• Adina Samuels

For Babette

The first thing you notice about Elizabeth is her shocking bun of neon pink - no, blue, I mean, purple - hair tucked behind her ears.


She would scowl when I walked by her at work and sighed in reply when I asked her how she was.


She’d berate me for spreading the mayo before the brioche had totally cooled, and I could never figure out what I had done wrong.


One day I was changing into our work uniform. White chef coat, hairnet, bandana and my cartilage earring got caught. I tried ushering the earring back in, but nothing. Only a sharp pain and the beginnings of ugly scar tissue forming.


I felt my ear go hot. No, no. Not now. I’m late for the shift. I love this piercing. I prodded and poked, then rushed upstairs and begged Elizabeth for help.


“Please, can you get this back in?”


“Oh, yeah. I can try.” Poke, squeeze, clench, pause. “It’s in.”


Thank you so much I say, and rush downstairs to continue getting ready. Just as I slide on the bandana the earring falls back out.


I can't go back up there. I can't. I’ll deal with this later, I decided.


I began my shift, waiting for my break. Ear throbbing, dried blood where my sparkle of joy used to sit.


Over time, Elizabeth’s hostility towards me softened. I started asking her about her history, complimenting her on her English, asking her for her advice and opinions. Soon she began opening up to me, telling me about her life back in Venezuela, her relationship, her culinary and fashion dreams.


As late summer turned into fall and Elizabeth’s hair turned from pink to ice blue, we began welcoming each other at work with a hug, one that we both meant.


Long story short, Elizabeth was not someone I thought who was eager to be friends. My ear never really healed. Now the sparkle of joy more balances precariously than fits snug. But Elizabeth has become someone I can trust, someone who’s sass I can counter, someone who, in her own way, cares.


We talk about travelling together once the pandemic is over. It very likely won't happen. I’ll leave the bakery in the summer and she’ll soldier on, continuing her careful spreading of flavoured cream between two pieces of meringue.


Yes, meringue. 6 flavours, only three come in the larger size. Caramel, you said? Just one? Is that everything?




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