Nancy was exhausted from a seven hour shift at IHOP, and had only gotten four hours of fitful sleep before having to get up to get ready for her shift at the tattoo parlor. She’d barely bothered to reapply eyeshadow and mascara. She wanted nothing more but to crawl back into bed, but her shift wouldn’t end until the next receptionist came in at 4pm.
It was 10:48am.
Her third iced coffee since 8am was watered down and nearly gone as she unlocked the door and walked into the parlor. She plucked at her spring green blouse, frowning as she realized she’d forgotten to apply deodorant again before leaving the house. She was so frustrated with herself she didn’t see her new coworker until she was nearly on top of her.
“Oh my god!” Nancy cried out, nearly dropping her iced coffee on the table where Kali had spread out several sketches, obviously practicing before they opened in an hour.
“Kali!” Nancy said, her heart still jumping against her chest with surprise. Kali was looking up at her, wide-eyed, her heavy black eyeliner only emphasizing the whites of her eyes. And her lips were shiny with a beautiful purple lipstick Nancy hadn’t seen her wear before.
“I’m so sorry, I’m not awake yet,” Nancy said lamely, immediately putting the straw of her coffee cup between her lips. The last of the coffee made an obnoxious slurping sound as she finished it.
Kali blinked rapidly, and Nancy noticed her right hand moving to cover her current sketch. But only partially.
“Are those pancakes?” Nancy said, her mouth moving before her brain fully processed the drawing.
“Oh, um,” Kali mumbled, turning away from her and pulling another half-finished sketch over the one Nancy had barely seen, covering it completely. “Yeah, I was trying out a new idea, um.”
Nancy expected her to continue, but she didn’t. A few beats of awkward silence passed. Nancy licked her lips, completely forgetting about her freshly applied lip gloss.
“I love pancakes,” Nancy said, then immediately winced. “I mean, you would think I’d be sick of them by now, working at IHOP, but I’m—I’m not,” she said quickly, giggling on the last word.
Kali looked back at her, still wide-eyed, expression strangely blank. Then she gave a small smile, her eyes crinkling even with the slight movement of her lips. “I love them, too. But I haven’t caught you at IHOP yet.”
Nancy’s heart started pounding again. “Oh. Oh, well I, I work late,” she said.
“When’s your next shift?” Kali asked, gathering the sketches on the table into a neat pile, glancing at Nancy once. Twice. Stacking the pile of papers.
Nancy sucked at her straw again, before realizing the cup was empty and biting the plastic in embarrassed frustration. “Um, tomorrow at 6pm,” she said.
Kali glanced at her a third time and grinned. “I’ll try to stop by then,” she said, before standing up.
Nancy waved her empty coffee cup toward the sketches in Kali’s hands. “Will I get to see more of your work?”
“Sure,” Kali said, her grin softening into a smirk. “Only fair.”