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The Freedom That Paper Gives

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Content Warning: Mental health (depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD) In their second year of university students Percy and Marie are brought together after an embarrassing incident. Percy finds himself drawn to Marie and her way of life as the two get closer. Based on a TV show I am writing by the same name.

Drama / Romance
Vermillion Lace
Age Rating:

When Percy decided to do something about it (Rewritten)

That was the fourth time today, Percy thought to himself, as he caught her looking at him. The first time he thought he had spilled coffee down his cream coloured shirt or at least just on his brown corduroy trousers. Because at least then it would be har to notice, but no as always his clothes were spotless, apart from a couple of coffee grounds or tea leaves but those were to be expected when you worked in a cafe. Percy was sure her name was Marie, but he didn’t know her surname. It was a common occurrence for Percy to catch Marie looking, no looking was the wrong word, staring at him intently, longingly. At first, Percy wouldn’t deny, he was interest as Marie was rather good looking. While a little on the short side she managed to pull it off with grace, her long brown hair often down to reach her mid back and a choppy fringe Percy was convinced she cut herself. She always dressed quite sophisticatedly, usually a jumper and skirt with a pair of heels which meant he often heard her coming before he saw her. Today was a deep green turtleneck jumper that matched her eyes. Or at least Percy thought her eyes were green. But after a few weeks of neither of them making a move Marie’s staring started to get on Percy’s nerves. And this was last year. The worst part for Percy was that Marie never seemed to notice his disapproving glances back, or rather she simply didn’t care.

It’s not too busy in here, Percy thought to himself again, maybe I should call her out on it? But Percy couldn’t do that to her, he had seen the Marie turned bright red and hid herself whenever she made too much noise of drew even the slightest bit of attention to herself in any way. Percy’s mind went back to the time she accidentally spilled hot chocolate on her, unfortunately for that day, white blouse because she was too engrossed in her work. She looked close to a picnic attack and had to rush out of the cafe, after that she didn’t return for a week. While Percy wasn’t particularly fond of Marie he made sure no one mentioned the incident when thankfully she did return. But even now she was careful whenever she drank. Marie always seemed to be engrossed in her work, she sat in a corner seat nearest the window and charger port for her laptop. Marie was almost always in either one of three positions; hunched over her laptop typing, looking out the window or looking at Percy. Percy noticed she always had her back against the brick wall so she was looking out into the cafe and so, Percy presumed, no one could read over her shoulder. On days where she was wearing particularly dark clothes she seemed to blend in with the wall.

No, Percy couldn’t embarrass her, Marie was one of the best costumers here and Percy knew better than to hurt the profit margins. Thankfully as Percy was debating with himself he could hear the familiar click of Marie’s heels on the polished wood floor as she was approaching the counter. It must be time for her refill, Percy thought to himself, its about time she had been cradling that last mouthful for the past hour, it must have been stone cold.

“The usual please,” Marie said quietly as she gave her tumbler to Percy and avoided direct eye contact as usual.

Now or never he thought, it is loud enough in here so that no one can hear.

“That will be £1.25 please.” Percy said as Marie dropped the coins into his palm, “You know you really shouldn’t stare at me like that. It makes me uncomfortable.” As Percy said this he too was avoiding eye contact.

Percy immediately regretted this as he saw an all too familiar bright red spring up across Marie’s face and neck. She had gone from looking just past Percy to looking directly down at her own feet as if her shoes were the most interesting thing in the world. Was I too rude? It’s the truth isn’t it? But Percy didn’t have time to think as Marie replied with an apologetic look.

“I... I’m so sorry. But I wasn’t looking at you... I was looking at the cakes,” Marie indicated to the cake cabinet to her left, one that Percy just minutes ago was standing behind. “You have a habit of standing behind it, so if I want to look at them or read the menu behind you it must look like I’m looking at you. I’m really sorry if I made you uncomfortable in any way, I really wasn’t looking at you at all. I’m really not that type of person.”

Marie let herself trail of and instead focused on her hands which were twisting around each other, her fingers knotting with each other. She had moved on now so that the next customer could be served. But Percy couldn’t let it end like this, after all she might never come back. Percy turned to Joy behind him, who by the look of her face had heard the whole thing.

“Joy can you take this customer while I make Marie her drink?” Percy asked, still hope it that Joy hadn’t heard their conversation. After all Joy was very fond of Marie, it seemed like everyone at the cafe was.

“Sure man, you need to sort that and do some damage control. Look at the poor girl she’s close to tears. I mean I knew you were a heartbreaker but not like that.” Joy replied as she took over.

While Percy knew Joy was half joking he knew she had a point. While Marie wasn’t near tears she was visibly upset and rightfully embarrassed. As for the heartbreaker comment, well Percy wouldn’t dignify that with an answer. Not now at least. Percy rushed to followed Marie who had gone back to looking at her feet. He thought she couldn’t take her eyes off him, now she can barely look at him. As he started to make her drink Percy tried to salvage any dignity they both had left.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to assume...” Percy started but he was cut off by Marie.

“It’s alright, I’m sure your never short of female attention.” Marie replied quietly, but her words cut through him like ice.

Clearly his approach didn’t work, Percy wasn’t sure if she was being sarcastic or not. But at least her confidence was coming back, so that has to be a good thing, right?

“Can I tempt you?” Percy bit his lip as he realised what he had said, “with any of the cake I mean. They’re all baked fresh this morning.”

At least Marie was looking at him now, albeit with an eyebrow raised and an unimpressed expression. She clearly wasn’t interested in Percy’s sales pitch and she was prepared to let him know.

“Unless you happen to have one at zero calories and zero cost. I’ve got to live off a student budget and I can’t really afford to waste my money on something that will leave a stale taste in my mouth. But thank you anyway.” Marie said, really wishing her out of character rudeness would end the conversation.

But alas, it didn’t. You see Percy has never been the type to know when to stop digging. He just makes the hole bigger and bigger and this boy was determined to reach Australia.

“Ok, if your sure. Again I really am sorry. But it was an easy mistake to make.” Percy said, choosing to focus on making Marie’s drink which he had forgotten to do.

Marie herself was starting to go red again, the limited confidence she had summoned was starting to wane. She just really wanted to go now.

“Look really its ok, just please stop talking about it. I kind of just want my drink and to get back to my work now. Please.” Marie replied, tucking a non-existent strand of hair behind her ear and looking over to her table.

Percy decided to let her go before he made it any worse for the two of them. Beside he could always try to rectify the situation again later.

“Hot chocolate, right? You go and sit down and I’ll bring it over to you.” Percy replied hurriedly trying to get back on track.

“Um, ok. Thank you.” Marie replied as she took the chance to escape back to her corner.

As Marie returned to her corner oasis and Percy returned to work Marie let out a sigh and buried her head in her arms. This is why she didn’t like leaving the house or talking to people she didn’t know. She always made mistakes and ended up embarrassing herself and others. Marie considered taking the rescue remedy in her bag but decided to give Kamila’s advice a go instead. So she lifted her head up and took a deep breath.

“Just fake enough confidence to get through the situation.” Marie said to herself.

Percy never really liked Marie leaving her seat in case someone stole something. She always came and sat in the same seat every day. Percy supposed she chose that seat so she would be out of everyone’s way as the table was in a weird position so that if anyone wanted to sit with her they would have to sit on the booth seat next to her. She always ordered the same drink, hot chocolate, no matter what the weather was outside. Everyone who worked at the cafe knew Marie’s class schedule because if she wasn’t here she would be at the university. Percy had also noticed that Marie sat alone and seemed to be engrossed in whatever she was doing. Unless it was looking at cake it seemed. Percy found himself growing warm as he remembered his mistake earlier and rushed to finish Marie’s drink. He didn’t know why he offered to take it over to her as it meant seeing her again, but before he left he took a cupcake out of the cabinet and put it onto a plate.

“I can‘t promise its zero calories but this one is on me. To apologise, again.” Percy said as he put his peace offering on the table.

Marie had completely forgotten that Percy was coming over as she decided to bury herself in her work. As she dragged her eyes away from the screen she found herself going red again and struggling to look Percy in the eye. She decided to let her eyes rest somewhere else and was searching for a place to do so. She decided against his forehead as she would be distracted by his floppy hair, and the rest of his face was too close to his eyes. She she decided to settle on his shoulders, they were rather broad. Broader than Byron’s and of a very similar build to Blake’s so Marie assumed Percy worked out a bit. Suddenly aware of where her thoughts were going she decided to focus on the pocket of Percy’s shirt, it held a pen and little black notebook Marie assumed was for decoration as she had never seen him use it to take down orders. It reminded her of the little sketchbook Byron used to draw people when he was out and struck by inspiration. Due to their misunderstanding earlier Marie thought it best to avoid the general chest area and looked lower down, hoping to make her way casually back to her laptop. She decided to focus on the repetitive pattern of his brown corduroy trousers as they reminded her of a pair that she had borrowed from Kamila and had yet to return. Then it dawned on Marie exactly where she was looking and her eyes snapped back to Percy’s. She had never noticed their warm brown colour before, they matched his trousers very well. However, her own wandering eyes had caused her to go red again as she hopped Percy hadn’t noticed.

In truth Marie’s panicked looking up and down of Percy took all of two seconds and Percy himself hadn’t noticed. No one would have as they would have been too preoccupied by the fact that Marie had gone a faint red quickly followed by a bright one that seemed to be brought on for no reason. But Marie had convinced herself that Percy had noticed and spoke very quickly in what she hoped was a causal tone to change the subject in her own mind and hopefully close this rather embarrassing chapter in both their books.

“Thank you, but you really didn’t need to do that. Look, like you said accidents happen and to be honest I’m glad you had the confidence to call me out. Although if you want to find the real culprits those girls that come in every day after school every day whisper about you.” Marie said, looking straight back to her computer.

Percy knew exactly who she was talking about. A group of five teenage girls who decided this quiet, independent cafe would be their after school hangout everyday. He had been waiting for a chance to get rid of them for aged and Marie had delivered it. Although Marie hadn’t gone into specifics of what they whispered about he could guess.

“Oh, thanks for the heads up... I’ll go talk to them when they come in. The same goes for if anyone here makes you feel uncomfortable in any way. You are one of our best costumers after all.” Percy said, slowly turning away.

“I’ll be sure to remember that.” Marie said, stopping Percy from leaving by holding out her hand, “I’m not sure if I have introduced myself before but I’m Marie. Marie Sauvage.”

As she said it Percy noticed she said her name in a french accent as opposed to her usual English. Somehow the French accent suited her better. Percy replied while shaking her hand in his own mix of Irish and Nigerian accent.

“Percy Salisu.”

Both Percy and Marie smiled at each other as they shook hands before Percy was called back to work and Marie carried on with hers. As he was walking back to behind the counter Percy realised he had finally learned her last name and gave a little smile. Unbeknownst to him this smile was matched by Marie as she found herself newly inspired.

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