Saturday, May 30, 2015

4. Nice to Meet You

Gabe approached the cafe with some trepidation.  Ah shit, why am I coming back?  He asked himself as he opened the door.  It was early morning, probably 10:45 or so.  He glanced around the cafe.  There were only a few other patrons this early in the morning.  Well, I’s not early-early, but it feels me….  Gabe all but groaned at his thoughts.  It felt like they were all watching him, judging him.  His eyes darted around as he looked at the tables and booths with the people drinking coffee.  There was a short waitress with blonde and red hair near the counter where people ordered coffee to go.
    He walked up to the bar where the waitress was.  Or was she a barista?  He felt himself heat up with embarrassment, sticky and hot up his spine, making his shirt stick to his back.  Why am I doing this?   He asked himself again.  He was at the bar in front of the waitress.  She was looking at him expectantly.  He needed to say something  Standing at the counter not ordering or saying something is not okay, he needs to say something.
    “U-Umm,” he said, his voice a bit higher than he prefers.  “I-is that waiter from yesterday here?” He asked shakily.
    Her brow furrowed and lips pursed a little.  She looked adorable, but he was too nervous to do more than absently note this.  She didn’t know who he was talking about.  Of course.  Different wait staff.  This girl may not have been on last night.  If she wasn’t on last night, she wouldn’t know about that man and about him being an idiot…
    “Ehh…” he said, his face becoming even hotter if that was even possible.  “I..I was wondering - you know- do you know who worked the night shift last night?”
    Her brows furrowed in confusion.  “Yes, is there someone you need to find?” She asked.
    “I….I, um,” he stuttered.  How do you ask this?  How do you phrase this?  “I was - I accidentally um, knocked a waiter down yesterday,” he blushed harder.  “I-I wanted to apologize to him.”  The words tumbled out mercifully fast.
    He hadn’t even finished his sentence before a flurry of expressions crossed the girl’s face chasing each other away and landing finally on surprised amusement.  “You must be talking about Theo,” she said.  “He isn’t working yet.  He usually does afternoons; Monday through Thursday and Friday mornings until three.”
    He looked up at her confused.  Why was she telling him this?  Did she already know- oh shit she knew that he was the one who knocked him down.  SHIT it had already gotten around.  He was sure he’d evaporate on the spot.  Imagined his head catching fire and body popping like a tick.
    “I, um...should I wait for know, to come I can apologize?” he asked her stuttering.  “I mean, will he come back soon so I can can, um, apologize?”
    She suddenly smiled this thousand-watt smile at him.  Wow, she was pretty.  If only he wasn’t such an awkward - “Yah,” she said still grinning, cutting off his thoughts.  “Theo should be coming in for the 12:30 shift, so if you’d like you can take a seat and wait for him.” She suddenly looked a little worried.  “If you don’t mind the wait, of course,” her voice was questioning, back peddling.
    “Oh, no,” he said, “I mean, yah.  I’ll wait here.  I’m going to” he motioned to the back corner where a table sat with two chairs.  “I’ll be over there.”
    Walking over to the small table he dropped the computer bag on the table and unwrapped his scarf from around his neck and pulled off his coat so he could drape it across the back of the chair.  Sitting in the chair looking at the inside of the cafe, he sighed, pulling the computer out of the bag.
    He didn’t even realize that time was passing as he typed away on the computer.  The document he was working on was now 87 pages and counting, and he was just starting to get into the groove of the dialogue again when something pulled his attention away from the words being crafted on the screen.
    Oh, right, he was in the cafe.  Time has passed.  That meant that- he felt his face heat with embarrassment.  Shit, that man would be here.  He needed to apologize, he was here to apologize.  He just didn’t want be here.
    All this flashed in his mind in a split second, before he even registered that he had looked up, and straight into the eyes of the man he had knocked over the previous evening.  Suddenly all his thoughts went silent and he felt his face turn to fire.  Fuck.
    The man was staring at him oddly, his eyebrows drawn together and mouth drawn in a grim line, but despite that he looked curious, confused even.  He wasn’t in the cafe uniform or dress code; instead of a button down shirt and slacks he was wearing jeans and green t-shirt with a plaid green and blue long sleeve over it.  A gray beanie covered half his head, and a thin red jacket was slung over one arm.  For a second, it felt like it was just the two of them, staring it off in a void; one looking with confusion and frustration, the other looking with fear, confusion, and contrition.
    The man looked away, breaking the spell that held Gabe paralyzed to his seat.  Blinking blindly, he tried to remember exactly what he was planning on saying.  He had worked out an apology in his head already, he just needed to get it out.  He could vaguely recognize that the blonde waitress from earlier was saying something to that waiter, but he was too caught up in his head, trying to plan out his apology.
    The man walked towards Gabe at his table.  Frozen with fear he watched with trepidation as the guy approached his table.  Suddenly he was standing there, looking down at Gabe.
    “Um,” said Gabe feeling a bit queasy.  “I wanted to...wanted to apologize for yesterday.”  He rushed as he tried to get the words out coherently.  The man’s eyebrows raised.
    “Do you mind if I-” he motioned to pull out the other chair across from Gabe.  Nodding, Gabe closed his laptop, which he realized was open and turned to face the man now sitting across from him.
    “I, er…” he hesitated, taking a little while to get his thoughts together.  “I was..I couldn’t...I’m sorry.” he managed to get out.  He couldn’t look at the man in front of him.  He studiously looked at the man’s clothes, chin, and the table in front of him.  He just couldn’t bring himself to look at the man.
    “It’s,” the man hesitated.  “It’s okay.  I appreciate you apologizing.”
    He glanced up at the man’s eyes.  He actually seemed sincere.  “I just was so embarrassed and couldn’t stay there with all the people.”  Gabe felt the words pulled out of him.
    The man slowly smiled.  “Yah, I can get that.  I’m sorry if I was kinda antagonistic, I was kinda mad.  I thought you were gonna come back and yell at me for something.” He chuckled a little.
    Gabe blushed a little.  “Why would I do that?”
    The man shrugged.  “People can be assholes sometimes.  You know?”
    Gabe found himself nodding.  “Yah, I’m sorry to hear that.”
    The man smiled again.  “I’m Theo,” he offered a hand to shake.
    “Gabe,” he replied taking the hand.  He felt a small tingle go up his arm when he grabbed the large hand.  “I’m still sorry-”
    Theo waved his other hand cutting him off.  “Don’t worry about it.  Shit happens.”
    Gabe nodded.  Suddenly he realized he was still holding the waiter’s-no, Theo’s hand still.  Releasing his hand he smiled apologetically.  “Still, I’m sorry.”
    Theo shrugged, then pulled out his cell phone.  It was a smart phone, but one of the early ones, big and chunky with a small crack near the top.  Clicking the button on the top he glanced at the time.  “Sorry Gabe, I gotta get to work.” He smiled.
    “It’s okay,” he said apologetically, “I just wanted to make sure I apologized for earlier.”
    Theo shrugged and grinned again.  Standing up he snatched the red jacket he had left across the back of the chair.  “Want me to grab you anything?”  he asked good natured.
    “Um, sure,” Gabe replied surprised.  “I was planning on grabbing a coffee in a little bit.”
    “Anything in it?” Asked Theo as he shoved the chair back.
    “Um, yah, lot of milk and sugar.”
    Theo grinned.  “Coming right up, see you with a coffee in a little bit.”  With that Theo strut back to the ordering counter where the blonde girl was still standing and exchanged a brief word before disappearing into the back.
    Gabe looked back at the table where his laptop was closed.  Wow.  That went...better than he expected.

    Beth watched from her position at the counter where the two boys talked.  Interesting.  Theo had come in and dropped his bag with her before she directed him over to the man with the laptop.  He seemed super nervous when he walked up to the counter.  He was obviously embarrassed but seemed determined.
    Theo actually smiled at the man.  What did he say?  She tried not to snoop too much, but she wanted to make sure Theo was okay, after all he was like an older brother.  She looked back at the register where she was stationed for those who wanted drinks to go.  Theo’s bag was by her knee where she left it until he came to pick it up.
    Fishing her cell out of her pocket she quickly typed a message to Beast.
-Guy who knocked down Theo is here @ shop.  Apologizing.-
    After a moment she felt her pocket vibrate.
-He a ass?  Theo OK?-
    She glanced over to where Theo was standing and still smiling at the man, though he seemed to be about ready to head back to grab his stuff.
-He didn’t seem bad.  Will know in a min.-
    She placed her cell down behind the register as Theo came over.  “You alright?” she asked as Theo leaned over the counter to open the little latch to the server space behind the counter.
    “Yah, I’m good,” he said as she slid through to behind the counter.  She handed him his bag, which he held behind him as he strode into the back so he could change into his uniform.
-Seems good. Is happy. Kinda freaking me out.-
-Need me to intervene?-
-Nah, I got it.-
-K if u need me call.  Love u lil’ sis! <3-
-Love you too big sis! <3-
    She put the cell back in her pocket as a customer walked up to the register.  Back to making coffee, no more spying on Theo.

    Gabe looked up from his laptop, stunned into realization that it was probably almost dinner.  He had been so concentrated on his writing that he hadn’t realized that he was still at the cafe.  Glancing at his watch he blinked in surprise; it was almost seven at night.  Wow.  Looking out the windows of the front of the cafe, he noted the artificial glow of the street lights.  He should start heading towards his apartment.
    Glancing around the cafe he noted that it was still reasonable full, despite the late hour.  Many of the customers seemed perfectly at home in the building, some of them with books, some talking, and one man in the corner staring into his cup of coffee with headphones in.  Even as he watched for another moment he saw a young asian waitress flirt shamelessly with one of the boys at a table and laugh heartily.  Everyone seemed to know each other.
    I should come here more often, he thought as he continued to look at the large dining area, his thoughts still revolving around his writing.  He felt a grim satisfaction knowing that his publisher would be pleased with his progress, that crazy bat would be hounding him tomorrow; Fridays were his deadlines.  He felt himself smiling a little though Ah, but Vivian wasn’t so bad.
    “You still here?” asked a voice next to him.  Jumping suddenly he looked up at the waiter-Theo.  He was looking down at Gabe with a small smirk.  “Our coffee that good?”
    Gabe felt himself smiling back a little.  “Yah, actually it’s really good.  Never had chicory coffee before; where did that come from?”
    “Meh,” he shrugged, “I’ll have to ask Joel, he’s the one who makes the menu.”  He glanced at the computer still open in front of Gabe, it’s charger snaking down to a plug in the wall.  “What’ve you been up to, if you don’t mind me asking?”
    “Oh,” Gabe blushed.  “This chapter is due tomorrow, my deadlines have been sneaking up on me.”
    Theo grinned, “Yah, I get that.  Professors can really get yah, you know?”
    Gabe smiled back, “You’re in college?” he asked.  “Which one?”
    “Oh, I’m doing it online,” replied Theo.  “It’s cheaper…” he seemed like he was going to say more but stopped.  “Anyway, you’ve been here awhile, just wanted to check in.”
    Gabe nodded, “Yah, I didn’t realize how much time had passed, I was kind of caught up in my work.”  He hesitated for a moment, feeling awkward, “I like it here, there’s something about it that makes it...pleasant.  Homey.  Something like that.”
    Theo nodded again, smiling slightly, “Yah, this place isn’t so bad.”  For a moment longer he hesitated, like he was thinking of something.  He gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head, “anyway, I’m going back to work, just wanted to check in.”  With that he smiled and swaggered over to the counter where the waitress from earlier was looking bored.
    Gabe watched his retreat, watching as Theo leaned over the counter and said something to the girl, making her smirk.  She replied something and he turned a little pink, then replied something back quickly, sharply.  She giggled and glanced over at Gabe, who realized that he was still staring, turning away before he could notice Theo’s blush turn darker.  Time to head back home, he thought to himself as he began busying himself with saving his work and shutting down the laptop.

    “He seems to nice,” commented Theo as he leaned over the counter towards Beth, who was stationed behind the cash register again.  “I don’t think he’s so bad, probably just really shy or something.”
    Beth felt herself smirk, an sneaking feeling niggling at her mind.  “You realize you’ve been sneaking peeks at him all day, right?”
    Theo’s face flushed slightly and he replied quickly, “I just was surprised because I thought he’d be rude like the others.  Don’t make a big thing about it.”
    Beth felt a giggle bubble up, glancing at the man, who was still staring openly at Theo.  He caught her eyes and quickly looked down, making a production of shutting down the laptop.  How interesting, she thought.  Her eyes slid back to Theo, whose face was a deeper shade of red now, and was obviously aware of what was running through her head.
    “Don’t,” he said softly.  “Please drop it.”
    Her smile softened, “Sorry, I just think...I don’t know.  You two should talk.”
    He growled at her a little mockingly.  “We did talk, he said hi, I said hi, it’s all good.”
    She giggled a little.  “Of course.”  As Theo sauntered into the back to say something to Joel she watched the other man sling his computer bag over his shoulder and glance at Theo’s retreating backside before his eyes slid to hers.  She didn’t even have time to smile before he ducked, throwing open the door to the cafe and hurrying through.

3. Beast, Beth, Breakfast

The sound of pots clanging woke him up the next morning.  Groaning he lifted his head off the pillow and cracked an eye to look at the clock on the dresser.  8:21 am.  He’d had about six and a half hours of sleep, give or take.  The walk home is only about an hour usually, so it should be about six and half hours.  That was about the usual amount of sleep anyway, so there was no point in trying to get back to sleep.  Besides, if that was Beth then there was no point in trying to get to sleep.  She cooks amazing breakfast, but also needs to make noise to do it.
    Stifling a groan Theo braced himself before throwing the blankets back.  The chilly air made him tense as he swung over the edge of the bed.  Taking a breath he stood and scratched his back.  “Beth are you making food?” he asked loudly, walking across the dingy gray carpet towards the shut door.
    “Yah, it’s pancakes this morning!” replied a soft voice from the kitchen.  Opening the door Theo looked blurrily out into the living room - kitchen combo where a small figure was standing in front of the stove.  Her short blonde hair glowed practically white in the morning and the red underneath shimmered ominously.
    “Morning Beth,” he yawned as he stepped into the kitchen.  The cold tiles sent a chill up his spine, giving him gooseflesh all up his arms and chest.  “Make enough for me?” He asked playfully as he came up behind her and hugged her from behind.  Her large skull shirt (obviously nicked from Beast) and her striped gray and blue pajama pants were soft and warm compared to the morning.
    “Plenty, had to make some for you and some for Beast,” she replied as she flipped the pancake expertly in the small pan.  Setting down the pan on the stove she turned and hugged him around the waist, her head resting squarely in the middle of his chest.  “She had a bad night last night so she’s likely to be worse than usual this morning.”  After a second she turned to look up at him, blue eyes catching his as she chastised, “You need to start wearing a shirt at night, it’s getting cold!”
    “Yes Mom,” he replied fondly as she released him and he backed away from the cooking area, leaning against the counter where he watched as she slid the first pancake onto a plate and poured another large dollop of batter into the pan.
    “Did she say why last night was so bad?” he asked.
    “No, she just kept fuming about people and needing a punching bag in the house,” replied Beth with a grin.  “I think she was trying to be quick since she knows I need more sleep than her.”
    “Everyone needs more sleep than her!” he laughed.  “She’s not human you know, I bet she’s got caffeine running through her veins.”
    “I heard that,” came a blurry voice from the door on the other side of the apartment where Beast stood.  She looked paler than usual and her eyeliner hadn’t been removed the night before giving her a gaunt wraith like look.
    “Ya’ll talking smack about me?” she asked in a sleep-rough voice.
    “Yup,” replied Theo happily.  “Heard you had a rough night?”
    Beast’s blurry eyes darkened and her brows snapped together angrily.  “Yah, had a real winner at work last night.”  She moved into the main kitchen now, her long t-shirt brushing mid-thigh as she walked.  Leaning next to Theo she shook her head angrily, “This guy kept insisting that I was shorting him on his mixed drinks; you know, that I wasn’t pouring enough alcohol.  At first it was annoying, then he started harassing other customers, so I finally just remade his drink, in front of him, using the jigger and everything!  Anyway, he finally left and though the was done for the night, but then he started harassing Jackie, you know, the girl who’s crushing on Rick?” She glanced up at Theo to make sure he knew, then continued. “After he got thrown out for harassing customers and stuff he tried to say it was my fault for over-pouring and wanted me fired.  Of course Martha laughed and told Rick to make sure he didn’t drive home, but it was still just a pain in the ass to try to handle, you know?”
    Beth turned around after dropping another finished pancake onto the rapidly growing pile.  “That sucks!”
    Beast shrugged.  “Meh, he was an ass, but I can’t keep getting worked up about it, though I still want to punch him in his stupid face.”
    Theo frowned.  Beast loved working at the bar, but sometimes there were some real crazy people there, and some real creeps.  “Be careful, okay?” He asked.
    She shrugged.  “I always am.”
    “Anyway,” said Beth, “Theo, wassup?  Normally you’re sunshine and daisies, did you have a bad day yesterday too?”
    Theo frowned.  “Yah, had a rude customer- knocked me down while I was carrying a loaded tray, then ran off and didn’t apologize or help.  Sucked cuz I had to borrow some of Joel’s pants for the rest of the shift.”
    “And you don’t even want in on those pants!” snarked Beast raising an eyebrow.
    “HELEN!” snapped Beth as she turned around to glare at her older sister.
    “Sorry Theo,” winced Beast.
    Beth turned off the stove and pulled out the drawer of forks and knives.  “You two grab the plates and whatever you want on pancakes.”
    Theo turned behind him and started rummaging around the upper cabinet, pulling out three white plates with blue flowers on them.  Handing them to Beast he pulled out a stack of three plastic cups, white with varying colorful patterns on them, and maneuvered around to the white-turned-gray refrigerator.  “Options for drinks are tap water or that iced tea that you made last week,” he turned towards the girls who were settling on cushions around the large coffee table that doubled as a kitchen table and a study desk.
    “Water, thanks,” replied Beth as she dropped a pancake ceremoniously on each plate.
    “Tea,” said Beast as she picked up the pancake and ripped it in half.
    “Options for toppings are honey, a smidge of raspberry jam and marmalade,” said Theo as he pulled out the coke bottle that had been filled with iced tea.
    “Did you put honey in the fridge again?” asked Beast annoyed.
    “No, I just know we have some,” replied Theo easily.
    “Honey please,” replied Beth as she sent a look at her older sister.
    Tucking the bottle of tea under his arm he shut the door, turned on the faucet, filling a cup with water, which he put on the counter, and grabbed the honey from the cupboard above the stove.  Balancing his catch back to the coffee table he sat on the floor across from Beth while Beast ripped her pancake into bite-sized pieces to be chewed thoughtfully.
    “You need a boyfriend,” she announced to Theo.
    “Thanks,” replied Theo with a sarcastic flourish, “I was unaware that I didn’t have one.”
    “Beast,” warned Beth as she poured honey over the pancakes on her plate.
    “No,” she replied earnestly, no longer with a sleep-angry face.  “I actually mean it.  You are a good person, too good to be spending your free time with us.” Beth made a noise in protest. “I mean, you’re too good to be spending the fun years in a crappy apartment with two nutty sisters and not out with somebody who’ll make you happy.”
    “Um, where did this come from?” asked Theo surprised.  Beast was a hopeless romantic under her rough exterior, but she rarely said stuff like that.
    “Just thinking,” she replied vaguely.
    “Well, is there anyone who caught your eye?” asked Beth kindly after glaring at her sister.
    A brief memory of his ex’s face flashed behind his eyes before he could stomp it down.  “No,” he replied honestly.  “After what happened with Jack I can’t really go all gung-ho for a relationship.”
    Beast pursed her lips and was obviously about to say something but Beth’s fork poised over her hand threateningly quickly paused her response.  “I know, but that was over a year ago,” said Beth kindly to Theo.  “Besides, he was a jerk.”
    Theo nodded silently.  There was one pancake on the plate and he snagged it onto his own before gulping down the iced tea that Beast had poured.
    “Besides, you need to get laid,” grinned Beast, avoiding her sister’s glare of disapproval.  “You’re chaste as a monk, it’s quite frankly disturbing for someone our age.”
    “You’re one to talk,” he replied as he dumped honey on the last pancake.
    “Yah, well…” she couldn’t think of a good response.  Settling for mock-punching him, she grinned at him, “shut up!”
    He rolled his eyes as Beth imitated shooting herself in the head.  “Sometimes I’m amazed you’ve both made it to adulthood.  And I’m even more amazed that you’re supposed to be the adult out of all of us,” he motioned towards Beast.
    She snorted.  “None of us are adults.  We may have a bigger number behind our name but that doesn’t mean that we stop having fun and act like annoying suits.”  She sat back and looked at him speculatively.  “I meant it though, I really do think you should find someone.  I just want you to be happy, and you seem content enough, but that’s not happy.”
    Theo didn’t know how to respond to that, so instead shrugged and got up with his dishes and brought them to the kitchen.  As soon as his back was turned he heard a definite smack that could only be Beth punching Beast.  He heard a hissy whisper but couldn’t make out the words.
    “I’m going to hop in the shower,’kay?” he said as he dumped the dishes in the sink.
    “Sure,” said Beth as she stood up with her plates.  Beast was already heading towards the sink with the rest of the dishes and the nearly empty tea bottle under her arm.  He headed into his room to grab a change of clothes.
    Crossing the living room again to get to the bathroom he saw Beast washing the dishes, humming to something while the dishes clanking.  Beth was already in their room rustling.  Once he was in the shower door between him and the world with the loud pittering of the hot water, he allowed himself to think about what Beast had said.
    It wasn’t that he didn’t want a boyfriend, but he just couldn’t imagine a boyfriend right now.  He couldn’t imagine who the boyfriend would be.  Who would date him?  Who would he want to date?  He sighed against the shower wall, I guess I like the idea of a boyfriend but can’t imagine one in reality, he admitted to himself.

    While he pondered this in his shower, Beth slunk out of her room, no longer dressed in pajamas.  “Beast,” she said walking over to her sister.  “You can’t just order him to get a boyfriend, you need to be a bit more, I don’t know, considerate.  I mean, you can’t just bring that sort of thing up like that!”
    Beast looked over at her sister behind her, sighing.  “I know, but, like,” she searched for the right words as she scrubbed the pan.  “I mean, I want him to be happy.  ‘Cause he can’t be spending forever with us.  I mean, after the last one…”  She trailed off, turning and staring intently at the pan.  “He just deserves to be happy.  I want him to be in a happy relationship and not stuck forever with the two of us.  I don’t know…”  She trailed off again.
    “What brought this on?” asked Beth as she leaned against the countertops. “I mean, normally you’re all ‘who needs men, right?’, so what’s going on?”
    Beast frowned. “Martha got engaged to her boyfriend last week,” she said.  “Jackie and Rick are together and are adorable...I guess…I just...I don’t know.”  She finished scrubbing the pan and began running it under water, back still to her sister.  “They all seem so happy, and you and I are content as we are...but Theo needs know?”
    Beth looked at her for a moment and nodded to Beast’s turned back.  “Yah,” she said, understanding completely.  She turned to grab a bag from her room before leaving out the door.  As she passed the bathroom door Theo came out, wet hair sticking to his head and damp shirt clinging to his frame.
    “You heading out?” he asked her, towel around his neck.
    “Yah,” she says as she flicks the door shut.  “Be good!”
    Theo turns and looks at Beast who is now drying her hands.  “What was that all about?”