Tartlet: The first time Gwen met Chloe

Chloe Warren and I had been emailing for about a week by the time we got together for coffee at—where else in Seattle?—Starbucks. She was one of three contenders for the position I’d put up on Craigslist, but so far I liked her best. I was just hoping it stayed that way and that her light work history wasn’t going to be a red flag.
I arrived early and grabbed at a table at the back, savoring my massive sugary latte. I’d been to this Starbucks enough times, they’d stopped judging me when I ordered three types of syrup and four pumps of each. Oh, no one had ever given me a nasty look or made any comments, but I can feel emotions so I know when people are thinking disparaging things about my addiction to sugar.
Chloe walked in, did a quick survey of the café and knew immediately that it was me she was meeting. I watched her approach, unaware who she was at first, but perked up as she slid into the chair across from me.
“Chloe?” I asked. She nodded, grinned and reached across the table to shake my hand.
“I did a little google-stalking before coming by. You should probably work on that if you want to be taken seriously by your future clients.”
I frowned, trying to figure out what she could have found that would make me unappealing as a therapist. “I’ve never taken any nude pictures, so I don’t know what you mean.”
Chloe snorted, shrugged. “It’s nothing overtly bad, but your Facebook picture is you cramming your face with cake.”
“I like cake. And to be fair, it should probably be my driver’s license picture, too. In fact, I don’t know why I’m not eating cake right now. It’s what I do.”
Chloe laughed and jerked her thumb toward the counter. “Excuse me, will you? I’m going to grab a drink. I’ll make it quick.”
“Go ahead.”
She was up and across the restaurant in a flash while I pulled my phone out and googled myself. I didn’t find too much, but when I really considered what Chloe had said, I realized she was right. I’d changed my picture to one of my bird Sonny by the time she got back to the table.
“Here you go,” she said, sliding a plate with a cheesecake brownie in front of me. “It’s not cake, but it’s the closest they had.”
“You’re hired,” I said without thinking. Chloe laughed, taking a sip of her drink.
“Easiest job interview ever.”
I snorted around a bite of the brownie and shook my head as I eagerly ate. Chloe was patient, looking around the restaurant idly while I worked my way through the fudgy bite.
“Man, this thing is no joke.” I took a slurp of my drink to help work it down and then sat up straight, pushed the brownie aside so I wasn’t tempted to go for it again. So far I was making a bang-up impression on a potential assistant. “Right now you’re top of the heap, but there are two other people I’m looking at. Your work history is a little light, and I couldn’t get ahold of the publishing house you listed.”
“Yeah, they went under at the end of last year. I’ve just been kind of floating around for about six months. I had some money saved up, decided Seattle sounded great and now here I am. I need to start working soon, though, and I’m great at what you listed in your ad. I did a lot of everything at my last job.”
I nodded, keeping myself tuned into her emotions as she spoke. She wasn’t lying, that I could tell. So far, I liked her quite a bit.
“The kicker is going to be insurance companies,” I said when as she sipped her drink. “They can be pretty cold and try to wiggle their way out of everything, even things they claim to cover.”
“Oh, I can handle anything.” Chloe smiled, and I felt a bit of smug nostalgia poke through her cheer, like she was thinking of something difficult she’d overcome in the past. “Insurance companies got nothing on my old boss. Trust me.”

I did trust her, though that’s not difficult to do when you can tell if someone’s lying or not. And, hell she’d bought me a cheesecake brownie. I was guessing we were going to get along just fine.


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