“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.