A Smile

That night, Cherry found herself trapped in a nightmare that felt all too real. She was helpless as she was lost in the darkness in her old, tattered blouse and skirt. She simply stood there, angling her head downward slightly, looking at the blackness before her with a blank expression. Something was circling around her, remaining unseen, but letting its presence be known.

"Make your choice now, Cherry," the high pitched, oddly sinister voice echoed from the darkness. "It's her, or it's you."

"I know..." Cherry muttered, emotionless. "But..."

Her voice trailed off as words failed her, which seemed to irk the being whirling around her.

"How can you even consider disobeying me?" the voice asked, sounding rather astonished. "You know what's at risk here, and I already control your emotions. I don't see how it's possible that you can even show feelings for this woman without my say."

When Cherry didn't answer, the being grumbled and brought itself into vision, revealing itself to be King Boo, smiling toothily despite his obvious frustration, and wearing his bejeweled crown proudly.

"Don't forget who has control over your life, Cherry,"King Boo continued. "I already have your spirit. It won't take much more to consume your soul. If you don't do this, you can just kiss your existence goodbye."

A few moments of silence passed as King Boo stared Cherry down, awaiting her answer. She didn't seem to even notice he was there however, continuing to stare downward with her blank eyes.

"I'll do it..." she finally muttered, giving King Boo a reason to be smiling.

"That's a good girl," King Boo said as he retreated back into the shadows. "And once you're done, I'll return your spirit. Then you can go back to your life."

Once King Boo was gone for quite a while, Cherry set herself down onto the ground, supporting herself with an arm as she let her legs extend away from her, almost as if she were about to lie down on her side.

"What life...?" she muttered. "I have nothing... I live for nothing... So why do I want to keep going while someone who actually has a purpose dies? Why am I so selfish...?"

Cherry knew that, if she could, she would let herself cry openly. No tears came however. Nothing did.

She sat in the darkness, emotionless. King Boo had complete control over how she could feel, and he chose to let passion judge her actions while she was awake.

King Boo set his goal for Cherry. She would lure Peach in. She would make Peach feel remorse, guilt, and lust, giving King Boo a void of darkness in Peach's spirit to serve as an entryway to allow himself in. It was up to Cherry to blemish Peach's pure character. Then she could finally leave King Boo behind and escape his grip. She could finally have the freedom she'd wanted for so many years. But would she be able to live with herself after the fact? She just didn't know.

The knock at the door told Cherry that it was time to get up. Peach did say that she would be by her room that morning. Cherry rolled over in her bed to look at the door and hugged her pillow close to her cheek. The door cracked open slowly and soon, Peach's beautiful head poked in and glanced at Cherry, who was gazing at her with a cute smile on her face.

"You awake?" Peach asked, smiling back at her. Cherry nodded her head slightly.

"Sure am."

Cherry attended the breakfast in the same outfit she wore the previous night, but Peach took the clothes with her as she left the guest room last night and had one of the castle staff wash it for Cherry while she was asleep.

The long, rectangular dining table was actually rather full. Peach and Daisy sat at the head of either end with Mario sitting to Peach's right and Luigi sitting to Daisy's left. To Peach's left was Toadsworth and to Daisy's right was Toadette. In the center of the table were Toad, who sat between Toadette and Toadsworth, and Cherry, who sat between Mario and Luigi. Everyone wore their trademark outfits.

The group ate silently for a while, as their food was just delivered to them and they were taking the moment to enjoy their first few bites. A few of the guests at the table noticed that Cherry frequently gave Peach a certain look as they ate, but Peach herself didn't seem to witness her in the act.

"This food is delicious," Cherry commented, breaking the silence. Just before Peach looked over at her, she looked down at her plate to appear as if she were focusing on the feast before her.

"I'm glad you like it," Peach spoke up. "We have the two most well-known cooks in the Mushroom Kingdom employed here."

"I'd like to meet them one day," Cherry said, causing almost everyone at the table to give a cough simultaneously. Cherry looked around, awaiting the reason for the gesture.

"Zess T. and Tayce T. are great cooks, but trust me, you do not want to meet them," Toad said. "Tayce is alright, but Zess... Talk about an old bat."

Toadsworth cleared his throat roughly, opposing what Toad just said.

"Excuse me, but I find Zess to have a rather magnetic personality," he said defensively. Luigi scoffed.

"Well, she works in a kitchen full of sharp knives and forks," he began. "Maybe her 'magnetic' personality will attract those one day too."

Mario, Daisy, Toad, and Toadette couldn't help but chuckle, but Peach appeared rather shocked.

"Luigi, I never would have guessed you'd say something like that!" she said. Luigi lazily placed a bite of sausage into his mouth.

"You try being her apprentice for a while and see how you feel," he said. "Working under her feels more like a punishment than a learning experience."

"Should have thought about that before you agreed to do it then," Daisy scolded playfully, giving Luigi a small wink once he looked at her. He couldn't help but smile after witnessing that.

"Yeah yeah, I know..."

During the course of the conversation, Toadette noticed that Cherry's eyes never looked away from Peach. Peach herself never witnessed this since she focused on whoever was speaking as the chat continued on, but Toadette felt strange as she observed Cherry and soon asked to speak with Peach alone for a minute.

The pair left the dining room and walked a small ways into the hallway outside before Toadette began to express her concerns.

"Peach, did you notice that that girl was staring at you in there?" she said rather quietly. Peach raised an eyebrow at her.

"You mean Cherry?" she asked.

"Yeah, her," Toadette confirmed. "She didn’t take her eyes off of you a single time while we were in there."

"Really?" Peach said, looking back toward the door leading into the dining room. "She might just be like that," Peach suggested, shrugging.

"What do you mean?" Toadette asked, turning to look at the door herself.

"Well, last night, whenever she looked at me, she seemed pretty fixated," Peach explained. "I don't know, maybe she just looks like that sometimes."

"Whatever it is, I don't like it," Toadette muttered, looking back at Peach. "It's really creepy."

"Oh calm down Toadette, I'm sure it's nothing," Peach said with a smile. "Don't let it bug you so much." Toadette let out a small sigh.

"Alright, if you say so," Toadette said as she turned back to the door and led Peach back into the room. All of the men at the table stood as Peach and Toadette seated themselves once more, then sat back down themselves. Daisy couldn't help but laugh at the gesture.

"That has to be the stupidest formality ever," she commented. "Why do the men at the table have to stand up just to sit right back down when a lady joins them?"

"I have no idea," Mario said, playing with a piece of food on his plate. "But Toadsworth told us to start doing it one day."

"It's only good manners," Toadsworth said with a huff. "It's a proper gesture for the gentlemen to stand when a lady joins them."

"What a dumb rule," Daisy said as she chewed on a piece of toast. Toadsworth noted the action and seemed to become irked.

"Please Princess Daisy, it's awfully rude to speak with your mouth full."

"Oh chill out Toadsworth, we're all friends here," Daisy said as she placed another piece of toast in her mouth. "We don't have to be so completely formal all the freakin' time."

"Language Princess Daisy!" Toadsworth retorted.

As the argument raged on, with everyone's attention focused on the back-and-forth between Toadsworth and Daisy, Peach glanced over at Cherry to see if she really was looking at her as intently as Toadette said she was.

Sure enough, Peach's eyes met with Cherry's, who put off eating as she gazed back. The two held their locked stare for a number of seconds before Cherry formed a noticeably sensuous smile, giving Peach a look that managed to make her blush and turn away.

It took Peach a while to realize that her heart was beating faster after the instance. She put a hand on her cheek and could feel that it was hot, her blush only growing a deeper red as she realized that Cherry was, in fact, giving her odd looks.

"Excuse me," Peach said quietly, standing and exiting the room as quickly as she could to make sure nobody could see her face. Almost everyone at the table wanted to follow her out to inquiry about her sudden departure, but they all soon decided to leave her to her own thoughts.

Peach walked down the hallway, at a quick pace to begin with, but, as she left the dining room further and further behind, she slowed herself down to a comfortable walk. Along the way, she tried to control her racing thoughts and steady her heartbeat. She left the castle through a side door that lead to a cobblestone path curving around to the back where the gardens lied.

She rested herself in a gazebo located a fair distance away from the castle, sitting on the wooden bench provided underneath the shady cover. By now, she'd managed to calm herself down, and observing the many different, colorful flowers all around her seemed to soothe her mind.

"Why did she look at me like that?" Peach muttered with a sigh, leaning back against the railing behind her. " come I reacted the way I did?"

She folded her arms and slumped backwards in a tiny huff. It was amazing how a few small seconds affected her so much. But she couldn't help but wonder. Why did her heart begin to race the way it did when Cherry smiled like that? Something about it was...attractive. Peach shook her head harshly, trying to throw the thought out of her mind.

"Oh, what am I doing?" she muttered, dropping her head to let it hang, threatening to lose her crown as she did so. "I'm in love with Mario. He's everything to me. So...why am I thinking about her like this?" She fell silent for a few moments, struggling to keep her thoughts on Mario, but failing miserably to do so as Cherry's smile replaced him constantly. Peach soon let out another sigh and brought her head back up to look out at the gardens once more.

"I've never felt this way before..." she said, sounding disappointed in herself. "I can't believe I'm feeling this way right now... Ugh, just stop it Peach, stop it!" she scolded herself, standing up quickly and holding her head up high. "That smile didn't mean anything. That's...just the way she is."

Peach slowly forced herself off the gazebo, taking one step down at a time, and stopping as she reached the ground to look around at the field of flowers once more before she began to make her way back. She decided that she would find out where Cherry lived and have her escorted back home as soon as possible.

"Peach," a voice called out to her as she walked, causing her to stop in her tracks. She looked around to see who it was that said her name. She spotted Mario strolling up to her from behind, waving a hand as he approached. She instantly smiled brightly, relieved to see him. "How come you left breakfast so suddenly?" Mario asked as the two met. "We were all worried about you. Your face looked pretty red when you left."

"Oh, um," Peach stuttered, trying to make up an excuse on the spot. "My period started,” she blurted out, unable to think of any plausible reason. She mentally smacked herself in the face for thinking up such an excuse, but Mario, thankfully, accepted it.

"Oh...well uh...I guess that's a good reason," he said nervously, looking away from Peach as he did so. "Should I, uh...leave you alone then? I know how-"

"No, no, it's okay," Peach said almost too quickly, catching Mario off guard. He wanted to ask her if she was feeling alright, but, believing she was on her period, he allowed Peach to act any way she wanted to without questioning her. "I'm glad you're here actually," Peach admitted, grabbing on to both of Mario's hands. "I was just thinking about you."

"Thinking good things I hope," Mario said with a smile. Peach pulled him closer and the two were soon enveloped in a deep, long kiss. Several seconds later, they separated and simply stared into each other's eyes.

"Just how much I love you," Peach forced herself to say, trying her hardest to sound truly genuine. Mario took the comment and returned it.

"I love you too, Peach," he replied, sounding much more convincing than she did. The couple shared a second kiss and they walked off into the garden, holding hands the entire time. The whole way though, Peach had to keep back tears that were trying desperately to escape her saddened eyes.

"Daisy," Peach said as she knocked on her friend's bedroom door. "Are you there?" A few seconds passed before Daisy answered the door, letting Peach into her room.

"What's up, Peach?" Daisy asked as they both sat on Daisy's messy, unmade bed. She could tell that Peach was upset and soon brought an arm around her to hug her from the side. "Something wrong?"

Peach's eyes were slightly reddened and faint tear stains marked her face. She leaned against Daisy, staring at the wall and sniffling slightly.

"I don't know what's going on Daisy," Peach said in almost a whimper, trying to keep her voice steady. "I just can't stop thinking about her."

"About who?" Daisy asked.

"Cherry," Peach answered, causing Daisy to raise an eyebrow questioningly.

"That girl you found last night? The one that was at breakfast?"

"Yes," Peach answered, sitting up straight and turning her body towards Daisy, but keeping her gaze low. "I just don't understand why I can't get her out of my mind. Ever since she smiled at me at breakfast, it's like she's all that I'm ever thinking about. It's scaring me, Daisy. I think that I'm actually attracted to her." Daisy's eyes widened suddenly as she heard Peach utter the last sentence.

"Whoa girl, I didn't know you swung that way," Daisy said jokingly, only serving to upset Peach more. "Is Mario just a front?"

"This isn't something to joke about Daisy!" Peach exclaimed, looking into Daisy's eyes as her own began to well up. Daisy suddenly realized how serious Peach was being and quieted down. "I was talking to Mario in the garden earlier, and we kissed, and I told him I loved him, but the entire time, I didn't feel a thing. It was like everything I did meant absolutely nothing. All I could think about was Cherry."

She found herself leaning against Daisy's shoulder once more as tears flowed from her eyes. Daisy put a hand on the back of Peach's head and patted her hair softly, hoping to comfort her as she let her feelings pour out.

"I just can't believe how suddenly it happened, Daisy," Peach muttered, almost sounding incoherent. "Mario and I have been together exclusively for all these years, and one look from a woman and suddenly it's like I want her more than I do Mario. Why, Daisy? I don't understand."

Daisy didn't know how to answer. She wasn't exactly an expert at consoling others, for she was rarely presented with the situation to do so. Thankfully, simply being there to talk helped Peach a bit. Peach sat up straight once more and wiped the tears away from her eyes before looking at Daisy.

"I'm sorry to unload all of this on you, Daisy," Peach apologized. "But I had to tell someone..."

"It's okay, Peach," Daisy said, trying her best to understand. She let her friend gather herself over the course of the next few seconds. With a dry face and a controlled nose, Peach made a request.

"I hate to ask this of you, but could you get some escort guards to take Cherry back to her home?" Peach said. "I don't want to have to see her right now."

"No problem," Daisy said, standing up from the bed. Peach lied back on the bed and let out a long sigh as Daisy left the room. She closed her eyes and let her mind be at peace, thinking of nothing in particular. She seemed to forget how tired she was due to her lack of sleep however, and, soon, she found herself drifting off to sleep.

Peach was in her bedroom, hoping to escape from the rest of the world after a highly stressful day. Her body ached and her mind seemed run into the ground, as she could hardly have a complete thought before forgetting what she was just focusing on.

She fell limply onto her bed face first, crawled onto it lazily, and rolled over onto her back, letting out a deep, aggravated sigh. All she wanted was peace and quiet, and to sleep in that exact position, spread eagle on her back, on top of her covers, and still wearing her dress. She didn't care. That position was just as comfortable as any for someone too lazy to change clothes or lift sheets over themselves.

As she began to doze off, she heard a knocking at the door. She groaned loudly before forcing herself onto her feet, nearly falling over as her legs refused to function for a while, but catching her balance before it was too late. She managed to make her way to the door and opened it up to reveal Mario on the other side. Despite her fatigue, seeing him brought a smile to her face.

"Hi, sweetie," she greeted, sharing as kiss with him as he entered the room. She closed the door behind him and yawned deeply before rubbing her eyes. "What are you doing here so late at night?"

"It's only seven," Mario chuckled as he observed Peach clumsily sitting back down on her bed. He could tell was she was incredibly tired and gave her a smile. "Should I leave? You seem pretty dead right now."

"No, no, stay," Peach insisted, "Sit next to me." She indicated a spot on the bed next to her and he obliged happily, facing her as he sat down.

"I just dropped by to see how you were doing tonight," Mario said, clasping her hand with one of his own, which they let rest of the small portion of the bed between them. "You seemed kind of out of it today."

"Oh, yeah, I guess I was," Peach admitted. "But don't worry about it, it was-"

"I know, you said you were having your period," Mario decided to finish her sentence for her. Peach had forgotten she made that up as an excuse earlier, but decided to go ahead and run with it. "Feeling better now?"

"Well, aside from being so sleepy, I'm perfectly fine," Peach said. "Especially now that you're here." They both smiled simultaneously and came in for a long, soft kiss, separating tenderly once it came to a close.

"So, I went ahead and had a chat with Cherry earlier," Mario said, much to Peach's dismay. The mention of Cherry seemed to turn the mood upside down for her, but she didn't stop Mario from talking about her. "She's seems pretty nice."

"Yeah, she is..." Peach muttered, trying to sound as if she were fine with talking about her. Mario detected her reluctance however and decided to address it.

"Is something wrong?" he asked. "You sound kind of distant."

"No, I'm fine," Peach lied.

"Are you?" a different voice asked from the other side of Peach. Startled, she looked over and nearly fell backwards as she was greeting by a soft face with red eyes that leaned in closed to hers. "It seems like you have something on your mind," Cherry whispered softly as she stroked Peach's arm tenderly.

Her heart began to race at Cherry's touch and she reached back desperately, only to grasp thin air where Mario used to be. She turned around to find the space completely empty. She and Cherry were the only two in the room. As she turned back to face her, the two were immediately nose to nose and Peach quickly stood up off the bed.

"Please, stop!" Peach begged. "Just leave me alone!"

Cherry didn't say a word in response, simply staring at Peach with her same, alluring smile. After a short while, Peach felt as if she were a deer caught in headlights, staring at Cherry's full, curving lips. She hardly seemed to notice as Cherry stood from the bed and embraced her in an intimate hug, wrapping her arms around the small of her back. Their breath began to intermingle as Cherry came in for a kiss, and Peach found herself sitting up quickly, her breathing having been slowed and deepened. She was in Daisy's room, sitting on her messy bed, clasping her chest as her heart threatened to beat out of it for the second time that day.

She looked around quickly to make sure she was completely alone. No Mario. No Cherry. Nobody. Assuring that she was the only person in the room, she fell on her back and took in a deep breath as she held a pillow tightly over her mouth.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" she screamed, muffled by the pillow that she soon tossed aside carelessly. "Why am I getting so worked up over a SMILE!?"

She then stood up from the bed quickly and began to pace the floor.

"How do I know she was flirting with me anyway?" she asked herself. "I mean, it was just a smile. It's not like she dropped on one knee and gave me a solid gold ring or something." She stopped pacing and dropped her arms to her side suddenly. "Even if she wasn't implying anything...why am I so bothered when I think about her? How come I'm so attracted to her that I can't even put my heart into it when I kiss Mario or tell him I love him...? ...I feel terrible..."

The door to the room opened without warning and Daisy entered, closing it behind her quickly, for she left a couple Toad guards standing just outside, along with Cherry.

"Okay, she's telling us that she doesn't have a home," Daisy said, appearing to be undecided on whether to feel pity or aggravation. "We keep trying to get her to tell us where she lives, but she says it's somewhere in Forever Forest that she can't return to."

"Forever Forest?" Peach said, rather surprised.

"I know, right?" Daisy said, folding her arms. "Who does she think she's fooling? There's nothing but a bunch of Boos and hostile creatures in that forest. Like anyone in their right mind would actually live there." Peach remained silent for a while, prompting Daisy to speak again. "So what should we do with her? You don't want her to stay here do you?"

Peach appeared to think deeply about it. It would be unfair to send Cherry away just because Peach couldn't control her own feelings. She had no evidence that Cherry was trying anything with her, and decided that she shouldn't be sent away if she claimed to have nowhere to return to.

"No, she can stay with us," Peach said, surprising Daisy quite a bit.

"But what about all that stuff you talked about earlier?" Daisy asked. "I thought you said she was ruining things between you and Mario."

"It's not her fault, Daisy," Peach said with a sigh. "If I can't control how I feel, that's my problem. Cherry shouldn't have to pay because of that. We'll let her stay as long as she needs to."

"Alright, whatever you say," Daisy said with a shrug as she motioned back towards the door. "Do you care if you see her then?" she asked before opening it up again. Peach shook her head.

"Not right now," she answered. She then let out a large sigh and dropped herself back down onto Daisy's bed. "All I want to do is sleep." Daisy nodded and poked her head out of the doorway, informing the guards that Cherry would, in fact, be staying at the castle for as long as she needed. She seemed to be caught up in some conversation for a time before she was able to close the door. "What'd they say?" Peach asked, closing her eyes lazily. Daisy lied down next to her on the bed before answering.

"Nothing much," Daisy responded. "One of the guards asked if we needed anything else to be done before his shift was over."

"Ah," Peach said. A few moments of silence passed before Peach spoke again. "Daisy, can I sleep here tonight?"

"Why? You're room's right across the hallway."

"But I'm sooo tired..." Peach whined. "Please? If you loved me you'd let me stay over here..."

"Oh alright, fine," Daisy said in false aggravation as she stood up from the bed. "Just don't get your crap mixed in with my crap and you can stay."

"Thank you, Daisy," Peach said sleepily as she turned on her side. "You're a great friend."

"Yeah yeah, I know," Daisy responded as she retreated into her bathroom to change into her nightgown. Peach found herself drifting off to sleep moments later.
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