At the sound of an engine, Gia turned her head to look out the window. Her eyes bright until it became apparent it was only someone parked outside peeling off down the street. She leaned against the counter, the whirl of the coffee machine making background noise against the sound of low chatter.
It was still early, the afternoon crowd not at its full capacity. Gia still had a few more hours before her shift at Gosei’s was over and Troy took over for the evening. To her right, her fellow coworker was busy putting together someone’s latte, while she manned the register. Taking advantage of the slowness, she let her mind wander, as Noah finished the drink, calling out a customer’s name and placing it in the pick-up area.
He turned back around, catching Gia’s eye as she tapped a finger against the counter. “No luck yet?”
“Pff.” Gia shoved herself off the counter, “If I did, you’d be the first to know.” A smile formed on her face, “I can’t take you anywhere.”
Noah bit his lower lip, eyes focusing over her shoulder, “I could say the same to you.”
His eyes remained on whatever it was behind her, and, thinking it was possibly his newest crush, inched her neck to glance at whatever it was Noah was looking at.
Gia’s eyes widened, her right foot knocking against a box full of grande cups as she straightened herself, hand resting on the counter as if she wasn’t keeping eyes on the register.
“Hi, one tall cup of this season’s tea, please!”
A small jab at her lower back broke Gia out of her daze, she reached over to where the tall cups were stacked, taking the one on top and scribbling the abbreviation for tea. Her marker hovered just below the rim of the cup, “Name?”
The girl on the other side of the counter reached up, tucking a piece of stray hair behind her ear, “Emma.”
With a nod, Gia paused, “One M or two?”
A small smile appeared on Emma’s lips, and Gia struggled to focus, “Two.”
“Got it.” Gia finished writing down Emma’s name, placing the cup on the counter so it was next for Noah to make. “That’ll be $2.95.”
Emma handed her three dollar bills, accepting the five cents back and made her way over to the pick-up area. She leaned against the counter, watching as Noah stewed the tea bag. Gia forced herself to remember that she was at work, and that the cookies she and Noah got from the back freezer were due out of the oven any second now.
“There you go.” Noah handed Emma her drink, “Be careful, it’s hot.”
Emma nodded, a smile still graced her lips as she shifted her helmet to her other arm, making the balancing act look flawless. “I’ll keep that in mind.” She didn’t wait, turning towards the door and making her exit.
Gia leaned over the counter, and… that explained why she didn’t hear the rev of a motorbike when Emma appeared. She watched as the other woman entered the building next door, only to blink as she exited the building again, this time with another man in tow. They both took a seat, Emma at the front, and she watched as they peeled off down the street.
With a groan, Gia lowered herself to a crouch, anything to hide herself from the other customers.
“Noah… She’s perfect.”
For the next week, no matter when Gia was working, Emma always managed to show up, without fail, and order tea. In fact, according to Noah and Troy, Emma rarely came unless Gia was working.
She scoffed, lightly smacking Troy on the shoulder with her rag, “Don’t be stupid.”
Troy let the rag hit his shoulder, and he folded his arms across his chest. “I’m just saying, yesterday, when it was just me and Noah, she never even appeared on the sidewalk outside. Today, she literally showed up five minutes into your shift.”
Gia mimicked Troy’s pose, “That doesn’t mean anything.” She unfolded her arms, pointing a finger in Troy’s face, “You don’t mean anything. Now come on, this place won’t clean itself up.”
It was technically her day off. Gia had a project due and she was hoping to get the most of it done. What she hadn’t planned on was her parents kicking her out of the house for the day so it could be cleaned. On such short notice, there wasn’t much in terms of plans. Both her best friends were working, and the local park was in the midst of an art fair. She would get nothing done there.
With a grumble, she made her way towards Gosei’s, knowing there was at least a spot in the corner with an outlet where she could set up her laptop. She turned the corner, the café within walking distance to her house when she collided with something firm.
She let out a small squawk as her arms protected her laptop from the fall. There’d be a nasty bruise on her upper arm, but Gia could live with that. She opened her eyes, remembering that she had to of walked into someone…
The person she walked into sat up with a groan, a hand rubbing the side of their head.
“Oh my God.” Gia scrambled to her feet, holding out a hand, “Emma, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you coming.”
Emma grasped the proffered hand, getting to her feet and patting the imaginary dirt off her pants with her free hand, “No worries, it happens.” She tilted her head, “What are you doing here? Aren’t you off today?”
“Oh,” Gia tugged to take her hand back, but Emma’s grip only tightened, “Y-yeah, but parents kicked me out for the day to get the whole house cleaned. Some… big party is planned for the weekend, they think I’ll be in the way.” She gave a small shrug, hoping her cheeks weren’t as red as they felt. “Was gonna get some homework done here.”
Emma’s eyes brightened, “Do you need help? I’m free for the day.”
“Oh.” Gia felt herself wince, that was the second time she said ‘Oh’. What a great way to show off your vocabulary, Gia thought to herself.
There was a small cough from in front of the café, and both women turned to see a blond man holding a helmet, “Hate to break up the moment, but Emma? I’ll see you later.”
Emma nodded, her grip on Gia’s hand still just as firm, “Bye, Orion.” As soon as he left their sight, Emma’s full attention was on Gia once again. “So? We can have some tea?”
Weeks passed, the weather grew colder, more seasonal drinks came out, and the café hired another hand, a young soccer player by the name of Jake. After one shift with him, she requested to change her schedule so their shifts wouldn’t interact. And for a while, the manager complied with her request.
Emma still frequented the café, sometimes with Orion in tow. Her drink of choice remained as tea, while Orion favored the drink that Noah recommended.
Gia passed her exams, ready for the holidays to start so her shifts could increase and more money would come flowing her way. She had her eye on purchasing her very first car. She couldn’t keep bumming rides from Noah, even though he insisted he didn’t mind driving her or Troy around.
A cold front flew in from the north, bringing with it snow and the flu.
With the start of winter break, Gia tugged her coat tighter around her neck, the café dark even though Noah was already supposed to be inside prepping for the day. She took out her keyring, the key to the store in one of those weird covers that was all the craze earlier on in the year. She unlocked the front door, reminding to relock it as a shiver overtook her. Inside, the store was quiet as the night, Noah nowhere in sight.
Gia frowned, Noah was never late. She reached for her phone, turning on the lights as she passed, speed dialing already going.
He never answered.
A swear on the edge of her tongue, Gia tried Troy. He answered, but could barely get a word out, his cough deafening over the line. She wished him well, hanging up before shooting a text at Noah. With that done, she retreated to the backroom, finding the phone numbers to all the employees. There was only one person whose number she didn’t have in her cellphone already.
Emma loved the cold, it made everything seem calm, and once the frost and snow melted, flowers bloomed en masse.
She kept this in mind as she made her way down the street to Gosei’s. The wind whistled against her helmet, and she was glad of the leather jacket she found at the discount store. The interior was lined with felt, but it wasn’t animal and it was still warm.
The café in sight, Emma eased off the gas, letting her motorcycle slow down all on its own. She even made a game of it, and knew exactly when to take her finger off the gas. As soon as the bike stopped in front of the store, she parked it, swinging her leg off the seat and slipping the helmet off, shaking her head to free her hair. The wind chose that moment to pick up, flinging her hair back into her face. With a laugh, Emma ran a hand through her hair, a smile still on her face as she opened the door to the café.
According to Noah, who told Orion, both he and Gia were scheduled to work that day. However, Orion had come down with that nasty cold that was going around and wouldn’t be able to join her.
She caught sight of the counter… and Noah wasn’t there. Gia was, she was working on the coffee machine, while that new guy, Jake, was taking orders on the register. Rubbing her arms, she got in line, waiting her turn.
Once at the counter, Emma looked past Jake, assessing Gia’s face. She looks tired, the thought hit Emma. Really tired. And her cheeks looked a bit red, not the same shade as the time they ran into each other, before Emma volunteered to help her with homework, but…
There was a hand waving in her face, and Emma snapped back at attention, “Right, sorry. Tea please, my usual.”
Emma blinked. Oh, that’s right, she mused, she had never been in the café while Jake was there. Again, according to Noah, through Orion, Jake was a hard worker but he could kind of be hard on the flirting. She flashed a smile, “Gia knows. Here.” She placed three dollars on the counter, already walking over to the pick-up section, “Hey.”
Gia had a hand pressed to her forehead, her eyes glazed over as she put a teabag in the hot water, “…Hi Emma.”
Reaching a hand out, Emma wiggled her fingers until the other woman got the message. Even though Gia’s fingers, she could feel the heat radiating off of Gia’s body. “Do you have anyone you could call to take over? So Jake won’t be by himself?”
“Mm…” Closing her eyes, Gia leaned against the counter, letting Emma run soothing motions with her fingers against her palm, “Naito is coming soon, he’s helping out at the animal shelter today but as soon as he gets here I’m going home.” A small laugh masquerading as a cough escaped, “You’d think he was a robot, he never gets sick.”
Emma let herself smile, “Once he gets here, let’s get you home.” She nodded towards her cup, “And have my tea, you need it.”
Taking a seat right next to the pick-up area, Emma kept her eye out for the ever elusive Naito, who showed up thirty-five minutes later, snow on his shoulders, but otherwise fine. He took over the coffee machine, and Emma slipped off her coat, handing it over.
“Wha—Emma, no!” Gia pushed the clothing back but Emma insisted, draping it over her shoulders as she steered her out of the building and over to her bike.
She swung a leg over the seat, making sure there was plenty of room, “Remember to hold on tight.”
And if the area around her waist tingled long after she went home, well, no one had to know that.
Today was the day.
Her hair was super cute today. Her outfit even more so. Emma took one last glance into the mirror, her inner turmoil not apparent at least. Taking a deep breath, she steeled herself. Gia wasn’t at the café, it was her day off. Still, she might show up, she and Noah were going to the movies after his shift ended, and once there…
The plan was simple. If it worked.
Gia would like to thank her mom, her dad, her fellow coworkers-slash-best friends, and even the flu that left her bedridden for a week for the sudden opportunity that landed in her lap.
She arrived at the café only a few minutes before Noah was scheduled to be done, but something had come up. In fact, someone had come up. Right as she rounded the corner, she froze in her tracks.
Emma was standing just outside the café, hair dolled up, her outfit was just… words couldn’t describe how gay Gia felt looking at the other woman.
She saw the exact moment Emma noticed her out of the corner of her eye. Her head turned, face lighting up as if something truly amazing appeared in front of her. Emma took a few steps forward, as if she was unsure, before continuing. She came to a stop just before Gia, her eyes bright, cheeks flushed, and she seemed a bit out of breath even though she had only walked a short distance.
At the sound of her name, Emma flushed harder. She clasped her hands together, rolling on the heels of her feet, “I know you had plans with Noah today, but…” She glanced down, biting her lower lip, “I was wondering if you’d like to go to the movies with me, instead?”
A breeze came by, causing Emma’s hair to come slightly undone. Reaching up, Gia ran her fingers through the loose strands, resting her hand against Emma’s cheek and reveling in the joy of Emma turning her head to nuzzle her hand.
Gia took a breath, steading herself as she steeled herself, “Yes.”
“Yes?” A smile grew on Emma’s face, her eyes lighting up like stars.
Gia moved in close, not caring that she could see Noah, Troy, and Orion peeking from the window, “Yes.”
And then she closed the distance.