“You’ve been cleaning that table for the past 5 minutes.”
“There’s a particularly stubborn stain I’m trying to get out.”
Weiss mentally scanned the table she was cleaning for a stain of suitable merit to be considered ‘stubborn’. She was already three hours into her six-hour short-staffed shift with Ruby, and she could count the number of customers they’d had on one hand. It seemed like Coco was right when she said that she didn’t expect much traffic today. Weiss had taken to cleaning the tables to gain some space from Ruby; she appeared to be wearing her signature rose scent, which was certainly not helping Weiss focus on anything other than her cheerful coworker.
Feeling the table shift beneath her hand, she looked to her left to see Ruby slapping her own cleaning rag down on the table. “Well,” she said, “if the two of us work together, it’ll be clean in no time!” She flashed Weiss a blinding smile. “Now, where’s this stain?”
Weiss quickly looked back to the table, her eyes alighting on a brown spot on the table. “Um, that one,” she stated timidly as she pointed, hopeful it would prove difficult to remove. Her faith shattered as Ruby removed the spot in question with one hard scrub. Darn stain, I trusted you!
Ruby wiped her hand across her forehead in mock fatigue. “Whew, that was a tough one. But nothing is a match for that good old Rose Xiao-Long might!” She flexed her arm jokingly as she inspected the spot where the stain had been, sitting down in one of the chairs. “It was probably a dark roast, they stain more. I don’t know how anyone can drink that.”
“I guess I’ve never asked,” Weiss questioned, “but how do you take your coffee, Ruby?”
“Cream and 5 sugars.”
“That sounds incredibly sweet.”
“Not as sweet as you.”
Weiss’s face went blank as her mind went into overdrive. What? Huh? Did I just hear that? OhmygodIamfreakingoutrightnow – oh. Her heartrate slowed considerably as she noticed her friend’s teasing grin, before Ruby burst out in laughter, nearly falling out of her seat.
“Oh, I am so sorry about that!” she wheezed through her laughter as she wiped tears from her eyes. “It’s just – you should have seen your face! You looked like you’d seen a ghost!”
“Haha…yes…” Weiss replied, calming her senses. Just a joke. I swear, this girl will be the death of me. Noticing that Ruby had bumped the table slightly out of place, she got up to move it back.
As she braced with both hands to lift the table, Ruby stepped forward. “Here, let me get that!” She then proceeded to lift the table with one arm and reposition it. Weiss averted her eyes and tried to not stare at Ruby’s tensed upper arm as she placed the table back down. “Wow, you’re quite strong,” she said. “Did you help Yang and your father run the gym back home?”
“Aw, thank you!” Ruby replied, beaming. “I kind of did, I built our website and the member tracking system,” Ruby said. “I didn’t help with the actual gym stuff though – that was all Yang and Dad. I actually ended up being a member for a while!”
Spotting an opportunity to learn more about Ruby, Weiss immediately took her chance. “How so?”
Ruby sat back down at the table and leaned one arm on it as she began talking. “Okay, so I was just turning 10, and Yang was just getting into nutrition at the time. She’d been on this whole calorie-counting craze, and she would track every meal that she ate. It was ridiculous! She even stopped eating cookies. Cookies, Weiss!” Her eyes were wide with terror –mock or genuine, Weiss honestly couldn’t tell. “How can someone stop eating cookies!” She grabbed Weiss’s shoulders and started shaking her. Weiss, for her part, was simply focused on staying in her seat.
After a few seconds, Ruby let her go and continued. “So anyways, she convinces Dad to stop buying cookies from the store. And I just can’t handle this! I need cookies, Weiss! They’re my energy! My solace in dark times! My fuel for life! Luckily, my Uncle Qrow was on my side – don’t tell anyone, but he actually loves cookies as much as I do! – so he started sneaking cookies into my room. But Yang found them, and – get this – she found out how many calories were in a packet and forced me to run it off, all in one day! I swear, I was on that treadmill for hours…but that’s how I found out I was a really good runner! So Yang started making me enter the track meets at our school…”
Weiss mulled over her thoughts as she listened to Ruby’s story. She’d realized over the past few days that her fascination with Ruby wasn’t just due to her cute looks or her kindness. Ruby was so incredibly different from everything Weiss had ever been exposed to – spontaneous, scatterbrained, and always willing to push the envelope. Something about her just made Weiss want to know more.
Her thoughts returned to the present as Ruby’s story came to an end. Weiss noticed that Ruby seemed to be staring quite intently at her.
“What’s the matter, Ruby?”
“Oh, nothing,” Ruby replied. “It’s just really nice talking to you. I’m actually happy coming to work when you’re here.”
Weiss felt a blush coming on. Scrambling, she got out of her chair and mentioned something to Ruby about needing some fresh air as she walked out the front of the café, not turning around. As she passed the window of the café on a walk around the block, she pulled out her phone and started on a text to Blake, hoping for some sort of distraction.
Blake and Yang sat side by side at the tennis courts, watching Ren and Nora compete in the mixed-doubles rec finals. “Go Nora, kick their butts!” Yang yelled as she reached into Blake’s bag of popcorn. At this point, Yang had eaten more than Blake had, so she simply decided to place the bag in Yang’s lap. Feeling a vibration, Blake pulled out her phone to see a text from Weiss. As she read it, Yang looked over from the match. “What’s up?”
“Oh, nothing. Weiss was just a bit nervous about work.” Realizing that Yang didn’t know how Weiss felt about Ruby, she quickly improvised. “She said that she was working a short-staffed shift today, so it’s probably that.”
Yang frowned slightly before lobbing a single piece of popcorn into her mouth. “That’s kinda weird,” she replied. “Ruby was nervous about her shift today too, but she’s worked short-staffed shifts before. She’s been weirdly anxious about work in general over the past little while.”
Blake’s grip on her phone tightened. “Huh. Hey Yang…have you noticed anything different about Ruby lately?”