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this love is a free trial (or something like that)

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When the realization hits, Amelia barely manages to stop the words from rolling off her tongue.

 

It was such a sudden and unexpected thing that her mind has refused to process, leaving her with her heart in her mouth for a good few seconds. Thankfully, she manages to swallow the three ridiculous words down her throat and lock them back in her heart before she does something incredibly dumb like confessing to her childhood best friend.

 

They were having lunch. Or more aptly, Ina was having her lunch as Amelia watched her with a fresh pair of eyes and… and since when did Ina look so beautiful ?

 

Don't get Amelia wrong. Ina has always been a remarkable beauty and Amelia will fling anyone who disagrees to the sun. It’s in line with how there's just something ridiculously attractive about the way the afternoon sunlight was dancing on her features, giving her an almost ethereal glow that makes it a near impossibility for Amelia to look away.

 

It also doesn't help that it's absolutely endearing seeing Ina trying to finish the burnt food that Amelia had cooked. Also worrying.  

 

Okay, mostly worrying .

 

"Alright, Ina. You can stop pretending it's good. I'll order take out." She makes a move to pull Ina's plate away from her but the artist was quicker, shoving another spoonful in her mouth before Amelia could take it away.

 

"No. This is good. Thanks for the meal, Ame."

 

“Inaaa,” Amelia whines, trying to hide the way her heart ticked dangerously when Ina just looked at her with a playful smile, the food in her mouth making her cheeks bulge adorably.

 

Ina chewed and Amelia will applaud her for keeping a straight face.

 

“It’s not even edible,” Amelia argues.

 

Ina shrugs. “It’s crunchy and has that smoky taste—"

 

“I think that’s the burnt part.”

 

“—it adds to the flavor.”

 

Amelia frowns. Ina only grins wider.

 

“It’s really not that bad, Ame.” the artist laughs, taking another bite. Amelia watches her with unbelieving eyes and she really has to hand this one to Ina because the artist only meets her stare as she continues to eat with a straight face.

 

“Besides, you rarely cook. So this for me is already a great treat.” Ina continues when she was done and Amelia almost hates how she can hear the sincerity in her voice. It did not make it any easier for her poor heart, really.

 

She has a lot of self reflecting to do regarding this funny little situation she’s found herself in—suddenly realizing she’s in love with her best friend as she fed her satan’s next dish.

 

Amelia gives, that was a headache for future Amelia. For now, she smiles, matching the lovely grin on Ina’s face. “I promise to make you something better next time.”

 

Ina perks, grin widening. “So there’s a next time?”

 

As much as you want, Amelia bites her tongue, face flushing. “Yeah, sure. Whatever.”

 

If anything, Amelia was a very ambitious woman. Learning how to make a five-star dish shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge if she puts her mind into it.

 

She mentally pats herself on the back, trying to encourage herself only for it to all derail when Ina’s eyes suddenly get that impishly charming glint in them that Amelia had previously thought of herself as immune against.

 

“Mm,” Ina hummed, her voice dropping to something deeper as she teased, “I’ll hold you to that, Ms. Watson.”

 

Amelia instead mentally prepares to nail her own coffin.

 

**

 

Her best friend was… extremely popular.

 

Amelia thinks it's specially true at the moment, watching from afar with rapt attention as Ina entertained her classmates with a game of billiards. She wasn't near enough to hear what they were talking about but Ina seemed to be enjoying herself and for Amelia, that was what really mattered.

 

She fiddles with the capped bottled water in her hands, leaning back on the sofa as she waited for Calli and Kiara to come back from wherever they went. Gura was off to play some games on her own and it leaves Amelia alone with her thoughts, wondering if the reason people were so easily drawn to Ina was because of her undeniable beauty, her cool and calm character, or just a mixture of both. And Ina, once you get past her awkward and meek initial interactions, has that really unique way of making you feel relaxed and comfortable.

 

It really was no wonder why people flocked to her like moths to a flame. 

 

So, Amelia watches fondly despite the contradicting discomfort brewing in her gut. It was nice seeing Ina, who for the longest time could never stomach social interactions, make friends aside from her. The blonde couldn’t be more happy for it. Still, sometimes… sometimes it leaves a bittersweet taste in her mouth. Her thoughts spiral from there, wondering if there will come a day when Ina won’t need her anymore. 

 

“Ame! Sorry to keep you waiting.” Kiara takes the spot beside her with a cheery smile, a drink in hand with Calli following not too closely behind.

 

“It’s no problem.” she smiles. Kiara stares at her for a good second before her eyes drift to where she must have caught Amelia staring. The blonde wants to bury her face in her hands.

 

So much for being discreet.

 

“You sure you should leave her alone like that? I mean it’s good that you trust each other but I overheard their conversation a little and it’s now less about asking for art advice and more about asking when she’s available to hang out.”

 

Amelia blinks at that, confused. The way Kiara had phrased her words sounds almost as if she's in the assumption that she and Ina were dating.

 

She chuckles weakly, making a conscious effort to not squeeze her water bottle too tightly. "We're not together. She's…” Amelia swallows painfully. “She’s free to see anyone she wants."

 

Kiara blinks back, her brow rising to her hairline. “Whoa, whoa. Wait. What do you mean you and Ina aren’t together?”

 

Amelia's brow furrows. “We’re not.” she finally manages to uncap her bottled water and takes a sip. Even Calli seemed surprised at the news as she eyed Amelia like she was waiting for her to say it was a joke.

 

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Kiara only looks at her like she grew another head. 

 

Amelia only raises her brow at her.

 

“At least tell me the two of you are fucking.”

 

Amelia chokes.

 

Calli palms at her face before giving Amelia a gentle clap on the shoulder. "Gura's lost. I'm gonna go pick her up."

 

Gura was definitely not lost and was beating everyone's ass at some rhythm game machine. She sends Calli a nasty glare to which the pink-haired girl just gives her a thumbs up.

 

Amelia breathes in, gathering her wits before meeting Kiara's eyes once more. "No, Kiara. Ina and I are friends . Best friends. That's it."

 

Kiara continued to gawk. "But the way you two—I just immediately assumed— Jesus , have you seen the way you two stare at each other? You can't just stare at each other like that, live under the same roof, and tell me to my face that you and Ina are just friends."

 

Amelia gawks back, her mind refusing to understand what Kiara was implying. Still, she really did look genuinely confused and surprised. The blonde tries to find her words, wondering which part of Kiara's speech she should address, or inquire about more deeply, first. She fails, and it ends with Kiara and her staring at each other in bewilderment.

 

The staredown breaks as a new realization hits Kiara. “Oh. The two of you are not… but you …”

 

Amelia would deny it. She probably should deny it, but her tongue feels heavy in her mouth. Denying something that was so inherently true? Amelia may never say it out loud but she can at least be honest with herself.

 

She nods. “It’s… it’s a recent thing, actually. I don’t think I’ll do something about it. Maybe it’s just a phase. A free trial. Gone by next week or something.”

 

“A phase. A free trial,” Kiara mimics slowly, lingering on each syllable, and gives Amelia a funny stare. And then in an even more unfiltered disbelieving tone, “Gone by next week or something?”

 

“What’s gone by next week or something?” A familiar voice suddenly quips in and the blonde feels like someone just dunked a bucket of cold water on her on a rainy day.

 

Ina joins them, taking the spot on her other side. On instinct and despite the way her heart leaped, Amelia moves to accommodate her presence. Her arm goes around Ina’s waist to pull her close and not let her sit too closely on the edge as her best friend molds herself perfectly beside Amelia.

 

“Hey,” Ina smiles, her eyes bright and Amelia faintly smells something sweet and alcoholic on her. Without much thought (it’s been really hard to think around Ina lately), she passes the bottled water to her and receives an even sweeter smile in return.

 

“Is something wrong?” Ina laughs, probably wondering why Kiara and Amelia were staring at her so quietly.

 

Yes, I’m in love with you and I’m hoping it’s just a phase. A free trial. Gone by next week or something.

 

Amelia bites her tongue. Hard. The words were easy enough to forget as her mind rapidly goes blank when Ina just looks at her with that small smile on her face, eyes gleaming, and Amelia easily finds herself lost in the sea of her eyes.

 

Kiara loudly fakes a cough.

 

“Alright, I’m going to go get Gura and Calli and then we’re ditching this dumb acquaintance party.” she gives Amelia a slap on the shoulder too, not much different from how Calli had.

 

Amelia will not admit it but she feels strangely comforted by the gesture.

 

There’s admittedly more space in the sofa now after Kiara leaves but Amelia couldn’t find it herself to move. Ina seemed more than content too, resting her head on Amelia’s shoulder as she quietly hummed a tune.

 

Amelia's heart flips when she recognizes it to be one of her favorite songs, one that Ina had poked fun at her by calling it too cheesy before singing along with her.

 

“Are you drunk already?” Amelia asks quietly, staring at their hands as Ina abandons the water bottle to the side to instead playfully hook and unhook her pinky finger with hers. The room they were in wasn’t quiet by all means but the noise was the type that was easy to ignore, most especially since Amelia finds no reason to divide her focus away from Ina.

 

“No, not really.” her best friend responds, a hint of slur in her tone that betrayed her denial.

 

“It’s not like you to drink at this kind of party.” the blonde mused, letting it slide.

 

“I figured it'd be fine just this once." She laughs. "...and I thought I needed a little bit of that thing they call liquid courage."

 

Amelia blinks at that. Ina shifts, peering up at her with an almost unreadable look in her eyes.

 

"I thought I needed it but…" she continued. "But I guess I want to do it sober, after all."

 

Do what sober? Amelia wants to ask but is silenced when Ina suddenly kisses her cheek, an innocent little peck that makes Amelia’s heart race dangerously.

 

“Mm, will definitely do it sober.”

 

She and Ina were by no means strangers to physical affection. Still, Amelia wonders if she can just go back to taking them as they were and stop feeling like… like the way she did now. Like there was an off chance that Ina feels the same way too. That was such a ridiculous line of thought that Amelia almost wants to laugh or maybe sob a little.

 

"Don’t worry about it, Ame." Ina smiles again, all too charming and captivating.

 

Amelia feels her face flush, right to the tip of her ears. She fakes a cough, looking away from her best friend's eyes. Ina laughs, leaning her head on Amelia's shoulder once more but stops toying with her fingers to properly lace them with hers.

 

The blonde dearly hopes Ina won’t notice how her hand trembles as the noise simmers down further until she can’t seem to hear anything else but the rush of her own heartbeat.

 

“Wake me up when it’s time to leave? The alcohol made me drowsy more than anything, really.” Ina mumbles.

 

Amelia nods even if her best friend couldn’t see. She clears her throat. “Sure. I’ll wake you up.”

 

Ina hums, contented, and Amelia can almost pinpoint the exact moment when her eyes must have slipped shut.

 

When Ina gives her hand a soft squeeze, Amelia knew, right there and then, that her feelings for her have barely started taking its root in her heart. That from then on, it will only continue to grow and grow until it eventually leaves Amelia feeling all too small.

 

And just as Amelia feared, some part of her wants to run away from it all.

 

**

 

She does run away from it all.

 

Or more accurately, she starts avoiding Ina.

 

Amelia shifts her schedule around for as much as she can, trying to get away with not being at their shared home too often. Their decision to live together was influenced mainly on the fact that they’ve known each other since childhood and were moving to a new city to attend the same university. They didn’t even have to make any thorough discussions about it. Just that, they were moving on to a new phase in their lives and all they were sure of was that it’s only seamlessly right and natural to do it together.

 

They’ve known each other since they were toddlers who couldn’t speak in straight sentences. To kids who often cried at the presence of strangers (Ina) or had questionable appetite that involved the playground sand (Amelia) then to teenagers who stuck together like glue when the world was confusing and the only constant they had was each other.

 

They got along really well, knew each other like the back of their own hand and… and maybe Amelia really should have seen this coming.

 

Now that she thinks, really thinks about it, how could it not end this way? Ina has always held a special place in her heart, one that Amelia’s sure no one can ever hope to fill and it's frustrating because she can see the line between loving and being in love with her best friend starting to blur altogether.

 

It leaves Amelia thinking like her newly discovered feelings for her is some sort of betrayal. She knows it’s not, not in a literal sense. Still, she can’t help but feel like it is because how...how can she ever tell Ina that she wants more , when what they already have is more than anything Amelia can ask for? There was that risk of ruining it all and it was something Amelia couldn’t even think about poking at.

 

She had hoped that the distance and maybe seeing Ina less would be enough for her to stomp her feelings down. It wasn’t. If anything, it made her feel like a complete jerk every time Ina would try to ask if something was up and the blonde can’t give her anything but curt and vague answers. And Ina, patient and always so sweet Ina, lets her get away with it without so much of a fuss. Still, Amelia can always see the slight hurt in her eyes every time she pulls away.

 

She wants to forget about it and turn her feelings off. She tries, really tries, but one look at Ina's eyes, or even just at the sound of her voice, and Amelia’s suddenly back to where she first started.

 

It’s frankly driving her insane and how she finds herself tiptoeing in her own apartment at the dead of the night. She only needs to grab a new set of clothes and a few casefiles to study before going back to crash at Gura’s place. In and out. Easy.

 

She very gently shuts the door to her room and pads to the living room, keeping her steps as light as she can only for her to startle, finding the previously dark kitchen lit up as her best friend stood by the counter with a glass of water in hand.

 

Ina meets her gaze.

 

“You’re finally home.” the artist smiles a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “I was beginning to think I was living with a ghost.” she jests as she sipped at her water.

 

Amelia did not find the humor in her tone.

 

She swallows around the sudden lump in her throat, scratching at the back of her head in a nervous tick. “Um, yeah. I’ve been working on something at a classmate’s place. Still am, actually.” she babbles, wanting to palm at her face afterwards.

 

“A classmate,” Ina intones.

 

Amelia nods.

 

Ina smiles. “Well, okay. There’s some food in the fridge if you’d like to take some. Also, it’s cold out so at least wear a coat.”

 

Amelia nods again. Stupidly, dumbly.

 

When Ina passes by her, it’s with a gentle touch to her shoulder. “I didn’t know you were sharing a class with a marine biology major. Tell Gura I said ‘hi’.”

 

Crap.

 

Amelia freezes on the spot, caught in her own lie. She does palm at her face this time as she distantly hears the sound of a door closing shut. The blonde sucks in a sharp breath and drops the bag in her hand as she almost instinctively runs after Ina.

 

She freezes again, a hand poised to knock at the door.

 

What does she even have to say for herself?

 

I’m sorry, I lied.

 

I’m sorry, I’ve been avoiding you.

 

I’m sorry, I can’t stop falling in love with you and running away instead of dealing with it maturely.

 

Amelia sighed, resting her forehead on the oak wood. A? B? C? Whichever she picks will eventually lead to baring her heart in the open and she’s really not ready to do it only for Ina to hand her heart back to her.

 

Still, she at least needs to apologize. She wants to apologize. If Amelia can’t give Ina her complete honesty (yet) , she at least deserves this.

 

She knocks, a weak rap of her knuckles against the door.

 

“Ina?” she calls, knocking again when she is met with silence. Amelia breathes in. “Ina, I’m coming in, okay?”

 

She waits. Five seconds to calm herself down, another five to give Ina some time before Amelia opens the door.

 

Ina’s asleep, or at least trying to paint the picture that she is. Her back was turned to the door as she lay on her side on the bed, the soft glow of a night light illuminating the room.

 

Amelia wills her feet to move, approaching the bed with meek steps. She sits down on the edge, fingers immediately fiddling with the sheets in restlessness. She stares at Ina’s form which was too still to be asleep.

 

Maybe this was for the best as her words tend to get lost whenever Ina so much as looks at her. She clears her throat, wanting to get rid of that lump which never seems to go away whenever she tries to talk to Ina.

 

“I’m sorry,” Amelia starts softly. “I’ve been a real jerk lately, haven’t I?”

 

Ina doesn’t respond. Amelia wasn’t expecting her to. She breathes again, trying to line the words she wants to say in proper order. It’s useless as she finds herself running on too much emotion and near zero logic.

 

“I frankly don’t know what to say,” she chuckles wetly, belatedly realizing that her eyes were starting to sting. “It’s just… I’m sorry. I just needed some time to sort something out and...I got really frightened, I guess.”

 

Frightened , Amelia stops the pathetic laughter that nearly clawed its way up her throat. That was an understatement, really.

 

She taps her fingers on the soft covers. “I understand that you’re angry. Maybe you even want to hit me in the face. I won’t mind.” she tries to joke but really, she’ll take it if Ina did want to hit her. Amelia laughs it off but she can no longer ignore the way her eyes were stinging. “I’ll be in my room if you need me. Again, I’m sorry. I promise to do better.”

 

She stands and nearly trips over her own feet as she rushes to get out of the room. Running away again. Lately, it seems that it’s all Amelia’s good at. She doesn’t even bother changing into something more comfortable and just dives face first on her bed.

 

Amelia doesn’t cry like she expected herself to. She’s not sure if not crying made that sting in her chest worse. She lays on her side, staring at the window opposite of her room's door and knows she’ll end up staring till sunrise.

 

It’s a surprise when she hears her door open after a few minutes and her best friend's telling footsteps approach the bed. She feels the mattress dip when Ina slips under the covers, arms snaking around her waist and pulling her back flush against Ina’s slender form.

 

Her best friend holds her tight as if wanting to mold them together into one.

 

“You,” Ina starts and Amelia feels goosebumps rise all over her skin when her breath fans over the nape of her neck. “You’ve been really frustrating lately.”

 

Amelia couldn’t help the way her entire body reacted to her best friend's sudden proximity and movement. She feels herself heat up, wanting to run away again yet her body remains incredibly pliant under Ina’s touch.

 

“I can handle your silence.” Ina continues, voice low and raw. “I can deal with you hiding things from me. I can wait. I will wait.” And then after a shuddering breath. “But it’s when you up and disappear or lie to my face like what you’ve been doing… Ame, that hurts me way more than your silence could.”

 

Amelia feels her breath catch in her lungs.

 

Ina tries to pull her closer as if having her in her arms wasn’t near enough. “You do know you can tell me anything, right? I don’t know what it is that bothers you so much that you just…” her voice cracks, letting her words trail off. “...I can forgive you. Just please . Stop disappearing on me without a word. No more lies."

 

“Okay,” Amelia croaks, voice just as weak but she means it with every fiber of her being. “Okay. I promise.” No more running. No more lies.

 

Ina seemed satisfied at that, her tight embrace easing. Amelia finds herself twisting in her arms to face her. She smiles and suddenly, Amelia knows everything is right between them again when Ina smiles back.

 

She doesn’t know who moves first but Ina’s head ends up tucked under her chin. The position they were in was not much different from the days back when they were a little younger as they cuddled together in bed to sleep after a night of horror movies.

 

Amelia feels her eyes slipping shut, her senses filled with Ina’s scent, touch, and warmth.

 

And when she slips into her dreamland, she vaguely imagines the press of soft lips on the pulse of her throat.

 

**

 

There’s been a drastic shift in their dynamic.

 

Ina was… Ina was being a relentless tease and Amelia, so previously easily flustered, finds herself teasing back bit by bit.

 

It was in the small, wordless gestures. Innocently enough, it was the almost frequent way they find their fingers tangled together, never quite sure who reaches for who first. Other times, it was Ina’s hand lingering on Amelia’s hip or to the small of her back. Amelia herself finds that she really likes running her hands through Ina’s long and silky hair.

 

It gives Amelia something to work with, finding her courage building steadily. She finds that she can now stare a bit longer into Ina’s eyes and can fully enjoy the way her heart sings when her best friend smiles and laughs at her god awful jokes.

 

“So, how was your free trial?”

 

Amelia startles, her eyes moving away from where Calli and Ina stood in line to order their food. She looks back to the two people who sat across her.

 

Gura seemed to be in loop of the conversation, no doubt because of how Amelia practically came knocking at her door a few weeks back and with how Kiara can never seem to keep anything a secret from both Gura and Calli.

 

“I was honestly surprised to find out you two were just friends.” Gura snorts, eyeing Amelia with the same level of amusement that Kiara was practically radiating. “Especially with the staring, like honestly way worse than Calli and Kiara sometimes.”

 

Amelia rolls her eyes in faux annoyance. “Quit it, you two.”

 

Kiara only smiles wider. “So, not a phase?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“A free trial gone by next week?”

 

Amelia smiles, her eyes once again drawn to where Ina stood.

 

“Definitely not.”

 

**

 

It comes one day on a typical Sunday morning.

 

No flowers.

 

No grand gestures.

 

No long speeches.

 

It comes just as naturally as everything they do together.

 

“I love you.” Amelia declares as she casually leaned on the kitchen counter, watching as Ina looks up from her food that the blonde had prepared. It was by no means the five star dish Amelia had been aiming for. Maybe a star and a half. It’s a little hard to tell when her best friend just enjoys it all the same and with such enthusiastic fervor for someone who typically can’t eat much.

 

Ina stares at her long and hard as she chews and Amelia worries she didn’t say it loud enough. So she says it again, maybe a bit quieter and shy but that’s because it was hard not to feel the pressure of having Ina’s eyes on her.

 

She’s definitely heard this time judging from the way her lips curled into a smile. Ina puts her fork down. She stands up, closing in on Amelia with sure steps and a warm look in her eyes that was enough to melt the blonde on the spot.

 

It’s not long before Ina has her hands on both her sides, easily trapping her where she stood. However, Amelia isn’t gripped with any need to run away. Not this time and hopefully not for a long while. She’s right where she wants to be after all.

 

“Say that again?” Ina asks as she leans in.

 

“I love you.”

 

“Mm, a little louder please.”

 

Amelia laughs. “Stop it, you definitely heard already.”

 

“I did hear it the first time.” Ina chuckled, a hand moving to lock a stray of blonde hair behind Amelia’s ear.

 

Amelia smiles, her own hands reaching for Ina’s collar. “Well? I may not look like it but I’m dying to hear a response.”

 

And Ina says it back, just as naturally, her lips a breath away from Amelia’s.

 

“I love you too.”