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Touch of the Water

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Tuesday, February 13th

Ben looks over at Beverly with a grin. “Want some coffee?” He asks as he nods ahead to Sugar and Derry. They’ve been in a couple times before, and it’s always been good. Plus, it’s a chilly morning and Bev’s nose is looking frost-bitten.

She nods eagerly. “Yes, please.” Her steps pick up pace and she tugs him along till they make it to the front door. They slip inside while the bell above them chimes, drawing the attention of the two guys working the counter. They’re talking quietly, and the one at the register looks faintly stricken. Ben looks at Bev, but she doesn’t seem to notice.

Beverly drags Ben up to the counter and they both tip their heads back to stare at the menu. It’s changed since they were last in, and Ben takes in the multitude of choices, a little overwhelmed. They’re both absorbed in deciphering the menu when a small crash catches their attention, and Beverly is jumping into action.

The counter is littered with a couple coins and the cashier is holding the tip jar in a shaking hand.

“Sorry about that!” Bev says as she scoops the coins into her hands.

The cashier—his name tag reads Bill—shakes his head. “N-no, it was muh-me, I’m s-suh—” He pauses for a split second, “sorry.” He swallows and Ben watches his adams apple bob. “Did you n-need help deciding?” Bill sets the tipjar aside once the coins are all back inside.

Ben nods. “Please,” he replies. “I’ve been here a couple times, but I think you guys changed the menu.”

A third employee bursts from the back suddenly, his arms laden with a tray of fresh pastries. “Yeah,” he says. “Owner loves to keep it fresh, or some shit like that.”

Ben watches the other man at the counter—Stan, says his name tag—shoot the third guy a glare that goes either unnoticed or ignored. It’s as Ben’s gaze slides from Stan to the other guy that he realizes Bill is staring. And not staring in that, “please for the love of my sanity make a decision and leave,” kind of way; Ben is familiar with that, he’s perfected that stare, and so has Beverly. No, this is—Ben feels his cheeks heat. This is different.

“Bill is great at suggestions,” the third employee is saying as he bumps companionably against Bill.

Bill is blushing too, but he’s grinning. In the end he helps Bev choose a decaf mocha-caramel-something-or-other, and when Ben says “surprise me,” he gets a sweet and smoky flavored tea. Beverly catches his eyes as they wait for the drinks to be made, and jerks her head toward Bill, and grins.

Ben just nods, a grin of his own in place.

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 14th

Beverly clutches Ben’s hand a little tighter as they slip into the coffeeshop again. Stan is at the counter this time, and the shop is almost empty. Bev knows this because she’s trying to look around as subtly as she can.

“Bill is on break,” Stan tells them. Beverly and Ben both jump, and finally look at Stan rather than scoping out the shop. “He’ll be out in a few minutes.”

“Perfect, we’ll just wait.” She tells him as she pulls Ben toward an empty table nearby.

“Don’t want me to get anything started for you two?” Stan asks, leaning over the counter with a smirk.

“Uh,” Beverly looks at Ben, who just shrugs. “How about two black coffees?” Stan nods and turns away from them. The store, mostly quiet, fills with the sound of their coffees being made. It’s all very mellow, and actually relaxing, until a door slams open from the back of the shop. Beverly watches as Bill comes to a skidding halt at the front of the counter, just as Stan is finishing up their coffees.

“Go on,” she hears Stan say as he passes over the mugs.

Bill freezes for a second, and Bev can’t help but think c’mon, c’mere, c’mon. He says something to Stan, and who replies breezily, and that seems to vanquish Bill’s uncertainty. He takes the mugs carefully by their handles and turns toward Bev and Ben’s table. He walks over quickly and sets the mugs down with a practiced ease, not spilling a drop even though they’re mostly full.

He drags a chair over from another table and scoots himself close to the outer edge. “Hi,” he says, softly.

Beverly grins. “Hey, Bill,” she and Ben say together.

“You guh-guys on a date?” Bill asks shakily. His eyes drop to where their hands are resting, linked, on the table.

“Sort of,” Bev replies.

Ben rolls his eyes and Beverly kicks him affectionately in the ankle. He holds his hands up as if in surrender, and Bill looks amused and nervous in equal parts.

“We’re not big into Valentine’s day,” she admits, even though Ben scoffs. “Okay, I’m not big into it. We just wanted to get some good coffee, come see our favorite barista—”

Bill chokes on his next breath, and Ben’s hand tightens on hers.

“—see if he’s maybe single.” Beverly shrugs and finally brings her coffee to her lips. She blows a cooling breath over it and then takes a long sip. “You know, the usual.”

“You two muh-make it a habit of s-s-seducing baristas?” Bill asks with a blush staining his cheeks.

“Only the cute ones,” Beverly says, deadly serious. She winks at him for good measure.

“Are you busy tonight?” Ben asks as he leans in, smiling at Bill with the same grin he used to snag Bev’s attention.

“J-just work. That’s all.”

“When are you off?” Beverly asks. She tries and fails to keep the eagerness out of her voice. “Maybe we could catch a movie,” she adds, trying to level out her voice. She knows she’s still failing, but Bill isn’t leaving. If anything, his blush worsens and his grin widens.

“Technically I’m supposed to be off at nuh-nine, but…”

Ben and Beverly both look over at Stan and the third guy, whose name they still haven’t learned.

“We’ll wait here.” Ben and Bev say together, each flashing another smile at Bill.

 

 

True to their word, Ben and Beverly stay at their table even when Bill goes back behind the counter. Most of the night is slow, and Bill spends a lot of time bringing refills—first of coffee, then of ice water as it gets later—straight to their table. Eventually eight-thirty rolls around and Ben and Beverly are the only non-employees left in the store.

They’re gathering their jackets and setting their mugs at the dish station as Bill talks with the third guy—Richie, as they finally learned about a half hour into their stay.

“You sh-sure?” Bill asks.

Ben starts toward the door and Bev follows a few steps behind, unable to keep from watching as Richie and Bill talk. She won’t be upset if Bill does have to stay; they can always do a late movie, or exchange numbers and do a date a different night. She shifts from foot to foot, antsy. She just really wants this date tonight.

It takes a minute, but Ben nudges Beverly when her attention wanders and she nearly misses Bill heading for the door. He’s shoving his apron in his bag and he’s already got his jacket thrown on. He steps outside and flips the sign to closed.

“Just a suh-sec,” he tells them with a grin. He pulls keys from his pocket and locks the door, then turns to Ben and Bev. “So, movie?”

Ben lets go of Bev’s hand and they each reach for Bill instead. Beverly grabs Bill’s right hand, and Ben grabs Bill’s left, and together they start off down the sidewalk. Ben catches Bev’s eye and they beam at each other.

“Movie,” they agree in unison.