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Thulite browsed the pastries behind the glass counter with an expression of childlike wonder and Steven couldn’t hide his elation as he bounced on the balls of his feet next to her. Being a gem, she of course didn’t HAVE to eat and in fact had never bothered to do so while on Earth, but after some prodding from Amethyst and Steven, she had quickly discovered she quite enjoyed the sense of taste and had been eagerly trying any new food that could be found. This included a few not so edible objects as well. The bar of soap had been interesting; she had hiccupped bubbles for two days after that. Steven had been so excited when the idea finally occurred to take her on a food tour of the Beach City Board Walk that he had practically dragged the confused gem behind him the whole way. So far she’d sampled some bits from the Fry Shack, on the house courtesy of Peedee, as well as a complimentary slice from Kiki at Fish Stew Pizza. Steven had saved a trip to The Big Donut for last knowing Thulite would go nuts over the sugary treats.

Sadie had been nothing but friendly since they entered the store and seemed quite amused by Thulite’s exuberance. She had answered all of her questions with a bemused smile and occasional chuckle. Thulite had quickly picked put a crème filled donut and was gushing to Sadie about how good it was between large bites. Lars for his part had been leaning against the broom he was supposed to be sweeping up with since they had entered the shop. Today he was sporting solid black gauges and a sneer.

“Oh man Steven, this donut is like to the max! We should totally bring a bag home with us! I’ve got to get everyone else to try these!” Sadie had already started stuffing a bag and Steven was just about to agree when Lars scoffed loudly getting the attention of everyone in the shop.

“Do you really think you need another one? I mean you’re already pushing the limit on pulling off that crop top. “ Having apparently said his piece Lars turned his back on the confused gem with a dismissive snort and began to sweep. Steven and Sadie gaped at the lanky teen’s back. He was rude, everyone knew that, but he’d never been quite so mean before. Steven snapped his mouth shut with a clack and was about to tell Lars to apologize to his friend, but Thulite beat him to it.

“Hey man, what’s your damage?” She scowled as she walked straight up to the taller boy and propped one hand on her hip. “I don’t know where you humans get your fascination with hating your bodies. I think it’s choice how diverse your species sizes and shapes are and I don’t know why you don’t appreciate them. But here’s the 411 dude, I was made to be this size. I’m perfect this way, I’m boss. “ By this time Lars had turned around, probably with some smart reply on the tip of his tongue. He never got the chance to speak though as one of Thulite’s fingers jabbed him dead center in the chest.

“BUT,” she enunciated with a firm poke that sent Lars stumbling back and into the shops wall, “I have friends that struggle with who they are. Friends that think they’re wrong or worthless because people like YOU can’t see how beautiful they are because of their size, because of who or how they were born, because of who they choose to be or be with. Well guess what? THEIR bodies and THEIR lives aren’t YOUR business. I don’t know why you think you’re standards should effect my life but maybe you should take a good look in the mirror because you’re obviously a very unhappy dude who seriously needs to step off.” With a final sniff Thulite turned on her heel grabbing the bag of donuts with one hand and clasping Steven’s hand firmly in her other. “Oh, and maybe you should apologize to Sadie you insensitive jerk-o-rama. Come on Steven let’s bounce. Thanks again for the bomb donuts Sadie.”

As Thulite strode out of the building with Steven in tow Lars finally pushed himself off the wall he had been cowering against and brushed imaginary dust off his shirt doing his best to appear nonplussed by his exchange with the gem.

“Heh, what a weirdo.” He sniffed haughtily picking the forgotten broom up from the floor. “That Steven kid sure is a freak magnet”

“You know Lars,” Sadie began slowly her hands fisted by her side and her eyes on the floor. “that girl is about my size.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Lars responded with a dismissive wave as he went back to sweeping. “BUT you know how to dress for your size. You’re considerate enough to know that no one wants to look at all of THAT” He finished with a flourish.

Sadie ground her teeth as she watched the boy she thought she loved turn his back on her just like he had with the pink gem who had just left. Thulite was right, why on Earth had she spent so much time worrying if she lived up to the standards of someone like this? Someone who didn’t give one thought about her feelings or happiness. She was perfect the way she was and the right person would see it one day. She hastily wiped away a few tears that had gathered in the corner of her eyes and nodded firmly to herself before adjusting her manager name tag.

“Lars, go home. And don’t worry about coming back tomorrow. Or ever again for that matter. The Big Donut is no longer in need of your particular services.” Lars whirled around quickly and stared with a stunned, almost hurt, look on his face.

“Sadie I…”

“No Lars.” Sadie interrupted firmly. “It’s time for you to go now.”

“Fine!” He shouted, his face twisted in anger and he threw the broom against the wall with a clatter. “I’ve always hated this crummy job anyone. Who needs you or The Big Donut!?”

As Lars swung the door open viciously the bell over head chimed an inappropriately pleasant tune. He stomped off briskly and by the time the door had closed Lars was long gone. Sadie took a deep ragged breath and jogged to the door. Her hand rested on the handle and she considered rushing after the boy, apologizing and begging him to come back tomorrow. She didn’t. She clicked the deadbolt and flipped the sign to closed. As she retrieved the abused broom from the floor once again and finally began to clean the store, a single tear rolled down her cheek. She didn’t bother to wipe it away.

Back on the beach near the temple Thulite had long since released Steven’s hand and had begun to happily munch on an éclair as the two enjoyed the setting sun. Up ahead they could see Garnet meditating on the roof with Hematite and Moon. Below, Amethyst had somehow gotten Charoite involved in a heated badminton game and Pearl was on the sidelines trying to referee a fair match. Steven felt a smile tugging at his lips thinking he would have to invite Peridot and Lapis over soon to meet the new family members and play a real game of gem volleyball. His thoughts turned to Lars and he felt his smile waver just a bit.

“Hey Thulite?” he began slowly trying to think of some way to address Lars’ behavior.

“What’s up little dude?” She responded with a grin popping the last of the pastry in her mouth and tangling her now free hand in his curly mop of hair. Seeing her glowing smile Steven changed his mind shaking his head just a bit. She was right Lars didn’t really matter.

“You’re totally rad you know that right?”
“No duh! You’re pretty radical yourself Steven.” She laughed loudly and pulled the boy tightly against her side. “ And if anyone ever tells you otherwise, I’ll deck them!”

Steven giggled along with the vibrant pink gem making a mental note to ask his dad what “deck” meant and hoping Connie got him that book about 80s culture and slang he had asked for soon.