"Jay, can you clear table twenty-five and nineteen?" Max asked as he stood behind the counter printing out the bills for a few tables.
"Got it!" I answered and proceeded to the said tables.
I was doing Max the favor of helping out in his cafe. He called me over this morning due to the lack of manpower and he needed the most he can have, because, as he said, it was a busy day for the cafe. Mind you, busy is an understatement for the actual situation - it was a battlefield.
Since the start of the operating hours, it has been literally full house, with a few reservations yet to come and walk-ins that are willing to wait in order to dine. The latter is what I don't understand. Why don't they just go somewhere else instead of waiting for who-knows-how-long if they were so hungry? Well, I couldn't blame them if they were frequent customers though. Everything in the menu is just to die for. The best part, Max is having a special menu for today which resulted to this battlefield. I didn't mind helping him though because I have been doing so since long ago and I didn't have anything planned for today.
"Bill for table sixteen." I told Max as I went pass him heading for the kitchen, carrying the soiled dishes I cleared from the tables. "Follow up, order for table eight!" I called out.
"Coming right up." Martin answered.
Martin has been a regular part-time worker in the cafe, although he was a regular part-time worker in all his other jobs. I was the one who introduced him to Max when I couldn't come when he needed help. My old friend liked how hard-working and efficient of a worker Martin was. My younger friend got a good deal out of working in the cafe anyway, so it was just a give-and-take kind of case.
"Jay, can you attend to table thirty?" Max called out.
"Got it." I answered and attended to the request from the said table.
It has been a few hours since the cafe opened and the situation just didn't slow down even for a while. I wouldn't say that the cafe was popular and Max was not really doing big time advertisements, but he has a lot of patrons. I wonder if they will really show up. They will be a life saver if they did. I will definitely use them for manual labor accepting no excuses at all. And as if on cue, came in my three best friends. I greeted them in a very welcoming manner, the way I greeted customers, but the only difference is that I led them to the lockers instead of a table. I handed each of them a uniform and briefly explained what needs to be known and done. They have worked in the cafe before and they still do sometimes when they were free.
"What the heck man?!" Exclaimed Nate at the same time Chris said, "Is this your idea of a joke?"
"We're short on staff, as you can see. And it's full house so you couldn't dine anyway." I informed them. I received both incredulous and questioning looks from the twins. Sometimes they are the hardest to handle, but at the same time, the easiest to convince. "Same deal guys. So, off you go."
"We better get a good compensation for this." Said Nate and proceeded to work on the floor with his brother.
"Thanks, bro." I tapped Mark on the shoulder when the two were gone. He was my so-called accomplice in the scheme of bringing in helper, although he is also one. He is the most who doesn't mind being willed by me. But being the evil schemer that he is, I don't really just go along with whatever shit he came up with.
With additional help from the three, the chaotic lunch time successfully came to an end. Of course, it was not without wrong orders, broken glasses, and a couple of fussy customers giving us more problems. At least it was much better than what would have happened had the three not came to help.
"Everyone, big thanks for your help today. Go have your deserving break now. I will still need your help tonight." Max announced and everyone scattered around the restaurant, and the lockers.
"Man that was hell for real." I remarked, slumping down in one of the sofa seats where the three have already been seated.
"And of course, you have to drag us down to hell as well eh?" Chris remarked in his very own sarcastic manner.
"What are friends for right?" I answered quite honestly. Had the three not been good and trusted friends of mine, I wouldn't even dare ask them to help me at a time when hell rose above ground.
"Thank you boys. You're such a great help." Max said, serving each of us a cup of our own coffee, mine a plain black one.
"No problem, Max. Just give us the usual. I'm famished!" Nate stated, taking his iced coffee.
"Right away, sirs." Max said with a big grin and proceeded to the kitchen.
"Is this always this busy here?" Mark asked as he stirred his spiced cappuccino.
"No idea dude. I only help out once in a while. Today was the busiest I ever experienced." I answered.
"If it wasn't, I don't know what would busy mean here." Chris stated.
"It wasn't, actually." Martin joined us, dragging a chair from another table.
"Seriously, man?" The twins chorused. Martin just nodded his head and I noticed him keeping his smirk to himself. I understand him though. It was always funny how the two exaggerated their synchros even if they don't mean it.
The very familiar sound of the back doors opening and closing rang through the empty and rather quiet cafe, the opposite of what it has been just half an hour ago. It was followed by the appetizing smell of the food that Max cooked himself. Even if the dishes that he was selling in his own cafe were really good, his own cooking was just extremely delicious. He had always cooked for us after operating hours whenever we helped out in his cafe. That was our payment terms. Martin's was different since he needed cold cash.
The moment the dishes were served in our table, no one hesitated to grab their own share of the meal. I couldn't blame them. With how tiresome the last few hours have been, and the gourmet that have been presented to us, I don't think anyone would care about manners.
"By the way, where's your girl?" Mark asked out of nowhere.
"If you're talking about Angel, she's probably home. And she's not my girl just for the note."
"Who?" Martin asked out of curiosity.
"Umm.... Ah! You saw her at the bar. The girl with short hair." I briefly described, remembering that time in the bar where Martin was working part-time as well.
"Oh. She's your girlfriend now?" Martin asked.
"No." I said at the same time the other three answered "Yeah." I just stared at them blankly. For the past two or three days, my three friends have been implying that Angel is my girlfriend or that I like her. Well, yeah, I do like her but she is not my girlfriend.
"She is not. Please keep that in mind." I simply stated and the three just said their own remarks all at the same time.
"Fine. Not yet." Nate said.
"Oh, c'mon dude!" Chris said.
"You like her right?" Mark asked.
"Sure. She's a nice girl alright." I simply said in response.
"Let me rephrase it. You have feelings for her right?" Mark asked again.
"Bro, you're turning sappy again. And no, I don't."
"Really, Jay? You don't like her even after clinging to her that much last night?" Nate asked in a teasing manner. It would seem that he was not tired at all so I can push him to work more tonight.
"She seemed to like you too. At least according to what we saw last night." Mark made the follow-up.
"What did you guys do last night?" Martin inquired.
"Games at his place." Nate answered him.
"Whoa! Hang on. She was at your place? Seriously?!" Martin exclaimed. He appeared to be very shocked about the news. "And you're claiming that you don't like this girl?"
"What's wrong with having over a friend who happens to be a girl to hang-out?" I asked.
"Nothing. It's just that you having over a girl at your place who is not your girlfriend is unheard of." Nate answered emphasizing the words.
"To be more precise, you don't bring a girl over at your place." Mark added simply. "You never did."
"What do you mean I don't? I do-" I was cut off by my own thought. I tried to remember the last time I brought over a girl at my place. Turns out that I never did. " ....I don't?"
I only received nods of agreement. I have never noticed that until now. Maybe I was doing that unconsciously. I should ask my sister about it just to confirm.
"Wait a minute!" Chris called our attention. "Who was this girl that you are talking about? Even Martin knew her."
"Danica, bro." Nate answered.
"That, I know. But I haven't met her so I couldn't ride on your talk very much." Chris informed us.
"She was at the bar, that's how Martin knew her. I also brought her at the tracks recently. And you saw her that night here." I said, trying to make him remember the times that I was with her and the guys.
"Didn't see her face very well that night last week. Besides that..." He shook his head to continue.
"No kidding?" I asked.
"Dead serious, man." He answered simply.
"That's right! You're always not there when we're with her. You would love the girl bro." Nate informed his brother. He seemed to be fond of her as well.
"Pretty and clever." Mark said.
"And she was brought to your friend's house." Martin remarked.
"Okay, now that got me interested. I have to personally meet this girl, your Angel, Jay." So, Chris had really never met Danica. That was just strange.
"Given the chance." I answered. "But it depends if she would want to meet you as well."
"Did you ask for permission when she met these two?" Chris asked.
"No..." I answered honestly. Now that I think about it, I just did whatever I want. I brought her to places without even getting her opinion first. I hope she doesn't think bad of that at all.
"Going back to the topic..." Martin pulled me out of my thoughts. "How are you progressing with this girl?"
"Once again, we're not dating at all." I answered, a bit annoyed at how they are implying my relationship with her.
"They're just together like every day since they met. And he brought her to Philip's, the tracks, here and his place." Nate sarcastically remarked.
"It's called hanging-out. You know how she's heartbroken."
"And you have to do that every day?" Chris asked.
"C'mon guys. I'm just comforting her." I answered groaning.
"Sounds to me like your trying to convince yourself more than us." Chris answered.
"Whatever you say, dude."
"Are you sure she's not your girl at all?" Martin asked again.
"For heaven's sake. Drop it." I remarked wanting badly to end the conversation.
I hate being interrogated and I don’t understand why I am being interrogated. It was just off since I am just hanging out with her all this time and they jump to the conclusion that she was my girl. I would want her to be mine in all honesty but she was way out of my league. She was too great of a girl to be wasted on me.
"That was odd. Besides your cousin, every girl that I see with you is your girl. And here you are claiming that she's not. That's just..." Martin said thinking of the proper term to use.
"Out-of-character?" I offered, remembering how she mentioned it just the other day.
"Exactly, dude." Everyone chorused.
I let out a long sigh in defeat. "Okay. Just to shut you up. As you all know, I've been together with several girls before with various situations and different characters. But Angel's different and I couldn't get myself to think of her as one of those girls. She was like a younger sister to me. And because of her situation, I couldn't leave her alone as well. She might just turn suicidal for all I know."
It was quiet for a while before Mark broke the silence. "Jay, listen. First, you sounded like you are trying hard to convince yourself and that makes you look pitiful. And everyone here probably thinks the same." I noticed that everyone agreed to what Mark just said.
"Second, for all those years that I've known you, this is the first time that I don't understand what you are trying to do or what you are thinking. Why don't you try it out with your Angel? She's beautiful, funny, smart and perhaps much more."
"Much more." I agreed.
"See? So why don't you just date her for real? Every day, I hear nothing from you but Angel this and Angel that. And you are actually with her every day as well." Mark continued.
"It's barely a week since I met her." I reasoned.
"That didn't really matter to you before." Mark countered.
"Well, it does now." I simply stated.
"And why is that so?" He questioned.
"Because I barely knew her." I answered.
"Didn't matter to you before either." Mark countered again.
"It does now."
"And why is that so?"
"Because..." I groaned again, frustrated that I couldn't keep my ground. "So what's your point?"
"To make you admit to yourself that you like her for real." Mark simply answered.
"And to make you realize that you are changing because of her." Nate added. "C'mon dude. We already noticed how you are so into her. It was on a completely different level as compared to the girls you were with before. Even if you don't actually admit it."
"Just tell us. Do you like her?" Mark asked again.
I stared at them one by one. They are silently awaiting my response. I have already thought about it before. I already knew that deep inside me, I really like her. A lot. At the same time, I also knew that I don't want to admit that fact to myself. It felt like if I did so, I wouldn't be able to stop myself anymore. Which I don't really want to happen. She was a great girl. And I don’t want her to be wasted on me.
I let out another sigh, leaned back in the couch and closed my eyes. Her image instantly flashed in my head. Her little habits that I doubt even she was conscious of. And her smile. I wonder what she was doing today. I hope she was spending time with her cousin and that friend of hers. I'm afraid that if she was left alone she will only be thinking about her dip-shit ex. We have spent almost every day together. Today, I haven't had the time to think until now so I never realized how much I wanted to see her. Maybe, if Max had not called me I would be with her right now. I would instantly come up with an excuse just so I could see her.
So there's no turning back even if I don't say it out loud eh? "I do. I want her badly but I don't deserve her. She's too great of a girl and she'll just be wasted on a player like me." I answered honestly. This kind of talk among my best friends and Martin was rare. Because guys don’t usually talk about these matters.
"We understand that bro. But believe me, you're a great guy. Maybe a little less than me but you're great. We haven't found our match, at least me and Nate, but you found yours. Presented to you in wrapping paper with a ribbon on top. So why not go for it. A great girl is a rare gem." Chris said.
"I'm afraid to lose her." I answered honestly.
"Isn't that out of the question? C'mon! Of course you're not going to lose her. Because you're never letting even a tiny chance for that to happen." Nate answered.
"That's more like it. At least that's how I know you." Martin added.
I was quiet for a while as I looked at my friends, trying my best to keep my smirk from forming. Sometimes, I was just thankful to have these people as friends. They always give me a push whenever I was hesitant or afraid to go for the things I wanted. "You know I love you guys, right?" I suddenly stated.
"We know, but no thanks. I'm not really up for bromance." Nate answered.
"Ah. C'mon I know you want it too." I stood up from my seat and sat next to Nate bringing my face close to his. Despite his playful character he just doesn't want this kind of boy-to-boy action.
"Cut it out, Jay. I'm damn serious." Nate warned, trying his best to keep me in a proper distance. The rest of the guys were just laughing at us.
"Why? I just wanted to tell you something."
"Oh, please! Your face doesn’t have to be that close if you wanted to tell me something. Get off!"
"You're so boring. Anyway, I've thought of something. You guys up for it?"
"What's it about?" Chris Asked.
"A special gig." I answered.