It was an unusually warm day in the fruit realm, with many fruits and vegetables choosing to go outside and play in the warm weather. The Fruit Festival was approaching, and there was excitement throughout the realm. Rauða and Eva had decided to hangout at the beach and the bananas practiced their routine for the Fruit Festival parade, while the pears played with their school friends in the park. However, some chose to stay in the Fruit Basket for the day.
Mæja and Gedda were sat cross-legged on the play room floor, Mæja sat behind Gedda. Mæja was carefully plaiting Gedda’s ponytail into a beautiful French braid as they enjoyed a lovely day in an oddly quiet Fruit Basket.
“It’s such a nice day.” Gedda said in her usual, joyful way, “I think we should go play in the garden. What do you think?”
“Nei, nei, stay still!” Mæja insisted as Gedda tried to turn her head to face Mæja.
Gedda turned back round to face the other way and shrugged, “Okay, we won’t go outside. It’s just a shame to stay cooped up indoors all day.”
“Oh no, that’s not what I meant!” Mæja replied, “I just wanted you to keep your head still so I won’t mess up your hair. I’d love to go outside once we’re done, though!”
“Yay!” Gedda cheered, causing Mæja to giggle.
“You know, it’s pretty quiet today.” Mæja pointed out, “It’s nice to have some peace around here!”
Gedda nodded. Suddenly, their peaceful conversation was interrupted by none other than Immi Ananas, by far the loudest resident of the basket, shattering the quietness that Mæja had enjoyed so much.
“MÆJAAAAAA” Immi shrieked.
“Spoke too soon.” She said, quickly finishing the plait and tying the end with a green hair tie.
Mæja quickly got up and headed towards the throne room door, “I should go see what his majesty wants.”
Gedda immediately jumped to her feet, and quickly caught up with Mæja, standing in front of her and blocking her way to the door.
“Mæja! Don’t go!” Gedda pleaded, “You promised you weren’t going to let Immi push you around anymore.”
“I’m not! But... don’t you remember what happened last time?” Mæja replied, struggling to keep a straight face.
Suddenly Mæja burst out laughing, sending them both into fits of giggles as they remembered the time Immi had gotten stuck in a tree, and how the entire population of the Fruit Basket had attempted to rescue him only for him to fall out and land face-first in the dirt.
“And when Immi’s shirt caught on a branch on the way down and ripped open,” said Gedda, trying to catch her breath, “Eva and Guffi were trying so hard not to stare.”
“Yes! Yes, I remember!” replied Mæja, laughing so hard she was nearly on the floor.
“At least it was just his shirt!”
Mæja suddenly snorted, causing Gedda to laugh even harder. Mæja immediately stopped laughing and turned bright red, or at least redder than usual.
“Mæja, what- what’s wrong?” asked Gedda, suddenly noticing her best friend’s embarrassment.
“Oh, it’s nothing, I just… hate my laugh sometimes.” Mæja quietly replied, facing away from Gedda.
Gedda smiled, taking Mæja’s hand. “I like your laugh.”
Mæja turned to face Gedda, and their eyes met. Gedda sweetly giggled. Mæja couldn’t help but blush even more, desperately trying to stop herself from becoming lost in Gedda’s beautiful, enchanting eyes. She failed, and without thinking she pulled Gedda into a kiss, standing on her tiptoes and holding Gedda’s face. The kiss only lasted a few moments before it was interrupted by a familiar voice.
Mæja immediately pulled away and they let go of each other, Mæja rushing around Gedda to get to the door.
“Mæja, wait!” Gedda shouted desperately.
“I have to go!” Mæja exclaimed.
“We should talk about-”
“I have to go!”
With that, Mæja sprinted out the door and into the throne room, leaving Gedda bewildered and alone.
“MÆJAAA- oh, there you are!” Immi exclaimed as soon as he saw Mæja, “I’ve been calling you for ages!”
To Mæja’s surprise, Immi was not stuck in a tree, nor was his cape caught in the door, nor was he in any sort of trouble at all. Instead, he was sitting casually on his throne, holding a small brown book in one hand and a pen in the other.
“I don’t work for you anymore, Immanúel.” Mæja replied, almost out of breath.
“Don’t call me that!” Immi snapped, “You know I hate my full name!”
“Oh yes, what was it again?” Mæja asked, playfully teasing him, “Immanúel Aðalsteinn-”
“Stop it!” Immi whined, “Are you going to help me or not?”
By this point Mæja had caught her breath, and had nearly forgotten about her kiss with Gedda.
“Fine.” Mæja said, with a loud sigh, “What do you need help with?”
Immi stood up and, still holding the notebook and pen, began dramatically pacing up and down the room as if he were a supervillain revealing his evil plans to a captured superhero.
“Well, Mæja mín, as you may or may not know,” Immi announced, “I am on a, I guess you could say… mission to redeem myself and part of that is that I want to give everyone in the Fruit Basket a gift-”
Immi, facing away from Mæja, immediately stopped pacing.
“Starting with Eva.” He said quietly.
“Ha? What did you say?”
Immi turned round to face Mæja, revealing the fact that he was blushing.
“I said, starting with Eva.” Immi replied, unable to stop himself from smiling.
Mæja was surprised. The last time she had seen Immi this flustered was at the Unity Festival. This was a side of Immi that she didn’t see often, and she couldn’t help but find it utterly adorable. After years of uncertainty over their relationship, Immi and Eva had been dating for a while and had even considered marriage. However, after Immi had tried to declare himself king, Eva had refused to discuss marriage any further until Immi had proven that he was a better person.
“I wanted to do something romantic for her, so I decided to write some poetry.” Immi said, walking over to the throne and slumping back in his seat, his smile fading, “but I have no idea what to write!”
Immi slammed the notebook and pen down, making Mæja jump, and put his face in his hands.
“So, as much as it pains me to say it, I need your help, Mæja mín.” He said, followed by a deep sigh.
“I’m sorry, Immi, but I don’t know anything about writing poetry.” Mæja replied, “Doesn’t your cousin Pete write poetry? Why don’t you ask him?”
Immi immediately leapt to his feet, “You think I’m going to ask him?”
Mæja was confused. She thought Immi and Pete were on good terms. “What’s wrong with Pete’s poetry?”
“Roses are red, honey is thick, Immanúel Aðalsteinn looks like a stick!” Immi angrily answered, “That’s what’s wrong with his poetry!”
Mæja couldn’t help but giggle, “That is a little funny.”
“It’s not funny, Mæja litla Jarðarber, it’s mean! And you know I’m sensitive!”
There was a silence.
“Wait, a stick?” Mæja inquired, hoping to break the tension, “Why would he call you a stick?”
“Ugh, do I have to tell you my entire life story?” Immi replied.
“Well, no, I was just-“
“UGH, FINE! I’ll tell you, but only because you forced me to!”
“I never forced you to…”
“Mæja mín, this is a very emotional story I’m about to tell you and I would appreciate it if you didn’t keep interrupting me!”
Suddenly, Mæja remembered what Gedda had said about not letting the other fruits walk all over her. Why should Immi be allowed to talk to her like this? Weren’t they supposed to be friends now?
“That’s it!” Mæja snapped, making Immi jump, “I’m not going to listen to your story until you speak to me with respect!”
Mæja turned to walk away, feeling very proud of herself for standing up to Immi. She wasn’t going to be the doormat that she used to be. Not anymore, not now that they’d established equality in the Fruit Basket.
“Wait!” Immi shouted, “Mæja, please don’t leave!”
Mæja stopped. She turned to face him, and she’d be lying if she said she didn’t feel somewhat smug at Immi having to beg her to stay.
“I’m… sorry, Mæja mín.” Immi said sheepishly, “You’re right. I’m really trying to be better, but it’s hard! It’s just… I feel like if I tell someone my story then maybe I can work on letting go of the past. No one really knows what happened except Eva, and that’s because she was there! So, I’ll try to be better. Pleeeeaaaase listen to my storyyyy!”
Mæja thought for a minute. Immi was a strange one, that was for sure. He seemed to be making an effort to be nicer, but the way he acted sometimes made her think that he could go back to his old ways. Still, maybe this could be beneficial for the both of them. After all, listening to Immi’s story meant she wouldn’t have to face Gedda for a while.
Mæja sighed, “Okay, Immi. I’ll listen to your story. But you have to be nice to me!”
Immi sat back down on the throne, and Mæja took a seat on a nearby block.
Immi hesitated for a moment before starting his story, “So, in pineapple culture we generally start working out at age twelve, thirteen at the latest. Every pineapple’s goal is to be as big and strong as possible, the bigger the better. I… didn’t start working out until I was 19. So, as you can imagine, I spent my teenage years as a skinny little freak.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being skinny!” Mæja interjected, “There’s nothing wrong with any body type!”
“Yeah, yeah, we all know that,” Immi replied somewhat snappily, not happy at being interrupted, “But try telling that to my family!”
Immi continued, “When I got to age sixteen and still hadn’t so much as lifted a single weight, my parents decided that when I turned eighteen I would be kicked out of the house. They insisted it had nothing to do with me being skinny, but I’m not that naive! Just a few weeks before, I had been humiliated at school!”
“Humiliated?” Mæja inquired, “How?”
Immi looked off into the distance, deep in thought, and sighed deeply. He looked as if he was trying to stop himself from crying. Mæja had never seen him look so vulnerable before, not even during their conversation before the Unity Festival. Immi gently wiped a tear from his eye, and continued his story.
“I used to wear a muscle suit under my clothes, like the kind of suits you wear to dress up as a superhero. I always wore long sleeves and, when I had to change to play sports, I changed in the shower cubicles so nobody ever found out the truth. Well, one day someone did find out the truth. And then the whole school knew the truth. I was humiliated, Mæja! I lost all my friends and I was made fun of all day! I was just lucky it was the last day before summer, because I begged my parents to let me move to a school that wasn’t just pineapples.”
Just pineapples? Mæja had had no idea that there were schools exclusively for pineapples. She wondered if that was even legal. She’d never been to a school that was just for strawberries. Mæja could only imagine the kind of toxic environment that an all-pineapple school would be, judging by what she’d heard. It was difficult to picture Immi being anything other than the big and strong man he was, and even more challenging to consider that he had once been the smallest.
“That sounds awful, Immi.” Mæja said quietly and sympathetically. The situation kind of reminded her of how she’d been treated for being small. She realised that fruit society was inherently skewed against smaller fruits, especially since even larger fruits would mock the smallest amongst them.
“You have no idea, Mæja!” Immi replied, although after a brief pause he realised that Mæja did, in fact, have an idea, “Sorry.”
Immi continued, pausing every few moments to try to stop himself from crying, “You wanna know something, Mæja mín? I’m jealous of you, I really am sometimes! You don’t have a family, well I do and they didn’t want me! They still don’t want me! They barely write to me, or call, and they’ve visited maybe once? I get so many snarky comments and back-handed compliments, and I’m not even skinny anymore!”
By this point Immi had stood up and was now standing on the other side of the throne room. He was facing away from Mæja, presumably to stop her from seeing his face. Mæja stood up and made her way towards Immi. She stood a few meters behind him, not saying a word. Immi gripped his sceptre tightly, and let out an exasperated scream, turning round and throwing his sceptre across the room, narrowly missing her. Immi stared at Mæja in horror, having realised what he had nearly done.
“Immi!” Mæja yelped in shock, “Why would you do that?”
“I’m sorry Mæja, I didn’t realise you were there! It’s the Ananas family temper, I can’t help it, I try but it’s hard, I can’t…”
Immi dropped to his knees, sobbing wildly, his face buried in his hands. Mæja had seen him cry before, but never like this. She moved towards him slowly and kneeled down so they were now eye level. She placed her hand on his shoulder sympathetically. Immi looked up at her, and suddenly pulled her into a tight hug. After a few moments of not knowing what to do, Mæja reciprocated the hug and started to gently pat Immi on the back.
“There, there.” She whispered, “it’s okay to cry.”
Immi struggled to speak through his sobs, “My uncle… read my diary… everyone laughed… he hated me… he was the worst bully... said I wasn’t one of them…”
“Where have I heard that before?” Mæja muttered sarcastically, louder than she had intended.
Immi pulled away slightly from the hug, not letting go completely. He stared at Mæja for a few moments in silence, his eyes brimming with tears and his face a mixture of sadness and realisation, before descending back into loud sobs and throwing his arms around Mæja yet again.
“You see?” Immi wailed, “I’ve become him! That’s what I’m afraid of, Mæja!”
“Well, no, not anymore!” Mæja replied, trying to reassure him, “You’ve changed!”
Mæja stood up, ending the hug and pulling Immi up with her. She guided him back towards the throne, where he sat down. Mæja kneeled down next to him and placed her hand on his shoulder once more, giving them both space but still showing sympathy. Immi revealed the rest of his story through a series of fragmented sentences, fighting through sobs and struggling to catch his breath. Mæja was horrified to discover how he’d been bullied and mistreated by pineapple society, and how the only people who ever stood up for Immi were Eva and sometimes Immi’s oldest brother Árni. It was surprising how much Mæja was able to relate to Immi’s tales of bullying and loneliness; Mæja never thought that she and Immi would ever have anything in common. The mention of Eva had calmed Immi slightly, and as he told Mæja their story he gradually began to calm down and was eventually able to speak in full sentences once more.
“I remember,” he continued, “The day before I left, Eva and I… we confessed our love for each other. We had one day to be together. One day, Mæja! We needed more time, I begged the universe for more time! But I had to leave the next morning…”
Immi smiled and wiped his tears away, “And, years later, the universe delivered. Eva moved to the Fruit Basket. Since then it’s been an odd few years, she’s had relationships, I’ve had relationships. I even nearly got married once, and she’s been married once or twice!”
“But in the end you always came back to each other.”
“Exactly, Mæja mín! So that’s why I want to do something really special for Eva.” Immi concluded, “There you go, Mæja, you caught me! I’m a hopeless romantic!”
“Aww, Immi’s a big softie after all!” Mæja said, playfully teasing Immi.
“I am not!” Immi replied, feigning offence, “Besides, you’re one to talk!”
There was yet another pause, “What do you mean?” Mæja asked.
“You know full well what I mean, Mæja Litla Jarðarber! You’re always fawning over the carrot - sorry - Gedda Gulrót!”
And, there it was. Mæja now remembered what had happened earlier with Gedda, the very… incident she had tried to escape. Mæja couldn’t exactly switch the subject back to Immi’s backstory, not after she’d seen how upset he was. It would be so cruel to make him go through that again. But did he have to bring up Gedda? Were her feelings for Gedda that obvious?
“You can’t write poetry for her, that’s my idea!” Immi declared, but Mæja was too busy thinking about Gedda to register that he’d spoken.
When Mæja didn’t respond, Immi tried again, “Halló? Earth to Mæja Jarðarber? Are you there?”
Suddenly Mæja realised that Immi was trying to get her attention, “Ha? Sorry.”
“I said,” Immi stated exasperatedly, “Don’t write poetry for Gedda because that’s my idea!”
“Ha? Oh no, I won’t steal your idea. Gedda and I aren’t really a couple anyway. Besides, how do you even know I’m…”
“That you’re gay?” Immi asked.
“Yeah… that.” Mæja replied hesitantly, “it’s not a problem, is it? You won’t pick on me for it?”
Immi stared at her for a few moments, then burst out laughing.
Mæja was incredibly confused as to what he found so funny, “What? What are you laughing at?”
“You… you think…” Immi replied through his giggles, “You think I’m straight, Mæja?”
“I didn’t want to assume…”
Immi kept laughing loudly, to the point where it almost seemed exaggerated and cartoonish. Mæja turned away, embarrassed. Immi noticed this, and stopped himself from laughing. He still found it funny that Mæja had somehow thought she was the only one in the basket who wasn’t straight, but she had just been so kind to him and listened to his story, so it felt wrong to make her upset.
“Of course I won’t pick on you for your sexuality!” Immi said, trying to ease the tension, “I’m pansexual!”
After a few moments, Mæja turned to look at Immi and smirked.
“You’re a panapple.” Mæja said smugly.
“A pansexual pineapple. A panapple.”
There was a brief pause before Immi started laughing again. Mæja joined in this time, feeling very proud of her pun. Not long ago Immi had been treating Mæja as a slave and had turned the rest of the basket against her, but now they were laughing together. A pineapple and a strawberry, making puns and laughing together. It was the little moments like this that gave Mæja hope for the future of the fruit realm.
One day, she thought, Everyone in the fruit realm will be able to laugh together like this, and it won’t matter whether they’re a fruit or a vegetable, what size they are, or what colour they are.
“Can you help me with Gedda?” Mæja asked once the laughter had died down.
Immi paused for a moment to think. It was the least he could do, surely?
“I… I can try.” Immi finally replied, “But I can’t promise anything!”
Mæja stood up and moved towards the block that she had originally been sitting on, and sat down again. She looked at Immi expectantly, as if she were listening to a teacher. Immi looked back at her awkwardly, unsure of what to say.
Immi began to speak, “Okay, uh, I want to preface this by saying I know nothing about vegetables. I also don’t know anything about lesbian relationships, having never been in one. Obviously. Well, I mean, I’ve been with bi women, y’know like Eva, and I’ve been with men so it’s not like I know nothing about same-gender dating so…”
Public speaking had never been Immi’s strongest suit.
He continued, “I guess… I guess you could buy her flowers and… stuff… and other presents. Write her some romantic things, like notes and stuff.”
Immi sighed. He knew this wasn’t going well, but he owed Mæja something. He looked around the room, desperately avoiding eye contact with Mæja, when he suddenly spotted something. There was an acoustic guitar that had been left in the corner of the room. Immi dashed towards the guitar and picked it up. He started to play an acoustic version of Speglasalurinn as he moved back towards the throne, standing in front of it as he began to sing to the tune of the chorus.
“Tell her she’s… pretty pretty pretty, buy her some jewellery jewellery jewellery, you gotta kiss her kiss her kiss her, you gotta love her love her love her. So that she knows, that she is so so lovely. Everyone will see you are in love!”
Mæja stood up and applauded, even cheering a little.
Immi took a bow, “Takk fyrir, Mæja mín, takk fyrir takk takk!”
Immi put down the guitar and sat back down on the throne, beaming with pride. He looked at the guitar, then at his notebook, then back to the guitar.
Immi leapt up, “That’s it!”
“I’m not going to write poetry!” Immi excitedly proclaimed.
“You’re not?” Mæja inquired, “Isn’t that why you wanted my help in the first place?”
“Yes, but I’ve had an even better idea!” Immi joyfully replied as he began to pace around the room once more, “It’s a fantastic idea, a wonderful idea! I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before, Mæja! This changes everything!”
Immi stopped pacing, “I’m going to write a song instead!”
“That’s a great idea, Immi!” Mæja said, now almost as excited as Immi was.
Mæja stood up and moved towards Immi, and once again Immi pulled her into a hug, but this time it was only a short one, which Mæja reciprocated instantly.
“Thank you Mæja, you’ve helped me so much!”
The hug ended, and Mæja patted Immi on the shoulder and smiled, “You’re welcome, Immi minn.”
Mæja turned towards the block and started to walk towards it, when she suddenly noticed Gedda was standing at the entrance, staring at her.
“Gedda?” Mæja said nervously, “How long have you been there?”
“Not long.” Gedda replied, “We should talk.”
Mæja turned her head towards Immi, who had now sat back down on the throne, hoping that he’d say something, or think of an excuse to get her out of talking to Gedda about what had happened earlier, but Immi just stared back at her.
“Go on Mæja.” Immi said smugly, “Talk to Gedda.”
“But, Immi, I was talking to you!”
“No, Mæja mín, I don’t mind. I’ve got some writing to do!”
Immi began exaggeratingly writing in his notebook, still looking smug. Mæja turned to face Gedda, utterly defeated. She looked at Gedda, then Immi, then finally looked back at Gedda and realised that there was no way for her to put this off any longer.
Mæja sighed, “Okay Gedda, let’s go talk.”
Mæja followed Gedda back to the play room and sat at the bottom of the slide, refusing to look Gedda in the eye. Gedda kneeled down on the ground next to her, and looked at Mæja longingly, wishing desperately that she would speak.
Finally Gedda gave up and spoke, “Mæja, why have you been avoiding me?”
“I was helping Immi.” Mæja replied, blunty. Inside she was cringing at how rude she was being to her best friend, but she couldn’t stop herself.
“Mæja! If you don’t want to be with me that’s okay, but I don’t want this to ruin our friendship!” Gedda pleaded, “I like you, Mæja! You’re the first person in the basket who was nice to me! You’re my best friend, and I don’t mind if you don’t want anything more than that but please don’t ignore me!”
Mæja finally looked at Gedda, and saw that she had tears in her eyes. Mæja couldn’t bear the thought of hurting her best friend, so she quickly got up and moved towards the swing. She sat down, faced away from Gedda, and started to sob.
“I’m sorry!” Mæja cried, “I didn’t mean to…”
Suddenly Mæja looked up and quickly turned to face Gedda, looking her in the eyes.
“I do like you, okay!” Mæja exclaimed, “I want to be more than friends! You’re so kind and cool and… you’re so pretty…”
She sighed, “I got scared, Gedda. I’m scared of what will happen if we’re together. I’m scared of being bullied because I’m a fruit and you’re a vegetable and we’re… both girls…”
Gedda crossed over to the swing and kneeled down in front of Mæja. She silently took Mæja’s hands, gently stroking them with her thumbs. Gedda looked up at Mæja and smiled.
“It shouldn’t matter that we’re both girls, or that I’m a vegetable.” She said tenderly, “What matters is that we’re together, and that we love each other. If anyone has a problem with that, then they’ll have to answer to me.”
“And Immi the panapple!” Mæja added.
“Probably the entire basket!” Gedda replied. They both giggled.
Mæja and Gedda looked into each other’s eyes for a few moments. Gedda let go of Mæja’s hand and reached up to her face, gently caressing her cheek. Suddenly Mæja grabbed Gedda’s face and pulled her up into a kiss. They both stood up, still kissing, and Gedda wrapped her arms around Mæja’s waist. A few moments later, they pulled away from the kiss, but still held each other.
“Wow!” Mæja said, out of breath and with a huge smile on her face. Gedda giggled.
“Still scared?” Gedda asked.
“A little,” Mæja replied, “But it’s okay, I have you now.”
Mæja quickly kissed Gedda on the cheek. They let go of each other, walked to the garden and sat together on a bench. Gedda put her arm around Mæja and pulled her close.
“I have to ask,” Gedda said after a few minutes of silence, “What were you and Immi talking about for so long?”
“Immi’s favourite topic, himself!” Mæja replied, laughing a little, “Nei, I actually learned a lot about him. There’s… more to him than meets the eye.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s… been through a lot. It turns out we’re not so different after all. He’s really trying to be better, at least I think so.”
“It’s great that he could open up to you. Maybe one day he’ll be able to move on from his past!”
“Já,” Mæja said, resting her head on Gedda’s shoulder, “I hope so. You know, he first called me in there because he wanted help with a romantic gesture for Eva.”
“Awww!” Gedda joked, “He’s a big softie after all!”
Mæja giggled, “That’s what I said! I hope it works out for him. They make such a cute couple.”
“...So do we.”
Gedda gently kissed Mæja on the forehead, making Mæja giggle again. While they cuddled on the garden bench, Immi was hard at work writing his song for Eva. Later, everyone met in the throne room for a basket meeting. Mæja and Gedda announced their new relationship, and were met with joy and acceptance. As it turns out, the other fruits weren’t straight either.
“Ahem, ahem, I have an announcement to make!” Immi suddenly declared.
The other fruits turned to look at him as he pulled out the guitar from behind the throne and played a single chord.
“Immi minn, what’s going on?” Eva asked.
“You shall see, Eva mín, you shall see.” Immi replied proudly, yet hoping to keep his speech as short as possible, “Ladies and gentlemen, fruits and vegetables, I have been working hard all day. On what, you may ask? A song, dedicated to the fabulous and beautiful Eva Appelsína!”
Eva blushed, “Nobody’s ever written a song for me before!” She said, completely flustered and fanning herself with her powder tool.
“Well, my love, tonight I shall sing a melody fit for a queen. You deserve nothing less.”
Eva nearly fainted and had to be caught by Rauða and Guffi. Once she had recovered, everyone looked at Immi in anticipation. It was the moment Immi had been preparing all day for, and he was determined to impress Eva and prove that he was worthy of her.
Mæja and Gedda looked into each other’s eyes and smiled as Immi began to sing.