ArrangedBy: Sara Wolf
“How was your weekend, party girl?” He asks. The nickname’s ironic, but I think it’s dumb, mostly.
“You know me,” I pull the tray of chocolate croissants from the counter. They look like they’ve gone cold. I heat the oven and pop them in. “I partied so hard I can’t remember any of it.”
“Can I take a guess on how many boys came and went?”
“At least five,” I assure him. He laughs and takes a customer’s coffee order. When it’s his smoke break, I take over at the register. A mother orders tea and her young daughter presses her face to the glass counter, mesmerized by the colorful pastries like I was at that age.
“Which one looks best?” I ask her. Her blue eyes widen and she points at a pink cupcake.
“I didn’t bring that much with me, Hailey,” The mother sighs. “I’ll make you something when we get home. C’mon.”
The girl’s mesmerized expression deflates. They get to the door before I grab a cupcake and run after them.
“Here, on the house.”
The little girl looks to her mother, who smiles and nods, and takes the cupcake.
“Thank you,” The mother says. “She loves that color.”
“You’re welcome. Enjoy.”
I watch them go and wipe the frosting off my fingers with my apron. She reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger. Going to bakeries like this with Mom was what made me want to open my own.
“Can I get a coffee?” A customer asks. I snap back to reality and whip up a mocha. When the customer leaves, another steps up to the counter, voice low.
“You give out sweets to kids like that all the time?”
I look up – it’s Lee. Again. It’s like everywhere I go, he’s coincidentally there. I’m about to comment on that when my business professionalism takes over. I have to smile. He’s a customer.
“What can I get you?” I ask. He brushes his dark bangs out of his eyes and looks down at the counter.
“What would you recommend?”
“Personally I like the apple cinnamon strudel.”
“I’ll have that.”
I wrap it up. He hands me the money and for the briefest second, our fingers glance across each other’s. I react instantly – my face heating. All I can think about is how I’ve already seen him pretty much naked. If it was any other guy, one I hadn’t seen au natural, I wouldn’t be acting like this. I’m embarrassed, that’s all. Nothing more.
“That girl seemed happy,” Lee puts the change in the tip jar. “About the cupcake.”
I drop my smile a little. “You saw that, huh? Damn. My secret’s out.”
“What, that the straight-A ice princess is nice to kids?”
I flush harder. “I’m more of a witch than a princess, really.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” He scoffs. “Only princesses give sweets to kids for free like that.”
“How do you know? Maybe I’m a witch planning to fatten her up and eat her.”
“Don’t you know how being evil works? You’re not supposed to tell anyone your plans.”
I mime smacking my forehead. “Oh, right! Remind me to consult you before I plan any evilly heinous deeds in the future.”
Lee’s mouth twists into a smile. I’m smiling too. I flatten it. This is the guy I ran into and called names. This is the guy I found escaping from a girl’s room he just had sex with, who I told to piss off when he found me crying. He probably thinks I’m crazy and immature.
“A-Anyway. Enjoy the strudel,” I stutter.
“I will. Thanks.” He flashes one last smile and leaves. Kory passes him as he comes in from his smoke break. He eyes Lee from behind, up and down.
“Damn,” Kory slides behind the counter again. “Who was that fine filet mignon?” I just give a long sigh. Kory nudges me in the ribs. “What, you like him?”
“He’s not my type,” I mumble.
“Last time I checked, ‘maybe-Spanish-maybe-Romanian-maybe-an-underwear-model’ was everybody’s type.”
I busy myself with making a cappuccino and don’t answer that.
Finally, Friday comes. The bell for last period rings and everyone in the Lit lecture hall shuffles out, laughing and making plans for the fall break that’s now officially happening. Jen gives me a hug, smelling like spicy incense. Her skull rings dig into my back.
“You’ll call me, right?”
“If it gets too dreary just, hell, I dunno, drink a lot or something. But, uh, not too much. I keep forgetting you’re a lightweight. Just take it easy, okay?”
“Thanks. You too.”
“If you feel like a pick-me-up, come down to L.A. the day after Thanksgiving. We’re putting on a show at ten in the Blue Eclipse.”
I wave, she waves, and with a jingle of her many earrings, she’s gone through the door.
In Which Lee Montenegro’s Dad Tries To Get Me To Marry Him
The Greyhound bus is dirty, but there’s something comforting about the way the seats smell the same – lint and old candy and sweat. I take the bus up to San Francisco, and Mom and Dad, every holiday. When I was younger Riley and I would take the bus to visit grandpa. Even though grandpa’s died, these seats are the same. Even though I get older, these seats stay.