Despite her healing well, the aborted walking talking session still made Kyoko's stomach hurt a little.
She happily accepted Kuri-chan's suggestion they stop for a short something, or whatever that strange, Swedish word she used meant. 'Fika', a catch all for drinking coffee and eating anything baked, together with one or more friends. It apparently meant a break, a date, a snack with friends, a coffee session in the garden, and a few other things as well; going to prove that Swedes needed a thorough examination of their brains.
In any case, the result was that they sat three girls around a table, none of them having coffee and none of them eating anything out of a bakery, and yet Kuri-chan persisted in that they were having a 'fika'. Time to bring in the brain surgeons.
"So, girls," Kyoko started and caught the others' eyes. "Valentine, what are your plans?"
Noriko tilted her head and returned the stare. "Buy an economy-pack for giri and a good looking one for Nao."
"Yeah, that's Noriko, all-right," Kuri-chan said. "Look, I'm not from here, and even I know you're supposed to make the one for Nao-kun."
'You probably know what accessories and make-up go well with it as well.' Kyoko gave her best friend a long stare. 'I feel bad for you. You two are so much in love with each other, but things aren't going well, are they?'
Noriko's lips became a thin line. "So, what about you, Kuri?"
A slender arm reached for the teacup. Kyoko guessed Kuri-chan wanted a moment of peace before she answered. "I don't know how to make chocolate, but I'll learn. Well, and then I'll buy loads of cheap chocolate just like you."
"I'll make one for Yukio, and then I'll shop for a few nice ones for giri," Kyoko said before both friends turned their attention at her.
"So, why don't we have a sleepover at my place in a week?"
Kyoko looked at Noriko. 'That sounded like you already had planned for it.' "I'll ask my parents." She really needed to dare meeting her friends again, or else she'd stay afraid of going out forever. 'Is this why you wanted us to go shopping?' A tear threatened to push its way down her cheek. 'You're really a good friend, you know that?'
"Sure, I'm game," Kuri-chan said and grinned. "The ugly duckling, the geek and Queen Bitch, what could possibly go wrong?"
'Sheesh, you really trust your friends never to get upset.' "I'm a swan now," Kyoko protested, just in case Noriko had skin thin enough to take offence.
"Hey, I'm just naturally brilliant. Fourth place at the beauty contest is better than swan-sama over here."
'OK, thick enough. It was time for payback.' "So, the swan, the beautiful genius and Queen Bitch." Kyoko purred. "Kuri-chan, you grew into that role so naturally."
"The hell?" But her laugh belied her words. "Fine, you got me. You know, you're growing up kids. I like what I see."
They finished their drinks and hit the mall in search for chocolate and gift-boxes. Kyoko felt a little out of place with women all around her looking for the same thing. The giggles and gossiping might be normal for girls, but she had little experience from it. Her overweight middle school years hadn't exactly lined the boys up for her, and truth be told she really didn't care all that much back then.
Today was different though. The mismatched trio was a strange one, even Kyoko knew that. Both loners had at least some experience from Valentine, but the famous model none at all. One look at Kuri-chan had Kyoko re-evaluate her thoughts a little.
'But you only looked the model when we were preparing to leave middle school.' Because when they met, Kuri-chan had been ugly in exactly the opposite way of Kyoko, tall and painfully thin, like a flagpole walking on shaky legs.
"Kuri-chan," Kyoko said when curiosity overcame her. "What about when you were young last time?"
Kuri-chan stuffed a basket with more cheap chocolate before she turned. "What about it?"
The question was enough for Noriko to stop rummaging through what was to become giri chocolate and listen in to what was coming.
"You should have loads of experience from back then." 'At least from after you became beautiful.'
"Huh? You mean Valentine? We didn't celebrate it much in Sweden back then. Still don't, well at least not like here."
Kuri-chan scratched her hair. "It's kind of like Halloween. Young people have picked it up, but it was pretty much a non-event back in the days."
"Hmm, no. Maybe roses. I dunno."
The answer made Kyoko oddly disappointed. She had expected something similar to America.
"So no White Day?" Noriko broke in.
"No. The only reason I know of White Day is because Chag had a line of inexpensive jewellery. Japan only."
'At least she knew of White Day.' Then Kyoko had a sudden revelation. "You really have to buy a lot of giri chocolate, don't you?"
Kuri-chan nodded. "And I'd feel ashamed in Mars if I bought expensive chocolate now. Besides, I just don't know what to do with the return gifts."
Kyoko remembered the chocolate she had received from Kuri-chan last year. A glimmer of suspicion flared up in her mind. "You cheated, last year, didn't you?"
"Cheated?" Noriko asked.
"Kuri-chan! That wrapper wasn't the one that came with the chocolate?"
Tall beauty grinned and sparkled enough to make both men and women around them stop and stare at her. "So, you guessed. No, it was for the crap I gave the old hag."
"Your guardian?" Noriko wondered, and with that question she told Kyoko that she had realised exactly in what way Kuri-chan had cheated."
From the corner of her eye Kyoko saw how Kuri-chan's personal bodyguard made discrete gestures telling them it was time to move on before too many fans found out exactly where she was. A lot of people already took photos with their smart-phones, and the tone of the conversations around them had changed in a way that Kyoko recognised by now.
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"What did you give me?" she asked and pulled Kuri-chan in the direction the bodyguard motioned.
"Teuscher," Kuri-chan responded.
'Huh? Never heard of it.'
At her side Noriko paled. "Oh dear! Yeah, that's cheating."
Her friend just shook her head.
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