By sarah Salcedo

Therese Jones had actually a perform of enemies. She to be overlooked by everyone and also no one experienced her looking back at them, she tiny type swallowed through the swollen parka she wore to and also from work, her eyes continuous down and her hands knotted in fists at she side. Both the coat and her hair were the pale color of a magnolia flower slip. Her perform was not the type of perform you’d view in a movie, or read about in a book, where the crossing turn off the name of those who had actually committed crimes versus a tragic antihero to be something you could root for, a perform prayed prior to the main character drops asleep every night, hoping because that a opportunity to balance the scale of injustice with violence. This to be a list of small grievances.

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Indictments such together that according to woman who cut in front of me at the grocery store and that guy who cut me off in the meeting—smells like he bathes in beef broth were written with venom into the lines for the day. Therese had never had actually a true enemy, yet her hatred was as valid as an orphan actors out in any kind of Dickens novel. She hated she neighbor, her neighbor’s cat, her boss, she colleagues, she mailman. She hated she parents and her sister and the old mrs who functioned at the neighborhood library. She felt slighted and inconvenienced by lock all, as if her entire existence to be on the within of a pincushion. She woke up each morning and also felt the needles, the spicy agitation of existence, and went looking for someone to blame.

On the bus ~ above a boring and also typical Thursday morning, she was shoved aside by a woman sitting next to her. Virtually flung off into the next row over, Therese scowled as she wrote Bus Bitch right into an empty heat in her notebook. Pinned in between the woman’s shoulders and the metal wall surface of the side-facing seat, she pursed she lips and grunted, hoping the woman would overhear and know the she had just make an enemy. Of course, nobody on the list knew they were on the list or suspected the presence of such a list. Therese hoped, however, that several of what she feel passed ~ above the other human with a withering look, frown, or passive aggressive throat clearing. She do the efforts to connect volumes v those ethereal weapons.

“You deserve to come sit end here, if you’d like.”

She looked up and saw a person across from she in a front-facing seat, that shifted over to the window and nodded in ~ the north space.

“Better hurry, though.”

Four other passengers were currently eyeing the spot.

Therese’s neck went dry. The assumed of agree a seat from a stranger—who should be pitying me—was galling, however the possibility to beat someone rather to the totally free seat made her the closestly she could pertained to the term happy. Besides, she scowled at the woman next to her; she to be liable to be smashed to pieces if she remained in her existing spot.

Therese moved next come the person throughout from her and muttered a “Thank you” so low under she breath she virtually choked ~ above the words at the back of her throat.

“You’re welcome,” the human being said, smiling lot too generally for anyone to smile at 7:28 in the morning. “Zyan.”

“Therese.” She shrugged together she readily available her name. Why do human being give names like that? the a bus, no a cocktail party. She harrumphed as she held her bag tighter to her chest. Why had actually she given her name prefer that?

Zyan take it the name together an open door and also began talking at size with her. Therese tried to say as little as possible, she truly couldn’t understand why Zyan was questioning her anything, permit alone one interrogation together thorough together the one that followed. Zyan started by asking what pronoun she preferred and offering theirs, moved into talking about their job, asking Therese about hers, just how long had actually she stayed in Seattle, and how she liked the transition in weather when she informed them that she was initially from brand-new Mexico.

“I like the gray,” Therese huffed, trying not to look at them. Ignoring human being was usually simple for her, however there was something magnetizing about Zyan. She glanced over.

Zyan to be beautiful. They had actually a solid jaw, the type you see attracted on superheroes in comic books, v a purple lip stain on your lips that reminded she of blackberries at the finish of summer. Your dark brown eye twinkled, and the barest lot of makeup end them make them seem longer then lock were, depth set, and full of mysteries. Their hair was black anywhere except because that a sapphire streak that framed your face. Zyan turned come look in ~ her and Therese jumped and also faced front.

“I noticed you composing in a notebook over there,” Zyan said, eyes front. “Is that a grocery store list? Poetry?”

Zyan smiled as Therese tried to look occupied by staring ahead. “Or government secrets?”

Therese grunted in reply and also shook she head. She want to look at their sapphire hair more, yet wouldn’t let herself turn.

“Secrets. Obviously. Her silence states everything, agent X,” Zyan whispered. “Don’t worry, ns won’t blow her cover.”

The bus slide to a screeching halt as Zyan rose and also looked down at Therese. It arisen to her the she should move and she did, through a clumsy “oh,” half falling right into the aisle to do room.

“Until following time, Agent,” they stated with a wink together they left the bus, skipping under onto the sidewalk and also walking off to the entrance of a big blue glass skyscraper.

Therese uncovered herself sighing. She’d never sighed over someone in her life. She took out her book and also began writing Zyan—wasting time yet stopped before she might get an ext than a Z on the paper.

She scribbled over the letter and began to put the book away once the man in former of she let the end a loud, hacking chain of coughs. The course, he wasn’t bothering come cover his mouth. She lips curdled in disgust together she composed Balding Idiot—for coughing and also spreading plague right into the line wherein Zyan’s surname should have gone.

The bus traction up in former of her home the next morning and also Zyan was there v a seat conserved for her. They waved—as if lock were youngsters on the method to school—for she to come and also sit. Castle were in reality beaming. Therese tried to stifle one eye roll.

She hated the she felt she heart beating faster as she satellite down and also hoped Zyan wouldn’t an alert anything the end of the simple with her pulse or breathing. In fact, she realized, she had stopped breathing for are afraid of castle noticing anything.

This is stupid. She let herself take a breath.

“I to be going to choose you up a coffee, however it developed to me that ns don’t understand your drink order. You constantly carry that travel mug v you, however anything might be in it: coffee, tea, absinthe, arsenic for your enemies. . .”

She looked end sharply at words enemies.

“You like your guessing games, nothing you?”

Zyan laughed. “I expect I do. Therefore which is it? it’s arsenic, no it?”

“It’s plain coffee, naught fancy, thankyouverymuch.”

“Allergic come milk, thrifty, or just can’t it is in bothered v flavor?”

“Black coffee is safe. You recognize what you’ll obtain with a cup of black coffee. Coffee is coffee, ~ all. Just idiots invest their life savings make the efforts to dress up bean water.”

She glanced end at your cup and also saw an impossible list of letters standing in for modifiers scrolling under the cup. She gulped. She hadn’t supposed to put that lot vinegar top top it. Castle were simply asking a question. She sniffed and also looked down.

“You, my dear, have actually never had good coffee. Ns bringing you part tomorrow.”

Therese turned and began to open up her mouth come protest, but “no” and also “why” were concurrently on her tongue.

“I don’t need someone else’s coffee,” she stated finally.

“Well, it i will not ~ be anyone else’s. It’ll it is in yours. To trust me. One cup of good coffee—no frills,” they added. “And you i will not ~ go about thinking the coffee is coffee.”

Therese’s cheeks to be burning. She wanted the bus bench come swallow her whole—she was certain that the light coming off she cheeks should be as apparent as a bonfire in ~ night.

Zyan’s stop. They rose and tapped she shoulder. She’d forgotten to move again.

“Until tomorrow, Agent.”

She smiled—actually smiled—and waved to them as they left. Rolling she eyes at it s her after the bus began moving again, she took out her notebook. She had meant to take it the drive to work to include a few co-workers who misused the “Reply All” function in recent email threads, and also Zyan had taken up most of her commute v their coffee talk.

Her stomach tied chin in knots simply thinking that it.

Therese wake up up at 5:10 a.m. Her alarm was set to go off in twenty minutes, yet a text blog post reverberated on her nightstand drawer. She picked it up, her challenge illuminated in the blue glow of the display screen in her dark bedroom. It was she sister.

Will you be attending any type of holidays this year? Y/N?

Therese collection the phone, screen-side down, alongside her and rolled over in her bed. She sister’s name was already in the book. Numerous times over, no that that made she the worst opponent Therese had ever had, however there were simply so many things the J did that drove her up the wall. Texting prior to 6:00 a.m. Purchase a scarf after ~ she had just viewed Therese buy it. The one time she dismantled the swing collection to develop a tree house—which was still yet to materialize, decades later—and of course, perennially, pestering her about holidays. This would certainly be the very first of numerous holiday-related texts, and also answering correctly or no wouldn’t make a difference.

If she said yes, that was followed by every the planning. Real state secret-level planning on presents, pageantry, food division, when to present up, where to go— and if Therese claimed no, there was the interrogation. To be she depression again, was she seeing someone, was occupational too much, to be it J’s fault . . . One year Therese had actually fallen for that and said yes, but it hadn’t felt good to say. It never ever felt great to speak to out J directly for anything. She constantly found a way to get earlier to the concern at hand. It was never about people hurting her or Therese or anyone. There were troubles to be solved, as if the world followed the problems and not the other method around.

Therese knew better—people were the problem. Therese to be a problem. She rolled ago over, got her phone, and deleted J’s text.

She glared at the time on the screen. 5:27 a.m. 3 minutes till the alarm. She cast a despairing look at at her pillow and pulled it s her up off the bed.

Zyan hosted up a cup the coffee in the direction of Therese together she got on the bus. They had actually been act this for weeks, no issue how plenty of times Therese had actually said she was fine without their sophisticated coffee. She had stopped bringing she thermos top top the bus, though, i beg your pardon Zyan had mentioned a couple of days back with both a sneaky satisfaction and a too-practiced effort at nonchalance.

That details morning, groggy from she unplanned wake-up text that morning, Therese had already had three cups before the bus arrived. She grunted together she walked towards Zyan and also took the cup with a frown.

“What have I said? you don’t have actually to gain me anything. I’ve currently had too much coffee today.”

“Coffee decision tea isn’t actually coffee. We’ve established this.”

Therese rolled she eyes. She glared at the cup in her hands. Zyan’s surname was written on both cups v a heart where the a should’ve been.

“Why too much coffee? walk you have to work native home prior to coming in?”

“My sister woke me up v plans for the holidays this morning. At 5:27 am. It to be a rough start to the day.”

“Aren’t the holidays four months off?” Zyan laughed. “What, go she start farming the tree now?”

The edge of Therese’s mouth tugged upwards. “I wouldn’t put it past her. She’d brand it together an organic, artisanal, handcrafted tree.”

Zyan snorted. Therese’s half smile broadened—only slightly. They will do talked about her sisters before. And also their brother. Your parents. Zyan didn’t seem to it is in the sort of human being who preserved a list, yet that didn’t avoid them native agreeing with Therese the her sister was as well much. They even added in a few jokes at their very own family’s price while discussing family members traditions, back Zyan constantly followed their comments up with some empathetic effort to check out the other person’s point of view.

The coffee smelled amazing, together always. It annoyed her—she’d never smelled noþeles quite favor it and still hadn’t gained used to the warm, wealthy aroma or the method that every time she had actually smelled coffee end the critical month, she thought of Zyan and also her love raced.

The bus stopped and also a herd of people milled in, crowding right into each other in the center aisle with all the elegant of drunken linebackers. Zyan’s eyes were ~ above the newcomers, for this reason Therese slipped the coffee cup to her lips as discreetly as she could and also inhaled it.

It to be delicious. She shook her head.

“Still foolish that ns was right?” Zyan asked. Castle grinned. “It’s the ideal coffee. Recognize it.” castle nudged her. “Come on. Say it’s the best.”

Therese flushed. “It’ll it is in on her head if I’m too wired to think straight at work-related today.”

“Well, if you have extra energy after work, it’d be nice to fulfill up.” castle paused and also fidgeted a bit with the clasp on their satchel. “Can ns take you out for dinner?”

Therese felt favor the world stopped in the moment. She heart stopped, at the an extremely least. She resented the Zyan had that result on her. An ext than resentment. She to be furious—panicky—that they made her feel this way.

“Why?” she exhaled, both the end of breath and sharp in tone, she cheeks crimson, she stomach in knots.

“You’d have to come to dinner to uncover out.”

Therese want to find the bus because that anything that she can use together an excuse, yet she couldn’t look away from Zyan and also their beloved brown eyes. She gulped. No one asked her out. No one would have any kind of reason to—it had actually to it is in a trap. A joke. Ask she out; stand her up.

“No, ns don’t think so.” Therese thrust the cup of coffee back at Zyan.

They looked under at it, and then back up at her. Lock didn’t take it the cup.

“If girlfriend don’t desire to, ns understand.” Zyan looked flushed now. A muscle over their jaw fluttered rapidly. “I just thought the you—”

They go out air out their cheeks and stood up together the bus quit in prior of Zyan’s building. “Nevermind.”

Therese got up because that them automatically; she wasn’t conscious of moving until she saw them pass by. Zyan looked hurt together they walked to the bus door. She didn’t understand. Somewhere inside her, she started to ask it s her if it was feasible they had actually meant it. What would it average if they had? She stopped asking herself the question, though, prior to it can bloom into any type of false realizations. She knew they’d expected it. She’d watched the earnestness in their eyes.

She sat earlier down and also watched lock walk in the direction of their building. Zyan looked earlier over their shoulder, eyes glistening and also rimmed through red. Her insides felt frozen.

Therese took the end her book and stared in ~ the page full of names. She had been definition to create J again, for the text that morning. However she didn’t feel prefer writing any name at the moment. She closeup of the door the book and also slid it earlier into her purse.

Therese had been asked out properly simply one other time in her life. She had actually been seventeen, and a boy she’d had actually a crush on because that years asked she to dinner. It was her very first date and she had been petrified to go on it. She had been afraid also then, after a childhood and teen year of continuous bullying, that this wouldn’t end well. As soon as she did manage to work-related up the courage come speak, it seemed to be the wrong thing at the worst moment. Shyness was security from every the possible blunderings she would certainly make, together she had just done, if she permitted herself come speak. It to be a long-term hesitation supposed to insulate her from her own mistakes. Over years that bullying, she had only just begun to pave antipathy for others like a heat cloak versus the cold.

But this day had been different, that was her last opportunity to affix with someone. The boy who asked her was awkward favor her, a splinter in the skin like her, and she made decision to take it a danger for him. Maybe, in ~ the an extremely least, she’d come out from it with a friend, due to the fact that she had actually been tho barely able come fathom that he’d take an attention in her.

But she waited for hrs in the overheated and also overcrowded restaurant. She got hold of hold that the cynicism she’d to be cultivating and also wrapped it roughly herself like a jacket against the cold. She felt a comfortable fury harden in she gut. Of course, he stood she up.

It to be then the she chose that the was her enemy. Anyone was—when would certainly she lastly learn that? emotion stupid, she jumped into the car and also had peeled the end of the parking lot, vowing every sorts of never ever agains come herself together she turned her music up.

No male or woman had ever directly asked her the end after that. She had actually plenty that passive wild passes, however no formal “can ns take you come dinner” came her way. She was glad the it. She hated feeling are afraid or anger or also yearning for anyone. She just wanted cynicism, to comfort herself in the street it provided. She was safer that way.

She looked at the cup on she desk. Zyan’s name v the love in it. She took the end her book and also wrote in a brand-new name: Therese.

Zyan no on the bus the next day or the day after. Therese was standing in the aisle both mornings. They could be sick, she called herself, but she wasn’t convinced. She was haunted by the look at in your eyes. They had been hurt. She had actually done it.

On her having lunch break she looked in ~ the book. She had actually written no name in it since her own. How countless lists was she on? go anyone else keep lists?

She looked around. Nobody in the office speak to her, simply over her. She frowned. That didn’t issue if she was on your lists. She just didn’t want to be on her own.

She visited her boss’s table. The office had embraced a ridiculous open up workspace style a couple of months ago. Everyone functioned at picnic benches, slide their items right into each others’ spaces, and yelled over each other for meetings and phone calls. So plenty of names had actually gone top top her perform after the brand-new layout that Therese had filled up an entire notebook and also moved several pages into the new one.

“Mike?”

Her boss looked up, wearing his permanently pinched expression. He had actually a habit of providing her much too straight eye contact that always made her flush. Over there was absolutely not one attraction there, however anyone that stared that lot made Therese feel prefer she was gaining an eye exam, with those small pen lights that optometrists flash right into your eye to see just how you’re seeing. It to be painful to talk to him, especially since she knew the mistook her flushing as an attraction. She looked at the ground.

“I have to take turn off early and get in to watch my doctor—can I work-related from house this evening and also get that report into you by eight?”

“I can’t just let anyone walk whenever lock feel favor it. You understand that.”

Therese shifted next to side. She had actually to uncover Zyan and—well, she didn’t recognize what she would say once she found them. She’d never ever tried to acquire off her very own list before. She’d never ever let anyone off her list.

Mike cleared his throat. People had stopped work to watch them. Therese establish she had actually not said anything in a minute and also that she must look deeply uncomfortable at Mike’s decision. She witnessed Mike glancing approximately at everyone else. There to be a tiny hint that nervous power in his sudden finger tapping.

“I’ll allow you walk this once, Therese,” the said, “but this is both permission and also a warning. The next time she sick, allow us recognize in advance.”

Therese elevated her eyebrow at him—the stupidity the that had actually to be plain to everyone, including him—but she shook she head and also went earlier to looking in ~ the ground. “Thanks, Mike. Will certainly do.”

She turned and sped far to she desk, grabbed her bag, and also went the end the door.

It to be a gray afternoon, the air heavy with unavoidable rain. The skies rumbled over her as she satellite in the courtyard external Zyan’s building. She would get drenched waiting if it started to pour. She looked at she watch. 5:17 p.m. Possibly they to be sick.

What if they witnessed me waiting outside and also went out some other entrance? She feel sick and that acquainted anger began to increase up, opening its arms to her. She took the end her book. Her surname was quiet the critical one composed in there.

“For a reason,” she muttered to herself.

She would certainly say sorry. She’d take her surname off the list. Possibly go out v Zyan, if they were still willing?

She shook her head. No. They wouldn’t be. Maybe they and she can just return to being friends? She hadn’t had actually a friend outside of work—or in ~ work— due to the fact that college. Even that felt choose hoping for as well much, however the truth was she had actually missed talking v Zyan, also if lock made she mad. She had never missed anyone prefer this.

Drops that rain began to fall and people ran through bags clutched over your heads to shield themselves. The bus pulled up. She had a choice. Save waiting and also get wet or walk home.

Zyan wasn’t right here or had actually avoided her. She to be glad it to be raining—the assumed had brought tears to she eyes. She was too exhausted from waiting and also worrying to care that they had that result on her.

She got on the bus and sat down. Maybe she wasn’t simply tired—Zyan was worth crying over. The thought rose up native a place planted deeper within her than her anger.

She would never remove her surname from her list.

The next morning, Zyan was on the bus. Castle didn’t wave at she or also smile, but there to be a seat saved for her. Together Therese came near, Zyan relocated their bag native the chair to your lap to make room.

They stared the end the window. “I witnessed you waiting for me yesterday.”

So they had actually avoided her. She wrung her hands. She fought off the rage by reasoning of her surname on the list. Zyan had actually every best to prevent her.

“I was in a meeting,” they continued. “But that was you, wasn’t it? waiting in the courtyard below?”

Therese can not look over; she mouth no work. In a meeting. All she could do to be nod.

“Why were you there?”

She want to look at over. She was that scared boy in the booth again, wait for her dream person to come in and be, at the very least, a friend. If she said even a word, she’d mess this up again. What grown person gets this scared? Zyan would certainly laugh if lock knew how tough it was also to speak to them.

“Fine. Ns thought—” Zyan sighed before cutting off, hand flexing into fists and also then smoothing the end again over the pleat of their pants. The bus began to slow down. “Take care, Therese.”

Therese didn’t stand as much as let castle out.

“My stop’s here,” Zyan said. They were standing up. She felt your gaze ~ above the earlier of she neck.

Therese’s mind was both a blank and a whirl of words, too numerous to come the end at once. She want to scream, to ask Zyan to remain on the bus, come ask castle out, to cry, “Please be my friend. I don’t know exactly how to have friends, however I’d prefer to it is in yours if you’re it s okay taking that risk.”

But she didn’t say anything. Or move.

“I require to gain off,” they claimed in a quiet, patient voice. Therese winced and looked up.

“I’m sorry,” Therese took a deep breath, summary making eye contact prior to looking away. “I’m sorry because that the various other day.”

The bus doors opened with a hiss. She obtained up and moved aside for Zyan, eyes on her shoes. They moved out into the aisle.

“I should’ve claimed yes, but I didn’t think—” she ended with a moan before she could add that she didn’t believe they expected it. “I’m not—”

Shame swallowed the native again.

She heard the bus doors squeak closed and looked up. They were gone. She crumpled back into the seat. What had actually she expected? It to be a bad apology, and also it barely consisted of for hurting Zyan the various other day.

This to be what occurred when she tried v people. She clutched she bag to she chest and felt the solid form of the publication inside it. She’d compose the whole civilization down on her list, just to remind herself to stay away indigenous people.

No, she thought as she leaned versus the window. She’d simply write her own name down, over and also over, every day until she stopped hurting.

The following morning, Zyan was on the bus. They no look up when Therese approached, yet there was a space. She sat, hoping they i will not ~ be upset that she had.

Zyan kept staring forward. No coffee for her was waiting—not the she had the right to suppose it.

“I’m not asking girlfriend again. If friend don’t desire to walk out with me, i was wrong come be uncomfortable by that.”

Therese was startled that Zyan spoke, much more to the window than to her.

“I simply want to understand why you to be waiting exterior my building. If you didn’t want to walk out, why the apology? Why shot and find me?”

Therese’s hands had actually been balled up together she listened. She compelled her fingers to relax and looked in the direction of Zyan, just enough to watch them in her periphery.

“I wanted to say yes. I thought you were making funny of me, asking me out a joke, girlfriend know?”

“Who would carry out that come you?” Zyan said, unexpectedly looking in ~ her. She smiled at their shock and also shrugged.

“People. Human being aren’t my favorite.”

Zyan nodded. “I know.”

“But—” She looked in ~ them, full on in the eyes. It to be like getting all the air knocked the end of she lungs come do, however she felt electric all over as she organized their gaze. “You’re my favorite. The only human being I like.”

She felt agitated simply by saying the words. “I simply don’t understand what to perform with that.”

Zyan offered her the smallest smile. That filled her with so lot hope that it hurt. That was like dawn breaking apart the night.

“Have i made the in the book yet?”

“The book?”

“Your book of enemies. The one you scribble in when someone jostles our chair from behind or talks also loudly in former of united state or blasts the music from their game on your phone without headphones. Do you yes, really think ns haven’t viewed you composing in it?”

“I no think—” She looked at she purse and earlier up in ~ Zyan, curiosity and tears in her eyes. There were a thousands “whys” swirling approximately in her brain: why had she no realized they could see her? Why to be they paying attention? Why would certainly they ask her out discovering she was the type of person to save a list? lock would never do something choose that. Castle were—

She looked up. “Wait . . . You desire to be in the book?”

“I figured I can have deserve it, because liking me bugs girlfriend so much.”

The bus slowed down. It was Zyan’s stop, yet they do no initiative to stand.

“So am ns in that yet?”

Therese shook she head. “No, yet I am. ~ what taken place last week.”

Zyan tsked and also held out their hand. Therese’s eyes widened together she withdrew the book and also placed the in your hands. They opened it up and removed the ribbon and also got the end their own pen.

“Z-Y-A-N,” they mouthed as they wrote, and included a subscript: for gift charming without a license, handsome without a permit, gorgeous there is no permission, for offering up also easily, for which lock will never ever be forgiven.

Therese’s heart sank at the line—were lock joking or serious?—but then saw Zyan continue: effects to be administered over dinner. Friday in ~ 7pm. 510-701-1064.

Zyan smiled and sidled previous her if she sat, analysis the native they’d created as if they were composed in a foreign language.

“We’ll talk restaurants tomorrow, okay?”

Therese nodded at Zyan, native still much from straightforward to obtain out. Castle smiled and nodded back.

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The bus pulled away and she took out her pen, click it ready. She want to cross out Zyan’s name. Lock weren’t her enemy. She paused and read what they’d written. She didn’t feel angry, at herself, at Zyan, at anyone ~ above the bus, regardless of how loud and awful and—

She clicked the pen nib away and left the names where they were. She was her own enemy, perhaps she constantly had been. And Zyan? Therese placed the publication away. Zyan would be to her everything they wanted to be—both a pain in her ass and the only human she’d sit alongside in the entire world, for as long as they wanted to sit next to her.