disclaimer: 100% disclaimed. no association to the character whatsoever. this is a figment of my imagination
summary/excerpt: when the cup is filled to the brim, he fidgets with the lid. cook would swear the universe is trying to embarrass him to this kid who isn't even looking.
warning: a very cynical cook. no capitalization.
a/n: this was originally posted here but
-- (moods that take me and erase me) and i'm painted black --
cook stands behind the counter of the coffee shop, fingers beating a rhythm on the shinny hard wood counter. the black apron tied behind his back swishes as he taps the sole of his black shoes on the floor.
he looks around the cafe, the yellow light from the low lamps makes the place look warmer than it is, cosier. the paintings on the orange-coated walls splashes colour against the gloom that hangs over people’s fancy-styled hair.
andy emerges from the back door, white polo and black slacks stowed for blue shirt and denim pants. he smiles at cook, hands treading on his tangled hair.
he stands out from the rest of the cafe', so casual and teen and vibrant with pulsing color and beating life. sometimes, cook thinks the kid shouldn't be here, not in this city, not in this time. and it's a good thing that andy is leaving next month, off to live with his girlfriend in a little town seven miles outside the city. he won't have to be jaded.
the erratic hammering of the city screams drain everyone of life here until you're left with bright colours painted across your face, imitating life and failing at it.
"can't help you with closing tonight, have to catch amanda before she gets all mad at me for ditching her again," he says as he pulls on his white jacket and slings the checkered bag on his shoulder.
there is brightness under andy's voice and it makes cook smile at him and let him off. it's not really a big deal it's almost time for him to close the shop anyway. and he likes the silence when he closes the shop.
andy thanks him again and waves in goodbye.
when the glass doors shut, he resumes to his idle tapping on the hard wooden counter.
the radio overhead plays a song about failed attempts and broken love, words in between tabs and chords and mellow voices. he half-listens to the words, letting the murmurs and giggles of the 9 pm customers drown everything out.
the crowd isn't too big, a few teen-agers not old enough to be drinking that much coffee sit at the dark green couch at the far right corner and middle-aged men escaping the crisis of the real world litter among the little round tables across the floor.
it's sad, cook thinks, how people find refuge behind tall glass windows and overpriced coffee. he remembers being a kid of ten, curled in front of the crackling fireplace at his grandmother's home, a hot cup of cocoa in hand. the steady voice of his grandma as she tells him another story still rings clear to his ears. it was his secret hide-out when home was in chaos and his mom's words doesn't make any sense.
then again, he isn't one to complain, doesn't dwell on the absurdity this age has become. maybe the rest of the world doesn't have grandmothers as awesome as his. maybe they don't have grandmothers at all. pity. or maybe, like him, they’ve stayed in the city too long. besides, it's not as if he knows them. the pale lights aren't enough to distinguish the contours of their face or the colours of their eyes. not that cook would want to.
no one wants to be known in the city.
the place empties soon enough, feet dragging on the floor. cook collects their mugs and washes them on the sink behind the backdoor. he doesn't mind leaving the doors open. it's late and no one comes in at this hour. he lets the water run through the rims of the glasses, sponges the rings the coffee left, then rinses them in running water. he leaves them at the shelf above him. andy could stow them away tomorrow.
he goes back to the counter to wipe the non-existent dirt, drawing the feeling of an empty cafe longer. it's just the notes of a jazz song lingering in the air and the sound of his feet walking on the polished floor.
the bell on the door rings, the low tinkling cutting in cooks thoughts. he puts on a small smile as he prepares to tell the customer that they're closed for the night and to come back tomorrow instead.
his smile dwindles into a frown as he peers on the boy who walks in. he's young, his age is pronounced by his physique. but his eyes are cloudy, jaded around the edges. his shoulders are slumped, screaming loudly of exhaustion. the bright yellow color of his jacket and the green of his shirt makes the gray cloud above his head even darker. cook could almost see thunders roaring past. definitely a kid from the city. another soul corrupted by the bright neon lights flashing over roads and buildings.
some odd part of cook thinks he should be nice and talk. the bigger, more sane part of cook dismisses the thought. everyone who passes the doors of the cafe has baggage they don't want to talk about, and honestly, cook doesn't want to know. he isn't some psychiatrist, and he doesn't plan to be one.
when the boy reaches the counter, he flashes cook a ready smile that makes the side of his eyes crinkle and tip of his lips twitch involuntarily. cook tries not to sigh and just smile instead.
"sorry sir but we're actually closed. you could come back tomorrow instead."
as the kid slowly turns around, cook can almost see the death of a bunny on green meadows, blood spilling and tainting the sharp green blades. the shadow that falls on the kids steps are dark.
"but i guess i could make something for you." he doesn't really do this. everyone here is beyond repair but his instincts tell him that he should do something, anything.
when the kid turns around, eyes big and smile wide, cook blinks. the tired lines on the kids face, although not completely gone, have diminished.
"really?" there is a cheer in his tone that makes it impossible to even think of saying no.
cook nods. it feels like an accomplishment of some kind. he's cynical most of the time but somehow, this kid is redefining him in some way. it should scare him, but it doesn't. maybe. maybe, it's not a lost hope after all.
"what do you want?"
the boy fidgets, scanning the list of beverages written on the blackboard mounted on the wall behind the counter. cook looks at him with curiosity. most of the people who walk their doors have a ready order a weird concoction that would satisfy their caffeine-cravings. if not, they'd pretend to have one, brandishing an air of knowing they obviously do not have. but this kid, he looks like a puppy trying to decided between milk and chocolate. for a moment he remembers the kids in his old home, eyes brimming with joy and innocence.
"um-" definitely unusual. "what do you recommend?" his voice is soft, defined but soft. this much short of shy and confident.
cook tries not to roll his eyes or scoff or laugh at the naivety. "i could make you a white chocolate mocha."
"that would be $3.30" the boy hands him just that.
"ok. white chocolate mocha to go coming up."
he turns his back to work on the drink, his eyes glancing at the boy every now and then.
they boy sits at a stool near the counter, his eyes scanning the cafe, head bobbing to the rhythm of the music. the light makes his eyes shine and his skin glow. cook never thought the poor light could make anyone beautiful but apparently it can.
as he was pouring the drink into a disposable cup, he hears a voice melding into the song. when he chances a look, he sees the boy at the stool, eyes closed, head moving with the rhythm, lips mouthing the words. it should be a funny sight but the kid's voice is too precious to laugh at.
when cook turns back to finishing the drink, his face is tinted with a pale pink, eyes a little unsure. he feels a little guilty at watching the boy even though there's nothing really wrong with what he did. nevertheless, he does. it's a personal thing he shouldn't have watched.
he feels a lot guilty for feeling something he shouldn't. his skin feels a little prickly and the beat of his heart erratic. it's a glimpse of life and hope and possibilities in the otherwise stark world he's lived in for so long.
there's a warning of a downfall and proverbial death forming at the back of his throat, some advice to keep this kid from turning into an excuse of a human being. and he almost lets it slip as he looks at the brown liquid swirling in the clear container. almost. but he lets them all slide back to the pit of his stomach. stowed away for good. it’s not his business.
when the cup is filled to the brim, he fidgets with the lid. cook would swear the universe is trying to embarrass him to this kid who isn't even looking.
it takes three seconds and a deep breath held too long to finish it.
cook places it in the counter then clears his throat. the boy immediately stops singing and opens his eyes. he doesn't wait to see if the kid looks at him, he just turns around and starts cleaning up.
it does no good to feel attached to anyone. when he walks out the door, there is a big chance he won't ever come back. cook has learned that early on.
he hears a muffled thanks and light steps on the floor, hears the opening and closing of the tall glass doors.
he sighs, loud, shoulders slumping from trying to be something he's not. what he's trying to be or what he isn't, cook isn't even sure he knows, or want to know.
it has only been a couple of minutes and already that kid has changed something in cook he knows he doesn't want to be changed. he's fine with what he believes in. fine where he stands. no hope for this place. no redemption.
it takes him fifteen minutes to clean everything up, stow the chairs and put his uniform at the metal locker and change into his black shirt, denim pants and gray sneakers.
the cool night breezes through his brown hair when he locks the glass doors from outside. all apprehensions and frustrations from the last thirty minutes goes with the wind. it never does good to dwell on things or people he won't be seeing again.
when cook turns around and takes his first step, he sees the kid he's been frustrating about huddled in a corner, just behind the concrete box housing the lush green tree. his hood covers his head and his profile doesn't show his face but cook would be damned if he won't recognize who it is.
he's half-way between leaving and staying when the kid turns around and stares at him. the flickering light from the lamp post is reflected in his hazel eyes. it feels like forever but the kid opens his mouth and says "oh, i can stay here right?" then cook immediately feels stupid for staring then saying “why?”
the kid blinks at him, blinks, then blinks again. it’s enough time for cook’s brain to function normal again.
“why do you want to stay here? it’s cold.” his voice is a little pitchy. he blames it on a long day of work.
the kid blinks again, shrugs, turns his eyes to his drink nursed between the palms of his hands.
cook sighs. he can leave. really, he can. but he's not that big of a jerk to leave a kid in the cold outside the coffee shop his working at with a probably cold drink nursed between his hands and a deep gray cloud hanging over his head. cook's cynical but he's a nice-enough guy to sit down on the concrete box, a feet away from the boy. his grandmother taught him well. and even though he’s changed since then, some things stick.
“your girlfriend broke up with you?” he thinks it’s a logical question. Personally, he’d rather blast music and drown in beer if someone was ever to break his heart (really break it. into tiny microscopic pieces) but who knows if wearing a yellow jacket while nursing a cup of warm drink outside a coffee shop in the middle of the night passes as coping mechanism for a broken-heart nowadays.
ok. cook doesn’t really knows what to say after that. He remembers being a teen-ager, mulling over the loss of a girl he can’t even remember the name of. It’s one of those things you think are important but turns out to be another no-not-really. “ok. so what’s your problem?”
the kid looks into the empty parking lot, a crumpled paper tumbles on and on.
"i'm david. david archuleta."
cook looks at the kid. tries to think of something wrong with being one david archuleta. finds none.
"i'm david too. david cook. just call me cook."
the kid - david, looks at him. blinks. giggles. cook has half the heart to tell david never to giggle. it's not healthy for a cynic.
cook doesn't really get it and he doesn't like that, feeling as if there's something you ought to know but doesn't.
but david stops giggling. it's so abrupt cook is sure there's zero seconds between the giggling and the straight face this kid just pulled off.
david looks at him, all hazel and brown and black. for a split-second, cook sees an old soul lurking beneath the colors, but then there’s a resigned tiredness that replaces it.
“I won american idol.”
and somehow, it makes perfect sense. even the yellow jacket.
“it’s that hard huh?”
there's nothing like the screams and the daunting of a million people to make someone a little insane.
cook doesn't watch the american idol, heck he doesn't even watch reality shows. it's never reality they're showing. it's a make-shift life thrust on people with dreams. putting them on the stove and letting everything melt into what everyone considers entertaining. cook can't fathom how getting your faith tested every week and trying to remain calm in a sea of roaring people is ever entertaining.
"no. not really. i love performing and music and the fans. but it gets tiring sometimes. that's all."
and he knows it's true. how this kid loves music. he loves music too. once, a long time ago. he used to love to sing in front of people, hearing them tell of being inspired or being moved or just being happy. but it gets too much at one point. everyone wants to hear you, see you. there's no room to be alone and think and just... there's no room anymore.
cook doesn't say anything. he doesn't think he could actually say anything sensible or remotely related to what david just said.
cook closes his eyes and sings.
hey jude, don’t make it bad.
take a sad song and make it better.
remember to let her into your heart,
then you can start to make it better.
he isn't going to understand why or explain why but it's there and it's music and it's always been something that can tell what words can't get across.
hey jude, don’t be afraid.
you were made to go out and get her.
the minute you let her under your skin,
then you begin to make it better.
he really isn't sure why, but in his haywire brain, it made sense.
the soft fabric of david's yellow jacket brushes against his arms when he leans on the tree and starts singing with him.
and anytime you feel the pain, hey jude,
don't carry the world upon your shoulders.
for well you know that its a fool who plays it cool
by making his world a little colder.
he's sure they've messed up a lot of the lyrics and they missed a few notes but it's still amazing how their voices blend. it's quite, like soft whispering in the dark. it's all sorts of cliché and mushy as hell but still gives him that warm bubbling feeling in his stomach.
it's not normal but it's good enough that cook doesn't care.
when the song ends and only silence lingers in the air, he realizes it's kind of awkward and a little out of place. it makes cook uncomfortable and wheezy.
"how did the telephone get married?" he isn't sure where it came from, isn't even going to think why he blurted the words out.
david blinks. cook can almost hear the wheels of the kid's moving.
"i don't know."
"in a double ring ceremony." and then he laughs. it's probably the lamest joke there is but once, a long time ago, jokes made things better if only for a fraction of the mile. cook was easy like that.
apparently, so is the kid.
their laughter cuts to the awkward tension that settled on them. cook can't remember the last time he's laughed like this, like someone who actually appreciates the ringing in his ears, not caring if the rest of the world laughs with him or at him.
three seconds. cook smiles a knowing smile at david. david's still smiling, his lips stretched too wide, white teeth peeking underneath.
"that's more like it."
cook's smile widens.
"you should smile like that more."
"oh." and there's pink tinting his cheeks and the tip of his ear.
cook finds it foreign and a little endearing but doesn't say anything, just hums another song and closes his eyes. david hums along with him.
somehow, an hour passes along. cook isn't sure how. but when he opens his eyes, there are golden specks on the horizon, orange cushioned in between.
"um-" david fidgets in his seat. staring at the empty cup in his hands. "are you going home?"
cook smiles. he's smiling more than the last three years combined. "yup. we are going home." he looks out to the brightening sky. a new day
"it's near morning. you need to sleep. i need to sleep. you said you were tired. In my book, a sleep does wonders for someone tired."
they stand up and walk along the empty parking lot, throwing the empty cup at the green garbage can along the way.
"thank you." david doesn't say about what exactly. and he really doesn't have to.
"it's no problem." cook doesn't tell him how his dog would probably throw a fit. "it was nice." it's the most fun he's had in years.
they lapse into comfortable silence. one that years of friendship builds. cook would think and analyze it but his logic has failed him too many times tonight. logic doesn't work with david, or him when he's with david.
their steps are light, the silhouettes on the ground faint. the buzzing of early life fills the in-between.
when they get to the end of the curb, cook stops and looks at david. "you should get a cab." david nods.
they stand there, stand side by side, watching the city wake from its slumber.
three minutes. a yellow cab stops in front of them. it's as yellow as david's jacket.
the door opens, cool air rushing out. cook thinks he should say something. anything. people are supposed to say something right?
david's half-way between getting in and staying where he's at when he turns around and looks at cook, bites his lips and says, "i can come back again right?"
cook blinks. he's still thinking of something, anything to say that the words don't register as fast as it should. so, he goes with an intelligent "huh?"
"I promise to come earlier." it's hurried. almost an assurance of some kind.
"of course." he hears a faint laugh taunting out of his lips, rumbling at the prospect of seeing david again. cook won't even argue with his brain anymore. "anytime."
david's inside when cook actually thinks of something to say. he bends down and taps lightly on the tinted window. the glass rolls down and david looks at him, "take care of yourself."
take care not to lose your mind or your smile or your innocence. take a rest and don't let the rest of the world drain you. cook would have added but he knows david understands.
"i will. take care of yourself too."
cook's not sure if it's just out of courtesy or if david can really tell he's on this verge of death. maybe both. he'll take care any way.
he straightens up, smiles and waves as the tinted windows roll up and the engine start to churn. cook watches the yellow taxi until it gets lost among the multi-coloured cars of the city, covered by the shadow of the tall buildings. 'till we meet again. he walks the other way.
i. apparently, i didn’t post the complete fic at the fic train. (obviously, i fail at comment fics) i didn’t paste the entire content of my notepad. and I accidentally closed the window without saving. (I fail.) so, i had to write bits and pieces again from what I can remember, which isn’t much. (excuse me as I go and hang myself)
ii. i didn’t plan for cook to be cynical. but it went out like that. also, it was supposed to be a drabble thing-y but it turned out longer. i’m not even going to explain that one. i have no words for it.
iii. disclaimed: title is from glen hansard’s falling slowly. Song in the fic is hey jude by the beatles
iv. half of the fic is random and utterly meaningless which i don’t understand. i’m kind of crazy and weird.
v. but thanks for reading. both the story and the notes. ahahahaha