an awkward day at work with fred
Kayla headed towards the back room, sending an inconspicuous look off towards her right where the coffee bar was. All she had to see was the tightly curled brown Afro above the espresso machine to know Fred was working tonight. A giddy feeling flipped her stomach and a smile touched her lips as she shut the back room door behind her.
The shift she was covering was five hours. The thought of spending that much time with Fred... no, she wasn't going to get boy-crazy now. She'd vowed to leave Fred alone. She was like a wrecking ball with Fred.
Kayla went into the coffee shop and made her way to the counter. When she came up, Fred had his back to her, waiting on someone. He was wearing a pair of destroyed jeans, faded on the legs. they were tight-fitting and hugged his hips but oh-s0-perfect, exspecially with the Pearl instrument logo printed on his black T-shirt that he wore tucked into his jeans. His leather boots scuffed the floor as he moved between the espresso machine and the small refrigerator.
"Hey." She said, stepping behind the counter.
He whirled around. "Kay." a crooked smile spread across his face. "What are you doing here?" He went back to the drink he was making, pouring cold milk in an iced coffee.
"I'm covering a shift tonight." She leaned against the counter. "What time do you get out?"
"I work till close." He stirred the drink, popped a lid on, and handed it over to the woman who was waiting.
"Looks like we're working together then." Kayla said.
"Yeah, is that cool?"
She looked over at him. He was watching her intently.
"Yeah, i mean, why wouldn't it be?"
He tipped his head to the side, pulling his hands on the edge of the counter behind him."Come on, Kay. There's something weird between us and you know it." It was a statement, not an accusation, which made her feel like crap because she was pretty sure she was responsible for the weirdness.
"I...uh..." She could feel her face grow warm beneath his gaze. What was she supposed to say to that?
He walked over to her, close enough that she could smell him. He smelled like winter, like cold wind and evergreens.
"Listen, i don't need an explanation. i just want to be sure we can be friends."
Her heartbeat was faster now, her fingers clammy. "I'd like that," she managed to say. "Friends."
"Good." He tipped his head in agreement.
"Excuse me," a woman waved from the other side of the counter. Kayla recognized her skunky blond highlights. She was a regular- Meredith. She was a legal secretary for the Daniels, but she acted like she was the top lawyer in Birch Falls. She expected everyone to bend over backward for her. if Kayla remembered correctly, she always ordered a small latte with skim milk but whole-milk foam. that was one of the most complicated drinks Kayla had ever concocted. and seriously, did she have to get the whole-milk foam? what was the difference?
"I'd like to order now." Meredeth said.
"I got it," Kayla said to Fred.
"Okay. I'll be in the back if you need me. i have to move some stuff around."
She nodded as he slipped past her.
She watched him cross the shop.
"Excuse me," Meredith said again. "I'm kind of in a hurry."
Of course she was. She probably had some papers to file or something. Kayla groaned internally. "Sorry." she said, projecting cheerfulness. "What can i get for you?"
The night had gone well, Kayla thought. The awkwardness between her and Fred had seemed to settle down after he confronted her. She felt ten times better around him. She pushed the ON button for the espresso machine, running boiling hot water through the ports to clean out any leftover grounds. When the water ran clear, she got out the scrub brush and began scrubbing.
Fred went to the front door and locked it, then turned off the neon OPEN sign hanging in the window. "You're getting the machine?"
"I'll do the coffee thermoses then." He grabbed two of them from the counter and took them in back.
Outside, the sun had set a few hours ago and the night was dark from the absent moon. It wasn't even ten o' clock yet. It'd take them probably twenty minuets to close up and then... she'd have nothing to do for the rest of the night.
After everything was clean behind the counter, Kayla put all the dirty dishes in a tub and took them into the back room where the big utility sink was. Fred was just finishing with the thermoses.
"I'll rinse if you want. I'm done here," He said, moving the thermoses out of the way.
"Yeah, okay." Kayla filled the sink with hot, soapy water and started washing as Fred hiked up his sleeves.
"You think you'll work again any time soon?" he asked, turning on the faucet to start rinsing.
She shrugged, "If they need my help, maybe."
"I liked working with you." He turned a measuring cup beneath the steam of water, the suds cascading down the drain. "Really Kay, we could do it more often. you don't have to avoid me because of... everything."
"I wasn't avoiding-"
"You were avoiding me," he argued, but with a smile. She didn't say anything because 1) she didn't know what to say, and 2) he was right.
"You know," he said, "I keep thinking, i never should have kissed you at the party or at the bar. We'd still be-"
He glanced over. "What?"
"It's not your fault."
"Then what is it?"
She dropped the sponge in the soapy water and dried her hands off. Could she put into words what her problem was? And if she could, would it even make sense to Fred?