Peppermint and Chocolate

By Knightmare Elite

(Aphrodite Academy Series)

I'd like to give a little introduction to my newest project. This one shot is actually a teaser to a much larger story, probably the largest story I'll have on Fictionpress. It's a new series called Aphrodite Academy. That is going to be the central hub for this series of stories. Aphrodite Academy is a fictional government funded school for lesbian girls age 13-18, pretty much junior high through high school. The main story will be up later this year, but I'll have little things linking to it like this in the mean time. It's mostly to give everyone a feel of the Academy. But this story was written specially for Valentine's Day. There's a little angst, and a little fluff, hopefully you'll enjoy it.

Peppermint kisses drizzling across gyring cherry blossoms. It was the warmest thought in Shiharu's mind, thinking of her dearest love, Urumi. They were the archetypical Japanese couple in Aphrodite Academy.

Shiharu sat at the edge of the bed untying her sneakers. She took them off, and set them against the wall facing her. "Did you decide on what you're wearing to the Christmas formal?"

She retied the laces, pushing the sneakers against the wall so they were perfectly parallel. Shiharu stood up walking toward the bed, turning on her heel for one last look. All five pairs of sneakers lined the wall, pre-laced in order of newest to oldest.

"You always do that! They're not going to get up and walk way," Urumi groaned from the bed.

Shiharu shook her head seeing they were in order. She looked at Urumi, sprawled off on her bed, in desperate need of cuddling. "I can't help it, it's not my fault?"

Urumi turned on her side and Shiharu rested next to her. "Yes, my girlfriend has OCD." She cradled Shiharu's head kissing the bridge of her nose.

"Why do you always kiss me there?"

"Your nose is sexy," Urumi grinned.

Shiharu touched her nose feeling the moisture of the kiss. "A nose can't be sexy, maybe my legs or lips, but not my nose. You're a weirdo sometimes." She was drawn into Urumi's arms, nose pelted with kisses.

"I think I'm infatuated with your nose. It's so sleek looking, and the cutest little nostrils. I just want to nibble it off and caress it," Urumi whispered as she kissed the tip of Shiharu's nose.

"Okay now you're starting to creep me out. Why not kiss my lips? I think they're sexy, and you know you like how they feel, come on kiss them." Shiharu pursed her lips, and they kissed.

She tasted that effervescent peppermint against her lips. "Isn't this better?" Shiharu pulled Urumi closer licking her peppermint lip gloss. "I could kiss you for hours." She rolled on her back looking up through the skylight.

Urumi sat up atop Shiharu's stomach. "Baby, can we talk?" She adjusted her skirt seeing Shiharu's unrest. "Shiharu, don't look at me like that! Stop!" Urumi rolled her eyes locking down Shiharu's wrists. She leaned down brushing her lips across Shiharu's, "We really need to talk okay?"

Shiharu nodded realizing something was awry. She scooted back and sat up facing Urumi. "You look so sad, is there anything I can do to make you feel better?" She smiled against Urumi's progressing frown, it didn't seem enough this time.

Urumi's looked into Shiharu's lap, a favorite place to lay her head, only this time it served to avoid eye contact. She gave her girlfriend a shallow smile. "Look Shiharu, you know I love you right?"

Shiharu nodded, scanning Urumi's face in the subtle changes, and taking Urumi's hands, relishing the gracious comfort. On that venomous phrase Shiharu's heart wept. "Yes, and I love you too." She watched Urumi's peppermint flavored lips part once more.

"I've been struggling with this for a long time. And, Shiharu I can't do this to you anymore. I…" Urumi's lips were sealed with a kiss so purifying, so powerfully romantic, it momentarily falsified her means for closure.

Shiharu held her girlfriend in an apologetic embrace. She didn't know why, but it just felt her only means of retaliation. Many times had Shiharu witnessed the very same scenario; often joking with Urumi as they deconstructed the various relationships throughout school.

In a cruel twist of fate, it was now Shiharu on the receiving end of that cherry frosted axe. Her lips against Urumi's secured one last emotion. What that emotion was, neither could fully comprehend. All that was understandable was the end of something magical.

Shiharu felt her fingers being pried open, and taken from around Urumi's back. They were now held on Urumi's lap, shaking as their tearing eyes met for forgiveness. "Please Urumi, don't do this. I've been nothing but good to you."

Urumi looked to one side, a stream of hair cascading her face. "I'm sorry Shiharu, but I think we should see other people. It's nothing you've done, it's me. I can't give you that hundred percent anymore…I'm so sorry."

"But why Urumi? We promised each other we'd be together forever." Shiharu fell against Urumi, weeping in her arms as it felt so natural. "Please Urumi, don't do this to us. What about our promise, we said we'd get married when we turned twenty."

Urumi grabbed Shiharu's shoulders, forcefully looking into those equally distraught eyes. "Shiharu stop this! Listen to yourself, we're only sixteen. What do we even know about true love? We made that stupid pact two years ago when we started dating.

Things have changed; maybe I'm not as in love with you anymore. Maybe there's someone else who could be the one for me. I don't know, we're still just kids, and this is the time when we find out what love really is," Urumi cried at the edge of the bed.

"I don't care about any of that, you're the only one I want Urumi. I love you. We even vowed to lose our virginity on prom night, doesn't that mean anything? Can't you just give me one more chance?" Shiharu knelt before Urumi in languishing pride, "Please, I need you."

Urumi's fingers tightened against her shirt, drawing it to her eyes to wipe away the tears. She dabbed each eye, seeing Shiharu's morbid silhouette through the cotton. It wasn't supposed to be so hard for Urumi; she had coached herself through a graceful yet honorable breakup.

But at the touch of Shiharu's hand upon her knee, Urumi flinched. She felt a kiss across her navel, shirt falling between as Shiharu knelt in crystalline tears. Over the past week Urumi was certain it was the right choice, their love had run its course.

Urumi knew the feelings she felt for Shiharu were no longer sure. Even with such convincing assurances, she looked into Shiharu's eyes feeling that very rippling in her heart. It was never supposed to be so hard, so painful, and the love was to mutually end with a smile.

"Urumi, do you hate me?" Shiharu whispered, barely able to look into Urumi's eyes.

"No, I don't hate you. I hate myself for hurting you like this."

Shiharu looked up into Urumi's eyes trying to understand. "We can go to the relationship counselor. She's helped lots of couples when they get to this crossroad." She drew Urumi's face forward coaxing her into a smile.

"This isn't a crossroad, it's our cliff. I'm sorry Shiharu," Urumi whispered.

With a nod Shiharu stood up and walked away. She leaned against the desk, fingers brushing across various objects. "Get out."

Urumi stood up; she still wanting to end the relationship on good terms. "Shiharu, I still want us to be friends. Things between us don't have to change; you're still my best friend."

Shiharu's entire body trembled, tears stinging, and fingers patting the desk. "…GET OUT!"

"Shiharu, I'm not leaving until I know you're okay with this!"

The mockery in Urumi's words sparked something inside of Shiharu. Her fingers crawled across the desk, locking onto an object. "You can't just throw away two years of our lives like this! What about me, don't you even give a damn how I feel? You can't just rip my heart out walk away!" Shiharu screamed, blindly tossing a snow globe at Urumi.

Urumi held her ground, flinching at the globe shattered. She looked over at the large wet spot on the wall. The globe was birthday present to Shiharu, a keepsake from Urumi's week long trip to Japan.

As the globe lay in fragments, Urumi's eyes burned in the nostalgic tears. "You didn't have to do that!" She walked over to the fragments, picking up the base. Engraved in the nameplate Urumi loves Shiharu in Japanese.

Shiharu sat on the bed seeing the hurt in Urumi's eyes. Even if they were no longer a couple, the globe was a symbol of everything that ever was between them. "I'm sorry Urumi…I wasn't thinking."

Urumi wrapped the base in a shirt, and walked next to Shiharu. She gave her a kiss on the cheek and a faint smile. "Goodbye Shiharu." Urumi shut the door, on their relationship, their once prosperous ideals, and ultimately Shiharu.

With a broken heart and distorted perception of love, Shiharu cried herself to sleep, feeling alone and scared for the first time in two years. It was the absolute worst way to endure Christmas Eve.

Nearly two months have passed since that fateful afternoon. Urumi was now comfortably dating Madeline Gutierrez. Shiharu endured a self imposed fall from grace. She took the breakup hard, emitting an air of worthlessness and destitution.

Today was not just any day in Aphrodite Academy. It was the very day embraced by the school in true celebration, Valentines Day. Being that Shiharu was officially on the market, nearly every girl wanted to mend her broken heart.

As with school tradition, each student was given a heart shaped button, their name inscribed in the center. It was to be pinned on their valentine for all to see, and nearly every student was already pinned, except a few…

One such girl was Tori Smith. She had a maddening crush on Shiharu for the past year. But as with many of Shiharu's admirers, she was unable to penetrate the layer of ice protecting her heart.

"She's so beautiful." Tori held her tray, watching Shiharu tuck a lock of hair behind her ear, arch her lips into a perfect smile, and blush as she politely rejected another girl. "I could make her happy…I think."

Tori jumped, grabbing her tray extra tight feeling a hand on her shoulder.

"Easy there puppy, if you keep staring at Shiharu like that she'll catch on fire."

"I'm that bad huh?" Tori frowned, turning around greeting Caroline, her best friend since the eighth grade. "Why couldn't it be any other girl, why does she have to hold my heart in her pretty little fist?"

Caroline threw an arm around Tori walking to their table. "I really don't see the big deal about Shiharu. I mean sure she's hot and all, but I think it's just because she's Japanese. Her and Urumi are the only Asians in the school, and for that they're a hot commodity, isn't that just a little unfair?"

Tori slumped in her seat staring idly into her tray. "Yeah it is. But that doesn't change the fact I want to jump her bones. Since her and Urumi broke up, it's been open season, and she's turned down every girl that's asked her out."

"And what makes you so special? You are not even Japanese," Caroline said in a mock accent.

"Oh come on, it's not that. Shiharu couldn't be that shallow to only date Asian girls. Then again there are no other single Asian girls. I think she's still not over Urumi. She did get dumped on Christmas Eve after all, that had to majorly suck," Tori reminded, nodding as she could almost feeling Shiharu's heart being ripped out.

"Yeah it's a shame; they were such a cute couple. And Urumi left her for Madeline of all people. She's the biggest ho in school. Everyone knows." Caroline looked over at Urumi and Madeline chatting away. "I don't get what Urumi sees in her."

"Tell me about it, Madeline's been with like twenty girls already. Why in the hell would Urumi even mess with…that? She might catch something." Tori stared longingly at Shiharu, a carnal flower wilting of a broken heart.

Caroline followed Tori's drunken gaze to Shiharu. "There's one thing I don't understand. Once you get dumped, that pretty much knocks you down the ladder. But Shiharu's getting so much sympathy, and even more girls want her, are we all stupid or something?"

"Maybe it's maternal, and she's a wounded child everyone wants to nurture," Tori shrugged.

"Nurture….right." Caroline sighed at her friend's endless infatuation. "Well all defenses aside, today is the day Tori. It's probably your only chance at Shiharu. It's just you have to get through…them first."

Tori's eyes narrowed scanning Shiharu's table. It was thee power table, only the most privileged students earned a seat. It was composed of the class president, head cheerleader, captains of the soccer, basketball, softball and field hockey teams, and Shiharu, purely on the merit of being Japanese.

"Are you going to do it or not? Every second you waste gives another girl a shot," Caroline reminded.

"Tori, if you don't go over there I will! It took you almost four hours to make that heart, not to mention all those extra trimmings. That thing isn't going to waste," Caroline assured.

"But…look at her. She's so perfect, maybe this was a dumb idea. What if she tells me to go away," Tori whispered closing her bag.

"Stop being a baby, I'm tired of hearing you go on and on about Shiharu. The worst that can happen is she'll say no. I feel like I'm the only girl in this school without a crush on her. Then again I like Spanish girls, except for Madeline, you know because she's a mega ho," Caroline admitted.

"Okay…I'll go talk her…and give her the heart. As soon as I finish my lunch," Tori hesitantly explained.

"Tori, as your best friend, I cannot sit here and watch you squander away this opportunity. For whatever reason, you've caught the Shiharu bug, and you like all the others hopefully can try to be 'the one.'

I'm not saying you'll win her over. But for the sake of your sanity, go talk to the girl already! The greatest torture is in not knowing what could have been, so tell Shiharu exactly how you feel, and give her the damn heart!

It'll be okay Tori, just breath easy, and remember she's just another girl like you and me. Well she's sinfully pretty, but just another girl," Caroline nodded in a hopefully penetrating pep talk.

Tori fidgeted in her seat, fingernails patting the table. "Okay…I can to this; it's just Shiharu, a regular girl just like me." She slid back the chair in a long exhale.

"If you get really nervous, picture her leaving a floater in the toilet! Never fails to bring any girl down a few notches," Caroline assured.

Tori cracked a smile imagining Shiharu committing said crime. "Thanks, I'll have to remember that." Her nerves soothed a little, enough to make the walk across the cafeteria.

The moment Tori reached Shiharu's table her brain hiccupped. She stood at the end of the table, multiple alluring eyes cast upon her bleak stare. Tori's lips quivered in the effort to say a single word, and as the endless seconds stretched by, she felt completely foolish in the endeavor.

Then something unexpected happened. Shiharu put down her sandwich, looking into Tori's colorless face, and cast her prolific smile momentarily rendering Tori free from all intimidation.

"Hello Tori, was there something you wanted?" Shiharu asked in her naturally eloquent voice.

Tori's fingers gripped her bag, again struggling to simply remember why she stood before Shiharu. "I bag you something in my made." Tori wanted do die in the verbal disaster.

She hung her head as the embarrassment was too much. "I mean ….I made something for you in my bag." The admission was carried across a deep sigh, and Tori turned away, simply another failed attempt, till she felt the electricity of Shiharu's fingers against hers.

"You made me something? How sweet of you, can I please see?" Shiharu asked, gently holding Tori in place.

"I…um….sure." Tori dazedly stared at Shiharu's slender fingers on hers. She took a deep breath, scanning the table as they hung on her every word. "Can we talk in private, it's a little embarrassing?"

Shiharu looked around the table and smiled. "I supposed I can make an exception. I'm curious what you made. No one has ever taken to time to actually make me a gift." She led Tori to the only empty table, frowning as she passed Madeline and Urumi mid-lip lock.

For Tori it was the equivalent of being crowed prom queen. She walked across the cafeteria, hand being held by Shiharu, and she smiled at the many envious gazes. But she knew it was much too early to celebrate, and even worse, Shiharu could merely be humoring her.

Still it was a risk Tori had to take, already stepping into the fire. They stopped at an empty table in the corner. All at once the room hushed. Every eye turned to Tori and Shiharu; even Urumi cast a curious gaze.

"And I thought this would have been intimidating," Tori nervously laughed, looking into the anxious sea of students.

Shiharu smirked taking a seat. "So why am I here?"

Tori was confused by the question, for it was Shiharu who led her to the table. But as she was about to relate the obvious answer, she again looked around the cafeteria. Nearly half of those girls wished to be in Tori's position. It was then Tori remembered her heart.

She lifted her bag onto the table, very slowly pulling out the Tupperware bin. "Shiharu, I didn't come to you expecting to instantly win you over. I know you're not fully over Urumi, and it would be pretty dumb to think you'll jump at the next available girl."

"Then knowing that, why am I here?" Shiharu asked once more.

Tori looked into Shiharu's eyes pondering the same question. "I wanted to give you this. I know it's not much, but this heart is the best way I can express how I feel about you. I may not be that girl who you'll eventually fall in love with. But I'm willing to be the girl you can talk to.

Shiharu, as much as I'm in love with you, I wouldn't want to be your girlfriend if you'd never be happy with me." Tori felt her chances going to hell in the blatant honesty. She wept fully removing the bin from her bag, inwardly cursing herself for such a choice of words.

"Oh my god, did you really make this?" Shiharu removed the top in astonishment.

"Yes, it's a double layer red velvet cake, with white chocolate frosting, and peppermint sprinkles. And your name in cherry syrup," Tori admitted as she blushed in embarrassment.

Shiharu stared at the cake drawing it closer, and then looked at Tori. "You made this…for me?"

Tori nodded seeing everyone peeking at the cake.

"This is so beautiful, and it even has peppermint sprinkles. How did you know I love peppermint?" Shiharu asked, fingers hovering across the perfectly heart shaped cake.

"Lucky guess," Tori shrugged.

"I wish you hadn't gone out of your way to do this. I'm not worth something this beautiful. Why couldn't you have gotten me a box of chocolate, or a rose like all the others?" Shiharu pouted staring down the cake.

"I made this cake, because I wanted to give you a gift as beautiful as you, and it's just as sweet on the inside. Please try it," Tori offered.

"Stop Tori, you're going to make me cry!" Shiharu smiled at Tori and again looked at the cake. "This is so perfect, I'd feel bad eating it, and I don't want to ruin it. How long did this take you?"

"About four hours. I don't mind really I love baking. Remember we had that cooking class last year..." Tori nearly bit her tongue remembering Urumi was also in the class. "I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about that, I can't change the past, as much as I'd like to. Wait here, I'll be right back." Shiharu left Tori alone with her heart shaped Shiharu cake.

"This is embarrassing," Tori whispered as the students eyed her super sweet gift. The air slowly filled in the chocolate and peppermint delight, and suddenly, standard deserts seemed less appealing.

"Didn't mean to take so long," Shiharu announced with tray in hand.

"Wait…you're eating here?" Tori looked back at Shiharu's table, and then at Shiharu before her with tray in hand.

"Why not and besides, I brought us some plates to enjoy that yummy cake. Come on, we have almost forty minutes to kill. Let's get to know each other," Shiharu suggested.

"Not to sound rude or anything, but why does this feel like an interview session?" Tori hesitantly asked catching the seething eyes of fellow students.

"Maybe it is?" Shiharu took a bite of her sandwich eyeing the cake. She placed two small plates on the table. "Can you cut it, I feel so bad ruining it."

"You're not ruining it! I made it for you to eat. Beyond the symbolism, it's just a cake, ok I lied it's really symbolic, and when I gave you this heart, it was representing me giving you my real heart.

Look I honestly can't even say why I'm in love with you. I wish I wasn't, it almost feels like crushing on Shiharu is the new fad. And hey, I'm an unfortunate victim of evolution of I guess. But as much as I'm walking that line to what's cool, I really do care about you.

I think it started last January. Remember that snowball fight we had in the courtyard? Stacy Keenan had blasted me in the face, and I fell over the bench. I don't know how long I was out, but when I opened my eyes, it was you Shiharu.

You sat out of the game and waited on me in the nurse's office. When I looked up and saw your face, that beautiful smile, felt your warm breaths across my face, I fell in love," Tori explained, blushing as she realized Shiharu was holding her hands.

"Tori you're so sweet. I remember that day; I was so worried about you. You were out almost a half hour, and you ran a fever. I think it was instincts more than anything. I do want to be a nurse when I grow up after all." She laughed at the common pledge. "When I grow up, I think sixteen is a little too old to be still saying that.'"

"So you want to be a nurse, that's cool. I wouldn't mind having a sexy Asian nurse," Tori giggled making an even slice of the cake.

"Are you hitting on me?" Shiharu innocently asked noting the size of the slice.

"Hmm, maybe I am. You know it's weird. Sitting here with you like this, I don't feel so nervous anymore. Why is that?" Tori asked cutting herself a slice.

"Maybe you've finally realized I'm just another girl. What is everyone's obsession with Japan anyway? Seriously, half the school wants to be Japanese. And you know what, if you go to Japan, they want to be American's, especially the whole emo and punk rock scene. And yes I do like J-Pop," Shiharu admitted taking her first bite.

Tori sat on pins and needles awaiting the final verdict. "So…"

Shiharu nodded licking her lips. "OH MY GOD, this is sooo good. I love the peppermint sprinkles, and it's even in the icing! You are a food goddess! I can only pray my wife will bake this good," Shiharu praised as she orally pleasured the fork.

"Thank you," Tori impishly accepted. She watched Shiharu's tongue slither around the fork, wishing it was her own. "I can make you another one if you want." Tori didn't want to push her luck, but she at least found a way into Shiharu's heart.

"That's very nice of you but let's not forget why you're here. And you still haven't answered my question, why am I here?" Shiharu smiled watching Tori fumble with her fork.

"Well…" Tori stuffed the cake in her mouth, buying a few precious seconds. She had to admit the cake was excellent, and the peppermint was sheer dumb luck. "You're here because…I don't know Shiharu, what do you want me to say?

I'm just one of the many girls with the same goal. I do want to be 'the one' okay. Who wouldn't, you can call me shallow but you're beautiful. I love everything about you, your hair, the way you smile, the color of your eyes, even how you walk."

Throughout the admission, Shiharu watched the glimmering peppermint on Tori's lips. It reminded her of a long lost happiness, and from the corner of her eyes, Shiharu saw the end result of that happiness.

Tori followed Shiharu's eyes to Urumi's table. She realized that it truly was an uphill battle. No matter what she said, a piece of Shiharu was forever bonded to Urumi. "Listen Shiharu, I just want you to know, it's not just about being your girlfriend. True, that is my ultimate goal, but it's obvious you're still hurting."

Shiharu looked away from her ex, and back to somewhat greener pastures. "Tori, why am I here?" Shiharu shook her head, cutting herself an equal slice.

Once more Tori was faced with the question, and even if this was Shiharu, she could only take so much. "Why do you keep asking the same damn question? You're here because you brought me to this damn table.

Maybe you felt sorry for me and wanted to see what I made you. Quit playing with my emotions, if you don't like me then say so, I can't take these games anymore!" Tori stood up slinging the bag over her shoulder.

"Tori wait, don't go. Please sit down," Shiharu begged.

Against her better judgment Tori sat down. She for a moment felt empowered in telling off Shiharu, but at the same time, looked at Urumi sitting so happily with Madeline. "You're here because you want to stop hurting."

Shiharu smiled, breaking into a chuckle.

"What's so funny?" Tori asked, rage overpowering her pity.

"Look at them over there. I invested two years of my life into Urumi. I know I'm not perfect, but I treated her good. I was faithful; spent most of my free time with her, even mapped out our futures together. And in the end I smothered her. All Urumi ever wanted was to be young and free." Shiharu measured another slice of cake.

Tori daringly reached across clasping Shiharu's hands. "You can't put the blame on yourself. But let me guess, Urumi was your first girlfriend wasn't she?"

Shiharu nodded and she licked white chocolate off the spoon. "Maybe my expectations were too high. I mean Urumi did have a point, we're only sixteen, and I was talking marriage. I was so immersed in love, that I forgot we're still teenagers. And sixteen isn't the prime age to settle down."

"See, things can get better once you can accept the truth. But Shiharu, think of this as a learning experience. Love sucks to be quite honest. It makes you do all these crazy things, act really weird, and in the end, you have to ask yourself, is it really worth it?

Then there are those moments when love IS worth it. Like when you think back to looking into Urumi's eyes, and telling her, you're so beautiful. And she would smile; you know that smile you treasure, the one you can visually construct down to the finest detail.

Or even the way her skin feels when you touch her." Tori's fingers rubbed across Shiharu's, completely lost in thought. "And you can never forget how she smells, you remember that don't you?" Tori leaned across the table, sniffing Shiharu's neck, their eyes met, the scent to peppermint and chocolate between them.

"Tori, why am I here?" Shiharu whispered, lips heated by Tori's breaths.

"Because you want to be," Tori whispered taking the ultimate plunge. She closed her eyes impacting on those angelically soft lips. It was perfect, just as Tori imagined, their lips mangled, tongues meshed and she tasted the peppermint inside Shiharu's mouth.

Shiharu giggled promptly ending their moment. She licked the peppermint off Tori's lips resuming her seat. "That was really nice."

"The cake or the kiss," Tori shyly asked.

"A little of both," Shiharu honestly answered.

"So…" Tori paused looking at the cake between them, one half was completely devoured.

"Tori, I have to be honest with you. I'm not ready to start dating yet. As pathetic as it may seem, I'm still not over her. I know that she's moved on, and I can accept that now. I just need to overcome my love scar," Shiharu admitted.

"That's okay Shiharu. It is pretty selfish to expect you to bounce back so quickly. As much as I do care about you, I want to be the object of your affection. And that's unfair to you, because I want you to move forward, and you're still adjusting to your present life," Tori said.

"Well that's not completely true. Tori you've done something none of the other were willing to. You put my feelings before your own. I don't know you that well, but that doesn't mean we can never become girlfriends," Shiharu hinted.

Tori looked Shiharu dead in the eyes for as much as a blink. "Wait, do you mean there's a chance, you'd go out with me? Please don't joke about this Shiharu."

"I'm not Tori, but like you initially said to me, you're not here to win me over. And you know what I'm not going to be your girlfriend. Don't be sad, I'm going through a rough time, and I could use a shoulder to lean on, a real friend I can confide in," Shiharu explained.

Tori slowly nodded, tears rolling down her face. "I understand." Her face was lifted by Shiharu's delicate hands meeting a smile.

"I want us to be friends Tori. This can be good for both of us, and we can work from there. We'll gain a better respect for each other as friends. And then if we decide to take the next step, we will be confident and certain of that decision," Shiharu promised.

Tori nodded lightly smiling as Shiharu wiped away her tears. "I guess being friends is better than nothing right?"

"Well I like to consider it friends with benefits, only we're not sleeping together or dating," Shiharu clarified.

"Then what are the benefits?" Tori asked in heavy skepticism.

"My trust and my heart," Shiharu said

"I can accept that." Tori covered the cake. "Since we're officially friends, can Caroline and I sit at your table?" She waved back at Caroline who gave a thumbs up.

"Of course you can, though they're not really my friends. I only sat there because Urumi wanted to, and once we broke up, I just stayed since I was their trophy," Shiharu explained.

"It's a shame everything is a popularity contest. No one cares what you're going through, it's all about association, and having one of the cute Asians completes the power table," Tori figured.

"I should tell them to go to hell for making me their trophy, but sometimes I feel so lonely Tori. I have to accept this popularity because it's all I have now. There is one thing I do want to ask you," Shiharu said turning serious.

"What's that?" Tori asked as Shiharu walked around to her end of the table.

Shiharu uncovered the cake and cut a slice, holding it before Tori. "Tori, will you be my valentine?"

Tori's lips trembled as Shiharu Arai asked the golden question. Even though Tori was gently rejected in her initial quest, she was offered a more sincere consolation. "Of course I'll be your valentine!"

"Yey! I'm on my first step toward recovery, and I owe it all to you. But please Tori, don't let me stop you from dating other girls." Shiharu kissed Tori on the cheek, and affixed her button on Tori.

"Yeah right, I'm not screwing this up. I basically have one foot in the door. I'll earn your trust Shiharu, and by this time new year, I'll be your girlfriend," Tori pledged affixing her button on Shiharu. If only for one day, making her the most envied girl in Aphrodite Academy. "I still love you."

"I love your baking," Shiharu laughed.

"That's a start. But since we're friends, does that mean you'll hang out with me and Caroline?"

Shiharu measured another exact slice. "Absolutely, making a few real friends would actually be nice." She greedily ate the slice licking the peppermint sprinkles. "I'll need to go on a diet after this, damn you!"

"There's more where that came from. I'll make you some cupcakes tonight. But can I make one teensy request?" Tori asked.

"What's that?"

"Well since it is Valentines Day, and I am your Valentine. Can I have one kiss on the lips, please! I promise I'll never ask you again. It'll mean so much," Tori begged.

"Alright, ONE kiss." Shiharu walked around the table pulling up a seat next to Tori. She leaned into another soft kiss, almost slipping tongue. Just as quickly the kiss ended.

"Thank you Shiharu," Tori said almost breathlessly.

"You're welcome, and I'll give you a longer one for your birthday. Aren't you glad we're friends?" Shiharu asked in the lingering promise.

"In four months those lips are mine!" In fairness Tori was fully prepared to reciprocate. "So what should I give you for your birthday?" Her hand found itself on Shiharu's knee.

"Don't get cocky now, that doesn't change the terms of our friendship." Shiharu slapped away Tori's hand. "Actually, there's only one that I want."

"And what might that be?" Tori asked.

"A snow globe," Shiharu casually said.

Tori scratched her head imagining the uses for such a trinket. "If that's what you really want, I can buy you from the charity shop."

"No." Shiharu brought a hand to Tori's face, fingers brushing across her cheek. "It has no value if you merely buy one to please me."

"Why are girls so complicated?" Tori sighed. She covered the cake looking off into the crowd.

"You can always date boys if you want less complication. It's just then you couldn't go to this school anymore. I don't know about you but I like the complication," Shiharu said.

"I can't argue with you there, girls are perfect." She looked around the cafeteria, girls of all shapes and sizes. "Shiharu, I want you to meet my best friend Caroline. Don't worry she already knows you're just a girl."

Shiharu held the cake bin in one hand, and Tori's hand with the other. "Let's go."

Tori looked down at their connected hands, not even questioning the circumstances. "This day just can't get any better!"

"Actually is just did, take a look," Shiharu urged pointing to Urumi and Madeline's table…

Don't forget to review, and tell me what you think about the whole Aphrodite Academy idea.