Cupcake Kissin’ 14 – Alex Ankarr
‘I’m so sorry,’ Langot responds, but it’s more to Caspar than to Sandy. And Caspar has calmed a little bit, and when Langot adds, ‘Was it, uh, sudden?’ he can smile about it.
He’s cheerful, as he takes the cake-slice and identifies – what was it, that Sandy had said? She nudges him with one elbow to correct his aim, and yes, that’s it, the ones Sandy has just had to bring in from the back-room bakery to augment their glaring absence of trayed and displayed stock. The dark-chocolate caramel muffins, topped with toffee frosting, lush with chocolate sprinkles. ‘Just the one?’ he asks, with a tip of the head to Langot, and gets a confirmatory nod. ‘Oh,’ he says, and busies himself with boxing and packaging, ‘it was just exactly how she would have wanted it, really. Wasn’t it, Sandy?’ The whole bakery know how Gertie went, now. He smiles at Langot. ‘She was out on a date with a younger man – Sid Gemmell, a spry seventy-two. They had an evening of dancing, took in a show, got a little tipsy, according to their usual waiter at Gertie’s favourite Italian. He took her home, kissed her on the doorstep-‘
‘Sid is a perfect gentleman,’ Sandy interjects, looking a little misty-eyed.
Caspar snorts a little at that, and it gets a raised eyebrow out of Langot. ‘If he really is, then that won’t have constituted quite the perfect evening, not for old Gertie. But apparently close enough, by all accounts. Macchiato, is it, sir?’ There’s no point not getting on promptly with an order, he thinks, a little bit prim perhaps. It sets a good example to Sandy, who is entirely too keen on a good old gossip with customers – for all her lecturing of him on that and multiple other subjects – and less keen on the spirit of customer service than on paying lip-service to its importance.
He’s turning into a real little old business owner, positively professional. It’s a little bit unnerving. He finishes off the frothing on the macchiato and turns back to the counter, smiles at Langot. Who is watching him rather closely, and not smiling. Inscrutable, Caspar would classify that look as. Setting the cup on the counter, he says carefully, feeling his eyes not perfectly dry – even now – ‘So, it looks like he dropped her off at her place, she went indoors, poured a nightcap – pretty strong, the paramedic said – and went to bed. Died in her sleep, heart failure. Much missed by all, very much missed.’ He coughs, and looks down at his feet as he brushes at his face, the best cover he can manage.
‘Very much missed,’ Sandy echoes, and sounds genuinely sad. ‘But even now she’s gone, she’s still managing to cause havoc, isn’t that right, Caspar?’ And she turns to give him a grin.
‘For me at least,’ Caspar confirms. ‘That’s five dollars forty, Mr Langot, thank you.’ Langot hands over the bills, and Caspar gives him his change as he shoulders coffee and muffin both.
‘I guess by that you mean leaving you this beautiful bakery?’ Langot drawls, looking a bit amused. ‘That doesn’t seem like any kind of trouble to me. Is that right, the place is yours now? That’s a sweet thing for your aunt to do for you.’
And Caspar puts his hands on his hips, and nods at Sandy. ‘You don’t know what I have to put up with. I never knew trouble until I knew the staff of the Honey Gummy Gertie Bakery, isn’t that right, Sandy?’
He gets a swat with a serving slice for his pains, and ducks, and they wind up in a little faux-spat, both giggling.
Langot’s still watching, when they’ve sobered up a bit and calmed down, turned back to him, emotion and horseplay done with. Professional, Caspar thinks. Professional behaviour must be maintained at the Honey Gummy Gertie Bakery at all times! Langot’s bought his cake, and his macchiato, and he’s technically done. There’s no reason for him to hang around, to lean up on the counter and smile at Caspar.
He’s doing it anyway, though. Takes a sip of too-hot coffee, and winces a little bit, very beautifully. ‘You don’t like cake?’ he asks Caspar. Caspar can feel, even though she’s to the side and a little behind him, the sudden raise of Sandy’s eyebrows, the way she edges just a trifle further back. Either to get out of his light, or to get a better view of the proceedings.
Well, new developments are always interesting, Caspar thinks. He feels the slightly flirtatious twist to his lips as he replies, the flutter-and-return of eye contact. ‘Oh, I’m sweet enough,’ he manages. ‘What about you?’ he asks, turning it around, leaning in himself. He’s pretty proud of himself, right this minute. Is he seriously, genuinely, definitely pulling, then? Here, in the bakery, in his pink pinny? With tissue-thin plastic gloves on his hygienic hands? With his hairnet on? ‘Do you like cake? I guess you must, if you’re such a regular you knew my auntie by name. Do you like this bakery, so very much? With your own special order, and everything?’ He gives it his best, special smile – the one with the glancing gaze, and his lids down, lashes in full effect.
If Langot could get any closer, over the distance of the counter, then he would be closer. And his eye-contact is unwavering, steady. ‘Yeah, I have a sweet tooth. I like cake, and other sweet things.’
Caspar isn’t sure if that’s a bit of blatant flirtation, or just pure teasing, but he’s pretty much charmed anyway. When Langot’s out of the door – with one last grin, and taking a big chomping first pass at the cake in his hand – he’s stood there with his chin in his hand on the counter, and sighing and smiling into space like a complete idiot.
© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014
No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.
Photo credit: duncan johnston under Creative Commons licence modified for book cover use.