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So Much to Give

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Today was my day off from work but we have a test soon and I really want to get the best grade, after all, if I get one more high score I don’t have to worry about suspending any subject and I’ll be able to watch Netflix and take pictures in peace. On the other hand, it’s really hard to concentrate when Lilian is waving her hands in front of me begging for attention. She leans closer, putting my book down with one hand meeting my annoyed look.

‘’Really Conny! Just give it a shot for once girl, okay? If you don’t like any of them you can just tell them to fuck off and never see them again’’ Li says.

She’s so close to my face that I can see the redness of her skin around her cheeks, she told me last week that she got a reservation at this so popular spa, so she probably got a professional facial because all of her pimples disappeared in a weekend, they probably use magic for that.

‘’Li, I really would like to study now that I have time and energy’’ I respond. She whimpers and gives me the puppy eyes so I push her face away from mine and put my book in my backpack, finally giving her the attention she so desperately wanted. ‘’Besides, I’m sure that when they meet me they’ll be nothing but disappointed of what they’ll see’’

‘’See! That’s where you’re wrong! The world isn’t as superficial as you believe it is. Love is in the air and you should give it a chance as well, stop being so self-conscious about yourself and open your heart to others’’

I frowned, not in anger but in shame. The only one to blame for my insecurities is myself and I’m well aware of that, the world has become a lot more tolerant these past decades with the inclusion of new non-human species at our society. Almost half of my classmates are cryptids of some kind and the other half is rather human, half-monster or is in contact with some sort of source of magic. The world opens its doors for them and here I am, worrying about my appearance.

‘’Okay, I’ll give you the reason on that’’ I grab my phone and open the app store. ‘’So what is this app that you’re talking about anyways?’’

‘’It’s call OkCryptid. It’s a dating app for humans and monsters, much like any other dating app like Tinder, but without the nudes of course’’ she laughed.

‘’I see’’ I search for it in the app store and I could see that it already has more than two thousand downloads, I didn’t know there were so many people interested on it. Well, at least it’s free so I downloaded just to check it out. ‘’I’ve never used one of those, how do they work?’’

‘’You see…’’ she gets up from her seat and sits next to me. ‘’You first need to complete the quiz which is obligatory, then you go to the menu and click on this icon. This is your bio, you fill the blank spaces with your info and then you add a photo. It’s easy, you’ll get the hold of it in no time’’. The app itself is very similar to Tinder, not that I have used one but Li does and she often tells me to ‘pick’ a date for her because she thinks I have a good eye.

The rest of the evening we spend it trying to fill my profile with decent information. The quiz was indeed long and tedious but we manage to fill it in no more than an hour. I put that I was looking for a long lasting relationship since I was never a girl of one night stands after all. I’ve been pansexual since I was fifteen so I put that I’m okay with any gender, what really matters is our compatibility after all, and since I’ve never dated a monster before I filtered by humanoid creatures. Li agrees saying is better to start slow. I put that I’m currently studying Sociology, that I enjoy photography and hiking and I love Italian food.

I didn’t let Li do the ‘Tell us About You’ part since she was only focused on getting as much attention as possible, although I did ask for her advice to not sound so boring, even if I can be boring sometimes. My description was simple; ‘If we aren’t actually compatible I’m sure can enjoy a good dinner anyways’. That was simple enough without being too pretentious. Li explained to me that there has been a lot of commotion on social media due to fetishist and assholes who only wanted to break other people’s heart. But not all humans are assholes, some only want to be loved as much as them.

The last part was to put the picture which would be the defining factor if someone would like to click on your profile. We spend almost an hour trying to take the perfect selfie and eventually gave up. I’m a hundred percent insecure about my body, I may look skinny now but I use to be the fat girl in school which everyone bullied for it, and truly believe that because of it I was ugly. I did diet through diet, exercise every day and after a year I lose all the weight, but I still have a lot of stretch marks. My last boyfriend broke up with me because of that, he was a dick indeed but it really destroyed my confidence.

When we both realize neither of us wanted to keep trying we start playing with the filters on Snapchat and uploading our stories on Instagram. I didn’t study much that day but I don’t feel guilty about it. What I do know, is that I need to work on my self-esteem. Now that I think about it properly, meeting a stranger may be a good idea to work my courage, and if the date goes wrong I only need to put the money in the table and leave. Lilian was right for once.

The next couple of days we keep my studying sessions on the University ‘s library, I insisted on this because this way she has to keep her voice low, allowing me to focus on my books. After an hour of intense reading and taking notes, she looked painfully bored so I suggest we should go for something to eat at the cafeteria. She orders a croissant with ham and cheese and a cappuccino while I order a fruit salad, a tuna wrap, and a diet coke, we take our orders and sit on a table next to a big window, she looks at my food and she sighs.

‘‘I just don’t get it, you’re already skinny. Don’t you get tired of being on a diet 24/7? I’ll kill myself if I had to eat only fruit or veggies at every meal’’ Her sarcasm is stronger than the smell of coffee in the air. She can be like this sometimes and surprisingly it doesn’t bother me, it would hurt me more if she wears a fake smile just to keep me happy. I guess is her honesty and carefree attitude what I like most of her.

‘’This is healthy food, and I like to be healthy thank you very much. Besides, weren’t you complaining about having pimples on your back again, I bet too much greasy cheesy could do that’’

She lifts her arm as if she’s going to hit me playfully, her face red of embarrassment. ‘’Anyways, enough of my skin. Did you finish your profile?’’

‘’My what?’’ I ask. She makes an annoyed expression and I suddenly remember. ‘’Oh! That, sorry I forgot all about it’’ I pull out my phone and open the app. It’s a good thing that all the info we put is still there but I don’t have any good photo.

‘’Give me that!’’ Li grabs my phone and starts searching on it. ‘’Okay, 3, 2, 1. Smile!’’

When I was in high school I notice that all of my pictures where terrible, either I was making a weird face or I wasn’t looking at the camera at all. I practice some possess in front of the mirror trying to find the best angle for me, since then when someone wants to take a photo I instantly make a pose like its instinct. Li use to tease saying ‘Cheese!’ out of nowhere and then laughing at me saying I have PTSD with cameras, those are things you can only forgive to your best friends.

‘’There! This should be enough… and, posted! Your profile is ready Miss’’ she handed my phone. The pic was simple but I’m smiling so it must be good enough, I don’t like to use many filters on my pics because it’s like cheating others about how you really look. If you don’t like my red cheeks and eye bags than sorry for being human. ‘’Now it’s only a matter of time if someone texts you or sees your profile, but if you want you can also see other people’s profiles’’

‘’That may be a good idea too, let’s filtrate it for location but I won’t send anyone a message, I prefer them asking to meet me’’ Li nods I sat beside her.

Surprisingly there were A LOT of pictures of humans and just a few monsters, I was open to the idea to date other people including humans but I have really bad memories after dating some guys when I first started studying. I thought for this time it be best if I open my mind and possibilities to a non-human partner.

I believe Li was having a better time than I, there were a lot of gorgeous people of course. Most of the pictures of monsters were of werewolves in their wolf form, orcs flexing their muscles and moths showing their beautiful colored wings. There were also other cryptids I’ve only seen from afar, like Dullahans, Lizard people and even a few Elementals. Obviously, the main thing was to look good on you profile pic which made me feel a little insecure about the boring pic I upload. I thought for a moment about uploading another one but I change my mind and didn’t. This is me and how I look, take it or leave it.

The test results from my test came four days later after I create my profile. I passed not with the first place but with an amazing grade. I was free to not worry about a thing. But there was a thing that kept letting me down and is that I haven’t received any decent message on the app. I don’t know why but only humans have contacted me, sending me messages like; ‘Why is a cutie like you looking for a hideous creature?’’, and even a smartass send me a dick pic.

I’m in my apartment right now watching a TV documentary about pets and how they can give assistance in treatments for various illnesses, a clinic was going to start implementing a free assistance dog service for some of their patients which was pretty cool, to be honest.

I got up from my couch to grab a soda when my phone rings. I look at the screen without words, it’s a notification from the OkCryptid app, someone has sent me a message. I open it expecting to find another annoying gross pic, but no.

>Hey, I saw your profile and we have a match of 89%. Would you like to talk?

I panicked for a moment and I almost drop my phone, by this time I already gave up on finding someone in this. The icon has no picture but only the silhouette of a woman, her profile only has her name, Sibhi, and almost no information. The only thing I could find was that she works as a florist in a flower shop at the central plaza. She likes pastries, nature and romance novels. In her bio, she mentions that she prefers girls. I’ve never dated a girl before but I don’t think it’s an impediment, so I text her back.

>Hey! Yeah, I see we have a lot in common. To be honest I didn’t believe someone would notice me

>I understand that. Things can be a little slow with this apps but I guess is also a thing of luck. I saw your pic in the possible matches and thought it would be a good idea to text you

>I’m glad you did, I’m way too shy to start a conversation

>That’s okay! We just started talking so there’s no rush, we can start slow.

She’s actually very considered and sounds like a nice girl but I can’t help but wonder why her bio is almost empty. I have no way to know what she is or how she looks like, so I obviously suspect that this could be a fake account or someone wanting to play a joke.

>Do you mind if I ask why you didn’t post anything? Sorry if sound weird but I can’t help but wonder why

She doesn’t respond immediately, actually, it seems like she writes something and deletes it before sending it. After ten minutes she finally answers.

>I’m actually really insecure about the way I look so… I thought it is best if I didn’t…

>I’m sorry. I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable, you don’t need to explain anything to me

>No, I know it looks suspicious that I don’t share much information, I guess that’s the point of this app. That’s probably why no one has texted me since I open my account

Now it’s me the one who takes long answering that. We were already so much alike when it comes to shyness at least. I feel a little sorry for doubting her.

>I understand if you don’t want to talk or meet me, I know I’m already making a bad first impression.

>Then let’s have a meetup

It was indeed suspicious and I’m known to be the most distrustful person especially when it comes to meet new people. But I sing up for this to overcome that, there’s no point on going back.

>I mean, if you don’t think it’s too soon. I understand if you say no, really

>No no no. I would love to actually

>You do? Well… I study close to the central plaza, we could meet there near the oak trees?

>Sounds good. When then?

>Umm… this Friday at 2pm? We can eat lunch if you want, my treat!

>I’d loved to but before that… I want you to not expect much for when you see me. I don’t want to disappoint you.

>You don’t need to be so nervous about it. Even if we don’t end up matching at least I would like for us to have a good time.

>That would be wonderful… then I’ll see you on Friday.

Friday came too fast and I’m nothing but a bundle of nerves. My heart is hammering against my chest and I’m sweating like a chicken in the oven. In an effort of picking a good outfit, I empty my entire wardrobe onto the floor and bed. I decide to wear comfy clothes since we are probably going to walk around, my trusty jeans and a long sleeve striped shirt. I didn’t bother on styling my hair but since is an important occasion I decide to wear the necklace my mother gave me and a pair of earrings. It may be cheesy but I bring my Polaroid along, it’s my greatest treasure, maybe we could take a pic together? I feel like a lovesick high school girl going on her first day.

I sit on one of the benches under the biggest oak on the plaza, moving my feet in the air anxiously. I text Sibhi that I already arrive and I’m waiting for her. The weather is nice and the sky has a few fluffy clouds moving with the wind. The breeze is soft and the leaves of the trees seemed to dance at its rhythm and many flowers are already in bloom, it’s the perfect background for a casual photo. She texts me five minutes later.

>Are you the one wearing a striped shirt and jeans?

I turn around and I’m astonished for what I’m seeing. Just a few feet away from me I see a beautiful girl.

She has such a lovely round face with rosy cheeks, thick eyelashes, a round nose, and her hair have orange curls with a few pins on the sides. She’s wearing a jean jacket with the sleeves roll up her arms and a summer dress with a flower pattern with a thin belt accentuating the curves in her curvy body.

What I wasn’t ready for was that she had a tail. Or better saying, the lower part of her body was a tail, the same as a snake. Her tail was a milky white on the bottom with spots of a peachy pink on the top. Sibhi is a naga, a lovely one!

I can help but stare at her in awe. I’m sure I’m making her uncomfortable because she looks away and backs down a little. I’ve met other nagas in my classes but they all look slim and fit, she on the other side is curvy and her tail is wider.

‘’Umm… I guess you’re Conny?’’ she finally speaks.

I stood up compulsively. ‘’Sorry! Yeah, It’s nice to meet you Sibhi’’ I offer my hand to shake hers, she holds it and shakes it slowly. She lowers her gaze, is obvious she’s tense and uncomfortable.

‘’Sorry if I surprise you’’.

‘’Not at all, I was just surprised to see that you’re a naga. I wasn’t expecting it’’

‘’Are you… Do you still want to go with this date?’’ she asks me shyly. A sad expression on her face already.

‘’Uh? Why wouldn’t I?’’

She moves towards the bench although she doesn’t sit in it, she instead sits under the shadow of the oak and motions for me to sit beside her on the bench.

‘’I’m sorry but I feel really nervous, I haven’t had a date since… never. This is literally my first date’’

I gasp in disbelief. She’s so beautiful and her soft voice only makes her be even cuter. I was going to say something but I understand that dating it isn’t only a matter of aesthetic, which is rather hypocritical of me considering that it is the reason I use to don’t go to dates anymore.

‘’My dad is a naga but my mom is human, I’m half naga I guess, but even so I’m odd for naga standards. That’s why I didn’t put it in my profile’’

‘’Odd? How so?’’

‘’I’m not like other nagas commonly are, I’m sure you already notice it. I’m chubby, if not fat. I’ve been my whole life. When people say that they are interested in nagas they expect mark abs, tiny waists, and wide shoulders, I’m none of that. And I’m far from intimidating too, so no one never looked twice to me, so I ditch the idea of being asked out’’

The look on her face breaks my heart, she not only looks sad but also ashamed and scared. I would like to say that I can’t believe her words, but I do. I know too well how people will put their standards upon you and how tiring can be to try to fulfill them.

I gently grab her hands and hold them tight, she looks at me. ‘’Those people are just a bunch of fools for not taking the chance to meet you. But I’m not a fool, or at least I try not to be’’. I gave her a smile and move a couple of hair away from her cute face, her cheeks turn from rosy to bright red. ‘’I can understand how you feel, you know’’

‘’You do? But you are so pretty’’. I shake my head in negation as always, but coming from her I think I can help but blush a little.

‘’I was really fat before, you know? I lost the weight eventually but not because I wanted too. I sacrificed a lot of my happiness doing so only to make others happy, my family and close friend specifically, but then you learn that you can’t change for others behave because it would never worth it. I truly believed that if I change how I look I’d become prettier, that the fat on my belly and thighs was responsible for my unhappiness. But after months of dieting and exercising, after I was able to wear whatever I wanted, I was just… unhappy’’

It felt weird talking of this to a stranger, but if my experience can help her, I had nothing to be ashamed of. ‘’This may sound cheesy and cliché, but if we keep doing things to be accepted for some people than we will put ourselves aside’’

I see a tear peering from the corner of her beautiful red eyes, I grab a bag of paper tissues and carefully clean it away. She wasn’t wearing make-up or lipstick but she looks breathtaking. I smile at her natural beauty.

‘’I feel like a fool for complaining like this’’ she says. ‘’Even more, now that you told me your story I feel like I was worrying for stupid things’’

‘’I use to feel like a fool too. But I learn not to regret the things I’ve already done, just the things I didn’t do even when I have the chance. And I’m glad I open my heart to you Sibhi. I see a lot of myself in you and I would love to get to know you more’’

She turns to see me and smiles. ‘’I guess we can learn a lot from each other’’

‘’Yes indeed’’. I stood up and offer my hand to her. ‘’Why don’t we start our date then? Since I’m going to be your first I want to make the best impression!’’

She takes my hand and we start by taking a walk around and admiring the freshly bloomed flowers and nice weather. I feel a confidence I thought I lost a long time ago, but beside her, somehow I feel braver and happier.

She tells me about her job, how much she enjoys making flower arrangements for big parties like birthdays and graduations, but her favorite time has always been when a couple comes to choose bouquets for their wedding. She tells me she’s the youngest of three sisters and two brothers who live in the countryside, but she decides to move into the city and open her own shop with the blessing of her parents. She also tells me that she knows how to knit and embroider, which she learned for her grandmother.

I tell her about my career and how I hope I’ll be able to help people somehow. I talk about my family, that I have two big brothers who are super overprotective with me and how they all loved to travel around the world together. I’m afraid I talk a little too much about photography as well, but Sibhi didn’t seem to be bothered by it. She listens to me with adoring eyes while I show her my old camera.

‘’I brought this because it’s like a talisman of good luck for me at this point, but if you wouldn’t mind, can we take a few pictures together?’’

‘’Oh’’. For a moment she seems doubtful. I know she’s just as insecure as me and notices this may have been a mistake. But she turns and gives me a bright smile. ‘’I would love to but, wouldn’t be best if we ask someone taking the picture for us?’’

‘’That’s a great idea. It’s hard to take selfies with these cameras’’.

There are not many people around and for a moment I believe that we were the only ones there, but I could see a couple sitting on the side of a fountain. The guy, who looked like a lizardfolk was surprisingly taller than average with red and yellow scales. The girl beside him, who was wearing a summer dress, looked like she was wearing long gloves but when I got closer to them I notice those were her arms. Maybe she was a fairy of some kind?

I politely ask them if they could take a couple of pictures of me and Sibhi and they agree. The girl took the camera and I grab Sibhi’s hand, I thought she would pull away but she got closer to me. We heard the flash and the girl grabbed the instant pic, she told us to pose again but this time with our faces much closer. After the second flash, Sibhi lifts me in her arms ‘princess-style’ and told me to smile at the camera. They take us two more pics and the girl returns us the camera with the two photos still white.

Maybe it was because we interrupt them but the couple leaves after thanking them, leaving me alone with Sibhi sitting in the edge of the fountain. I give two pictures to her and we start shaking them, after five minutes we can see the picture.

‘’We look so ridiculous’’ I giggle. ‘’But I’m glad we took these ones, they are indeed the best ones’’ I handed her the last two.

‘’I hope that wasn’t too forward from me, but I thought you would like a unique photo’’

‘’I do. This makes this date even better!’’

I wanted to take four so Sibhi could take two of the photos with her. I truly hope she’s enjoying it as much as I do, I want to make this special. But I’m not done yet.

‘’Are you hungry? There’s a coffee shop near here and they have the best desserts I’ve ever taste! Why don’t we go get lunch?’’. Her eyes lit up in the most adorable way when I mention the sweets, Gods she’s too cute.

The coffee shop is called ‘La Vie en Rose’, it’s pretty simple and has a rustic and welcoming air on it, there’s a tiny flower base in each table. The interior was rather small but I knew they had tables outside, not only that, but they also have chairs, tables, and cutlery for any size and for any customer. We sit outside in a large and tall table and the waiter gives our menus. I immediately order a teapot for us and turn the pages to see what desserts I fancy today.

I usually order healthy food for my meals but today I feel like enjoying. Sibhi doesn’t only knows a lot about flowers and plants but also about cakes. She mentions that her older sister study to be a Patisserie in France, and the middle one travel to Italy and often send delicacies to them. I envy how close they sound, I’ve alienated myself from my closed ones for apparently no reason, just now I realize how much I miss them.

The desserts were great, the tea was incredible and the atmosphere couldn’t be even better. I’ve never believed in love at first sight, even now I feel a little reluctant to admit it, but with Sibhi, I feel like I could fall for her at any minute. She’s just so effortlessly charming, so natural and cheerful it’s contagious. I haven’t been this comfortable talking to someone who isn’t Li, it’s almost like we don’t really need to speak to understand each other.

The sky turns from light-blue to a fiery orange and we agree it was time to leave our table. The flowers on the plaza were all closed now, ready to sleep all night. She walks me all the way to the bus station, I told her my apartment is not far from here but she insisted.

I wanted to meet her again, it didn’t have to be a date I just want to know more about her, but I didn’t want to rush the situation. I understand that it takes time to open up more to a stranger you just started to meet, maybe we could text each other? In any case, I feel happy, my heart is full of lovely memories.

‘’Umm…’’. My thoughts are pushed away and I turn to face her. ‘’I really enjoyed this date, I like spending time with you Conny’’

‘’Me too. I hope I was able to make you’re first date special’’

‘’Absolutely! I eat tasty food, I saw wonderful things and I learn a lot about you’’. She stays silent for a second and I start getting nervous. ‘’But… would-‘’ we turn when we heard the sound of the bus, she steps back and says goodbye to me before walking away. That hurt me a little, this sudden cold attitude but I tried to understand. It’s not easy to trust.

The next morning I wasn’t in the mood to wake up early, like most Saturdays. Now that I finish my test I don’t have to rush for breakfast, so I just slice and peel an apple with peanut butter, later I’ll have a salad or a chicken wrap, but I’m usually not that hungry in the morning. There’s a nock in the door which is weird, I don’t order stuff often so I wonder who could be.

I open the door and I’m greeted with, roses? All I can see are pale pink roses in front of me. The delivery guy greets me and asks for me to sign on a paper. I take the giant bouquet and put it on a vase I forgot I had, there’s a little note between the roses.

‘’Sorry if this is too forward but I ask the man in the front desk for your apartment number so I could send this to you. I had such a great time yesterday, I felt happy and beautiful like never. If its okay with you, I would love to take you out to dinner. Text me whenever you want. Sibhi’’

I don’t know how I didn’t faint at that moment. I start jumping out of joy like a little kid who just won a prize, I can’t wait for our second date.