I do not own Ella Enchanted. It belongs to Gail Carson Levine.

Mercy

Chapter one: shake up my world

I disliked Mondays. And really, who could blame me? No, I did not have to be at a hospital at five a.m. to cut open someone's head, nor did I have to be at court to defend someone on death row. No, I simply had to sit behind a desk all day; "yes-and-no-ing" sketches of possible dresses or whatever. It probably doesn't seem at all important to anyone with a serious, crucial job that benefited the community at large, but it was still a job, and I still had to be at my office, ten o'clock sharp, Monday through Friday.

Like I said, I hated Mondays.

Traffic was horrendous, which made it nearly impossible to stop at my favorite coffee shop to get a cappuccino before work. It wasn't like I would have a rubbish day if I didn't get my coffee; it was simply a luxury that I liked to have. And if the traffic kept up like it was, I was going to be deprived of said luxury.

A colorful line of cars was stretched out before me, and even though the light was green, no one was moving. No. One. Was. Moving. This was one of my many pet peeves; it was ridiculous, really, but--oh! Movement!

Traffic finally went forward, and I was permitted to parallel-park in front of my favorite coffee shop; Faerie's Pick-Me-Up. I didn't bother even attempting to decipher the silly name, I just went with it. After all, cheap caffeine was nothing to shake a stick at. Not on a Monday, anyway.

I noticed, as I slid out of my car, a very…expensive looking vehicle parked in front of me. It was flashy; some foreign manufacturer; the owner probably had to have it imported. I suppose what really caught my eye was the establishment that it was parked in front of. My favorite little cheap café; it seemed like an oxymoron for a car so luxurious and expensive to be parked in front of it. Regardless of the reason, I shrugged, and walked inside, reveling in the warmth of the café. The air was heavy with the scent of coffee beans, chocolate, and vanilla. I inhaled deeply, feeling awake.

"Morning, Ella," as per usual, Arieda was standing behind the counter, holding my usual cup of coffee in her hand; a hazelnut cappuccino.

"Morning, Arieda, how are things?" She narrowed her eyes playfully at me, and I took my coffee.

"Boring. Of all the cafés in New York, I had to pick this one."

"Well, I would prefer your job over mine. At least you'll be able to quit in a few months."

"Right. I've only been working here for three months, Ella, medical school is expensive. Plus I have to pay rent. Oh, just take your coffee and get a muffin, Miss Fashion." She smiled at me playfully, and I took my coffee and was off.

Muffin, muffin, muffin. Freshly baked muffins, at that. I chose banana nut, like I did every morning, and was prepared to walk over to my usual table when a very annoying, very nasally voice sounded my ear--

"Hazelnut coffee and a banana nut muffin? Ew."

I whipped around, and was face-to-face with the most pompous-looking woman I had ever seen. She was blonde--honey blonde, with ice-blue eyes. She was tall, and lean, and clad in the most expensive-looking pencil skirt suit…

"Excuse me? It is not 'ew'. What are you getting?" She sneered at me; her face was oval shaped and she was very pale.

She held up her coffee and reached around me for a muffin. "Mocha coffee and a blueberry muffin," she was much too close to me.

"Right…" I wanted to get away from her as quickly as possible, but she stayed close to me, positioned awkwardly in front of me. She was looking me over like I was a race horse she was considering betting on.

"I'm going to walk away now," I said, and to my pleasure, she looked embarrassed. I walked towards my usual table; a booth by the window.

"You're really going to sit there?"

Are you serious?

She had followed me, and was standing in front of me again, perfectly arched eyebrows raised.

"I always sit here."

"Of course you do…" she rolled her eyes, and set her food down on my table, and slid into the booth, sitting beside me.

Oh. My. God.

"Excuse me, seriously, do you mind?"

"No, not at all."

"Who are you?" I asked, unwrapping my muffin. I was going to need an oral fixation to tolerate a conversation with this woman.

"My name is Hattie." Rare name…bad, but rare.

"And who are you?" She asked me, taking a drink of her coffee.

"My name is Ella--"

"Ella Frell, by chance?" I did not like her inflection when she said my full name.

"Yes, that's me."

"The owner of New York's most popular fashion magazine? Pixie Fashion?" Her lips curled around the name; I admit it, it's not the best name, but really, people only read it for the sex tips, anyway.

"Why do you care?" I snapped, my patience dwindling quickly. I took a bite of my muffin, and a sip of my coffee, and relished in Hattie's disgusted expression.

"Well, it's not everyday that you meet someone like you in…a place like this." Really? That's like the pot calling the kettle black.

"You're here. Do you, by chance, own that terribly flashy car outside?"

She smirked at me, and pulled a set of keys out of her blazer pocket. "Yes, I do."

"I thought so." She shrugged in response, and stared at me while she bit into her muffin.

"I suppose you own that terribly shabby car that's parked next to mine? Dear, it's not going to make it look any better by comparison." It took every ounce of my self-control to keep me from bitch-slapping her.

"I have to go," I needed away from her, or else I would be charged with aggravated assault. She stood up, and let me out.

"See you soon, Ella." 'See you soon, Ella' my ass!

"Bye, Ella!" Arieda called after me, a smile tugging at the corners of her always-pleased-looking lips.

This was not how I wanted to start my morning. I didn't want to run into Hattie ever again. It took all of my better judgment not to run into her car as I was leaving.