Three days have passed since Alvarrez told me to talk to Thea alone. And I, of course, did nothing of the sort. Not a word that comes out of her mouth should be trusted.
Every day she would ask me with a grin on her face, “Have you asked her already?”
And every day I would answer plainly, “No.”
Things are getting busier at the office with each passing day and the deadline for our first issue is fast approaching. My editors are doing an excellent job in doing their tasks, working efficiently — all except for one.
Thea sneaked a glance at me - for the eighth time today - while I was checking on Leandro’s work. She’s been acting weird since Monday when Alvarrez burst in here. Could it be that she heard what we were talking about? No, I asked Max if what we were talking about outside was audible from the inside. She clearly said no, and no one left their seat, they patiently waited for me to come back inside.
I cleared my throat. Thea quickly returned her gaze to the computer screen where her half-finished article is waiting to be completed. I walked to her side. “Everything okay?” I leaned over her shoulder and checked the monitor. I frowned. “You haven’t added a single word ever since I checked on you 30 minutes ago. What’s wrong?”
“Uh, can I talk to you later? Alone? There’s something I need to tell you.” She nervously fiddled with her fingers.
I raised an eyebrow at her. “What about?”
She gave me a forced smile. “Later.”
Max elbowed me once I was away from Thea’s earshot. “Is she okay?”
“I think so. She said there’s something she needs to tell me.”
I waited until Leandro and Max have gone home. Gwen and Thea always go home together, but today is a rare occurrence.
“Sorry Gwen, I still have to finish this. You can go home first.” Thea replied to Gwen when she asked her to leave.
Gwen sat back in her chair. “Okay then, I’ll wait for you.”
“It’s all right, I also have to talk about some things with Thea,” I told Gwen.
Gwen gave her a sideways glance asking for validation. Thea gave her a nod of confirmation and she left.
Thea shut off the computer before sitting down next to me. “I thought you weren’t finished yet?” I asked.
She smiled at me, that innocent warm smile like Max’s. “I lied.”
“Oh, okay. You’ve been a little restless lately, are you okay?” I asked her.
She shifted in her seat. “Yes.”
“So what did you want to tell me?” I studied her.
“I’m so sorry for lying.”
I stared at her in confusion. “About what?”
Thea’s gaze fixed on the empty coffee mug on the table. “About Alex kissing me.”
“I’m not sure I follow," I gently put down the stack of papers I was holding to focus on her.
She met my gaze, her brown eyes reflecting my confusion. “You mean she didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?” I asked impatiently. Why is it that people don’t just speak straight to the point?
“I-I thought she told you what really happened, you being close friends and all.”
“Alvarrez and I are not in the least bit friends,” I told her firmly so that it will be burned in her brain.
“Then what did you talk about outside the office?”
“I did ask about what happened.” Thea’s eyes were filled with worry. “But she denied the whole thing. She told me to ask you what really happened.”
“Why didn’t you ask me?”
“I have no reason to do whatever she asks of me,” I said bitterly. “And you already discussed what happened, there’s no need to reiterate it. It’s a waste of time and breath.”
“Gwen was the one who explained it, not me.” She corrected.
I waved a hand airily. “I see no difference.”
“But there is.” Her tone changed from quivering to a firmer one. “Because Alex really didn’t kiss me.”
I pursed my lips. “Did she put you up to this?” I asked, my voice threatening. “Because I’m not buying any of it.”
She shook her head. “What makes you think that?”
“Alvarrez is a liar,” I growled.
“She’s not,” Thea spoke with conviction, her eyes not leaving mine. “She’s telling the truth. She really didn’t kiss me.”
“So what do I make of Gwen’s story then? Are you telling me she’s the liar?” I asked her, my voice raised by a notch.
“No! Gwen’s not lying either.” She groaned and buried her face in her palms. “All the things she said is true - based on what she saw. But Alex only made it so that Gwen and the others would think she kissed me, but she didn’t.” She looked up. A blush crept furiously to her face. “She just leaned her face in really close to mine.”
I looked at her in disbelief. “You’re kidding.”
Alvarrez refusing to kiss a girl as pretty as Thea? That sounds like a complete lie. I would’ve thought she’d jump at any girl who comes on to her. And if I were to guess that must be the reason why she and her ex broke up.
“I’m telling the truth, Alex. If you don’t trust her then please at least believe me,” Thea begged with pleading eyes.
I sighed. This is too much to process all at once. I dismissed Thea and told her to rest because I need her complete focus on the paper.
I stormed out of the school once I was done with my business at the office.
My first thought: Fuck Alvarrez. Not literally.
Second: I need coffee.
There’s only one place to go. As I made my way to my Audi, I passed by the gym where the volleyball team was training. After passing by here every day for the last three years, I've already memorized the training schedule of our varsity teams. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are for the basketball team while Tuesdays and Thursdays are for the volleyball team. The men's training hours are after the women's. It seems like useless information but at least I know when and where to go if we need to interview a player for the school paper.
I revved the engine of my car with a destination in mind.
Books and Brews Coffee Shop is my favorite place to go when I need some time alone. The cozy ambiance makes me feel at home here more than my own house. Ever since this cafe opened two years ago, I’ve been a frequent customer. Not to mention their coffee easily tops an overrated coffee shop I will not name.
Jace and I found this place by accident on our way home from visiting the twins.
As I stepped inside, the little bells hanging on top of the door alerted the people of my presence.
The barista greeted me warmly. He’s a boy in his twenties with dirty blonde hair and freckles on the nose. “Lovely evening.” He flashed his braced teeth at me when I reached the counter. His face is familiar. Like the way you remember a neighbor who waters his garden every morning. You see him often, smile when you pass by, but you never felt the need to talk to him. On his apron was a pinned nametag that says “Pat.”
“Double espresso,” I told him and examined the cakes on display. “A slice of triple berry cheesecake and two slices of chocolate mousse, please.”
He didn’t raise an eyebrow or question my order. He’s probably used to it by now since he’s served me more than a hundred cups of espresso and twice the number of cakes. “Got it. I’ll bring it upstairs.” He replied, his smile never leaving his face.
The cafe is divided into two parts - the first floor is designed like a typical coffee shop. Tables and chairs, a couple of sofas, pop music coming from the speakers. There is a big space on the white wall on the side of the counter filled with sticky notes put there by the customers who wanted to voice out their random thoughts.
I marched past the wooden tables, the couple of women sipping their frappes in synchronization, and headed to the second floor where I always stay. The carpeted floor silenced my steps as I set foot in the area. I hurriedly removed my shoes and placed them on the shoe rack on the wall.
Rows of books welcomed me. A plush sofa sat next to one of the bookshelves. Another couch is placed on the side. A modular bookshelf occupied one of the cream-colored walls. Books, framed anime drawings, and a globe sat among other things in it. Fluffy pillows were placed neatly on one side.
The place was empty save for me and the woman in her mid-forties who sat behind a wooden desk. She noticed my presence and looked up from the laptop she was typing on.
“Julia, it’s good to see you.” She smiled warmly at me, the corners of her eyes crinkling.
“Hey, Isa,” I made my way to my place in the corner, taking a pillow with me and sat cross-legged on the carpet, flattening the fluffy white wool beneath me. I have the same one in my room, except that one is gray and was only a rug. This one occupied the whole floor.
I brought out the book I was currently reading from my bag and put it on the table. Determined to finish it tonight, I started reading from where I left off. A few minutes later and Pat emerged from the hall. He carefully set down my order in the small glass table beside me while repeating them one by one. I gave him my thanks.
As soon as he was gone, Isa spoke. “Bad day?”
I looked up from my book and met her gaze. “How did you know?”
Isa chuckled. “Well if that expression on your face isn’t an obvious giveaway, then I’ll take the double espresso as my backup.”
I frowned. While it’s true that I save the double espresso for the bad days, I don’t see anything wrong with my expression. This is my neutral face.
Isa chuckled again. She closed her laptop and rested her intertwined fingers on top of it. “Want to talk about it?”
Shaking my head, I replied, “No, it’s fine. I don’t want to disturb you while you’re working. Maybe next time.”
“I actually just finished a meeting with my client so I have nothing else to do.” She removed her eyeglasses and stood up from her seat before making her way to where I was sitting.
Isa’s an accountant. She runs an accounting firm on top of owning this coffee shop. At times when I happen to come across her here, we exchange stories about our lives. I was reluctant to talk to her at first but there’s something about her soft brown eyes that reminded me of my mother. They have the warmth that envelops you in a maternal way. And soon exchanging stories have been our little thing.
I forced a smile. I don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about how I feel about Alvarrez. As much as possible, I want to act like we don’t even know each other. “It’s fine, really.”
She regarded me for a moment, a worried look on her face. “Okay, I’ll be downstairs with Pat if you need anything,” she said. “Feel free to borrow any book once you’re done with that one.” She smiled before leaving me alone.
The books here actually aren’t for borrowing. The customers are free to read them but they can’t take them out of the store. However, being a regular customer has its perks. Isa allowed me to borrow any book I want as long as I return them and I don’t let others see me taking them. It wouldn’t be a problem because people rarely come up here. Most of them stay downstairs where they can make the noise they want.
Now that I’m finally alone, I opened my book and continued reading the story of a great assassin named Requiem who fell in love with a cop.