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Does she listen to girl in red?

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The reason Jirou follows all of Class 3A on Spotify isn’t because she needs new music, but because she wants to make fun of what all of her classmates are listening to. 

She realizes that all of her classmates are using Spotify and not Apple Music when Denki tells her to make a collaborative playlist for the end-of-the-term party that Momo is throwing in a few weeks. Jirou stares at him, sure that his brain is fizzing out in “yay” mode from a particularly rough quirk training class they’d had earlier, but his pupils are a normal size and his thumbs are very much relaxed and lying flat against his desk. 

“Ew, who even uses Apple Music?” Denki smirks. Then, he grabs her phone and waves it around the classroom. 

And people—namely, Mina and Kirishima—start to thumb through the screen, laughing at the app’s boring, ascetic white interface.

“Seriously, Jirou. Spotify is so much better. You, of all people, should know this!” Denki says, handing her phone back. 

“Human charger, please stop.” Jirou feels her blush all the way down to her headphone jacks, and excuses herself to splash cold water against her face. 

So what if she was a little behind? It made sense, given she’d finally transferred all of her family’s vinyls to iTunes a year ago, and had migrated them to Apple Music a few months ago, when the stupid corporation decided to rebrand. Which, by the way, was no easy feat, given their dinosaur of a family computer and encyclopedic collection of vinyls. 

(She’d enlisted Momo help her organize, and the two of them lay sprawled out on her beige carpeting, wheezing with laughter, when they found her dad’s high school ska band album: the cover was a picture of her dad with a full mullet, leopard print collared shirt unbuttoned two notches too low.)

After school, Jirou rushes back to her house, tripping over loose rocks in the cobblestone paths, the air damp with the promise of a rainy summer, the sunlight starting to drip into the evenings. She kicks off her shoes, boots thudding against tatami. Then, she begs her mom for her credit card information and taps a jumble of numbers into a phone screen: $4.99 and a student discount later, becomes a Spotify Premium user.

Jirou realizes that Spotify is worth the cultish generational following when a tiny blue bubble pops onto her screen, announcing that “GrapeHarem69” is now following her. Obviously, she gags on her Hydroflask straw when she realizes that Mineta had somehow FBI’ed his way into her Internet presence. But some curiosity propels her—part of it masochistic—to click his username. This becomes the only good thing that comes out of knowing Mineta: his playlists make her cackle to the point where her dad bursts into the room, sure she’s choking on a cookie crumb. Because Mineta apparently listens exclusively to the Glee Christmas Album, Kids Bop, Pentatonix covers, and DisneyMania 5 (specifically the fifth one), according to a tab label led “Recently Played.”

So she scrolls through her Facebook contacts, clicks 18 green buttons, and waits as the feed on the right side of her screen populates with grainy selfies of her classmates. She wasn’t shocked when she couldn’t find Todoroki on the app: the boy had just figured out what a concert was, and spent a solid ten minutes of yesterday’s lunch hour looking up “yaaaaaassss” on Urban Dictionary. Most playlists aren’t surprising: Mina has a whole playlist dedicated to Doja Cat, Midorya seems to exclusively listen to All Might speeches and All Might analysis podcasts, Tokoyami rotates between a carousel of Fall Out Boy, Evanescense, and My Chemical Romance. 

But the kicker? That her best friend, Momo, listening to Kehlani. This is shocking, because Jirou had to explain who Shawn Mendes was to her last week. 

  <<ThatstheTea18 is listening to “Honey” by Kehlani >>

Jirou twirls her favorite purple Beats headphones around her laptop, lets them fall against her ears with a pop, and taps the play button. Jirou really can’t see Momo listening to this. Honestly, the last time Momo surprised her was when Jirou took her to McDonalds (Momo’s first time!) and Momo had devoured a Big Mac, large coke, large fries, and six chicken nuggets by herself, licking the burger grease off her hands with a look of pure and concentrated satisfaction. Jirou, on the other hand, looked at Momo with complete horror and a deep concern for her bowels.

<<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to “Honey” by Kehlani >>

So now their Facebook profile pictures are hovering on top of each other, tiny speaker icons bouncing next to the same song. Jirou tries to imagine any situation where Momo listens to this song: Momo only listens to classical music when she’s studying, which is almost always. She can’t really picture it: Momo in her mansion filled with Ionic arches and 700-thread Egyptian cotton duvets and oil-paint portraits of her great great grandfather, humming to a sapphic R&B goddess.

<<ThatstheTea18 is listening to “Are U There?” by Mura Masa >>

Halfway through Jirou’s listen, the text by Momo’s username folds into a Mura Masa song. Jirou feels the corner of her mouth twitch into a smile, because she’d put “Lovesick” on a CD she’d burned—how retro— for Momo’s 16th birthday. One of Jirou’s favorite things about Momo is that she always, always pored over each song that Momo sends her, and sent back paragraphs of replies about how much she loved each song.

<<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to “I See You” by the XX>>

<<ThatstheTea18 is listening to “Work Bitch ” by Britney Spears>>

Jirou scoffs, a little burst of indignation. It’s June, which means they’re in the thick of final exams. It also means that Momo must be studying for the exam they have in a couple of days, and that she will nag at Momo until she cracks open her biology textbook. 

<<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to “Don’t Wanna” by Haim>>

<<ThatstheTea18 is listening to “Leavin’” by Jesse McCartney>>

<<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to “See U later” by BLACKPINK>>

Honestly, Jirou should really study for the test too, given she almost failed the last test they had. Something about Punnett squares gave her a massive headache. She sighs as she shuts her laptop, the lid clicking closed. If only Momo were here to coach her through a review session. 

After their biology final, Momo lures Jirou to the mall with the promise of celebratory ice cream sundaes, because Momo’s a genius who got all the questions right, and Jirou barely passed. Instead, they end up spending an hour in an expensive department store so that Momo can buy an entirely new wardrobe for her party. Which is how Jirou ends up ferrying tens of pounds of sequined dresses across the marbled tiles of the shop, stumbling under the weight. 

“Momo, can’t you just make all of these clothes?” Jirou says. She slides five more dresses into the dressing room. 

Momo gasps, in her little dainty way. “Absolutely not! I have to ensure the flow of commerce! And,” she pauses, “make sure that these designers are getting paid for their gorgeous designs.”

She always says this. But really, Momo is just a shopping addict—there are days when Jirou can’t find the door to Momo’s house because it’s blocked by mountains of Amazon Prime boxes. 

“Actually, Jirou, could you help me with this dress?” The door clicks open, creaking as it swings open. “I think the zipper is a little stuck.”

Jirou sighs—loudly, so Momo can hear her annoyance— and steps inside the dressing room. Momo’s back is turned toward her, neck craned at the ground. The dress is midnight blue, it wraps around Momo like a second skin. Jirou catches the curve of Momo’s waist, the dip of her hips, and feels her breath catch in her throat. 

This is weird, Jirou thinks. Weird because they’ve literally seen each other nearly naked in the locker room, slept in the same bed during sleepovers. What the hell is happening to her? She squints at the stitching of Momo’s dress, distracting herself. 

The zipper is jagged open, and Jirou has to tiptoe the slightest bit to reach it. .She reaches for the handle, tugging the it nearly closed, when a lock of hair sweeps down Momo’s back. Instinctively, Jirou pushes Momo’s hair behind her shoulder, her fingers ghosting over Momo’s skin. Momo shivers—or maybe Jirou imagined it?—as Jirou traces a line across her neck. Jirou finishes pulling the zipper closed. Every cell of Jirou’s body feels like it’s vibrating: she has to take a deep breath before she speaks.

“There.” 

Momo spins around. Jirou feels her chest tighten—the silk cocoons around Momo, and her skin glitters against the deep navy. Her hair shines in the bright dressing room lighting, and Jirou can’t help but think of the sirens that they’re learning about in History class, the ones that lured sailors to their deaths with their swanlike beauty—she could die. Momo looks fucking beautiful.

“I think that’s the one,” Jirou says. Her voice sounds an octave higher than where it normally is. 

Momo doesn’t notice, or she pretends not to. 

“Thanks.” 

Jirou feels her mouth curve into a smile, but it stops at her cheeks. She stumbles out of the dressing room, stiff as wood, and crouches over a bench far, far away from the fitting rooms as she collects herself. 

Your best friend is gorgeous and this is normal and fine, she repeats to herself. Even awkward, emotionless Todoroki stares at Momo sometimes, which is also normal and fine. Jirou steams thinking about Todoroki gawking at Momo, which she thinks is normal and fine because she’s just protective of her best friend. 

Jirou slaps on a smile and meets Momo at the cash register. Momo tasks her with heaving two overflowing laminated shopping bags to the Uber, and again, which helps convince Jirou that everything is, again, normal and fine.

Candy-pink afternoons bleed into dreamy midnights with Jirou planted in front of her laptop. It becomes routine: kick off her shoes after school, finish piles of homework, log into Spotify and click across playlists to transmit songs to Momo. 

 <<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to “Girl” by The Internet>>

<<ThatstheTea18 is listening to “Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monae>>

<<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to “Marceline” by Willow>>

<<ThatstheTea18 is listening to “Touch” by Shura>>

This becomes their secret code, sweeter than handwritten letters: Jirou smiles like an idiot at her computer screen as the songs float in. 

Jirou’s at Momo’s, like always, and they’re waffling around on the couch—like always. The TV hums: it’s some awful dating reality TV show that they found once, mutually hated, but are now addicted to. Currently, the main guy in the show is distributing a bouquet of roses across a row of weepy women wearing too much mascara. Momo and Jirou are a tangle of limbs across Momo’s gorgeous, silky couch, their legs just barely knocking against each other’s. Jirou has to be extra careful not to spill the ice cream cradled in her lap, because she’s not sure if she can afford that stain. 

Jirou’s phone buzzes in her pocket. She trawls it out, sees the screen blink red at her: World premiere: New BLACKPINK Music Video. Oh, shit. Jirou had set the reminder for herself a week ago so she wouldn’t forget: she’d become a huge BLINK in the past month, blaming it all on Lisa’s thigh-high boots in some choreography video. 

“Momo. Big news. New BLACKPINK. Right now,” she says, staccatoed and hyper, swatting at Momo’s arm.

Momo grunts in response: a blonde woman on the TV sobs into the guy’s freshly pressed suit. Her makeup runs down across her face and onto his shirt, and it’s equally mortifying and enthralling. 

“Momo. BLACKPINK. Please. Three minutes.” Jirou sets her ice cream bowl onto a coaster on the table before she reaches for the remote. 

“We’re at the good part! Look how sad this woman is!” Momo’s taller than all of the girls in their grade, and she’s putting her wingspan into good use, holds the remote above her head so the remote is inches out of Jirou’s reach. 

Jirou launches across the sofa, stretching herself over Momo’s legs to grab the remote. She swipes at Momo’s hand, grazing the side of the remote—before entirely losing her balance. She falls straight into Momo’s lap, her face nuzzling Momo’s thighs. By now, they’re gasping with laughter. Jirou flips over because her stomach is bumping against Momo’s knees and she’s not sure if it hurts because of the hiccups burbling from her diaphragm or Momo’s bones poking into her gut. She smirks up at her best friend,  her head nestled in Momo’s lap, the warmth of Momo’s body wrapping around her like a blanket. 

Then, they both register the position they’re in, Jirou’s face going pink with realization. Momo tenses up underneath her, she can feel the muscles wound tight Momo slides out from underneath Jirou, her head landing with a soft thud against the sofa cushions. 

“We can watch BLACKPINK now,” Momo says, her mouth bunched into a tight smile. She drops the remote next to Jirou, and Jirou has to lunge for it right before it skids off the silk. 

They sit in an electric quiet for ten seconds as Jirou jabs buttons to typeg a search query. Both of them stare at Lisa stomping across the screen in a bright furry green coat, looking so very consumed by her outfit. 

Later, they drape animal-printed face masks on each other, posing in the mirror, collectively deciding that the moment on the couch just didn’t happen. It’s one of those feelings that Jirou wants to bottle up, store in an airtight cellar somewhere, the quiet comfort of their friendship. But Jirou can’t control the doubt that hardens in her stomach: that there is something low and new and strange bubbling in the core of the moment. Momo lifts the mask off her face, and her skin is balloon-tight and hilarious, and Jirou laughs a little too hard, grateful for the distraction. 

Jirou’s room is balmy from the summer air wafting in from her window.  She kicks her sheets off her body, feels the heat evaporate off her skin. It’s so humid— Jirou feels like she’s trapped inside a water bottle in the sun.

Jirou can’t sleep that night; it must have been all the sugar she ate at Momo’s (she had two bowls of Rocky Road ice cream too many). She bangs her head against her pillow with a sigh, because she’s an idiot and tomorrow is going to be a very long day because she promised to help Ochako paint posters after school for a school rally. Nothing’s working, though. She tried journaling, reading a book, breathing to a guided meditation app—still, nothing. So she gets out of bed and plants herself in front of her laptop, because she might as well occupy herself in her sleepless daze.

The clock in the top right of her screen blinks “1:05 AM” at her, not like Jirou needs the reminder. Might as well have a soundtrack for her insomnia: Jirou clicks on the familiar green icon, watches it bounce on her monitor before it unfurls into a big black rectangle. 

Bakugou was listening to Joji approximately 5 hours ago, which makes sense, given that he famously knocked out before 8:30.

<<YaoMomo23 is listening to 1950 by King Princess>>

 

Jirou’s surprised when she sees that Momo is online, though: she knows the princess needs at least 8 hours of sleep on a school night, or else she’ll show up with her hair frizzing out of a ponytail, dark circles, and very little tolerance for bullshit. The last time Momo stayed up all night, she got so mad during a mock mission that she threatened to use her quirk to generate a glock to shoot Mineta. 

<<GuitarHeroJirou is playing Up All Night by Best Coast>>

 

Guitars wash over Jirou’s bedroom; the song, with its quiet lull, is putting her to sleep. She’s half-lidded, sagging into her desk chair, when a notification rises to the top of her screen.

 

<<YaoMomo23 is listening to Sleep Baby Sleep by Broods>>

Jirou wishes she could sleep, but classic Momo—she can be such a mom. It really makes sense that she’s Class 3-A’s deputy representative: she’s always bandaging everyone else, pouring them tea when they don’t need it, calming them with the soft hum of her voice.

<<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to I Wish by Hayley Kiyoko>>

<<YaoMomo23 is listening to Me Too by Meghan Trainor>>

Jirou rolls her eyes. She hates that song and Momo knows it, the way it sounds like a bad department store commercial.

<<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to Why Not by Hilary Duff>>

Jirou knows that Momo is giggling on the other side of her screen at that one—they’d bonded once about a mutual obsession over the Lizzy McGuire movie. Momo pinky swore that they’d visit Rome together someday, and Jirou likes to daydream about the two of them flipping coins in the Firenze fountain together whenever she’s feeling sad. 

<<YaoMomo23 is listening to Maybe You’re the Reason by The Japanese House>>

Jirou slots a finger into her mouth to chew on a hangnail. Momo is joking, she tells herself. The memory of Jirou’s head against Momo’s thighs scuds through her head, and she instinctively bites her lip. 

<<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to Seriously by Shlohmo>>

<<YaoMomo23 is listening to Don’t Worry by the 1975>>

And the speaker icon by Momo’s name flickers off. Jirou’s mind feels foggy: she’s not sure if it’s the lack of sleep or confusion. She lifts herself out of her chair, shuts off her computer, tucks herself back into her red checkered duvet. It’s 2 AM at this point, and the low chirp of crickets outside mocks her. She flattens herself against the mattress, stretches her pillow over her head, and melts into the soft midnight.

They both look like shit the next day. Jirou wakes up with her earlobes looped in a million knots, and barely untangles herself in time for the morning bell. Momo, on the other hand, is bleary-eyed and yawning the entire day. Jirou has to admit that it’s pretty funny to watch an exhausted Momo, though. Typically, the girl has clinically perfect posture, four pens at the ready, her hand always raised at a 90 degree angle: today,  she’s rocking in and out of her sleep, head swaying like a pendulum. It gets so bad that Todoroki has to lean over and poke Momo awake. Jirou feels her stomach curdle as they whisper to each other—she’s not sure why. 

Momo catches Jirou watching her and smiles: warm and secret, written in the language they’ve created. And Jirou exhales, feels the tension melt between them, and knows everything will be alright.

Poster painting is as miserable as Jirou thought it would be. She dozes off mid-brushstroke, splashing red paint all over Ochako’s sneakers. Her poster looks awful: she’s written “Class A-1,” and the mess of colors looks more like a Pollack than legible handwriting. Denki, who has managed to paint a surprisingly decent All-Might poster next to her, hunches over laughing at Jirou’s attempt. She narrows her eyes into slits as she flicks a line of blue paint at him, and he yelps and hides behind Deku. 

As Jirou smears her paint-splattered hands on her jeans, she sees Momo in the corner of her vision. She’s walking across the courtyard, watching Jirou. Jirou winks at her, points her paintbrush at Denki and rolls her eyes, isn’t he such an idiot?  Momo smiles back. Jirou sees Momo’s fingers curl tightly around the stack of textbooks she’s carrying, but chooses to ignore it.

The thrum of her week dips into the slow lull of Saturday. Momo’s away from the weekend, visiting an uncle for his birthday. This makes Jirou antsy, because the two girls hang out every weekend, save for some holidays (Jirou’s parents are weirdly serious about New Year’s Eve). So she makes plans to see a movie with Denki on Saturday night. Which is how she ends up with a red and blue plastic 3D plastic glasses framed against her face, watching a shitty superhero movie that she really did not want to pay 12 dollars for. Denki is an awful movie partner: he adds a liter of butter into their popcorn (which he guards on his lap!), flops his arm onto her armrest, and makes bad jokes the entire two hours. But it ends up being a fun time, because Denki uses his quirk to rig the claw machine in the theater and win Jirou a dolphin plushie. Jirou holds it up to her mouth to cover her smile, because she’s thinking about Momo will giggle when Jirou brings it to her house on Monday. 

Jirou gets home, kicks off her combat boots, shoves the dolphin plush into her gym bag, and clicks on her computer. Mukbangs await: she got a notification in the theater that her favorite American vlogger had uploaded a Taco Bell mukbang video. Jirou doesn’t know what Taco Bell is, but is intrigued by the radioactive shell of a taco on the video preview.

It was a fun day: a great one, actually, given Jirou’s cheeks are stiff from smiling so hard. But Jirou can’t help thinking of how she and Jirou would have watched a better movie, would have whispered at each other in the din of the theater. The idea of Momo being the one next to her, leaning against her on the armrest—

No, no. Jirou digs her fingers into her scalp, tries to massage the thoughts out of her head. Momo’s friendship is the only thing she’s sure of: clearer than whatever future awaited her as a pro-hero, simpler than the past three years at UA, truer than time. Jirou’s thoughts are crazy, and everything is fine and normal. 

A notification slides onto her screen: Momo is online. 

<<YaoMomo23 is listening to Sleepover by Hayley Kiyoko>>

Something warm blooms in Jirou’s stomach. Jirou tells herself it must be because she hasn’t heard from Momo all day, since Momo’s been busy doing family stuff. The image of Momo entertaining a troupe of six year olds is hilarious: Momo doesn’t like getting dirty, and her baby cousins are having an extreme slime phase. 

<<GuitarHeroJirou is listening to Hey Girl by Lady Gaga>>

Jirou gives it a minute, two minutes before Lady Gaga fades out. Momo doesn’t change songs to greet Jirou, which means she’s probably listening on her phone. Jirou smiles thinking about it: Momo flying around her room, tidying her mountains of hardcover books, humming as music streams out of her AirPods. She watches the text by Momo’s name change before she clicks the browser closed. 

<<YaoMomo23 is listening to i wanna be your girlfriend by girl in red>>

 

Sunlight streams through the blinds on Momo’s windows, hitting Jirou squarely in the eyes. She’s flopped over, back flush against Momo’s argyle comforter, under the sunset-orange glow of Momo’s bedroom lights. A row of Matryoshka dolls smiles down at Jirou as she shades her face with her forearm—once, she and Jirou tried to name them all and failed miserably, given the army of nesting dolls hidden in each one. Next to her, Momo rambles about the party—it’s in a week! Momo squawks— while spinning in a leather swivel chair.

“Mother just bought these adorable macaroons for the party. Do you think people will like them? Or should we do a chocolate fountain?” Her voice is pitched high, and she’s twisting a strand of hair around her finger, again and again. 

“Momo, relax. Just buy a bunch of bags of chips and dip, and you’ll be set.“ Jirou pauses. “And lots of bottles of vodka.”

Momo nods, but the glazed look in her eyes means she’s not paying any attention. They both know that Momo will end up going overboard with planning anxiety and overspend on aged liquor and a charcuterie spread far too fancy for a bunch of high school students.

Jirou decides to change the subject, because otherwise Momo will be stuck in this glazed stupor for the rest of the afternoon. “How was your weekend?” she asks.

“Good! Denki and I went to see a movie, which was terrible—you know, he has awful taste,” Jirou says.

A beat passes, and the rumble of air conditioning floods the bedroom. Momo lowers her head, kicks at the hardwood floor beneath her. “That’s nice.”

“Um, yeah. It was fun.” She twiddles with her headphone jacks. She brightens when she remembers the gift she brought for Momo. “Actually, I have something for you!”

The backpack rustles as Jirou rifles through it, digging for the fluffy toy. She fishes it out, beaming, waving it in front of Momo’s face. It makes Momo smile, and she hugs the toy against her chest. The plushie beams back up at her.

“Thank you, Jirou. I love it.” 

There’s a shout from outside the bedroom, and Jirou can make out “vegetables” and “supermarket” in the muffle. Momo sighs. “Looks like I need to help mother with her groceries. I’ll be right back.”

The chair skitters across the floor as Momo leaves the room. Jirou is about to pull out her phone, mindlessly wheel through an Instagram feed studded with bad selfies and vacation photos, when a ping blares out from Momo’s laptop. It makes her jump, because it’s so damn loud, and she reaches over to turn the volume down. Her hand bumps against the mouse, and the screen lights up with green with Momo’s private playlist folder.

There’s a carousel of playlists, their names like a gallery of wishes, wanting and confessional: 

Notice me

About a girl

Why not me 

Purple haired girl

Something white and burning flushes across Jirou’s body. She gasps, flinging the mouse: it dangles off the wooden cliff of the table. She taps through the Momo’s profile history. The playlists are dated months back, and the earliest was created at the beginning of the year. How long had Momo been feeling this way? How could Jirou not have noticed? 

She can’t be here right now, she needs to leave. She needs to think. Jirou places the mouse back on its coaster, clicks a button that makes the computer blip into darkness, her hands vibrating with adrenaline. Slams her notebooks back into her backpack, throws it against her back. She’s halfway to the door when Momo slides back inside her bedroom.

“Are you leaving already?” Momo arches an eyebrow at Jirou, and Jirou hopes she doesn’t see the thin film of sweat collecting on her forehead.

She manages a “yeah,” and her voice hitches on the word. Jirou clears her throat before she continues. “I, um, forgot that I have to run errands for my mom.”

Jirou’s a bad liar, but Momo is too gracious to push. So she nods, and Jirou speeds out of Momo’s bedroom, waves goodbye at Momo’s mom in the kitchen, and storms across the huge halls of Momo’s house, which are suddenly shadowy and cavernous. She breaks into a sprint once she’s out of the house, sneakers scraping across Momo’s vast green lawn. She runs until she is folded over and heaving, her mind tearing as the names of Momo’s playlists loop in her head. 

The next few days, Jirou makes excuses. Small ones, bad ones. Her dad needs her to help him tune a shipment of new guitars, so she can’t come over. She has to help Mineta with an extra credit assignment—she winces as she says it, because that’s a subterranean low. 

She doesn’t text back, answer any of Momo’s FaceTimes. Her screen piles up with blue bubbles: 

“Where are you?” 

“Is everything okay?”

”Are you mad at me? “

And the worst one: “I’m sorry for whatever I did.”

She barely sleeps that weekend: she wakes up each night like clockwork. Her blankets are rumpled in a corner of her bed. The dark circles that rim her eyes look like botched eyeshadow. 

And through all of the midnights, she’s thinking of Momo. Momo in that ocean-blue dress, Momo underneath her on her couch, Momo smiling at her with her lovely teeth. She needs to stop thinking of Momo, so she pulls up to her laptop, opens that stupid green app, and shuffles through her music. 

A notification from Momo. Shit. She usually isn’t up at this hour, she shouldn’t be up right now. 

<<YaoMomo23 is listening to Are you okay? by Daniel Caesar>>

Jirou pales. She forces her laptop shut with a push, burrows herself into her mattress, and forces her eyes shut. An hour later, she’s staring up at her pebbled ceiling, watching the glint of headlights streak across her room whenever a car passes by.

Monday is awful, because Jirou can’t face Momo. She times her day so she gets to class right before bell rings and leaves school right as classes end. She eats lunch in the library, plops herself next to Shoji as he scrolls wordlessly through his laptop.  She can feel Momo staring at her in class, feels her face burn with each look, but watches the blackboard like it’s the most interesting biology lesson she’s ever had. 

It’s the fact of her life: Jirou avoids the hard parts. She almost didn’t sing in the UA festival their first year because she was scared of the sea of eyes in a crowd. She hated letting people in her room when they were back in the dorms,  still hates letting people get inside her space, inside her head.

 But Momo, somehow, through some pull of nature, had burst in: the sheer force of her. The first time they’d met, and Momo had complimented her hair, and Jirou had blushed and mumbled thanks, and set out to ignore this overly friendly girl. Then Momo invited Jirou to her house until she finally cracked, thinking that going once would be enough to quiet Momo’s constant invitations. The moments in between, where she’d dragged Momo to rock concerts, and Momo had taken her to the ballet. The little gifts that Momo brought back each time she went on a trip: the Eiffel Tower hanging from a keychain, personalized Italian leather bracelets, snacks flavored with spices that Jirou’s never even heard of.

And Jirou is terrified. She’s terrified of these feelings bubbling up to the surface of her brain, the awful vulnerability of them, how stripped bare she feels, like an exposed wire.

So she crumples all those thoughts in some veiled corner in her brains, stashes it away. She slams her headphones over her head, dials her music on to max volume, and sinks the thrash of a violent drum solo. 

Thursday, and Jirou’s gone gray with insomnia. Her eyes are bloodshot, veined with red, and she’s so tired her brain feels swollen. Denki makes a comment about how she looks like she’s withering, and she flips him off and flops against her desk. 

The rest of the day, Jirou flickers in and out of sleep. At some point during Japanese class, Present Mic pauses the lecture to howl in her ear; she’s so exhausted that she barely wakes up. She must be hallucinating, the way that the letters chalked into the blackboard look like they’re dancing against the screen. Finally, Jirou gives up on trying to stay awake: her head thuds against her wooden desk, and she’s out like a goddamn light. 

She startles awake to an empty classroom. How long had she been out? She shakes herself awake. She’s covered in pen marks, someone has lined her arms with cartoon penises. Probably fucking Denki—she vows that she’d shock him into absolute incapacitation during their next training. 

It’s 4:09, nine minutes after Aizawa usually dismisses them after last period (unless they’ve been awful and loud that day). Jirou pulls herself out of her desk, and her back aches because her plastic chair is the opposite of ergonomic. She stashes her pens into her Fjallraven, files her papers into folders, and stumbles out of the classroom.

Jirou scuttles out of the door, loose lined paper flying out of her backpack. And she knocks into Momo. 

Shit, Momo. 

Lines crease against Momo’s forehead. Her hair frizzes and her eyes are unfocused, and Jirou realizes that Momo is getting just as little sleep as she is. “Why are you avoiding me?”

“I’m not. I’ve just been busy,” Jirou says, even though she’s breathing hard and her heart is pounding against her ribs.

“That’s bullshit.” Momo rarely curses; Jirou stiffens.

“I know you saw my playlists.” Jirou’s eyes boggle out of their sockets, and Momo continues. “My Spotify was open on a playlist that I didn’t click on. So I knew it had to be you.”

Jirou is quiet. Around them, campus lilts with the ebb of afternoon: students laugh and bicycle bells chime.

“Jirou, please look at me,” Momo says, and Jirou realizes that she’s been staring at her untied shoelaces for the past two minutes. “I’m sure you figured it out. But I think I need to tell you in person.” 

She pauses for a long time. “I’m in love with you, Jirou.”

Jirou wants to step out of her body because her skin feels so tight and awful. Because this wasn’t supposed to happen: Momo was supposed to tell her that it was all a joke. That the playlists didn’t mean anything, that everything was normal and the same and entirely uncomplicated. Instead, it undoes the seams of Jirou’s world, and she’s so nauseous that she’s about to vomit into the nearest trash can. 

“No, you’re not,” Jirou starts laughing, half-delirious and half-panicked. 

Momo goes quiet and folds into herself, hunching her back and holding her chest. 

Jirou is cruel, and she knocks into Momo’s feelings with the force of a bulldozer. The words tumble out, streaming through her fingers like silt. “This is so weird. This is weird for you too, right?”

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I don’t feel the same way,” Jirou continues. “And I don’t think we should talk for a while. God, this is so weird.” 

“Ah.” The word sounds like a sigh coming out of Momo’s mouth, and the little sad noise makes Jirou’s chest twist. “You’re probably right.”

Jirou stares as Momo walks away from her, her ponytail shaking with each step. And everything feels terrible inside the root of her stomach, and Jirou swears that if Momo turns around, she will run up to her, say she’s so sorry and didn’t mean any of it and they should act like this never happened. But Momo doesn’t turn back around, and Jirou watches her become a dot in the horizon.

The next week is terrible, and Jirou’s stomach burns from the stress. She begs her mom to stay home from school, insisting that gastric acid is eating away at her stomach lining.

She and Momo avoid each other at school; Jirou concedes and eats lunch in the library so that Momo can keep their usual spot. Her usual spot, Jirou corrects herself. So each day, Jirou flips through the library, picks out a book that looks relatively inoffensive, and pretends to sift through it for the entirety of the lunch period. 

Denki notices, of course, not because he’s particularly perceptive but because it’s so obvious that Jirou’s going through it. 

“What’s wrong with you?” He marches over to where Jirou is sitting with a huge grin smeared across his face. Jirou stares back at him, and he balks at her: her hair is staticky and wild, and her eyes are crazed from a lack of sleep. 

“Hey.” Denki softens, leaning against her desk so they’re at eye level. “Seriously. Are you alright?”

She nods because she’s not sure what to say and even attempts a smile, for his sake.

In class, she watches Momo. She tracks the rise and fall of Momo’s back as she breathes, watches her hair swish across her face as she nods during lectures. Momo doesn’t turn back to look at her once, which makes something in Jirou’s chest hurt. 

—-

Jirou makes a library of Spotify playlists to distract herself, piled with her favorite songs from each decade. 

She has one shot, and she’s desperate and this is silly but she tries anyway.

<<GuitarHeroJirou is playing “Can we still be friends?” By Conan Gray>>

The icon next to Momo’s pictures shutters off, and Jirou has to bite her knuckles to keep from screaming. 

The week ekes into Friday. There’s a small beep from Jirou’s phone as a notification slides across her screen: tomorrow is Momo’s end-of-the-year party. Normally, Momo would be texting her, freaking out because she doesn’t know which pattern of fine china she should bring out for the party. But there’s a space where Momo is supposed to be, and Jirou feels it like a wound. 

Jirou doesn’t know what to do but her stomach is burning and she needs to talk to someone, anyone—so she calls Denki. He’s there in record time, thanks to his new electric scooter that he pedaled across the city. They sit on Jirou’s couch, a foot apart from each other. He’s peeking at Jirou, stiff and unsure, waiting for her to talk. She finally gives, her eyes stinging.

“I fucked up,” she starts.

Denki nods and leans against his knees, and Jirou stares at the whorls in her carpet.

“I think I’m in love with Momo,” she says, sneaking a glance at Denki, waiting for a reaction. He just nods and hands her a tissue.

“Aren’t you going to say something? Aren’t you surprised, or something?”

“Oh. Should I be surprised? Shit.” Denki holds his hand against his chest, gasps like he’s inhaling from an oxygen tank, and widens his eyes. Jirou giggles despite herself. 

“I mean, I’m just confused how you don’t seem shocked at all,” she says.

“Well, no offense, but it seemed kind of obvious. You guys were always hanging out, and you looked at her like she was a limited edition David Bowie vinyl.” He pauses. “Lowkey, we all thought you guys were hooking up.”  

Jirou grimaces, her smile bunching up one of her cheeks. “Glad everyone knew except for me.”

“Sorry, sorry.” Denki holds his hands up, an olive branch. “Please continue.”

Jirou tells Denki everything, from the time in the dressing room to the late night Spotify sessions. She tells him that the first time she met Momo, she thought that Momo was beautiful and too cool for her and that even now, she was shocked that Momo wanted to be best friends with someone like Jirou. She sobs on Denki for an hour, and he pats her head and hands her an endless stream of tissues.

Denki talks over Jirou’s sobs. “So what do you want to do?”

Jirou tries to collect herself, but ends up choking on her tongue and devolving into teary hiccuping. “I don’t know. I think I ruined everything.” Her skin burns from the tears.

“How?” Denki asks.

“I told her I didn’t feel the same way, and I was so, so mean, Denki. I laughed at her and I told her that I didn’t want to talk to her. And we haven’t talked and I miss her so damn much and my chest hurts”—she jabs a finger into her clavicle—“right here.” 

Jirou rambles, and Denki nods at the end of each sentence like punctuation. “But the thing is, I need her back. 

She needs Momo, misses her like a goddamn limb. And it was all Jirou’s fault that Momo wouldn’t talk to her or even look at her. All because Jirou was terrified of ruining things, because they were supposed to be Momo and Jirou, best friends, their names engraved in friendship bracelets, wrapped around each other’s wrists forever.

Because that’s what it was, right? It’s always been Momo. The unbelievable curve of her smile. The way her hands fluttered around her face when she was excited about something, like math or rare teas or French pastries. Momo, wonderful, patient Momo, who helped Jirou study for tests even though Jirou was hopeless with anything science-related. Who always dropped everything she was doing to hold her hand at the hospital, because Jirou was terrified of needles. 

Momo is her oldest, dearest friend, threaded into her past like a tattoo. And Jirou knits her hands together, wishes on some celestial body, and prays that Momo is also her future. She wants their names monogrammed into suede pillows, matching Christmas pajamas, two stupid-looking poodles that they name after musicians. She wants it so, so badly. 

Jirou cries so hard that she starts wheezing. She sounds like a epileptic seal, but Denki is kind. 

He pats her the head. “I have a plan.”

This is how, at nine PM on a Saturday night, Jirou is stuffed into a too-tight velvet dress. She has a flask stashed into her purse, filled with Jack Daniels, and she takes huge gulps of it while she and Denki are on an Uber. Denki insists on manning the aux cord, and he blasts Post Malone as the car swerves through traffic, narrowly missing a few angry drivers. Meanwhile Jirou clutches her stomach, which is throbbing from nerves, alcohol, and motion sickness. 

“The party starts at 9, so we have to get there when people actually get there,” Denki had said earlier, as he doused his body in Axe body spray, which made Jirou crinkle her nose.

“But I usually get there on time. Momo likes it when people are punctual.”

He cut her off.  “This isn’t a ‘usual’ situation.” Denki huffed, puffing out his chest for emphasis. “You need to get there when everyone is fun and tipsy. Then, you’ll find Momo, tell her you love her, kiss her underneath the moonlight, and everyone will cheer and you’ll ride off into the distance together on one of Momo’s horses.” 

“Momo doesn’t have horses,” Jirou said. 

Denki looked surprised. “Really? Okay, then, you’ll ride off on a figurative horse.” 

The house is covered in streamers, gold wisps that ribbon across the front lawn. A fountain glows in the middle of the courtyard, cast by neon strobe lights. There’s a buffet spread a mile wide: complicated-looking cakes and glittering bottles of champagne rise out of the monogrammed tablecloth. They’ve hired a DJ, who’s dressed in a tuxedo and looks far too old and refined to be playing club tracks for a group of teenagers. It’s extravagant, impossibly bougie, and extremely Momo.  

Jirou whips her head around, scanning for Momo. She spots Deku hovering by an All Might ice sculpture, dragging his finger across the glacial biceps. Kirishima looks drunk already, he’s leaned against Bakugou’s shoulder like it’s a crutch, and Uraraka is chugging a Smirnoff Ice next to them. Still no sight of Momo.

Her flask is empty, so Jirou goes to steal a bottle of champagne. This will help, she thinks, as she twiddles with the bottle’s wire encasing. She manages to cut her thumb against the metal, hisses and sticks her finger in her mouth,. Finally, she wiggles the wrapper off, readies her thumb against the cork, when she hears a voice cut through the aggressive top-40’s music:

“Why are you here?” 

Jirou looks up, her arms crashing down to her sides. Momo is standing in front of her, balancing a fluted glass between two fingers. 

She looks like a vision: she’s wearing the dress from the day at the mall, the blue one that seemed to mold to her body like fondant. Her hair waves across her collarbones, and her eyes are lined in perfect twin swooshes. But she’s jerky, sudden in her movements: her hands twitch as she speaks. 

“I—uh.” She’s fucking this up, so badly. It’s so tense that Jirou can feel the air vibrate with it. Momo stares at her while Jirou’s mouth sputters and stops like a shitty old car engine. 

Jirou has a speech in her Notes app that she wishes she could pull out, a piece of evidence to wave in front of Momo’s face. Instead, she stammers some more and drops the champagne bottle on its side. The neck of the bottle cracks open, and bubbly liquid flows out of the gash. Glass shards scatter across concrete; Jirou has to step back to avoid the shrapnel. 

“Shit,” Momo says. “I’ll grab a broom.”

“Let me help.” Jirou gulps. “Please.” 

 Jirou finally looks at Momo, really looks at Momo. She looks so tired, and her body shakes like she’s been awake for days. “You can just go. Or stay,” Momo says. “Whatever you want to do. It doesn’t really matter, I guess.”

Momo walks away, and Jirou is left with the broken bottle of champagne. The liquid has pools around her, bubbling around her shoes. And god, she’s such an idiot, because she rehearsed for this ten times with Denki and it should have been easy because it was Momo, her oldest friend, her best friend. The girl who was as familiar as her childhood bedroom. Minutes pass, and the champagne has emptied out of the bottle entirely. 

Something compels her: she sprints after Momo.  She runs through the thicket of Momo’s backyard and her heels plunge into the soil with each step. A rose garden whips past her, and she’s light-headed and pulsing with so much adrenaline that she doesn’t notice Momo’s shadow in front of her.

Jirou flies into Momo; their bodies tangle and crash against the dirt. It’s all bones and skin and bruises in tender places before Jirou peels herself off Momo. Her head rattles with the twinge of a slight concussion, and she slams back onto the ground. 

“What the fuck, Jirou?” Momo pulls herself onto her knees, fuming and covered in  dirt. Her poor designer outfit, Jirou thinks, as she coils into a ball. “Shit, Jirou! Are you okay?” 

Jirou can only grunt out a response.

“Wait right here. I’m going to grab a first aid kit. Just hold on,” Momo says.

Jirou reaches out, grabbing Momo’s wrist. “No, stay. Please.” She rolls over, looks Momo square in the eyes.

“Momo, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that I ignored you, and I’m sorry that I was so awful to you when you told me you loved me.” 

Momo winces, but Jirou tightens her grip. She hoists herself up with her other elbow, her skull shooting with electricity. Shit, her head is spinning.

“The thing is, I wasn’t being honest. With you, or with myself,” Jirou starts.  

“I was so afraid, Momo, and confused, and stupid. I kept pushing you away, because I felt like things were changing and I wanted everything to be the same. And I didn’t want to admit that things were different to myself, that they’d been different for a while. 

It was because I was so afraid to lose you. Because you’re my best friend. Actually, you’re more than my best friend.” Her voice shakes around the words. “I’m in love with you too, Momo.” 

Then Jirou feels the crash of Momo’s lips against hers, pillowy and sweet and laced with vanilla. Her stomach bursts with glitter, like a million tiny balloons are popping inside of her. She gasps into Momo’s mouth, and Momo breaks away, but only for a second: Jirou kisses Momo, deep and wild and wanting. Momo loses her balance, and they tumble into the damp grass. Jirou vines against her, pressing every inch of her skin against Momo’s. Momo, Momo, wonderful Momo, who she doesn’t deserve, and probably never will. Jirou weaves her fingers into Momo’s hair, bringing Momo tight against her chest, willing her to stay this close forever. 

It’s all she’s wanted for a while now—later, when she stops lying to herself, Jirou will realize that this is what she wanted for a long, long time. 

A cheer echoes from the house, and the girls turn to see an explosion ripple across the courtyard.

“Shit, is Bakugou drunk-mad at Midorya again?” Momo groans, but she has the biggest smile on her face. 

Jirou has to keep herself from tracing the lines of Momo’s dimples. She giggles, giddy from whiskey and kissing Momo. “This happens every year. We should honestly expect it at this point.”

 They untangle themselves from each other and shake the dirt off their dresses. Momo laces her fingers into Jirou’s, which makes Jirou grins so hard her cheeks hurt. They walk back to Momo’s house through rows of grass hedges, a whirl of pearly stars winking above them.

Sure enough, Bakugou is angry under the blur of expensive Chardonnay and chasing “Shitty Deku” with an empty glass hurled over his shoulder. They’re circling the perimeter of Momo’s huge backyard like they’re running laps in gym class, and Jirou wonders how they still have so much energy while drunk. 

Jirou spots Denki and Tsu huddled around a tower of cupcakes, their faces speckled with pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles.  He turns over right as a breeze gusts against Jirou’s arms, making her shiver.  Momo slings her arm around Jirou like a shawl, which makes Denki grin and Jirou blush. 

The rest of the night is glittering: Jirou commandeers the DJ booth, pours an entire bottle of Moët down Denki’s throat, and twirls Momo around for a couple of slow dances. Everyone is wasted and bleary-eyed, and no one notices when Jirou leads Momo behind a row of perfectly manicured topiary trees to plant kisses up and down her cheeks.

She pulls away from Momo to stare at her best friend’s face. The light beams off Momo’s cheekbones, and her eyes are starry and half-lidded, like she’s waking up from a dream.

Momo is her greatest blessing, Jirou thinks, and she will never lose her again. She swipes a thumb across the silk of Momo’s cheek, vowing that she’ll imprint this moment in her skull so she can tell this story to their nephews when Momo and Jirou’s hair goes white. But still, she feels the bitter pang of her heart and can’t help but worry.

“Do you think this will change things between us?” Jirou asks.

“Maybe. But I think that’s a good thing.” Momo smiles, and it makes something warm and sparkling swell in Jirou’s chest. She presses a hand against the curve of Jirou’s shoulder. “We will always, always be Momo and Jirou. No matter what.”  

<< Reader is playing “Betty” by Taylor Swift ;) >>