreed to live together in an apartment at a reasonable distance from their respective schools.
It had been about three months since they moved out of their parents’ roof, and three months since Mei’s grandfather saw them off.
The distance traveling to school wasn’t too much of a hassle. And while both wordlessly wished they could have gone to the same university, there was still the comfort of returning to a home after a long day.
Life should’ve been perfect the moment they started college and began living together. Their parents accepted them, and surprisingly Mei’s grandfather as well. Yet, Yuzu seemed to be more focused on something other than Mei, and even, other than herself.
Mei sighed as she stood at the doorway of their room, staring at the blonde at work. She had a cup of tea in her hands and began walking over to Yuzu’s desk.
“Yuzu?” No response.
Mei set the tea cup down on the desk and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Yuzu, it’s been four hours.”
“Huh?” the sudden but gentle touch broke Yuzu out of her trance and turned to face her girlfriend.
“You need a break,” Mei insisted.
The older girl simply gave her a smile and stretched her arms. “I’m fine, Mei! Just a few more minutes, then I’ll be done. You can have dinner without me.”
Mei could tell how much Yuzu was feigning her energetic side, and the dark circles under her eyes further proved it.
“At least drink something.”
“I will. Don’t worry about me!” Yuzu resumed her work and Mei remained in the room. She could’ve gone to the kitchen and ate by herself, but with Yuzu’s behavior the past couple weeks, Mei thought it would be best to keep an eye on her. Patiently waiting, Mei flipped open one of her books to kill time.
The blonde absentmindedly chewed the back of her pencil and scratched her head as she focused on one of the problems in her textbook.
After a couple minutes passed, Mei frowned knowing the blonde wouldn't budge. She left the room only to come back with a plate of food not long after and set it beside Yuzu’s tea.
“You’re off by 1,” Mei corrected as she observed Yuzu’s homework.
“Ah, thanks! I was wondering why my answer didn’t look right. Oh, and thanks for the dinner, Mei. You really didn’t have to-”
Before she could finish, Yuzu felt arms encircle around her waist from behind and Mei’s head rest on her shoulder. She adjusted herself on her chair to give Mei enough room to sit beside her. Mei paused for a moment before burying her face in the older girl’s neck, causing Yuzu to stiffen slightly.
“When will you be finished?” she murmured.
Yuzu set down her pencil and placed her hands on Mei’s before apologizing. “I’m sorry I haven’t been paying much attention to you lately.”
That sentence alone felt surreal coming out of her mouth. Usually, Yuzu would be the one coaxing or begging the younger girl to take a break from whatever was occupying her--whether that be with her studies or business with the school. Mei could recall the one time Yuzu tried to persuade her to take a study break by wearing that ridiculous bear onesie and something to do with pretending to be Kumagorou. Mei tried to resist, but of course, that failed and Yuzu won her over.
With the slight role reversal, Mei wasn’t that desperate enough to try Yuzu’s technique. But it pained her having to see the blonde starving, stagnant, and silent most of the time. That wasn’t Yuzu at all.
“This isn’t about me,” Mei responded, “I know you’ve been studying hard, but you’re overworking yourself.” She held onto her tighter.
“Don’t lie,” Mei reprimanded as she brought her head up to face Yuzu. “I saw you dozing off midway. Please rest...for me,” she ironically added.
A moment of silence passed before Mei asked, “this isn’t about my grandfather is it?”
“Well...not entirely?” Yuzu hesitantly replied.
“Yuzu, I thought we discussed this already.” Despite being miles away from him, it was almost as if his looming presence never left; and Mei hated the effect he possibly brought upon Yuzu.
“It’s not that,” she countered. “When I accepted his...challenge, I was only doing it long enough until he could leave us alone. But even though we’re in college and have our own lives now, I thought about what gramps said about us. About our future.”
“What do you mean?” a slight uncertainty that Mei buried deep within the confines of her mind began bubbling up again. Had her grandfather gotten to Yuzu?
She was broken out of her thoughts as she felt Yuzu’s hand grab and intertwine it with her own. The blonde brought their entwined fingers together and stared at the ring Mei was wearing.
“One day...I want to give you a real one,” she said as she brushed Mei’s fingers with her thumb and leaned her head closer to other girl’s. “We’re not in high school anymore, and I don’t want to stay as that delinquent slacker everyone knew. I want you to deserve the best.” She brought Mei’s hand to her lips and lightly nipped and kissed the back of her hand, causing the younger girl to blush.
So that’s what this is about, Mei thought.
“I can’t have the best if you’re working yourself to death,” she chided, giving the other girl a look of concern.
“I guess you really rubbed off on me these past few years, haven’t you?” Yuzu grinned.
“It appears so…” It was meant to be a compliment, but Mei didn’t take it as such.
She focused her gaze on their threaded fingers, then onto Yuzu’s exhausted eyes.
Yuzu blinked in surprise, “why are you apologizing?”
“This is probably how you felt seeing me taking care of student council duties all the time.”
Yuzu sighed in agreement. She promised herself she would take a break and rest with Mei once she’d gotten everything out of the way, but the work felt so overwhelming. If she stopped even for a second, she’d risk a growing pile of homework eating her alive. But Mei was right, perhaps she had been overdoing it.
“I’ll make it up to you,” Yuzu reassured.
“You better,” Mei grumbled, “you can start by eating something.”
Yuzu chuckled, then took a spoonful of rice. She never realized how hungry she was, but immediately the moment after swallowing food, Yuzu shoveled the rest of her plate within seconds. Mei just sat in amusement as her girlfriend heartily enjoyed a meal after what seemed to be an eternity.
After Yuzu cleared her plate, she continued her studies, not before receiving a firm reminder from Mei to take things easier from now on.
“Don’t worry, Mei. After this, I’ll go back to being the Yuzu you know and love!” she beamed.
The two sat in silence as Yuzu finished her studies while Mei rested and cuddled at her side. They were supposed to go to bed not long after, but ended up dozing off midway on the table.
“Crap! Crap! Crap!” Yuzu frantically got herself ready the moment her phone alarm shot her up from her desk. “I’m going to be late!”
As soon as she fixed her hair and got dressed, she darted towards her bag only to find most of her things were already prepared.
“Huh?” she stared at her bag dumbfounded, then shook her head. She didn’t have time to think about how her belongings mysteriously came together.
She hastily slung her bag over her shoulder and headed towards the kitchen to grab a quick breakfast. Maybe if she sprinted while she was eating she could make it to the train...
Yuzu checked her phone. Only 10 minutes before her first class would start.
“Why didn’t I listen to Mei last night?” she whined as she stepped through the front the door.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” she heard Mei say. Yuzu turned around to find the other girl holding a bagel in a bag, “you’re not going to go off starving yourself again are you?”
“Sorry,” Yuzu laughed sheepishly as she grabbed the item, “but thanks, Mei.”
As soon as she started running towards the train station, Yuzu quickly checked her bag for anything she could be missing. It was nice of Mei to take care of her things for her.
Breakfast? She took a bite from her bagel. Check.
It looked like she had everything she needed.
“Oh wait!” she stopped midway in her tracks as the realization dawned on her, and began running back to the apartment.
Meanwhile, Mei finished packing her belongings and slipped into her shoes to start the day. Once she closed the door on her way out, she saw blonde hair heading towards her at a fast pace. Did she forget something? Mei could’ve sworn she carefully packed everything Yuzu needed, knowing the blonde would’ve overslept this morning.
Yuzu stopped in front of Mei, breath ragged from exhaustion.
“Yuzu, what are you-”
Words were silenced the moment the older girl pressed a brief, but lingering kiss on Mei’s lips.
“Sorry, I almost forgot,” Yuzu said as she pulled back.
“You’re going to be late,” Mei scolded, failing to hide her embarrassment, and dire need for more, from the sudden gesture.
“I know, I know...But this was important. I'll see you later,” Yuzu gave a wave as she hurriedly headed back to the train.
Their ‘one kiss a day’ ritual. It was a suggestion the older girl made during the first year they began dating in hopes to further their relationship some way, and Mei’s idea to put it to use.
Though, now, Mei found it a little unnecessary that Yuzu was still abiding by it. Especially since Mei was planning on giving Yuzu plenty more kisses as soon as she got home.