Gabe looked at his watch as he closed the door to his white car. He had about an hour until he needed to meet Vivian in the city to talk about the new chapters. Normally it was a struggle to finish by his deadlines, but he had gotten so much done yesterday while at the cafe.
He opened the door to the cafe and felt a rush of warm air chase the cold out of his clothes. He could only stay long enough to pick up his coffee, but he still wanted to stop in, if only to say thank you. He walked up to the counter where a young man, practically a boy, manned the cash register.
“Hello, how can I help you?” He asked in a falsely cheerful voice.
“Um, hi, can I have the chicory coffee please? With milk and sugar?” asked Gabe nervously. Last time he hadn’t really ordered. Well, he had asked Theo for a coffee but he didn’t order properly. Oh shit! I didn’t pay yesterday! He felt a sudden weight of guilt on his chest. Shit.
The young man was typing out his order and was about to tell him the charge. “Um,” Gabe said, making the man’s eyes meet his. “I forgot to pay for a coffee yesterday, I’d like to pay for it now.” The boy’s eyebrows drew together, a frown ghosting over his face before his face settled on a tight false smile.
“Of course,” said the boy. “Same order as this time?”
“Yes,” said Gabe shame-faced. He watched the man type out the extra order and began digging out his wallet to pay the boy. The man turned to make the coffee while Gabe put the change in his pocket and folded the returned small bills in his wallet.
“Hey, Gabe, right?” came a warm voice from the kitchen entrance. Gabe looked up to see Theo-the waiter- standing in the kitchen doorway, a tray with two mugs and a plate with eggs and hashbrowns on it. “Welcome back, didn’t think we made such an impression!” he said in a teasing manner, gliding into the eating area.
“I…” trailed Gabe, unsure of what to say. He watched as Theo braced the tray on his hip and carefully placed the two mugs in front of the two middle aged men wearing dress shirts. The eggs were placed in front of the man with a balding head.
“Thanks Theo,” said the balding man. Picking up a fork.
“No problem Jack,” Theo replied easily. “Joel says to holler before you leave so that he can chat.”
The other man who was blowing on the steaming cup of dark coffee smiled and looked up at Theo. “How’s Beth doing? She wasn’t here this morning?”
Theo smiled fondly, “She’s not working on Friday mornings anymore, says that it’s easier to get a studio on Friday than on Monday.”
The man with the coffee groaned mockingly, “aww, but then I won’t get to hear her stories about your failed cooking attempts.”
Theo chuckled as he moved away, angling towards Gabe, who was watching with interest. “That’s hardly fair!” he said lightly, “just because she can cook doesn’t mean the rest of us are that bad.”
The two men chuckled together and turned towards each other as Theo strolled over to Gabe, his tray tucked up under his arm. “Hey,” he said with a smile once he reached near where Gabe was standing. “You staying for breakfast? I’ll drum up some of Joel’s good muffins,” he offered.
Gabe shook his head apologetically, “No, I just have enough time to pick up some coffee before I meet with Vivian in the city.”
Theo nodded understandingly. “Vivan your girlfriend?” He asks with a tilt of his head.
Gabe actually grinned at the thought. “Definitely not! She’s my boss, and way too...well...flamboyant? Energetic? Enthusiastic? I’m not sure how to describe it.” He smiled fondly.
Theo nodded, still smiling. “Ah, I got you. You’re coffee is ready, by the way…” he motioned towards the counter where the other boy had put the insulated cup to go.
Gabe grabbed it and smiled back at Theo, “Thanks,” he said. “I gotta go for now, but I wanted to thank you for being so kind yesterday.” He felt himself blush a little. He had managed to avoid feeling embarrassed until then. Odd, normally he had a hard time talking to people, but he felt perfectly natural talking to Theo.
“Don’t worry about it,” replied Theo smiling.
There was a silence for a moment, not quite awkward yet, but there was something there. The two of them stood there; Theo smiling down at Gabe, Gabe looking slightly down, hands cupped around the coffee smiling softly.
“Um, I better go…” said Gabe breaking the silence softly as he ducked his head, looking down at his coffee and turning his body slightly towards the door.
“Okay,” Theo said easily, though a slight crinkle near his eyes betrayed some unsettlement. “Come again, and have a good day.”
Gabe began to walk towards the door, his body still angled in conversation with Theo, “Thank you, and I will.” He sent a final smile to Theo before opening the door and bracing himself for the strong fall cold wind.
Theo watched as Gabe braced himself against the fall chill and pulled his elbows in close to himself to keep the heat in. Gabe ducked his chin and cradled the coffee to his chest as he disappeared around the corner of the store to the side parking lot. As if snapped by a rubber band, Theo’s mind suddenly went sharp and he realized he had been staring at the windows watching Gabe as he left. That’s creepy, Theo. Don’t stare at customers. He grimaced at his thoughts and turned back into the kitchen.