The pretty waitress was giving her the eye. Eponine was almost sure of it.
She was too shrouded in self-pity to actually do anything about it, of course. She was painfully uncertain, all too aware that her long, cut-with-nail-scissors-because-she-can’t-afford-a-haircut mess of hair and her painful thin frame were not exactly what the pretty girls went for. She was all angles, while that girl was all softness and curves. No chance. No chance at all. Still. It hadn’t stopped her from checking in every now and then, popping into the café to see if she still worked there. Blushing too much whenever the other girl spoke to her. Smiling to herself inanely for hours afterwards. Spending money that she really couldn’t afford to spend on fancy coffees just so that she could exchange a few words with the girl.
But even so. She had no chance and she knew it. No amount of cute blonde eyelashes and 50’s pin-up curls and smooth-looking dark skin covered with intense freckles that looked like they would be really nice to kiss were going to persuade her otherwise.
She pulled the sleeves of her cardigan over her hands as she drank the coffee, feeling the jittery feeling that she always got when she could feel someone watching her. This time, though, it was tempered by the fact that it was the pretty waitress. And though Eponine knew it could be malicious, knew in her heart that it was the most likely option if she were honest, she also held hope. The girl looked kind. She hoped that she was as kind as she looked.
Her name tag read “Lark”, though Eponine was certain that was a nickname. It couldn’t be her real name. Although, she had heard her once singing in the back room while she rotated stock and she could see why the name had been given.
She was just so frustratingly beautiful. And it was ridiculous because Eponine had never had a girlfriend, never had a boyfriend, had never dated anyone in her life and she got overly attached far too quickly but just looking at that damn girl made her feel happy. The way her face would light up before any interaction made her feel light as air.
And… Somehow it was different from how it had been from Marius. With Marius, she hadn’t wanted to admit that she had felt her feelings slipping away after time. He had rejected her, of course, and she’d pretended at being heartbroken because that was how she had expected herself to feel but she somehow didn’t. She felt a little numb, and a little empty but that was normal. She felt, in all honesty, fine. With this, when it finally stopped being little flirtatious glances and started being eye rolls and slight irritation, she could sense that it was going to hurt.
Eponine took another sip of coffee. She was paying a fortune for it, after all. She might as well enjoy it. She had a shift in about an hour, but that left plenty of time for her to finish it. As she drank, she counted in her head- that single cup of coffee was going to cost her an entire hours wages. Sighing quietly, she took another sip to savour it and glanced upwards at the girl- Lark? She was humming to herself, a faint smile on her face as she arranged some cup-cakes on a plate. Her blonde hair curled around her ear, and brushed against her cheek. Her pink-painted lips were screwed up in concentration.
Smiling faintly, Eponine forced herself to look away. She had her notebook, a gift from Feuilly, open in front of her and was doodling as she drank. She didn’t like other people to know about the note book- it was her private thing, a journal. If anyone found out that she wrote poetry, she would die. The page she was currently working on had thousands of tiny inked stars covering half, courtesy of R from the last meeting of his social justice friends. Well, she guessed they were her friends too. She’d sort of come along with Marius when she’d first started to like him, and ever since she had just tagged along anyway because she didn’t really have anyone else. Feuilly seemed to like her. Grantaire too. He was just the right mix of sarcastic prick and ambiguously gay prick and also rich prick to be her best friend. But the rest of them, she thought, just seemed to tolerate her.
There was a small cough in front of her, like a kitten clearing its throat.
She looked up.
The waitress stood in front of her, smiling shyly and blushing to the tips of her hair. “Hi,” she said.
“Um,” Eponine stuttered, feeling her face flush to match. “Hello!”
“I just thought. Um.” She held out a cupcake on a plate awkwardly. “I wondered if you would. I mean. You always come in and you don’t order a cake so I don’t know if you don’t like them or something but if you do like them and if you wouldn’t mind doing me a massive favour, would you try this for me? Free of charge! Only if you want to! It’s a new kind- strawberry and cream but I don’t know if they’ll sell. You don’t have to try it, only if you want to. I don’t want to make you or anything.” She paused for breath for a split second and then her face dropped a little. “Oh no, you aren’t allergic or anything, are you? Or just not keen on cupcakes? I’m so so sorry, I will just go away and hide behind the counter and never talk to you ever again I am so sorry-”
Eponine cut in, blurting “I’m not allergic!”
The girl slowed down, blinking. “Oh. Good.”
Looking at the cake, and then back up at her, Eponine forced herself to smile politely. “I like cupcakes. A lot. Um.”
The girl sighed in relief and placed the plate in front of her. “Thank you so much!”
Eponine eyed her, pink cheeks and dusted freckles and curled blonde hair starting to frizz ever so slightly, white and pink apron coated in flour, and found that she had no reason whatsoever to doubt her intentions. She took a breath and tried to cool her flaming cheeks. “It’s no problem,” she said. “It looks absolutely wonderful, thank you.”
“Right. Good. Um.” The girl blinked her big dark brown eyes like a deer. “Let me know what you think!”
Eponine smiled. She found it rather difficult to stop once she had started, grinning even as she took a mouthful of sweet icing and light sponge. She briefly closed her eyes to savour the taste, and when she opened them again, the waitress was watching her. When she noticed her watching back, the waitress blushed and looked away. Eponine took another bite of the cake to muffle her giggle. Then she choked. God. Eponine Thenardier did not giggle.
No matter how pretty the waitress was.
The next few days slunk by too slow, with Eponine waiting desperately to be able to go back to the café. Finally by the next Friday, she had a late shift and she managed to nip in before her shift began. Batting eyelashes behind the counter, the waitress bounced a little on the balls of her feet and bought a cherry, chocolate and ginger cupcake from the cabinet for her. “Free of charge,” she said. “Let me know what you think!”
The next few months followed in the same pattern, with her ordering coffee, paying for coffee and being bought free cupcakes by the adorable waitress. She learned that her name was Cosette, that they had actually gone to the same pre-school and that Cosette was absolutely incredible. She worked in the café because her dad owned it, made all of the cupcakes and wrote the recipes herself. She also taught cooking classes to kids at the local primary for free and she danced too in her free time. She blushed like a nun in an R-rated movie and swore like an elderly woman and stuttered a bit and talked too fast when she was nervous. She got nervous a lot. She was all sweetness and light and Eponine loved her friendship. Still, it ached that that was all it was. Liking her was getting harder and harder.
The bell rang when Eponine opened the door and wandered up to the counter, doc martens and leather jacket on.
“Hey,” she said to Cosette, leaning on the counter with a Cheshire cat style grin.
“Hi, Ep!” Cosette always sounded so cheerful.
“You will never guess what!”
“I finally got a promotion!”
Cosette clapped her hands together. “That’s wonderful, Eponine!”
“I am pretty happy about it, yes.” She ducked her head. “I didn’t really deserve it, but Maggie quit and I guess I’ve worked there longest.”
“Shush, you.” Cosette said, smushing a finger against Eponine’s mouth. “Shhhhhhhhhh.”
Eponine bit her lip. She could taste sugar, traces left behind by Cosette’s fingers. “What? It’s true.”
“Eponine, you are awesome. You deserve that promotion, and you deserve…” She reached under the counter and pulled out a cake, icing piled up in a rosette shape and studded with silver balls. “This! It’s spiced pumpkin and vanilla. I made it specially; I remembered you saying it was your favourite coffee syrup flavour so I decided to try!”
Eponine blinked, suddenly finding it oddly difficult to swallow.
Cosette put the cake down on the counter. “Is it ok? Did I remember wrong?”
“It’s perfect.” Eponine said quietly. “It’s absolutely brilliant. I can’t believe it.”
Cosette smiled, blasé. “What wouldn’t I do for my best friend?” Her mouth dropped slightly like she couldn’t believe she’d just said that, and she slapped a hand over her mouth instantly like she could somehow stop the words escaping. “I mean. I didn’t…” She sighed. “God, that sounds sad. I mean. I spend all my time in this place or at the school, or dancing, and I know people but I’m always too busy to see them or get to know them and I never meet anyone new and I like you a lot. Like, an awful lot-”
Eponine interrupted. “You are probably my best friend too.” She confessed. She rested her hand on the counter, close to Cosette’s. Deliberating for a second, she moved towards her and then withdrew, then towards again. Cosette took her hand, lacing their fingers together, and then she looked up and smiled at her through her eyelashes.
“Would it be bad if I said that I like you probably more than a best friend should like you?” Cosette asked.
“Um. No. It would actually be quite good considering that I feel the same.”
“Ok. Good.” Cosette took a breath. “That is definitely good.”
“Can I kiss you now?”
Cosette blushed even harder and tilted her face upwards, lips curving slightly in a faint smile. Eponine reached out and ran a thumb over her lips briefly, tracing the curve of her lower lip, the perfect shape of her Cupid’s bow and the smudge of pink lipstick that she always wore. Her thumb swept up, over her cheekbone and brushing her fringe out of her face, and she cupped her cheek. Cosette’s eyes were following every move she made, crinkled at the edges where she smiled, her eyeliner flicked and perfect. Eponine watched her eyes, her lips as she breathed. Her lips were cracked and chapped in places under the lipstick, bitten but still soft as flower petals. Finally, she reached down and brushed their lips together.
Cosette practically swooned into the cake.