Working in a library was a dangerously boring thing. People had warned her of this fact, of course – her sister, way back when she’d applied, had probably said something along the lines of, “working in a library will get old fast, mittens.” And she should’ve trusted that. But no – she’d liked the allure of the too-often empty old library two blocks away, and the moment she saw the ‘hiring’ sign in the front window, she’d applied without much thought. But a single day’s training, and just over a year down the line, she now understood the phrase ‘dying of boredom.’
At first, they’d taught her how to sort the books – and she’d been allowed to take her time, pouring over blurbs and skimming first-pages of any that she took a liking to. But eventually, the job had mutated to what it was now – manning the front desk, greeting the occasional customer with a smile, playing candy crush on the work computer and drowning out the silence with whatever music she felt like. The check-out process was all digital now, so the only thing she had to do was answer questions – and all four of the regulars already knew the library too well to need little old her.
Oh, well. At least she was getting paid for it.
The library had its busy days, sure – but Amity’s shifts primarily covered after-school hours. So there had never been a need for another person on shift at the same time as her, other than Jaz (her boss; sweet but a little strange from all that dust inhalation over the years.) So, she’d been stuck in the musty shoebox of a library, people-watching the same six figures over and over, sometimes working on homework, mostly playing whatever game she could find on the front desk’s computer.
On the day Amity met her, things had been normal. A group of students had entered solely to use the desks, and take cute photos of their ‘studying’ (which Amity would normally complain about, but at least it was something.) She’d been slowly stacking up returned books on the cart, in preparation for a shelving run when her boss showed up to relieve her desk-duties.
She’d been halfway through a papa’s pizzeria level, listening to girl in red, when she walked in. She had coppery skin that seemed to glow, even under the harsh and vastly unflattering lights of the library. A stride that emitted power and confidence, that stuck both jealousy and awe into Amity at once. Short, dark hair, that curled slightly near the ends. A borderline-obnoxious purple hoodie that she somehow managed to make look cute. And an absolutely confounded look on her face – as if she hadn’t expected a library when she walked through the library doors.
Amity paused her level, curious. She half-expected the cute girl to just walk straight back out, but she seemed to shrug to herself, entering further.
The opening notes to rue by girl in red began playing. From that moment on, ‘Rue’ was what the girl had been dubbed.
Rue was an entity unto herself. That first day, she spent ten minutes without touching a book, just looking everything over. Rue’s eyes seemed to take in everything with great hunger – she obsessed over every aspect of the computers without taking a step out of the main area. Her eyes followed every oaky crevice of the bookshelves, trying to memorise their shapes. Eventually, her eyes found Amity – hunched over, pale in the unfortunately white overhead light, playing papa’s pizzeria, of all things. Amity tried her best to keep her focus on the game – but her eyes couldn’t help but dart over. Amity offered a small and probably very awkward smile. Rue smiled back.
Two days later (two consecutive days where Rue had done nothing but explore, this time with her feet rather than her eyes), Rue had had a question. “Hi,” Rue said, first – voice somehow sunny in the early evening of a Thursday. “I was wondering if you had any books on taking care of cats?”
“Cats?” Amity asked, somewhat baffled. “Uh, yeah. We have a whole section on pet care in the non-fiction section.”
“Cool,” Rue said, nodding. Her lips seemed to be constantly quirked upwards, and she reached an elbow out to lean against the front desk (it was a sort of dorky action, and reminded Amity of those old-school movies where the guy would lean against the bar and watch the girl he liked. Except the bar was the too-high front desk, and Rue was…) “Where’s that?”
“Sorry?” Amity blinked.
“Where’s the non-fiction section?”
Amity fought a frown. Rue had come in for three days in a row, and had walked every aisle. Surely she knew where the non-fiction section was. “It’s on the second floor,” she said, a practiced politeness seeping into her voice, “just behind the gardening books.”
Rue’s smile dimmed slightly, her elbow slipping off the desk. “Okay,” she said, cheeriness now chalky and unnatural. “Thanks!”
Amity nodded, lips pursing awkwardly. Rue held her eyes for a second, before turning and walking away. Amity watched her go.
Strange, she thought. She seemed to think that a lot about Rue.
* * *
“Do you have any classics books? Like… the Iliad?”
“Yeah, actually,” Amity said. “They’re next to the crime and thriller books, in the poetry section. Alphabetically ordered.”
“Great,” Rue said. “Um – where’s the crime and thriller?”
* * *
“Hi,” Rue said, three days later.
Amity had been listening to the Kipo soundtrack, just started a new papa’s pizzeria level, when she noticed Rue. Pulling out an earphone, she paused the level, trying not to look too spooked. “Hi,” Amity said slowly.
“Your name is Amity?”
Amity looked down to her lanyard, displaying her name and her shitty ID picture. “Yeah,” she said, turning it around quickly. Rue may have been strange, but she was still a cute girl that was seeing quite possibly the ugliest photo Amity had ever been in… save only for the dastardly mittens photograph. “Do you need anything?”
“Oh,” Rue cleared her throat. “Um, yeah, actually! I was just wondering how many books you can take out at a time.”
Amity nodded. “Twelve,” she said.
“Okay,” said Rue. “Um – how do I check how many I currently have out?”
“I can check that,” Amity said, turning slightly to face the work computer. “What’s your name?”
“Uh, Luz,” said Rue. (not-Rue?) “Luz Noceda.”
Amity repeated it under her breath as she typed, getting a feel for the words. “You have three out right now,” she said, turning back to Luz. (As far as fake-names go, she was pretty close, with the three-lettered thing.” “So that’s nine left… Luz.”
Luz’s lips turned upwards endearingly. “Thanks, Amity!” She said.
“It’s no problem,” Amity responded. Her hands itched to fidget, but they were out in the open, and she didn’t want Luz to think she was weird – or even worse, nervous. “Do you need anything else?”
“I was just wondering what level of papa’s pizzeria you’re on.”
Amity paused, face flushing. “Uh,” she turned to the computer, clicking back onto the browser. “I’m on 248, right now.”
Luz let out a low whistle. “Damn,” she chuckled. “Do you find the job boring, or something?”
“You’re the first person I’ve talked to this month,” Amity said. “In the library, I mean – not out of it, that’d be weird.”
Luz’s laugh was just the same as her smile – light, carefree, and very nice. “Well, I guess I’ll have to come and keep you company more often, Amity.”
Amity raised an eyebrow. “I doubt you’ll stick out that long. This library is boring on its best days.”
“Hey, don’t say that,” Luz said, turning to admire the building. “I think it’s… cute.”
“I think it’s setting off my dust allergies,” Amity mumbled. Luz snorted, loudly – causing one of the regulars, a weedy old man who sat at the computers and squinted at the screen, never bothering to put on the glasses that rested on top of his balding head, to shush them.
“I’ll see you around then, Amity,” Luz nodded at her, pushing herself off from the library desk.
“You too,” Amity said, turning back to her computer. Her earphones lay discarded on the desk – she’d have to rewind a song or two, to catch back up on what she’d missed.
But she watched as Luz half walked, half skipped, away, and couldn’t help a smile.
* * *
“How about books on dragons?”
“You mean the mythology, or the fiction?”
* * *
Amity learnt a lot about Luz. Mainly, this was because Luz was very good at talking about herself (which Amity didn’t mind – honestly, it was kind of refreshing.) Luz liked to talk about everything, from school, to pets, to whether the word ‘orange’ had been a colour or a fruit first. She was good at creating conversation – every now and again, probing Amity in just the right way to get a laugh.
Amity knew a lot about Luz, now. She wasn’t much of a reader as a kid, but had read ‘The Good Witch Azura’ books and immediately gotten hooked. She didn’t know what she wanted to go into as a career, but was looking into studying creative writing at university. She liked the colour purple.
And, in return, Luz had managed to get Amity to talk about herself. She had two siblings. She wanted to go into science, probably something engineering-based, because it was what she was good at. She was now on level 269 of papa’s pizzeria, and didn’t want to level up, for obvious reasons.
“You know, before you told me your name was Luz, I called you Rue,” Amity admitted one afternoon. They were about a month into Luz’s visits, and true to her word, Luz hadn’t gotten bored yet.
Luz was sitting on the counter, legs crossed, looking at Amity with bright eyes. “Why?”
“Because when you walked in, the song I was listening to – it was called Rue.”
“That’s so weird,” Luz laughed, a hand reaching out to nudge Amity’s shoulder. “Who’s the song by? Maybe I know them.”
“Uh, girl in red?” Amity asked. She tried to keep her voice level.
“Hmm…” Luz said. “Is that a band?”
Wow. What a straight thing to say. Amity found herself deflating, slightly. “No,” she said. “Just one person. Like Tame Impala.”
“I love Tame Impala!” Luz said. And the conversation was dropped.
* * *
“Aww,” Luz said as Amity finished reading to the kids, the same way she had every week. “You read to children?”
“Don’t test me,” Amity raised an eyebrow. “I could deactivate your library card.”
“How threatening. But wow, Amity. I didn’t think you were a kids kind of person.”
“Luz, I swear to god-”
* * *
The machine was broken.
Amity honestly couldn’t explain to you how the one book checkout machine could possibly break when absolutely nobody used it, but it had happened, and she was stuck trying to deal with it whilst her boss did paperwork in the office upstairs, oblivious.
(She liked Jaz, of course, but the rule was that Amity couldn’t leave the front desk unattended – so she was stuck waiting down here until Jaz noticed her turmoil.)
It was a holiday weekend, too – so for some reason, the library was busy. It seemed a group of students had flocked in all at once, and were now complaining that the machine was broken – which was so helpful, really – and creating a line of people’s books she had to check out manually, which was the longest process in the world, because the system was so old. So, angry customers and one overworked teenager? Not a very good combination.
“Um, hey,” came a familiar voice from behind her. “You good?”
Amity turned, to see Luz, eyebrows raised, a stack of books in hand. “Hi,” Amity said, offering a strained smile. “Now’s not really a good time.”
Luz looked her over once, finding something in her gaze, or her posture, that solidified a look. “Stay here,” Luz said, placing her books on the edge of the desk. “How do you take your coffee?”
Amity paused where she was stamping a book when it was due back. “What?”
“Do you like lattes?” Luz continued. “Or maybe you’re a hot-chocolate kind of person. I get that vibe from you.”
“I like hot chocolate,” said Amity. “Why?”
“Be back in a second,” Luz said, smile as welcoming as it always was. “Look after my books?”
Five minutes later, Amity had tried just about everything she could think of, including desperate looks at her boss’s office window, who was apparently far too absorbed in work to catch them. She’d finished with one person, but the next had showed up with eight books to check out (oh, joy.) “I’m back,” Luz announced, holding two coffees from the Starbucks across the street. “A hot chocolate for you, and a soy latte for me.”
“Soy?” Amity asked.
“I’m lactose intolerant.”
Amity nodded, as Luz held out one of the cups. “Woah, wait,” she said. “You bought me a coffee?”
“Well, technically it’s a hot chocolate, and it’s small. Come on, take it.”
“But… you bought it for me?”
“You look stressed,” Luz said. “Drink up.”
Amity accepted cautiously, looking at the small cup with disbelief. “Oh, come on, it isn’t poisoned.” Luz said. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“How much did it cost?” Amity asked, blowing on it slightly, before putting it to the side, continuing the process of finding the book on the system.
“I’m not telling you.”
“Why does it matter?”
“Luz,” Amity said, fixing her with a look.
“It was free.” Luz said. “So you don’t owe me anything.”
Amity sighed. “Alright,” she said. “I’ll just have to buy you something in the future.”
“Yes. Now stop arguing with me.”
Luz looked at the line of people. “Is there anything I can do to help?” She asked.
“Actually,” Amity paused, looking to Luz. “Can you run upstairs and grab my boss from her office?” Amity pointed to the window. “The door is impossible to miss, right at the back.”
“Sure,” Luz said. “What should I tell her?”
“The machine’s out of order,” Amity said, moving back to clicking at the computer. “Can you say Amity sent you?”
“Sure,” Luz began walking. “I got you!” She called from several feet away, shooting Amity with dorky finger-guns.
Amity sighed, turning back to the computer, which had finally loaded. She clicked a few times, before turning back to the woman. “Alright, what’s the next book?”
Her saving grace arrived a minute later, a comically worried look on her face. “Oh, Amity,” she said, noticing the line. “Why didn’t you call me down?”
“I didn’t think I could leave the front desk,” Amity said. “Sorry.”
Jaz looked at the machine, before pressing a couple of buttons. “Alright,” she said. “I see the problem.”
Luz turned back to Amity, who was writing the due date into the book’s receipt page. “You need anything else?”
“No,” Amity said. Jaz was almost done, it seemed – her line had thinned with people queueing up for the almost-fixed, much faster machine. “Thank you, Luz.”
“Anytime,” Luz clicked her tongue. “I’m happy to help.”
“Seriously,” Amity spared a glance at Luz. “You saved me.”
Luz’s smile faded slightly, replaced with a sincerity that bit into Amity with its intensity. “Always,” Luz said. “Whatever you need.”
* * *
Apparently, when you work a mindless job, your brain cannot help but wonder. Amity had been doing it a lot – yes, papa’s pizzeria (level 321 baby) required a lot of attention, but she couldn’t play that for her entire shift.
Instead, on the rare occasion she had enough books (and Jaz was manning the front desk) to shelve, she had nothing but her own mind to keep her occupied.
And, lately, all her mind could focus on was Luz.
She didn’t know who girl in red was – straight. She liked classics books – gay. She had no fashion sense – straight. She cuffed her jeans – gay.
She absolutely liked Amity in a strictly-platonic way, despite Amity’s heart having picked up a brand new cardio regimen whenever Luz walked past – tragically, unavoidably, straight.
So… Amity would just have to ignore her crush, until it went away. Luz was her friend first – and she liked having Luz as a friend.
Besides, even if Luz was gay, Amity wouldn’t have a chance. Amity was just… Amity.
* * *
“Alright,” Luz said, dumping the largest pile of books on the library desk.
“Hello to you, too?” Amity asked. “What are you doing?”
“Well, I figured, if you check out these books by hand, we get longer to chat, and it also looks like you’re doing your job – so, win-win.”
Amity narrowed her eyes. “I do my job.”
“Oh yeah? What level are you on?”
They both looked to the work computer, where Amity’s level – 352 – was displayed. “I also work hard,” Amity defended. “My job is literally to sit at this desk and make sure weirdos don’t come in.”
“Yeah?” Luz wiggled her eyebrows. “Why’d you let me in, then?”
“I don’t know – and I regret it every day,” Amity said wistfully, drawing a laugh out of Luz.
“Come on, miss librarian,” Luz said, frowning. “Check out my books.”
Amity picked the top one off the pile. “Percy Jackson?” She asked. “Aren’t you a little old for those?”
“You’re never too old for Percy Jackson,” Luz defended. “You’ve read them, right?”
“I dabbled,” Amity said. In reality, she’d been obsessed, mainly with Annabeth. Luz didn’t need to know that.
“Well then you know how good they are!” Luz said. “I want to reread them all.”
Amity raised an eyebrow, scanning the pile closer. “You’re getting out every Percy Jackson book?”
“You bet,” Luz said, smiling as if she were proud of the fact. “And I’ll read them all with pride.”
“You are a huge dork, you know that?” Amity asked. “This is going to take me ages, Luz. Why not just use the machine?”
“We can’t talk when I’m using the machine!” Luz defended. “I like talking to you, Amity.”
Amity fought the heat she knew was crawling up her neck. “You’re sappy today,” she commented, ducking her head a little more than needed to look at the computer.
“Nah,” Luz said. “Just glad I met you.”
“Stop,” Amity chuckled awkwardly. “You’re making me blush.”
“Aww, is Amity blushing?” Luz teased. “Do I make you nervous?”
“Stop,” Amity said. “Or I won’t scan these books for you.”
“Wow, I’m quaking. It’s not like I could just go to the machine.”
* * *
“You can’t possibly have books on Latin food.”
Amity raised an eyebrow. “Cook-books are in the non-fiction section, sorted by continent. Right next to the history books, actually.”
“Wow,” Luz laughed. “What don’t you have here?”
* * *
Christmas time came, and with it a flurry of school children who needed entertainment. The library ran several events, most of which Amity got to partake in, for kids. With the holiday season came elongated shifts, and more money (theoretically – Amity had a bad habit of spending all her pay on Christmas gifts, and then wondering why she had no money.)
Her favourite event took place the week before Christmas, on a Saturday morning. Jaz had said all the younger volunteers (there were volunteers for the holidays, it got that busy – how exciting) would be looking up to her to run the thing.
And then, half an hour in, Luz had shown up.
Amity liked to consider herself in her element around children – she was good with them, knew how to keep them amused and happy. The ‘event’ was an arts and crafts workshop, with each child able to take home a horribly glittery paper plate that apparently resembled Rudolph. She knew how to interact with the parents, make polite conversation whilst overseeing that the children didn’t get their fingers stuck together, or something. But all of this relied heavily on the idea that she didn’t know anybody at the workshop.
“Hey!” Luz waved from across the room, seeing Amity preoccupied with a child that was using far too much glitter, and yet couldn’t be persuaded to use less. Amity shot a smile back, before turning her attention back to the kids. Her concentration dipped.
Luz was here. Luz was wearing a dorky, adorable Christmas jumper. Luz was here.
(Of course she was here. Amity had told her about how excited she was for all the events – she should have known Luz would come and tease her for one of them.)
“Hey,” she waved over the eldest volunteer – Matt, his nametag said – “can you hold down the fort for a minute?”
His eyes widened, but he nodded. She offered her best impression of a thankful smile, before beelining for Luz.
“Hi,” Luz said. “Wow. You weren’t kidding. It does get busy.”
“Yeah,” Amity said bashfully. “Now that Jaz got an assistant, we have a website and everything. And because schools are out…”
“This is really cool,” Luz said. “You organised this?”
“Well, I’m just a part-time worker,” Amity scoffed. “I don’t do that much.”
“You did this,” Luz said, arm gesturing to the room. Amity took a second to look around.
She’d decorated the room in her shift yesterday – the tables were covered with snowy-white cloth, and there was tinsel lining the walls. The arts and crafts were messy, now – but the room was full of parents and children that looked… happy. The Christmas music playing in the background was a pretty nice touch, too.
“Yeah,” Amity chuckled. “I guess I did.”
“It’s amazing.” Luz said. “What can I do?”
“To help?” Amity asked. “We don’t need any-“
“No, silly. The arts and crafts.”
“Oh,” Amity laughed softly. “Well, you can either make a snowflake, or make a reindeer. Your choice.”
Luz nodded definitively, and moved to one of the tables without another word to Amity. Amity watched as she sat next to a little boy, lighting up besides him and creating easy conversation. Something in her heart twinged – which was so gay, wow.
She wasn’t doing this. She was at work, for Christ’s sake. She wasn’t going to think about her pathetic, one-sided feelings for Luz. Not anymore.
The day came to a close, and Amity left for her shift with Luz at her side. “Let me buy you a coffee,” Amity blurted. “I owe you one.”
Luz’s eyebrows furrowed. “Do you mean that hot chocolate thing?” Luz asked. “Amity, I know the barista – I got a discount.”
“Well then, what’s the problem with me buying you a coffee for a Christmas present?”
Luz sighed. “Alright. You could just say you want to spend more time with me.”
“You – you’re insufferable.”
* * *
Luz and Amity looked at the computer screen. Luz had been recanting her adventures, and Amity had been listening whilst playing her game absentmindedly. Except, she’d levelled up – and apparently hadn’t been keeping track of where she was at.
Level 420, the screen displayed. Better than papa!
“Well, you can’t continue playing,” Luz said. “It’s too perfect. You have to move on.”
“I’ve been working on that for a year and a half,” Amity said in disbelief. “Four hundred levels? That’s just sad.”
“No, it’s awesome!” Luz defended. “I bet it’s a world record.”
“What do I do now?”
“I dunno. Freezeria?”
* * *
“Hey,” Jaz said to her, shocking Amity out of her weird stupor. She’d been debating over whether to start a new papa’s game (Luz had recommended freezeria, which didn’t sound half bad) or just fall back on some good old solitaire.
“Yeah?” Amity blinked the screen-induced haze from her eyes, focussing on her boss. “Do you need something?”
“Are you alright to lock up today?” She asked. “It’s just – I’m meeting with an IT consultant today. You’d only have to stay an extra hour, and I’d pay you, of course, and it always quietens down in the evenings.”
“Alright,” Amity found herself saying.
Jaz shot her a warm smile, adjusting the handbag on her shoulder. “Thank you so much,” she said, blowing a kiss and letting her hand turn into a wave as she began to walk off. “See you tomorrow!”
Amity waved back, watching as Jaz walked straight out the doors – leaving… just her. As the only staff member. For an hour.
Luz entered the doors at the exact same time Jaz exited them, shooting Jaz a weird look over her shoulder as recognition set in. “Does your boss always leave mid-shift like that?” were her opening words as she took a seat on the front desk.
“Only today,” Amity said, abandoning the computer and turning in her chair to face Luz. “I’m locking up.”
“Oh, dang,” Luz said. “I was gonna ask if you wanted to get dinner. Another time, maybe.”
Amity didn’t let her heart skip. Friends could have dinner. It wasn’t like they hadn’t hung out one-on-one before (hell, all their interactions were one-on-one.) “Yeah, definitely,” Amity said. “Sounds like a plan.”
“So,” Luz let out a long breath. “Found any pizzeria replacements?”
Amity allowed herself to fall into the topic. “Nope,” she groaned, turning back to the computer. “I was debating between sudoku and candy crush.”
“Why not another papa’s game?”
Amity shrugged. “I’ve moved on. It hurts too much to look at the logo. I haven’t had an empty, upgrade-less store in ages.”
“Wow,” Luz said. “This must be really hard for you.”
Amity nodded solemnly. “Guess I just have to find another way to occupy my time,” she said, turning to Luz. “Have you got any suggestions?”
Amity studied Luz closely – she caught the dip in Luz’s gaze, before her eyes got their signature glint. Her purple hoodie had cat ears, now (she’d sewn them on for Halloween, and apparently had liked them too much to unpick the stitching.) Her hair was slightly longer now – curls able to tickle the smooth skin at the nape of her neck. If Amity looked hard enough, she could envision Luz as she had been on that first day she’d walked into the library – a maelstrom of energy and light and care. A stranger.
“How about fire boy and water girl?” Luz suggested.
“That’s a two-player game,” Amity said.
“Well, yeah – but I’m always here anyway. How about we just play till the end of your shift?”
Luz was swinging her legs over the counter before Amity could say no, sitting on the edge of the desk, leaning so her head was right next to Amity’s. Luz’s eyes were focussed on the screen, but Amity was most definitely looking at Luz – counting every eyelash in all their perfect, up-close detail.
“What can you play on?” Luz was asking Amity, typing into the web browser. She was so close, Amity could feel her warm breath against her cheek. Everything in her wanted to reach out. Tuck a hair behind Luz’s ear, maybe.
“I don’t know,” Amity said. Luz smiled, turning her head to face Amity. They were almost nose-to-nose.
“You’re hopeless,” Luz said to Amity. “You know that?”
Amity could only nod. She knew. She also knew, now, that Luz’s eyes were the deepest, most beautiful shade of brown. “Well, you’re a dork.”
“At least mine’s a personality trait,” Luz teased, a shoulder nudging Amity’s own. “Oh, look, hey! I found it!”
* * *
“How about… a book on dating advice?”
Amity tried not to let her heart sink at that one; a futile effort. “The self-help books are next to the baking ones in the non-fiction section,” she said in a deadpan.
“What? No enthusiasm? No ‘who do you want to date, Luz?’”
“Bold of you to assume I care.”
* * *
One day, Luz decided to bring companions. Two, to be exact – two people that looked at the library with the same wide-eyes and bushy-tails Luz had had on her first visit. Luz had shown them around enthusiastically, giving a surprisingly thorough tour of the place – and they’d disappeared, leaving Amity to her job (she was literally doing the same thing she did every day when Luz didn’t show up, why was she sad?) Except, the tour had been short, and had apparently rounded off right in front of her.
“And this is Amity,” Luz said, gesturing with all the energy Amity just didn’t have, at the front desk – and, by extension, her. “She works here.”
“Nice to meet you,” Amity said, trying her best to smile in a way that didn’t come off awkward to Luz’s friends. “I’m Amity – which you know, because Luz just introduced me. Sorry.”
The boy looked her over quickly, and nodded. “I understand,” he said to Luz, in a way that was probably supposed to be discreet.
“And I approve,” the girl in the glasses said from Luz’s other side. “Our work here is done.”
Amity felt confusion seeping in. Luz looked stunned – mouth wide, and cheeks flushed. “I’m sorry – what?” She asked, looking from Luz to the two strangers.
“Oh, sorry – how rude of us. I’m Willow,” the girl said, reaching out one hand for a handshake whilst the other adjusted her glasses. “That’s Gus.”
“Howdy,” Gus said as Amity accepted Willow’s handshake.
“…I’m Amity,” Amity said, for the third time. “I don’t understand. What’s going on?”
Her instinctual gaze had turned to Luz, who still looked stunned. For a few seconds, her mouth opened and closed like a fish, before she placed hands on both of her friends arms, and began tugging. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Amity!” She called, to the disdain of all two of the library’s other patrons, before all but dragging her friends out the front door.
Stock still, it took Amity a moment to blink herself out of a stupor, reminding herself that Luz was… well, Luz – and that this was probably normal behaviour. If she was weird tomorrow, Amity could pull an explanation out of her.
“Excuse me,” one of the regulars – a forty-something woman who’d taken out a total of eleven books on pregnancy without ever being pregnant in the time Amity had worked here – came up to the front desk. In a moment, Amity had her customer-service smile on, tilting her head accommodatingly.
“Yes, ma’am? Can I help you?”
“Well,” she tucked a piece of blonde hair behind one ear, “I just wanted to let you know that it’s rather unprofessional to allow your friends to visit you at work, and cause such a ruckus – especially in a library.” The woman was smiling, her words sweet with a practiced bite to the kindness. “Maybe you should tell them to visit you after you’re done here?”
Amity wanted to cry. She wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear. She wanted to stand up and tell this woman where to shove it.
“Alright, ma’am,” she said instead, smile remaining. “I’ll take that into consideration. Is there anything else you need?”
“No,” the woman said. “I just thought I’d offer my advice. You young people are horrible with jobs – it’d do you some good to listen to the advice you’re given.”
Amity didn’t respond. After a moment of silence, the woman hummed to herself, turning and walking away.
She took a measured breath, and turned back to her computer – ready to drown out her thoughts with music, and lose her mind to whatever game she could find.
* * *
Luz was turning eighteen, and Amity was standing in her living room.
She knew, logically, how she got herself into this situation – Luz had come into the library one day, and said, “guess what, Amity? I’m turning eighteen!” And proceeded to speak for a whole ten minutes about family traditions, until Amity agreed to come to her party (who even had birthday parties anymore? Luz, apparently.)
So, she’d stressed (a lot) about what to get as a potential present, bought it and wrapped it, written a very platonic card (To Luz, Happy Birthday! Love, Amity. She debated whether to leave kisses – and decided against. Too obvious, and far too gay.) and shown up dressed in what she hoped was a nice outfit.
She’d arrived to an apartment full of people she didn’t know – not completely full, but filled with enough unfamiliar people to unsettle Amity. Luz had shown up in a whirlwind, exhilarated and a little tipsy, and hugged Amity tight, thanking her for coming and whisking the gift away. And then Amity had proceeded to sit on the sofa for an hour, on her phone, and pretend like she wasn’t as uncomfortable as she was. There was a cup of soda in one hand, that she sipped on consciously – and she was too anxious to ask for the Wi-Fi password, so was busy playing a shitty game she’d downloaded years ago, waiting for it to be a reasonable enough time for her to excuse herself from the celebration she was clearly not a part of.
Eventually, everyone was herded into the living room – Amity included – to sing happy birthday.
Which left her where she was now. Everybody in the room, other than her, seemed so comfortable with one another. Amity had barely caught a glimpse of Willow and Gus (she remembered their names solely because she was good with names, and for no other reason) and they were with Luz, and wouldn’t be leaving their best friend for some weirdo they’d only spoken to once. So, she was singing, trying not to invade anybody else’s personal bubble as much as they were hers, and watching as Luz blew out eighteen pristine candles.
Luz looked good tonight – she was wearing a black dress with a blazer, and eyeliner – and every time Amity had caught a glimpse of her, she couldn’t look away. She was being so obvious, it was almost pathetic.
The ceremony was over quickly. Along with the slice of cake she was handed, Amity took a beer. Then another. Nobody else was drinking, she noted whilst looking for somewhere to dispose of her third bottle. Not visibly, anyway. They all had the cheap red solo cups that hold whatever fizzy beverage, and were perfectly sober.
Amity wanted to do something reckless.
Maybe she’d find Luz’s room, she decided. Their apartment wasn’t small – it was actually perfectly moderate – but it should be pretty easy to figure out which of the two bedrooms Luz inhabited. She stumbled, slightly (she wasn’t drunk, just a little tipsy – she’s always been a bit of a lightweight), but managed to right herself, disappearing from the main socialisation and into the corridor.
Luz’s bedroom was the first door she opened. Perfect.
Amity sat on the bed, hand ghosting over the purple comforter. Luz’s bedroom was so in character, it hurt. There were various posters all over her walls – one (ironically, she prayed) of the twilight movies, and many of a book series Amity hadn’t even heard of – the Good Witch Azura. There was a huge, fluffy rug on the floor, and her desk was cluttered with supplies, the pile so high Amity couldn’t begin to imagine Luz working on it.
There was a notice board, on the wall besides her bed. It had some generic things – flyers, advertising festivals and train tickets and receipts. Lists, in Luz’s curly penmanship, probably of things to do. Schedules. Movie tickets.
Amity squinted in the dark, leaning in closer. The movie – that was the ticket of the movie they’d gone to see together. She knew because she kept her twin ticket at home, too.
A flyer for a carnival – a carnival that Luz had invited her to (she’d had to say no, because her parents hated her going out for work enough that they’d never approve of an outing for fun. A receipt – that was the day she’d bought Amity the hot chocolate.
A schedule, neatly labelled, “Amity.” It had columns, from Monday to Sunday, and her working hours. The days Amity worked were highlighted in a sparkly purple ink, and the hours she weren’t were filled in with things Luz had to do – chores, or work, or whatever else.
Well, then. This was strange.
She turned on the bed to see Luz, one hand on the door handle, a deer in headlights. Luz had flicked on the lights, sending the room into a harsh yellow-ish hue. “Hey,” Amity said, a hand coming up to shield her eyes. “I was jus’ looking around.”
Luz let go of the door, taking a step in and closing it behind her. “How did you find my room?” She asked. “Why aren’t you at the party?”
“I don’t know anybody,” Amity admitted, a little slower than she’d have liked. “Only you.”
“You could have hung out with me, silly,” Luz said. A hand lifted to the back of her neck, where she scratched at the short hair. “I would’ve liked to hang out with you.”
Amity righted herself on the bed, so that she was sitting on the edge, one leg crossed over the other. “I like your room,” she said, looking around again. “It’s pretty.”
“It hasn’t changed much since I was thirteen,” Luz said, taking a seat besides Amity. Their knees touched. Neither of them pulled away.
“Why not?” Amity asked. Luz shrugged.
“I guess I didn’t know what to do with it,” she said. “I did that corner.”
Luz pointed to a wall, where there were several album covers stuck artfully onto clear plastic, as if they were being played. “Hozier,” Amity noted. “I like him.”
“Yeah?” Luz laughed. “Recognise any others?”
A hand lifted, pointing to the Conan Gray album. “That one, too.” She said. “So basic.”
“What about that one?” Luz’s hand was on hers, guiding her point to an album near the bottom.
“The Neighbourhood,” Amity said. “That’s a good one.”
“You know the song?”
Amity stood, walking over to the wall. She almost stumbled when she first got up, blood and alcohol rushing to her head at the same time, but managed to right herself. “Sweater Weather,” she read from the wall. “I do know that one.”
“Yeah?” Luz asked. Amity turned, to find her standing, too. Luz was ever so slightly taller than Amity, and was looking at her with a fold smile. “You know it?”
Amity’s head clicked. “I know it,” she said. “You listen to Sweater Weather?”
“I do,” Luz nodded. “Do you?”
“I listen to girl in red,” Amity poked Luz’s bare arm. “I told you that, when we first met.”
Luz nodded. “I know,” she said. “I remember. I didn’t know what it meant, but – I know.”
Amity studied Luz’s deep brown eyes, framed by soft eyelashes. “Why is my schedule on your wall?” She asked before she could even think about the words.
Luz’s eyes darted to the floor, and her hands met in front of her, fidgeting softly. “I, uh,” she trailed off. “I wanted to know when you were working.”
“Why?” Amity asked, stepping half an inch closer. She knew – she thought she did, at least.
Luz’s shoulders carried an elegant slope even when they shrugged artlessly, curling into her body in – embarrassment? Fear? “Because I wanted to see you, silly,” she said, looking back up at Amity.
At that moment, Luz’s eyes were pools of hot coal, and Amity felt the burn all the way to her core. Luz had always been intense; but her gaze, like this, was almost too close for Amity to handle. Almost.
Amity stretched out to place one of her hands over Luz’s own. “I wanted to see you, too.” Amity said, hand curling around Luz’s. “I always want to see you.”
“Yeah?” Luz asked, voice quieter, breathy. It smelled a little like beer, and a little like artificial strawberry – and Amity couldn’t focus long enough on the fact that she was close enough to tell over her brain going, kiss her! Kiss her!
“Luz,” Amity mumbled, other hand cupping the back of Luz’s neck. Here, like this, Amity’s heeled boots gave her a height advantage, and she used it to bring herself even closer to Luz’s face, until their noses were almost touching.
“Amity,” Luz whispered back, almost a whimper in its sensuality. Amity’s eyes slid shut.
And then Luz’s lips were on hers, and Amity’s head was a rush of blood and emotion, and Luz’s lips were soft and she was tilting her head, wanting to feel more. She wanted to taste the beer on Luz’s tongue – she wanted to keep kissing Luz until she’d memorised the imprint of her lips.
They kept kissing, and it was soft – softer than Amity wanted, some part of her brain managed to pipe up – and it wasn’t awkward, or stunted. Now they were doing it, Amity couldn’t believe she’d managed to wait so long. Kissing Luz was so much more than she’d ever envisioned. It was…
Luz pulled back with a gasp for air, and Amity’s resultant pout was involuntary. “Wow,” she whispered. “You kissed me.”
“You kissed me back,” Amity reminded her. “How do you feel?”
“Incredible.” Luz laughed, running a hand through her cropped curls. “Fuck. Can we do that again?”
Amity obeyed – leaning back in. This time, there was slightly more fervour to their movements. A passion that had shifted more to desperation than its previous softness. Luz tilted her head, and Amity felt like groaning aloud. She squeezed Luz’s hand once before letting go, bringing it up to cup Luz’s cheek, instead.
Luz’s hands had fisted themselves into the small of Amity’s back, where they now curled, pulling Amity closer until they were pressed together. They split apart – Amity laughed softly. “I like being this height,” she whispered into Luz’s air. “I like kissing you. Like this.”
Luz nodded. “Premium kissing height.”
“Yeah?” Amity asked. “I don’t know about that. Want to test all the others?”
Luz poked her stomach, and Amity gasped, half betrayed, leaning away from the touch. “You cheek,” Luz said, a grin making its way onto her face. “I can’t believe you’d – that sounds like some cliché from a rom-com.”
“That’s bad?” Amity asked. She had read a lot of romance novels (heterosexual trashy romance novels that you could find in excess was better than the three lesbian romance novels that the library had in stock being read on repeat. Perhaps she’d picked up a line or two.) “I thought it would be sexy.”
“You’re sexy,” Luz said, pulling her closer until they were kissing again. Spirits – Amity would never get sick of that feeling.
“Wait,” Amity said, pulling back with an intake of breath. “You – you like me?”
Luz’s head dipped until it rested on Amity’s shoulder, and she laughed softly, breathlessly. “Yes,” she said. “I thought I’d been making it obvious?”
From this angle, Amity could smell the sweel scent of Luz’s shampoo. She resisted the urge to kiss the side of Luz’s head, instead fiddling with the fabric of Luz’s blazer. “Obvious how?” She asked.
“I got a book out on dating advice,” Luz said.
“That could have been for anybody.”
“I sat on your lap when we played fireboy and watergirl.”
“You were just being friendly!”
“I visited you every day, Amity. I called you pet names and professed my love and asked you out for dinner.”
“I thought you were joking,” Amity admitted, after a moment.
Luz lifted her head, and the eye contact was somehow more intense. “I wasn’t,” she said simply, leaning in to peck at Amity’s lips. “I want to date you.”
“Me, too.” Amity breathed, leaning back in for another one of those searing kisses Luz seemed to be so good at. She found her hands fisting the back of Luz’s blazer if only to pull her in closer, until every inch of them was pressing into them, generating heat.
“Oh,” Luz said when they broke apart for air. “Wait.”
“What is it?” Amity asked.
“There’s one more thing I’d like to check out.”
“It’s that ass, baby. You’ve been sitting down every time I’ve seen you. Give me a twirl.”
Shock filtered through Amity’s system, followed by dull embarrassment that lit up her cheeks as she hit Luz’s shoulder half-heartedly. “How long were you planning that one?”
“Weeks. Months. Who knows?”
She laughed, and Amity laughed with her. “I was right, you know. You are a dork.”
“I’d like to be your dork.”
* * *
Amity looked up from the computer – the new computer, that didn’t take fifteen painstaking minutes to load up at the start of every shift – and smiled at Luz. “Hi,” she said. “You here for something?”
“I was wondering if you had any books on Sappho.”
“Wow,” Amity snorted. “Sounds gay.”
“And yet you still couldn’t figure it out until I confessed.”
“Shut up, Luz.”