Utena was only fifteen when Anthy found her. It's been seven years since then, but she can't say she feels any wiser or knows any better than she did before. She has a flower shop now— that must count for something, she thinks. She knows how to tend the flowers, and what secret words they carry. She knows that blue roses are for love at first sight and other unattainable things. Yellow roses stand for jealousy, but also for friendship. And white roses... Utena doesn't grow white roses.
Pink roses practically fill her little house to bursting, though. They're Anthy's favorite. The words they carry are trust and happiness, but Utena doesn't know if Anthy knows or even cares about such things. "They're yours," is all she ever says, and though Utena can't understand Anthy the way she can flowers, she'd like to think that those words speak for themselves.
At night, Anthy washes Utena's hair, the same color as the roses. Her hands are gentle. Utena has never known a pair of hands so gentle. Or if she did, she's long forgotten. When Anthy touches her, Utena wishes that it didn't make her mourn. Wishes she couldn't see the same grief in the way Anthy's shoulders sink in upon themselves when Utena massages her scalp. They've both had so much taken from them, and even a house full of roses isn't enough to dull that sting.
In bed, Utena wraps herself around Anthy and lays a hand over where she knows Anthy's heart is. Where it has always been. Anthy lays her hand over Utena's and reassures her that she isn't going to slip through her fingers into the chasm below them. The chasm is always there, hungry and dark, and sometimes Utena wonders if they didn't fall into it a long time ago, aren't still groping their way back to the surface. It's selfish, but a part of her is glad not to be alone. She doesn't know if she could make it out alive otherwise.
Sometimes, they talk. Curled up tightly around each other in the dark, they tell each other things that they may have said before, but that mean different things now. Everything they know constantly changes shape, like flowers changing color when you bury things in the soil.
"This is the longest I've ever lived in one place," Utena tells her one night, wondering if Anthy can understand the feelings her words carry. "I got passed around between relatives a lot. I've never had a place where someone really wanted me there."
"Mm," Anthy says softly, and Utena thinks maybe she does understand. "I've never had a place where I really wanted to be."
Utena holds her even closer, and Anthy lets her cry for them both.
Planting the garden is a little act of defiance, though against what exactly, neither of them are sure. The words it carries are we are here to stay.
Anthy trades her greenhouse for a little vegetable garden, and Utena decides it's her own turn to tend the roses. Pink roses for Anthy, because they're hers, too. Anthy grows greens in the winter and carrots in the spring and there's a little herb garden in the kitchen window that makes the house smell like fresh mint all year long. It doesn't feel real. It's perfect, it's everything they've ever wanted, and it still doesn't feel real. Maybe that's because this is the first time that anything has been real. They hope that someday, maybe they'll get used to it.
Until then, they will have to live with losing their grip on some days. Days when the static roars in Utena's brain and seeps into her bones and she can do nothing but lie in bed and wait to feel like herself again, if she ever truly has. And Anthy will have days when phantom pains wrack her body and her heart, both of which are undeniably real, and Utena will remember the weight of the entire world's hatred bearing down upon her and be unable to do anything for either of them but cry. Some days, neither of them can do a single thing to help each other.
The first time that one of Utena's plants dies, she breaks down sobbing in the garden, curled in upon herself like an ammonite fossil in the dirt.
"The roots might still be all right," Anthy tries to offer her, but Utena just keeps crying, and the sound is earth shattering. Her sobs come out in strangled gasps, forced out between clenched teeth. She clutches at her heart as though it were rending itself apart, as if a sword might emerge from her.
"I was supposed to take care of it," she chokes, and they're the only words she can manage for the rest of the day.
Anthy salvages a few forget-me-not blooms, still clinging to life, and presses them into the pages of a book. A part of her is angry, and she doesn't know why. There are no words for this pain.
The next day, Utena is up at the crack of dawn, tending her flowers. She buries prayers in the soil. She prays to be understood. Prays for the flowers to say what she cannot. Prays for her love to bloom in ways that she's only ever dreamed of.
Flowers are only flowers. They cannot speak. It's Utena who gives them meaning, and her love that gives them life.
They're yours, Anthy says, and Utena finally understands what she means.
When she finally comes back inside, brought back to reality by the sunlight and the birds and the smell of mint, she finds Anthy still in bed. Utena crawls in beside her, and Anthy holds her this time, tighter than she's ever held onto anything.
"I love you," Utena says, and Anthy understands.
"I love you, too."