"Mind if I sit here?"
It was slightly chilly, just at the beginning of fall, and a few weeks into Malory's first year of college. She didn't know what degree she was planning on getting, since hunting had become a major part of her life over the past few years, but needing to get a college degree for a successful future had been burned into her head since middle school, so here she was. She was sitting outside on campus, cross legged on a bench, layered in a baggy knit sweater and hat, looking ever bit the stereo typical quirky college chick and not caring, sketching, and she looked up at whoever had asked her that question.
The woman looked a couple years older than her, with short black hair, torn jeans and black jacket. And hot. And absolutely Malory's type. She looked like she could make punching someone in the face look as casual as shaking their hand. Hot Lady gestured to the open half of the bench, and Malory nodded. "Sure, knock yourself out." Malory answers with a shrug. Why she had even asked Malory didn't know, and she looked back to her sketchbook to avoid staring as Hot Lady sat down.
Apparently, Hot Lady had no problem with staring at Malory as she sketched, not subtly at all trying to look at what the freshman was drawing. "The fuck is that supposed to be?" She asked after several minutes of watching, and Malory turned to glare at her.
"What are you drawing? A swamp monster?"
"A swamp troll." Malory had just killed one a few days before and wanted to draw it while the image was still fresh in her mind, but she couldn't do that if some stranger was interrogating her.
Hot Lady laughed, holding her hands up in mock defensiveness. "Fuck, sorry for getting my beast terminology wrong. Didn't know I had to be specific. Why are you drawing a swamp troll?" Malory just glared, before closing her sketchbook and starting to pack away her things. "Woah, hey, c'mon now, where you going?" Hot Lady actually seemed a bit disappointed, but Malory didn't feel the need to care.
"I'm going somewhere quiet," Malory said, standing, "where I can draw in peace." With her sketchbook and pencil case in hand, Malory turned her back and walked away, leaving Hot Lady now alone on the bench.
Only a few days had passed since Malory's encounter with the stranger on the bench when Malory ran into her again. And this time, she actually ran into her. "Fuck!" Malory cursed, her hot coffee spilling onto her (thankfully) black jacket and jeans. "Watch where the fuck you're--oh, it's you." Hot Lady was standing in front of Malory once again, though was looking less smug this time, for some reason. Malory had been going back to her dorm after class, and had gotten coffee on the way since she had planned on staying out late to go hunting, and must not have been paying enough attention to where she was going.
Hot Lady looked down--and she really had to look down, being several inches taller than Malory, especially in the chunky boots she was wearing--at Malory and frowned, looking genuinely concerned, which took Malory by surprises. What was even more surprising was what she said next. "Shit, you okay? Are you hurt?"
Malory blinked, frowning. "I--no, I'm fine, wasn't that hot. Just a waste." She tossed her now empty paper cup into a nearby trash bin with a sigh. The coffee that had spilled on her was already cool now, and the autumn breeze that blew by made Malory shiver slightly. Hot Lady--fuck, she really needed to find a better name for her--was still frowning, before nodding her head to the side.
"I was heading to the cafe anyways, lemme get you a new one." She started walking, and Malory, a bit confused but not willing to pass up a free coffee, followed.
They walked in silence most of the way, until they reached the doors of the cafe Malory had exited not very long ago. Hot Lady held the door open for them, and Malory couldn't take it anymore. "What's your name?"
The stranger offered a smile, gesturing her hand with a little flourish and shallow bow. "Cassandra Thomason, but my friends call me Cassy. And you, gorgeous?" The casual pet name, especially a complimenting pet name, made Malory step back.
"Gorgeous?" Malory repeated, as if she had never been called that before.
"Yeah, gorgeous. I mean, I'll happily keep calling you that if you're not gonna give me a name." Cassandra frowned slightly as Malory seemed to flounder for a response.
"Malory, name's Malory, just don't--" Malory took a breath. Compliments made her uneasy, she felt like she could never trust them, or the people who gave them to her. She refused to acknowledge that it was likely low self-esteem, and would much rather just think most people were untrustworthy and only being nice to get something in return. "Don't call me that, please."
"Huh." Cassandra hummed, tilting her head to the side before nodding. "Well, Malory, what kind of coffee do you like?"
It became a bit of a ritual for the two of them. They'd meet walking down the path after or before each other's classes, grab coffee together at the closest cafe, and chat. It was weird for Malory, having someone to talk to for the first time in years. Since she had moved into her great uncle's house, away from her friends in New York and into a town of people who all thought her family was crazy, Malory hadn't had any friends. Acquaintances, sure. Classmates she could study with--she would take all the help she could get with studying. But friends? Someone who would just listen to her, someone who memorized her coffee order, someone who would let Malory complain to them about her day? No, not until Cassandra. Malory had been unwilling to make friends on her own when she moved out of town for college, stuck in her ways of keeping to herself. But Cassandra was persistent. Between when they first went for coffee and the time they made it a regular part of their day, Cassandra would walk alongside Malory until she gave in, or already came with Malory's coffee in hand, only willing to give it to Malory if she agreed to sit down and talk. Which wasn't that hard to convince Malory to do. Really, she could talk all damn day about anything. She had forgotten how much she liked to talk, how much she liked to listen to other people talk. It had been so long, and sometimes she would stop herself if she felt like she had been going on for too long. To which Cassandra would tell her to fucking finish the story or else she would confiscate Malory's drink.
Today, nearing winter break and sitting in the back of their favorite cafe, filled with books and chairs that didn't squeak, Malory lifted her paper cup and took a sip, only to make a face. "Fuck, they messed them up, Cassy, this one's yours." She said, putting down the cup to grab the one in front of Cassandra instead, but flinched as Cassandra stood up and whooped like she was watching a sporting event and her team just scored, drawing the attention of other cafe goers. Malory glared, not liking the attention. "What are you doing? Sit down."
"You said it!" Cassy cheered, pointing at Malory and looking at the rest of the cafe. "She said it! She fucking said it!" Malory grabbed the other woman's arm and yanked it to get her to sit back down. Cassandra was grinning ear to ear, totally not caring about the scene she just caused, as she sat down in her chair across from Malory once more. "You said it." She repeated, lowering her voice considerably, but Malory was still confused.
"What? What did I say?" Asked the extremely confused and embarrassed freshman.
"You, Miss Malory, called me Cassy. For the first time. Which, makes us friends." Cassandra wouldn't stop grinning. "You have officially acknowledged that we are friends, and you can't take it back now, there are witnesses." She gestured an arm to the cafe, where everyone had already turned back to whatever they had been doing before, but Cassy didn't seem to care one bit.
Malory felt her cheeks turn pink, looking down at the cup--was she still holding Cassy's?--in her hands. Cassandra had said her friends called her Cassy, which Malory had now down. But, she knew that they were friends, right? What else could they be? And Malory certainly hadn't been purposefully not calling her Cassy...right? Fuck, maybe Malory had. Maybe old habits died harder than she thought and even a couple months of opening up to someone wasn't enough to undo the years of keeping everything bottled up. "Yeah. We're friends. Cassy." It felt...weird, but not in a bad way, to say it out loud for herself. Hearing it instead of just thinking it made it seem more real. And Malory felt herself smiling just a little bit, hiding it behind her coffee as she took another sip--and yep, that was still Cassy's coffee.
They switched their cups, Cassy moving on from proclaiming their friendship to talk about how much of a bitch her chemistry teacher is, and Malory smiled as she listened.
A friend. It felt so, so nice to have a friend.