"Remind me again why you still have a key?" Clarke grumbles into her pillow, refusing to open her eyes.
"For emergencies and so I can feed your cat," Octavia replies from the doorway.
"I don't have a cat!"
"Anyway, I have some good news for you!" Octavia changes the subject as she takes a step into the room and sits on the bed with her back against the wall. Clarke begrudgingly rolls over to face Octavia and opens one eye to show she's listening.
"Last night during dinner with Lincoln's sister, Anya, she got a call from her best friend who needed her to watch her brother. Lincoln being the sweetheart he is," Octavia pauses to shoot Clarke some disgusting heart eyes, "told Anya's friend to just bring him over and he could have dinner with us."
"The good news is that Lincoln likes kids? Octavia, I'm thrilled you've found a decent guy but that's not a good enough reason to wake me up this early in the morning," Clarke rolls her eyes and turns over to go back to sleep.
"Clarke, it's one in the afternoon you lazy shit!" Octavia laughs as she hits Clarke lightly over the head with a pillow, "And no, the good news is I found you a job! I know you've been struggling since I moved out to live with Lincoln, but this is the perfect solution."
"Ugh, I don't need a job. I'm half way through finishing my graphic novel and the freelance stuff I'm doing is covering the bills, okay?" Clarke huffs, annoyed at the insinuation she can't take care of herself.
"Sure, your freelancing covers the bills but I've seen your fridge, there's hardly any food in there and I know it's taking you longer to finish your comic book because the art supplies are expensive," Octavia rolls Clarke back to face her, "Lexa needs someone to watch her brother after he gets home from school because she works late sometimes and this would be perfect for you."
"Are you kidding?" Clarke laughs, "I don't know the first thing about babysitting!"
"You volunteer every other week at the hospital your Mom works at with those kids and you get along with them just fine," Octavia points out.
"Sure, I get along with those kids for like two hours every other week but I don't think that makes me a qualified babysitter!"
"Look, Lexa's brother is a really sweet kid. He's maybe 11 or 12 so he isn't a toddler, he can mostly look after himself. He just needs someone to make sure he does his homework and doesn't burn down the kitchen. Lexa has been interviewing people for a week and hasn't found the right person for the job because she doesn't trust anyone enough with her brother."
"If she doesn't trust a qualified professional, what makes you think she'll trust me?" Clarke scoffs. She doesn't have any qualifications or actual experience with children.
"Because she needs to go back to work next week and she's getting desperate.. Plus you're my friend and I can vouch for you," Octavia looks down at Clarke, giving her a wide smile, "Come on Clarke, just think about it for a minute. It's easy work, you can still work on your art at night when your 'artistic inspiration' usually hits and it will pay really well!"
"How well?" Clarke has to admit her interest is at least a tiny bit piqued at the prospect of steady money coming in for as minimal work as possible.
"Lexa is some big shot lawyer, so i think it's fair to say she isn't short of money," Octavia says while slipping her phone out of her pocket and checking her messages while Clarke takes a second to mull things over.
The cons are obvious. Clarke is an only child with no experience with kids except for the few hours on weekends when she visits the hospital to paint and play with the children there. Making sure to pick up a kid from school means she would have to be on time which isn't really her strong suit but I suppose it could be doable. The pros are more income, obviously. Even though she tried to put on a brave face for Octavia, it actually has been hard to make ends meet and it would be good to focus on her comic book that she's been working on for years.
"Okay," Clarke sighs, rolling onto her back.
"Great," Octavia gives her a big smile, eyes shining, "now go get showered and ready because Lexa wants to meet you for coffee."
Clarke's eyes bulge slightly, "Now? I'm not prepared! How did you even know I'd agree?"
"I didn't. I just knew whether you agreed or not, I was going to make you at least go talk to her because Octavia knows best," she replies, sending Clarke a smirk, "Lexa wants you to meet her at the coffee place around the corner in an hour. Go get ready, I’ll let myself out."
"Wait, how will I know who she is? What does she look like?"
"Brown hair and green eyes, looks a bit like a goddess. Let me know how it goes!" Octavia shouts as she walks out the bedroom door and leaves through the front door, the house silent once again.
Clarke pushes the door of The Ark coffee house open and steps through whilst taking a deep breath, preparing herself mentally. Now that she's had time to think about it, the idea of having basically an afternoon job has grown on her. It would allow Clarke to breathe a bit more freely financially, whilst having ample time to work on her art projects. All she has to do now is impress Lexa enough to hire her, which explains the sudden nerves.
Clarke takes a slow look around the cafe, hoping to spot Lexa. Luckily with it being the afternoon and after lunch it isn't too crowded. Clarke spots a brunette sitting in a booth towards the back by the window and takes one last steadying breath before walking over.
"Lexa?" Clarke asks, trying to grab the attention of the brunette who is looking out the window.
Stunning green eyes look up at Clarke and she feels her breath hitch slightly as she takes in Lexa's face. Octavia wasn't exaggerating with her 'goddess' comment. This girl has the most intense eyes Clarke has ever seen. Lexa's jaw line looks like it was sculpted by the god's themselves and her hair is perfectly braided away from her face.
"Hi, you must be Clarke?" Lexa stands up and motions for her to sit down opposite her in the booth, "Can i get you a coffee?"
"Could i get a cappuccino?" Clarke turns to the bag next to her, searching for her purse. She finally fishes some money out of her bag to see Lexa has already disappeared to the counter. Clarke takes the few minutes alone to sneak glances at Lexa as she orders and waits for their coffee. Lexa is wearing dark jeans that look like they were painted on and a loose fitting sweater that no doubt hides a sleek physique if her bottom half is anything to go by. If she had to guess, she would say Lexa is in her mid to late 20's.
Lexa walks back over to their booth with two take away cups and places one in front of Clarke before sitting down across from her. Clarke removes the lid from her coffee and adds two sugars before stirring it and taking a sip. The caffeine is welcome and the warmth calms her.
"So, Clarke, let’s cut to the chase since I have to pick up my brother Aden in half an hour from school. Octavia tells me you have experience with children?" Lexa questions while taking a sip of her own coffee.
Experience? Clarke wonders exactly what Octavia told Lexa about her background with children and mentally sighs.
"I don't have any qualifications or anything. My Mom is a surgeon at the local hospital and I volunteer on the children's ward every other week," Clarke replies, nervously taking another sip of coffee.
Lexa quirks her eyebrow, "That's not exactly the amount of experience I was hoping for."
"Well," Clarke takes a second to think, "I've been volunteering since I was a teenager, roughly 12-13 years and a few hours at a time. I'm not the best at maths but three hours for 26 weeks a year over a decade adds up. Qualifications are for teachers or people looking to take care of kids full time. I have real life experience in keeping kids entertained and having a surgeon for a Mom means I have a bit more medical knowledge than the average person, so if anything happens, I know first aid," Clarke smiles briefly at Lexa before continuing, "I'm loyal, reliable and thanks to Octavia, you know I'm somewhat trustworthy."
"All valid points, Clarke," Lexa smiles lightly, "I'm not too caught up in qualifications. I've met with a few people this week who have pages of qualifications and experience, but they aren't quite the right fit. Aden, my brother, has been through a lot," Lexa takes a deep breath before locking eyes with Clarke again, "Our parents passed away two weeks ago in a car crash and he hasn't spoken a word since."
Lexa takes a long sip of her coffee, glancing out of the window solemnly. Clarke lets those words sink in and regards Lexa in a new light. Lexa's eye are striking, no doubt, but there are dark circles underneath. She must have been through hell these last few weeks. Losing one parent is hard enough, but both? And now Lexa has her brother to look after. It's a wonder to Clarke how she looks as put together as she does, with only her eyes giving her away.
"I need someone who is responsible enough to look after Aden until I get home, yes. But what he needs, is someone who is patient and understanding," Lexa says, looking exhausted. "Qualifications are great on paper but that doesn't necessarily translate to being a good match."
"I was eleven when my father died," Clarke looks down at her coffee cup, surprising herself with the words coming out of her mouth. It's rare that she talks about her Dad, let alone brings it up herself. "I remember feeling lost and afraid. I don't think I came out of my room for a week. It took me a long time to deal with the pain," Clarke looks back up at Lexa, "If you're looking for someone who can relate to Aden, I can. I know how it feels to lose someone at a young age. Working at the hospital means I've seen a lot of heartache, but if there's one thing I've taken from there, it's that kids are resilient," Clarke smiles softly at Lexa, trying to convey that Aden will be resilient too.
"I'm sorry about your father, Clarke," Lexa says with a frown, "I think I'm beginning to see why Octavia was so adamant about me meeting with you after I picked up Aden last night."
"I have to admit, when Octavia first suggested this, I thought she was crazy. But the more I think about it, the more sense it actually makes," Clarke says, looking thoughtfully out the window. Without having met Aden, she already feels a connection. The pain of losing someone is a unique kind of feeling.
"Tell me more about you, Clarke," Lexa draws Clarke back out of her thoughts.
"That's quite a broad question," Clarke replies, "I'm 24, I majored in art at college, I live by myself now Octavia has moved in with Lincoln and my shoe size is 9," she finishes, smiling.
Lexa smiles at that last bit, "Are you looking for work in the art industry?"
"If you're worried about me leaving you in the lurch with Aden, that's not a problem. I'm working on my own art project which I can do at any time of the day. I'm actually a bit of a night owl so i prefer to work late anyway," Clarke reassures. "What about you, Lexa? All I know about you is that you're a lawyer and have a brother."
"I'm 27, I went to law school, I live in an apartment with my brother and my shoe size is also 9," Lexa finishes her sentence with a sip of her coffee.
"That's not very enlightening," Clarke replies, slightly disappointed not to have discovered anything about Lexa that she couldn't have guessed for herself.
"Well, I'm not the one being interviewed," Lexa says, with a lift of her eyebrow in challenge.
Clarke rolls her eyes, giving up for now on getting to know more about Lexa. "What would the hours be like?"
"I recently got a promotion at work, so I can't spend as much time at home right now as I would like. I can take Aden to school before leaving for work, so that's not an issue. I'll try to be home before 7pm most days but I can't control what cases I'm given and how much attention they'll need. The latest I’ll be home at night is 10pm, would that be okay with you?" Lexa asks, searching Clarke's face for an answer.
"That sounds okay. What time does Aden finish school?"
"He has soccer practice on Tuesday's and Thursday's which finish at 4:30pm, otherwise he finishes at 3pm. Speaking of which," Lexa takes a quick glance at her phone, checking the time, "I should get going to pick him up."
Lexa finishes the rest of her coffee before standing up and taking Clarke's empty cup with hers to the bin. Clarke grabs her bag and follows Lexa out of the cafe, over to where Lexa has parked her car on the street.
"Thank you for meeting with me today, Clarke," Lexa smiles briefly, "If it's okay with you, I think I'd like you to meet Aden before deciding if the job is yours?"
"Yeah, of course, that's totally understandable," Clarke replies, smiling at the realization Lexa is at least willing to give her a chance.
"Great," Lexa reaches into her pocket and pulls out a business card, "here's my number, text me so I have yours and we can set up a time to meet up over the weekend." Lexa hands Clarke the card and with a final wave, gets into her car.
Clarke takes a step back and places the business card in her bag, watching Lexa drive out of view before turning away and walking back to her apartment. That went better than she anticipated.
Lexa arrives back to her apartment with Aden and sets her keys down on the kitchen counter. She hears Aden slouch off to his bedroom with a soft click of his door. Lexa lets out a quiet sigh and runs a hand over her hair. Lexa understands Aden needs time to process everything that happened, that he's finding solace in the silence, but it doesn't make it any easier. She loves her brother more than anything in the world but she wasn't ready to take care of a kid full time. She's constantly battling with her own grief over her parent’s death and guilt that she might not be enough for Aden. Work graciously gave her two weeks off but as of Monday, it's back to the office which means long hours.
Lexa pulls her phone out of her pocket to check her messages and sees there are two.
UNKNOWN NUMBER - Hi, this is Clarke. It was nice meeting you today. I look forward to meeting Aden soon - Clarke
ANYA - Hey Commander, how did it go with Octavia's friend? Hope you played nice.
She decides to reply to Clarke later once she's had a chance to talk to Aden, so she responds to Anya instead.
Lexa to ANYA - It went well. You'll be pleased to know I was so emotionally drained that I was nicer than usual.
ANYA - While I'm glad you didn't bite anyone's head off, I'm worried about you. I know these last couple of weeks have been hard on you.
Lexa to ANYA - Stop being so damn mushy, it's weird. I'm fine.
ANYA - Call me if you need anything.
Lexa puts her phone on charge before opening the fridge, wondering what she could make for dinner. She's really not the best at cooking, but she'll have to learn how to make more meals now she has to look after the two of them. Making a mental note to go food shopping on the weekend, she closes the fridge and gets out a pizza menu from one of the draws.
"Aden!" She shouts, hoping he hasn't got his headphones in.
A moment later Aden walks out of his bedroom, eyebrows raised in question.
"What do you think to pizza?" Lexa knows she isn't likely to get an answer, but she thinks it's important to keep talking to Aden, trying to include him in conversations even if he doesn't want to actively participate. "I'm thinking we can share a pepperoni pizza and maybe some garlic bread?" She suggests, knowing Aden loves garlic bread. Aden responds with a slight upwards tilt of his lips, which Lexa accepts as agreement.
"Go put your shoes on, we'll take a walk together and pick it up," Lexa says, walking over to where her phone is charging to place the order. The pizza place is only a ten minute walk away. She's been using any excuse to get Aden to leave his room. Not only has he been silent since he came to live with her, he's been locking himself away, only really surfacing to eat or when Lexa coaxes him to watch TV with her.
Aden walks back into the room just as she hangs up from placing the pizza order. Lexa grabs her keys and wallet before leading the way out of the apartment.
Once they reach the sidewalk, Lexa takes a glance at Aden to assess his mood. He has dark circles under his eyes that match hers; neither of them seems to be getting much sleep these days despite both being exhausted. His shoulders are slouched and his eyes are downcast.
"I met with someone today, someone to look after you until I get home from work," Lexa analyzes his face, but he barely acknowledges that she spoke, "Her name is Clarke. She's young, well, not that much younger than me, but at least she isn't older like the other people I met with this week." Aden had seen the applications she had flicked through yesterday before school and had written a single word over them 'BORING'. At first she was annoyed, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that he would be spending up to six or seven hours with the person a day. If she were a almost a teenager, the last thing she'd want is to be spending that much time with someone over 40. It's what made her take the chance on Clarke. Lexa may have wanted a higher standard of experience, but Aden needed some input too.
"I want you to meet her before I officially offer her the job. Listen, Aden," Lexa reaches a hand out to touch his shoulder, making sure he looks her in the eye, "I know you'd rather not have anyone looking after you. I know it would be better if I could pick you up from school, just like...like Mom used to, but I can't right now. I promise that I will work harder than ever before to make sure I spend as little time at the office as possible. We'll make this work, okay?" Lexa looks reassuringly at Aden, hoping that he hears the desperate truth in her words but her heart breaks when she sees his eyes watering with unshed tears.
She ruffles his hair, which she knows he hates and plasters on an overly bright smile on her face, "Come on, let’s go get that pizza, I’m starving."
Clarke is sitting on her couch, sketching a scene for her comic book when Octavia calls.
"Hey, Octavia," she greets, placing her sketchbook on the coffee table.
"Oh, so your phone does work? You were supposed to let me know how it went with Lexa!" Octavia scolds.
"I'm sorry! I had an idea for the comic while walking back from the cafe so I was kind of in the zone."
"That sounds about right. So, how did it go?" Octavia asks eagerly.
"It went well, I think," Clarke swtiches the phone to her other ear, "She wants me to meet Aden before she decides officially."
Octavia lets out a little squeal, "That's great, Clarke! I didn't want to say anything before but Lincoln told me Lexa can be quite the hard ass, so I'm glad it went well."
"You conveniently left out that piece of information," Clarke rolls her eyes, "She was nice. She didn't grill me too much about not having qualifications and she opened up a bit about her brother."
"I didn't want to mention their background because it's not really my place," Octavia says, somewhat hesitantly, "but it did cross my mind that you might be a good fit for Aden."
Clarke lets out a deep sigh, the ache in her chest only slight at the reminder of her father.
"We'll see. Lexa wants us to meet up over the weekend," Clarke replies, putting her feet up on the coffee table, trying to relax her body.
"She wouldn't want you to meet Aden unless she was willing to offer you the job. Aden is quiet, obviously, but he's well behaved from what I've seen. Just be yourself with him," Octavia advises.
"Noted. Thanks, Octavia."
"Anything for you, Princess. Okay, I'm about to make dinner so I'll talk to you later. Remember to actually let me know how things go after you see Lexa next, yeah?"
Clarke rolls her eyes again, even though Octavia can't see, "Yeah, bye."
Clarke hangs up and places the phone next to her sketchbook on the table. She wonders what Aden is like. Without conciously doing so, she's picturing a boy with the same piercing green eyes that Lexa has. The kids at the hospital took a shine to Clarke because she never takes herself too seriously and is always willing to play games. She hopes Aden will be as easy to win over. Her thoughts are interrupted by a text message lighting up her phone.
LEXA - Hello, Clarke. Are you free Saturday afternoon for a few hours to meet Aden?
CLARKE to LEXA - Yes, i'm free :)
LEXA - Great. Text me your address and we'll pick you up at 1pm
Clarke sends Lexa a message with her address and puts her phone down, leaning back against the couch. She closes her eyes and wonders what they'll be doing on Saturday.