Work, work, work.
As long as he kept on chanting that mantra, he'd be able to focus solely on the menial task of cleaning Strawberry Mango Freeze from the floor. Why couldn't that girl have been more careful? Was it really that hard holding a Styrofoam cup? Really?
Despite trying his hardest to refrain from raising his head, he did so anyway, and through the scraggly strands of his red hair, Chuckie could make out the form of his best friend sitting on one of the bar stools, arms propped on the counter as he sucked from his smoothie through a red straw. The purple haired teen was animatedly talking with a girl of whom Chuckie didn't know, a wide smile scrawled across his carefree face. Chuckie wanted to gag.
The ginger mentally scowled as he scrubbed harder at the smoothie spill, the pink-tinged rag sloshing against his hand as he pressed a little too hard. It wasn't like he was jealous or anything; he was anything but. He wasn't jealous. It was a completely absurd thought that didn't even deserve to—okay, he was jealous.
He admitted it, not aloud mind you, but mentally speaking: he was jealous. He knew it was ridiculous to even feel this way, yet his mind and body couldn't help but tense whenever Tommy's attention seemed to be directed elsewhere. Tommy was Chuckie's best friend; he should be the only one able to make Tommy smile like that—the only one. Chuckie knew that he couldn't have his friend's attention all the time, not in the way Chuckie wanted, because Tommy wasn't like….that. Tommy was straight, and Chuckie just….wasn't. There wasn't anything as simple as that, and sometimes it killed him inside.
'Go away depressing thoughts,' Chuckie scolded himself, wringing out his rag into a small plastic bucket. Pulpy bits of strawberry sloshed inside the bucket, along with bread crumbs and dust that the rag had also collected from the dirty floor. The contents of the bucket mimicked how his heart felt—goopy, smashed, and basically all over the place. Maybe it wasn't exactly as literal as that, but it was pretty close.
Chuckie was so lost in his musings that he didn't even notice when his hand accidentally slipped and palmed right into the smoothie mess. A little girl who was standing in line with her mom looked down at him and laughed. Chuckie grimaced and shook out his hand, using the dirty dish rag to wipe his hand clean from the goopy liquid. The next couple of minutes were spent cleaning up the last of the spill, and when he was done, he threw the dish rag over the counter, where it landed in a basket filled with countless many other dirty rags. He kicked the bucket to the side, deciding he'd dispose of it properly after he tended to the customers.
He walked back behind the counter and stood at his post behind the register, using his finger to punch in items across the touch-screen monitor as customers gave him their orders. He did this all very deliberately, so lost in the repetitive nature of his job that when the last customer came into view, Chuckie looked up and promptly gulped. He felt his whole face flush as his fingers began to tremble over the touch-screen, quickly casting his eyes down in order to hide his red face.
Why did it have to be him? What did they call it when unfortunate events happened twice in a row, a double whammy was it? Chuckie shook his head and sighed.
He always got so flustered and nervous when this particular customer came to the Java Lava—Chuckie couldn't quite help it. The customer's name was Ryan, and he usually came about three times a week, always ordering the same thing: a Red Twister. It didn't help that Ryan was very, very attractive. The college student was tall and lean, with a head full of dark black hair expertly styled in willowy tufts about his head. He currently had a messenger bag strapped around his shoulder, hands stuffed inside the pockets of his school sweater. He smiled pleasantly at Chuckie, who could only avert his eyes.
Chuckie felt guilty, even though he had no reason to. For some reason he thought that if he felt this way, all jittery and edgy, around some stranger he didn't really know, he was somehow betraying Tommy. His logic was messed up, Chuckie knew that much, but it felt wrong. Chuckie usually felt this way around his best friend, even though the other didn't know it, and here he was feeling the same thing towards some other guy. He was allowed to have a small crush though, right? If he couldn't have the real thing, he might as well aim for a substitute.
No, that was still wrong. Chuckie bit at his lip.
"Hey," Ryan greeted, brown eyes lidded. The man seemed to be a bit bushed by the way he was slouching, so it was safe to assume that he had just gotten back from his college courses.
"Um, h-hi," Chuckie stammered. Oh God, kill him now. 'Just punch in his order, Chuckie. Just do it.'
"What would you like?" Chuckie went on, his finger hovering over the touch-screen.
"The usual," Ryan shrugged his shoulders. Chuckie nodded his head and rang up the order. He then grabbed a medium sized cup from a nearby dispenser and quickly shuffled towards the line of blenders along the counter. He was so busy preparing the smoothie (and trying not to look at Ryan), that he didn't even notice that Tommy was sitting right across the counter, staring at him. Apparently, the girl he had been talking to had left.
"Are you sick?" Tommy asked with an arch to his brow.
'Oh God, he knows! He knows I'm gay. He must have seen me getting all weird with Ryan and now he thinks it's sick!' Chuckie thought frantically, spilling a bit of strawberry pulp on his fingers.
"Dude, your face is all red," Tommy laughed, taking another swig from his smoothie, unfazed by the red-head's jumpiness. He had, literally, years of experience when it came to Chuckie's mini panic attacks.
"I know right, it must be hot in here huh?" Chuckie amended, trying to change the subject. To move his mind along, he continued with preparing Ryan's smoothie, adding in a cup of ice while dumping a bowl of chopped strawberries and oranges. Once all the ingredients were in the blender, Chuckie switched the machine on, causing the blades to immediately rotate until they were spinning little blurs. He watched as the fruit and ice blended together until a nice reddish looking liquid began to form.
"Hey, uh, Chuckie?"
This time, Tommy wasn't the one who had called him. Chuckie looked up and turned his head, surprised to find that Ryan had followed him. Chuckie reddened and smiled a watery smile, tapping his fingers nervously along the counter.
"Wassup?" Chuckie replied lamely.
"Are you free this Saturday?" Ryan continued. He too, was looking away, awkwardly adjusting the strap of his messenger bag around his shoulder.
"Uhm, yes," Chuckie fumbled. Oh God…was Ryan going to ask him….was he going to ask him out on a date or something? Chuckie didn't notice the way Tommy's eyes narrowed, or how the purple haired teen didn't seem to even be remotely interested in his smoothie any more.
"Hey, Chuckie, didn't we have that thing on Saturday?"
Chuckie quickly snapped his head towards Tommy, who was leaning over the counter, one hand propped under his chin. The teen's face was strangely void of expression, except the arch of a purple eyebrow. Chuckie had no idea what the heck Tommy was talking about. A thing? They didn't have anything planned, not that Chuckie could remember.
"W-what?" Chuckie asked.
"You know, that thing," Tommy emphasized.
"What thing?" the ginger asked yet again. Seriously, what thing?
"That. Thing." Tommy bit out, his tone clearly starting to get irritated.
And then Chuckie got it, which made him flush even more, and then his mind was spinning—tumbling, and twirling, and looping, until he couldn't figure out which way was up or which way was down. He almost even rammed into the juicing blender, but managed to steady the machine and switch it off before it could fall.
He finally understood, but the question was, why? Why would Tommy suggest that they had something planned when both of them knew it wasn't true? What was he possibly trying to imply?
"Sorry Ryan, I'm busy that day," Chuckie said quietly. He then immediately spun on his heels and detached the blender from its base, pouring the smoothie puree into the Styrofoam cup. He then lidded the beverage and handed it over to Ryan.
"Sorry," Chuckie apologized yet again.
"No problem," Ryan laughed, grabbing a straw from a dispenser. The college student shrugged. "There's always next time, right? Anyway, see ya."
Chuckie watched Ryan exit the shop, a sigh of relief escaping him. Oh, that was the most single awkward moment of his life by far. Still trying to get his wits about him, Chuckie turned back towards Tommy, who seemed to be glaring daggers at the front entrance of the Java Lava, the exact place Ryan had exited. Before Chuckie could comment, Tommy's gaze shifted and anchored on Chuckie, the teen letting a grin crawl along his lips.
"Movies on Saturday?" Tommy asked, sucking at his smoothie once again.
Chuckie gulped, and then nodded vigorously. "Movies."