Observe, Encounter, Flirt
“Terrible. It’s such a funny word. Tear-ee-bull. I’m getting off topic.”
“Ugh, everything is terrible! This sickness, the lack of air conditioning, Lazuli… Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Today, she did put an effort into leaving Panadol and a glass of water beside my bed. The only thing is, I didn’t have a headache this morning. So that was completely useless, but I suppose the gesture still stands.”
“I just wished she put more effort into—I don’t know, everything! Like keeping at least her part of the apartment clean, or feeding herself better, or even just socialising with me, her amazing roommate! I swear I’ve only seen her eat pre-made frozen lasagna for the past five nights, and she has a better budget than me!”
“Though I must admit, she is much more tolerable than this stupid sickness. My nose has been constantly running like a tap, and I can barely breathe through the cobweb of phlegm in my throat! And the odd days where I have had a headache, I haven’t had the energy to do anything but lie in bed!”
Peridot rubbed her free hand under her nose, her mouth curling in disgust at the trail of mucus left on her skin. Shivering, she held tighter onto the ancient tape recorder with her other hand.
“This sucks. And as if things couldn’t get any worse, after a few days of heavy rain and a cold breeze, the weather decides that it wants to stop giving a damn about seasons and gives us the most humid day of all time. I’m sweating bullets!”
“You done complaining about literally everything?” Lapis called out, her tone deep and mocking.
“Lazuli!” Peridot shouted back, the lack of any comeback leaving her sentence short. She grabbed her towel strewn over her bed and threw it over her shoulder, her hand grazing her still damp hair. With the weather they were experiencing, her wet hair keeping her neck cool was very much welcomed.
She clicked off her tape recorder, settling it on her bedside table before storming out of her room and into their shared bathroom. After she ran her brush through her bird’s nest of hair, she stomped to the living room-kitchen combo. Lapis was dropping flakes of fish food into the aquarium upon it’s own cabinet, watching the fish surface to gobble the garbage food.
After a few seconds of observing the marine life, she asked, “Ready?”
An unintentional huff escaped from Peridot. “Of course not!”
Lapis merely raised an eyebrow and twitched her mouth into a tiny sly smile.
Months ago, Peridot and Lapis were nothing more than brief acquaintances. They had gone to the same high school, and shared two classes in their senior year, but never interacted. The only real link the two had between them was Jasper. One disastrous break up later, and they shared an inner city suburb apartment together. Sometimes Peridot wondered whether the break up made Lapis so… unyielding, but it wasn’t any of her business, so she never asked.
Peridot grabbed a small backpack and stuffed some essentials in it; her travel pass, wallet, butter-menthols, tissues, and the sort. After double checking she had everything she needed, she shrugged the bag onto her shoulders and ran back into the main room.
“Alright, I’m ready to go! But I’m starting to have doubts about this.” She eyed Lapis warily. “Do you think I’m too sick to go out?”
Lapis shrugged, barely passing a glance over Peridot. “Dunno, are you?”
“God, you’re useless,” Peridot snapped without a hint of venom.
“Go look in the mirror.”
“I already did!”
Lapis shrugged again. “Do you want to go or not? I need to go to work.”
Being sick had it’s pros and cons. To Peridot, there were many, many, many more cons than pros. One of them being stark boredom. You could only watch your favourite show or browse Youtube so many times before boredom ensued. And when that happened, it called for a trip to the nearest library. But of course, going outside whilst your face was having a snot-storm wasn’t very appealing.
At least Lapis was decent enough to drive her to the library on the way to work, though she’d have to catch the bus back home. A bus full of wandering eyes. Full of people.
Peridot wasn’t exactly anti-social, but between her bursts of motor-mouthing and socialisation, she needed to hide away in the dark, under a duvet with her tablet shining in her face. Away from people. Especially strangers.
So she wasn’t particularly fond of people she didn’t know. Unfortunately, she cared more about snagging a good book to stick her nose into than curious stares at her sick state.
Well, if she was being honest, it was more than just books. But with her sickness, she wasn’t betting her hopes on the other bonus at the library.
She was starting to regret not going to the college library when she last attended class, which was a week ago. It would’ve saved her from going outside.
Lapis twirled her key chain around her finger and sauntered to the door. Peridot watched her stick a strip of gum into her mouth before following after her.
“You know what I’ve always wondered Lazuli?” Peridot mulled, waiting for Lapis’ curiosity to peak, only for her to remain silent. “How can you work at a pet shop and not feel compelled to bring a new animal home every day?”
“Simple; can’t keep pets at the apartment.”
“You have fish.”
“Do you seriously think fish count?”
Peridot threw her hands up in the air as Lapis locked the unit door behind her, trudging down the steps to the car park on ground level. “Well, why don’t you bring cooler aquarium pets home?”
“Don’t want to.”
“Surely any pet is better than fish!”
Lapis raised an eyebrow at Peridot. “Why don’t you get a pet then?”
Suddenly aware of the oozing trail coming from her nose, Peridot flustered and pinched her nose. When she spoke, she somehow sounded more nasally than she normally did. “Shut up Lazuli.”
Despite the weak insult, Lapis just snorted at her annoying voice. “You sound terrible.”
“Thanks, I wasn’t aware.”
“Glad to let you know.”
Peridot merely scowled at her roommate’s evasion of sarcasm.
Lapis’ car was a crummy old thing, as most first cars turn out to be. It’s navy paint was scratched, glass dirty and stained, and a unique dent was near the left taillight. Even better - or more shocking - was it was so old it still had wind-up windows. When the two of them first decided to share an apartment and Lapis brought her car in, Peridot didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But retaining her pride, she bent over cackling her quirky laugh.
Now, she sneered at the stained passenger seat as she stared through the only side door’s mirror (it was a hatchback). She watched Lapis slink into her seat and waited for her to manually unlock her door. That was how old the car was. Peridot was surprised it didn’t collapse on the road.
Despite the driving wreck of a car, it had its charm.
“Start up the Li’l Lappy!” Peridot shouted, pointing off into the distance humorously.
“I swear if you call her that one more time, I’ll slug you in the arm.”
Peridot grinned cheesily and crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s her chosen name.”
“The car’s mine; if she get’s a name, it’s up to me.”
“Then what’s her name?”
“Doesn’t have one. She—it’s a car.”
“They name boats and ships.”
Lapis seemed to grow bored of the bickering quickly, and grunted noncommittally. Peridot frowned, but knew when her time for petty squabbles had its end. Lapis was about as fun as a bouncy ball; novelty wears off after some time.
Instead, Peridot brought her phone out of her shorts’ pocket and plugged her earphones in. Her and Lapis had very different music tastes, and Peridot preferred to block out the alternative rock in favour for her widely disliked electronic music.
She also wished the car had air conditioning, but it was as deadbeat as the apartment’s. So she tugged at her light shirt and hoped the humidity would soften inside the library. And goddamn if they didn’t have air conditioning she didn’t know what she’d do.
After a roughly fifteen minute drive, ten minutes of it spent waiting in front of traffic lights, Lapis’ car squeaked to a stop in the temporary parking outside the library. Before Peridot had the chance to exit the car, Lapis spoke up.
“Remember your bus is 201.”
Peridot blinked at the inkling of care displayed by Lapis, then the door slammed shut and the oddly charismatic car merged into the traffic. Sniffling and wiping her nose with a tissue in her bag (god, this was a bad idea) she walked through the self-opening library doors and was knocked back with a powerful wave of cool air.
If she wasn’t sick, she probably would’ve stayed there all day in favour for an air conditioner that worked.
The library wasn’t very cluttered, but Peridot supposed that most people were working or studying in the middle of the day. Well, she liked it better when there were smaller crowds. The library was still rather unfamiliar territory for her, as she chose to use the college’s library when she remembered, but she had visited enough times to know where her favourite genre of novels were.
As much as she hated to admit it, she loved coming of ages novels. They were awkward and rather cliche, but she supposed she liked to compare her high school years to those in stories, like the protagonist finally opening to their crush. Or on the very rare occasion, a novel with queer characters in it for once.
Peridot threw a look to the counter as she slinked to the bookshelves, her eyes dragging on the librarian for perhaps a few moments too long. The one bonus of this library compared to her college’s.
She was a delicate looking woman, looking like the human personification of a stick insect. If the wind blew too hard, Peridot feared the woman would fall over. Her peachy hair was short and looked soft, tufts poking out in certain areas. Skin as white as beach sand, and eyes as blue as the accompanying ocean, Peridot really couldn’t help being enamoured.
It seemed she had a thing for blue, if her short-lasting infatuation with Lapis when they first moved in with each other said anything. But one date later, and it was obvious they were better off as friends. A distant woman with a vocabulary consisting of two syllable words and a snarky, overbearing nerd perhaps weren’t the best pair.
As Peridot ducked behind the bookshelf named ‘crime/mystery’, she peered through the gaps left by absent books. If she stood at the right angle and bent down ever-so-slightly, she could see a partial amount of the librarian tapping away at the keyboard of the desktop in front of her.
It occurred to her that perhaps staring at someone conceitedly behind a bookshelf was ‘spying’, and that it would be wiser to not do so. Peridot’s face heated up at her own actions and she cleared her throat, as if readying herself for an argument with herself.
She vaulted to the sci-fi section. At that moment, she decided she didn’t want a book to compare her life to, so a dystopian society with teenagers running for their lives was a cliche she wanted to indulge into instead. After coming of age novels, sci-fi and futuristic novels were her second favourite.
After finding no novels she was looking for, she picked out a vaguely interesting one and left the section. Leaning against the bookshelf with no more stealth than a boy sending suggestive texts, she eyed the front counter whilst sticking her nose into her book.
Pearl was her name.
On the occasion that Peridot did come to this library, they briefly chatted between requests to rent or hold books. It’d usually be short sentences to fill the silence, like “Nice day out?” or “So you’re into coming of age stories?” Unfortunately, not all of the time was Pearl working, and Peridot was sometimes trapped with another librarian, generally in their late forties or older and looking like they swallowed a lemon.
Honestly, the library could’ve benefited from self-serve stations, but Peridot was glad that they lacked them on days when Pearl was working.
“… If Lapis heard a word about this I’d never hear the end of it,” Peridot grumbled under her breath to nobody in particular. When Pearl finally turned around from whatever she was doing, Peridot quickly averted her eyes from her back to her book. Though she was pretty certain she’d have to have killer eyesight to notice she was being watched, Peridot still didn’t risk it.
What was she doing? Peridot fought the urge to shake her head at herself. She probably looked like half-decent roadkill with her sickness, and knowing her body, the moment she’d say something witty she would probably spontaneously start coughing. She just needed to get home as soon as possible and wallow in her sickness instead of ogling at someone she found aesthetically pleasing to look at.
With a newfound determination, Peridot kicked off the shelf and tucked the book away into it - she didn’t think she’d read it anyway. Pearl was busy tapping away at her computer, her long slender fingers clacking off each letter, gaze pinpointed on the screen before her. Peridot inhaled deeply and immediately regretted it. Her nose twitched in anticipation, her face scrunched up and her lips curled into displeased sneer before a violent sneeze wheezed out.
Pearl jumped like a frightened deer, and if it wasn’t because of Peridot’s embarrassing sneeze-cough she would’ve laughed. Hesitantly accepting she was thoroughly humiliated by her body, she ignored the thick heat in her cheeks and went up to the counter.
“Do you have the Berserk trilogy!?” Peridot half shouted, half asked. She quickly corrected herself. “Erm, I mean could you hold the first book for me? Stylised B-Z-R-K.”
Pearl chuckled lightly, giving Peridot a curious glance before typing on her keyboard. “And how are you today?”
“I see.” Pearl quickly grabbed the box of tissues next to her and waved them under Peridot’s nose. “Here, you might need a few.”
“Do I—” Peridot stopped and touched under her nose, horrified to find that her nose was leaking. Blushing even more furiously, she snatched two tissues and stuffed them up her nose. She averted her gaze from the librarian, glaring at her feet and wishing that she could crawl up into her antisocial ball at home.
“Oh, I didn’t realise you were into science fiction,” Pearl murmured as she squinted slightly at the screen. “What happened to that coming of age series you were reading last time you came in?”
“Sci-fi is actually my second favourite genre. And, uh, you guys don’t have the latest book in yet.”
“Oh? Would you like me to order it for you?” she asked, no doubt already opening the online store.
“Yes, that sounds satisfactory,” Peridot happily replied. “It’s the third in the Changers series, called Kim.”
Peridot guessed Pearl was reading the book’s description, because after a few moments of silence of her staring at her monitor, she let out a soft, “Sounds interesting.”
Well if you don’t mind minority representation, sure, Peridot thought.
Instead, she answered, “Indeed it is. Depending on your tastes you might like it.”
Pearl hummed. “And what tastes would I need?”
“Uh, well you have to like coming of age novels. But it’s kinda sci-fi? There’s shapeshifting.”
“I’ll have to give it a read after you.”
Peridot laughed nervously. “Yeah. Have you put Berserk on hold for me?”
“Oh, sorry!” Pearl flicked her gaze to her computer, her cheeks reddening slightly. “I got distracted, I’ll do that right now. May I have your card?”
Peridot slid her library card over the counter, Pearl quickly scanning it and placing it into her hand. Peridot too acutely took notice of Pearl’s fingertips grazing her palm. They felt soft against her roughish skin, like she moisturised her hands (though Peridot found the idea preposterous - who would do that?)
And that’s when her mind thought it would be a great time to flirt. Without her permission, naturally.
“I suppose I am rather distracting,” Peridot murmured, loud enough for Pearl to hear. And much to her joy, Pearl’s previous light blush spread across the bridge of her nose.
“Yes, uh, w-well, it was nice of you to come in today. I hope you’re not sick for too much longer. I’ll see you around Peridot,” she spluttered out at a motor-mouth speed not quite rivalling Peridot’s.
“Oh, erm, yeah.” Peridot slinked out of the library, fully realising that perhaps flirting was not only one of her weaknesses (she was a terrible flirter), but inappropriate. She wondered if Pearl was even into girls, and if her attempts were fruitless. Frankly, her ‘gaydar’ was about as functioning as a phone in a bathtub.
She leant against the light post next to her bus stop. Why was she doing all of this? Peridot had never been a dating sort of person, or even a flirting sort. She grew up cold and distant, hiding her feelings away because that’s what her mother was like. And in her later teens, on the rare occasion that someone was aesthetically pleasing, she never had the guts to say it.
Maybe growing up gives a confidence boost.
That must be it, Peridot thought.
Lapis was the first person she ever asked on a date, and it was half because of pity, and half because of actual infatuation. She had choked on her words, and eager to end her embarrassment, she yelled out, “DO YOU WANT TO GO ON A DATE!?”
Lapis had laughed at her incompetence, and reluctantly agreed. It had happened only two weeks after moving in together, and after going for a walk in the park with pizza for dinner, Lapis had admitted that whilst it was nice of Peridot to take her out, she wasn’t interesting in dating. Peridot had face palmed and croaked out, “Of course. I blame the J-word.”
Nothing romantic sparked between them, and strangely enough the awkwardness only died down from there. They ended up dubbing it a ‘platonic date’, and didn’t shy away from asking each other on one when the other was feeling down.
Lapis really wasn’t terrible, she was just soft with a hard exterior. Like a watermelon. Peridot couldn’t really talk though; she was like that too when she was younger. The difference between her and Lapis was that Lapis grew colder with age, and Peridot not. Or Peri-not.
The bus rolled up beside her, and she leapt aboard, thankful for the blissful air conditioning in the vehicle. A small smile curved Peridot’s lips as she thought back.
Lapis turning her down lead her to preoccupy herself with the librarian. It wasn’t quite the infatuation that ended up with both parties under the sheets, or even to soft kisses in the moonlight (though Peridot didn’t think she’d deny either of those over time), but merely just knowing the person.
Peridot wanted to know what books made Pearl stay up to 5am to finish, how she kept her hands so soft, what weather she enjoyed the most, her favourite song to listen to on rainy days, what made her tick both in anger and arousal, and so much more.
So even if Pearl turned down her attempts at what could’ve been flirting if she wasn’t so incompetent, she still hoped a small friendship could blossom afterwards, like for her and Lapis.
Peridot hummed to herself and plugged her earphones in, letting the music coax her mind into daydreams until she reached the apartment. Before crawling back into bed to sleep the last of her sickness away, she grabbed her tape recorder and held it under her chin.
“So I suppose I was too harsh on Lazuli the s’morning. She isn’t nearly as terrible as this cloddy sickness! Erm, and before I take a nap, progress report on Pearl.” Peridot mustered a quick, heavy breath and puffed. “So today my body decides to rain hell on me…”