The car comes to a stop, just outside a frozen yogurt place. The empty drink cups and plastic bags in the back seat scrape against each other, and the driver exhales. She sits for what feels like a minute, two hours, five hours, three days, 5 minutes before taking out the key and grabbing the handle.
She's got to get out of this car eventually, she thinks. Her familiar agrees, destitching its ink from her skin.
CINDER: i'm not fucking nervous.
ETHER: People who are not nervous are known to spend minutes upon minutes in their car, rehearsing their lines.
CINDER: yeah, exactly.
Cinder pops the door open, just in time for a car to zoom past, shaking every cup, emblazoned with a comical Italian man, receipt padded with advertisements, and unpaid parking ticket asking for money than she's ever had loose.
For just a moment, she entertains the idea of chasing it. Her eyes follow that coupon into the windows of the Jujuice shop she's parked in front of, meeting the glance of a cashier, and she sighs again, shutting the door and reformulating her plans for dinner.
ETHER: Cmon. You're running late.
CINDER: you cmon.
CINDER: i have plenty of time to sit here.
CINDER: i'm early!
ETHER: You're not, actually.
ETHER: If you go now, you can be on time.
ETHER: If you'd like, I'll take you in there myself.
CINDER: absolutely not, do you KNOW what she'd think about that?
CINDER: she'd probably think i'm some horrible tinder unicorn hunter.
CINDER: i'd like to come off as at least passing for normal.
CINDER: and not some sociopath who brings her boyfriend to a fucking juice date!
ETHER: Hm. Two things.
ETHER: I am neither a man, nor am I dating you.
CINDER: hm, two things.
CINDER: one, we both know that. but she doesn't!
CINDER: and i don't want to explain our relationship to her!
CINDER: two, you say that with DISGUST.
CINDER: what would be so bad about dating me anyway?
ETHER: I don't care for women.
Cinder rolls her eyes.
ETHER: You know what I mean.
CINDER: and you know what i mean!!!
Cinder sticks her tongue out, right as Ether flicks out its tongue, as it has every few seconds. Ether responds by yawping, baring its fangs and gesturing towards the windows of the Juju Ice juice store. Inside, a woman looks at her watch, the universal symbol for wondering where the fuck someone could possibly be. Even if she's on time, Cinder is now officially... running late. Cinder quickly pats down Ether's head, pushing its ink back into her skin, its head merging seamlessly with her skin, its borders becoming line art and blocks of color sewn beneath her flesh.
CINDER: keep quiet, alright?
CINDER: i don't want anything going wrong on this.
ETHER: If it does, you know it won't be my fault.
The juice store is shockingly warm, considering how cold juice tends to be. The cloak almost makes her seem overdressed. She looks around for the person she invited here, as hard as she might be to miss, but she hears her first.
Cinder swivels on her heel to face her, catching first sight of her bright blue hair. It gradates, a light blue that grows darker as it distances itself from her face, as if she's a part of the sky come down to meet her, Cinder thinks.
Cinder is more aware of her voice than she's ever been in her life. She sits at the table across from her, and fidgets uncomfortably in the seat, trying to figure out how her cloak is most comfortable when sitting in a wiry chair and failing.
???: hey! so you're.
CINDER: CinderOfBrimstone, yes.
???: haha, that's a wild nickname. sounds like something out of a game, even.
CINDER: It is just my name, oddly enough.
???: oh! my username is my name too haha.
CINDER: You're... Hold on.
Cinder pauses to recall her username.
SUGAR: my name's sugar.
CINDER: Sugar and Cinder, ain't that a pair of names.
SUGAR: yeah, isn't that something.
Sugar swirls her drink, kept in the same kind of cup that crowds the back of Cinder's car.
CINDER: Did you already eat?
SUGAR: oh, no, this is just a holdover from lunch.
SUGAR: it's mostly melted ice, it gets hot in there you know?
CINDER: Yeah, I get you, I'm still trying to break the ice myself.
Sugar tries to get a good laugh out of it, though Cinder can tell it's kind of forced. Ether coils around Cinder's arm, as if groaning at her half-joke. Cinder fidgets in her chair, her cloak still not comfortable to sit on. She wants nothing less than to look Sugar in the eyes after that, so she gets a good look at the cup and for a moment, she thinks the comical Italian man winks at her.
CINDER: So... what do you do for a living?
SUGAR: i actually... can't really say.
SUGAR: i've been between jobs, you know?
SUGAR: the economy and all.
SUGAR: temp work winds up putting me in a lot of places.
SUGAR: last week i spent a full week just screwing the caps onto toothpaste.
CINDER: Oh my.
SUGAR: you wouldn't believe it.
Sugar launches into a rant, encompassing every kind of work she's had in the last months. Cinder, in turn, leans forward, listening intently, her cloak unwadding itself beneath her as she listens to Sugar name each and every horrible boss she's had.
SUGAR: and so that's how
SUGAR: but uh. haha. i guess that's still under nda so forget i said that!
CINDER: i'll do my best.
CINDER: no promises though.
SUGAR: what is it you do?
CINDER: i'm a...
Ether squirms along Cinder's arms, its tail knotted between her fingers.
ETHER: Do not forget.
Cinder centers herself and thinks for a moment. And then another moment.
CINDER: how do i explain this...
CINDER: I am a YouTuber.
Ether relaxes its vice grip around Cinder's fingers and Cinder sighs.
CINDER: Sorry, that's kind of... cringy, I think?
SUGAR: haha, i think it's cool.
CINDER: That's a relief.
SUGAR: what kind of videos do you make?
CINDER: Uh. I mostly make... short films?
SUGAR: ah, the artistic type...
CINDER: it's kind of goofy stuff.
CINDER: i used to be a Viner but...
CINDER: well, you know.
SUGAR: ah, may its memory be a blessing.
SUGAR: got any vines i might know?
SUGAR: rainer watches these huge compilations every night so i've seen a decent amount!
CINDER: you probably have.
SUGAR: small world.
SUGAR: i'd love to see some of your new work too.
SUGAR: i always find that kind of thing interesting.
CINDER: i've got a joke but it's certainly not first date material.
SUGAR: hit me with it!!!!
Cinder tells her joke, and Sugar lets out an uncharacteristic cackle and spits out her drink.
CINDER: who's rainer?
CINDER: if you don't mind me asking, of course.
SUGAR: rainer is my daughter, she's 72 months old haha.
Cinder stops to do the math in her head and thinks for a moment.