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Next In Line

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Barry stopped to hold the door open on his way into CC Jitters, offering the woman walking out an automatic, sleepy smile. It was another early Friday for him, into work at nine instead of ten as usual, and he didn’t care what anyone said: if you got used to getting up at a certain time, getting up an hour earlier was way too frickin’ early. It didn’t matter if it was seven in the morning or one in the afternoon.

He stepped inside and let the door close behind him, breathing a small sigh of relief as the warmth of the close little shop enveloped him, chasing away the November chill of the air outside. The line in front of him was long, so he pulled out his phone and earbuds, pulled up a playlist, and settled in for the wait.

By the time he was close to the front of the line, Barry was bouncing impatiently on the balls of his feet and glancing nervously at the clock. He was going to be late for work if this took much longer, and his manager hated it when they turned the phones on late.

“Next in line,” said an oddly familiar voice, tinged with a slight note of impatience. Barry looked up to find that he was next, and the guy behind the counter was staring at him expectantly, one eyebrow raised.

Barry was struck silent for a beat too long, staring uncomprehending at the face before him. All he could think was blue. The man had eyes like live wires, spark-blue and growing markedly less amiable with every second that passed in which Barry said nothing.

“Can I get you something?” He asked finally, obviously annoyed. Barry snapped out of his momentary stupor. Had he met this guy before? He didn’t think so. He was pretty sure he would remember if he had.

“Uhh,” he said intelligently. “Can I just get a large cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso, no sugar?”

“Sure,” the guy drawled, managing to pack an astonishing amount of condescension into a single, one-syllable word. “That’ll be four dollars even. Name on the cup?”

“Barry,” he said absently, still stuck on the mystery of the man’s voice. He missed the fleeting expression of surprised recognition on the barista’s face when he heard Barry’s name.

“Coming right up,” he said, handing Barry his receipt with an oddly knowing smile.

“Thanks?” He said uncertainly. He moved down to the pick-up counter and turned his attention back to his phone, brow furrowed, still trying to remember where he’d heard this guy’s voice before.

His notification for his work email pinged. He checked the time and groaned. He only had five minutes to get there, and emails were already pouring in.

Looks like it’s gonna be another one of those days.

“Cappuccino for Barry,” the guy said, and Barry froze at the sound of his name.

He looked up. Blue Eyes was holding out his drink with a crooked smile. Barry took it, swallowing down the words he wanted to blurt out. He knew exactly where he’d heard that voice before. You’re the asshole who called me just before closing two nights in a row!

“Uh, thanks,” he said instead, then turned and practically ran for the door.

Behind him, he faintly heard the man’s voice:

“Next in line.”