[ Writing prompt via my arch nemesis: “Daren becomes a regular at a coffee shop and a manic pixie dream girl falls for him so he has to shake her off” ]

The first week, Penelope played quirky and hard to get. She wore a floppy knitted cap over her long pink hair, despite the heat, and leaned against the coffee shop counter as if she owned the place. Her gaze roamed the room with calculated boredom, falling every few moments on the man in the far corner. She was prepared to glance away the moment he looked at her, thus securing her mysterious allure, but he never looked her way in the first place. After half an hour of this she gave up and slipped out the rear exit, hoping to gain mystery points by disappearing suddenly.

The second week, Penelope played quirky and outgoing. She wore her pink and purple hair in pigtails, chatted loudly with the barista as if they were old friends, and sat at the table directly next to the object of her affections. When his attention seemed to be aimed in her somewhat general direction, she pulled out a pack of tarot cards and asked if he wanted a reading. He slid flat black eyes her way, eyed her expressionlessly, then promptly returned to ignoring her. When she started doing a reading anyway, laying the cards out with great pomp and circumstance, he moved to a table on the other side of the room.

The third week, Penelope played quirky and soulful. She covered her pink, purple, and green hair with the hood of her oversized sweater, sat in a totally opposite corner from her quarry, and pretended to read a tattered paperback with some weird Russian title she had bought for a quarter. Sometimes she would pretend to jot something down on the small notebook in her pocket, gaze around the room as if in deep thought, then go back to the book. She ordered straight black coffee, the man’s apparent drink of choice, though she laced hers with copious amounts of sugar. Her obscure Russian novel didn’t seem to impress him; when she looked up from doodling a flower in the notebook he was gone.

The fourth week, Penelope played quirky and helpless. She wore her rainbow hair in a braid wrapped around her head held in place with mismatched chopsticks, and fumbled through her stuffed animal purse for change when it came time to pay for her fancy coffee. Despite the extended fumbling, the man did not come forward and offer to purchase the drink for her. When it started to rain and she gazed woefully out the window, wondering aloud how she would ever get home in such a storm with no one to accompany her, this seemed if anything to prompt him to leave completely. Penelope tried to ignore the idea that he would rather walk coatless into a rainstorm than suffer her presence; he was probably just deaf or something.

The fifth week, Penelope played quirky and edgy. She spiked up her black pixie cut, its fringe falling artfully over one eye, and took a table by herself where she could prop her legs up and glare at passersby. Like the man, she dressed in all black and spoke as little as possible. While she couldn’t smoke in the cafe, she did tuck an unlit cigarette behind her ear where it would at least be visible. Yet even this attempt earned her nothing more than a few weird glances from other patrons; the man didn’t look at her at all.

The sixth week, Penelope played quirky and geeky. She wore Tardis barrettes and Triforce earrings, a Gryffindor scarf and Avengers hoodie. She read a gaming magazine and rather loudly mentioned to the barista that the drink she had ordered was canonically Super Girl’s favorite. She even managed to accidentally drop a couple Marvel movie ticket stubs from her pockets on the floor beside the man, but not only did he not remark upon their titles, he didn’t even help her pick them up.

The seventh week, Penelope snapped. Hair unwashed, clothes hastily donned and still askew, she marched into the coffee shop and straight to the man’s customary table. “What is your problem?” she demanded. “How long does it take you to make a move? What are you waiting for?” When he blinked uncomprehendingly at her, a scowl pulling at his thin mouth, she sighed dramatically. “Fine. Fine, I’ll go out with you.”

“Pass,” The man’s reply was as terse and monotone as anything she had heard him say to the cafe employees. She spluttered with outrage as he signaled to the barista for a refill of his coffee, dismissing her completely. “Excuse me? That’s not how this goes! What are you, an idiot?” Faster than she would have given anyone credit for, the man stood, towering over Penelope’s petite frame. He scowled down at her as he leaned in and growled, “Get out of my face, kid. If I see you here again I swear you’ll regret it.”

It was at that moment Penelope realized two things: one, that there was a very thin and very sharp looking blade in the man’s hand, and two, that she didn’t really like coffee and anyway, it was about time for her to switch to women for a while. There was a lesbian bar on the other side of town where she could play the quirky, free-spirited bisexual who would win over the heart of some newly out teen, show her the ways of the world, and then leave her for an ex. She made a hasty exit from her former quarry, feeling his eyes burning holes into her back all the way out the door.

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