I love watching the world go by, it’s one of the few pleasures in my life. As my hands rest in the pocket of my apron, I gaze into space, momentarily unfazed by how busy the coffee shop is.
“Cass, hey-, we need two chai lattes,” Jude calls to me. My eyes focus back towards him, a small smile on my lips as I nod, bringing myself back from my thoughts and ready myself to complete the next order.
Jude— my best friend.
There was always the age-old question— can a man and a woman be anything other than just friends? In our case, yes. He was more than my best friend, but I won’t deny there wasn’t a moment back at the start of our first year of uni, where we were drunk and we thought we’d see if there were any feelings, but the second our lips touched we both recoiled, our faces creased at how awkward and unnatural it felt. Ever since that day, we’ve never done it again, but we’ve still loved each other all the same.
“Cass— lattes,” he frets, his eyes widening, his head gesturing towards the large coffee machine that splutters and whirs it’s mechanisms in front of me.
“Sorry, coming up,”
We only have a few weeks left of university and neither of us can wait, and tonight was the night we said we’d let our hair down. There was a new club opening in the city, and we’d not stopped hearing about it. It seemed every customer that walked in today seemed to be talking about it.
As I push the lids onto the two cardboard cups with my fingertips, I smiled at the customers smiled before shuffling away. As another order was called out, I began following the same familiar routine and let my mind drift off again.
“Cassie, can you take over while I go on my break,” Jude called out as I handed the customer their cappuccino, leaving me with Paul. He was one of the barista’s and had been a persistent pest for the best part of a year, asking me out nearly every week since Jude and I had started working here.
But he was given the same answer every time.
“Hey, how can I can I help?” I ask the next customer considers what he would like, but I chose not to look up. I could do this job with my eyes closed, but even that might be pushing my luck.
“Can I get a hazelnut latte,” the smooth and silken voice asked.
“Sure,” I replied, my voice void of any emotion. This place had a habit of bringing on those particular feelings.
“Have you been working here long?” He asks again, his voice like velvet. It wasn’t a surprise that it wasn’t an English accent either, this was London, and he was most likely a tourist anyway.
“Can I get a latte to go please,” I call out to Paul as I finally look up. I feel my breath hitch as my eyes meet the most beautiful blue eyes staring straight back at me, surrounded by the longest black lashes I’d ever seen with a charmingly dimpled and lopsided smile to match. It was wide and addicting, and surprisingly white teeth.
“That’s four-fifty,” I reply, swallowing harshly as those same blue eyes continue looking at me, surveying my face as if he were committing it to memory.
I watch tentatively as he glides his card over the reader and with another dimpled and lopsided smile he nods, his lips pressing together in a firm line before he stands aside, watching intently as I serve the next customer.
Paul makes his coffee and slides it across the counter towards him, with his signature goofy smile. But, instead of saying thank you and leaving, he hovers waiting for the next customer to leave. It was almost 7 at night and the cafe was near empty, the few customers that remained, huddled in around the small tables, watching people walking outside.
“So, you never did answer my question,”
“Oh really?” I gulp, hoping my voice stays at the level it should and not embarrass me with an unintended squeak. That’s what usually happened when my anxiety spiked.
He tilts his head just a little and with a small frown settling on his brow, he studies me again and asks “So have you?”
“Have I what?” I answer nervously, a slight tremor in my voice.
“Worked here for long?”
“Yes, well no, not long, well it’s long to me,” I can feel myself beginning to ramble. My stomach knotting as a nauseous wave settles in the pit of my stomach.
“Ok, so how long is long?”
“Two years,” I hurry, swiping the cloth across the counter, cleaning absolutely nothing.
Closing my eyes I will myself not to panic as he continues to observe me. What is that?
“What time do you finish?”
“In ten minutes,” I reply, looking down to my thin wrist, but the one thing I’d normally get the time from is missing.
Jude where in gods name are you? I knew he’d purposely not taken his last break right up until before work finished, and it was most likely he’d done it so he could talk to his current on-off girlfriend. I liked her, well that was a blatant lie, I tolerated her for the sake of my best friend.
“And are you going out anywhere tonight?” Why does he want to know? I met him less than twenty minutes ago and now here I am, trying my best to avoid discussing my Friday night with a perfect stranger.
“I will be. I’m going out with a friend in a little while actually, when he gets back that is,” I reply vaguely. This seems to pique his interest as his head tilts again.
He really is handsome and I can feel myself staring as I look at the curve of his nose, the bow of his full pink lips, and fighting the ridiculous urge to poke my finger in the dimples on his cheeks. I also can’t help but notice and admire just how his dark hair sits perfectly in soft waves on top of his head.
“So this friend, is he uh— more than a friend?” He asks me, raising a brow as he sips on his coffee.
“Jude— no,” I scoff with a nervous chuckle. With a shake of my head and clearing of my throat, I turn quickly and place the cloth on the counter behind me, sinking my teeth into my bottom lip as my eyes crease together praying that this handsome stranger will stop with his relentless questions.
“Well, if you decide to go out with your friend— maybe you should come to my club,”
Wait, his club? Does he have a club?
“You own a club?”
He smiles another dimpled and lopsided smile, his head dipping just a little as his free hand thrusts deep into his pocket. With a lick of his full bottom lip, I can see the pearly whites he’d showcased earlier peeking from under his top lip.
“Yes, well, I co-own it, with my friend Ezra,” his thick brows and dark long lashes look up, showcasing his intensely blue eyes again.
“Maybe we’ll stop by,” I say, my voice as casual as I can make it. My insides scream as I look to him, pushing my hands into the pockets of my apron again. That was a nervous habit within itself.
“What’s it called?”
“We might come down,” I shrug, keeping my cool, my tone still neutral.
“Good,” he chuckles softly, his hand resting on the back of his neck before they disappear to the front and push the few fallen strands of dark hair back from his forehead. I can feel my cheeks flushing as he licks his bottom lip again before clearing his throat.
“I should get going,” he begins, his velvety drawl sending a deep dizzying vibration from my head right down to my toes. I know he can sense it, and the feeling and the warmth of my cheeks are most likely obvious as his eyes widen just a little. With a nervous smile, he nods but with some hesitation, he eventually turns on his heel and begins walking towards the door.
“I uh— never did catch your name,” He calls out behind himself.
“It’s Cassie, Cass, well— Cassie but you can call me Cass,” I can feel myself rambling again. I’m an embarrassment to myself and with another spike in the warmth radiating from my cheeks, I cup them in an attempt to hide the furious blushing my body deems fit to mortify me with.
Why is this so hard? I mean—he’s the first man that’s spoken to you and not looked at you as some sort of a lost cause.
“Well, Cass,” he nods his head again, “Maybe I’ll see you and your— friend tonight,”
I smile a soft smile raising my hand to wave goodbye as he takes one final glance before wrapping his fingers around the handle of the door and pulling it open.
“I never got your—” I counter, but he disappears before I can finish my sentence, “name,“. My shoulders slump and with a sigh, I push my hair back from my face, untying my apron as the last customer leaves, giving me a look that could only be some attempt at sympathy. I drop down onto one of the black metal chairs tucked lazily under the small table situated near the large windows and throw it against the beaten wood.
“What did I miss?” Jude calls out finally returning from his break. Paul waltzes by, his hand resting on my shoulder.
“See you Monday,”
“Yeah, see you Monday,” I reply, my eyes never leaving the table.
“Cass?” Jude smiles gently, slumping himself down beside me.
“It’s nothing,” I mumble back.
Oh you know, I met the most beautiful human being ever and my relentless dithering stopped me from even getting something as simple as his name. Jokes on me because the likelihood is, that we won’t even go to his club, so I won’t even see him again.
“Let’s close up and head home, we need to be out by nine,”
“Because that’s what time I told Jessica and Alex we’d meet them at that new club,” he tells me, standing and pulling at his own apron, but my eyes widen and in incredulity I almost give myself whiplash as I spin in the seat, my stomach knotting again.
“Yeah it’s called Neon or something, but Jess says it’s supposed to be really good,”
“Yes!” I exclaim.
Jude looks at me, his brows furrowing as a small smile creeps onto his lips, his head tilting as I jump up from the seat.
“Ok,” he chuckles warmly.
We finally close up and as we climb into his car, we get home in record time. I don’t even give him a chance to ask me why I want to go, but I practically push the door of its hinges and sprint towards the door of our little house.
“Why are you in such a rush?”
“No reason,” I call out not watching what I’m doing as I fall through the door, my backside up in the air for the whole street to see.
“Someone’s eager,” he grins, trying his best to stifle the laugh he’s desperately trying to let out, but fails spectacularly when he erupts into a rapture of laughter.
“Come on,” he smugly grins pulling me up from the floor.
“I said we’d meet Jess and Alex there,” he shouts up to me as I take the stairs two at a time.
“Yeah, sure, ok,” I call back as I reach my door, throwing my bag onto my bed, making a beeline for my wardrobe and searching for the best outfit I can possibly find. It was a little too cold for a dress, so I opted for a black lace camisole and jacket, some black ripped jeans and my go-to black heels.
With one last brush of my teeth, I quickly apply my makeup and run my fingers through my newly curled hair, gazing upon my reflection and scrunching my face.
“ That’ll have to do,” I mutter before I turn on my heels and carefully take the stairs.
“You’re wearing that,” Jude teases, already knowing how hopeless I was at getting ready. I’d always hated how I appeared, but tonight I thought that maybe just for once I’d managed to achieve something and look half-decent.
“I’m just kidding, you look beautiful,” he chuckles as he grabs my hand. I tilt my head, and with a groan, the knot from earlier returns with a vengeance and I run to the loo, needing one last emergency wee before we leave.
“The taxi will be here in five minutes,” Jude calls out as I dismiss him with my hand closing the door behind me. Leaning against the small sink, I look into the round bevelled mirror on the wall and breathe in deeply.
I finish in the bathroom and as I turn off the light I hear a car horn sound and Jude appears from the kitchen.
“Taxi’s here,” he smiles, pushing his wallet and phone into his back pocket.
I take in another deep breath and with a nod we head outside, closing and locking the door behind us.
The ride was only ten minutes, and luckily we lived so close to the city, and the rent was cheap. Something practically unheard of here, but we’d managed to make a deal with the landlord when we took it on.
“Jess and Alex are already there,” Jude smiles as he wraps his arm around my shoulders, pulling me in and giving me a kiss on the head as he always did.
“Let’s have some fun tonight, we deserve it,” he grins as I nod in agreement. Squeezing me that little bit tighter Jude diverts his attention to the street up ahead. Lights illuminate brightly from the club across the street, and it’s bright neon sign above the door can be seen. A queue is already forming along the street outside.
It must be good if this many people are trying to get in. We pay the taxi and climb from the car, closing the door behind us and spotting Jess and Alex in the queue, a little hesitant Jude notices my reluctance and grabs ahold of my hand pulling me along wiht him.
“Cass— come on,” he hurries.
“Cassie?” A deep and booming voice shouts. I frown and turn around trying to decipher just where it had come from.
“Cassie from the coffee shop?” It bellows again. I continue to frown and look back and forth as a doorman looks to me, his left hand gripping tightly against the edge of a clipboard.
“You can come in— is this your friend Jude?”
“You’re both on the list,” he replies pulling at a deep blue rope.
“We have some friends in the line,” Jude counters, “Get them in too,” the doorman nods and with a gesture, Jess and Alex duck under the deep blue rope that continues down the line and join us at the front. Eyes watch us and whispers complain at us getting let in while they stand out here and shiver.
“Sorry,” I apologise to the line of strangers as we walk towards the door, the bass of the music thumping from behind it, “Honestly, I’m just as surprised as you are,” I try to sympathise as we step inside.
“You need to explain,” Jude smirks as we walk inside.
“Yeah, how’d we get in so quickly?” Jess squeaks.
“No idea,” I answer honestly. As we venture further into the club, the sheer volume is almost deafening and the heat from all the people in here hits us.
“Come on, let’s get some drinks,” Alex shouts over the music and I nod as Jude and Jess follow closely behind. We manage to squeeze ourselves to the front but as we lean against the bar, I look up and find another floor above us. Silver railings protect anyone from falling and I can see another bar situated at the back with neon blue lights shining brightly.