Zazzalil didn't react when the bell on the door rang, signalling someone entering the small cafe. Instead, she elected to stay where she was, head resting on her arms on the counter. Peak hour had just finished and she had almost fallen asleep in her first five minutes of the day without having to serve anyone. Plus, she may or may not have gotten very little sleep due to someone (Tiblyn) talking her ear off all night on the phone about her crush on someone else (Chorn).
She mentally cursed Keeri for being sick and leaving her alone with the morning rush. Why couldn't her friends be more considerate? Zazzalil knew she shouldn't blame them, but in her tiredness, she just wanted to blame someone.
"Umm, hi?" Zazzalil groaned before looking up at the girl whose voice had interrupted her almost-sleep. Oh shit, Zazzalil thought, as her mind suddenly went blank of her usual script. This girl was beautiful, with short, curly hair framing her face as she smiled down at Zazzalil, who quickly stood up, only tripping over her own feet a little.
Zazzalil said nothing, her brain unable to come up with anything close to her usual spiel, so the girl spoke first. "Could I please have a short black coffee?"
Be cool, Zazzalil reminded herself. "Um, yeah. What was the name for that?"
"Jemilla," the girl replied. Zazzalil had to stop herself from almost swooning. Get a grip.
"'Kay," Zazzalil said with forced nonchalance. She charged the girl, Jemilla, for her drink, and told her to wait by the other end of the counter.
As soon as Jemilla walked away, Zazzalil hid behind the coffee machine. "Fuuuuck," she whispered to herself, mentally wanting to slap herself for that interaction. In her effort not to sound too much like she had 'fallen in love at first sight' or whatever, she had sounded completely disinterested. She probably also sounded like a dick because of her 'trying to remain cool' voice. Well, there goes any chance of that working out, Zazzalil told herself, not that she thought she would have had much chance with Jemilla anyway, the girl was gorgeous. Oh well, she thought, not the first time I've fucked up talking to a pretty girl and won't be the last.
Her hands shaking, Zazzalil spilt Jemilla's coffee a little, and once again mentally cursed herself as she cleaned it up with a napkin.
"Jemilla?" Zazzalil called when she finally got the lid on the cup successfully. Jemilla picked up her coffee with nothing but a small 'thank you', and then she was gone.
"Keeri, I fucked up," were Zazzalil's first words to her best friend as soon as she picked up the phone that night.
"Oh Zazz, what did you do this time?" Keeri asked. "Did you break the coffee machine again?"
"No, this really cute girl came in and I fucked up and probably made her hate me forever," Zazzalil complained.
"Tell me what happened," Keeri said understandingly. This wasn’t the first time this had happened. Zazzalil launched into the whole story, which turned out to be shorter than Keeri expected, since they had barely talked.
"What was her name?" Asked Keeri.
"Jemilla." Zazzalil tried not to sigh.
"Okay one, I guarantee that Jemilla will not hate you forever, and two, if it makes you feel any better, you'll probably never see her again, so don't worry about it,"
"Fine," Zazzalil conceded.
They talked for another hour before Keeri hung up to go to bed, making Zazzalil promise she would do the same. Zazzalil did go to bed, as she promised. And, if it took her an extra few hours to get to sleep because she couldn't stop thinking about Jemilla, that was nobody's business but her own.
The next morning was a lot less stressful for Zazzalil, despite her similarly low amount of sleep, simply because Keeri was back at work. And, since Keeri was on the till and Zazzalil was making the coffee, she hoped that would mean she wouldn't have to talk to Jemilla if she came in again.
Much to Zazzalil's frustration, Jemilla did come in again, at a similar time to the previous day. Almost on instinct, she ducked out of sight, behind the coffee machine. Unfortunately, this caused Keeri to look between her and the girl who just entered the shop. She almost immediately connected the dots, and conveniently decide she needed to use the bathroom. Zazzalil reminded herself to hurt Keeri later, but pushed that thought to the back of her head, trying to compose herself.
"Hi, what would you like today?" Zazzalil mentally applauded herself for remembering how to speak normally, even if she could only do so by not making eye contact with Jemilla.
"Just a short black coffee, thanks," Jemilla replied. That must be her usual, Zazzalil thought.
Despite knowing it, Zazzalil asked for Jemilla's name for the coffee, just so it wouldn't seem like she had been thinking about her for 24 hours straight. Jemilla paid for her coffee and walked away to wait, while Zazzalil cursed herself for being unable to make eye contact. The chances of thinking she was either weird, or just a bad person, were ever increasing.
Zazzalil barely managed to remember her scripted 'Have a great day!" as she handed Jemilla her coffee.
Conveniently done with her break as soon as Jemilla left, Keeri reappeared from the bathroom. Seeing that no one else was in the cafe except for the staff, she ducked her head into the kitchen. "Schwoopsie, come out here," she called, receiving only protests in response. "It's important, please," Keeri half begged, dragging out the 'e’ sound until her friend agreed.
They exited the kitchen to find Zazzalil cleaning the same spot of the counter she had been cleaning minutes before, clearly deep in thought.
Schwoopsie looked to Keeri. "Hey, Zazz, what're you thinking about?" Keeri asked, already knowing the answer.
"Nothing," Zazzalil mumbled.
"Come on, we know what it really is," Schwoopsie prompted.
"I caught her up," confessed Keeri, earning an 'ugh' from Zazzalil. She really should have known that this would happen.
"Fine, she came in again, then someone," she looked pointedly at Keeri, "left me alone to take her order. I managed not to sound as much like a terrible person as I did yesterday, but she still probably hates me... Plus, she probably doesn't even like girls so why do I bother?"
"But you still have a huge crush on her?" Schwoopsie asked.
Zazzalil tried to protest for a few seconds, before conceding. "I know I've only seen her like twice but she's cute, and confident, and beautiful, and-"
"Okay, we get it," interrupted Schwoopsie.
"Yeah, just try to be nicer to Jemilla if she comes in again," Keeri offered.
Schwoopsie's eyebrows raised, and Zazzalil, having known her since high school, feared the worst. "Wait, did you say Jemilla?" Schwoopsie asked.
"Yep," Keeri nodded.
"As in short, curly brown hair, about my height?"
Keeri looked to Zazzalil, who nodded in response.
"Well," Schwoopsie drew out the 'l' sound for far longer than Zazzalil was comfortable with. "Have I got some news for you,"
"Oh no," Zazzalil groaned.
"It's nothing bad, but, if we're talking about the same Jemilla, we dated for like a couple weeks last year, so she definitely likes girls." Zazzalil tried not to breathe a sigh of relief. "Plus, we're still kinda friends because we have a bunch of mutual friends, so..." Schwoopsie trailed off.
"Oh no," Zazzalil repeated.
"Well, that means you know her, so you can give Zazz some advice!" Keeri suggested.
"Uhh, well, she hates it when people are lazy, and when people fight or are just mean generally. She's definitely the mom friend, her nickname is literally the Peacemaker, so pretty much just don't be a dick and she'll like you,"
"Well so far, I'm doing great, aren't I?" Zazzalil put her head in her hands.
"Just, try to be nicer, and say more than your little script if she comes in again," said Keeri.
"Well she's studying politics and has a heap of early morning classes this semester so I'm guessing she'll be back,"
"Great," Zazzalil groaned, before another customer entered the shop and the three parted ways. It was going to be a long day.
The next day, Zazzalil waited, but Jemilla didn't come into the coffee shop for her morning short black coffee, or anything, for that fact.
By half past ten, Zazzalil had given up hope, though she would deny ever having any in the first place. She did admit to the tiniest bit of disappointment, though, to Keeri. She probably would have talked to Schwoopsie, too, if she hadn't taken the morning off after a late-night gig at the local comedy club.
"She probably hates me!" Zazzalil complained. There hadn't been any customers in a few minutes so after a bit of pressing from Keeri, Zazzalil had opened up about her disappointment.
"No, she probably just doesn't have any classes this morning," Keeri said, ever the voice of reason, especially around Zazzalil.
Another customer came in then, ending their conversation temporarily. Keeri and Zazzalil worked in near silence until there was another break in customers.
Schwoopsie had arrived by then, so she joined Zazzalil and Keeri's conversation.
"Hey, guys, so there's this party this weekend my friends are throwing, you guys should come," said Schwoopsie.
"Cool," Zazzalil replied.
"Wait, your friends, is you-know-who going to be there?" Keeri stage-whispered, gesturing at Zazzalil.
"I can hear you, you know," said Zazzalil, not wanting to admit to herself or her friends that her heart rate increased a little at the possibility of Jemilla being there. She hated how much she liked this girl after only seeing her twice.
"Yeah, I think Emberly said Jemilla would be there,"
"Well in that case we will definitely be there," said Keeri. It didn’t seem to Zazzalil that she had any say in the matter.
This should be interesting.
After two hours of outfit discussion, Keeri and Zazzalil arrived at the address Schwoopsie had given them, the party already in full swing. Zazzalil immediately went to get an alcoholic drink, while Keeri followed her, instead opting for a juice box. Someone was going to have to supervise drunk Zazzalil.
Just as they were about to leave the drinks table, a familiar head of curly hair caught Zazzalil's eye. Before thinking, she spoke. "Uhh, hey, Jemilla?"
She turned around. "Hey, you're that barista, right?" Zazzalil nodded, now feeling stupid because she really didn't know this girl.
"Uh, yeah, I'm Zazzalil," she introduced herself. Why can’t I act normal around pretty girls? Zazzalil asked herself.
"Cool, I'm Jemilla," Jemilla introduced herself again. In the midst of a deafening party, the silence between Zazzalil and Jemilla was even more awkward.
The silence lasted for a few seconds longer than comfortable, until one of Jemilla's friends came to whisk her away.
"Come on, let's dance," Keeri suggested, seeing Zazzalil quickly down her drink. "Get your mind off things,"
Zazzalil had to admit she did have fun dancing. She was good at it, too, mainly because Keeri, being a part-time dance teacher and her best friend since they were babies, had forced her into dance lessons from the time they were four. It didn’t take Zazzalil long after that to begin to love dancing. Zazzalil wasn't sure how much later it was when she left Keeri on the dance floor, so she could get another drink.
Zazzalil grabbed a bottle of water and turned to return to Keeri and the dancing but paused at a noise coming from outside. It sounded like someone being sick. She stepped outside cautiously, fighting the urge to go back inside as soon as she saw it was Jemilla.
Taking a deep breath, Zazzalil sat down next to where Jemilla was leaning over a flowerbed. “Uhh, hi, are you okay?” She asked.
Jemilla looked up. “I’ve been better,” She laughed a little, before trying to stand up. Zazzalil placed a hand on her arm to stop her.
“Not so fast, you need to sit down,” Zazzalil chided. “I’m sure the party can survive without you for another few minutes,”
“I guess I can stay out here for a bit,” Jemilla said slowly, sitting down against the wall. She paused, as if unsure of what to say. “The fresh air is nice,”
“Here, take my water,” said Zazzalil, handing her bottle to Jemilla as she sat down. “You need it more than I do,”
The two sat in silence for a few seconds, Zazzalil wracking her brain for something to say. Something that didn’t make her sound like she had already asked Schwoopsie about her (technically that was Keeri), and Facebook and Instagram stalked her.
“So… Tell me about yourself,” Zazzalil said. “You go to college here?” Good, don’t sound to invested, or creepy, she reminded herself.
“Yeah, I’m studying politics. What about you?”
“Just working for a couple years to save for business school, hopefully,”
As they kept chatting, Zazzalil noticed Jemilla begin to look more and more tired. They had been talking for less than ten minutes when Zazzalil looked over at the cute girl next to her, and she was asleep against the wall behind her. Zazzalil watched Jemilla for a few minutes, admiring her beauty, before snapping herself out of her thoughts, realising that she was probably being a little bit creepy.
Zazzalil didn’t want to wake Jemilla because she looked so peaceful, plus she didn’t think Jemilla would wake easily after all she’d clearly had to drink. Thankful for over ten years of dance training for giving her some muscular strength, Zazzalil leaned down and picked Jemilla up, leaving her water bottle on the ground. Attempting to push all of her thoughts about the fact that Jemilla was in her arms right now, she stepped back into the kitchen, immediately spotting Schwoopsie, who raised her eyebrows at her friend.
“Hey, Schwoopsie, know a couch or somewhere I can leave Jemilla? She fell asleep outside,” Zazzalil asked.
“Hmm, and what were you two doing outside?” Schwoopsie smirked. Zazzalil glared at Schwoopsie, causing her to roll her eyes. “Yeah, upstairs. Come on, I’ll show you,”
After that night, nothing changed between Jemilla and Zazzalil, much to her disappointment. Schwoopsie had, of course, told Keeri what had happened at the party, but Zazzalil had assured them many times that they had just talked, before Jemilla fell asleep. Zazzalil had simply carried her to a couch upstairs, before making Schwoopsie promise to look after her in the morning.
Weeks passed, and the weather grew colder and colder, but the only thing that really changed in the little café was Keeri and Schwoopsie giving Zazzalil less and less subtle looks every time Jemilla came in to get coffee. Every so often Schwoopsie would also try to convince Zazzalil that Jemilla liked her back, but she never took it seriously, dismissing it as teasing. How could Jemilla, a goddess on earth, possibly like her? Zazzalil tried her best to ignore her friends and her feelings, speaking as few words to Jemilla as possible. She figured Jemilla didn’t remember the events of that night at the party.
As she saw Jemilla walk into the café one evening, Zazzalil’s shoulders immediately tensed up, out of habit by now, as she glanced around to see her friends’ inevitable looks. She relaxing as soon as she realised that everyone else had gone home and she was the only one still working. She put her phone away, and turned to face Jemilla, realising that she was the only customer in the café too. A quick glance at the clock told her why – it was 4:55, five minutes before their closing time. It was also snowing quite heavily outside, so not many people would be out.
“What will it be today? Short black coffee again?” Zazzalil asked, feeling a lot more comfortable without the feeling of her friends carefully watching her interact with her crush.
“Yeah, actually, thanks,” Jemilla smiled. At that moment, Zazzalil wanted nothing more than to make Jemilla smile all the time, because her smile was just that beautiful. Snap out of it.
“Cool, just give me a minute,” Zazzalil quickly hid behind the coffee machine, trying to recollect herself enough to make Jemilla’s coffee.
Within a couple of minutes, Jemilla’s coffee was done and Zazzalil called her name, more softly than she normally would, since no one else was in the café. As Jemilla took her drink, she hesitated, causing Zazzalil to do the same, curious.
“Hey, I know the sign says you close in a couple of minutes, but do you mind if I stay here for a bit longer? The weather’s crazy outside, they say it might turn into a full snowstorm tonight, and my friend can’t pick me up for another ten or so minutes. But if you don’t want me to, I can go, I can walk home, it’ll just be colder, but you probably have somewhere else to be, like a date or something--”
“Jemilla,” Zazzalil could see her starting to rant, and cut her off. “Of course, you can stay here, no worries. I’ve got to hang around for a few minutes to close up and pack a few things up, then I don’t mind waiting a few minutes for your lift to get here,”
“Ahh, thank you, you’re a lifesaver,” Jemilla grabbed Zazzalil’s hand with her free one and squeezed it, before walking off to sit at her usual table. Left standing behind the counter, Zazzalil looked down at her hand in disbelief, before pinching her arm in an attempt to convince herself that she had not, in fact, ascended to a higher plane of existence.
Zazzalil cleaned down the coffee machine and cleaned and packed up what she needed to before she closed shop in record time, because when she looked up again, it was only just 5 o'clock. Taking a deep breath, Zazzalil took off her work apron and walked out from behind the counter, turning the sign on the door to 'closed'. She hesitated for a moment, before sitting down next to Jemilla, who had been silent since their conversation.
"So..." Zazzalil started awkwardly, feeling the need to fill the silence.
"What's up? Zazzalil, right?" Jemilla asked, motioning to where her name tag usually was.
"Uhh yeah," Zazzalil cursed herself for being so useless around pretty girls. "Not much up, pretty quiet day at work because of the weather,"
"Yeah, I've just been studying at the library when I'm not in classes, it's too cold to go out much these days,"
“So much study that you’re drinking coffee at 5pm?” Zazzalil asked, eyebrows raised.
“I’ve got a heap of assessments coming up, so I guess I’ve resorted to that, yeah,” Jemilla looked down. Zazzalil could have sworn that she saw her cheeks turn slightly more red, but told herself it was probably just the heat from the coffee.
Their conversation lulled into silence again.
"Guess what?" Zazzalil asked, cursing herself for feeling the need to bring this up. "Schwoopsie thinks you like me," she laughed a little, awkwardly. Wait, fuck, did I just say that? I have not had enough sleep lately. Shit. Jemilla looked down, the small smile that to be seemed constantly on her face fading away. Fuck, Zazzalil thought, yet again. "It's true, isn't it?" She asked, her words shattering the painfully uncomfortable silence between them.
"Does it matter?" Jemilla asked, her voice barely above a whisper. She still held her coffee cup, her hand now clenched, Zazzalil could have sworn she was shaking slightly. "You clearly hate me anyway,"
Jemilla's words tore straight through Zazzalil's heart as her fear was confirmed. Her biggest crush in years thought she hated her, just because in her attempts to not be awkward, she had ended up an asshole. This time, Zazzalil looked down. "But... I don't," she whispered. In her peripheral vision, she could see Jemilla look up. "I know it probably came off like that, but I'm just quiet, and awkward, especially around pretty girls like you..." Zazzalil trailed off.
"And the only option you could think of was to be an asshole to me?" Jemilla spoke at a normal level now, and Zazzalil could swear she heard her voice quiver, as if she was about to cry. "Do you have any idea how much that hurt? Me still liking you, even though you acted like an asshole towards me?"
"So, it is true," Zazzalil whispered, mostly to herself. Jemilla simply nodded in response.
"Look, I've been telling myself to get over this, because of how you acted towards me, and I guess this just confirms that. So, I'm really sorry, but my ride's here. I think I should just go," Jemilla stood up slowly, silently, and Zazzalil watched in silence, unable to think of anything to say.
"Okay," Zazzalil whispered, standing up. She was in shock, her brain unable to form coherent thoughts let alone words. She stood, simply staring at Jemilla for a few seconds. How the hell did I manage to fuck this up so badly, Zazzalil wondered. Wow, I really am an idiot. And an asshole.
Then she heard the voices of her friends in her ears. Zazzalil saw memories flash in front of her eyes – her venting to Keeri about her crush, Keeri and Schwoopsie’s constant teasing, that night at the party with Jemilla…
With that thought, Zazzalil stood on her tiptoes, squeezed her eyes shut, and pressed her lips to Jemilla’s. Even though she pulled away a second later, Jemilla immediately leaving, Zazzalil could still feel the warmth of Jemilla’s lips on her own. She watched, dumbfounded by her own actions, as Jemilla got into her friend’s car, before forcing herself to look away.
What have I done?
The two stood in a sort of stalemate, on either side of the small table in the corner of the coffee shop, Jemilla frustratingly finding herself unable to leave. Zazzalil was like a magnet to her, and she’d found it hard enough to leave the café every day even when she was acting like she wanted nothing to do with her.
As Jemilla's phone beeped with message, probably another one from Clark, her ride, Jemilla felt a warm pair of lips press against her own. Jemilla stood still, eyes wide open in shock. It was just a second, before Zazzalil pulled away, and it was way before Jemilla could even begin to comprehend what was happening.
In a second, finding the strength to pull away, Jemilla quickly turned and left the cafe, tears brimming at her eyes and threatening to pour out. Within seconds, she was in the passenger seat of Clark's car. She slammed the car door as she sat down, realising that she was still holding her coffee cup, her name written in Zazzalil’s messy scrawl on the side, and quickly put it down in the centre console of the car.
Frustratingly, Clark knew her too well. They had been close friends for years, a fact which Jemilla usually loved – he really was a great friend. It was only now a liability, as Clark refused to move the car until Jemilla told him what had happened.
"So, what you're telling me, is that you admitted to Zazzalil that you like her, then she said she acted like an asshole because she's awkward around pretty girls, she kissed you, then you just left?" Clark asked, incredulously, once Jemilla had finished.
Jemilla could only nod, before she thought of any logical response. "But she never said she liked me back, she probably really does hate me now,"
Clark sighed. "Remember that party, a couple of weeks ago, at Schwoopsie's friends' place?"
"Some of it," Jemilla replied, confused.
"You got really drunk, then you threw up in the backyard, and Zazzalil was the one who helped you. Apparently, you two talked outside until you fell asleep, then she carried you upstairs and made Schwoopsie promise to look after you in the morning," Clark explained. He'd been there with Schwoopsie when Zazzalil carried Jemilla in and had heard her explanation. “Does that give you the proof you need? Zazzalil does like you,”
Jemilla was shocked, her mind racing, her heart beating almost out of her chest. Hearing the whole exchange back from Clark, it really did sound stupid. And, his story made it really seem like Zazzalil actually did like her back. Oh well, she had probably missed her chance by now anyway.
"I know what you're thinking," Clark said, and Jemilla once again cursed their closeness. "And no, you haven't missed your chance. I know, and you know she likes you back, so go get her!" Clark did a dorky little fist pump.
Something seemed to click in Jemilla's mind, and within seconds she had jumped out of Clark's still-parked car, ignoring his call of "I didn't mean right now!". She had seen Zazzalil leave the cafe before after the end of her shift, always walking in the same direction, so that was where Jemilla took off running. She needed to find Zazzalil.
As Zazzalil locked up the café, she was still in shock. Did she really just kiss Jemilla? Apparently, since although the warmth of her lips was gone with the winter air, Zazzalil could still taste her strawberry lip balm, even from a tiny, second-long kiss. Why? She wasn't quite sure. She also wasn't quite sure where Jemilla stood when it came to her, considering she had admitted that she liked her, but then just left.
She shook her head, resigning herself to calling Keeri to vent when she got home, despite the teasing it would cause, and turned away from the café. Not bothering to put her earphones in for the five-minute walk back to her apartment, Zazzalil trudged through the snow, her mind replaying the events of that evening on repeat.
Zazzalil was so caught up in her thoughts that she didn't hear someone behind her, running to catch up to her, stumbling a bit in the snow. She only stopped when she heard her name; "Zazzalil!"
She turned around at lightning speed, shocked to see Jemilla, panting slightly, now a few feet in front of her. "Jemilla?" Zazzalil barely had time to speak before Jemilla ran forward, closing the gap between them, and not hesitating before kissing her, desperately.
"I really like you," Zazzalil whispered, as Jemilla pulled away slightly, their faces still close enough to feel each other’s' warm breath in the cold. A weight felt as if it had been lifted off Zazzalil’s chest as she finally told Jemilla how she felt. She hadn't had the chance to say it while they were still at the cafe and didn't have the slightest clue how to. But standing in the freezing cold, her body pressed against Jemilla’s as the snow fell around them, none of that mattered.
"I really like you too," Jemilla whispered, before leaning down and reconnecting their lips. In those moments, Zazzalil decided, nothing else mattered. The cold, her friends’ teasing later, her earlier awkwardness around Jemilla, every thought other than the fact that she was finally with Jemilla, left her brain.
What seemed like hours to Zazzalil passed, before Jemilla reluctantly pulled away from her. "As much as I would love to keep doing this, I really do need to get a ride back to my dorm," Jemilla said, chuckling quietly.
Zazzalil nodded, before looking down, once again unsure of what to say. Realising that it didn’t matter anymore, she looked up, grinning at Jemilla, who grinned back. Wow, that had really happened. "I'll call you?"
Suffice to say, when Jemilla returned to Clark's car, she was in a far better mood, and he didn't have to ask why. They spent the car ride in a comfortable silence, Jemilla simply staring out the window with a small smile. When he dropped her off at her dorm, Clark waved Jemilla goodbye, before sending her a simple text:
1 Attachment - Contact: Zazzalil
Schwoopsie sent me this to send to you when you finally came around.
You're welcome :)