It was nearly the end of Kyle’s shift and he was bored out of his mind. The place had been pretty dead all day, and he found himself torn between the unexplainable impulse to tidy it up and make it more presentable and a tempting excuse to just lazy around the shop.
No customers strictly meant he wasn’t expected to do anything. On second thought, a few weeks ago Kyle had had a very confusing talk with his boss on the subject of where the cleaning person’s duties ended and his began.
It was a funny feeling to work in a fancy jewelry shop, to be surrounded all day long by items he could never afford. The crowd wasn’t particularly interesting either: men, nervous and low-key annoyed by the task, picking out engagement rings for their significant others, couples looking for wedding rings, who in ninety percent of the cases ended up arguing through it with Kyle as an unwilling witness / an even more unwilling participant. There were quite a few interesting characters too, but that was rare and not always pleasant either.
Kyle was already starting to plan his evening (an exciting scenario involving the telly and a sofa) when a figure pacing outside the shop window caught his eye. Shoulders slouched, the hood of his grey sweatshirt barely covering the mop of wild hair, the man was marching up and down alongside the store front, pulling out his phone, checking something, putting it back into his pocket, then reaching for the shop’s front door, pulling it slightly ajar, letting it close and repeating the previous pattern.
For a few minutes Kyle watched he scene unfold, amused, but then his curiosity got the best of him and he decided to make his presence known. He approached the frond door cautiously, as if afraid to spook a shy bird. The door being transparent, offered Kyle a better look at the stranger: he had clear blue eyes that darted to the ground the moment someone walked by, his hoodie was partially unzipped and revealed a t-shirt with a weird print underneath it, he had a calculator watch on his left wrist that added a somewhat nostalgic touch to the mostly generic attire of the twenty-something.
While Kyle was busy with his observations, the young man attempted to enter the shop again and hovered awkwardly in the doorway, clearly unprepared to find someone looking straight at him. Kyle cleared his throat. ’Hey! Can I help you?’ The blue-eyed man hesitated and looked to the floor, his hand remained firmly clasped around the door handle.
‘Can’t decide whether you’re going in or out? You’re giving off major cat vibes, man, let me tell ya…’
‘Sorry, I…’ Kyle’s new acquaintance trailed off.
‘’S ok. I love cats,’ Kyle smiled reassuringly. ‘I’m Kyle. Come on in. How can I be of service?’
‘I’m Dan… I’m…’ the man, Dan wiped his hands on his trousers and steadied himself. ‘Wedding rings. I’m here for the wedding rings.’
Kyle’s face fell but he quickly masked it with a false smile. ‘Why are all the cute ones always taken?’ He thought.
‘Great. Do you have anything specific in mind or do I just show you some options that we have?’ Kyle prompted.
‘No, I… I don’t know anything about it. Less than nothing, if I’m honest. Never worn a ring in my life…’ Dan studied Kyle’s hands. ‘You, on the other hand, are clearly an expert,’ he smiled shyly.
‘Well, you’ve come to the right place!’ Kyle clapped his hands, still wearing his best service industry fake smile. He returned to his place behind the counter and started putting display trays on top of it. ’Okey, here’s some classical options, these ones have diamonds, some wacky modern ones, if you’re into it, or these with Celtic designs, they’ve been quite popular lately…’ Kyle looked up and trailed off. Dan’s face lost almost all its color and he was banging his fingers on the glass of the counter in a syncopated rhythm pattern.
‘You alright there?’
‘What? Yeah, fine… it’s just a bit much…’
Kyle had dealt with a lot of panicky grooms in his line of work, so he decided to try a brief change of subject.
‘So… do you play?’ He motioned with his head to Dan’s hand, still drumming on the glass.
‘What?’ The blue eyed man looked confused but then the realization of what he was doing dawned on him. ‘Oh, that, yeah… I play the piano. And I sing. Or at least I’m trying to…’ he looked away.
‘Me too!’ Kyle smiled, genuinely this time. ‘I play the keys, I mean… Quite badly, if I’m honest. Not that I had many reviews, can’t really play in front of people, I get too nervous and inevitably fuck it up.’
‘Yeah, I get that. I did, or was rather forced by my mates to do a few open mic things back in Leeds. Didn’t go that well…’
‘You’re from Leeds?’ Kyle enquired.
‘No. Londoner, born and bred. I went to uni there.’
‘Me too!’ Kyle said for the second time around. He was strangely excited by the conversation and the fascinating stranger stood before him. “I was at the Met. You studied music?’
Dan shook his head. ‘I was an English major. I wanted to do journalism for a while, I guess but I realized it was too much work,’ he chuckled. ‘I’m too lazy for that.’
‘What do you do then?’
‘A few odd jobs here and there, nothing serious. I’m probably just stalling, if I’m honest. Don’t wanna settle for something when it doesn’t feel right…’ Dan shuffled his feet. ‘A little like I’m doing now with this ring situation.’
‘Right, the rings,’ Kyle almost forgot that he wasn’t on a date but rather trying to sell wedding rings to his date. ‘Pathetic,’ he thought, ‘just get a grip.’
‘So… will your fiancée be joining you? It might get tricky with the sizing otherwise.’ Kyle continued out loud.
‘My what?’ Dan looked taken aback but quickly recovered. ‘Oh, I’m not the one getting married…’
‘You’re not?’ Now it was Kyle’s turn to be confused.
Dan’s shoulders relaxed a little. ‘No, it’s my friend, she’s getting hitched. Her boyfriend, fiancé, whatever is out of town on a business trip or something so she asked me to come along to keep her company. She texted she’s running late so…’
Kyle couldn’t help but laugh. ‘Your friend asked you to be her stand-in fiancé and didn’t even bother showing up herself?’
‘It’s not like that…’ Dan protested. ‘Actually, you know what? It’s exactly like that,’ he smiled.
So Dan wasn’t getting married. Which in all fairness, hardly proved that he was single. Or available. Or interested. ‘How do people do this shit? A fucking nerve-wrecking rollercoaster,’ Kyle thought, ‘why can’t everyone just wear relationship status badges like those thingies in public lavatories or at a doctor’s office…’
‘So you’re not getting married, you’re…’
‘Starting a band!’ Dan jumped in, as if it were an ‘either/or’ situation. ‘We’ve got a drummer and a bass player and, well, me…’ he shrugged apologetically. ’We’re not very good if I’m honest but a have all those ideas…’
‘What kind of music do you play?’ Kyle asked, silently praying, ‘please don’t say heavy metal.’
Dan bit his lower lip, brows furrowed in concentration. Now Kyle wanted to bite that lip…
‘You see I don’t really believe in the notion of genre… and I don’t mean to sound like a pretentious prick, I just think music is so much more that that! If we just allow ourselves to see past the artificial boundaries for a second… And I’m such a massive film geek, hope it’s not off-putting or anything, but I’d like to see our music working as a bridge between these two worlds, you know? So I want it to sound really cinematic but still raw and organic at the same time, if it makes sense… am I still talking?’ Dan suddenly looked embarrassed.
‘Sounds like something people would wanna hear,’ Kyle offered encouragingly.
‘I don’t know… do you maybe want to…’
‘Come see you play?’ Kyle finished for him. ‘I’d love to.’
Not what Dan wanted to ask. But he could do it later, if he got the chance…
‘Okey, we’re playing a gig this Sunday… and when I say ‘a gig’ I actually mean a shitty old pub with us three and a crowd of six people max including the owner, if we’re lucky…’
Kyle shook his head. He found Dan’s self-deprecating demeanor impossibly cute for some reason…
‘Now seven. Seven people in the audience,’ Kyle smiled, ‘Actually since your friend isn’t coming and everything… my shift is about to end, how about I close up and we go grab something to eat and you tell me more about your music and other things if you like… sounds good?’
Dan beamed back at him. “Sounds wicked!”
‘Come on!’ Dan extended his hand, palm up. ‘Just hand them over.’
Kyle shook his head and sighed. ‘I’m telling you, they won’t fit!’
‘Yeah? Just watch me,’ Dan grabbed the rings from Kyle and a moment later shoved his right hand in a ‘thumbs up’ gesture, his thumb proudly sporting a silver band, straight into Kyle’s face.
‘A cheeky bastard,’ Kyle thought, affectionately. ’Okey, what about the rest?’ He said.
‘Easy…’ Dan tried one ring, then another, but they treacherously refused to go past his middle phalanges. He ended up piling them all on his left hand, driving each ring as far as it would go, which wasn’t much. He showed the results of his work to Kyle, obviously proud of himself.
A high pitched laugh escaped Kyle’s mouth, ‘you look ridiculous!’
‘I disagree. I think this will do just fine. It’s not like we’re Oscar contenders for the best short film. So yeah, it’ll do.’
‘Whatever you say,’ Kyle chuckled.
‘Now give me your t-shirt…’
Kyle lifted his eyebrows. ‘Like right now?’ Dan nodded. ‘If this whole thing was just an excuse to have me undress, all you had to do was ask, babe.’
Dan made a face. ‘Fuck you,’ he took the t-shirt with a kittens print from Kyle and pulled it over his own.
‘Maybe later. So you’re ready for your close-up now?’ He eyed Dan up and down, as he was completing his ‘Kyle transformation’. They were making a series of short videos for their YouTube channel. The idea was to help the audience get to know each band member a little better. So they decided to toss a metaphorical coin and decide who’s gonna play who. Because of course they did. And Dan got Kyle. Life imitates art or whatever. And from the looks of it, he went full method.
Once Tom, their filmmaker friend yelled ‘action’ all Kyle could do was stare. It was almost scary to watch Dan acting more like Kyle than Kyle himself did.
Then Kyle’s eyes traveled to the rings on Dan’s fingers. Despite the ridiculousness caused by the wrong size, he liked the sight of it. He liked it a lot. He swiftly snapped out of it though and decided to stow the idea away. But not very far…
‘How did I do?’ Dan ran towards him when they were finished. He was wearing an anxious look on his face and bitting his lower lip. ‘Too much, isn’t it?’
‘Nah,’ Kyle put his arms on Dan’s shouldered and pulled the shorter man into a hug. ‘You captured the character perfectly, if I dare say so myself.’
Dan pulled away and looked up shyly. ‘Hey… wanna join my band?’ This almost recreated the fluttering feeling in Kyle’s stomach from the first time Dan asked him the question a few years back. And the next five times he did.
Kyle broke into a grin. ‘Always.’