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Innovation

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"Isn't this great? Just us girls, out to get drinks with our friends," Elle says cheerfully, leaning over the wood-topped bar.

Enid would disagree. Even though she worked on a case with Elle and Vivian, she barely knows them. All she knows is that Elle is smarter than she looks and knows a lot about hair, and Vivian may be stern but she's not full-on evil. That doesn't make for great conversation, so the longest talk Enid had with someone so far was shouting at the bartender for giving her a straw. Honestly, does nobody care about the sea turtles?

"Yeah, this is great," Vivian says, looking unenthused. "It was very nice of you to invite us out for drinks." Especially after we spent the first semester and a half alternately ignoring you and tormenting you, and one of us stole your boyfriend, Enid mentally adds. Speaking of boyfriends –

"Didn't invite your, uh, Emmett?" she asks. Emmett isn't all that bad, for a man. He's good at listening and deferring to the superior wisdom of women.

"Emmett's meeting with a new client," Elle says cheerfully. "Callahan's wife is filing for divorce, and she wants him to represent her. Emmett took the case, of course he did, isn't he considerate?"

"Oh, yes, considerate," Vivian says. She still looks a little bored, and maybe a little intimidated by Elle, but is making an effort not to let either of those show. Enid is impressed; she's never been one for concealing her emotions, and it's served her poorly once or twice. Or more. All the time, really. She's lost mentors and jobs because when innocent animals or children or the planet or women or anything, really, are involved, she can't keep her mouth shut.

"More considerate than Warner, anyway," Enid says, then winces. He might still be dating Vivian, and even if he is slime Enid wants to try to get along with Vivian.

"You don't have to tiptoe around that," Vivian says, looking downcast and taking a sip of her drink. "We broke up."

Elle's eyebrows shoot up to her hairline and she clutches at invisible pearls. It's such an over-the-top reaction that it has to be fake, and Enid wonders how much Elle knows.

"About time, sister," Enid says, offering Vivian a fistbump that she half-heartedly accepts. "You're too good for him."

"What happened with you two?" Elle asks.

Vivian's impassable face cracks. She might be about to cry, or about to laugh.

"He broke up with me, really. He said I was very nice and all but all of a sudden he realized that he wanted a true rising star."

Elle nods, then goes back to her fake-shocked face.

"He asked for the ring back, and I told him where he could shove his stupid ring," Vivian mutters, then lapses into giggles. "I pawned the ring, and I'll spend a symbol of what was supposed to be the most important thing in my life on the real important things in life."

"I have a list of charities you can consider," Enid offers, and Vivian gives her a flat, unconvincing lawyer smile.

"I'll consider it," she says, and Enid knows she means no but doesn't shout at her, because she's being considerate too. "Actually, I was thinking about, um, updating my wardrobe a little. Any advice on that, Elle? And no pink," she adds hastily.

"Pink isn't your color anyway," Elle says, nodding. "Go for blue or dark purple."

"Purple is hardly serious and appropriate courtroom attire," Vivian says, and Enid realizes she's never seen Vivian in anything other than black and sober navy. Even Enid's wardrobe, that's nothing but cargo pants, camo, and flannel, is a little more colorful than that.

"It doesn't have to be much! Maybe just a blouse, or a nice scarf," Elle says, and her eyes start gleaming. "Maybe upgrade the eyeshadow, too. Your foundation is too pale, it's making you look sallow. Try Maybelline's "Medium Porcelain" shade. Then again, I'm not an expert. Talk to an actual makeup artist."

Enid has never even heard of Maybelline. It's nothing more than a capitalist plot to get her working for the corporate machine, no doubt. All the same, she's curious. Elle is in her element, and Enid wants desperately to be taken seriously. Maybe it is time for a makeover.

"Any fashion advice for me, Elle?" she asks casually.

Elle looks like Christmas came early, then takes Enid's face in her hand for a second.

"Lose the pigtail braids," she snaps. "They make you look twelve."

"They're easy to manage," Enid defends herself. She started doing the braids in the Peace Corps, and she likes them the way they are.

"If you want easy to manage, cut your hair short," Elle offers. "You'd look great with short hair. Wouldn't she look great with short hair, Vivian?"

Vivian nods uncertainly, and Elle takes that as confirmation.

"See that, Enid? The ladies won't be able to resist you with a new haircut."

Enid doesn't like hair salons, as a rule, but Paulette is a decent conversationalist and is considering donating to animal shelters, while Elle hops up on the counter and carries on a near-constant conversation. Enid barely notices the scissors and clippers attacking her hair until Paulette triumphantly announces "done!"

Enid squints at herself in the mirror, and sees a vaguely Enid-shaped blur. There's another pink blur squealing with delight, and a silent navy blue blur staring at her.

Enid fumbles through her pockets for her glasses and drops them. She scrambles around on the floor for their familiar shape, then finds them and pushes them back onto her nose, standing back up triumphantly. There's a quiet "oh, she's such a natural at the bend and snap!" and a strangled sound best approximated by a cat coughing up a hairball.

Enid looks good, she realizes when she sees herself in the mirror. Paulette has mutilated her hair into something professional, something stylish but still practical, something – something really great.

"Thank you, Paulette," she breathes. "I look –"

"You look incredible!" Elle says. "Doesn't she, Vivian?"

Vivian coughs. Her face is almost purple, and her eyes are wide.

"You look –" another hasty cough – "good. You look good."

Enid swishes her head back and forth. No braids to do up every morning, no flyaway strands in her face.

"This haircut would have come in handy with the Peace Corps," she comments. "Nothing's worse than trying to build a hospital with hair falling in your eyes. And having kids pull on your braids when you're trying to vaccinate them, gosh, they never sit still. None of that is happening anymore! This is an innovation."

"I don't know about innovation," Paulette says. "It's just hair; I get two or three lesbians in here a week looking for a cut like this."

"Innovation," Enid repeats.

"You do look amazing," Elle says. "You really do. With a black button-down, you'd be irresistible." Vivian makes another of those mildly concerning sounds.

"Yes, a black button-down," Vivian says, almost like her mouth is on autopilot. "Irresist – I mean, professional. Very professional. You'd look like a lawyer, not some frumpy librarian. Not that you look like a frumpy librarian. You look good, but you could look better. Wait, no."

Elle cuts her off with a wicked, knowing grin, and a cheerful "who wants to get shoes? I saw some in this month's Vogue that would be perfect for you, Vivian."

They spend the rest of the day shopping, something Enid didn't even realize was physically possible. Elle insists on paying for everything, so Enid gets herself a new pair of sneakers to replace the ones that are falling to pieces, after grilling the employees about sweatshops. Enid is not about to sponsor child labor, even if Elle says the shoes look "so perfect".

Vivian reluctantly gets a purple blouse, something fashionable but still lawyerly, and she does look very good in it. Enid enjoys the show while she can, because she suspects it'll end up buried at the back of Vivian's closet and never worn.

They talk about Enid's time in the Peace Corps, with periodic interruptions when Elle finds something particularly stunning (maybe they're stunning. Everything starts to blend together into a sea of pink after a while.) Vivian seems interested, even in the unpleasant little details like mosquito season where every glass of tea turned into bug soup within seconds. Enid will take any excuse to talk about her Peace Corps years, because they're some of the proudest years of her life. She fought for those kids, those refugees, those poor farmers, and she's going to keep fighting where she can do the most good, the United States legislature.

Vivian looks impressed at that bit, and Enid likes when Vivian's impressed. Logically she knows she's one of the best students in her class, but she always feels a little out of place among old money families, when she's in on a scholarship. Vivian doesn't seem to mind the scholarship, or the beaten-up clothes. She looks at Enid like Enid has real plans and real ideas, like Enid's really going to make a difference in the world, and even though Enid knew that already it's still nice to hear.