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.

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