She and I

 

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Introduction

"I like you."

~
 
No one will know how long it took Elsa to work up the courage to confess. How she didn't sleep a wink last night because she was so nervous. Confessing, in general, is nerve-wracking, but she just confessed to another girl. A girl in the year above, but two years older because her parents had started her at school a year behind others her age. There was always a sense of calmness and maturity from her that attracted Elsa. She would watch Nina in the library, reading in a quiet corner by the window, and Nina would unconsciously twirl her brown hair in her fingers as she read. Elsa found herself spending all her spare time in the library to be near Nina, always sitting close but far enough away to try and not appear suspicious. But Elsa caught her chuckle quietly to herself one day and get up.
 "What are you reading?"
 Elsa had looked up at her dumbfounded, for the girl she had essentially been stalking for the last two months actually came over and talked to her. Internal panic ran rife. Does she know I've been watching her all this time?  She was frozen by Nina's brown eyes, they weren't like warm chocolate, but strong and piercing right through Elsa.
 But Nina smiled warmly at Elsa and sat down beside her. "I have read that one, it is quite good."
 Of course, Elsa knew that, for she always read whatever book Nina had just finished.
 "I'm Nina, what is your name?"
 Elsa was still wide-eyed with shock. "Elsa."
 From then on they always sat together to read, and they discussed the books they had both read. It became more as Nina then helped Elsa with studying. First just in the library, occasionally going into after school time. Then it progressed to going to each other's houses and meeting up almost every weekend just to hang out together. Elsa doesn't know when she starting getting these feelings for Nina, they slowly built up until one day Elsa suddenly felt her heart skip a beat at seeing Nina's smiling face, she knew these weren't feelings of friendship for she had the sudden urge to pull Nina into a kiss.
 But now Nina is graduating and leaving, so Elsa felt like she needed to take the chance.

~
 
"I like you too." Nina smiled warmly, but Elsa could tell she wasn't saying it with the same meaning.
 "I want to date you," Elsa said with slight desperation.
 Nina's smile stayed, but it now seemed forced and fake, and she kept her eyes averted from Elsa. "You're at an age where you are exploring sexuality. I'm sure you have just mistaken your feelings as something more than they are." Her words cut through Elsa like a jagged knife. They ripped and hurt, deeper than she knew. "Be sure to study hard next year so you graduate with good marks." Nina left Elsa standing alone in their corner of the library.
 Elsa had prepared herself in case Nina rejected her, just because Elsa liked her in that way didn't mean Nina would too. But this hurt more, far more. For she hadn't even accepted that Elsa's feelings were real. She crouched down and covered her mouth as she sobbed, desperately not wanting anyone to hear her.
 If these feelings aren't real, then what are?

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Chapter 1

It has been four and a half years since that day. For a little while after Elsa had nightmares about it. She still does occasionally, just like the one that has now woken her up in a light sweat. They had never been in contact since then, and after graduating from school Elsa moved across the country, she had wanted a fresh start away from the place that gave her so many bad memories. It must have been brought on because I'm going to the publishers today. Elsa rubbed her face, a nervous tick she had acquired after that trauma. 
She lives quietly as a writer. Her first book had won an unpublished manuscript award with a publishing company and then won the Victorian Literary Award. It was an unexpected hit that is being tipped to being made into a movie. That's why she is going to her publishers today, as well as giving an update on her new book that is almost ready to be sent in for publishing. She based the first book off her and Nina but wrote it as what she hoped would have happened had Nina accepted her feelings. It was a very emotional book to write, and it connected with a lot of people, even though it is a lesbian love story. 

Thunder rumbled threatening outside, and the hard downpour of rain pelted the roof. I don't feel good today. But she managed to get to the publishers without being completely soaked, even though the rain had been coming in sideways with the wind. 
"Welcome Miss Elsa. Let me take your umbrella and coat." The receptionist, Tilda, has always been very friendly towards Elsa. She loves Elsa's book deeply and has a very tattered, well-read copy. Tilda is also a lesbian so they have had a good connection from the start. 
"Thank you, Tilda. Where is Arikawa?" Arikawa is Elsa's exuberant editor.
"She should be on the 3rd floor, but I'm sure she will sniff you out," Tilda chuckled. 
Arikawa has a knack for sensing where Elsa is and has on occasion been able to find Elsa at different bars - when she was in need of Elsa for discussing the book. When the elevator doors opened on the 3rd floor Arikawa was standing there waiting. 
"I was worried you might skip out because of the weather." Because Elsa sometimes avoided meetings. Elsa writes a lot of short stories which they publish, so Elsa is constantly being called and nagged. 
"I thought about it," Elsa replied nonchalantly. 
"Mm. I'm sure," Arikawa looked her up and down, "it is almost time for the meeting with the production company." She turned on her heel and Elsa followed along. "We recently hired a master’s graduate. She had the top marks in her year for the bachelor and masters. I'm really eager to have her actually, as she has been assigned to help your team. I'll introduce you first." 
"Mhm." Elsa rubbed her face again. They stopped outside the door to the publishing room.
"Nina," Arikawa called and Elsa's hand stilled. She had reacted this way whenever she heard that name, even though it was never in relation to that Nina. She held her breath as she looked up to greet the poor woman who would have to deal with Elsa's existing trauma with that name. If she hadn't held her breath it would have caught, and if she hadn't already stopped then she would have stopped abruptly. In fact, she's not entirely sure her heart is still beating normally. How is she here? 
"Goodness Elsa, are you okay? You've gone pale," Arikawa fretted. 
Well, that is to be expected, as it is that Nina which currently stands in front of her. Her eyes wide with shock, her mouth twisting in distress. Her weight shifted back as if to run away. 
"I'm okay," she said strained. 
Arikawa appraised her, not looking convinced, but she wants to do this meeting more than she wanted to let Elsa go back home. "Nina will be working in the publishing division, so you will deal with her for your latest manuscript." 
Nina hadn't been surprised when Elsa walked in, instead, she smiled warmly. Just like she used to, just like that time. Elsa was having a hard time controlling her expression. I need to be professional about this, this is work, for the both of us. She sighed, which wasn't unnoticed by either woman. 
"Nice to meet you," she quickly averted her eyes to Arikawa, "shall we go to the meeting now?" 
"Of course. Nina will be coming as well." 
Of course she is.. Elsa worked hard to maintain composure as Nina followed behind her and Arikawa. It made Elsa's back awfully uncomfortable and tense. 

The meeting wasn't a whole lot easier but provided Nina didn't talk, she was able to be distracted by the conversation with the production company employees. The whole process has been going smoothly, and they are ready to sign the contract. All this was nothing Elsa had ever imagined when she first started writing the book. She hadn't even planned to be a full-time writer, she didn't have any plan quite frankly. Now she has made over 1 million dollars from her book and rising, and her new book is slated to be a best-seller. And she's quickly escaping from the building to get away from Nina. She wished she already had her umbrella and coat so she could bolt out of the foyer, but alas she had to wait for Tilda to bring them. Which was just enough time for the elevator doors to ding open, and for Nina to come rushing out towards Elsa. Her face was flushed, and she had puffing breaths from running. 
"You forgot these." 
The wilful documents that really were important, which garnered this inopportune moment - for Elsa anyway. 
"Ah. Thank you." Elsa was careful to make sure her hand wasn't going to touch Nina's when taking the documents. Tilda held the umbrella and coat but was distracted by Elsa and Nina's interaction. She looked at Nina, then Elsa pointedly, then back to Nina very pointedly. 
"See you, Tilda." Elsa quickly grabbed her things to run away. 
"I'll call you about the weekend," Tilda called after her, which was done very much on purpose. 

Tilda did try to call about the weekend, but Elsa didn't want to answer and only listened to the voicemail. Tilda and Elsa had hit it off quickly when Imagine Publishing took Elsa in. They went out to bars together a lot, and in one drunken night after the first book was released Elsa revealed her past romantic trauma, which somehow led to Tilda taking her back to her place and the two of them having sex. Thankfully for Elsa, Tilda understood that Elsa didn't want a relationship, and was very good at maintaining a private and professional relationship. Although they never had sex again. 

"I haven't heard from Elsa for a week," Arikawa said with worry and packed her bag, "I'll go over now and checked she hasn't dropped dead somewhere." 
Nina caught Arikawa as she left. "I could go instead, or would you let me come with you?" 
Arikawa silently appraised her. "No, I had best go myself. She doesn't like others coming into her apartment." 
When Arikawa arrived she rang the doorbell multiple times. There was no answer for a few minutes, and she was about to give up when there was the sound of door bolts unlocking. Inside was pitch-dark, and Elsa was barely visible in the gap in the door, covered in a blanket. 
"I was worried you had fallen and hit your head, and lay dying in your apartment." Arikawa was unfazed by Elsa's appearance and pushed her way in, turning lights on along the way. Elsa flinched and squeezed her eyes shut, pulling the rug closer over herself. Arikawa sighed with her hands on her hips. "Honestly. Have you at least finished the last edits to the manuscript?" 
Elsa mumbled and shuffled past, rummaging around her desk and producing the manuscript. She scavenged through the kitchen as Arikawa read through it. There wasn't much food left, not healthy food anyway. 
"I'll give this to the others. We are going out for drinks tomorrow to celebrate Nina joining, you should come." Elsa grimaced. "You are coming, it will be good for you to go out. I'll come pick you up at 7." Arikawa always decided things on her own, and Elsa generally got dragged along with those decisions. She really didn't want to go along with this one, but Arikawa faithfully turned up at Elsa's apartment at 7 the next night.
"Come on Elsa! Let's get going or we will be late." 
Elsa wasn't sure why she had gotten ready, she easily could've stayed in pyjamas and flat out refused. Arikawa wouldn't have been able to do anything. But for some reason, there was some part of her that wanted to go. 

~ 4 1/2 years ago ~ 

"Couldn't I have repeated a year..." Nina mumbled against the dining table.
"What nonsense are you talking about?" Her mother had said dismissively while cooking. 
"I don't want to leave that person," Nina said emotionally and turned her head to the side, "if I go today they will confess their feelings to me." 
Her mother took attention then and turned around to look at her moping daughter. "Is that such a bad thing?" She said quietly and diplomatically.
Nina's face screwed up with distress. "But it may not work out." We may be forcefully separated if we are found out. "I don't want to experience that pain."
Her mother kept a peaceful expression. "There will always be pain and regret. You may regret if you say yes, and you may regret if you say no."
Nina hid her face against the table again. I don't want to not see her again. Those crystal clear blue eyes and that shimmering gold hair... 

~ Present time ~ 

The bar they had organised for the party was bustling with people. Most of their party was already there, as was Nina. Elsa had prepared herself for this on the way so she maintained a calm expression and demeanour. They were seated a little apart, but Nina was within Elsa's peripheral vision.
Everyone spoke loudly, and Elsa was able to hear most of the conversation at the other end of the table if she was paying attention to it. Nina was asked where she went to high school, and Elsa remained calm at the answer and Nina's subsequent glance towards Elsa. Tilda, who sat beside Elsa, caught that and looked back and forth between them before grabbing Elsa's hand under the table. Elsa couldn't ignore the sudden feeling of hostility that arose beside her, and the judgemental expression Tilda didn't care to hide from Nina. Oh dear. Elsa sighed internally. I think she at least suspects who Nina is. 
Elsa excused herself to the bathroom later on, her head spinning slightly from the alcohol. No more tonight or I'll really feel it. She unexpectedly ran into Nina in the bathroom. There was no one else in there but them, so Nina stayed staring at Elsa. She smiled her usual old smile. 
"I didn't expect to end up working with your team." Neither did I. "But I'm really happy that I am. I've been keeping track of you since I first found you had published a book." 
Elsa couldn't hide her surprise or the subsequent narrowing of her eyes, so she looked away. What right does she have to say that? To be here.. She looked back at Nina with a passive expression. "I look forward to working with you." In order to end it she quickly entered a cubicle and sat with her head in her hands for a long time. 
When she eventually did come back out everyone had changed seats, and she found the only spare one beside Nina. Oh for Pete's sake.. She rubbed her face. But she coolly sat down next to Nina, catching Tilda's worried expression. 
"I'm excited about your new book. The editors have been highly praising it," Nina said. 
"The editors are fantastic, and the company is very accommodating of me using an independent artist for the cover and images." Elsa can play along with this menial small talk. 
"You always liked manga and anime, so I'm not surprised you went with that drawing style," Nina smiled. 
Elsa's cool expression twitched - cracking. Nina had always happily watched anime with Elsa, it was something they did as a pass time on weekends and occasionally at lunch in the library. They had gone together to watch a special screening of a Japanese animated movie, which was a month before Elsa confessed her feelings. 
"It suits the image I have in my mind when I write my books." 
"I bought the DVD release of the movie we saw before my graduation. I watch it all the time." 
Elsa's grip slipped on her drink and it spilled over the table and herself, drawing the attention of everyone. Nina grabbed a napkin and went to wipe Elsa's knee but she flinched and shot back out of her chair. 
"I'm sorry for the mess. My clothes are dirty now so I had better go home now." Elsa kept her eyes downcast from everyone and hurried away. "See you Arikawa," she said as she hurried past and out of the bar. 
When she was finally back in her apartment and almost ripped her clothes off, she slid down against the wall and crouched over her knees. "Shit," she whined. 

Tilda bugged her a lot after that, she had guessed right who Nina was, and didn't hold back in her bad attitude towards Nina. Arikawa had checked up on Elsa the next day to ensure she was okay. She would need to go back to the company soon, and meet with Nina and the other publishers in order to publish the latest book. So Elsa made a stronger resolution to move on this time. Nina works as her publisher now, and she can't help that. She was first least looking forward to facing Tilda, who shot up from her desk when Elsa entered. Here we go.. Tilda's eyes went from shock - worry - anger - worry. 
"You haven't been replying to my messages," she whined. 
"You know I don't like talking about it," she said gently, "I hope you haven't been causing trouble about it." 
Tilda fretted beside her as they walked to the elevator. 
"You know to separate private and work. Arikawa said Nina has been doing a good job, so don't cause trouble because of it." Elsa turned around to look at Tilda once in the elevator. Her fingers were entwined and she looked down dejected. Elsa stopped the doors from closing and gently placed a hand behind Tilda's head, kissing her forehead. Tilda looked up her in surprise and touched the place on her forehead. Elsa smiled warmly at her as the doors closed. 
"Cheer up." 
Elsa kept her own words in mind during the meeting, and true enough Nina was very dedicated and even as a new graduate she was doing very well. After the meeting, Nathan went a different way, and Nina followed Elsa. 
"Have you settled in well?" 
"Yes. I always wanted to get into the publishing business." Something Elsa knew well. "Everything is coming very easily, and the others are friendly and helpful. I wanted more than anything to get into this company because you were with them. I never expected to be lucky enough to work with you though." 
Elsa almost tripped to a halt a few paces from the editorial room. Her head turned slowly to look at Nina with wide eyes of disbelief. Nina had a gentle expression on her face, although didn't look at Elsa. 
"When I found out you left WA I tried to find word of where you were, and then your first book got published. So I transferred to do my masters here and rushed to finish it a year early so I could join Imagine. Although there was no guarantee of me joining the company, and I would have been happy if I just managed to come across you." 
Elsa's hands had started trembling. What is she telling me? She thought with distress. Nina finally looked at her, and Elsa somehow felt compelled to look back as well. 
"I like you." 
"Ah there you are Elsa," Arikawa said loudly as she stepped out of the room, but she stopped when she noticed the tension. 
"I'm coming," Elsa's voice was strained and she walked stiffly into the room without looking back at Nina. 
"Everything okay?" Arikawa said unsure after stepped back in behind her.
"It's nothing. The meeting went well." Did she seriously say that? She wasn't meaning it as friends was she? No.. No, I don't think so, her expression was too open, too soft and genuine... How dare she. 

It left a bad taste in Elsa's mouth and she tried to immerse herself in writing as a distraction. After locking herself up and shutting off from the outside while she wrote, much to the dismay of Arikawa and Nathan, she listened to her voicemail after several days. She had run out of food and needed a break from anything book related, although all her voicemails were from the company. 
"Hi Elsa, it's Nina. I got your number from the company-" 
Elsa stilled when the sound of Nina's voice came out of the phone. She had been listening disinterested to the voicemails, so it took her by surprise. She had used her writing to distract herself from what happened the other day, in fact, she writes in order to heal that broken part of her heart - to give her dreams a happy ending. 
It was only a few minutes later that there was a knock at her door, expecting it to be Arikawa she opened it without checking. Instead stood Nina. Her arm moved on its own accord to slam the door shut, but it didn't shut, and Nina's face twitched slightly with pain. Nina had anticipated that reaction and put her foot in the way. 
"Please Elsa, I am here for work. No one could get a hold of you and we needed your approval." 
Elsa couldn't control her expression to hide her nervous distaste for the situation, but she let go of the door and walked back into the living room. She had opened the curtains and started her air out and clean-up of the apartment. Nina stood at the edge and looked around, a bag with documents in her hands, but Elsa felt she came here for more than that. Arikawa was the only one who had ever come to her apartment about work, and Elsa liked to keep it that way. Nina must have begged Arikawa to let her come instead. 
"What did you need me to approve?" Elsa said colder than she had planned. 
"Just this proof." Nina produced it from the bag and Elsa took it without looking her in the eye, sitting down on the couch to look it over. Nina stayed standing and Elsa didn't plan to tell her to sit down. 
"I was surprised you just up and left home on your own. It was never in your plans," Nina said. 
Elsa's nose crinkled in annoyance. "I didn't plan a lot of things, and I couldn't stay there." She chanced a glance at Nina to see her sad expression. "Why did you come here? Why did you purposely join Imagine?" Why did you tell me you like me? 
"Because I wanted to be near you. Because I like you," she said softly and she looked at Elsa with an openly kind expression. 
"You like me as a friend," Elsa replied coldly. 
"No," Nina's expression turned desperate, "as more than that." Elsa's nose crinkled again, something Nina saw as Elsa caught a flicker of change in her expression. She stood up and kept her eyes averted. "I'm sure you have just mistaken your feeling as something more than they are." 
Nina didn't respond after a while so Elsa looked back at her, and Nina looked distraught. It wasn't an expression Elsa could look at. 
"I always liked you." Elsa froze. "I knew you had been watching me, reading every book that I finished. I thought you were adorable, but I believed you wouldn't reciprocate my feelings. Initially anyway." 
Elsa looked back at her with disbelief, and a tremble in her hands that she couldn't make go away. 
"It became clear over time that you had developed feelings for me too."
Elsa clenched her hands in anger. "Then why did you say that to me?!" she yelled angrily, with sad emotion welling in her throat. 
Nina's eyes sank lower with sadness. ".. I was scared.. I was scared that if we started dating, and were found out, you could be forcibly taken away from me.. and I didn't want that. If I was going to lose you, then I didn't want you to be mine to begin with," her voice was full of regret. 
Elsa threw the papers at the ground, and Nina flinched slightly at the sudden forceful movement. "You didn't want to get hurt?! Do you know how much you hurt me?!" 
Nina's expression turned more distraught, and she clutched the bag in her hands. Tears welling in her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said quietly, emotion thickening her voice. 
"You have no idea how much you hurt me. All because you were a coward!" Elsa screamed, tears escaping, flowing freely. Nina couldn't look at Elsa anymore, and Elsa covered her eyes as she cried and sobbed. "I hate you," Elsa sobbed, "I hate you." 
Nina's lips trembled, like the trembling in her fingers. She couldn't control the tears that had started. "Elsa...” her voice was low and caught with sad emotion in her throat. 
"Get out," Elsa cried quietly. "Just get out." 


Nina hung her head low in shame and distress, quietly turning to leave. It felt like a walk of shame back to the company. She knew Tilda and Arikawa suspected something between her and Elsa, and Tilda was quite hostile towards Nina. But she doesn't want anyone to know what happened, and she is going to be asked if Elsa approved the proof. So she had to come up with an excuse quickly after getting off the tram and walking towards the company building. Arikawa looked at her expectantly once they ran into each other on the 3rd floor, but Nina could barely bring herself to look at Arikawa. 
"She took the proof but didn't give me an answer. I assume she will contact Nathan to confirm," she said quietly. 
The same lie she will have to tell Nathan when she gets to the publishing room. Right now she dreaded being here. She dreaded everything. But she dejectedly walked off to her office. 
"Nina," Arikawa called, "you went to the same high school as Elsa." It was on her resume, and they would have also gotten Elsa's history. Nina took a moment to look back at Arikawa. "It's clear you two have a history, and I don't know exactly what went on. But don't let it interfere with Elsa or your work," Arikawa warned with a stern look. 
Nina nodded dejectedly and sulked off. This day is just terrible. She felt like crying again and took a moment in a quiet corner to try and stop the tears again. Elsa...

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Chapter 2

Elsa couldn't get Nina's hurt and sad expressions out of her mind. Why do I care? Why do I care what she feels? She thought with distress. So a week later she went out drinking but chose a place far away from her home and the publishing company. She didn't want to chance across anyone, especially Nina. There was a gay bar she had never tried but heard good things about. It was full of people on a Friday night, enough noise to drown out Elsa's thoughts. She had no intention of picking up anyone or being picked up. She just wanted to have her thoughts drowned out. So she sat at the end of the bar and quietly drank by herself. One of the bartenders seemed to sense her sad state and stayed down her end, quietly cleaning glasses and refilling hers whenever empty. He didn't ask any questions or try to strike up a conversation. His quiet calmness aided her flailing heart and mind.
 His interested was suddenly peeked, and Elsa looked over.
 "Elsa," Nina said breathlessly.
 Elsa instantly stood up and strode off into the crowd to leave the bar.
 "Elsa. Wait," Nina panicked behind her, trying to follow through the crowd.
 Once outside Elsa power-walked away.
 "Elsa please," Nina yelled. It was enough to slow Elsa. "Please let me explain," she said loudly from where she stood.
 Elsa stopped and looked back at Nina. There was the same distraught expression on her face.
 "I'm begging you. Please...”
 Elsa dropped her head and sighed, but didn't move as Nina approached her. She noticed the trembling in Nina's hesitant outstretched hand.
 "We can go anywhere you want to talk," Nina said desperately.
 "It is too loud to talk in that bar," Elsa said quietly.
 Nina's expression filled with hope, and she felt giddy that Elsa had accepted to listen. "I live nearby."
 Elsa looked at her with tired eyes but nodded and followed. They didn't talk at all on the way there, and Elsa stood quietly in the middle of Nina's apartment.
 Nina wrung her fingers in nervousness. "I'll make tea. I have peppermint." Elsa's favourite, at least it was when they were in high school.
 "Thanks," Elsa said quietly and shrugged off her coat, trepidatiously sitting on the couch.
 Once Nina made the tea they sat together on the couch, both staring silently at their tea. Elsa wasn't going to be the first one to speak, for she had come here to listen to whatever Nina desperately wanted to say.
 "I know I'm a coward," Nina said regretfully. "I was only thinking of protecting myself, not about how much I was going to hurt you...”
 Elsa gripped her teacup tightly and refrained from bursting out in anger.
 "But I really did like you. Every time we spent together was bliss for me, I wanted to tie you to me somehow but I didn't know how. As lesbians, our relationship wouldn't be supported by everyone. I didn't want your parents to take you away from me, I was so scared I would never see you again." Nina closed her eyes and her eyebrows furrowed in distress.
 Elsa couldn't say it, but Nina was in fact right. Elsa's cousin came out as gay, and her own parents were hateful towards their nephew. She knew that if she came out as lesbian, she would either be disowned, or they would try to 'fix' her. But she wasn't going to say this, she didn't want to give Nina a justification for what she did.
 "Why didn't you just say your worries?" Elsa asked quietly, coolly.
 Nina gritted her teeth in distress, holding back tears.
 "You could have simply rejected me, I was expecting it. But you dismissed my feelings. You trampled over them like they were nothing."
 Nina covered her face as the tears rolled down and her face twisted as she held back sobs. "I didn't want to hurt you like I did. I didn't mean to...” her voice was thick from the tears.
 Elsa sighed deeply and closed her eyes. Why am I affected by her cries? Why does it make my chest tighten when I see her distraught face? She kept her eyes closed for a few moments. What are these feelings that are running turmoil inside me? Elsa opened her eyes and stared down at the warm tea in her hands. "What is it you want from me?" She asked in a softer voice than Nina expected, "do you want me to forgive you?"
 Nina jolted at Elsa words, and dropped her hands onto her lap, staring down at them. She didn't reply so Elsa put her cup down and stood up. "When you know, call me," Elsa said and walked away.
 She got a couple of steps away when Nina shot up from the couch. "Then let's start over," Nina exclaimed.
 Elsa stopped and looked back to see the wide-eyed, hopeful expression on Nina's face.
 "I can't undo the past. I can't undo the pain. But please let me try to start over with you again... even if you hate me...”
 Elsa stared at her for a long time, but Nina didn't falter, not breaking eye contact. She slowly stepped back to be in front of Nina, and she felt the easing of Nina's puffing breathes - from the exertion of her quick outburst. She held her hand out. "I'm Elsa."
 Nina couldn't help her surprise, but relaxed and smiled, taking Elsa's hand. "I'm Nina."
 They got lost in their moment, staring at each other, and the warmth of their bodies heated their clasped hands. Elsa closed her eyelids briefly, and when she opened them Nina saw the vulnerability - which she hadn't seen in these four long years.
 "I work as a writer. I have a best-seller that is being made into a movie. My latest book is going to be published soon. I always write about love, because... it is the only thing on my mind." Elsa kept her eyelids closed for a moment again.
 "I work at Imagine Publishing in the publishing department, but I studied editing as well. It is something I have always wanted to do and pursed quickly in order to follow my idol writer. My hobbies are reading, and watching anime. I didn't have time for anything else as I studied hard during uni. There has only been one goal in my mind for these past four years." Nina's expression turned soft as she talked, and her eyes wandered around Elsa's features.
 It felt good, it felt peaceful. It was the most peaceful either of them had felt in four years... Standing across from each other, holding hands, starting again.

They left it at that, that night. But everything had changed. Arikawa and Nathan noticed Nina was different, more cheerful. Elsa was back to being calm again, but more than that she seemed happy. Arikawa noticed it in her next phone call to Elsa, the way she spoke had changed - it was kinder and more content. It wasn't hard for her to deduce that whatever the problem had been between them, it was resolved. Mostly anyway. So when it came time for Elsa to do a book signing, it was decided that Nina could be the one to accompany Elsa.

Nina was over the moon, she and Elsa had been on friendlier terms since that talk, but they still rarely spoke or saw each other, and each moment that they did Nina cherished deeply.
 The book signing was also to promote Elsa's latest book that had just hit the shelves in bookstores. With all her stories being about love, Nina wondered if Elsa would write another one that was based on their relationship, as she knew the first one was. It was their relationship, had things gone differently when Elsa confessed. Nina wasn't able to keep her eyes off Elsa the entire time, Elsa was smiling more than she had seen since they met again. But she had also noticed a lighter air around Elsa, like a weight had been lifted off her. Perhaps that talk helped her move on?.. She could only think hopefully, for Elsa's thoughts were impossible for Nina to read. She had been like an open book when they were in school, but after that Elsa closed off. No matter what expression Elsa had, or what she did, Nina couldn't tell the thoughts behind them anymore. It saddened, and angered her, that she had caused such pain and trauma to the pure and happy Elsa - that she was now so closed off and alone. She thinks endlessly about how to amend her past actions, and repair the damage she caused. It has been her drive for the past four years...

Elsa was exhausted by the end of the book signing and slumped back in the chair with a heavy sigh. "I'm so sore and tired. And hungry," she groaned.
 "Why don't we go out for dinner then?" Nina suggested cheerfully. She was packing up everything so Elsa didn't have to lift a finger.
 "Nhh," Elsa groaned, "I don't feel like going out to eat, too much effort." She sighed heavily again, "but I don't want to cook. Guess I'll order food." She watched Nina flit around out of the corner of her eye, and Nina paused suddenly, looking over at Elsa with a vulnerable hopeful expression.
 "Then come to my place and I can cook dinner for you. My place is close to here."
 Elsa glanced away so Nina didn't catch her staring for so long. "My favourite is a pasta dish with eggplant."
 Nina's expression lightened into a bright smile. "Okay," she said enthusiastically.
 Elsa caught her ecstatic expression, and the strange feeling it caused made her sit up immediately. She had trouble looking at Nina on the way, she couldn't look at that expression on Nina's face. Even her delight voice was causing a stir inside Elsa.

 "Do you want a shower? You can borrow some clothes," Nina spoke quickly once they were inside her apartment.
 Elsa picked up the sudden nervousness from her. "Yeah that would be good," she replied calmly.
 Nina flittered around her, nerves sparking out almost visibly. "I'll start dinner while you shower. Take as long as you want," she barely finished talking before escaping to the kitchen.
 Elsa sighed and rubbed her forehead. Her nerves were so strong they were affecting me. She stood in the shower, staring at the floor with the water flowing along the sides of her face. Why is she so nervous? Is she worried I'm going to get angry at her? No... Her expressions weren't like that.. There was definitely red on her cheeks..
 When she got out of the shower she stood in the doorway unannounced, watching Nina move about the kitchen without the nerves of having Elsa around. She watched Nina for a long time, the way her body moved, the concentrated expression from her thoughts. Elsa couldn't help wonder what exactly was going through Nina's mind. She closed her eyes briefly before stepping out of the doorway. "Thanks for the shower."
 Nina's eyes widened slightly at the surprise of Elsa suddenly appearing, and the nerves crept back into her face, but she had a happy expression that filled her eyes. "Dinner will be ready soon, sit wherever you like."
 

Elsa flopped onto the couch, her back to Nina. So Nina lingered in her stare. Eggplants… She never used to like that, in fact, she used to hate it. Now it's her favourite… She has changed a lot in these four years. It has felt like I'm dealing with a different person… She quickly caught herself staring too long and went back to cooking.
 She brought dinner and glasses of wine over to the couch, and Elsa immediate took a big drink of the wine.
 "I needed that," she sighed.
Oh yeah... she really is an adult now isn't she..
 They chatted idly about work and menial things as they ate, Elsa going through nearly three glasses of wine. Her cheeks had become flushed, but her eyes were steely cool. "Phew." She sat back.
 "Why don't you stay the night? You look pretty tired and have had a bit to drink. I don't really want to send you home like that," Nina suggested once she had walked away with the bowls. She didn't have the courage to say that facing Elsa.
 "Mmm," Elsa moaned quietly, "yeah, I suppose that is a good idea."
 Nina immediately became giddy inside. "I don't mind taking the couch, so you take the bed."
 "No no. It's your house, you sleep in your bed." Elsa waved her hand airily and her speech was becoming slightly slurred.
 Nina stood at the end of the couch, maintaining a calm composure. "I insist. Really," she said earnestly.
 Elsa looked over at her with cool calculating eyes, she held Nina's eyes for a few moments before breathing out heavily through her nose and standing up. "Very well." She followed Nina into the room and watched her organise and grab things.
 "If you need anything come grab me." Nina smiled warmly.
 Elsa stood near the bed, staring back at Nina who stood in the doorway. Elsa's intense stare kept Nina from immediately walking away, she wondered what was on Elsa's mind now.

 

Nina… We are both adults now… Nothing ever happened when we were young… I wonder what it would be like to kiss her.
 Elsa walked over and grasped Nina's face, and kissed her. Nina froze in shock and stared at Elsa's closed eyes.
 The kiss started as just a peck on the lips, but Nina's lips parted slightly, and so did Elsa's. It slowly turned into a french kiss, which turned deeper as they clutched each other.
 Elsa pulled away slightly, her usually closed off and cool eyes were sparkling and ignited with desire. 

 

Nina found herself being lost in those eyes that were so close, and full of emotion. Is this what she thinks? Is this what she had been wanting to do?
 "Mm." Elsa stepped back and then strolled over to the bed, crawling under the covers.
 Nina was still dumbfounded as she closed the bedroom door and stiffly walked away. She kissed me… Truth be told, Nina had actually hoped that if she got Elsa drunk then her thoughts might be revealed. She wanted Elsa to let go and let out what she was keeping inside. Nina just wasn't expecting that.
Why exactly did she kiss me? Does she still have feelings for me? Or was she just feeling in the mood? Nina flopped onto the couch and dropped her head in her hands. I don't want it to just be a fling, I don't want this to be no strings attached. I want to be together with her. But would Elsa ever reveal her true feelings?

When Elsa woke up she stared blankly at the ceiling. Right…
 She had stripped off the borrowed clothes during the night, and it was now freezing this morning. So she wrapped herself in the doona and padded across the room. There was quiet noise coming from the kitchen, and Elsa opening the bedroom door went unnoticed by Nina. Nina was dressed in thick socks and a jumper that just covered her underwear. The heater was on, so it was a lot warmer in the open kitchen/lounge. Nina hummed happily to herself as she cut up ingredients and danced to and from the fridge.
She seems to be in a good mood this morning.. Elsa stared after Nina as she moved around, her eyes were caught by the bare legs. She couldn't help herself, but she found the way Nina dressed quite sexy. Nina appeared to suddenly sense something and turned around, and her face lit up with a bright smile when she saw Elsa.
 "Morning. I'm just making breakfast."
 Elsa couldn't take her eyes off Nina. She isn't bothered by me seeing her dressed like that. Perhaps she thinks it's okay because I wouldn't jump on her. But... it's really turning me on..
 When Nina realised Elsa hadn't moved she stopped and looked back at her, doubt creeping into her expression. Elsa was staring at her so intensely, and her eyes were no longer cool and calculating, but alight with fire.
 "Elsa?" she said quietly.
 Elsa finally looked up to Nina's eyes. She blinked a couple times, trying to snap out of her trance. "You are really gorgeous."
 Nina blushed bright red and dropped the ham in her hands, for a tremble had also come into them. Does she remember last night? She thought with panic.
 Elsa's eyes widened at Nina's response, and her legs moved of their own accord until she with standing in front of Nina.
 Nina's breathing was shuddering, and she had such a vulnerable expression to her eyes. She wasn't sure what was going to happen.
 Elsa opened up her arms, still holding onto the doona, and pulled Nina into a hug. She closed her eyes and rested her head against Nina's. They were hugging tight, skin to skin, as Elsa only wore a bra and underwear. As she held Nina, Elsa felt herself warm up and calm down inside. There was a peacefulness that she longed for, that came from hugging Nina. I see... She thought peacefully.
 "Elsa," Nina's voice trembled, and she trembled in Elsa's arms. Does this mean she likes me?
 "I haven't felt this at peace in my whole life," Elsa said quietly, "perhaps you were always the one for me."
 Nina clutched Elsa tight and buried her head against Elsa's shoulder. Warm tears wetted Elsa's shoulder and she couldn't help but feel happy inside that Nina was crying with joy.
 "I love you Elsa," Nina's voice was thick from crying.
 "Nh." Elsa kissed Nina's shoulder, and then brought a hand up to Nina's head and kissed her hair. She pulled back and smiled softly at Nina's red face. She gently moved hair away from Nina's face and wiped away tears as she continued to cry. "There wasn't a day that went by I didn't think of you. Most of the time it wasn't happy… but, I realised that I never stopped loving you," she said softly and rested her forehead against Nina's - who let out a sob at Elsa's words.
 Nina grasped Elsa's face, her lips trembling from crying. "I love you so much," she sobbed and Elsa stared at her softly. "I promise never to hurt you or leave you again. I don't want to be apart from you."
 Elsa placed her hand over one of Nina's and kissed the inside, before looking back at Nina with gentle amusement. "That sounded like a marriage proposal.”
 “Ngh.” Nina clutched Elsa, desperately holding on like Elsa might float away in the wind. “Stay with me today,” her voice was chocked from the tears.
 “You need to go to work today,” Elsa said softly.
 “I’ll take the day off,” Nina mumbled against Elsa.
 Elsa sighed lightly and stroked Nina’s head. “You can’t. You need to go to work Nina.”
 Nina pulled back suddenly and gripped Elsa’s arms tight. Her eyes were wide with fear. “No!” she yelled. Nina looked down, unable to look Elsa in the eyes. “I don’t want you to leave my side… You might change your mind. I couldn’t handle you leaving me now,” she said with quiet desperation.
 Elsa stared at her in shock. It had never occurred to her that Nina could have suffered from what happened that day. She had always thought Nina was strong minded, but she’s learnt that isn’t the case at all. If anything she seems weaker minded than me.
 Nina’s tight grip was hurting Elsa’s arms, and Elsa gently touched Nina’s arm, slowly willing her to release. She was staring at the ground, too scared to look up or move. What if she leaves me?
 “Nina you need to get ready for work. I’ll come with you, I need to speak with Arikawa anyway.”
 Nina finally looked up at her then, desperation full to the brim in her eyes and expression. “Then have dinner with me again.”
 Elsa nodded. “Alright, I’ll come back for dinner.” She gently kissed Nina’s forehead. “I’ll finish breakfast, you go get ready.”
 Nina was wide-eyed and stiff as she walked to her bedroom, and Elsa watched her with worry. Both of their emotional states are so fragile with each other, they could both break at the wrong move.

 

Nina was nervously quiet on the way to the company, but when more people got onto the tram Elsa pulled Nina close with an arm around her waist. She looked at Elsa who stared at her passively, but she knew there were thoughts going through Elsa’s mind. When they got to the company Elsa ran into Arikawa and gently pushed Nina ahead. If it weren’t for that push Nina would have stayed standing by Elsa’s side in a mindless trance. Before she walked into the publishing office she sent Elsa a text.
 ‘Let’s meet at Kenzan for dinner. 7pm?’
 She wanted to ensure Elsa would come back to her, but the rest of the day will be torture for her. She could still go home and change her mind. She gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. Her chest hurt and she clutched her shirt. It hurts… but I hurt Elsa more.

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