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Overcooked Pasta and Strawberry Ice Cream

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To put it mildly, Yatsumura Tsuyuno was in a bit of a pickle.

For the past week and a half, she had been preparing in secret for a special date with Aya — it was their two-year anniversary, after all. She’d planned the entire thing out from top to bottom. After convincing Aya’s parents (and that bastard Kaname, which had required a little threatening) to go out for the weekend on an all-expenses-paid trip to Okinawa with money that Mikari had provided, that was.

The plan itself was pretty simple, in Tsuyuno’s opinion. She would double back home from school that day, considering the two of them lived in the same house and slept in the same bed, after all, and grab tickets for a local carnival Aya had seemed excited about. Then, Tsuyuno would pick out an outfit for the night and get ready to make dinner. Everything would be prepared by the time Aya got home, and they would have a fantastic home-cooked dinner and a fun night at the carnival after. It was simple but perfect, and Tsuyuno couldn’t wait, frankly, to see Aya’s smile.

But it hadn’t exactly gone as Tsuyuno had planned.

When she left class to ditch school late in the day, she’d nearly gotten caught by the school security guard, and hid in a thorny bush for about five minutes (it wasn’t worth using up her precious lifespan to escape). Then, when she finally made it off of the school grounds, the carnival was sold out of admissions tickets. Dejectedly, she headed home — at least she could do the dinner part, right?

Wrong.

Tsuyuno read and re-read the instructions on the back of the pasta box at least five times. She’d put the water on properly, set it to boil, and was about halfway done pouring the box of rotini into the pot when she realized she had forgotten where the sauce was.

She was left scrambling over the kitchen in a panic for at least a dozen minutes, forgetting that the pasta was still boiling. Relieved as she found it, Tsuyuno sighed. She tested a single rotini with the slotted spoon, and her eyes widened. Mushy and gross. Overcooked.

No no no no no nonono this was the one thing I had left shit shit shit fuck —

“Tsuyu? I was worried about you, but I guess you’re already h…”

Aya, newly-arrived in the house, trailed off as she saw the scene before her. Tsuyuno desperately fumbling with the stove’s controls, still not really all that familiar with them, swearing under her breath incessantly. Wild-eyed, she spun around at the sound of her girlfriend’s voice.

“A-aya?! W-what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you still be in class?”

Blinking confusedly, Aya replied.

“School ended half an hour ago, Tsuyu…”

Oh.

Tsuyuno had utterly, completely failed at organizing the perfect date for her beloved girlfriend. She had utterly, completely failed at organizing even a functional date, for that matter. She had utterly, completely failed in every single way imaginable. On their two-year anniversary, no less.

She looked around at her failure. Overcooked pasta, cuts from thorns all over her arms and legs, no tickets to the carnival… there was nothing. Not a single sign of success, not even the smallest victory.

“I-I… our date… I was going to… but I ruined it. I ruined everything. I’m so sorry.”

“I don’t understand, Tsuyu. You were trying to prepare a date for us?”

Tsuyuno hung her head in shame, staring at the floor.

“Yes… but I ruined it.”

She took one final glance upward, was met with the sight of a full pot of overcooked pasta and evaporated water, and that was where she lost it.

“I j-just wanted you to be happy…” she managed to whisper out, choked by the lump in her throat, before bursting into tears.

Totally oblivious to the world and drowning in her failures, Tsuyuno barely noticed Aya wrap her arms around her. She just leaned into her girlfriend and sobbed. The one day she had wanted everything to be perfect…

Aya ran her hands through her girlfriend’s hair. “It’s okay, Tsuyu… you tried so hard, it’s okay, I promise.”

“It’s… n-not okay…” whispered Tsuyuno between sobs.

Wordlessly, the two went up to their room, and Aya held Tsuyuno close to her on the bed, gently stroking her hair.

“It’s alright, I promise. It’s alright. You’re okay.”

“B-but… the date… it’s our anniversary…”

Aya blinked.

“When I asked everyone for date ideas the other week, Izumigamine-san told me not to worry about it, so I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it —“ that’s right, she had told Mikari to let Aya know not to worry, because she had everything covered “— but there are some things we could do in town.”

Wiping her eyes, Tsuyuno looked up at Aya.

“A-are you sure? I’ve ruined everything enough as-is… maybe I should just leave you alone for the night.”

Aya frowned. “Don’t say things like that — I still want to go on a date with you!”

Tsuyuno shook her head. “Y-you don’t have to…”

“I want to, Tsuyu…”

“Really?”

Aya tilted Tsuyuno’s head upwards just a little, locking eyes there, lying on the bed. She smiled at Tsuyuno.

“Of course!”

They lay there together for a little while, until Aya gently pressed a kiss to her girlfriend’s forehead, sitting up.

“We should go clean up the kitchen, and then we’ll go out for dinner.”

Rising from the bed, Aya offered Tsuyuno a hand. The blonde stared at it, hesitant, for a moment, but then took it. She smiled weakly.

“Okay.”

Erasing all evidence of Tsuyuno’s failed dinner was rather easy with the two of them there together. Even if she had made a mess, at least it was a mess they could easily clean. Tsuyuno supposed that was a single upside to it.

They soon departed the house hand-in-hand, looking for a place to eat. It was already getting dark out, so they hurried to a fast food place and ate together on a bench in a nearby park. It wasn’t exactly the most glamorous two-year anniversary dinner, but it was the thought that counted. Still, Tsuyuno couldn’t help but feel awful about it.

“Aya.”

“Yeah?” she said after swallowing a bite of her burger.

“I’m so sorry… I ruined our date.”

Aya frowned. “No, you didn’t! You tried so hard for me — even if you maybe messed up a little. I don’t deserve that much effort…”

Eyes widening, Tsuyuno looked to her girlfriend. “Of course you do! You deserve every good thing you could possibly imagine, Aya. You’re so wonderful, I can’t even…” she trailed off, looking fondly up at the sunset-painted clouds in the sky.

“I can’t even begin to describe how you make me feel.”

Aya was blushing. “Ts-tsuyu!!”

Tsuyuno smiled. “What? It’s true.”

They finished their dinner in that comfortable, cozy sort of silence that leaves one feeling warm and safe. From there on, they just looked around from their spot on the bench. Maybe tonight wasn’t too bad after all…

Then, she saw it. Right on the corner of the small park they were in. An ice cream stand that was still open — although only for a little longer, given the time. She guessed Aya saw it too at about the same time, judging by her expression. Aya fumbled around in her pockets for a few seconds, and her face fell.

“O-oh,” she whispered. “I’m out of money.”

Nothing about today would go smoothly.

Tsuyuno sighed. She supposed they had dinner — that was enough for the occasion after all they’d endur—

Wait.

Diving her hands into her pockets, Tsuyuno triumphantly pulled out a couple thousand yen. She grinned, looking to her girlfriend.

“This is the money I was going to use to buy tickets to the carnival for today, but they were all sold out.”

Aya’s laugh was music to Tsuyuno’s ears. Perfect music.

They quickly made their way to the ice cream stand and got themselves some. Tsuyuno bought some rare honey-flavored type, astonished a stand out on the street would sell such a flavor, and Aya got strawberry. They both smiled at each other as they walked down the street, heading back home.

“Thanks for paying!”

“Anything for you.”

Aya’s smile widened. “Anything for you.”

Their hands laced together like second nature. Right at the doorstep, however, Tsuyuno stopped abruptly. Aya turned around, concerned.

“Tsuyu, what’s…”

Careful to make sure Aya’s cone stayed in her hand, Tsuyuno wrapped an arm around her girlfriend, leaning in. They looked into the depths of each other’s eyes, an inch apart. With a weak grin, Tsuyuno spoke.

“Thank you for saving tonight, Aya. I love you.”

With her free hand, Aya brushed a lock of hair out of Tsuyuno’s eyes.

“Don’t worry about it! I love you too, and… it wasn’t like it was an expense. I love spending time with you!!”

Before either of them could really think about what was happening, they melted together with a kiss.

She tastes like strawberry…

It was such a trivial thing, and yet Tsuyuno felt like it was the sort of vivid sensation she would remember the moment by. The intermingling tastes of honey and strawberry ice cream, barely-averted disaster, and a summer night. It was a bizarre kind of perfect, but it was definitely perfect to her. They separated, grinning like dorks.

“Tsuyuno… I love you…”

Flushing at the use of her full given name, Tsuyuno replied.

“I love you too, Aya.”

They were happy.