Last scene of previous:
E sighs through a smile and, deciding that there’s no reason to hide this from V, starts, “I’m just not used to any of this. I’m not used to you. Not in…you’re not bad, it’s that,… I’m so used to S and how shitty she was that- that I just don’t know how to act around you.” She says it thoughtfully and steady.
V nods for a second and then replies, “That makes sense.” They’re quiet again for a few minutes.
“I really want some orange juice.” E says, breaking the silence after a long while.
“I bet they have some in the lobby, let’s go see.” V says, standing up from the office chair.
“They’ve got…fresh or bottled.” V says, looking at the drink fridge and the breakfast table, once they’ve navigated to the dining room.
“Ooh!” E exclaims, going past her, “They have poptarts!” She gleefully takes a blueberry flavored one. “I want a poptart.” Taking a bottled orange juice, because she hates the pulp of fresh squeezed, she sits at a table.
“Do we have to pay for these, or was it included with the room?” She asks V, stopping before opening her juice.
“I think we have to pay.” V looks around for a desk person. “I guess I don’t know where we’d go to do that though.” Just then, a lady emerges from a door behind the breakfast counter.
“Ah! E, she might be able to do it.”
“What can I help ya with?” The lady puts on gloves and opens a warming tray and begins placing bagels into it.
“Is breakfast included with reservations?”
“No, ma’am, but I can take your payment here.” She takes off her gloves and pushes up her sleeves, walking over to a cashbox near a payment screen, “What can I get for ya?”
E comes over then and says, “I just wanted to get these. Sorry.”
“No worries, love.” She taps at lightening speed and then announces, “Just a bottle juice and a poptart?”
“Yes.” E supplies.
“Alright, 6.85. Can I use cash or card?”
“Cash, please.” K hands her a five and two one-dollar bills. The lady quickly counts it and produces a dime and a nickel from the cashbox after placing the bills in.
“Anything for you, dear?” She turns to V.
“I’ll take a blueberry bagel. Cold is perfect.”
“Sure thing.” She takes a tiny plate from a stack near the warmer and a napkin and places a fresh bagel on it. “Would you like a drink with it? The fresh squeezed juices and the water dispenser are complimentary.”
“Umm, yeah I think I’ll just get water. Thank you!”
“No problem. That’ll be two dollars.”
V hands her a credit card and the lady swipes it on the computer screen. Once the transaction is approved, she hands the card back to V, dons new gloves and resumes placing bagels in the warmer.
E gives V a look as they walk back to the table, “Anyone could have just taken off with a bunch of stuff before the cashier got back!”
“I know!” V returns the look and they snicker.
“I should have ran out with my poptart!” E says almost a little too loud and looks around to see if anyone heard, but then giggles.
They get back to the table and E sits. V sets down her plate, and then lets E babysit her bagel while she goes off to get her cup of water.
“Alright,” She says, coming back, “now we’ve got some food to munch on and we can take on the day.”
“Not yet!” E laughs, widening her eyes and raising her eyebrows. She perfectly separates the wrapper edges of her poptart to open it, then, and takes one of the pastries out.
V decides to let E have a minute before talking about all the serious things, so instead she awes at her skill, “How did you do that?”
“Do what? Pull it open?”
“Yeah, that’s impossible, I always tear the edges.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I just always did it this way.” E cackles. “I’m sorry I can’t impart you with any life hacks.” She chortles.
V spreads cream on her bagel, but stops to watch E tear off a corner of her poptart before eating it.
E sees her observing and foresightedly answers, “You can’t just bite a poptart. You have to break off pieces or you’re a psychopath. It’s like the kit-kat thing, or the string cheese thing.”
V smiles and then goes back to preparing her bagel.
“That’s nasty.” E is looking at her spreading the cream.
“No cream cheese for you?” V asks.
“Noooohoho, I do not do cream cheese.” She raises her eyebrows again and chuckles. Then, lowering her arms to the table, she elaborates, “I have probably not had cream cheese on anything since I was ten.”
Now it’s V’s turn to raise her eyebrows as she gets a look of surprise. “Ten!? Wow, that’s dedicated dislike.” She nods, spreading the other half.
“Yes!” A laugh, “I am always dedicated in my dislike.” A giggle.
“You definitely are dedicated. Always have been.” V says gently, voicing it as a compliment.
“Thank you.” E says it low, almost as a whisper.
“It’s true.” Then, “So how is it then? The poptart? You always were a blueberry gal.”
E laughs at V’s use of ‘gal’ and then replies, “I love poptarts, so it is very good. And this has always been my favorite flavor… I even used to take these in my lunch in middle school. And I always gave the other half to a girl I was crushing on. I’d pick one of them that I was most in love with.” She shakes her head in embarrassment of herself.
“One of?! Wow, so you were a big shot in middle school.” V teases.
“Oh my god, no, I was not. I thought I was hot shit, but none of those girls were interested.” E laughs, “Some of them would flirt with me for a while to keep getting them, but none of them let me take them on a date… How did I never tell you about that? My million girl crushes?” She cocks her head.
“You told me about a few. But never that you had a million, or that you gave them the other half of your poptarts. I think that’s cute, by the way. …I would have liked you. And not just for your poptarts. Blueberry was never my flavor, anyways.”
E was smiling at her, but then she giggles, “You would not have. You might think you would have, but I was a brat.” She laughs. “You would have hated me.” She pauses before continuing. “I’m honestly surprised… I don’t know how you don’t hate me now.”
“You’re very hard to hate.” V says quietly and steadily again. “Maybe that proves I’d’ve always liked you.” She looks up at E and smiles. “You aren’t as dislikeable as you think.”
“I feel dislikeable.”
V’s heart stung. She felt that in some deep crack within herself, not because of something about herself, but E’s pain hurt her. This woman may never know how wonderful she truly is, and it’s because of all those people who denied her worth and wouldn’t acknowledge it, because they’d lacked sense of their own.
“Why is that?” V asks her, finally. “That you don’t feel likeable?”
E fell silent and thought for a minute, “I don’t know.” But V could tell that it was one of those things where it would be too hard to tell, or too long to tell, rather than there being an absence of something to tell.
“Mm. …Well, I think you’re wonderful.” V says, “No matter what anyone else ever told you. And it has always hurt my heart that they treated you badly. You never deserved that.”
“It’s fine.” E didn’t like people feeling sorry for her. She didn’t like the apologies.
“I never said I was sorry about it.” V heard it in her voice, “And it is not out of pity that I say what I did.” She says, and thinks of something to supplement it with, but doesn’t want to push. Not even a compliment ought to be pushed.
Air puffs out of E’s nose as she realizes the genuineness V says it with and a helpless smile smirks across one side of her cheek. “Well, good.”