A/N: Cheese, cheese, cheese. Mozzarella anyone?
My Meaningless Existence at a Frozen Yogurt Shop
It was any other day at the frozen yogurt shop.
It was a meaningless, simple existence. I worked at the yogurt shop every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after my junior classes at the university. I served sweetly tart, yet overpriced yogurt that came in colorful flavors. I sprinkled fresh, delicious toppings and I argued with my coworker about the fact we couldn't play his Death Metal music on the speakers because we couldn't have songs like Maze of Torment and Lord of All Fevers and Plague playing in a friggin' frozen yogurt shop.
It was just past three in the afternoon on that fateful Friday. I was wiping the counter for the nth time in boredom when he came in.
By he, I mean, perfection in human form. Pygmalion would have ditched Galatea and gone gay for him - if he wasn't already. You could never know with those ancient Greeks. Michelangelo would have looked at David and thought, 'What was I smoking last night?' That was all the references I had since that was all I paid attention to during my sophomore History class. Basically – gosh damn, he was hot.
He had a small smile on his face as his warm hazel eyes looked around our colorful frozen yogurt shop. He was wearing his university jacket, and beneath the school emblem I read, 'Track & Field'. I instantly noticed from the school emblem that he was studying at my university's bitter rival – but I was more than ready to wave a flag and defect at the sight of him.
I wanted to run my hand through his thick, brown hair. I wanted to feel what those cheekbones felt underneath my thumbs and I wanted to see those light scatter of freckles on the bridge of his nose up close.
I wanted to do a lot of things to him, and I subsequently wanted him to do a lot of things to me, many that I couldn't possibly dare to say aloud, but the only thing I ended up doing was letting out a high squeak right before I ducked behind the counter. I pulled my knees close to my chest as I looked around for my coworker. Where was he?
"Melvin!" I hissed. He was a few feet away from me, refilling the cup of blueberry toppings as he hummed some demonic tune he liked. Oh wait, never mind, it sounded vaguely like the Barney theme song.
Melvin studied in the same university I did, but he was a freshman, so by default, he was idiotic and below me.
He still wasn't paying attention to me, so I pulled one of my sneakers off my foot and chucked it at him. It hit him just below the knee. "Melvin!"
"What?" he finally hissed back, turning his head back to look at me, still holding the jar of blueberries and the teaspoon in his other hand.
For a while we just glared at each other in vehement silence, before I jerked a thumb over my shoulder. I motioned to the counter. "Take the order!"
"It's your turn at the counter – "
"I'm not – "
He twisted the lid back onto the jar and set the teaspoon down before heading to the counter, making sure to kick my shoe farther away from my reach on his way there. He stopped right beside me and he cleared his throat before saying, "Hey, good morning! Welcome to Pink Mango. What'll you be having?"
The guy paused for a second. "Hmm… Can I have… a medium sized, plain yogurt?"
Oh, what a voice.
"Sure," Melvin said, automatically taking one medium sized cup from the stack. "What toppings would you like?"
"Hmmm…" the guy mused, and because I was hiding behind the counter, I unfortunately couldn't see what he was doing. I pictured him leaning over the glass box that displayed the row of toppings, his dark eyebrows crinkled in thought, with a slightly embarrassed smile on his face. I heard him chuckle and my skin tingled. "To be honest, this is my first time here, so I'm not quite sure."
I sighed. How honest of him to admit that. You can be the toppings on my yogurt any day, I thought, in that completely not-sexual-but-kinda way paired with a coy growl.
My raunchy little thought bubble burst when I felt the back of Melvin's sneaker jab my side. My hand shot up to cover my mouth when it hit me – I had actually said it out loud.
Oh, dear God.
Fortunately, there were times when Melvin was not-so-idiotic, so he quickly tried to cover up for me by clearing his throat and forcing an easy laugh. "Oh, uh, what was that? I think a bird hit the window - oh, what was I saying? Oh, don't worry about it – choose anything you like."
I waited for the guy to respond, but he took a while to answer. I spread my arms out and pressed myself as flat as I could against the counter. Oh, dear Lord. He heard me. He heard me. Oh, God. He heard me. Any moment he was going to set his hands on the counter and look down and –
"I'll have… a scoop of blackberry, banana, and almonds."
I nearly slumped against the counter in relief when I realized he'd see my legs if I did, so I kept my knees pressed against me. I kept still as Melvin finished his order, got his money, gave him his change, and only got up when I heard him leave. Slowly, I rose from my hiding spot and set my hands on the edge of the counter, peeking just above it to make sure he wasn't there anymore. Unfortunately, there was a kid standing right in front of me, ready to take his order, but I shooed him away in the hopes I could still see the guy's retreating back. But no, he was gone. Stupid kid.
I looked up at Melvin. "I know. I was just checking."
He rolled his eyes at me, and any other time I would have rolled my eyes back at him, and he would have said something snarky, and I would have said something snarky back – but it wasn't any other time.
That day was when I first met – or, well, saw – Mr. PYBBA.
Mr. Plain-Yogurt-Blackberry-Banana-Almonds. (Now officially the hottest combination ever.)
And it was on that day that I began my downward spiral of meaningless sex, alcoholism, violence, and… okay, not really. But it felt close to something like that.
Since I am quite the observant person (and borderline obsessive to the point I should be in my own Girl, Interrupted, Melvin said, but don't mind him, remember, he's idiotic and below me), it didn't take long for me to figure out Mr. PYBBA's schedule. He would come to our shop every Friday at around three, order a medium sized plain yogurt with blackberry, banana, and almond toppings, drop his change into our Red Cross donation box, then leave.
He always ordered it to go, but I really hoped that he'd have his yogurt in the shop just so I could see the way he ate it. I'm a good girl. It's not that I get turned on at the sight of people inserting things into their mouth – REALLY. I DON'T. – it's more like I wanted to see… bits of his personality, I guess. There wasn't much I could see or know about him when I was hiding behind a counter whenever he dropped by, right?
Did he mix the yogurt and the toppings together before eating? Or did he take bits of the toppings one at a time? Did he take huge spoonfuls and stuff it in his mouth? Did he eat his yogurt slowly and suck the tip of the plastic spoon to savor every bit of the tangy tart taste?
Knowing his pattern, it didn't take long for me to adjust my own. I would get to the shop at one after my classes like usual, I'd take orders, I'd clean up the tables, I'd make funny faces at kids whenever they were looking over their parents' shoulders, but at exactly 2:58, I'd duck behind a counter as Melvin got Mr. PYBBA's order.
On a particular Friday, I was leaning against the counter as I did my accounting homework. My head was propped up against my hand and I was so engrossed in my cash flow statements that I didn't realize the time.
"It's 2:59," Melvin said beside me.
I looked up at the clock and eyes instantly flicked to the door as I heard the chimes above it ring. I grabbed my notebook and my calculator and I fled to the storeroom where they kept all the toppings and the yogurt machine. I pressed my back against the wall and closed my eyes as I heard the front door close. That was close.
I turned around and it dawned on me that I wasn't leaning on a wall, but on a tinted window. I could see everything from the outside, but someone from the outside would just see a dark pane of glass.
In other words… a light bulb practically lit up on top of my head.
Mr. PYBBA opened the door for a woman and her daughter – what a guy! – and on his way to the counter, his hazel eyes turned directly toward me.
I froze. "Holy – "
Fortunately, my reflexes kicked in and I ducked, my breathing fast, my heart racing wildly. I closed my hand into a fist and beat it against my chest, hoping to calm my heart from exploding.
It was a tinted window. What was I thinking?
I told myself to relax. It wasn't like he saw me. It was just a coincidence. He was probably just glancing at his reflection on the window. Hey, if I was as half as good looking as he was, I would too.
I stayed where I was and tried to regain control of my breathing. I picked off a yellow banana from its bundle and I was starting to peel it when Mr. PYBBA spoke.
"Are you the only one working during this shift?" he asked Melvin.
My hand froze in its place, my fingers still holding onto the tip of the banana peel. Why was he asking? I took a bite of the banana and gulped it down.
He didn't see you, he didn't see you.
Slowly, I turned around and got back to my feet so I could watch what was happening.
"What?" Melvin asked. He quickly glanced my way.
He paused for a bit…
A little bit longer…
I wanted to chuck the banana at him, but I knew it would compromise my position.
Melvin turned back to Mr. PYBBA and shook his head. "No. It just looks like I'm the only one, but there's actually two of us on this shift."
"Oh," Mr. PYBBA said, nodding slowly as he looked around. He chuckled. "I only really see you, so I thought they were cost-cutting or something."
Melvin laughed some more because it was so very funny. "No, no. My co-worker is just extremely lazy. She smokes hashish in the backroom nearly eighty percent of the time."
That was it. Melvin was definitely going to get a banana to the face when I got out of the storeroom.
Luckily, Mr. PYBBA was smart enough not to believe the words of the idiotic freshman. He laughed though, not long and artificial, but more of a genuine chuckle, and I really wished at that point that I could just shove Melvin away and pretend that Mr. PYBBA was laughing at something I had just said.
He ordered his usual order, but before paying he paused as he pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket. "Oh, I'll just get this," he said, smiling as he stepped away from the counter.
Since he had his back to the counter and was out of hearing distance, I poked my head from the store room door. "Psst. Melvin."
He turned around just as he was about to sprinkle the toppings on the yogurt cup. "What now?"
I quickly motioned for him to come over. "Come here."
"Why – "
"What if I don't want - "
He rolled his eyes at me in the 'you're-a-sad-excuse-of-a-human-being' kind of way and walked toward the store room. I yanked him inside and grabbed the yogurt cup from his hand.
"What are you doing now?"
"I'm putting the toppings," I muttered. I pulled a fresh banana from its bundle and sliced it. I opened the refrigerator where they kept the fresh fruits and pulled out some blackberries. I opened the jar of almond slices. I sprinkled each ingredient into the yogurt cup, ignoring the way Melvin was raising his eyebrow at me.
"You're adding more than the assigned amount."
"I know that."
"They're gonna take that out of your salary – "
"Thanks for stating the obvious, Melvin."
He sighed loudly and turned his head to look out the tinted window. "Hurry up. He's already there."
I turned my head and looked over my shoulder just as I was sprinkling the last bits of almonds. Mr. PYBBA was leaning forward, looking side to side to find out where Melvin was. Oh man, that confused look on his face was adorable. I wiped my hands on my apron and handed the yogurt cup back to Melvin. "There."
He rolled his eyes at me once more before leaving the store room. When he moved back to the counter, he managed to place a smile on his face. "Sorry about that. I just got fresher ingredients."
"Oh, no problem," Mr. PYBBA said. He handed Melvin his money and when Melvin handed him his order, I noticed the way his hazel eyes widened just a bit. Butterflies bloomed in my stomach just by watching the little ways he reacted to things. "Wow, this is more than usual!"
"Yeah, err," Melvin said, his eyes glancing toward me for a split second. "We accidentally ordered a bit too much fruit. We need to use a lot of our ingredients so… uhh, we don't have any leftovers."
"Really?" Mr. PYBBA smile was so wide. What straight, white teeth. And, dear Lord, I think I saw a dimple. He glanced down at the yogurt cup and smiled to himself. "I guess I'm a lucky guy."
When he left, my face was practically pressed flat against the storeroom window. My breathing even made the tinted glass fog up.
He was turning me into an obsessive stalker and he was making me lose money.
Be still, my beating heart.
Even though I was losing nearly five dollars a week due to all the toppings I lavished on his yogurt, I didn't really care. Maybe I was obsessed. Maybe I was in love. I didn't know. But I was sure that it was those excess toppings that made him come back every week, instead of dropping by many of the other yogurt shops sprouting on our street, and if five dollars was what needed to be sacrificed for him to drop by the shop, I was more than ready to give it up.
Fortunately, as the weeks passed by, Melvin stopped telling me I was sad or telling me that I needed a life coach or professional help. He didn't protest anymore and even went along with my act. He made up different excuses just so he could go to the storeroom and let me add my extra toppings.
"Oh, wait. I think a cockroach was lying on top of this a while ago. I'll change it."
"Err, I'll get you new yogurt. This one was kinda sour. I know, I tasted it."
"Wait right here. I need to release some gas, so I'll do it in the store room where, fortunately, no one is in right now."
It was any other Friday and I was adding the blackberries to Mr. PYBBA's yogurt when Melvin yawned. He was leaning against the store room door and checked his watch.
"I don't see why you can't just go out and talk to him yourself."
I rolled my eyes at him as I reached for the jar of almonds. I glanced at Mr. PYBBA. He was leaning against the counter, his hazel eyes reading through our overhead menu. I turned back to my semi-idiotic, still-below-me freshman coworker. "Uh, hello? The reason I stay here is because I can watch him without him knowing of my existence. Jeez, Melvin."
Melvin raised an eyebrow as he handed me the jar of almonds. "… What?"
I rolled my eyes again and pointed at the window with the teaspoon I was holding. "Melvin. Tinted windows equals perfect hiding spot," I explained, like he was a five year old. "I see him, he can't see me. Do I need to make it – "
"Uh, those aren't tinted windows."
I nearly dropped the jar of almonds I was holding. Luckily, I quickly realized that if I broke it, I'd have to pay for it. If I added that expense to the money I was already losing because of the extra toppings, I wouldn't be earning anything anymore. My voice grew small and I felt myself growing smaller and smaller. "… What?"
Melvin looked at me like I was the idiotic one. "Not all dark panes of glass are tinted, you know. "
He paused as he let that little, insignificant detail sink into my already liquidating mind.
"He can see you, just as much as you can see him."
I stopped working at the shop on Fridays.
I thought about quitting the job altogether, but I still needed the cash to buy… food… tampons… and stuff. You know, to try to keep my life going… but really, I was too embarrassed to function.
I kept replaying it over and over in my mind. How stupid I must have looked, how I hadn't even bothered to fix my hair, how I probably had lettuce stuck between my teeth that time I had a salad for lunch, how obsessed I must have looked with my face pressed against the glass as I stared at him. I knocked my fist against my head and tried to forget about it, but I couldn't.
Melvin spent the next couple of weeks laughing at me and sharing the story to fellow customers. Apparently, it was quite funny. Some punk kid wanted to make a Facebook fan page just for me before I threatened that if he did, instead of blackberries, I'd sprinkle cat droppings from the cat that likes lying on the roof of the shop and mating every other night. How I was going to do that, he didn't need to know.
I didn't know how long I had been wiping the white counter top when Melvin cleared his throat. "If you keep on wiping that, the paint's gonna come off."
I blinked just before I looked up at him. I looked down at what I had been wiping. "I swear I thought there was chocolate syrup here."
"Yeah, there was." Melvin pushed himself off the counter he was leaning on and started fixing the stack of yogurt cups. "Ten minutes ago."
My shoulders fell. "Oh."
He was done arranging the cups by height when he spoke again. "I need you to be here on Friday night."
I rolled my eyes at him. "You know I don't work here on Fridays anymore."
"Yeah, but there won't be anyone else in the shop."
"Why?" I scoffed, chucking the wet rag over my shoulder and into the sink. "What are you gonna do on a Friday night that's so special that you'd have to take a day off?"
"I'm going out on a date."
I was in the middle of continuing my snarky tirade when I stopped mid-sentence. "… What?"
"I," Melvin fixed a smug look on his face. He waggled his eyebrows and puffed his chest. "Have a date for Valentine's Day."
Oh, so it was Valentine's Day on –
Oh, dear Lord.
Melvin had a date for Valentine's Day.
The guy who didn't even like frozen yogurt and yet still worked in a frozen yogurt shop. The guy who dressed up as Jason from Friday the 13th for Halloween and made us lose half a week's revenue because no kid wanted to step in the store. The guy who – gah, that just proved it. I was definitely living a very sad life.
I gaped at him like a fish. "I… I…"
"It won't be that bad," Melvin said, rolling his eyes at me as he walked over to the counter. He kept his back to me as he continued. "I'm sure something's gonna keep you entertained at some point."
Maybe some kid will get an allergic reaction to almonds that I knew I wasn't supposed to put, but because I was wallowing in misery, I totally forgot… Oh, man, I was thinking morbid thoughts about kids. I was at a new low.
Melvin and I agreed that I'd get to the shop at five, early enough for him to prepare for his date, and most importantly, late enough so I wouldn't have to see… that guy.
Yeah, look how great I am in moving on. I already forgot his –
Yeah. I'm lying.
Just as I had expected, nearly every person that entered the store that evening had either just came from a movie or a restaurant.
For about thirty times that night, I repeated the line our manager told me to say to every person who entered the store.
"Welcome to our shop! Happy Valentine's Day! We have a special mix just for today called Strawberry Swirl. It has strawberries, raspberries, finished with a honey glaze. Would you like to try it?"
Twenty-eight times out of thirty, couples said yes. I didn't get it. It wasn't even that great.
Okay, so it tasted really, really, really good… but come on. A little originality on Valentine's Day, people? You don't have to order the Valentine's special. We've got about thirty different toppings you could choose from. Jeez.
It was nearing eleven and I was just about ready to close up shop. No one had ordered anything for the past ten minutes, so I took the time to do my accounting homework. I was in the middle of taking care of my merchandise inventory when I heard the chimes above the door ring. Darn, I was almost done.
"Welcome to the shop," I droned, finishing the rest of my inventory adjusting. If the manager was there, he would have scolded me for being inattentive – but what the heck. I was stuck in the shop on Valentine's Day evening. Nearly every couple in the shop was sharing one large Valentine's special frozen yogurt with those googley-couple eyes as they fed each other honey glazed strawberries.
No, I was not being bitter.
"Happy Valentine's Day," I started. "We have a special mix just for today called Strawberry Swirl. It has strawberries, raspberries, finished with a honey glaze. Would you like to try it?"
"No thanks, I'll just have a plain yogurt."
Finally, someone with some originality to think of their own combination.
"Okay then, sir. What toppings would you – "
"I don't see you on Fridays anymore."
My pen stopped in the middle of my inventory shrinkage.
I stared down at my notebook, my eyes wide.
I didn't dare to look up.
"You can be the toppings on my yogurt any day."
the milk bottle. :)