It was a Friday night, which meant Marinette should’ve been baby-sitting for Madame Chamack. But Madame Chamack’s boyfriend had dumped her last week, which left Marinette coincidentally free on the night her parents had a big catering order.
There was something wrong with the world, Marinette tiredly reflected, when the only thing a thirteen-year-old girl had to do for fun on a Friday night was help her parents out at a party that she hadn’t even been invited to.
“I’m so glad you’re here to help, Marinette. Papa and I were worried about whether we’d have enough hands,” Sabine said, beaming at her daughter.
“Yeah… great,” Marinette mumbled, looking at the uniform in her hands.
“Go change! We’re leaving soon,” Sabine instructed.
Marinette sighed heavily and slumped back upstairs to her room. It wasn’t that she minded helping, but she’d been looking forward to the money she would’ve made tonight from baby-sitting Manon. She couldn’t move on with her newest design until she could buy more fabric. She eyed her naked dressform sadly and sighed again.
“Marinette! Hurry!” Sabine shouted.
“I’m hurrying!” Marinette yelled back, quickly stripping out of her jeans and sweatshirt. In the mirror, she caught a brief glimpse of the black words scrawled over the skin above her heart.
It’s okay, passionfruit is my favorite.
Those were the first words her soulmate was going to say to her. Marinette frowned, not for the first time, and wondered how that conversation was going to come around. Most people had something simple, like “good morning” or “thank you”. Like, her maman had “good evening” and her papa had “isn’t it?”, both of which made sense for relative strangers.
Her maman had described that initial moment of the bond clicking into place as magical. All that was needed was for two people to say each other’s words; it was like a permanent contract, a soul contract if you will, that meant you’d found your other half. Your reward was an eternal companion and their voice in your head, with your voice in theirs. Telepathy, in other words.
Like most teenagers, Marinette alternately thought that sounded cool or creepy depending on the day. She really hoped her soulmate was someone her age, and not some old weirdo. People like Rose and Juleka, who had found each other when they were six years ols, were so lucky.
“Marinette!” Sabine’s voice sounded both closer and more annoyed.
“Coming!” Marinette yanked a slightly cleaner of jeans on, pulled on the pink uniform top, and topped it off with a white apron. Then she ran to the door and pulled it up.
Sabine stood at the bottom of the stairs, hands on her hips, frowning.
“Sorry,” Marinette said, clattering down the steps so fast she tripped. She squealed, but Sabine caught her before she could fall very far and righted her.
“Honestly, what are we going to do with you?” Sabine asked, shaking her head. She straightened out Marinette’s apron.
“I was fixing my hair!” Marinette said.
“Uh huh. Get downstairs. Your papa needs your help loading the truck,” Sabine said.
“Right. Going.” A little more carefully, Marinette hurried down to the bakery. Her papa was whistling as he loaded the back with boxes of fragrant goodies. When her stomach growled as she walked in, he winked and snuck her a macaron.
“Gonna be a good one, Mari. Maybe with this, Mama and I will be able to buy you a copy of Ultimate Mecha Strike II,” he said.
“Really?!” Marinette beamed and gulped the macaron down in four quick bites. Suddenly more motivated to help, she grabbed a box and set it in the back of the truck.
Before long, the truck was packed and Sabine joined them. The truck was quiet on the way to the party. Or at least, it was outwardly quiet. Marinette could tell by the way they were acting that her parents were conversing by way of telepathy. Even after so many years, they still forgot themselves sometimes and didn’t speak out loud. It was romantic, but also kind of lonely.
Not that she’d ever tell them that, of course. Having an open connection with your soulmate was an excellent sign. All the magazines said that a one way or two way block was a sure sign of a relationship in trouble. So, isolating or not, she was happy her parents were still so much in love.
“Okay, Marinette?” Sabine said as they pulled up in front of Le Grand Paris.
“What?” Marinette said.
“I said - oh, sorry.” Sabine blew out a frustrated exhale. “Papa will unload the truck. I’m going to be in the kitchen stocking the dessert tables. Once they’re out, I want you walking around keeping an eye on what needs to be restocked.”
“Should I have a tray with food?” Marinette asked, envisioning herself gracefully slipping between the party attendees.
“No!” Her parents exclaimed together.
Marinette pouted. “Fine.” Honestly, that was fair. She was too much of a klutz for that.
Plus… Marinette eyed the hotel warily. That was the other part of why she wasn’t thrilled to help today. Chloé Bourgeois was undoubtedly going to be at the party, and Chloé never missed an opportunity to make fun of Marinette in some way. If she was really lucky, maybe she’d be able to avoid Chloé…
But Marinette doubted it. Her luck sucked.
She helped her maman carry a few things into the kitchen. The party was already in full swing. Marinette hung back in the shadows, admiring all of the fancy, beautiful clothing that she could see. She couldn’t help gasping when she spotted a few celebrities, including Jagged Stone.
Her excitement soured a little when she also spotted Chloé, strutting around the floor arm-in-arm with a blond boy who looked vaguely familiar. Marinette narrowed her eyes as the boy laughed at something Chloé had said. She couldn’t place where she’d seen him before, but any friend of Chloé’s was no friend of hers.
The kitchen doors opened and the two dessert tables, ladened high with her parent’s work, were rolled out. Marinette puffed up as people murmured with appreciation. She waited until the initial rush was over, then wandered over to see what needed to be refilled. The macarons were pretty much gone, and so were the chocolate chip cookies.
She headed back into the kitchen and carefully picked up another platter of macarons. There was no sign of her maman - she was probably helping Tom with the last of the boxes - but Marinette didn’t want to wait. Sabine always said that an empty platter was a sign of hungry customers.
With the upmost care, Marinette backed out of the kitchen. She slowly walked towards the dessert table, squeaking when a couple of people who weren’t paying attention nearly walked into her. She dodged just in time to avoid dumping the whole platter onto the woman’s very fancy dress, but a couple macarons dislodged and went flying.
“Oh noooo,” Marinette breathed, feeling like she was watching a slow motion train wreck. Her horrified gaze followed the path of the wayward macarons until they splattered against the shirt and tie of the boy who’d been walking around with Chloé.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
“Marinette! This is utterly ridiculous! What is the matter with you?!” Chloé shouted.
Mortified - friend of Chloé’s or not, the boy was still a client - Marinette set the platter down, grabbed a napkin, and rushed over. She only felt worse once she got a close-up view of the spots and stains now covering the boy’s white shirt and silky green tie. The shirt, which she guessed was cotton, could be washed. The tie? Not so much.
“Oh my god I’m so sorry I ruined your tie!” she blurted out, already mentally calculating how much money was in her bank and how much a replacement tie would cost.
“It’s okay, passionfruit is my favorite,” the boy said easily.
Marinette froze as the words - her words - sank in, accompanied by an unmistakable burning sensation on her chest. She slowly looked up into the boy’s shocked green eyes. She wouldn’t have described it as magical, but there was a definite click-and-pull sensation that took her breath away, and something warm bloomed at the back of her mind.
And then, a thought that definitely wasn’t hers popped into her head.
‘Oh my god.’
“Oh my god,” Marinette gasped out loud again.
“Oh my god, you have got to be kidding me,” Chloé snapped, throwing her arms in the air. “Dupain-Cheng, Adrikins?! Really? I thought you had taste!”
“Shut up, Chloé,” the boy said, not looking away from Marinette. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Marinette breathed, still in shock. “I’m - I’m madly clumsy. Sorry.”
He smiled and gently grasped her hand to shake it. “Hi, Madly Clumsy. I’m Adrien.”