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but all you are is mean

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“and next we have our new number one song on the billboard charts.. yes that’s right! this artist beat the 5 week streak that was held by our one and only mike wheeler. here we have ‘mean’ by… el.”
‘you, with your words like knives..’

“dad! oh my god, dad!” el shouts throughout the house. hopper comes running into el’s childhood room. she just happened to be visiting for the week when max finally got el to upload her song on youtube after relentlessly harassing her to post it.

“what! why are we screaming?” hopper exclaims. he has a towel in his hand, and his hair looks damp, signifying that he just got out of the shower.

el turns up the volume on her macbook, her song playing through the speakers.

‘someday i’ll be living in a big old city and all you’re ever gonna be is mean..’

hopper gives her a confused look. “okay.. it’s your song. you’ve played this one for me before haven’t you?”

el’s eyes nearly fall out of her head from excitement and disbelief. “dad this is playing on the radio! and my song is the number one song of the week! not only that, but it was my song that broke the 5 week streak of mike wheeler. do you not understand how big this is?!”

he chuckles, “el, honey, you think everything is the biggest thing in the world.” he walks over to where el is sitting on her bed and gives her a bear hug before kissing her head. “even though i don’t really know how the billboard charts work, i am still very proud of you. congratulations.”

she ignores the part where he mentions not knowing how the billboard charts work, and responds with, “thanks, dad” before smiling. they finish listening to ‘mean’ and chat for a few until hopper exits her room, having to leave for work in 20 minutes.

✰ ✰ ✰

el’s lounging on her bed, the smiths playing from her speakers. she’s just about to doze off, when her laptop dings, implying she just received an e-mail. she rubs her eyes and sighs, before leaning against her headboard and grabbing her computer. there’s a handful of spam emails she fishes through before seeing one that catches her eye.

to: elhopper11@gmail.com
from: lillianwoodward@clockworkmanagement.com
subject: new clients

dear el hopper,
hello. my name is lillian woodward from clockwork management. you may know me as the manager for mike wheeler, and a few other major artists.. i’ve been informed that your song, ‘mean’, has hit number one on the charts. congratulations, from my whole team and i. it’s a wonderful song.

you’re probably wondering where this e-mail is coming from. now, as you only just uploaded your song, i’d assume you’re still in need of a manager. the company and i would love it if you decided to join clockwork management, me being your manager.

i know i probably sound crazy asking such a heavy question over one small e-mail, so i would love it if we could meet at my office say tomorrow, or the day after? i’m located in indianapolis, but from what i’ve learned you’re from chicago, so not too far. i’ll leave the address below. the team and i feel as if you’ll be a perfect fit to join the clockwork family, and i look forward to hopefully getting the chance to meet you this week.

sincerely, lillian woodward

clockwork management
8753 bayberry dr
indianapolis, in, 47027
(tell the women at the front desk that you have a meeting with mrs. woodward. i’ll let them know if you decide on a meeting. my office is located on the third floor, 6th door on the right)

a squeal instantly leaves el's lips, while she leaps out of bed to grab her phone and begins texting at lightning speed. there were bound to be spelling mistakes, but el was so excited she couldn’t care less at that point. el’s screaming causes her cavalier king charles spaniel, stewart, to stretch, before jumping off and leaving the room.

el’s phone begins ringing with an incoming call from her best friend, max. max and el met when max and her family moved to chicago in 2nd grade. they’ve been inseparable ever since, max pushing el to finish her songs, and nagging her to post them online. besides her father, max has always been el’s biggest supporter.

“hey what’s up? what’s so important that you’re texting me as if the world is gonna end?” max exclaims.

“max. before i even start, just know that i love you and you’re never wrong.” el declares.

max starts laughing, “well, you didn’t have to call me to tell me something i already knew, silly.” el hears what sounds like a car door closing, and max’s car starting. she must be on her lunch break. “no seriously though, is everything okay? if you didn’t sound so excited i would’ve thought stewart died or something.”

pushing that idea out of her mind, el begins speaking, “max. i know it took me so long to post my song on youtube, but thank you for continuously pestering me about it-”

“hey! i was not ‘pestering’ you with it. i was simply just reminding my insanely talented best friend about how everyone would love her music if she posted it! it’s not my fault it took you nearly 10 years to go through with it.” it sounds like max dropped her phone, and then el hears her ordering an iced caramel macchiato, her favorite. max starts laughing, and picks up her phone again, “you know i was just about to ask if you wanted anything before i realized you’ve been home for the past week. come home, by the way. this city is scary without stewart guarding the door and i’m tired of going home and watching love island by myself every day.”

“yes, max, i know you miss me, i miss you too. so does stewart. we’ll be home before you know it. possibly even sooner than i thought...” el trails off.

“el, get to the point already.” max replies.

“i’ve been trying, but you keep interrupting. okay. you will never believe the e-mail i just received.” el explains how ‘mean’ has hit number one on the billboard charts, and reads off the e-mail from mrs. woodward.

“el, oh my god. this is why i kept telling you to post your music. i’ve been waiting for this day since you first played me a song in freshman year. i’m so proud of you. i knew you could do it.”

“thank you, max. seriously. i wouldn’t have uploaded it without you.”

“so, are you gonna meet with lillian? i mean, i feel like you have to. you’d be insane to pass this opportunity up.” max finishes, with a sip of her macchiato.

el ponders for a second. she hadn’t actually put any thought towards any of this. she’d been so excited about even receiving the e-mail, and chatting with max that she hadn’t made a decision.

“well, like you said, i feel like i have to, right? if anything, i don’t have to go back again if i don’t like her…” el’s mind starts wandering off before she gasps.

“what?”

god, i’m such a mess. i haven’t even checked how far away her office is” el removes the phone from her ear, opening up the maps app. she puts in the address lillian provided, alongside hers, clicking the directions button. 2 hours and 45 minutes. okay, not too bad.

“according to maps, it’s a 2 hour and 45 minute drive. if i leave at 9 i should get there around, say, noon?” el explains. after a few more minutes of going back and forth, and making up her mind, el decides that she’s going to go ahead and meet with lillian. max mentions that she has off the next few days, while also dropping a hint that the apartment that they share just so happens to be on the way to lillian’s office. el rolls her eyes even though max can’t see, and chuckles, before hearing the front door open and close. hopper is home from work.

“hopper just got home, so i’m gonna go explain everything to him. i also have to respond to lillian and tell her we’ll be there tomorrow afternoon. i’ll leave around 8 to give me time to pick you up so we can beat traffic. we can possibly even grab a bite to eat, too. i’ll text you later, okay?” el says.

“yeah, yeah i have to go back inside anyway.” el pulls the phone from her ear to see that they’ve been on the phone for 30 minutes. huh, don’t remember it being that long…

“love you, max, seriously. thank you, again. bye” el says, dropping her phone onto her bed. she goes back into her e-mail, and quickly throws together what she thinks is a respectful and mature response to lillian, and mentions that max and herself will be at the office the following day. when she finishes, she stands up and walks into the kitchen to meet her dad.

“hey, dad. how was work?” el says, and she can’t even try and keep the massive grin off her face. she walks over to the fridge and grabs an iced tea, before cracking it open and taking a large gulp.

“same old, same old. how was your day?” hopper responds, taking off his jacket and hanging it up behind the door.

and that’s how el finds herself explaining everything again, this time a lot calmer. hopper agrees that she has nothing to lose by at least having a meeting with lillian.

they order pizza for dinner, both too lazy to make anything. el’s stuffing her face with her second slice of pizza, when it dawns on her that she has no idea what she’s going to wear tomorrow. she has to make a good impression, right? she drops her pizza onto her plate, and swiftly texts max, *facetime in 10. have no idea what the hell i’m going to wear tomorrow.*

✰ ✰ ✰

three hours later, el is showered and in bed, finishing up watching tonight’s love island episode. stewart gets up from his spot at the end of her bed, and snuggles up against her side. el smiles, “this is it stewart… everything’s about to change.” the episode ends and el closes her laptop, shuts off her lights, and drifts off to sleep dreaming about what’s to come.