Cameron Tucker was a barista. It wasn’t a bad job, he thought. He didn’t work for a big corporation. Instead he worked for a small business run by a brilliant woman named Gloria Delgado, who Cameron would have a big crush on if he wasn’t a flaming homosexual. Gloria as a boss was tough, but fair, and Cameron respected that. Growing up on a farm had made him appreciative of the term tough love which Gloria was full of for everyone except her son who sometimes came around the shop. He had fairly good hours and plenty of bonuses, but Gloria didn’t tolerate slacking off. That was why he was at the shop on a Sunday afternoon, alone in the building. He didn’t really have anything else to do that weekend. He might as well earn some extra money. Rent was due soon.
“I really need to get out more,” he mumbled, leaning on the counter. It was pretty dead inside the store and he was bored. He didn’t bring his phone that day and there was nothing more he could do besides make himself cup after cup of coffee. He was practically shaking from all the caffeine he consumed.
The cafe was small but cozy. There was a warmth to it, with its gentle orange and white colour scheme, with wide windows with floral patterns on it. Cameron knew that if Pepper could see them he wouldn’t approve, but Cameron loved them. Everything smelt of coffee and dark chocolate, a smell he found stuck to everything. His closet reeked of the comforting scent.
He sighed again, shifting on the counter. He looked up at the clock and groaned. Only half an hour until the store closed and he was looking forward to it. He had two cats at home he needed to feed, Daisy and Tulip.
He really needed to get out more.
The bell on the door rang and Cameron looked up, thankful to finally have a customer. A frenzied looking man entered the store, dressed in a fancy suit and holding a briefcase. He was looking at his phone and Cameron could barely see his face. The man hurried right up to the counter, his thumb swiping down on the screen.
“Welcome to Gloria and Co’s coffee shop,” Cameron said excitedly, standing up straight, trying to appear alert. “How may I help you today?”
The man looked up and Cameron felt his cheek warm. He didn’t believe in love at first sight; all his friends said he seemed like the type of fellow to love it, but he honestly didn’t. It seemed pretentious to him, the idea that you can fall so deeply in a single second. Love was something sacred, something special cultivated after many weeks or even months. But looking into this man's blue eyes, he thought that maybe this was the closest he’d ever get to it.
“I will take two coffees,” the man said, his eyes darting around the menu. They looked like the sea, Cameron thought, or a river pooling into a ravine. They were so clear, he almost didn’t believe they were natural. “One large dark roast, two creams please, and one large iced americano.”
“Okay, anything else?” he asked, ringing up the orders. He tried to appear friendly and perky to hide his nervousness, but he doubted the man noticed. As soon as he said his order his eyes went right back to his phone. Cameron thought it was a shame to hide his face. He wondered what the man did, if he was a secret agent or an important business man.
“That’s it,” the man said, taking out his credit card and paying for the drinks. He slipped the card back into his wallet, then turned right back to his phone. “Shit,” he muttered under his breath. “Claire is going to kill me.”
“Can I get a name for this order?” Cameron asked, pen posed over the cup but the man walked away over to the counter like he didn’t hear what Cameron said. Cameron sighed; it was shameful that someone so cute was so distracted. He looked down at the cups again. He would just have to fake a name then. He looked at the man, trying to think of a name that would fit him. The man's hair was red, almost reminding him of strawberry blond and he got it. The perfect name for a man like him. He wrote the name down in a flowy script, then moved to the coffee machine.
He made the drinks, sometimes looking over at the man who was staring at his phone. He looked so nervous, so worried, and Cameron wanted to hug him. There was a shakiness in his limbs, almost like he was terrified of something.
Cameron finished preparing the drinks and handed them over the counter. “Coffees for August,” he called, even though there was no one else in the store. He just liked the dramatics of it.
The man's eyes looked up, a temporary man named August, looking confused. Cameron knew he recognised the drinks, but not the name.
“That’s not my name,” the man said, putting down the phone for the first time since he got there and Cameron secretly rejoiced.
“I know,” Cameron said cheekily, the perfect customer service smile on his face. “But you didn’t give me yours.”
The man licked his lips and Cameron tried his hardest not to watch the gesture. That would be creepy. “Why August?”
“Well, August is the hottest month of the year,” Cameron explained. “You’re not too bad yourself.”
Well, so much for not being creepy.
“Right,” the man said skeptically, and Cameron laughed internally at the blush on his face. He had fair skin and his skin turned crimson so easily.
“You also have red hair,” Cameron pointed out, trying to salvage the situation. "And August is my favourite month as well.”
A voice inside his head yelled at him to stop while he was ahead. It sounded suspiciously like Gloria. He almost laughed at that. Even in his head she was keeping him in line.
“I need to go,” the man, not August, said, grabbing the cups. “Claire is waiting for me in the car.”
Something in Cameron fell at that. The man was already dating someone. He found himself thinking of soulmates, the small things that could go wrong. What if your soulmate is dead? What if they hate you? And worst of all, what if they are already in a relationship?
“Of course, have a good day,” Cameron waved, smiling wide again. He waved as the man ran out of the store, carrying the coffees awkwardly while still trying to carry his briefcase. Cameron watched him go across the windows, and sighed. He looked up at the clock again. Only ten minutes had passed
On Tuesday, Gloria was working with him at the counter. It made things easier; they both took a register and things moved a lot quicker with two of them on board. Gloria’s son, Manny, played on the floor next to them, reading a thick book Cameron wouldn’t even begin to attempt. It looked like classic literature. Cameron preferred romance and action in his novels.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” Cameron said, waving his hands around as he made a coffee. A small old lady waited for her order patiently, smiling gently at him. She smelled like warm cookies and Cameron loved her. She was one of the more polite customers they got regularly. “The cutest man I’ve ever seen.”
“You said that about James as well,” Gloria said, looking at him with amusement. She wasn’t doing anything at the moment. The store was almost empty.
“There are multiple types of cute Gloria,” Cameron said, handing the coffee to the old lady. She smiled and left the store slowly, heading back outside. “A bunny is cute. A baby dolphin is cute. James was cute. This man was very cute. It’s all relative.”
“Got it,” Gloria said, rolling her eyes playfully. “And what did this man look like?”
“Like an angel,” Cameron sighed, fluttering his eyelashes. He was aware he looked like a lovesick teenage girl and he didn’t care. “Like a god. Like a male version of Aphrodite.”
“That’s the bitch,” Cameron said, snapping his fingers and Gloria laughed. “He was amazing.” He sighed sadly, suddenly remembering something. “He’s dating someone else though.”
“So go get him,” Gloria demanded, grabbing his shoulders tight and looking into his eyes. “He can make the choice, you just have to be better.”
“It’s not fair Gloria,” Cameron sighed, stepping away. The shop was empty, a rare occurrence on the day. Usually the store was full of people hoping to get their daily dose of coffee. “If he’s happy, I’m not getting into the way of that.”
Gloria shook her head. “So now you’re a coward?”
“I’m not a coward, I’m a decent person-” the bell rang and they both turned their heads to the door. Cameron's eyes went wide as the same man from Sunday entered the cafe. “It’s him, be cool, be cool,” Cameron hissed, then smiled wide, trying to pretend they haven’t just been gossiping about him. “Welcome to Gloria and Co’s coffeeshop, how may I help you?”
“Hi,” the man said, looking a lot less frenzied than before. He was still wearing a suit and holding a briefcase, but he no longer looked like he was about to jump out of his skin. “I would like one large dark roast, two creams please, and-” he stopped, eyes darting around the menu again, and Cameron took the chance to gaze longingly into them. Gloria snorted from beside him. “Y’know what, surprise me.”
“Really?” Cameron asked. He tried to ignore how the man had ordered two coffees again, most likely one of them for his girlfriend Claire.
“Yeah,” the man said. “You look like you know your stuff.”
“Okay, can I get a name for that?” Cameron asked, picking up a cup but the man walked away again. Cameron could see the beginnings of a secret smile on the man's lips and he laughed internally. He could sense a game coming up. He wrote down the first name that came to mind, then started preparing the order. The man tapped his foot, smiling at Cameron whenever he looked over at him. Gloria watched them, a slow Cheshire smile curling on her lips.
He made the drinks, then passed them over the counter. The man took them, eyes looking for the name.
“Garnet?” the man asked when he found it. “Isn’t that a woman's name?”
“Names are unisex,” Cameron said. “I once met a woman named Bill. Incredible woman. If I wasn’t gay…” he trailed off, hoping the man would get the hint, but the man didn’t even look fazed. It was a good thing he wasn’t homophobic, Cameron thought.
Gloria coughed. It sounded something like “too obvious,” and Cameron rolled his eyes again and ignored her.
“Besides,” Cameron continued. “Garnets are beautiful jewels. They were always my favourite.”
“Well then,” the man said, the man nicknamed Garnet, “I love it. But you’re wrong. That’s not my name.”
“Then I supposed you’ll just have to keep coming back until I get it right,” Cameron said, winking at him. The man laughed.
“I guess I will. Have a good day Cameron,” the man said, and Cameron wondered how the man knew his name until he remembered he was wearing a name tag. The man walked away, holding his coffees and Cameron waved until he was out of sight.
“That was pathetic,” Gloria said as soon as he was gone. “My son is better at flirting than you.”
“I’m actually offended by that comparison,” Manny said, looking up from his book. “You suck.”
Cameron rolled his eyes. “Thanks for your help and feedback,” he said sarcastically. “I truly do care what you all think of me.”
“You’re an idiot,” Gloria said, then furrowed her brow. “But I can’t help but feel I know him from somewhere. I’ve seen him, I know it.”
“Whatever,” Cameron muttered, turning back to the cafe. A group of teenage girls entered and he prepared himself, getting ready for many cappuccinos he would have to make. “Let’s just do our job.”
The man came back the next day looking pissed. Cameron watched as he mumbled angrily to himself most likely something about work. He looked like he worked a stressful job. Cameron was alone today and he was glad for it. He couldn’t take anymore of Gloria’s teasing.
“I’ll have the same as before,” the man said, coming up to the counter before Cameron could even begin to greet him. His eyes were stormy, like waves crashing onto stony beaches, and Cameron wondered what was wrong and how he could make it better. The man looked restless, like he would run away at any second.
“Even the surprise?” he asked, and the man nodded. Cameron grabbed a cup, not even bothering to ask for a name. This was a game he was intending to win. He would get the man’s name eventually.
The man's hands shook at his side as Cameron worked, and he kept sending worried glances at him. The man looked like something bad had happened and Cameron wanted to make it better. Then again, he always did. Pepper said it was his greatest weakness, the desire to make everyone happy.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, hoping it wasn’t too intrusive of a question.
The man sighed and all the anger seemed to seep out of him at his words. He just looked tired now, like he hadn’t gotten enough sleep. “My boss. He’s making me work overtime in some cases that he was supposed to deal with. It's long and tiring, and I have my own work, but I don’t want to get fired.” He smiled sheepishly at Cameron. “Sorry for dumping that on you, I really shouldn’t have.”
“No, it’s okay,” Cameron said, pausing in his coffee making to give the man a comforting smile. “That’s really unfair of him as well.”
“I know,” the man cried, looking thankful someone agreed with him. “I work as a lawyer so all my work is important, but he’s treating me like a servant.” The man sighed. “Nevermind, I can get it done. I’m a good worker and it’s not like I have anything else to do.”
Cameron handed the drinks over and the man gratefully took them. Cameron tried hard not to look at the man in pity, knowing he wouldn’t like it. From what Cameron knew about the man, he knew he wasn’t the type of man to accept help from anyone. His mind automatically began thinking of ways he could manipulate the man into relaxing, then remembered that manipulating people was horrible, and besides, they weren’t even dating.
“Ezra,” the man said happily, looking at the name Cameron chose for him. “I used to love that name. I always thought it was so pretty.”
“You seem like the type of man to be named after an angel,” Cameron replied and the man laughed, a lovely sound in the cafe. There was someone waiting behind the man, but Cameron ignored her.
“It’s a nice name but it’s wrong.”
“Come again tomorrow,” Cameron laughed and the man nodded, his eyes crinkling.
“I certainly will. Both me and Claire love this place. Your coffee is incredible.”
Cameron's face fell at the mention of his girlfriend and he knew the man noticed but no words were exchanged on the matter. “The coffee is for someone special huh?” he said, trying not to say it too sadly.
The man looked confused. “I guess you could call her that,” he said slowly. “Thanks Cameron. Thanks for everything.”
He left the coffee shop once more and Cameron sighed. Outside it started to rain and a headache formed behind Cameron's eyes. The woman behind the man ordered a long complicated order, and Cameron geared himself up for a shitty day.
He got home tired and achy, his bones filled with pain he didn’t think was possible. His two cats, Tulip and Daisy, curled around his legs like they were comforting him. He laughed slightly and walked into his small apartment, getting some food for them. The cats purred and he could feel himself grow happy. His pets always had that effect on him. He scooped some cat food into their dish and the cats eagerly crowded around them. He sighed again; he couldn’t stop thinking about that man. It was like he couldn’t stop at all.
“What am I going to do?” he muttered, collapsing onto his couch. The smell of coffee wafted into the air, filling his lungs. It was like he could never escape his job. “I can’t fall like this. I’m not even sure he’s the one.”
One of the cats mewed and Cameron could almost hear a voice inside his head. Isn’t it worth it for a chance?
“I can’t ruin another person's happiness because of my own selfishness,” Cameron said, thinking of August/Garnet/Ezra and his beautiful eyes. He tried to force himself to think of Claire as well to stop himself from thinking of the man. He pictured a sharp eyed woman with long brown hair and curled fingernails that would scratch his eyes out if he got too close to the man.
“Because it’s not fair,” Cameron said, before laughing bitterly. “Fuck, I’m talking to cats. This is my life now. Jesus Christ.”
The cats just kept eating as Cameron got up, heading into his bedroom. He got into his pyjamas, settling into bed. He was working again tomorrow and he needed all the help he could get.
He used to not believe in love at first sight or in soulmates, and even now he barely did. But he felt something there and even if the man wasn’t the one, Cameron wanted to try. He wanted to try so badly he practically ached. He wanted to hold the man in his arms and be held in return. He wanted to make breakfast in bed for him, and get the same.
Cameron Tucker didn’t not believe in love at first sight. He was starting to believe in love at second glance though.
The man didn’t come on Thursday or Friday. Cameron looked for him, arching his head so he could see even farther out the door, but the man didn’t show. Cameron must have scared him off. That thought hurt a lot more than it should, but Cameron couldn’t blame him. He had come on a little too strong. Those few days passed in a blur. But on Saturday, during the two hours Cameron worked, the man came back.
“Sorry,” the man said apologetically, seeing Cameron's face. “Work caught up to me. I wanted to come, honest. I am so sorry.”
Cameron sighed, then accepted the apology. It may have had something to do with the fact that man wasn’t wearing a suit today, instead a warm looking sweater and jeans. He looked even cuter and Cameron found himself forgiving him easily.
“That’s okay,” Cameron replied. “It was quite boring here without you though. Anyway, same as usual?”
“Actually,” the man said, getting out his wallet to pay. “This is just for me. Surprise me again with whatever you want. You’re really good at making amazing drinks. I trust you.”
“Oh.” Cameron looked confused, but he grabbed one cup and wrote down a name, the first one he could think of. “Your girlfriend doesn’t want one this time?”
The man snorted and Cameron looked at him strangely. “Girlfriend? Where did you get that idea from?”
Cameron put down the cup, furrowing his eyes at the man. He reevaluated every conversation they had, thinking of all the times Claire was brought up. “Y’know,” he said, “Claire?”
The man started laughing, eyes filling with joy and if Cameron wasn’t so confused, he’d be admiring the way they lit up when he was happy. The man kept laughing for a solid minute, and Cameron was grateful the cafe was empty. He would have been accused of disturbing the atmosphere if it wasn’t.
“You thought I was dating Claire?” the man said, wiping his eyes at last and Cameron felt himself grow angry. It was a common enough mistake.
“Am I wrong?”
“Cam,” the man said, laughter still in his voice, and Cameron took note of the nickname. “I’m gay. A fucking homosexual if you will. Claire is my sister. And even if she wasn’t and I was straight, I’d rather eat concrete then date her.”
“Oh,” Cameron said, feeling foolish. “I’m sorry, I thought she was your girlfriend.” Possibilities flew through his head at the man’s confession. The man wasn’t dating someone and he was gay as well. Cameron had a chance. He looked at the cup, still not full of the drink, and crossed out the name Anthony. He took a deep breath, then took a risk, scribbling something else.
“It’s fine,” the man said, waving his hand. “I can’t tell you the amount of times it has happened before. We look too different. Mum had red hair and my dad had blond before they both went grey.”
“Okay,” Cameron said, hands shaking as he put on the lid to the drink. “And here I thought you were dating her.” He handed over the cup, feeling his heart pound in his chest. This was it. This was the big moment Gloria was always telling him to go after.
The man turned the cup, looking for the name. He finally found it and Cameron watched as his eyes scanned the words. They widened slightly and the man blushed again.
“Be mine?” the man said softly, looking at the question Cameron wrote and the number he added as an afterthought. “That’s not a name.”
“It could be,” Cameron pointed out. “Mine. Y’know, it’s a nickname people use for when they’re dating someone.”
“You want to date me?” the man asked, looking confused, pointing at himself. Behind him another man entered, then seemed to sense the tension and walked out. Cameron couldn’t bring himself to care about the lost clientele.
“Yes, I’ve been flirting with you since I first saw you,” Cameron yelled, throwing his hands up in the air. He couldn’t believe the man hadn’t realised that. The man's eyes were large, the brilliant blue of them brighter in the light.
“That was flirting?”
“Oh you’re adorable,” Cameron spat, sounding like a mixture of bitterness and love. “I called you hot for goodness sake.”
“You called the month of August hot,” the man yelled back and Cameron nearly slammed his head on the counter in disappointment. The man was brilliant enough to become a lawyer but not to see the obvious right in front of him.
“And I called you August,” Cameron yelled. “Oh my fucking God, how oblivious are you?”
The man didn’t answer, just leaned across the counter and grabbed Cameron's shirt, tugging him over so he could kiss him. The kiss was long and passionate and Cameron could hear someone enter, then leave when they saw what was happening. He tried to ignore everything else and he kissed the man back until they had to pull away lest they die of oxygen loss.
“I’ve wanted to do that for a while,” the man muttered, looking deep into Camerons dazed look. “Holy shit.”
“And you still didn’t realise when I was flirting with you,” Cameron laughed and the man playfully rolled his eyes. “So does that mean…”
“Yes, I want to date you,” the man said, picking up his drink. His eyes travelled over the words be mine again. “Besides, you’re close enough on the name.”
“Mine. Mitchell. It starts with the same letter,” the man, Mitchell, explained. Cameron laughed, finally happy he got a name to put to the face.
“That name fits you.”
“Well it should,” Mitchell shot back. “It’s my name. And that means I’ve won. You didn’t guess my name properly.”
“You barely gave me time to guess,” Cameron said. A woman cleared her throat from behind Mitchell, clearly impatient. He hadn’t even seen her enter, lost in the euphoria “Looks like you have to move,” Cameron said and Mitchell got out of the way.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Mitchell promised, walking towards the door. “And I’ll text you tonight. I promise.”
Cameron waved goodbye, just like he had done every time Mitchell had entered the cafe, then turned to his glaring customer. “Welcome to Gloria and Co’s coffee shop, what can I get for you today.”
Mitchell entered the coffee shop and Cameron smiled when he saw his boyfriend. He quickly finished up with his customer so Mitchell could come to the counter. They had been dating for the last few weeks, heading on plenty of dates and Cameron was falling hard.
“Hey,” Mitchell smiled, drawing out the word. “And how are you today?”
“I think I’m supposed to ask you that,” Cameron shot back, pursuing his lips so he wouldn’t smile too widely. “The usual for you?”
Cameron set to work making the best drink he could as Mitchell watched, looking so happy to be with him. Gloria watched them, laughing under her breath, but neither man paid attention to her. Cameron handed the drink over and Mitchell went looking for the name right away.
“That still isn’t my name,” Mitchell laughed, holding up the cup where the word “Sweetheart” was clearly written.
“It’s the same thing,” Cameron said, “and besides. It’s no fun if I get it right.”