It was late and no one was in the coffee shop. Breakfast had the most people, lunch was stretched out, and after people got off work was the most sporadic, but any time she could Heather sat transfixed with a book. She was supposed to be learning the business, her business, but it was boring. Her father owned it and she had been running it since she graduated from high school, a deal they had worked out given her lack of ambition to go to college. Going some place local felt too much like going back to high school, if they weren’t the exact same kids it was still too close, and she didn’t feel like going away, not with her father the way he was, not with the business being his only support.
She was reading Breakfast of Champions that evening, thinking Vonnegut got it wrong and that she lived in the asshole of the Universe and that if she wasn’t careful she might live there for the rest of her life. She moaned at the thought. She wanted a distraction and she thought about Kevin. She hadn’t talked to him in weeks since he had been back to class. She took out her phone and called him.
“Come down and visit me,” she said as soon as he picked up. “I’m bored and no one is here.”
Alone in his room with one hand pressing the phone to his ear and the other scrolling through his dashboard he looked to the clock. He was bored too and there was nothing he had to do immediately. He agreed and ended the call before he got up from his desk chair, tightened the belt to his jean shorts, and made sure his fly was up. He stuck his phone in his pocket, checked the weight of it there, and headed out.
No one was there to notice him leave. He slipped his shoes on at the front door, pulled the door shut behind him making sure it was locked before he turned on his feet and made the quick five minute walk to Main Street and the coffee shop. He looked through the main window to Heather who looked back with her chin propped on her hand still bored. He opened the door to the smell of coffee and baked goods. His hands in the pockets of his hooded jacket he walked to the counter.
“Do you want something?” she asked.
“Uh,” he said before he looked back to the two people by the window. “I don’t know. Calories, you know, maybe just a tea.”
“No problem, go have a seat and I’ll bring it over,” she said.
He suddenly felt guilty for her waiting on him, and he hadn’t even paid. He reached into his pocket for the few loose dollar bills but when she saw him she shook her head and motioned for him to go where she had told him to go. He pulled out the dollars anyway and put them in the tip cup before he walked to the table, did a quick assessment of where she would need to sit to keep and eye on the door and sat in the opposite spot. He listened to her. She was getting a tea for herself, something to eat.
Was it something to share? He groaned at the thought. He was hungry, just a little bit, but he knew he’d look better if he denied it rather than indulge. She stepped out from behind the counter and walked to him where she set down a tray. There were two teas and two scones.
“You’re mean,” he said.
“Just a few carbs,” she said. “Besides you get plenty of exercise.”
“This will be an extra mile, maybe half,” he said.
“Skinny Mr. Kevin,” she said. She saw him wince at the comment. “Sorry, it just came to mind. We haven’t talked about it in a while. Does your father still check up on you?”
“Sometimes,” he said.
“That’s nice,” she said. “He cares.”
“So what do you want to do?”
“I don’t know, blow my brains out maybe.”
He recoiled at her sarcasm.
“Sorry, it’s been a long day,” she said. “I’m going to buy bullets with my tips.”
He raised an eyebrow at her and crossed one leg over the other to turn away from her slightly mocking her desperate, bitter attitude. She pulled her hands to her face and let out a grunt of disgust before she stretched out her arms and lay face down on the table for a second before she raised her shoulders with an inhale of air.
“I’m here breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. I can take time off here and there, I convinced my father to get someone to help but it’s all just the same. It was bad when there were more people I knew from high school but there’s been two classes since we graduated. They get dumber each year. Somehow the place became hip.
“God, the other day there were a group of teen girls in here who talked about the television show Friends the whole time and how they wanted to go to New York. Boy are they going to be disappointed.”
“Reruns,” he said. “It gives us such bad impressions.”
“My father likes it but ugh, I’d rather be in some bookstore somewhere, reading quietly in the back, only sell things occasionally.”
“People would steal your books,” he said.
“No one steals books,” she said. “They’re not worth anything.”
She broke off a piece of scone and stuck it in her mouth, began to chew. Kevin watched her, looked at his own scone, looked away.
“How’s class?” she asked.
“Boring but I’ll get through it,” he said, “we’re supposed to research our local town and write a piece about it for our final paper. It’s not due for a long time though.”
“Not much to write about here,” she said.
“Some white people took land from some natives who suffered on a reservation until a loophole allowed them to open a casino where poor people of all colors go to gamble and buy cheap cigarettes.”
“Wow, that doesn’t sound bitter at all,” she said.
He laughed mockingly at her causing her to smile.
“So really what do you want to do?” he asked.
“Tarot card reading,” she said.
“Aw, come on?”
“No, it’ll be good.”
She got up from the table and went behind the counter to her bag where she retrieved a cloth bag that held her Tarot cards and returned with it. She sat across from him with renewed energy. She opened the bag, got out the cards, and shuffled them. She held them close to her body with her eyes closed, readied herself across from him before she slid them in his direction. He picked up the cards. They had been through this several times but each time he relied on her instruction and her creativity for what the cards meant.
“You deal your own fate,” she said.
He shuffled the cards, toyed with her a little before she instructed him on how to lay them out for a twenty-one card reading. She looked at them for several minutes when something else caught her eye, a spark. She looked up through the main window to the sidewalk where she saw a young man, a stranger, Conrad, with a cigarette in his hand signaling for someone to join him. The stranger was handsome. He wore a leather jack, the collar up towards his face to protect him from the wind.
“Who is that?” she asked.
Kevin turned on his seat to look out the front window. He looked to the young man, was captivated by his handsome face, his button nose, and kissable lips. He didn’t have to be gay, he thought, anyone would want him.
“Holy shit,” Heather said, “look who’s walking up to him.”
Kevin turned a little more to see the direction the young man was staring to see a familiar person stop in front of him. He knew that face.
“It’s Simon Winters,” she said.
Kevin turned around back to her, his muscles and joints slightly ached by the way he was turned. He let out a grunt of pain and looked her in the eye before he turned back to see the two young men outside the coffee shop talking, then he looked back to her with one ear listening for the door.
“Do you think they’re coming in here?” she asked.
“Has he ever come in here?”
“No, I’ve never seen him in here. He usually sticks to himself. I only ever see him in the library sometimes but he’s always alone. I’ve thought about going up and saying something to him.”
“More like getting his autograph,” he said.
“He’s infamous, not famous,” she replied.
“Is he moving in this direction?”
“I think they are,” she said.
They looked to the door where Conrad pushed his way inside followed by Simon who walked with his hands in his pockets. Heather jumped to her feet and made her way behind the counter to where her patrons took turns looking at each other, the selection of baked goods, and coffee.
“I’m terrible at this,” Conrad said.
“I told you I’ve never been here,” Simon replied. He was annoyed for having been dragged along and didn’t want it to be any easier.
“Can I help you?” Heather asked.
Conrad leaned against the counter and looked into Heather’s eyes, looked her over before looking to Kevin who sat staring back at him. They caught each other’s eyes and looked away, each with nearly the same thought, he’s cruising me, here. Conrad shook off the thought.
“I usually just get black coffee and a scone,” he said.
“We can do that,” she said.
“What about your friend?”
Everyone looked to Simon who held up a hand of slight protest. He looked to the floor and out into the street trying to show no interest.
“He’ll have the same,” Conrad said.
She rang up the order but she wanted to know more. She had an idea.
“I uh, usually call out a name,” she said.
“Conrad,” he replied.
Heather and Kevin looked to each other as Conrad began to count out cash. He paid with a ten dollar bill and when he got back the change he dropped a dollar and the change in the tip cup. Simon looked ready to leave but Conrad led him to a table where they sat. Conrad cast one last look across the room to Kevin who had focused back on the Tarot cards on the table. He spied the young man’s muscled calf and the way he played with his hair. Maybe there were queers here after all, he thought, and maybe I should get to know them.
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