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Big City, Small World

Chapter Text

Holly Flax had always been unsure of whether or not she should call herself a morning person. She hated the process of being rudely awaken from her time with the sandman by her alarm, but once she was out of bed and able to keep her eyes open she was a happy camper. When she reached this point she had a routine: yoga, shower, off to open the bakery. More often than not, she liked the feeling of having the whole day’s adventures ahead of her.

She had been working at the bakery almost ever since she’d arrived in New York City. She’d been hired part time but had eventually become the owner’s go-to person and second in command. She liked the job, mostly because of the people. Holly liked making others happy, and baked confections often had that effect on people.

“Morning Hol,” greeted Karen, one of her coworkers said as they were opening. She was sporting her usual cup of coffee.

“Hey,” Holly replied.

“Place across the street has a new barista,” Karen said, smiling, “You know, he’s not bad looking.”

“Really now?” Holly asked, looking at her knowingly, “I thought you, and I quote, had sworn off guys for at least a month because of Jim Halpert.”

“I did. And I stand by that. I’m just saying, sometimes it’s nice to appreciate the visual assets that the male population has to offer, even if, as is the case with at least half of them that I end up involved with, there’s not much else there. Or, like with Jim, they’re really pining after someone else.”

“Oh, Karen,” Holly said sympathetically, “I’m sorry.”

She shrugged, “I just have shit taste is all. In men, at least.”

“I think if you realize what drives you to those types, you’ll eventually find less terrible men.”

“Yeah. Makes sense. Anyway, how are you and AJ?”

“We’re good. It’ll be eight years on Friday.”

“Damn love birds,” Karen muttered, but smiled good naturedly.

00000000

Leslie Knope glanced at her watch as she entered the office’s building. It read 8:55, which meant she had five minutes to spare. She sighed in relief: she had overslept, and she was pretty sure her boss would kill her if she were late.

“Morning Leslie,” Jerry, the company’s receptionist, said.

“Hi Jerry,” Leslie said, forcing a bit of extra cheer in her voice. Jerry reminded her of Eeyore because he was always taking the fun out of everything. He was a bit of a buzz kill, but Leslie tried to be nice to everyone. And she tried to be extra nice to Jerry because she
figured he really needed it.

“Um, it’s been a bit of a rough morning around here,” Jerry said quietly, nodding toward their bosses office.

“Oh, god, Jerry, I’m sure it’s not bad,” Leslie rolled her eyes, quickly losing her patience with him as she almost always did, “She has her daughter now, don’t babies make all mothers happy?”

The door to the office opened, and an angry woman stepped out.

“Leslie, I need you in my office right now,” she said shortly, “I cannot deal with this level of incompetence on my own.”

“Ok, Jan,” Leslie said, following the furious Jan Levinson back into her office.

00000000

At noon, Holly walked outside for her lunch break, basking in the warm June sun. Spring was her favorite season because of the flowers she planted every year would bloom, but summer was a close second.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she felt herself bump into someone on the sidewalk.

It was a man that she’d bumped in to, and she’d caused him to drop what she assumed had been his lunch.

“Oh, no,” Holly said, “I’m so sorry – I completely wasn’t paying attention.”

He shrugged, not looking too upset, “I was probably equally preoccupied. No harm done.”

“Oh, but your lunch – there’s a great sandwich shop not too far from here, let me get you something. Make up for being such a spazzy klutz.”

“Well,” the man paused, considering the proposition for a moment, “Alright.”

“Awesome. It’s this way,” she said, taking the lead, “I’m Holly, by the way.”

“Ben.”

00000000

“So, can I make a confession?” Ben asked Holly as they waited for their sandwiches.

“Sure,” Holly replied.

“I would have normally said no to your offer, but…I just moved here, and I don’t have any friends, and you seem nice. Not that I’m coming onto you or anything, I’m sure you’re logical enough not to want to date a total stranger, and so am I, of course, and,” Ben looked like a deer in the headlights, realizing how this all sounded. He shook his head, “Um, I’m just gonna stop talking.”

Holly looked bemused.

“I too, suffer from foot-in-the-mouth syndrome , so I think we’re gonna be pretty good friends. So what brings you to New York?”

“I got a job at that coffee shop back where we were earlier.”

“Oh, no way, I work at the bakery, right across the street,” Holly grinned, “Big city, small world.”

00000000

Michael Scott did five jumping jacks followed by several fist pumps . This was his pre-show routine, and he stuck to it religiously because he figured it would be bad luck to stray from it.

He looked at himself in the mirror. Suit and top hat were in place.

Without a doubt, he had chosen a profession that allowed him to look good. If he didn’t mesmerize people with his tricks, his good looks and style would certainly do it.

He could hear his assistant Dwight onstage, speaking to the audience. It was almost time for him to go out.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” he heard Dwight proclaim, “Presenting…Michael the Magic!”

00000000

The brick walls of the bar and grill were filled with people. Holly waited for her friend to arrive, occupying their usual space toward the front.

“Leslie!” Holly grinned when she saw her.

“Hey,” Leslie said as she took a seat, “You would not believe the day I’ve had.”

“Jan wake up on the wrong side of the bed again?” Holly asked knowingly.

Leslie nodded and made a face.

“Ladies,” the bartender, a burly man with a thick mustache, greeted them.

“Hey Ron,” Holly said.

“Ron, I wanna know who peed in my boss’ cheerios,” Leslie said with a sigh.

“I cannot help you with that, though from what you’ve told me about that woman, many people would be suspect,” Ron said matter-of-factly, “I can, however, get both of you a drink. The usual?”

Leslie and Holly nodded. A few minutes later, he handed them their drinks.

“To the weekend,” Leslie said, “To forty eight hours of uninterrupted bliss.”

She spoke with relish, clearly excited to be off work and for what the usual Friday night tradition of visiting Ron’s bar with her best friend would hold.

Chapter Text

The next Monday, Leslie sat at her desk, staring at her computer idly. Jan had given her a list of customers to call, which she’d finished not too long ago. Typically Jan did this kind of outreach herself– she was much better at wining and dining than Leslie was, even in a verbal sense – but these were the people Jan was convinced didn’t like her.

“I need you to do this for me,” Jan had told her as she’d handed her the list, “You have that sweet, small town way about you. Use it.”

So it had fallen to Leslie, the righter of her boss’ wrongs, to make the calls. All had gone well, and the numerous high faluetent, important clients and businesses were all interested in continuing their relationship with the company. And almost all of them had been interested in the new fall line of products.

It was just another day working for Serenity by Jan, the most successful manufacturer of candles in all of New York City.

Growing up, Leslie had never imagined herself in the candle business, or any sort of business business, really. She’d double majored in political science and history, with a minor in women’s studies.

She was going to change the world.

She’d moved to New York with Holly right after graduation to pursue a job offer as a junior assistant at the governor’s office. But then the governor found himself involved in a scandal and out of office. Leslie had needed a new job, because rent was expensive and the city was a terrifying place to find yourself unemployed, so she’d taken the first thing she found. That was how she’d ended up working for Jan. She told herself that it would be temporary, that she’d get back into politics as soon as she could, but that was six years ago and she’d made her way up the company ladder rather than running for office.

She wanted to get back to pursuing the things she truly loved, but the truth of the matter was she was scared to leave her current position. It was stable, and she wasn’t really sure if she could make it in the political world of New York, anyway. Things were competitive, and she sold candles for a living. She was optimistic, but she was also a realist.

She decided to text Holly. She could use some interaction with someone who was down to earth.

Bored bored bored bored. Candles still burning. How are the baked goods?

Leslie’s phone vibrated.

Warm. Delicious. Kinda want to eat them all myself. How’s Jan?

Everything that your baked goods aren’t, but that’s old news.

Lunch? Can you escape?

Lemme try.

** *

Soon after, the two met up at a café between their two places of employment. They ordered and sat down.

“So, the wicked witch of candle land is pretty bad today, huh?” Holly asked.

“Jerry suggested that we start a line for children’s nurseries,” Leslie replied. “Scents like cinnamon teddy bear and orange elephant. She didn’t take it well.”

“Her target audience isn’t kids under age five?” Holly smiled in spite of the situation.

“Oh no, Jerry got a very long lecture about how if he didn’t know our market, he should keep his mouth shut and stick to his receptionist duties,” Leslie said. “But that’s typical Jan. I don’t know why it’s getting to me so much lately. It’s just –”

“What’s up?” Holly was concerned. It wasn’t like Leslie to be at a loss for words.

“When we first moved here, I just thought by six years in I would by at least a little close to making a real difference in the world, at least slightly progressing in my climb up the political ladder,” Leslie said. “But I help a mean-spirited lady sell expensive candles.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Holly said. “Jan’s one of the biggest businesswomen in the city. Once you get to saving the world, you’ll have gained some useful skills from your time with her.”

“Yeah, you’re right, I guess,” she said, sighing. “So, anything interesting happen at the bakery today?”

“Counseled Karen through her breakup,” Holly replied. “The other day she was angry, today she was sad.”

“That’s rough,” Leslie replied. “Good she has you, though. Ovaries before brovaries.”

“Yeah, she’ll be ok,” Holly said. “Hey, wanna continue our Monty Python marathon after work tonight?”

“I thought you and AJ had a date,” Leslie said.

Holly made a face.

“He canceled,” she said.

“Lame. I’m sorry,” Leslie replied. “But yes, I’m always down for Monty Python. That’ll be good. I can get all of my work craziness out of my head for a bit.”

* * *

“You made my birthday magic!” the young boy told Michael.

Michael was wearing his work uniform: a black suit with a cape and top hat. He had just finished a show for the boy’s birthday party.

“That’s no surprise. It’s why he’s called Michael the Magic,” Dwight explained as he packed up their material.

Michael knelt down.

“Gimme five buddy,” he said, giving the young birthday boy a high five. “Happy birthday,”

A few minutes later, Michael and Dwight had packed the equipment for their show into Dwight’s truck.

“Good show,” Dwight did a first bump as he and Michael got into the vehicle.

“Yeah,” Michael agreed. “That was a nice family.”

“And a good step for us as businessmen,” Dwight replied. “If we keep booking birthday parties as often as we have, we’re going to become the next big thing to hit the city.”

“That’s the dream, Dwight,” Michael said.

* * *

Ben stepped into the bakery. Holly looked up from the tray of cupcakes she was putting out.

“Hey!” she said cheerfully.

He waved.

“I need a sugar fix,” he said. “I figured this was a good place.”

“Oh yeah,” Holly said. “I just finished baking these.”

She gestured to the cupcakes.

“Those look delicious. I’ll take one,” he said. “Hey, thanks again for lunch the other day.”

“No problem,” she replied. “So how’s the unpacking going? Settled into your apartment yet?”

“Slowly but surely,” Ben replied. “I’m not entirely sure about my roommates, though. I saw them eating from a Frisbee, I think.”

“A Frisbee?”

“Yeah, I was going to ask Andy and April what was up, but then I decided drop it and finish unpacking my room,” he said.

“How’d you meet them again?”

“It was a friend of a friend of a friend type thing,” he replied, shrugging. “I didn’t realize they were sons of a silly person.”

“Monty Python!”

“Yeah, I’m impressed you got that. Everyone else just thinks I’m crazy.”

Holly thought for a moment.

“What are you up to tonight?” she asked.

“Nothing too spectacular.”

“My best friend and I are watching Life of Brian. You should come.”

Ben nodded.

“Yeah, ok.”

Chapter Text

It wasn’t as if Holly had written a mental outline about each thing that needed to happen every hour the evening Ben came over, but she was pretty sure things had gone off chart somewhere.

More specifically, they had gone off chart when Leslie and Ben recognized one another from a previous encounter at the coffee shop.

She had a tendency to overanalyze things, but she was pretty sure the evening had contained a few terse moments.

Ben had arrived at their apartment right at 7 pm like they’d planned on. So far, so good. She and Leslie maintained a tight schedule when it came to binge watching anything.

“Hey, you made it,” Holly told him as she opened the door to their apartment. “Leslie, this is –”

“We’ve met,” Leslie interrupted. “Hey. So you’re Ben.”

“And you’re Holly’s roommate. Hi,” he replied.

“Roommate, best friend, a whole number of things,” Leslie said.

“So how do you guys know each other?” Holly asked.

“I ordered coffee from Ben the other day,” Leslie explained.

“Was it coffee, or was it just sugar and whipped cream?” he asked.

“I need the sugar high along with the caffeine to deal with my boss, plus, it tastes so much better like that,” Leslie replied.

“Well, at least you got your pre-Jan coffee,” Holly said.

“Kind of,” Leslie said, sitting down on the couch. The other two followed suit.

“We ran out of whipped cream in the middle of making her drink,” Ben explained.

“It’s water under the bridge now,” Leslie said, subtly giving Holly a look that indicated it wasn’t.

The opening scenes of Life of Brian filled the television screen.

Holly felt her phone vibrate and saw that Leslie had sent her a text.

He was kind of a jerk about the whipped cream. He said something about how not everyone wants such an insane amount.

To be fair, you like a lot of whipped cream on your lattes.

Yeah, and most baristas respect those needs.

* * *

“Ok, what was that, exactly?” Holly asked Leslie after Ben had exited their apartment. He’d left right as the end credits appeared on screen, noting that he was opening at the coffee shop tomorrow.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Leslie said tersely. 

“You gave Ben the cold shoulder for the entire night. I know you’re a self-proclaimed sugarholic, but it was just some whipped cream,” Holly replied. “You’re seriously overreacting.”

“Maybe I was a jerk. But I was only imitating his own behavior,” Leslie protested.

“It isn’t his fault they ran out of whipped cream.”

“And it isn’t my fault you invited some random guy to our movie night.”

“He’s a friend. And I thought you’d be excited. We never come across other people who like Python.”

“Well, normally I would be.”

“But?”

“I just feel like work is sucking all the life out of me lately.”

“I knew this wasn’t really about coffee.”

“Yeah, but you also can’t underestimate the importance of whipped cream.”

“Oh, I would never do that to you." 

* * *

The next morning, Jan strode over to Jerry’s desk. She was walking particularly purposefully.

“I need you to add something to my calendar,” she told him.

Leslie glanced up from her spot nearby, knowing that Jerry struggled to operate Jan’s electronic calendar app of choice. She would have been better off just doing it herself, but Leslie had learned by now that when Jan came out of her office to tell Jerry to add something to her schedule, it was an event she wanted all her employees to hear about.

Jerry fumbled his way through his computer.

“I don’t have all day,” Jan said impatiently.

“Just one second. And here we go,” Jerry said, looking at her expectantly.

“Add Carnival in for next week,” Jan instructed him, her voice triumphant.

“The Carnival?” Leslie asked, in spite of herself. As uninterested in her job as she had been lately, this was an exciting development. Jan had wanted a place at the event but hadn’t made the initial cut. She must have clawed her way in somehow.

“The one and only,” Jan replied. “We’re in. And you’ll be doing with me.”

* * *

“Question. Why do we need to go to this Circus next week?” Dwight asked Michael as they drove back from another successful birthday party.

“It’s called Carnival, Dwight. Geez, get with it,” Michael said. “And it’s one of the biggest events in the city. Lots of potential clientele will see us. We will wow them. And then they’ll want to buy us.”

“That sounds like prostitution,” Dwight replied. “Which is illegal.”

“You know what I mean. All of the rich people will see our magic tricks and we’ll be booked back-to-back with kids’ birthday parties.”

“Well, the extra money would be good. I’m looking to expand my beet farm.”

“See, that’s the kind of thinking we need to do. We need to get more money. Now, why you would want to spend it on beets is beyond me, but the money is going to be good.”

* * *

Ben spotted Leslie walking into the coffee shop and turned around to grab something from the refrigerator where the baristas kept their supplies. He held up the can of whipped cream before he said anything to her.

“It’s a full can. Would you like all of it on your latte?” he asked, hoping to soothe things over. Holly was one of the only people he knew in the city, and he didn’t want to be enemies with her best friend.

“Not all of it,” Leslie smiled. “But I’m glad to see you’re stocked up with the necessary supplies.”

Ben nodded.

“Hey, I came here to say I’m sorry,” Leslie said. “I shouldn’t have been so rude to you last night.”

“It did seem a bit unnecessary,” Ben replied cautiously.

“Yeah, I know. I’ve just been crazy stressed with work, and I ended up taking it out on you. Which I shouldn’t have done, because Holly is a great judge of character, so anyone she’s friends with must be ok.”

“Thanks. I just moved here, so it’s nice to get to know a few people.”

“So tell me what brings you to the city. Also, Holly said your roommates eat out of Frisbees. I have…so many questions about that.”

“Well, I’m about to go on break, which is good, because I’ll need the entire time to explain it to you.”

Chapter Text

“Sorry I’m late,” Leslie said as she joined Holly and Ben at their table at Ron’s bar. “I’ll give you three guesses why.”

Holly brow furrowed in mock concentration.

“I’m going to guess Jan, but I’m not entirely sure.”

“Ding ding,” Leslie said. “Hey Ron, I need copious amounts of alcohol.”

“What did she do this time?” Ben asked.

“We’re preparing for this big event, and it’s chaos,” Leslie explained. “She put Jerry in charge of printing signs. We got them back today, and he had them written in comic sans.”

“Oh no,” Holly said.

“He said that comic sans is fun, but Jan did not agree,” Leslie continued, taking a sip of the drink Ron brought her. “Not at all.”

“I bet there was lots of yelling,” Ben said sympathetically. 

“I’ll be ok. And my roommate uses regular cutlery, so at least I’ve got that going for me. 

“How are Andy and April these days?” Holly asked.

“Still eating in nontraditional ways. Oh, but Andy’s band is going to play at the coffee shop.”

“Awesome!” Leslie said.

“Can’t wait to meet them,” Holly added.

* * *

Leslie put the finishing touches on a display of candles. Jan was behind their booth, smoking a cigarette. 

Leslie didn’t dwell on the irony of introducing a stale smell of tobacco around very expensive candles with admittedly good scents. Then again, maybe Jan wanted to show off how well her candles could work by having them mask her cigarette smell. 

Whatever the case was, she tried to put Jan out of her mind and tried to think of how she would enjoy the event they were at. There were tons of vendors, people and shows, so it was bound to be an interesting night. Her goal was to focus on that rather than how burnt out work had been making her feel lately.

Which was a great plan, until Jan came back to their booth. 

“Thank god we got new signs,” Jan said. “Comic fucking sans, I can’t get over that.”

Leslie mmm’d sympathetically. After Jan had seen Jerry’s signs, Leslie had been put in charge of getting new ones created. The fact that she’d succeeded had been nothing short of a miracle, given their time constraints.

Jan glanced at a list of the other performers and vendors in attendance.

“There’s a magic show listed here,” she said. “That’s weird. It’s not like this is a kids’ event.”

Leslie didn’t think there was an age limit on enjoying magic but bit her tongue.

“Hey, speaking of kids, how’s Astrid?” she asked.

“She’s perfect,” Jan gave a rare smile. “With a sitter tonight.”

* * * 

Later that night, Leslie was packing up the candles that hadn’t sold. Jan had left earlier, so she was in the booth alone. She noticed a man drop a box filled with hats, scarves and stuffed rabbits – all of which spilled across the ground. 

“Thanks,” Michael said when Leslie walked over to help pick everything up. “Hey, you’re one of the candle girls.”

“Yeah, Serenity by Jan.”

“Right. So you must be Jan.”

“No, I’m Leslie. I’m Jan’s assistant.”

“Nice to meet you Leslie. I’m Michael the Magic. But must people just call me Michael.”

“Yeah, I watched your act from our booth. You guys are really good.”

“Thanks. When I was a kid, I knew when I grow up I wanted to be a magician or play in the NFL. People said they were both unrealistic, but look at me now.”

“That’s awesome. Good for you.”

“Was it your dream to work in scents?”

“Scents?" 

“Yeah. Scents. A bit like magic, but for the nose. You guys sell scented candles, right?”

“Oh, yeah. Um, no, actually. I’ve always been interested in politics,” Leslie figured there wasn’t any harm in the honesty. With Jan gone, it wasn’t like she was going to overhear anything.

“Wow!” Michael was genuinely interested. “So you want to be president one day?”

“I wouldn’t rule it out. I want to help people, and if I was president, I could help a lot of people.”

“I got into my line of work because of people, too. I want to make them happy. And a lot of times I can.”

“People love magic. My best friend is a big fan.”

“Well, she must have good taste. And she’s not alone. We’re completely booked up these days. Getting busier and busier. So how about you? Sell a lot of candles?”

“We did. My boss will be happy.”

“Awesome.”

“Yeah,” Leslie said, packing up the last of their remaining stock. “Well, I should get going. But it was great meeting you. Not every day do you get to talk to a magician.”

Michael nodded, “Good luck with the candles.”

* * *

After all of the candles were packed away and she’d made her way back home, Leslie opened the door to the apartment to see Karen speaking emphatically to Holly.

“I’m telling you,” she said. “Men are terrible.”

“Why do we hate men tonight?” Leslie asked. Then he saw the distraught look on Holly’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“AJ –” Holly began. “He ended it.”

“Oh my god, why?” Leslie asked as she sat next to her on the couch.

“Because he’s an idiot,” Karen responded angrily.

“He said he wanted to see other people, because we’d been together for so long,” Holly said flatly.

“This is like Jim all over again,” Karen said, and then paused. “Except he and I hadn’t been together that long. And he wanted to date one specific other person.”

Karen scooted a pint of ice cream that sat on the coffee table toward Holly.

“As a break up expert, I recommend you eat that,” she said.

Chapter Text

“I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever,” Ben said, joining Leslie at her table as he brought her coffee.

“Well, you know how work is,” Leslie said, taking a sip of the drink. “Oh my god, this is delicious.”

He smiled.

“Yeah, by now I’ve learned how you take your coffee.”

“Your studying paid off.”

“How’s work these days?”

Leslie made a face.

“The same. Ugh, it’s weird. I’m not used to hating my job. I always thought I’d be one of those people who loved work.”

“It’s not like it’s set in stone that you’ll work for Jan the rest of your life.”

“I know. But it sometimes it feels like it’s this permanent, even though I know it’s not. At least, I hope it’s not. I always thought I would do something by now, you know? Like maybe get into politics.”

“Politics is a scary place to be.”

“Yeah, but like in the best, exhilarating way.”

Ben made a face this time.

“What?” Leslie asked.

“Ok, you have to promise you aren’t going to judge me too harshly.”

“Yeah, ok. Of course.”

“I may have had my own brief stint in politics.”

“Wait, what? Really? That’s so –”

“Awful.”

“I was going to say cool.”

“I guess it was, but not in the way you mean. Does the name Ice Clown ring a bell?”

“Oh my god. You’re Benji Wyatt. The 18 year old mayor.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“You really did have your own stint in politics.”

“I try not to think about it, but yeah. And if I can escape the town of Partridge and all of the chaos I caused there, you can escape Jan and her candles.”

“Would you ever want to do it again? Go into politics, I mean.”

“I have no desire to be a public figure.”

“Maybe you could be involved in another way.”

“As long as I can live behind the scenes. Kind of like how I’m behind the counter as a barista.”

“Yeah, but you could also be–“

“I don’t want be anywhere else.”

“Are you sure?”

“For now, yeah,” Ben said, glancing at the clock. “I need to start setting up.”

“Oh yeah, Andy’s concert.”

“Well, before Mouse Rat, we have a magic show. We’re apparently the happening place to be on a Saturday night these days.”

“I met a magician at that event I was working at a few weeks ago,” Holly said as Ben plugged in a microphone. “Oh, I should text Holly and tell her to come early. She loves magic.”

The door to the coffee shop suddenly swung open, and a man walked in authoritatively. He was wearing jeans, a t-shirt with a beet on it and a pair of Birkenstocks.

“Hello. I am here on behalf of Michael the Magic, and I need to speak with the person in charge,” he said.

“Hey. That would be me. I’m Ben.”

“We need to be sure we have enough space for –”

The door opened again, and a second man entered.

“Jesus Dwight, what are you wearing?” he said.

“You said to look casual, since we’d be at a coffee shop,” Dwight looked affronted.

“I meant more casual than usual, as in I wasn’t going to be wearing a tux,” Michael responded. He gestured at his outfit of a blazer, button up and slacks. “Something like this. Anyway –“

“I only wear my Birkenstocks on special occasions,” Dwight muttered as he went back to setting up.

Michael finally noticed Ben and Leslie, recognizing the latter.

“Oh, hey!” he greeted her. “Did you escape from the candles yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Well, to be fair, it’s only been a few weeks.”

“Yeah. How’s the magic?”

“It’s great. Sometimes I feel like I’m Harry Potter.”

“Well, I’m happy for you, because Harry Potter is amazing.”

* * *

By the time Holly and Karen arrived, the coffee shop was buzzing with activity. Ben and several coworkers were making drinks from behind the counter. Leslie waved them to the over to the table near the stage where she sat.

“Geez, a magic show and a concert in one night. I guess it pays to know Ben,” Karen said as they sat down.

“I’d say so,” Leslie replied.

“I could use a bit of magic. This is good,” Holly said.

“If this is anything like his show I saw last time, you’ll like it.”

The lights dimmed as the show began.

“Ladies and gentleman. Real coffee drinkers and those who fear caffeine,” Dwight said loudly. “Presenting…Michael the Magic!”

* * *

“For my last trick, I’ll need a volunteer,” Michael said.

Holly’s hand shot up.

“You’re brave,” Karen whispered.

“I want to do something big to get out of this funk,” Holly replied.

Leslie nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes! My lady in the front,” Michael said, pointing at her.

Holly smiled and walked to the stage.

“My brave audience member,” Michael said, shaking her hand. “My fearless fan. Into the box you go.”

Holly disappeared into the large box. Michael introduced the trick and began sawing. Soon enough, the box was cut in half, and Holly stepped out, good as new. Michael took Holly’s hand as they bowed.

* * *

Mouse Rat began their set as Dwight and Michael finished packing up their gear. Dwight took off as Michael stepped back into the coffee shop.

“Mind if I join you three?” he asked as he approached Holly, Leslie and Karen.

“Sure,” Leslie said, pointing to an empty chair.

“So I don’t know if Leslie told you,” Michael told Holly and Karen. “But she and I go way back.”

“About two weeks,” Leslie said, laughing.

“That’s right.”

“How long have you been into magic?” Holly asked.

“For as long as I can remember,” Michael replied. “These days, I’m either practicing my tricks or watching Monty Python reruns.”

“Sounds like us,” Holly said, pointing at herself and Leslie.

“Every weekend,” Leslie said.

“We should watch together sometime,” Michael suggested. Holly and Leslie agreed. “Do you watch too Ann?”

“It’s Karen. And no.”

On the stage, Andy said something about a stage dive. There was a loud cheer from April. Ben ran toward him and waved his hand, attempting to stop it.

Michael and Leslie went to get more drinks.

Karen rolled her eyes.

“He’s kind of weird,” she said.

“I like him,” Holly replied. “He’s like this bundle of positive energy.”

“Well, to each their own.”