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Like Space

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Phil POV

I looked up as the bell rung, announcing boy’s entrance - could I even call him a boy? He looked about my age, probably a bit younger - and I immediately got a good vibe from him. space? Beautiful, if his features were anything to go by, deep and dark but simultaneously full of light.


“Hello! How can I help you?” I let my voice carry across the shop, and he looked mildly surprised that I’d spoken to him. I gave a warm smile, hoping to calm his nervous shift in energy. He glanced around, clearly trying to find what he was looking for without having to make conversation; when he’d given up, he moved toward the counter - and had to duck around a few hanging plants along the way.


“I, uh, just needed some basil, maybe some sage if you’ve got it,” his voice was soft, and I could still feel the waves of anxiety, but I couldn’t help my curiosity.


“What are you looking to do, make someone fall for you? Purify your home?” I knew that wasn’t his objective, it was something mundane, but I wanted to see his reaction - which was as adorable as it was surprising: his cheeks turned pink, and he sputtered for a moment before answering.


“No, I just, uh, was going to cook something, and you’re the only place that sells fresh herbs in the middle of winter,” he concluded, dropping his eyes to the table. I wasn’t sure if it was the talk of love or the concept of magic that had him flustered, but I jumped on it. It’d been a slow day in the shop, with only Margery to keep me company. And she didn’t talk much, being a cat.


“Ah, but you don’t really believe in this stuff, do you,” I said, gesturing around my shop - myriad dried herbs, crystals, books, and even a few more occult items filled the shop, and pots of fresh herbs, flowers, and other plants took up any remaining free space. It wasn’t explicitly “magical”, but it certainly gave skeptics an uncomfortable feeling.


“No offense,” he said, shaking his head, and I laughed.


“You’re not the first, and you wouldn’t be the last,” I grinned. “Basil and sage, you said? Fresh?” He nodded, so I stepped out from behind the counter, jostling Margery’s bed and sending her hurtling through the shop to the stairs in the back. She eyed us both, cautious but inquisitive, before continuing up to my loft apartment.


The guy looked startled, and I chuckled again. “Just Margery, she’s irritated that I’m paying attention to anyone but her,” he ducked his head, then, attempting a small laugh, and I saw the blush again. “Right this way,” I stepped in front of him, making my way toward the window with the more commonly requested herbs. Sage was a big one, but basil wasn’t far behind, so I had plenty of both.


I grabbed a small plastic bag from the tray beside the planter and pulled off a few leaves. “How much do you expect you’ll need?” I said, pausing. He was alone, and would likely be cooking for one, maybe enough for leftovers. But saying those things aloud usually threw people for a loop, so I was accustomed to asking questions I already knew the answers to.


“Oh, uh, it’ll just be me,” his voice was soft again, a trait which I found rather endearing, and he blushed as I stared at him - probably for a few seconds too long, I decided, chastising myself and turning back to the plant.


“Sure, here you go,” I tied off the bag with a small ‘basil’ label and handed it over, then repeated the process with the sage. “Anything else you’ll need?” I hoped he wouldn’t leave, there was something... something about him, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.


“, I think that’s all,” he sounded a bit sad that he hadn’t come up with something else he needed, but we returned to the counter anyway. I rung him up, about to read off his total, when he spoke up. “Oh, you sell tea here as well?” His eyes were locked on the small board above the counter, which listed a few of the teas we offered.


“Absolutely, anything catch your eye? Wait,” I paused, deciding to show off a little. “Chamomile,” I announced. He was split between that and the chai, so I made the decision for him - he definitely needed to relax.


“That...actually, that sounds lovely, I’ll have a cup of that, if you don’t mind,” he smiled, more genuine than the half-smiles he’d given before, and I was enraptured. If he was space, his smile was a star, glittering at me from the darkness.


I turned, opening a bag of the homemade chamomile tea, and reached under the counter for a mug. “Apologies,” I tossed the words over my shoulder as I placed the bag in the mug, “we’re out of to-go cups, will it be a problem to stay while you drink it?” This was a blatant lie, but I got the idea that he might stay, if he had a reason, so I invented one.


“Oh,” he was surprised, but not unpleasantly so. “No, that’s alright, I don’t mind.”


“Great, we have a small table over there, by the flowers,” I pointed to the location, hidden behind a few bookshelves, and he nodded. “You can go ahead over, I’ll bring it to you once the water’s done.”

He gave a little “oh”, then disappeared behind the bookshelves. I couldn’t help it, I was smiling as I poured the water; the water I’d not heated up, but that was a simple fix. He’s cute, don’t make it weird. I fixed my expression, aiming for a neutral but kind smile, and made my way around the various pots of plants scattered around the shop, bringing the tea to a boil along the way.