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like real people do

By MsLane

Humor / Romance

chapter 1

"A flat white for - Root?" Sameen utters the name on the cup in a question, her eyes scanning the area for the owner.

It's sort of a game for her, to try and match the order to the customer, simply from their appearance. She gives herself a mental pat on the back when she gets it right.

This time, she sees a dejected looking brunette make her way up to the counter, her eyes downcast, a frown on her face.

"Root?"

The young woman nods her head, her eyes barely flitting up to meet Sameen's.

Gingerly handing over the cup, Sameen goes back to make the next order, not thinking anything more of 'Root'.

'What kind of name is Root? Like of all the things-' she mentally shakes her head and focuses entirely on getting the drinks right.

xox

The next time she notices the name she's the one taking the order, and she glances up from the cup, her hand stilled after the 'R'.

"Root? As in, the square root of 8?"

The woman in front of her barely chuckles as she says, "Yes. Though, most people would assume root, as in, tree root." After she says this, her eyes fall away from Sameen's as she pulls out her money and hands it over.

Sameen nods, accepting that she doesn't want to converse. Normally Sameen is the one who would be trying to have zero conversation with customers, so she can understand someone not wanting to talk.

It's a slow time in the shop, so there isn't anyone behind 'Root', so she goes and fixes up her drink, and as she does so, she hesitates for a second, but then decides against doing anything and calls out, "Root."

The woman steps over and mumbles a thank you, once again her eyes not meeting Sameen's.

She watches as Root hesitates by the door before turning towards a table and taking a seat, facing the counter.

Rolling her eyes at herself, Sameen walks back to the cash register and waits diligently for the next customer.

Not at all glancing over towards Root every now and then and noticing how sad she seems, and only growing more disheartened as time goes on.

She is not a stalker when she notices how Root's shoulders relax after her first sip of her drink, or how her eyes shut and she seems to be cleansing herself of the bad feelings she's harboring.

Sameen grins a little, thinking to herself how good her coffee making skills must be to warrant such a reaction from her.

"Hello, I'd like to place an order. It's a long one, so I'll go slow so I don't have to repeat myself and give you time to get it right the first time."

Sameen blinks and straightens up, eyes locking onto the smug looking man in front of her, "Don't worry. I think I can handle it."

She watches the smile drop from his face and feels immensely satisfied with herself after successfully delivering his drinks.

"Have a great day." She says through a feral smile.

He smiles politely, "Thank you so very much-Sameen." He glances quickly to her nametag and back again.

By the time she's done with the next two customers, the intriguing and sad 'Root' is already gone.

xoxo

It occurs often enough that Sameen has memorized her order.

And Sameen also notices that Root only seems to come by when she's feeling low, and under no control of herself, Sameen finds herself feeling this pull to try and make her feel even just a little bit better.

The first time Sameen puts a little drawing beside Root's name, she promptly set it on the counter and walked to the back to take her break, making it so that her coworker was the one to call out the drink.

Sameen does hear from her co-worker that Root actually smiled and seemed to have wanted to see her before leaving the establishment.

Sameen figured it was a one time, lapse of control, on her part.

The second time occurs a week later.

Root comes in near the end of Sameen's shift, looking pretty bad. Her eyes are bloodshot, nose red and her lips trapped between her teeth more often than not.

"Your usual?" Sameen asks, gesturing to John that she's got this.

Root nods once, pulling out her wallet and seemingly fighting off a sob as she slides the money across the counter, before quickly departing and making her way towards the restrooms.

Sameen watches as she walks away and furrows her brow at the amount of concern she's feeling towards this practical stranger.

She writes out her name across the top of the cup and then gets to work on a quick doodle of a bathtub, 'You look like you need a break- so I drew you a bath.'

She looks disgusted with herself but what's done is done and she places the cup on the counter and moves to get her things since her shift is officially over, but Root makes it back to the counter and she hears a surprised chocked laugh that escapes Root when she sees the doodle and that makes Sameen pause and turn to face her.

Root's eyes meet Sameen's, "Thank you."

Sameen nods and quickly makes her escape before she does anything else that she'll question herself about sometime later on in the day.

xoxo

"Good mo- Oh, Root, sorry. I didn't realize it was you. I'll have your-"

Root shakes her head, "No, uh. No, thank you. I'll just have a green tea. No milk. Please."

Sameen's eyebrows are in her hair line she's so surprised. Root never drinks tea.

"I just need to try and-" she sighs, "I just need to not wake up."

Sameen realizes that Root must have noticed her surprise and felt the need to explain herself.

"Rough time?" she asks, in her gruff way.

The coffee shop is empty and it's one of those days that start off really slow, and it's the kind of day Sameen usually hates, but she finds she's thankful for it today.

Root bites her lip and nods her head slowly, "Yeah. You could say that. It's been pretty rough for a long time all together."

Slowly nodding to show Root that she's heard her, Sameen reaches behind her for the tea bag and pours in the scalding hot water, "Well, life sort of has a funny way of fucking people ove-"

"Ms. Shaw! That's no way to speak to customers!"

Sameen rolls her eyes at Harold, her boss, but puts on an apologetic look on her face when she turns to look at him.

"Oh, don't worry, Sameen and I go way back. I'm not just anybody. She's perfect with your customers." Root says with a smile being pulled across her face.

Harold lets out a sigh of relief, thankful for this piece of information and nods, "Oh! I see. Well then- carry on. Though, I do wish you wouldn't curse as much as you do Ms. Shaw."

He walks away then and misses the face Sameen pulls as she pushes the cup of tea towards Root, "I think that was a sign to let me know to keep my mouth shut and not try and converse with customers."

Root just lifts her eyes to meet hers and gives her a much softer smile, genuine, as opposed to the saccharine sweet one she had on earlier for Harold, "Haven't you heard? We go way back."

Shaw grins and nods, "Yeah, thanks for that."

Lifting her cup up slightly in a salute to her, Root says, "Anything for the best barista."

It's only after she's nearly out of the coffee shop does she see the doodle on her cup. It's of a toilet roll, with a piece dangling off, barely attached to the rest of the roll with a worried look on its face. The words, 'Hang in there.' underneath.

Root smiles and quickly turns back to find Sameen watching her. Sameen gives her a tiny grin and raises an eyebrow, and Root's smile grows wider in response.

Sameen smiles to herself for being able to make Root smile even on apparent bad days that are worse than her usual.

xoxo

The doodles and messages don't stop and honestly Sameen doesn't understand why she even feels the need to reach out and do something so human, when she usually would be the one outright walking away from feeling like this.

She doesn't ever try and connect with people, and she hates small talk and pretending to care for the two minutes she's in these people's lives taking their orders- but Root? She just doesn't find herself needing to dig for the right feelings when it comes to this woman. She doesn't have to listen very hard to hear what she's supposed to.

It's easy to hear. Though that doesn't mean she's completely comfortable with how this sad individual has padded her way into her life, and made her do things so sweet, she has a hard time believing she's the one doing them.

xoxo

Sameen goes all morning without seeing Root- And that's not unusual, not since Sameen has figured out that she only ever comes by when sad; Sameen is glad on days she doesn't see Root, because it means she's having a good day.

But what is strange is that Sameen does see Root, right outside the shop, as she's leaving at the end of her shift.

Not even thinking about it, she walks over to her, "Root? Did you want a coffee? I can go back in and make you a- Why didn't you come in?"

Root looks up at Shaw then, and seeing her so lost and sad stops Sameen from asking any more questions.

"I- am so sorry. I don't know why I'm crying like this- I," Root's voice is wobbly and hoarse, her eyes are brimming with tears and Sameen just doesn't understand why her first instinct isn't to roll her eyes and walk away, but rather it's to step closer and try to comfort the woman.

"Look- my place isn't so far. I make a mean up of coffee at home too. Plus it doesn't have a bunch of strangers to stare at you if you want to cry."

Sam offers her arm and she thinks about that the entire walk back home.

Root doesn't say anything, but her tears don't stop and it causes an ache at the bottom of Sameen's stomach.

The minute they're both inside the apartment, Shaw goes straight to the kitchen and turns on the coffee maker, pulling down two cups of coffee and putting them on the counter before walking back out to the living room, only to find Root still standing by the door, looking so tiny even though she's taller than Sameen.

"Look, I know it isn't much, but it's clean and the couch actually really is comfortable."

Sameen grimaces at her delivery, but Root seems to tether herself to that and pulls herself to the present.

She sits down and looks even more desperate for direction, but she says, "I didn't picture this being the scenario in which we'd have more than a two second conversation over a coffee shop counter."

Sameen smiles to herself, glad she isn't the only one thinking about the other.

"Yeah, tell me abut it. Did you eat?"

That's a safe place to start. Food.

Sam frowns when she sees Root shrug, "I can't remember."

"Okay. Well, are you hungry?"

Shaking her head, Root whispers, "No, I-think I've lost my appetite for some time."

Sameen nods and walks back to the kitchen, "Okay, more for me then."

Pouring out the coffee, Sameen deftly puts together a couple of turkey sandwiches and carries everything with her to the living room.

She stops and picks up a Kleenex box and drops it on the couch between them.

"Here" Sameen says, not unkindly, offering her a cup.

Root reaches for it and then gives her the smallest smile, "No funny drawing to go with this order?"

Sameen shakes her head, "Nah, I don't want to be predictable."

Taking a sip from her own cup, Sameen watches the other woman battle with her emotions for a while, before deciding to break the silence by saying, "I'm Sameen Shaw by the way."

Root turns towards her further and nods before replying, "I'm Root- Samantha Groves, but Root."

Sameen instinctively knows she'd rather go by Root, at least for now.

"Look Root, I don't beat around the bush, and normally I wouldn't bother asking at all but I'm gonna go ahead and just outright ask. Why are you crying? What happened?"

Root takes a large gulp of coffee to swallow her tears back before saying, "I don't exactly talk about this usually...Or I wouldn't normally talk in general."

Sameen expects her to stop there and ask her to drop it, but instead Root finds her eyes and keeps their gazes locked, "My mother has just passed away. It's been a long struggle, and for a while we thought she'd make it but uh- she- she's gone and now I just don't know what to do."

Sameen understands the past few months a lot clearer now, and she can't express how sorry she is that Root has to go through this, "She's not struggling anymore," is all Sameen can say.

Root nods her head, "My emotions have just been all over and I can't think clearly. I'm not usually such-" she stops as her tears well up instantly, "I'm sorry," she chokes out as she reaches for the Kleenex and buries her face in her hands.

Sameen takes a deep breath herself and moves everything away and then sits closer to Root and puts her hand on her shoulder and just rubs back and forth, hopefully in a soothing manner.

"You're really awkward at this." Root says much later, after she returns from washing her face in the bathroom.

Sameen shrugs her shoulders, "I don't usually do 'this' at all. So you either get awkward or nothing at all."

Root takes a deep breath before letting it out and sitting back down beside Sameen, "I appreciate it, and I didn't say that it didn't work...it just doesn't seem like-" she stops and the takes another breath before saying, "Thank you for this. I don't exactly have people I can turn to right now. And I know, you don't usually do this, so."

"Friends? Boyfriends? Girlfriends?" Sameen asks, sort of surprised, though she really shouldn't be, because someone who had people wouldn't constantly be in her coffee shop alone when one's sad and having a horrible day.

Root shakes her head, "Nope. Taking care of my mom was at the top of my priorities. You find that people don't really care much after a while; or rather it's hard to keep caring the same way they always have. It's harder to keep relationships when you can't do 'normal' things. It's hard for others to deal with you and your situation if it's for more than a few days. Things get strained and difficult for them and then it's 'tongue in cheek' for them to try and tip toe around events and fun times they've had without you- Being alone isn't that terrible when you think of the alternative."

Sameen hums, "Your mother must have appreciated you being around very much. Not many people would have done what you did."

"Stayed? I know. That's why it was difficult for them to be friends with me. I wasn't doing anything radical. I love-loved, my mother." she whispers the last line, unable to keep her voice from faltering.

Sameen nods, "Most people don't really see things the way you do Root."

She pushes the sandwich towards her then before grabbing hers and biting into it.

Root doesn't say anything, but she does end up picking hers up and eating and Sam takes it as a plus and continues not to mention it.

"You didn't have to do all of this." Root says, a couple of hours, filled with tears, coffee and turkey sandwiches, later.

"Yeah, I know that. I wanted to." Sameen says simply, walking back in from the kitchen.

"Why?"

"Because you're my regular and things would be weird if I saw you and just let you be, and if after that you just didn't keep coming to the shop."

Sameen knows that Root and herself know that that is so far reaching that it could take a selfie with the Hubble Space Station.

She sighs and says, "Because...my shift was over and I could actually try and do what I almost always wish I could do when you come by on your bad days- which is to go up to you and keep you company and, I don't know, try to take your mind off of your bad day."

Root nods her head, her ears feel like they're glowing brightly they're so flushed.

Sameen continues, "I don't feel things at a normal level- it's like having the volume turned down low. But seeing you come in as often as you do-it's like you're...my friend and I like to think that I know how to not mess up when it comes to friends."

She pauses and makes sure she catches Root's eyes before saying, "I know it's hard right now. And as awkward as it may be, I'm trying to tell you that you aren't alone right now. You've got all of my 5'3" frame in your corner. Shit gets thrown your way all the time because life's humorous like that, but you don't have to shovel through it alone."

Root had been silently crying, watching as Sameen spoke, and then all at once she's laughing through the tears and clutching at Sameen's arm as more tears flow to mingle with her laughter, and Sameen allows the touch. She lets it go on for as long as Root needs to anchor herself.

xoxo

The doodles don't stop. Months go by and Root still comes by whenever she's feeling low, and Sameen continues to personalize her cups to see her smile.

What does change is that they've struck up a friendship, and it's new to both of them; having someone understand you so wholly and not judge you for it.

After even more time, Root stops coming into the shop only when she's feeling sad. She starts coming by on perfectly good days, just to see Sameen.

And things get easier for Root, and she would tell Sameen every chance she gets that it's because of her that things do.

And Sameen tells her to, "Fuck off, you're being mushy again," every time she does, but Root sees the smile on her face.


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