“Hi, Gabe,” said Beth, seeing the blonde man entering the shop. He ducked a nod and smiled shyly before retreating quickly to the corner seat that he had claimed the previous few visits. She turned back to the customers she was pouring drinks for. She was behind the counter today instead of on the floor (Stephen had beat her at rock-paper-scissors). “Here you go,” she said to the guy in a business suit, handing him a carrier with four hot drinks.
“Thanks, have a good day,” said the man as he turned away with his order.
Beth kept an eye on Gabe as she continued to make drinks and bag muffins and other pastries for the inflow of late commuters. Gabe pulled out his computer and began opening something idly, looking around a little but shrinking back anytime someone looked back at him.
“Want me to send Stephen over with a cup of the usual?” she asked loudly once a break from the constant stream of customers allowed her to nudge close enough to be heard over the din of conversation in the dining room.
Gabe’s head whipped around at her, his eyes wide and surprised. “Um...yah, that’d be...nice.” He stammered a little and blinked rapidly at her, hands suspended above the keyboard, twitching with agitation.
Poor man sees so surprised. “I don’t remember if I introduced myself before,” she said closing the distance to the table, a hand outstretched towards him, “I’m Beth.”
He hastily stood, shoving his chair back awkwardly so he could take her hand. “I’m Gabe,” he said quietly, a faint blush turning the tips of his ears pink. He looked lost as to what to say.
She released his hand and smiled up at him. He didn’t seem to know how to react, his eyes darting up at her then back down at the floor. “Theo will be in, in about forty minutes,” she said glancing at the clock on the wall on the nearest wall. She didn’t miss the way his eyes flickered up to her face then back down. Well, maybe there is something mutual going on.
“Thanks, Beth,” he said quietly. She moved away slowly, heading back to the counter where a new customer was contemplating the drink options on the board. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him sit back down, his shoulders slumped in on himself.
“Hey Stephen,” she said to the waiter bent over the table saying something to a few college girls giggling and blushing. He looked over his shoulder at her and then said something to the girls making them giggle again before sauntering over to her.
“What can I do for you, Beth?” he asked with his grin.
“Firstly stop flirting with every girl that walks through the door,” she said without any real force. Might as well ask the sun to stop shining. “Also, that guy in the corner,” she said tipping her head towards Gabe, “is a friend of Theo’s. I’m behind the counter,” she glanced back at the customer who looked ready to order. “Can you bring him a chicory coffee and whatever is good to munch on?” She began angling towards getting behind the counter to help the customer.
Stephen followed easily, “What’s up with this ‘friend?’” he asked jokingly, his grin mischievous. “You sure he isn’t your ‘friend’?”
She glared at him, her sky eyes narrowing. “Be nice to him, he seems really shy.” Stephen doesn’t know about Theo, though he might suspect that he’s gay. “Seriously, I have to go,” she said quickly before walking quickly back to the front of the counter where the middle aged woman was beginning to get restless.
“You heading out?” Asked Theo, watching Gabe pack his computer bag. He had just delivered a few sandwiches to the table near Gabe’s.
“Yah,” said Gabe glancing up at Theo. He smiled shyly at him clasping his bag shut. “I really like working here, I get a lot done.”
Theo glanced out at the windows where the sun had disappeared behind the buildings and the sky was fading to watercolor purple and pink. “You know it’s like five-thirty, right?” he said.
“Yah, I got really wrapped up in my work,” said Gabe smiling shyly. “I don’t know why, but this place is just really inspiring, I get so much done.”
The two of them stood facing each other; Gabe’s bag now over his shoulder, Theo’s tray held loosely at his side. The high school students he had just delivered the sandwiches to all glanced at the hot waiter and staring down at the cute man with his forgotten blue scarf bunched in his hand. The pause passed and as the students slid their gaze back to each other the electric crackle that held everyone’s breath evaporated.
“You going to come back tomorrow?” asked Theo on an impulse, needing to escape the thickness of the air in his lungs. What was that moment? Oh shit, I sound like a needy boyfriend. Just as he opened his mouth to qualify the statement, Gabe looked down.
“Probably,” said Gabe to the ground. His voice was as subdued as ever. “If I get ahead in the beginning of the week I can work on the yard a little.”
“Oh, you garden?” asked Theo dumbly, shifting his weight to his other hip.
Gabe looked up at Theo, his face pink again. “Yah, I have a lot of raking to do now.” Theo was profoundly grateful that Gabe’s ocean eyes weren’t boring into his and instead were focused on his mouth.
Wait, don’t think about him looking at your mouth. “Yah, the cold snap last week really dropped all the leaves.” I sound so stupid. Gabe didn’t respond, just shifted his weight and looked down again. Wow, I didn’t even justify I response. So lame. “I’ll let you go,” he said shifting away towards the kitchen entrance where he should pick up his next order.
“Thanks,” said Gabe awkwardly taking a few steps towards the door. They circled around each other, heading towards their respective exits, both still angled towards each other. “I’ll, um….see you later then.”
“See you later,” replied Theo. With that he forced himself to turn his rebelling body away so he could go to the kitchen and smack his head against a wall. Shit, I won’t like him. I refuse. I refuse.
“YOU LIKE GABE!!!” Shouted Beast as soon as she caught sight of him lounging on the floor of their apartment with a book in his hand. He glared at her as he sat up and dog-eared a corner of the book.
“Why don’t you announce it to the world?” he snapped at her getting up and turning away from her towards the kitchen where he disappeared behind the cabinets.
Beast looked at Beth in surprise. ‘What’s up with him?’ she gestured, tilting her head towards him and scrunching eyebrows down.
‘He’s mad,’ Beth signaled back with an upward lift of her eyebrows and a tight half smile that lacked any humor.
‘Obviously,’ replied Beast with a roll of her eyes.
“Sorry, Theo,” Beast said aloud. She dropped the black bag that had been slung over her shoulder since she burst loudly through the door. She felt a twinge of regret somewhere around her lungs where she quickly squashed it. What’s done is done, try to make the best of it. “I’m just excited that you like someone,” she said in a much more subdued tone.
Theo appeared around the corner of the kitchen with a glass of what looked like the cheap whisky they kept in the fridge. The brown liquid didn’t slosh but smoothly slid around the glass when Theo brought the glass to his lips to take a large gulp. He exhaled harshly through his mouth after swallowing down half the amber liquid. “I’m not. I don’t know the man, I just find him stupidly cute and it’s distracting.” He huffed and stalked back to the edge of the coffee table where he had placed his book, Return.
“I’m sorry?” asked Beast. “I mean, it’s not ideal, but it’s been almost two years since Jack,” she kept her tone more subdued than her usual blunt manner. I can’t just slam him with the truth like usual, I gotta talk nicer. “I’m just glad that you’re showing some interest in romance again. Even if it’s just a passing interest in someone, at least you aren’t moping in the past anymore.” Beth is so much better at the subtle tactful stuff.
“I don’t want to ‘show interest’ in anyone now. I don’t want to like someone again, especially when it’s obvious that I’m not gonna get anywhere,” growled Theo still standing, his book clutched in his hand.
“You can’t just run from liking anyone,” replied Beast, trying to keep her tone reasonable and not snapping. “We both love you like a brother, but you can’t spend the best part of your life being a hermit with the two of us.” How do I express this? Shit, I’ve never been good at this. Beth! Help!!!
Theo just stared at her, his eyes narrowed and mouth pursed. He sighed then looked down at his book, starting to bend in his white-knuckle grip. “I know you mean well, but drop it, please, Beast.” He took another swig of the alcohol draining it. “I’m going to bed, I have an essay due tomorrow.” He turned away from Beast, still standing by the door with her leather jacket and shoes on, and Beth, perched on her book-stool painting a mermaid. He placed the glass on the edge of kitchen counter and shut his bedroom door solidly behind him.
Beth looked up from her painting where she had been trying to crouch out of the conflict. Beast deflated, no longer running on the excitement about Theo’s potential love interest. “I didn’t mean to get him that upset,” she said, tugging off her jacket and hanging it on the hook by the door. She dropped herself heavily onto the floor next to Beth and began unlacing the steel-toed combat boots.
“You lack tact,” said Beth, looking over at her pouting sister. “I told you not to make a big deal about it.”
Beast looked over at her sister, “Yah, but I just get so excited. He can be so dense sometimes.” Time to change the subject. She placed both her boots under the table and dragged her black bag towards her and began rifling through it. She pulled out a small notebook with a dragon on the front. “I may have found another client for you.” She flipped open her notebook and began flipping pages until she reached the one she wanted. “This guy, Toni, saw your mermaid in a bottle, you know, the one we have behind the bar? He asked where he could get something like that. Here’s his contact info if you want to commission another one.”
“So I noticed you keep looking over at Gabe,” said Beth as she leaned against the edge of the counter. She had already changed out of her white shirt and black pants and was wearing another stolen plaid shirt and her jeans. Without the button-down to age her she looked like a highschool student who skipped.
“Shut up Beth,” he replied easily. It was the usual after-lunch lull before the high schoolers came in to hang around so only a couple tables were occupied. He was mopping behind the counter before the next rush, trying to get the coffee and syrup up off the floor before it became a permanent sticky spot.
“Okay, whatever,” replied Beth. She pushed off the counter and tapped out a reply to something on her cell. “I’m gonna head to the bus stop really quick,” she said zipping up her gray fleece. Bending to grab her backpack she shrugged it on over the gray fleece she also grabbed her art bags. The black bags seemed to overwhelm her tiny frame, the large black bag hanging off her shoulder and clinking softly with paints and brushes, on her other side the large portfolio in hand. After arranging her bags so that she could manage the five minute walk to the stop she smiled. “I’ll see you later,” she said before turning to maneuver through the tables to the door.
To Theo’s surprise he saw Gabe glancing up from the corner where he had been typing away on the computer. He watched in quite confusion as Gabe stood and made his way to the door. Is he going to leave his laptop? That doesn’t seem right? It suddenly clicked as Gabe waited by the door for Beth to make her way over. He then opened the door for her, smiling shyly.
“Thank you!” he heard Beth say with a surprised smile.
“You’re welcome,” muttered Gabe, shutting the door after she had turned and begun walking to the stop, the black bag already halfway down her shoulder. At that moment Gabe chose to look up at Theo who was staring at the shorter man.
Theo was the first to look down this time, feeling something funny about being caught staring. He got up from halfway across the room to open the door for her. Maybe he thinks she’s cute. His mood dampened a little. Or maybe he’s just really polite, he tried to assure himself. He glanced back up to see Gabe almost back to his seat, the tips of his ears red from across the room.
“That guy you were talking to Friday is sitting in the corner,” said Stephen when Theo stepped through the back entrance of the cafe on Monday. Stephen’s black eyes flashed with a mischievous grin right before he breezed by Theo and back into the front of the cafe to start taking orders.
Theo just blinked in surprise. Gabe...that’s right. He opened his locker and dropped his bag inside then tossed his beanie in on top of the bag. He had almost forgotten about Gabe after all the chaos of this weekend. He smiled a little to himself and finished stripping out of his worn red jacket and hung it up on the hook in the locker. Today is gonna be a good day. Just before closing the locker he straightened the white button down shirt, tucking the shirt more firmly into his own black pants. He was grateful Joel only required a white shirt and black pants, no jacket or any other nonsense like A Bit Of Everything.
“Hey Joel,” said Theo as he rounded into the kitchen, “thanks for the muffins on Friday, Beth says you need to teach her the recipe.”
Joel glanced up from the stove with a small smirk, “She was hounding me for it when she got in this morning.” His mustache twitched a grin. “Told her she’d have to come back here and work in the kitchen if she wants to know the secret.”
Theo chuckled at that. It was a long-standing argument between the two since Joel insisted that he needed another helper in the kitchen and Beth steadfast refused since she liked to talk to people. “I’m gonna head up front, unless you want me in the kitchen today?” he said as he began to back towards the front of the cafe.
“Yah, you should work front, tell Stephen he’s gonna be in the kitchen with me today,” responded Joel as he refocused on what looked like a egg stroodle. Not all of Joel’s new concoctions were successes, but sometimes he liked to try odd new things to offer for lunches or breakfasts.
Theo moved to the front of the cafe with ease, feeling once again at home. This was his playground and he knew it well unlike the wood-paneled dungeon of a fancy restaurant. He came up behind Stephen who was behind the bar making a frappachino.
“Hey,” he said as he approached the other man. “Joel wants you in the back today.”
Stephen’s nose wrinkled with annoyance and he pouted at Theo. “But I never get to work front!” he whined at Theo, finishing the frappuccino and clicking the lid on top.
“Yah, but have you ever thought that maybe he wants you back there because you’re such a good cook?” asked Theo. He watched as Stephen handed the younger woman the frappuccino with a smile and a soft ‘here you go Miss.’ Stephen was a true lady-killer, dark skin crinkling around his eyes when he smiled with a flirtatious grin. True, girls giggled about his grin and sweet compliments, but despite his strengths with customers he was an even bigger asset in the kitchen. He and Joel together could create some truly lethal pastries. One time Stephen brought in some homemade cupcakes, made from scratch. Theo was about to threaten the guy for the recipe. Joel was trying to encourage the young college student to explore more into the culinary arts.
Stephen looked at Theo and threw him a half hearted scowl, “I know you two are trying to get me to be a baker, but I’m going to college for computer tech.”
Theo just shrugged as Stephen brushed by, “Should still think about it. I mean, you’re a great baker.”
“Eh,” said Stephen before disappearing behind the wall to the kitchen.
He turned to look at the open cafe, tables all full of mostly familiar faces. At Beth was leaning over, chatting with a group of regulars. She threw a quick smile towards him. Nobody was coming in for a new order, so he went around and began checking on tables. As he weaved around the seats and customers, dropping a ‘hello’ and a nod here and there he felt a small shiver of anticipation in the bottom of the spine.
His heart beat a little flutter faster as approached the table in the corner. Stephen had said Gabe was here already. It was stupid, why was he feeling this rush? It’s not like he’ll remember me as anyone but that waiter he kinda knocked down on accident. But as he approached the table his heart took a quick one-two beat at the down-turned blonde hair. His fingers felt a slight tingle, but he ignored it. Don’t. Just don’t. Don’t be stupid.
“Hey Gabe,” he said as he leaned his weight to one side. He couldn’t decide what to do with his hands, wanting to cross them but not wanting to look aggressive or angry. Maybe I should just put them in my pockets, keep it casual. I don’t want to look too awkward. Stop fidgeting. What the hell is wrong with you?
Gabe’s head raised away from its intense stare at the laptop set up in front of him. His blue eyes blinked at him in quick repetition and then he smiled a little. A soft, shy smile, but a genuinely pleased one. “Hey Theo,” he replied.
Theo tried not to fight the little rush of excitement that Gabe remembered his name. Goddamnit it. I’m not a teenager, get over this crush! He tried not to remember how Gabe kept popping into his head over the weekend, a picture of him smiling awkwardly when he stammered an apology. This is ridiculous, we’ve barely talked. Stop it. “How was your talk with your boss?” he asked remembering how last Friday Gabe ran out the store.
“Pretty good,” he said with a small smile. “She was impressed with how much I got done while I was here.” He flushed a little, “she said I should hang around more often if it’s gonna make me more productive.” He looked down, his ear-tips turning pink.
Theo grinned, “Well, we’re happy to have you hang around,” he said. Shit, that came out awkward. “Did you order another chicory coffee?” he asked, motioning towards the empty cup settled by the edge of the table next to the laptop.
“Oh, yah,” said Gabe looking at the coffee cup. “I think it’s one of my new favorites.”
“Want to try something new?” Asked Theo. I wonder if he’ll like my favorite? “I’m not a big fan of the bitterness of coffee, so I drink spicy chai lattes instead. Want to try?”
Gabe smiled fully, looking up at Theo again his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Yah, sure,” he replied. “I have a habit of latching onto one thing and never trying anything new.”
He looks so sweet, he looks like a little kid! Theo felt himself grinning back stupidly. “I’ll take that,” he snagged the empty mug and saucer from the edge of the table. “I’ll bring you back some chai in a minute.” He began to shift away from Gabe, wanting to say something else but not knowing what. Why do I feel attracted to him?
“Thanks Theo,” said Gabe in his reserved manner. He was still smiling a small smile and between the softened lines of his face and pale pink blush just creeping around his nose he looked just too damn adorable. Theo tried to ignore the way he felt his skin heat down his back and over his face.
Beast’s eyes burned as she stumbled up the stairs to their apartment. It had been a long night, Fridays and Saturdays always were, but with that report that what’s-his-toes wanted this morning, she’d been up for way too long. Unhooking her key from the hiker’s clip on her purse, she jammed the key in the deadbolt and twisted until the door lazily swung open. Sighing she yanked her key out and clipped it back to her purse. She lost way too many of them already.
She shut and locked the deadbolt and the bottom lock, then put the chain on for extra measure. Not that she thought there was anybody going after them, but…. She tried not to give into the temptation to just flop on the crappy sofa and sleep in her clothes. But if she didn’t shower now she’d feel even worse in the morning.
Slowly she trudged through the living room, dodging Beth’s easel, now set up on the coffee table and the books stacked as an impromptu stool. By the light from the windows she made it to the door of Theo’s room. Cracking the door she glanced in.
He looks so happy when he sleeps. A smile ghosted across her face, but she was too exhausted to put in the effort. With the faint light of the streetlamp coming through the window, she could just make out a small smirk on Theo’s sleeping face, his arms under his pillow. She was almost tempted to pull the blankets up to his shoulders, keep him in this comfortable state despite the recent chill. But he always said he ran warm, and if he was still sleeping without a shirt it must be too warm for him yet. And she was exhausted.
Shutting the door as quietly as possible she tiptoed to her room and opened the door softly. Beth was curled up under the covers, a lump with blonde hair poking out from above the quilt. I wonder why Theo prefers no covers and Beth burrows under them? In almost a slow motion she dropped her bag on her bed and stood at the end of the bed pulling out her phone and plugging it into the charger snaking over the dresser by the door. 4:12AM blinked up at her briefly before she turned the screen down to the dresser.
Too exhausted to bother unpacking her purse, she turned and sat at the foot of the bed by the black leather bag and began untying her boots. Pulling her feet out of the shoes and stripping the damp socks off her feet she stood slowly, still unsure if she’d bother with a shower. So sleepy. I could just go to bed. No. You need to shower, get the alcohol off your skin and wash your makeup off, else you’ll feel awful in the morning. Unzipping her leather vest and dragging the lace shirt over her head she snagged the large black t-shirt from the bed where she had thrown it this morning in her rush, she dragged herself to the bathroom.
Now that I’m here, I’ll have to shower, no point in not. Shutting the door and turning on the shower to hot she stripped out of her black jeans and underthings. Stepping into the hot shower Beast felt all her muscles relax, her shoulders drooping as the tension that was keeping her awake quickly melting away. Moving on autopilot, she snagged her face cloth and pumped a few pumps of face cleanser onto it, rubbing the cloth so that suds appeared.
Why do I wear makeup? It sucks. Such a pain in the ass to get off. She scrubbed her face, especially her eyes. Men are so lucky, they aren’t expected to wear makeup. Though sometimes it isn’t so bad. Theo didn’t look too bad in it back in high school.
“This is a new student,” said Mr. Coyote (pronounced with two syllables as he reminded her twice). The classroom collectively swivelled towards the front where Mr. Coyote was introducing her to the Newspaper Club. How embarrassing, this seriously didn’t need to happen. “This is Helen-”
“Beast,” she corrected immediately. “I go by Beast.”
Mr. Coyote gave her a look from the corner of his eye, reassessing her. “Beast,” he said, “She’s new to this school and has decided to join our club, please make her feel welcome.”
She almost cringed outwardly at the cliche introduction by the old professor, but managed to keep her composure as she worked her way by the desks clumped into groups. Popular kids who think newspaper writing is all gossip. Looking for another club to put on the college apps. Shut-ins forced to ‘socialize’. Here to avoid detention. Ticking off the groups at each table she walked to the corner of the room where four students sat deep in discussion. Actually care about writing.
“Hey,” she said once she approached. The three girls and boy looked up, all trying to deduce what the pierced girl wanted. “May I join you?”
“Sure,” said the boy, scootching his chair to the middle to make room at one end for her to lean on his desk.
Swinging the bag off her shoulder and onto the ground next to the end of the table she turned and grabbed a chair from the nearest desk. It clattered loudly on the linoleum floor when she set it down and plopped down into the seat.
The three girls introduced themselves, though their names have been mostly forgotten; Mary? Margaret? and J….Janice? Jessica? Can’t even recall a bit of the third girl. “And I’m Theo,” said the boy next to her. She turned, about to offer her hand to him now for his handshake, and immediately saw what she had missed before.
His hair was cut military short, almost a buzz-cut, and his uniform was starched stiff. The light blue shirt had been ironed crisp and his tie was pulled right up to the buttoned collar of the shirt. But when you looked at him, not the clothes and the haircut…. His warm olive skin tone worked nicely with the black eye liner he used (lightly though, not the heavy hand of a ‘goth’) and made his almost golden brown eyes pop. Good job. He smiled brightly, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
“Theo?” she asked as she shook his hand.
He nodded and released her hand, turning towards the other girls who had begun discussing the articles for next week’s political column. I’m going to remember you.
Holy shit, how long have I been zoned? Beast jolted, realizing that she had been just standing under the stream of water, her thoughts barely coherent. Did I finish my hair and scrub down? Yah, is good. Twisting the handle she turned off the water and stepped out of the shower drying off quickly. Gotta get to bed before I zone out again. Throwing on her t-shirt and gathering the clothes she left on the closed toilet lid she braced herself for the cold waiting outside the steamy bathroom.
Theo practically fell into the apartment when the door opened before he could extract his key. Feeling sore and irritated he stopped himself from snapping at Beth, her hair pulled back from her paint-streaked face.
“Hey,” said Theo tiredly moving into the apartment. “Thanks Beth.”
Beth shut the door and rebolted the lock. “No problem, I heard you fiddling with the lock.” She turned back to him just as he placed a brown paper bag on the table, and dropped his backpack onto the floor by the couch and flopped onto it, his face buried into the cushions, legs bent awkwardly over the other armrest. A muffled response sounding like a grunt greeted her.
Moving around to where she had set up her easel on the coffee table, Beth perched herself on the stack of books serving as a stool. Staring across the coffee table at Theo’s form face-first in the couch she shifted her easel to the side a little so she could keep an eye on him as she painted. He looks beat. He works too much, it’s gonna wear him out.
“Bad day at A Bit of Everything?” she asked, picking up the brush on the edge of the coffee table.
Theo turned his head towards her, the bags under his eyes standing out harshly in the cheap lamp light. “Yah, I got stiffed on a big tip again, and Dick was being...well...a dick.” He closed his eyes and breathed out through his nose. “I’m just sore.”
Beth glanced at him again, then refocused on her painting. “You’re gonna fall apart if you keep working like this. I mean, you work over ten hours a day at Joel’s, then on the weekends you work six to eight under Dick, and you’re doing classes on top of it. You’re gonna run yourself into the ground.” Her eyes darted back to him, concern furrowing her brow. Not that she didn’t get it. When his dad cut him off, Theo basically had to start from nothing. He needed to work all those hours to afford the classes and the apartment, but…
She took a breath and refocused on her painting, willing herself to stop worrying. Theo’s an adult, he can handle himself. Theo sighed and shifted so he was leaning on his back, his knees drawn in so that he could fit on the sofa.
“Get anything done at the studio?” he asked, untying the laces of his shoes.
“Yah, I think I’m almost done with the mermaid piece,” she replied, dabbing a bit of green on the canvas before switching brushes. “And Neal says that with my concentration already so far along I can start looking at some of the other stuff I wanted to do.”
“That’s great!” he said with an exhausted enthusiasm. Throwing his shoes down by his bag he rubbed his feet, face tight with discomfort. “He gonna let do a big canvas?”
Beth frowned, a little, itching her nose. “No, I don’t think so. After all, normally only seniors get a big canvas, and I do still have to finish my concentration. Besides, I think he wants me to branch out from paints and graphite into digital and stuff.” She switched brushes again, orange now gliding across the canvas in small strokes. “I think I’ll work on some more of the commissioned stuff I’m getting from that webpage you set up. I get a lot of people asking for the fantasy stuff, and I know I can knock out a few fairy paintings pretty quick.”
Theo slowly stretched his back, arching it off the sofa and balling his hands into fists above his head. With a yawn he relaxed back into the couch’s flowered cushions. Normally they took the heinous flowered cushions and used them on the floor to sit on, the couch being too tall to use the coffee table as a desk or kitchen table. But for now it was nice to have a place to collapse. “You’re getting more and more asks, between your Etsy and your website you’re doing pretty well.” He glanced over at her, a tired smile stretching across his face. “Soon you’ll be a full-time artist and Beast’ll own the bar. Maybe I’ll get hired by a magazine in the city and we’ll all move out of this dump and into a nicer place.”
She smiled at him, not wanting to point out that he didn’t look for greatness himself. She knew he wanted to publish some of his essays on social equality, but he didn’t even dream that could become a reality. “Sure,” she said. “You’ll publish that collection of essays you’ve been working on and become a famous social activist as well as a writer, I’ll get into prestigious galleries and sell my paintings for thousands of dollars, and Beast will own The Poison Apple when Martha retires. When we get out of here we should get a house with a garden for flowers.” Beast can try her green thumb in a real garden and stop putting her effort into the weeds that grow in front of this place. “And we should get a dog.”
“A dog?” asked Theo. “Dogs are big and expensive and messy and require a lot of care. I don’t think we could handle a dog.”
Beth puffed out her cheeks and scrunched her nose. “Sure we could! Besides you like dogs, I like dogs, Beast likes dogs. We should get a dog.”
“Okay,” Theo said, obviously laughing at this imagined future. “We can have a dog. What kind do you want?”
“Husky,” she said quickly with a grin. “They’re fluffy and big and dependable.”
“Okay, a husk it is then,” he said easily, obviously falling into a sleepy daze.
Beth glanced down at her cell on the coffee table when it buzzed twice. The vibrations made an annoying sound on the wood table.
Message from: Beast
Message from: Beast.
Wiping her hands on the black t-shirt that covered her normal clothes, she picked up the cell.
-U and Theo home?-
-How’s T? He ok?-
“What does her majesty want?” asked Theo from his couch.
“Just wants to make sure we got home safe,” she replied, quickly tapping out an answer.
-We’re home, don’t worry.-
-He seems really tired.-
A moment later the cell vibrated in her hand.
-Gtg, ttyl lil’ sis. <3-
Beth smiled and tapped her response before putting down here cell and picking up the brush again.
-Safe walk home. <3-
“So Joel did his usual thing with the muffins?” she asked Theo.
“Yah,” he said sleepily. “Told me he had to keep them in demand. Blueberry today. Had one at work.”
She snagged the brown paper bag and dragged it closer to her painted mess and unrolled the top. The smell of butter and blueberries drifted out of the bag, and soon she found herself halfway done with the large breakfast food. God, did Joel make delicious muffins. I need to get his secret…
“How was Joel’s?” she asked as she peeled the liner a little further off the delicious pastry.
“Pretty good,” replied Theo. “Oh yah, Fred was asking where you went.”
She smiled through her muffin. Fred and Jack were regulars on Fridays, and Fred swore that Beth could have been his daughter in five years or so. “You tell him he’ll have to visit a different morning?”
“Nah,” said Theo. “Gabe came in again.”
As if a little jolt went through her brain, Beth began listening intently. Something about that man… “Gabe, the shy guy who apologized for knocking you down the other day?” she asked.
“Yah,” said Theo, his eyes were closed, so he didn’t see her staring intently at him. “Said he only had a moment to grab a coffee before heading to meet with his boss…..Vivian.”
He doesn’t normally remember so many details for someone so new. “That sounds nice, did he stay and chat for a moment?” she asked before popping the last piece of muffin into her mouth.
“No, he had to go,” replied Theo easily, still unaware of Beth’s gaze. “Too bad, he should have had a muffin.”