Letting In and That Fluttery Feeling
“Hello to my favorite person in the world!” Emilia sings and dances behind the couter and I laugh as I walk nearer. The cafe is surprisingly filled with customers, couples on dates mostly and even my booth is occupied.
“Why, hello to you too, Emmy.”
Axel pouts as he hands over an order of two coffees with hearts on it to Amy who greets me just as enthusiastically with a side hug before walking away to serve. “And I thought I was your favorite person.”
“Well, you’re demoted.” Emilia says grinning a sinister grin.
Axel rolls his eyes and shrugs. “At least a worthy person is taking my spot. I think I can work with that.”
I can’t fight my grin that breaks and hurts my cheeks. “Isn’t that right.” He gives me one of his cute smiles that is slowly becoming my favorite.
“Ew, stop flirting in front of my innocent eyes.” Emilia gags and we both ignore her, making her pout. “Great, my favorite people are ignoring me. Guess I’m not needed anymore.” She fake sighs and disappears into the kitchen, reciting a new order to Henry and Hana takes her place on the counter, waving at me in greeting.
“I didn’t expect to see you today.” Axel says and my attention is back on him again.
I raise my brows. “And why is that?”
He shrugs. “It’s Valentine’s Day.”
I shrug too. “And I’m single.”
He smirks cutely, not in his usual arrogant way, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. “Wanna change that?”
My heart skips a beat and my mouth is suddenly dry. I dart my tongue out and wet my lips and Axel follows the movement with his eyes. What I see in his eyes the next moment brings back that fuzzy feeling in my heart that I always ignore when I’m around him.
No, I don’t need that again.
So I roll my eyes and playfully shove him. “What I want right now is my daily dose of coffee.”
“Yes ma’am.” He bows down playfully and turns away to get to work. I look around the cafe in hopes of finding a seat but it feels as if even more customers got in here since I first came. It’s not strange at all that people flood in here during festivities like Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day. The place is quaint and cozy and almost has a romantic feel to it. The dim lights, the aromatic smell of coffee and sweetener from sweet dishes, the design of the booth and the soft grunge aesthetic of this place is a festival in itself.
Emilia even went as far as decorating the place with balloons and a “Happy Valentine’s - May your love lives forever.” mood board that catches your eye when you’re walking down the street. It is enough in itself to attract customers in, specially couples. The outskirt location of the cafe is just another plus.
“Here ya go.” Axel’s voice brings my attention back to him and I turn to face him with a smile.
“Thank you.” I say and peep in the cup eagerly to know’s today’s art. The one thing I love about coming to this cafe is not only it’s theme and the mood it sets your soul in, soothing you in a strange way, but also, Axel’s amazing talent at designing unique latte arts. He has never repeated the same thing twice and that’s why I’m always excited to have a coffee at this place.
Today, it’s two roses tied together by a single, thin white thread. He has used red velvet powder for the petals, cocoa powder for the stem which makes me laugh and whitener for the thread and the calligraphy which says, “Love is in the coffee.” Now I understand why they have wide mouthed cups - it’s for Axel’s art to be easy and more visible.
“Why, thank you, for this love filled coffee.” I say, letting out a little laugh and he gives me a cute, dimpled smile.
“Your booth is occupied.” He points out the obvious.
“Thanks, Mr. Obvious.” I say, hiding my grin behind the coffee cup. He rolls his eyes and scowls. “Ah, I see Mr. Scowls is back.” I tease.
He gives me an amused smile and turns around to complete another order of coffee for the couple who just came in. “I missed that nickname.”
“Aww.” I coo mockingly. “Don’t worry baby, I’ll not let you miss it again. I’ll say it until you get tired of it.”
He shakes his head and turns around with the two cups of coffee, both with hearts on them and with For written on one and Ever written on the other. The couple grins when they see it and thank Axel before walking out to sit on the tables that had been set outside, as per the pictures Emilia sent me last night telling me how excited she was to work on the day of love and serve people who spread love in this world.
He looks at me and scrunches his nose in distaste. “I think I’m already tired of it. You can stop calling me that, thanks.”
I laugh and shake my head, sipping on my coffee as I lean on the counter to a little side of it so as to not be standing in the middle of the customers and Axel.
“Come around.” He says after a while when he’s given Amy and Alia another order to serve.
I scrunch my nose in confusion. “What?”
“Here’s a seat. You can sit here.” He says pointing to the stool behind him.
I oblige and walk around the counter to stand beside him but don’t sit. “That’s for you.”
He rolls his eyes. “I’m working. You can sit.”
I shrug. “If you insist.”
He smiles, amused. “I did not insist. I just offered you a seat.”
I wave what he says off. “Eh, details.”
He chuckles and wipes his hand on the towel that is tucked into his apron. How did I not notice it before? Hana hands him two more order slips and he gets to work, preparing the order in minutes. Damn, he’s fast. Then again, he has been doing this for years. No wonder he is so goo at it.
“So.” He starts after a pause of silence after I hand over my empty cup to Margo who is in the kitchen through that window that connects the main are to the kitchen. “What are your plans for tonight? Any dates lined up?”
The word plans and dates remind me of what conspired between me and Sean this morning and my chest clenches. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to go, not with him. I shake my head to get rid of those thoughts. “I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t want to go.”
He raises a brow, a flash of emotion passing through his eyes. “So you have plans?”
I cringe and hesitate. “It’s - complicated.”
He scoffs lightly and turns away, working with the machines. “Isn’t it always?” He says quietly.
I sigh. “It’s not like that, Axel.” I know why he’s off. I’m having plans with someone else when I just went on a date with him last week. I would be too, if I were him.
It still feels strange that I went on a date with him. Not the - how did i go out with him - strange but more of a - holy shit did i really go out with him - kinda strange.
“It was a moment of weak judgement and my senses were clouded. In fact, I didn’t even agree to it. Then again, I didn’t deny it either. And instead of being mature and calling it off, I’m here, hiding and ignoring it.” I explain.
He turns to face me with raised eyebrows. “So you’re here to hide?”
I wince. “Not exactly. But it is a part of me being here, yeah.” He shakes his head and turns around. “But it’s also true that I wanted to see you.” I say truthfully.
“Did you now?” He mumbles.
I groan silently. “Axel, I swear I have no heart to go anywhere with him.”
Axel stiffens for a moment but then continued wiping the coffee that was spilled on the counter.. “Who is it?” He asks.
I stay silent, contemplating if I should say anything or just shrug it off. I don’t think I want to tell him what conspired this morning between me and my so called ex and see judgement in his eyes. Anyone but him. When I don’t answer for a while, he turns to face me. After another beat of silence, he folds his arm on his chest. “It’s him, isn’t it? That boy Shane, your ex?”
Even his name makes me cringe, not because Axel said it wrong but because I know who he was referring to even when he said it wrong. He knew. “Sean.” I correct him stupidly.
“As if I care.” He scoffs. “And where is it that you are going? Some posh, rich people restaurant for a romantic candle light dinner so that he could ditch you again after the night?” He spits.
I don’t know why but Axel’s words hurt me. His opinion of me matters and at this moment, he’s so wrong. “No, it’s nothing like that.” I gulp. “He came to me when I was at my locker today at school and started flirting. He asked me if I had a date for tonight’s Valentine’s ball our school is holding and asked me if I’d go with him. Later, I realized that he was doing it to piss off Ronnie who was standing right there, looking hurt. The asshole didn’t care and for a moment, I was clouded by the idea of revenge so I went along with the stupidity. It was when he kissed me that I came to my senses and pushed him away but it was already too late. Ronnie had run away and he left too, when he realized his goal was complete saying he’ll pick me up for tonight.”
Sometime between me talking, he calls out to Abigail to take over while he uses his break time and grabs my hand, dragging me out into the alley through the backdoor. We climb up the back of his truck and sit, facing each other. After I finish retelling what happened, leaving no detail, I meet his eyes. “But Axel, the truth is, that I don’t want to go with him. I never did. I didn’t even think he would actually go through with it after Ronnie left but he said he’s pick me up. But I won’t go.”
“Hold up, I’m lost - he kissed you?” He asks after I’m done speaking.
“That’s all you got from what I said?” I quirk a brow and then sigh. “I didn’t think he would but at that moment, I wanted Ronnie to feel the same pain I felt when I saw them together. As I said, revenge clouded my senses. But it wasn’t even three seconds long. I pushed him away, I promise.” I said, desperately hoping he believed me. I wasn’t lying so he should.
“I know you did.” He says softly making me sigh in relief. He believes me. “But you do know that he’s just trying to use you?”
I swallow a good load of saliva to wet my dry throat and nod. “I know.” I say softly. “He is just doing this to either make Ronnie jealous or to piss her off. She must have done something to piss him off and he’s getting his revenge now that he is angry. I know him enough to know that much.”
“Are you going to let him?” Axel asks.
I groan. “I already said, Mr. Scowls, I don’t want to go. I won’t let him use me.”
“So what are you gonna do?” He asks.
I shrug. “Simple, I’ll hide here until it’s too late to be his date.”
He narrows his eyes at me. “So you’re using my cafe in your favor?” He teases. I shrug, not answering. “But seriously, you don’t wanna go to this ball?”
I sigh. “I want to. And if I tell my friends about it, they’ll drag me either way but I can’t go alone.”
“What about that guy, your neighbor, you can take him. He’s your friend, right?” He suggests.
“He’s going out with Tracy. And If I take my brother, Sean will end up in grave and my brother in jail by the end of the night. Going alone is not an option seeing that Sean will somehow succeed in manipulating my stupid, senseless brain to stay by his side. I can’t let that happen.”
Axel stays silent for a long while staring at me, unblinking. “But you want to go?” He asks and I nod. “You sure you don’t have anyone you can take with you?”
I bite my lips to hide the smile that is threatening to break at his suggestive tone. I know what’s he’s trying to suggest discreetly and I sit up on my knees to do exactly what he wants. “Axel Davis, will you be my date to the Valentine’s Day Ball tonight?”
He is successful in keeping a neutral expression but that ghost of a smile is not missed by me. He shrugs, folding his arms on his chest. “I don’t know. Tell me, are you using me by asking me to be your date.”
I scrunch my face and hold up my index and thumb finger together with very small space between them. “Little bit.” I drawl. “But I’m asking you mainly because I really wanna go and enjoy the night with my friends instead of being holed up in my room watching Netflix. Plus, you’re a good date. So, are you in?”
Axel grins and bows down. “I would be honored, mi’lady.”
We get down of the truck and he takes my hand as we make our way back inside. I’m trying hard to not show my smile and when I realize that, I break free and grin. I don’t even know why I’m so happy and excited with the idea of going to the ball with Axel but I am.
“So, do you have a dress already?” He asks when we enter the hallway through the door in the alley.
I find myself nodding. “I think I do. I bought something for Homecoming but didn’t go. Maybe that’s why I wanna go to this school dance - because I missed one school event already. And since it’s my last year of high school, I wanted to enjoy each and every event with my friends.” I say.
He nods in understanding. “Okay. So what color is your dress?”
I look up at him and smile. “Black, I think.”
He nods to himself, thinking. “I think I have a black tie.”
I chuckle. “You don’t have to do that. No tie is okay too.”
“I want to.” He says seriously and shrugs when I look up at him. “As you said, you should enjoy your school events and it should be up to perfection.” He smiles. I can’t help but nod and smile back like a fool I am and hand in hand, we enter the kitchen.
“What’s got you both smiling like two creepy couples?” Margo snickers when she sees us walk back in.
Instantly, I lose my grip and Axel’s hand and stand straighter, my smile gone. He, however, doesn’t let go but tightens his hold further. “Nothing.” I say quickly and drag the boy with me out towards the main area.
“Finally.” Emilia says dramatically when she sees me, although she’s matching the amused grin Hana is trying to hide. When Amy comes back to give out another order to Hana, she gives us a wink. “I thought my brother kidnapped you and now I won’t ever get to see you. After all, he’s always -”
She is cut off by Axel who drags me further out to the front door. “Ah, okay Emmy. Leah’s has to go home. She’s got to prepare for something.”
Wow, Axel. Not subtle at all.
“What? Another date?” Hana teases.
He rolls his eyes but ignores her and continues dragging me. It is when we are outside that he drops my hand. “I’ll see you in a few hours, yeah?”
I cross my arms, standing stubbornly. “You do realize that you’re literally pushing me out?”
He smirks. “Am I? I’m just giving you enough time to look your best for tonight.”
I raise a brow. “And what makes you think that I’ll even put effort?”
“Because I’m accompanying you?” He says arrogantly.
I scoff. “Sure, whatever floats your boat, Mr. Scowls.”
He ignores my jab. “Do you want me to give you a ride back home?”
I shake my head. “It’s okay. I don’t want to drive you twice back and forth.”
“I don’t mind.”
“It’s okay, Axel.”
He sighs. “You’re worried about him being there before me, aren’t you?” I don’t even have to agree to it because he knows. He nods. “Okay, how about an early dinner before we head to your school? I can pick you up at six and you can ignore him successfully.”
I chuckle. “You’re so using this me ignoring him thing in your favor.” He shrugs but doesn’t deny it. Coming forward, he places a kiss on my forehead.
“I’ll see you soon, yeah?”
I nod and give him a small smile and start my way back home. Before turning at the end of the street, I give him one last glance and he’s still there, standing, watching me leave. The only thing that I pay attention to for the next few hours is the fluttery feeling that ever so often hightens, reminding me that Axel is my date for the ball tonight.