THREE

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Up until my move to LA, I'd never had to use a laundromat. The first time I'd done so, I hadn't bought anything to entertain me. So I'd spent the whole two hours watching my clothes swish round, and round, and round, until my eyes began to hurt from rolling.

Since then, I'd learned to bring a magazine or comic book to read while I waited, but today I just couldn't concentrate. I felt like every pair of eyes on the street recognised me, and everyone in the laundromat was judging me. I did my best to occupy myself with my phone, but that only led to me looking up more and more articles about the Starbucks scandal. I couldn't help but worry about what people were saying about me.

I suddenly became aware of a continuous, light thudding sound, and realised I'd been tapping my foot nervously on the concrete ground. I made a conscious effort to stop, before continuing to read the articles.

A lot of media outlets were criticising me. A few commended me on my bravery. Some were more focused on the secret ingredient itself. I found myself lost in a maze of press, the words drilling into my brain. There were even memes! I mean, come on! How were there already memes?

My self-confidence continued to drop, until suddenly an unknown number popped onto my screen and an incoming call came through. Dread filled my stomach, and I wondered who it could be. Was it the media? Had they come for me? Could it be Starbucks?

I didn't want to know. But I hit answer anyway.

"Hello?" I said cautiously.

"Uh, hi? Is this Wren from Starbucks?" A familiar voice said. I frowned, trying to put my finger on who it was.

"Yes... it is," I said, and a feeling of utter despair settled within me as my new reality set in; I was officially being referred to as Wren from Starbucks now. This was going to haunt me forever.

"Hi, it's Kurt. We met yesterday... and I made that video about the secret ingredient that sort of got you fired..."

My eyes widened with shock, and something mixed with surprise and anger rose inside me.

"Oh. It's you," I replied coldly. "What do you want?"

He let out an awkward sound.

"Well, I was— uh, I mean, Connor and I were hoping we could talk. Maybe smooth things over. We feel pretty bad, and we wanted to help if we could."

Now that was surprising. Suddenly, it felt like the tables had completely turned.

"How did you even get my number?" I asked, genuinely curious.

"We talked to the manager at your old store."

"Oh," I said lamely.

"Yeah," he replied, equally as lamely. "So, did you want to talk in person perhaps? We can send out an Uber to come get you, and bring you to our house. It's the least we can do."

"Where exactly is your house?"

"I'll text you the address," he said. "Anyway, the Uber will be in my name. Just give me your location and I'll take care of everything."

Twenty minutes later I'd scooped my sopping, half washed uniform into a plastic bag (because there was no way I was leaving it at the laundromat unsupervised— I mean I don't know who would want to steal a Starbucks uniform but I wasn't going to be the first to find out), and was standing on the curb as my Uber pulled up. I'd never ridden in an Uber, so it was slightly unnerving, to say the least. But the driver— a man in his forties— seemed nice enough, and didn't really push for conversation. In fact, after I'd gotten comfortable with being driven around by some stranger in their car, I realised Uber was far better than the bus and seriously considered permanently switching my travel method there and then.

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