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tongue tied

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Nobody really knew how it all started.

How they all realized there was something different than a close friendship that made them gravitate so close together. One by one, a light flickered in their minds in a realization that there was a foreign kind of love there.

Yet there wasn't an explanation. There was no truth to how they figured it out, no truth to why they all fell for each other. There wasn't anything but a feeling, lingering in their minds before it made itself noticeable. Leaving them all to know this new truth of love.

It was all it took.

That's all they really needed in the long run.

Diya had no clue about any of it.

"I would kill for you."

It was much easier to find out about loving Min. They were constantly claiming how much they were into her, and that they would do whatever it takes to keep her safe.

Diya could say the same thing about them. After she knew that, she knew exactly what she felt - love. It was so much easier for her to be in love with just Min-seo, knowing they felt the same. It wasn't long until their inevitable romance started.

Diya was enamored with the way Min's eyes sparkled whenever she talked about knives or protecting Diya's honor. She'd stare into them, wishing to be in that tar ocean, and feeling so flustered about it. Her face would turn red, and every time those eyes would look at her and turn so soft and tender. Min would never hesitate to plant a kiss on Diya's waiting lips.

You couldn't just so simply define how she felt then as love. It was so much more.

Yet still, Diya put Noelle on that "favorite person" pedestal. Not to say that she didn't feel Min wasn't her favorite person, she had just valued Noelle that much. She knew Noelle so well, and cared for her well being. It was so nice to see Noelle smile, and hear the occasional yet contagious laugh pour from her lips. She didn't notice the similarities.

She didn't realize that electricity she felt between their skin whenever they touched, the rapidness of her heart skyrocketing, and the mess in her head matched her symptoms with Min.

She didn't get how she had these weird sensations with even Akarsha, who had grown so much on her over the years. It felt so odd whenever she wasn't around to crack jokes, or when she was around but silent, as if she missed the girl she knew so well. Diya didn't even recognize the moment they became more than friends of convenience, more than just good friends, more than what she thought. The practice flirting Akarsha pulled with her throughout their middle school years started to become mutual in some sort of way.

What was she to Akarsha? She felt it couldn't be anywhere close to who she was with Min.

Diya was lucky enough to put the pieces together when it was just Min. With the puzzle that were her feelings, she didn't even know where to start. 

That wasn't to say she didn't solve it.

Akarsha picked up all the hints on it.

She saw how easy it was for them to fall, tripping herself up when she realized she'd done the same.

She fell for the smile Diya shared with her when she told a joke she liked, and that occasional chuckle accompanying it. The flirting she claimed to have been "practice" always being genuine in her own way.

She fell for the playfulness Noelle and her had, and longed for their jokes to be something special just between him. She loved that satisfied smirk Noelle would have plastered on her face whenever she got Akarsha caught up in her pranks.

She fell for that genuine care in Min's voice when they ask her every day of she's doing alright, making sure that she isn't lying about her genuine mood and always trying to find a way to make her feel better. Even the threats towards others (except at Diya) in her defense made her feel just that much more appreciated, and tried her best to show Min she cared for them too.

And she felt the heartbreak when Diya and Min got together, her happiness for her friends trying to shine through the negativity. Akarsha knew what they saw in each other, and all she wanted was to be a part of that.

She wanted to have those soft, loving moments with Diya. She wanted Min to be her hero in a time of need, to take her from her own darkness like they had before. She wanted too much.

It was out of her reach.

So who better to turn to than Noelle, the girl who may have been even further from that reach? With Diya splitting her time between her and Min, it would only be natural if she was lonely.

And so Akarsha made it her goal to become someone like Diya to Noelle. She offered to open that pesky water bottle whenever Diya was late to meet up before class. She toned down her jokes just a little. She did what she could.

"You seem off."

As ironic as it was, Diya had been the one to confront Akarsha about her changes.

Diya was lucky she knew her so well, otherwise it would've took so much more to crack her.

So Akarsha told her everything. From the butterflies in her stomach whenever any of them so much as smile in her direction, to the bitterness of her friends relationship. All the way to how she felt so greedy to love the three of them, and expecting even something out of them. And when she realized there might just be a chance of something, she would push back that idea, and pretend as if she wasn't up at night dwelling on it.

She noticed the little things, always so hyper-aware. If only the guilt she felt alongside it would disappear.

Noelle always denied it.

That queasy feeling in her gut when she's around Diya? She must've gotten some illness from her. Her face growing red from Akarsha's mildly flirtatious jokes? She had to have been physically exerting herself. Min-seo's "threatening aura" starting to seem to be, dare she say, cute? Another one of their tricks.

She had a perfect explanation for everything, and she was always right, in her mind. After all, she couldn't have felt anything for her friends that wasn't platonic. What kind of perfect daughter would she have been then, not finding a nice Asian boy in college to settle down with? What would her mother think if she allowed herself to be attracted to the people she saw as "just more competition"?

But doubt started to trickle in, slowly and steadily.

"You don't have to lie to us, Frenchman."

Today's topic of discussion at lunch had been one that brought Noelle extreme displeasure - romance. Why would she need to seek out a relationship when she had AP classes to study for? It was all so ridiculous to her, dating and having crushes.

What good was that if she didn't please her mother?

It didn't hit her for another week, why Noelle thought like that - like her mother. Had it not been for the incessant lectures her mother gave her, maybe she'd have had a chance to be like those friends she maybe admired.

Maybe her values would've been different, instead putting her relationships with others before her school. As ridiculous as it sounded, it seemed so much more fun and less stressful. It appealed to her in a way it shouldn't have.

Maybe indulging just a little in the average teen life wouldn't hurt anything, as long as she kept going down the path she was forced onto by her mother.

It was so pleasant to feel mushy over Diya helping Noelle out. It was fun to make Akarsha trip over herself when she shot a line or two back at her. It was so satisfying to stop pretending she hated Min-seo, when in reality she might of liked them just a little.

Noelle finally let herself feel, and it was the best decision she made.

Why would Noelle ever want to pretend she didn't love them? She never really could.

Min never knew if they could.

They already loved Diya, so what more could they ask for?

So when the time came that Diya told them about what Akarsha told her, she questioned that ideal. What was so greedy about how Akarsha felt? People we're allowed to love whoever the damn hell they wanted, and Min understood that just clearly.

It wasn't that easy to apply those ideals to themself. After all, they we're fine and happy with having just Diya. She was perfect, and good enough in a way that Min didn't really need anyone more.

Min wanted to ignore the longing in their heart, for the sake of Diya. They loved her more than she loved dogs, and that was really saying something. Why would they want someone else when they we're already heads over heels with their actual girlfriend?

It was all too confusing for them.

They decided to seek out the one person who might have a logical answer for their stupid question. And it didn't take that long to find her either.

"You should know better than any of us that these emotions are too abstract to define."

It may have took a couple of rephrasings of the sentence for Min to actually understand what Noelle told them, and thankfully no one else was around to hold that over their head.

And so Min concludes that feelings are just too fucking much to handle. After all, what was their grip on their own?

Right, there wasn't.

But what the hell did Noelle mean by them knowing better than others? What did they have on them?

Was it experience?

Maybe it was.

And when did those experiences happen? Min had to search their memories to find answers.

Maybe there was an experience with Noelle, where they only started to have that supposed "dislike" after they set their heart on Diya. Maybe there was an experience when they found Akarsha in the auditorium, yelling self-depricating obscenities at nothing.

Maybe there was always and experience occurring with them.

Was it love? Would it be allowed?

It was somewhat of a surprise when Diya pitched a faintly heard offer of the four of them being in a romantic relationship. Diya felt the same way as they did, and that excited and scared Min.

What if the others didn't want to be with the two of them?

That was ridiculous, Min would easily find their way out of that mess. All it took was a little soothing of Diya's nerves to gain the proper courage to propose the idea to the others.

So how could one love more than just another? Min thought they didn't know.

It was so simple how it started, how they all managed to fall in love.

They all witnessed the feelings. They were all present then, now, always.

Whatever was to come their way in the future, they would face it head-on together. The criticism, and laughter. The happiness and hardships.

But as long as they had each other, everything would be okay.

"What are we waiting for?"