Reality asserted itself around them and two girls found themselves toward earth thousands of feet in the air. For only the briefest second terror of the fall gripped Cocona but then a hand caught hers and then another and Papika pulled herself into view smiling at her as she always did and her fear was cast away in an instant. Papika pulled her hoverboard and they were off. The wind rushed through Cocona’s hair as they came upon the lake. Cocona didn’t know where they were, how long they had traveled or even which way home was (or, for that matter, where she was even supposed to live from now on.) None of that mattered, not one iota. All that mattered was her arms wrapped around Papika’s waist, the heat of her body, the scent of her hair blowing behind her, and the butterflies in her stomach every time she stop to think about her situation. She loved Papika. She loved Papika with all her heart, soul, and every fiber of her being; this girl who had dragged her kicking and screaming out of her shell to show her all the adventure and excitement of the world. She had fallen hard and fast for Papika but in her childish ignorance hadn’t realized that Papika had come to love her just as quickly. The thought sent a flush to her cheeks and an uncharacteristic grin to her face. She nuzzled against Papika’s cheek yet again, savoring the warmth it brought, and motioned her toward the lake. Though she could probably live the rest of her life sailing the world on Papika’s hoverboard and die without regrets, her legs were beginning to tire.
Papika brought them down, landing in the center of the lakes crystalline waters. This place was serene, free of the distractions of the city, of life, of Pure Illusion. Free of it all. There was just the distant sound of birds, the wind in their hair, and Papika. With a giggle, Papika flopped backwards on her board, letting her legs dip into the water. Cocona curled up along the board, her head resting along Papika’s stomach. She had an earthy smell that told of long days out in the world and nights spent under the stars. It was intoxicating. They sat there a long time, simply enjoying the other’s presence. Cocona could hear the rhythmic beat of Papika’s heart. It was calming, a strong heartbeat from a strong girl. They talked for a long while of all that had happened. Of Mimi, and Pure Illusion, and what they should do from here on. Papika started going off on how great everything will be and how they should totally live in her pipe together. Cocona couldn’t be bothered with the future right now. All of it seemed so distant and detached from where they were. For Cocona there was just the sound of her love’s voice and the assurance it gave her that she could take on the world so long as Papika was beside her. Eventually Papika ran out of words and the two of them sat silently enjoying the others company.
Cocona didn’t remember drifting off, nor did she know for how long she slept, but she awoke to Papika gently shaking her shoulder. The sky had begun to take on the orange and purple hues of sunset and Papika was indicating that they should probably head back toward civilization. Her words fell on deaf ears. Cocona instead was exclusively focused on how beautiful the light made the other girl look. Not that she didn’t already think Papika was beautiful, but the play of the orange light accentuating the mess of fiery, unkempt hair. The way it seemed to bring out the blue in her eyes, those eyes that always shined with just a little more intensity when they lingered on Cocona. That smile, the one that had melted her heart form the very beginning. She was perfect, and she was hers. There was no hesitation, none of her usual concerns about the ifs or the maybes. There was only Papika, and the boundless love she felt welling up in her chest. For what felt like a first in Cocona’s life, an absolute certainty for what she had to do filled her. As the sun crowned the distant mountains Cocona reached out, cupped Papika’s face in her hands and pressed their lips together. It was a soft kiss, a thing of tenderness and caring but it contained all the love and devotion she felt for this girl. There was only a short start of surprise from Papika, a barely noticeable thing before she returned as enthusiastically as she did with everything. When they parted no words were needed between them. In the back of Cocona’s mind she was vaguely aware that somewhere out there they had people who missed them. They had lives to get back to. But as Papika’s hands intertwined her own and their foreheads met none of that really mattered. The world would still be there tomorrow for them to tackle. The sky dimmed, and they greeted the fireflies together.