Cal noticed when I walked into the bakery. He wiped his hand on the black sky of his apron, and a shy smile had spread across his face before the doorbell finished chiming. The smears of flour at his hips made me think of sex.
I decided to sit as far from where he was working as possible to test the tether between us. We’d only been dating five weeks, but I found myself wondering if I could resist his gravitational pull?
I placed my laptop on a table and arranged a few sample books for the Fogerty house. But blueprints and furniture catalogs could not compete with the spectacle of Cal in his natural environment. His biceps flexed as he kneaded dough; his large hands shaped and molded small planets of rye bread. His every action seemed risqué. And he knew I was watching him, too. He checked me with his eyes each time he ducked into the back room. He looped his thumbs around his tied apron strings and did a little tap dance while waiting to ring up customers.
After a half hour of this, he came over to my table and whispered, “You gotta stop watching me, dude.” He beamed; his crooked smile, pale eyes, and five-o-clock shadow reminding me again of some action/adventure star I’d seen somewhere. “I can’t concentrate.”
“Can’t help it. There are too many sweet things in this place.” His blush was a trophy. “All right. I’ll get to work.” Sighing, I plugged my ears with headphones and, as much as it pained me, ignored him.
Eventually, I fell into my work. The next time I looked up, about a half hour later, Cal was at the end of the counter talking to a pony-tailed woman with a thin pink scarf looped around her neck. I had to shift in my chair to see her face: the bridge of her nose rounded from brow to tip and her chin was soft. She looked nothing like Cal, whose face was all hard, straight lines.
Taking my headphones off, I heard her say she couldn’t wait for Saturday, then she shyly took both of his hands and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him. Cal’s eyes shot to me as she did it, giving me the answers to all of my questions.
Without thinking, I stood. “What the hell, Cal?”
One of my notebooks slammed on the floor. Everyone in the room was staring. The woman—still holding one of Cal’s hands—moved behind him. We stood like that for what seemed like forever.
“Cal?” the woman finally said. “Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know. Is something wrong, Will?” There was a warning in his words.
His lack of shame confounded me. Wasn’t he in the wrong here? This was about the time in the relationship when you’d find out you were with a cheater. It’s a risk you took with online dating—the Netflix and Chill guys, the polys—it’s all fine if that’s what you’re into. But that’s not what I was into. I thought I had been clear.
“I thought…” I didn’t want to admit it. “I just thought I was the only one.”
People in the bakery weren’t staring anymore, but all ears were aimed at us.
“You’re gay, Cal?” the woman gawped, and I realized she was younger than I thought.
“Yeah,” Cal said with a shrug. “Cara, this is my boyfriend, Will. Will, this is Cara Wilson, a friend of the family. ”
Embarrassed, I returned her hello and shook her hand. As we talked, Cara mentioned that Cal was catering her wedding for free. I asked about the wedding and the menu, giving Cal praise for his kindness. Anything to smooth this situation over. Within a few minutes, Cara said she had other errands to do. She hugged Cal, whispered something in his ear, and then she was gone.
Cal put a finger up. “Hold on.” He walked in back and returned with a co-worker to replace him at the counter.
“Follow me,” he said to me. Outside, he turned onto a side street before he spoke.
“I guess I’m out to my family now.”
“Shit. I’m sorry. My big mouth.”
“Nah, I was going to do it soon anyway.” He took my face in his hands. “They should meet you.” He kissed me softly, then put his forehead to mine. We closed our eyes.
Doing something new for the fiction|poetry challenge: two required prompts. This week the prompts were the word “baker” and the sentence “We closed our eyes.” Sound fun? Join us! Click the badge above for more info.