posted 7/31/11. © peanuts and paydays 2011.
Of Coffee and Broken Elevators
a oneshot by peanuts and paydays
Saturday, 9:23 AM
It started out in a bakery.
A barely audible sigh. "No, just a coffee please."
Mark paused with his hand near the register. Emily Collins never drank coffee, except for the occasional odd day when she was exhausted from schoolwork or in a horrible mood; and even then she usually changed her mind at the last second. Carefully looking up to meet Emily's blank stare, he noticed that her brown eyes were unusually dull and bloodshot. Dark circles framed the bottom of her tired eyes.
She broke out of her daze and blinked. "Something wrong?"
"No," Mark replied quickly, "It's just—is everything okay? You, uh, you never drink coffee. In fact, I'm pretty sure you said you hated coffee that one time—"
"Sorry, who are you again?" She snapped, "I'm having a bad morning and I'd appreciate it if you'd just give me my order."
He awkwardly looked down again and mumbled an apology, then brought out a steaming cup of the brown liquid. Ignoring the amused look his coworker Ben was giving him, he rubbed his face and took the next order.
Mark watched as Emily took a sip of her drink, made a face, and proceeded to toss it in the trash can near the door of the bakery.
Saturday, 4:57 PM
I kind of felt bad.
But it wasn't my fault that cute familiar-looking-bakery-guy decided to show his concern on the wrong day. On any other given day I'd have happily smiled and explained why I'd had the urging to buy a cup of disgusting coffee. But that morning, I'd spent 2 hours on the phone with my ex-boyfriend, who I'd broken up with two months ago, trying to explain why I didn't want to get back together with him and why he should try to pursue Mae Williams instead. Since his words were annoying and kind of hurtful, I think any girl would've agreed that my own hurtful remarks toward cute-bakery-guy were pretty understandable.
In fact, I think I'd handled the situation quite nicely. When my best friend's Carly's ex-boyfriend wouldn't leave her alone, she threw terrible tantrums and threatened to get a restraining order, practically beating down anyone and everyone who talked to her in that week. She'd always been a bit melodramatic, and she especially was during that time, but at least it was entertaining for me to watch her tango with the poor guy. Compared to her actions, I'd say mine were pretty justifiable.
Still, I felt bad.
And now I was stuck in an elevator with bakery-guy.
I'd been on my way to visit a family friend who was staying in town at the local hotel, mostly because my mom had persuaded me to get out of the house while a bunch of worker guys installed the new kitchen tiles. I had no idea what cute-bakery-guy was up to—probably making a delivery, seeing as he carried a closed box of bakery goods—but when he stepped inside and the door closed, the elevator became inevitably stuck.
Of all the clichés that could've happened to me, this was the one that I had to deal with.
Granted, he didn't exactly know it was me he was with, since the elevator's lights had shut down after the door had closed and it was completely one-hundred-percent dark in here. I'd caught a glimpse of his face before the elevator became stuck but he hadn't seen mine. For all he knew, he could've been in this small elevator with a hideous old lady. But I guess even a hideous old lady would've been nicer to him than I'd been that morning.
"Um," I spoke, after calling for help from the elevator phone thing, "Hi." He didn't respond as he sat down on the floor and continued grumbling to himself about how bad his day had been.
"Hi." He finally replied a second later, looking towards me, though it was obvious he didn't have a clue as to who I was.
"Bad day?" I laughed nervously.
"Tell me about it. I mean, first, I find out my little brother gets to go to a Passion Pit concert and I don't."
My mood brightened a little at the mention of my favorite band. "I love Passion Pit!"
"So do I!" He said back, "Which is why I'm angry about the whole thing. And then, I find out my request to get a raise at the bakery was denied. And now I'm stuck in this stupid elevator."
"Sucks." I said, nodding sympathetically even though he couldn't see me.
"I know. And to top it all off, I try being nice to this girl I've basically been in love with since the Stone Ages, and in the most humiliating encounter of my life, it turns out she has no idea who I am."
I stopped twiddling my hair. That sounded oddly familiar to my rendezvous this morning, but I decided to think nothing of it. After all, how could he like me? My curiosity got the better of me though, and I tried to appear nonchalant as I asked him, "So, who is this girl?"
No reply. Of course, my brain taunted me, who in their right minds would talk about his crush in front of a stranger?
"I mean," I stumbled, ignoring my conscience, "Maybe I can help you. My best friend's basically a gossip addict, I'm sure I've heard some dirt on this special girl."
He shuffled around. "I can't believe I'm just going to tell you this. But I guess since you're a stranger and you seem nice enough..." He paused, and then blurted out, "Emily Collins. You know her?"
I think my heart actually stopped beating for a second.
I coughed, "Uh, actually, I'm-"
He cut me off, "I mean, you'd think she'd at least recognize me, right? I mean, I know I'm a dork, but we've been in the same math class for the whole year and I even sit two seats behind her."
A lightbulb went off in my head. So that was why he looked familiar! I closed my eyes and tried to imagine my calculus room. My seat was unfortunately in the front of the room, which meant I had no chance of falling asleep without getting a detention. Two seats back... was the cute-bakery-guy! Who, apparently... liked me since the Stone Ages? That was quite a long time.
But… there was no way.
Carly had once told me I was too picky about guys.
"It's a wonder," She'd said teasingly when my ex-boyfriend had asked me out, "That Kent even asked you out!"
Even though it was a joke at the time, I knew there was some sort of truth behind it. And as a matter of fact, I was picky about guys. I was picky about how smart they were, how well I knew them, how well they treated me, how well they would treat me after we got together, what he thought of my best friend, if my brother would approve, if my parents would approve, and even if he liked pickles. The list goes on.
When Kent had asked me out, my initial reaction was a flat out "No." After much persuading from Kent and even Carly, I'd finally agreed to go out once. Surprisingly, I had barrels of fun even though we went to a snobby restaurant, and afterwards he convinced me to become his girlfriend. He was a nice guy, but as time flowed forward, our relationship did not. In fact, it's safe to say it flowed backward. He slowly became more distant, barely even talked to me anymore, and ignored me whenever his jerk friends were around. Carly had tried to reason with me, explaining that all relationships went through this stage, but I'd paid no attention. My pickyness overtook my mind and I broke up with him. Two months ago. Carly thought it was ridiculous that I hadn't dated since.
My lovely best friend and I had had our fair share of arguments over guys. She'd try setting me up with random guys, I'd reject them, and she'd whine to me about how I was never going to get another boyfriend.
"Maybe," She'd wailed, on more than one occasion, "If you would just give the poor guy a chance, you could have fun again!"
Her words seemed to speak to me at this moment. Maybe my conscience was trying to tell me something. Maybe I was destined to be cute-bakery-guy's girlfriend.
Now if only I could remember his name.
Luckily, he kept rambling and paid no attention to my internal discussion with myself. "I mean, I'm Mark Henderson, you know, the guy who sits two seats back? The guy who complimented you on your green sweater the one day even though I thought it was actually hideous?"
I grinned at the revelation of his name, then frowned and tugged self-consciously at my own shirt. I wasn't wearing the sweater, but since it was dark there wasn't really a difference anyway. I had no idea it was that ugly. I'd only worn it to get my mom off my back about why I hadn't put her "perfect good Christmas present" to use.
"Of course... she made it work, but whatever." I could literally see him scowling as he paused to take a breath, "I mean, I guess it only makes sense since she's been going out with that guy Kent for the past year. Don't ask me why, I couldn't figure it out for the life of me. The guy is completely wrong for her!"
"I heard she broke up with him like two months ago." I offered helpfully, thinking how ironic it was that we were talking about myself without him knowing it was me he was talking to.
Silence. I heard some more shuffling around and then a muttered, "Really."
"Really." I assured him, "In fact, maybe that was why she was rude to you this morning." I could feel his gaze on me and I hoped to God he didn't have night vision or something.
"Huh." He sat down again, then proceeded to go ballistic, "Two months ago! Why wasn't I aware of this? Two months of her being single and I didn't have the nerve to strike up a conversation? What's wrong with me?"
"Nothing's wrong with you," I assured him awkwardly, "It's normal to be shy around a person you like."
"You don't understand." He groaned, "She's supposed to be easy to talk to! I mean, all of my friends have talked to her before. Ben's even held several normal conversations with her. Why haven't I?"
Huh. It was true, I mused. On more than one occasion, Ben and I had goofed off in the back of French class, only to get glared at and shushed by the girl in front of us. In fact, now that I thought about it, I'd seen Ben hanging around with Mark a lot. Why had I never bothered to learn Mark's name?
"Maybe you could start." I suggested, "Or maybe one of these days she'll be the one starting a conversation." I then made a mental note to myself to start talking to Mark, the cute-bakery-guy, at school.
"You don't understand." He repeated, "She's never even looked at me by choice. The only times she's ever talked to me was at the bakery."
"Well, I heard she was having trouble with Kent. That's probably why she hasn't talked to you before. I'm sure she would've talked to a nice guy like you if she didn't have troubling issues to deal with." I said, trying to assure him. It was then that I realized that I wasn't assuring him at all; I was mostly trying to assure myself that I was that nice person I'd originally thought I was. Which, by the looks of today's events, wasn't true.
"I still just wish I could have a normal conversation with her."
Oh, the irony.
"I'd even let her criticize whatever she wanted about me if it meant being able to talk with her." He added thoughtfully.
I almost let out a squeal of affection. By that point, I'd realized just how easily I could identify Mark as one of the sweetest guys I'd ever met, even though this was the first conversation we'd had. It was especially sweet how willing he was to talk to me. Too bad he didn't realize who he really was talking to.
Mark deserves to know. My conscience told me.
"I know that!" I retorted back, only to recognize that I'd said it out loud.
"Know what?" Mark asked confusedly, convincing myself I was truly crazy.
In that moment, I decided it was time to let the cat out of the bag.
"Um, nothing." I answered. I took a deep breath. "Mark?"
"I have something to tell you. I'm-"
"Hey," He interjected suddenly, "Do you think it'd be strange for me to just go up to her and start talking to her? Would that make me even weirder than I already am?"
I let out my breath. What was it with this guy and interrupting me whenever I had something important to say? "Well," I responded, "I don't think you're weird and I just met you."
He chuckled, "But you're not Emily, are you?"
I laughed nervously, even though I knew he was just joking.
I should tell him. I thought, Tell him that you are Emily.
No! My conscience butted its way through my mind, again. Stay anonymous! Figure out what his intentions are! Admit it, you are curious.
I sneered at myself. What was up with my conscience? Wasn't it supposed to help me make the right decisions? And then an idea ran though my head. I could help Mark! Since I obviously knew myself very well, I could reveal what I liked, what I didn't like, and how he could talk to me and become closer. It was purely brilliant.
And I really did have some sort of curiosity to be satisfied.
I shifted around on the floor, trying to get comfortable while smirking at Mark's protests. He was currently arguing to himself about how stupid the elevator people were and how slow they were at getting the elevator fixed. Which, in my opinion, was completely correct.
"Mark." I said after a while, deciding on sitting up.
"Can I help you?" The exact words he always said at the bakery. He, being the dork that he was, laughed at his own joke.
"No, Mark. I can help you." And me, being the massive dork that I was, laughed at myself as well.
He scoffed. "With what? I'm perfectly capable of handling my own problems."
"Right. And that's why you're talking to a complete stranger about your crush on Emily Collins."
A pause of silence. "You didn't make me blush with that comment." He mumbled.
"Mark, I know Emily personally. I know her likes and dislikes, and I can help you get to her." I smiled even though he couldn't see me.
"Really." He sounded dubious.
"Trust me, I know how." I let out a laugh, then, went on with the plan. "I'm going to ask you some questions, and you'll answer them."
"How is this going to help me?"
"It's like a pretest." I explained. "It'll help me understand where you need help. Did you know she has a list of criteria?" You also just want to know if he's suitable for you. My conscience countered evilly. I disregarded it.
"Sure." He replied dully.
First question. An important one. "Say she agreed to go out with you. Where would you take her?"
"How am I supposed to know!" He cried, "I'd be happy enough that she agreed to go out with me!"
I sighed. This was going to be harder than I'd anticipated. "Mark."
"Fine." He grumbled, "I'd probably take her on a date that didn't feel like a date. I wouldn't want to scare her off at some weird expensive restaurant with food I can't pronounce."
Kent had, as I'd mentioned before, taken me to one of those restaurants on her first date. But he'd ordered everything for me so I didn't have to speak to the snobby waitress at all. Mark's answer had me thoughtful about what I really wanted. I'd always enjoyed dates that didn't feel like a date. In fact, I'd always had more fun just hanging around with Kent than dressing up formally anyway.
A point for cute-bakery-guy.
I decided to comment with a, "Good answer" and asked the next haunting question. "Say you just had your first kiss. How would you react after the magic is over?" Kent had acted awkward around me for days. It made me feel really special. Note my sarcasm.
"Um," He sounded confused, "Like normal?" When I didn't reply, he asked in a perplexed manner, "What, is there some specific way a guy has to act after he kisses you? Isn't the kiss enough as it is?"
I had to refrain from giggling and smiling like a lunatic. This guy was insane- a good insane.
I didn't realize the speeding up of my heartbeat.
"What do you think of Emily's best friend?"
"Carly?" He gave a laugh, "She's pretty crazy. I think I remember her bruising Ben that one week when her ex wouldn't leave her alone or something. But she's cool to be around, definitely."
"You know," I said thoughtfully, "I—I mean Emily," Luckily, he didn't notice my blunder, "Has a brother."
"He almost beat up Kent after they broke up, even though Emily broke up with him."
He sounded confused, "Isn't he an eighth grader?"
Point. Kent could never distinguish the fact that my brother was just big for his size.
"Well what if you guys broke up?"
"Well I don't think that would really happen, now would it?" I could hear the smile in his voice, and I smiled in spite of myself.
"Okay, how would you act around her parents?"
He thought for a second. "Normal, probably. Wouldn't want them to think I'm an outrageous lunatic who's fake and sickeningly sweet, now would we?"
His words hung in the air as I tried to think of more questions. And a sudden pressing one sprung to my mind. "Why do you like her?" I asked suddenly.
I rolled my eyes. "Who else?"
"Well that's easy," he replied simply, "It's just the way she is."
"The way she is… how?" I asked, confused and interested. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine myself through Mark's eyes.
"Just the way she holds herself up I guess." He said, "I mean, she's so modest and completely humble. Like, take this. She's like the prettiest girl on the planet and she's never once bragged about her appearances. And she's so talented, you know? And she's smart!" He laughed, "That's a big one for me. For someone so pretty, it's hard to believe she's all of those things." A pause. "But she is."
My closed eyes opened and my heart skipped a beat.
I suddenly knew.
Mark was the guy I've always wished for. He was the one that I was sure would treat me right, the one I was sure would be nice to my strange best friend, the one I knew my parents would approve of, and the one I one-hundred-percent knew I would be totally crazy for.
He totally filled my criteria.
"So?" He inquired, "Did I pass the test?"
I laughed lightly. "You sure did, Mark Henderson." My smile diminished, "But I have something to tell you. I'm actually—"
"Oh, hey." He said unexpectedly, interrupting me once again, "Sorry, but I didn't catch your name." He chuckled brightly to himself, "I can't believe I just spend an hour in the dark having a stranger help me with Emily and I didn't bother to know her name. Thanks, by the way, I'm really grateful for your help."
I squeezed my eyes shut again, sucking in some air.
"Are you one of Emily's friends?" He continued, "I mean, you must be, since you know so much about her. Unless you were plotting my downfall this whole time." He reached over and nudged my arm teasingly.
A bell sounded from the elevator.
"I'm sure we can be great friends after this whole elevator thing is over, can't we?"
My eyes flew open as the door abruptly opened. Light shone in the cramped space and I glanced over at Mark, who was, not surprisingly, staring at me in disbelief. He blinked his eyes, shook his head, and stared at me again. Like I was a ghost of some sort.
I had to say something.
"Mark," I began, but was cut off.
"Emily." His tone was calm. It scared me.
"I tried to tell you-"
"I should've known it was you. How could I have missed your voice?" He stood up slowly and walked straight out of the elevator. I internally slapped myself for being so stupid and raced after him.
"Mark, I'm so sorry I didn't-"
He interrupted again. "Was it a joke?" He asked, turning around to face me again. "Were you playing with me this whole time? Was it pathetic to you? That a dork like me liked you so much that I'd tell a stranger in an elevator about the whole thing?"
"No," I said, "It wasn't pathetic at all! In fact, I'm glad you did-"
"Because now you have something funny to tell your friends, right?"
"No," I repeated, "It wasn't funny! It was-"
"Stupid." Mark looked down, "I know. I'm sorry I told you. In fact, why don't we just go back to the way things were? It'd be easier for both of us." He stopped me as I opened my mouth to say something back, "Anyway, I'm late delivering this stuff," A point towards the box he was carrying, "So see you around." He began to walk away, but turned back again. "Sorry I never got to know you, Emily."
He didn't sound cynical and he didn't even sound angry. The only thing I could really pick up was how sad his green eyes looked and how regretful his tone had been. And then his emotions somehow reached me; I felt sad and regretful.
My conscience seemed to come to life again as Carly's words once again rang in my head. "Maybe if you would just give the poor guy a chance, you'd find out one of them was the love of your life!"
Except Carly was wrong. What I really needed was for Mark to give me a chance. Or rather, a second chance. I sat down on a nearby bench and willed my brain to think of another brilliant idea.
Where's my conscience when I need it? I thought angrily to myself. You can't just disappear like that!
And then it struck me.
I gave myself a mental pat on the back and smiled. I knew just when and where I could patch things up again.
Sunday, 5:30 PM
"Dude, are you scared of someone or something?"
Mark whipped his head around and looked at the face of an amused Ben. He scowled and crossed his arms, squirting a dollop of whipped cream into the hot chocolate he was making. "No," He replied monotonously, "I'm just looking around."
"You've been like that all day." Ben pointed out, peering into his friend's face. "What happened yesterday?"
"Yesterday?" Mark grunted, "Nothing... nothing at all."
"Are you still peeved over Emily screaming at you?" Ben asked knowingly.
"Of course not!" Mark countered, "I'm completely over that. In fact, I think it's time to move forward and find a new girl to pique my interests."
"A new girl to pique your interests?" Ben asked incredulously, "Mark, you've always been a loser but not this much." He moved over and muttered something to the other coworkers, who grudgingly nodded, "Come on," He began to drag Mark toward a booth, "You're going to sit down and tell me what's going on."
"Nothing's going on," Mark repeated for the second time, then ducked behind Mark as he saw the girl walking toward the bakery's door. "Hide me!"
Smirking, Ben removed himself from Mark's hold and waved at Emily Collins, who sheepishly smiled and waved back, locking gazes with Mark for a second. She then hurried toward the counter after her friend Carly.
"Want to bet she's not ordering coffee?" Mark grumbled after he'd plopped himself down on a plush seat.
Ben chuckled lightly, "So that's what's bothering you, huh?" He leaned back and looked at Emily, "I figured." His best friend sat and crossed his arms, scowling some more.
"Oh no," Mark breathed, slightly gasping for breath, "They're coming over here aren't they? Why are they coming over here? I specifically told Emily to never talk to me!" Ignoring Ben's raised eyebrow, he sprung up and sprinted out the door.
Only to get followed by Emily Collins.
"Mark." She said.
"Oh," He replied, "You know my name now."
She sighed. "Mark."
"Didn't I say we should just go back to me secretly imagining you were my girlfriend and you just ignoring me?" Mark asked, then turned red as he comprehended the fact that he'd just added to the list of possible reasons Emily Collins could laugh at him.
"I'm not going to ignore you." She replied firmly, "Especially after yesterday."
"I say we just forget it ever happened." Mark mumbled.
"I'm not going to forget it!" Emily said, her voice louder than usual, "I'm not going to forget how great it felt hearing you say all that stuff about me. And I'm not going to forget how stupid I realized I was for yelling at you that morning. And-" She paused. "And I'm not," Emily told him, "Going to forget how I realized that I was missing out on an amazing guy."
His face was blank. Then confusion swept onto his face and he knit his eyebrows together. "You think I'm amazing?"
Emily laughed. "Yes. I tried to tell you who I was multiple times, but since you decided to interrupt me, I decided I was going to, you know, help you get up the confidence to ask me out." Then she muttered to herself, "I really wasn't thinking what would happen once the elevator door opened."
"But you-" Mark spluttered, "But you're Emily Collins!"
"Yes," She replied wryly, extending her palm, "It's nice to finally meet you."
He ignored her sarcasm. "Aren't you supposed to laugh at a dork like me? Most girls do!"
"Well, most girls don't know how cool you are."
"Me?" He asked, still bemused, "Cool?"
There was an awkward silence.
"I'm sorry for not letting you explain." Mark mumbled, his face slightly pink.
Emily smiled at his adorableness. "As long as you give me another chance."
"But wait," Mark stood up from the bench suddenly, "There has to be a catch. You're just going to be my girlfriend, just like that?"
Her eyebrows rose. "Absolutely not. We only officially met a day ago!" She grinned, "I wasn't kidding about my criteria."
He cracked a smile back, "Didn't you say I was amazing a little while ago?"
She raised an eyebrow, "I'm not too sure I meant that. After all, we do need to work on your interrupting habits. If you hadn't interrupted me so much it sure would've saved us a lot of trouble."
"But then you wouldn't be talking to me right now." Mark pointed out.
"True." Emily replied, "But there's also a limited amount of information that I actually know about you."
"Well in that case," He countered, snickering, "Why don't you get to know me over some coffee?"
She laughed. "Only if you don't mind me spitting up all over you."
"Well if it's Emily Collins," He winked, beaming, "I guess I wouldn't mind at all."
And their relationship goes on.
a/n: aw, Mark and Emily. ;)
well, there goes my first oneshot. let me know what you thought/what I could improve on/etc, etc. feedback is greatly appreciated so... review pleeease!
thanks for reading!
OH. and i don't own Passion Pit, coffee, or anything that you might recognize here :)