A Grand Opening


cassandra_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.giflashirah_icon.gifaura_icon.gif

Scene Title A Grand Opening
Synopsis Elisabeth and Aurora come to visit Cassandra at the grand opening of her bakery. Lashirah comes to visit, too!
Date March 27, 2020


Built across from Eileen’s Cafe in the basement concourse of the Red Hook Market, Cassandra’s brings a welcome flair of the old world to the new. Built in the space that once held a branch of the New York Community Bank, stilted office cubicles and sheet rock have been stripped away to reveal the architecture beneath.

Wrought iron gates swing inward over well worn brown brick floors that transition seamlessly to overarching vaulted ceilings. This naturally divides the space into several equal-sized sections. Most of these spaces are taken up by simple, yet comfortable, scavenged tables and chairs. The mismatched combinations of wicker, cast iron, and glass, give the place a cozy feel. A few booths are scattered here and there, too, allowing quiet conversation between groups with a little privacy built in. Old-style lamps are mounted to the beams that criss-cross the ceiling, the light warm and inviting.

A bar is along the right side of the shop with the counter and the display of fresh breads and pastries on display to the left inside the old safety deposit box vault. A door behind the counter leads to the kitchen and the ovens, wonderful smells emerging almost constantly while Cassandra is at work. The vault behind is used to store baking ingredients now - something some would consider more valuable than the dollar.

Today's grand opening has at least one little girl hyper in her excitement. Aurora Harrison skips along with her mother, hand gripped tightly, through the market to the now-open doors. Her hazel eyes are alight with anticipation, and nearly as soon as they make it inside the bakery, she breaks loose from her mother and beelines for the owner. "Cassie, Cassie! Mummy an' me brought you a present!" the little girl shouts, as she makes her way in and around other customers.

Elisabeth didn't have a good enough grip on the pixie and she rolls her eyes and sighs as the child makes enough noise for a whole herd of children all by her lonesome. There are a few startled looks from patrons waiting their turn, but no one causes a stink about the matter. Maybe it's just because the girl's mother politely joins the line looking rueful even as the tiny sandy-blonde tornado zips straight up to the counter waving a picture.

When she first started on this journey, Cassandra never knew how much work setting up something as simple-sounding as a bakery could be. Sure, there were the logistics of getting all the supplies there in time for the opening, getting the space in order for the opening, getting all the licenses and permits for construction, but on top of it all, learning the recipes, testing and re-testing to get just the right consistency and flavor and hoping that it worked out was the cause of many sleepless nights and not a little bit of stress-based weight loss. Honestly, getting this all done might have been worse before the war, but even now it’s difficult to get anything done unless you know someone who knows a guy.

Thankfully, with her connections, Cassandra knows people who know the right people, which is why this place managed to open so quickly relative to the other stores that have to fight their way through the labyrinth of city bureaucracy.

Stationed behind the counter, Cassandra is doing her best. Dressed comfortably with a dark apron stitched in white with an embroidered ‘Cassandra’s’ on the chest, she’s busily serving customers as they come through, one-at-a time. Bread seems to be one of the popular choices today - specifically the sourdough with the hard crusty exterior, and several dozen fluffy, yeasty croissants barely made it past the threshold of the business before the purchaser took a bite, finishing it in only a few bites. Paper bags are running low, too, but thankfully, most customers have brought their own.

The cries from an approaching Aurora draw her attention and, passing the register off to one of her employees (!), she emerges from behind the counter and crouches just in time to catch the speeding eight-year-old, sweeping her up into a big hug, spinning her around before setting her down. “You did?” Cassandra asks with a smile, tapping the little girl on the nose once, searching for Mummy who’s in line, giving her a wave before attention goes back to Aurora. “Well, I’ve got some of those cookies you like so much in the kitchen. Why don’t you go get one and let me finish with this line and we can sit down and chat, okay?”

To be completely fair, Lashirah Lee is a bit further back in that line, which means the sight of the kid zipping to the front in excitement actually earns a bit of a smile out of her. It isn't until she notices Elisabeth though that the former Company, former Ferry agent raises an eyebrow. Quietish homecomings apparently might be out of fashion after all. Though, no, she's not giving up her spot in line, or her reusable cloth bag.

Elisabeth's laughter is a rich sound, relaxed despite the fact that her blue eyes are watchful.

The sprite jumps up and down and then disappears back into the kitchen with a squee of delight. She reappears almost immediately, peering toward Liz. "Mummy?" The tone isn't one of seeking permission, it's a different kind of uncertainty. But something passes between mother and daughter and the little one breathes out a sigh, relaxes again, and takes off once more.

The blonde watches her go, her expression calm but with just a hint of worry. Brushing that aside, Elisabeth shoots a grin at Cassandra and settles in to wait her turn. It's not until Lashirah hits the register that Elisabeth specifically pays attention to her as an individual … and her brows shoot upward. The last the two women saw of one another, a black hole was opening overhead. Under her breath, she murmurs, "Join me for coffee?" Because she already knows that Cassandra will also join when the line eases. That's why they came!

The bread line, as Cassandra has started to refer to it, dwindles fairly quickly, with the morning run of bread sold through a little after Lashira Lee gets hers. The few stragglers that miss out are given small polished coins with a number on one side and a logo on the other - first dibs of the next batch that’s coming out in around an hour - plus a cookie to avoid any heartbreak or bad blood in the line due to missing out on bread. And Cassandra does emerge from behind the counter after a few minutes after taking the cash to the little office in the back to be locked in the safe, putting on the next load of bread to bake, and making sure Aurora isn’t getting into too much trouble. Once all that is done and the counter is left in the hands of her lone employee, Cassandra washes her hands, hangs up her apron, and makes her way out to the floor proper, looking more like a customer than the owner of the place!.

Her mug is taken up and filled from the coffee pot and it, along with mugs, sugar, and milk, are placed on a tray and carried over to the table that Elisabeth has claimed. One of the private ones, near the wall, near the back. She’s especially proud of that mug, too, since it’s the one Aurora painted in a swirl of primary colors with ‘World’s Best Aunt!’ written on the side in a child’s unsure handwriting, and she’s sure that Aurora will notice once she’s emerged from the back.

“So.” Cassandra says with an undercurrent of uncertainty in her voice. “What do you think?”

"I think the bread smells good and I got invited to coffee by a dead woman. And I have never in my life turned down coffee. Particularly when it has to have an interesting story attached." Lashirah laughs, an actual friendly sound from her as she sits at the table, her bag set to one side. "Last time I saw you it was jumping straight up into a black hole. After I had blown my own eardrums out." Lash leaves out what ELSE had gotten blown up during that…

"Been a while, Liz." Lashirah shakes her head. "And I see your life has been busy too!"

Once they're all settled at the table, Elisabeth can't help but chuckle quietly at Lashirah's rather laconic observation of the last time they saw one another. "Indeed," she replies. "The story's way more interesting and way less positive than I'd like and covered under a metric shit-ton of those NDAs that the feds are always so happy to launch at us." She rolls her blue eyes, but her smile of welcome to Lash is genuine. "It's nice to see you again. I still have…strange moments of running into friends who haven't heard the 'ooh look, she turned up!' news even now, after two years." It's a subtle way of telling Lashirah that whatever happened, she only came back out of that black hole that long ago.

Reaching up to shove her blonde hair back, a wedding ring catches the light. "Lash, this is Cassandra — the eponymous bakery owner," Liz offers. "Cassie, Lashirah Lee. She was … on the mission when I first started Mr. Toad's Wild Ride."

And a glance at the bakery is also made, with a huge smile. "This place is amazing. You and Eleanor are going to make a killing tag-teaming the coffee and pastries crowd, definitely." She holds up her own coffee and sips from it with a happy sigh. "I don't know where the woman gets it, and I don't wanna know because if I know for sure what she's up to, I might have to think about arresting her and I refuse to." She snickers.

“Best not. I heard a rumor that the last person who asked that ended up wrapped in a knitted doily with coffee grounds stuffed in their mouth.” Cassandra giggles and slips the tray in a little slot behind the table they're sitting at after unloading the pot and it's contents, making sure everyone is served before taking her seat. “I did ask out of curiosity, and she just told me her grandson got it for her. I just left it at that.”

“It's nice to meet you, too, Lashirah.” Cassandra chirps, taking a sip of her coffee, cradling it in her hand. “That's such a cool name. I've never heard anything like it before. And it's rare I get to meet anyone who knew Liz before her trip down the rabbit hole. They generally ended up elsewhere through no fault of their own.” Those holes just go all over the place, don't they?

Cassandra takes a moment to look over the bakery, taking in the people, the smells, and the sights. “I really never thought I'd end up anywhere like this. Seems like the end of one journey was the beginning of another one. Sadly, or happily; this one has a few pounds lurking along the way if I'm not careful.”

Lashirah… actually blushes a little. "I'm one of Eleanor's investors. Do you know how hard it is to find a good cup of coffee out here anymore? As for me… after the Big Trial nonsense, got shoved back into the FBI, and ended up writing half the book on proper identification and classification of 'events' caused by SLC expression." She pauses considering that statement as she sips her own coffee. "Now, I'm finally back home because Kansas City is nice, but New York is home.
Even if it is a little rough on the center lately." She pauses and looks at the energetic bundle. "So, if that's Cassandra, then who's this delight?"

The tiny tornado is escorted back to the table where she scrambles into Cassandra's lap and stares at Lashirah, a massive cookie in one hand that has bites in it and two more wrapped in plastic because the lady in the kitchen thought she was adorable. As she settles her petite form into Cass's lap, she stage-whispers as only small children can do, "She's lime, Cassie. Like… like, neon lime!"

Elisabeth starts to say something, closes her eyes, and just shakes her head with a soft laugh. When her blue eyes open, they come back to Lash with a rueful expression. "This is Aurora. She was my Christmas surprise after Alaska." There is definite regret that flashes across her features as she adds as she reaches out with a napkin in her hand to clean off a blop of chocolate that somehow managed to cling like a beauty mark high up on the girl's cheek, "She's got her daddy — and mine, to be honest — wrapped around her little finger." She's thoroughly amused, though. Lime is definitely not what she'd have expected of Lashirah.

Wrapped around her little finger, true, but not completely off the chain. Cassandra has watched, amazed, as Elisabeth put her foot down for some slight, to prevent a tantrum, or something unseemly. Richard, on the other hand, is completely hopeless in the discipline front. Cassie’s never seen him be stern with Aurora but…just look at her! How could you be anything but loving to a face like that?

“Well, we better keep her around, then.” Cassandra wraps her arms around Aurora, giving her a hug from behind and letting her settle, easy as you please, on the familiarity of her lap. “You know how much fun people are who end up in the green area of the spectrum. Eat your cookie.” She straightens, then, and smiles to Lashirah. “One of the brightest stars of my life now, too. She made getting through some pretty tough times a lot easier.”

Oh god is there a story behind that statement.

Cassandra sips her coffee, the lady behind the counter bringing a hot chocolate for Aurora, now that it’s finally ready. “I didn’t know Miss Eleanor needed investors. She’s so busy with her coffee during the day and reading club during the evening, that I thought she was doing just fine as far as income. She’s got a reputation around here as everyone’s grandma. I wonder, though, if she still carries the sawed-off shotgun around.” she says, tapping her lips with a fingertip in thought. It was a rumor, of course, but it kept everyone on their toes around her. After all, who would dare mess with the city’s favorite Granny with a Shotgun?

Lashirah settles for looking a little confused. "I more meant how do you think she got good coffee brought in at the beginning? Somebody's gotta pay for the first round." She laughs. "Or I could be making a joke about how much I spend there. Either way." She grins a little. Neon green, huh. "I used to wear quite a bit of neon green once upon a time." She shrugs then smiles. "I'm reasonably certain she likely keeps a lot of things under the counter." Lash finally finishes the series of somewhat unconnected thoughts, and sips more at her coffee. "It's good to be home."

Elisabeth's smile at that last is bright. "It really is." In spite of everything, home is where your heart is — and Elisabeth followed hers. "I've heard rumors that her grandson Knows People, but seriously. If you ever find out, don't tell me," she insists with a laugh. As Aura cuddles with Cassandra and noms on her cookie, Liz sips her coffee and asks, "Lashirah, what have you been doing since the war?" Because she's pretty sure during the war it's pretty self-explanatory.

“People show up as colors on Rory’s radar.” Cassandra explains with a smile to Lashirah. “She and I are still working on a cake that tastes the way lavender looks to her. I think we're getting close, but I don't know if my waistline can survive the experimentation.”

Letting the pair catch up, Cassandra spends her time with her attention divided three ways. Some of it is on Aurora, making sure she's cuddled close with her favorite munchkin, some is on the conversation happening at the table, and some is on the counter and the newly-hired employee running the counter. This must be what it's like to be a parent, she thinks, sipping her coffee while Aurora chatters about whatever interests her at the time.

Lash laughs. "Mostly working for the FBI and/or SESA, once I got my name cleared of the BS. Training the next round of CSIs who have to work with the SLC Expressive." She shrugs. "Then I took early retirement because I'm not the spring chicken I used to be, and came home."

Hmmm… "So, colors?" she asks and sips the coffee with a grin.

"Mmmm," Elisabeth replies, casting a faint smile toward Aura as the girl keeps watching Lashirah in fascination. "Synesthete," she tells the Science Fairy briefly. "Not, as far as we're aware, related to SLC status."

She sips her coffee and then nods a bit. "Well… I guess a lot of us are coming home for a variety of reasons," Elisabeth observes. "It took us a while to get back, but it's been … amazing," she admits. "Hard, too."

There's a flash of something across her features as she looks at Cassandra — a sharing of hard times, perhaps. But Liz's smile is genuine. "Cassie and I met in a park when I was pregnant with Aura, and she's been travelling with me and the pixie ever since. We're pretty much hoping our travelling days are done now, so … now I'm back on the PD, at least for the time being, and just picking up the pieces where I can."

Cassandra was being coy with her answers - more or less - referring to travelling, tunnels, and the like, but never outright saying what was going on or what went on. It’s a lesson that’s been baked into her being the moment she landed on this plane of existence and will probably never be entirely gone. With Elisabeth being so matter-of-fact about their experiences moving here and there. Sharing these things with Lashirah, Cassandra, sips her coffee, slipping into a little more comfortable mode, conversationally speaking, of course.

“Travelling was harder than I thought possible. Harder than I thought I could get through a few times, too. The first move was a shock, to say the least, moving from something I knew to something I was completely unprepared for. And then…” She lets out a small huff. “Ending up having to do it a couple more times to boot. Ending up here, though, with these two?” Aurora gets a small squeeze and a playful poke. “Long, arduous journey with a satisfying destination. I mean…bakery. Cookies. Bread. Roof over my head. Friends and family.” She sighs with a smile. “It’s pretty nice here.” she says.

After all, she’s seen so much worse. They all have.

Lashriah nods at the explanation of Aurora's colors, then blinks a little at Cassandra's wording. If she didn't already have some guesses as to where Liz might have gone due to seeing her method of leaving, she'd have much worse questions.

Instead she smiles and shrugs. "I'm glad your finding New York, even as less friendly as it is now then it once was, a good place to set up shop. Bakeries and coffee certainly make it more civilized in my book!" She laughs just a little.

"Ain't that the truth. Been in enough places without coffee to last me a lifetime," Elisabeth breathes out fervently. She slants a cheeky grin at Cassandra — she has seen Liz with no coffee. No coffee for a long time. It's not pretty. And the fact that the woman will even drink the stuff thick as tar and with no sugar and cream when she used to doctor her brew with unholy amounts of sugar, cream, and chocolate is testament to just how much the blonde loves her caffeine.

Aurora tips her head at Lashirah and points out, "We lived places with no bakeries. An' Cassie an' Mummy couldn' even get nothing to make muffins with. I like it here wif Daddy much better." She looks up at Cassie and pipes up, "I gotta take a cookie to Mr. Mike! Cuz he don't get no cookies when he's workin'!" She hops down, chocolate once more smeared on her small face, and beelines back through the bakery toward the front door, where a towering dark-skinned man squats to listen seriously to the fair-haired sprite.

The child is in motion a lot.

“You go take a….” And she's gone. Cassandra can only chuckle as Aurora moves like an arrow through the crowd towards Mr. Mike, giving the man a wave and lifting her cup with a tilt of her head and a widening of her eyes; a silent invitation for a cup of the good stuff if he wants a sip to keep his brain functioning at the right level of caffeinated. Elizabeth's cup gets a top-off, too. The girl knows how to keep Elisabeth happy.

Aurora’s story is left unembellished upon, neither corrected or built higher, simply letting it be. Their tales of travel are to be told in quiet places, where passerby can not hear the tales of apocalyptic desert worlds, floods that cover the earth, or a plague that ended everything but a raw knot of humanity that was snuffed out during their escape. The debriefing took weeks, at minimum, and it's not something Cassandra relishes remembering.

She turns to Lashirah. “Thank you. Really.” She sounds sincere. “Getting a place open is easy, but keeping it going is the tough part. I've got supplies for a couple of weeks on hand, depending on demand, and a few lines up if those run out. It's nothing on the order of Mr. Elisabeth, of course, but it's stressful.”

Lash shrugs. "I know people who know people for coffee. Baking supplies I'm… less helpful with, sadly." She admits as she leans back in the chair and sips her coffee. "And I know enough about black holes to not even wanna know who the NDAs are with. Odds are it'll be in a report I'd be reading if I was still working, and it'd be turning my hair white."

She watches instead the pixie being, well, the pixie. "Now if only we could bottle that energy for later use?" She stage whispers with some amusement.

Sipping from her coffee, Elisabeth smirks faintly around a sip of the refreshed cup. "If you find a way to bottle it, you'll be richer than Croesus," she tells Lashirah, her eyes on her child as the little girl entrusts the bodyguard near the door with two plastic-wrapped cookies with solemn insistence. When the tall man resumes his post, there's a subtle smile playing about his cheeks and he simply nods to Cassandra.

"Yeaaaaaah. Well, let's just say that your guess is probably close enough for government work and you're right, you'd have white hair. And since I don't want to inflict that on you, it's definitely not something to worry about anymore." The ease with which Elisabeth dismisses 7 years missing from her world is belied by the guarded gaze that even now keeps watch over the cafe and its patrons.

Liz scoffs at Cassandra and comments, "You have supply lines straight out of Detroit and KC. The only thing you have to worry about is getting people in the door. And your cooking will do that for you. The chocolate beignets are to die for."

“It’s not so much bottling of the energy we need to look for. It’s the efficient processing of said sugars and carbs into so much energy without loss. We figure that out, put it in a power plant, and we’ll have the city glowing like it was 1999 again.” A time far enough back that Cassandra can remember things being shiny and bright in the city. Mister Mike gets a nod in response and Cassandra, ever the dutiful host, gets him a cup of coffee. Fresh from the carafe, Cassandra fills a mug decorated with small rainbows with the dark, rich brew, taking it to the man with a smile, giving Aurora a playful bump with her hip, and then back to the table and conversation. “It was a stroke of genius, letting Aurora decorate the mugs for this place. Thanks for suggesting it, Liz.”

She turns to Lashirah with a grin. “What’s that line from that movie? The one with the black aliens? Something like ‘if I ask, it takes two weeks to get a response and the answer is always ‘don’t ask.’’ Cassandra’s probably remembering it wrong but, considering where she came from, that’s not really that big of a deal. With very little internet to check up on facts, you can get away with a few blunders like that. “The best thing you can do is not look into it, really. Liz went on a world tour, was gone a while while some things happened, and came back with a little ball of energy. And me.”

Cassandra’s shoulders bob, her head nodding at Liz’s assertion. “Yeah, I know. Worry doesn’t do anyone any good. I know it’s getting better, and I know I’ve got baked in (*lol*) supply lines that would take quite a lot to cut. And I know that people like the food…”

There’s motion from behind the counter, the lady manning the register waving Cassandra over. “One second, ladies.” She says with a smile. “I think I need to pull the next batch out.” Wiping her mouth with a cloth napkin, she stands and heads over behind the counter.

Lash shakes her head a moment, then smiles. "If you end up needing something, I know we're not exactly the fastest of friends, but here." Lash pulls out a simple business card, it just has her name, and a phone number. "This should at least get a message to me." She grins a bit. "And yeah, Cassandra has nothing to worry about for her business. Short of a disaster I think she can count on this business booming for years."

Well…. Elisabeth can't count out a disaster of epic proportions. Look what happened in fuckin' Detroit! But she smiles and says simply, "See, Cass? A new friend already." She winks at the young woman, sipping her coffee as Cassandra heads for the counter.

Glancing at Lashirah, the blonde nods slightly. "Thanks for that. She's a great kid. Don't know where I would have been if not for her some of the time." It's easy to see that Aura has autonomy in the business, although the employee does try to keep the little one out from behind the counter. Mostly. A small nook near the entry to the back of the counter, though, has a kid-sized table and basket of books that apparently belongs to the small one. Or at least, she's been here enough to be at home helping herself to them.

Babysitting is fun when you can make the one being sat an accomplice to something you’re working on. There have been many evenings where Aurora and Cassandra, locked behind the metal gates of the former bank, worked late into the evening to get things ready for the grand opening that’s finally come. Not on school nights, of course. Fueled by pastries and sweets and savory things, the bakery had come into its own, with Aurora’s help. “I wanted to make it feel like it was hers, too.” Cassandra explained to Liz one night over coffee. “Since you were kind enough to bring me into your family, I thought she might like having a hand in my dream. Show her that, with hard work and perseverance, you can get where you need to be, which might not be where you thought you would end up. “

And now, behind the counter of Cassandra’s, she feels the comfortable weight of familiarity settle over her shoulders, like a warm blanket. The muffled buzz of conversation, the crunching of crusty bread and the rough sound of knives spreading butter or jam over toast, the scuffing of shoes against well-polished floors. All these noises are comfortable and soothing. “Hey Aurora?” Cassandra prompts. “Can you go get a basket of the fresh loaves from the back? I think we’ve got a customer or two.”

Turning, Cassandra nods. “New friend, Liz.” she calls from her spot by the register, waving the business card with a grin, tucking it away and straightening as another customer comes forward to make a purchase. “Two loaves? Coming right up.”

Lash shakes her head and smiles. "Looks like you've done well, Liz." Lash says quietly, smiling. "Oh well, not all of us are cut out to be excellent moms despite chaos and insanity." She offers with a grin. "I'll settle for making sure the young'uns learn from past mistakes and call it a good day."

Still, it's fun watching Aurora help Cassandra with the customers, and the two just… working and enjoying the success.

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