52 ice cream flavors, 52 dates, 52 kisses, 52 weeks in a year, 1 love. Vignettes.
Café Chocolate Mocha: Coffee flavored ice cream with a ripple of rich fudge and tiny chocolate chips. Something about it today seems particularly appetizing. Maybe because it only has a few scoopfuls missing from its otherwise pristine, just-opened surface? Then again no, just because it seems to be a flavor people don't go for today doesn't mean it is unpopular. In fact, the combination of coffee and cocoa is very familiar and much loved by the populace and that includes her.
But, then again, she's never been to this ice cream store before, doesn't know how things work, doesn't know if the quality of the frozen treat is decent. Her stomping grounds are usually clear on the other side of town, but the ice cream shop there went out of business and now her options are this or the supermarket and supermarket ice cream is a last resort only.
So, no, she won't go for the Café Chocolate Mocha today, maybe next weekend, if the ice cream is any good. Which she hopes it is, because she would really appreciate not having to resort to the supermarket or online purchasing.
She lifts her forefinger to hail the employee behind the counter, a slightly puffy teen with double braids and no name-tag, a thing that is seriously making her eye twitch, but beggars can't be choosers and as far as she's concerned this place is her only remaining option.
"Vanilla. Single Scoop." She says simply. When testing new things it's best to go back to basics.
The server nods, voices a droll: "Right away, miss," and reaches for a scoop and cone, pushing her glasses up her pimple-reddened nose.
She'd be pretty if not for all those red blotches, caused by too oily skin or too dry skin or just plain dirty skin, but at least she can be reassured that the girl's hands are clean and she really shouldn't be so critical and judgmental since if she starts frequenting this shop she'll be seeing a lot more of the braided high school girl, and it's much better to have a friendly relationship with the people who work in the places you frequent rather than a sneering one.
"Single vanilla scoop," the girl announces, punching buttons on the cash register, "That will be…"
She holds in a grimace. Though not by much, it's more expensive than the old shop. Her hopes are high, but she isn't expecting this place to live up to it. Paradise Glacier had such wonderful ice cream. This place's ice cream had better be worth the extra coins or she'll demand a refund.
She hasn't quite decided if she wants to sit down yet, though the vanilla ice cream is already gaining the smooth sheen to it from the warm air. That could mean either poor quality ice cream or especially fluffy ice cream. Her lips twist into a crooked line neither grimace nor smile.
Eyes sliding closed for a brief moment, she raises the frozen dessert toward her mouth just as the store door swings open with a merry jingle and a tiny body crashes into her hip.
The vanilla ice cream goes toppling to the tiled floor, landing with a condemning splat.
She blinks dumbly down at the white globule, caught between horror and humor because 'Goddammit, it just figures, doesn't it?' Maybe it's karma or God trying to tell her something, the obvious, probably.
She can't turn around and start snapping at the kid, now pressing its nose against the glass separating the ice cream from the customers—she can't quite tell if it's a girly-looking boy or a boyish girl and it doesn't really matter anyway since she doesn't even like children—because it's just an overeager kid wanting a treat. She's understanding and compassionate enough to acknowledge it was an accident; it's not like the little troll deliberately bumped into her, deadest on sedition.
She also knows that the server won't bless her with a free replacement scoop. No chance in hell; she's not a regular, dependable customer that all the employees here are good and friendly with. The pimply-nosed teenager isn't going to be nice and offer her another ice cream out of her own uniformed pocket just because she wasn't aware and well-coordinated enough to keep the one she bought from falling off the cone when put off-balance.
Ohh, she did not want to have to resort to the supermarket.
"Katie! I told you not to run ahead like that! And now look what you did, you made this lady drop her cone! Did you even stop to notice? No, don't answer that, I already know."
Following the child, a man around her age burst unceremoniously into the store, eyes flashing with irritation. The girl-child didn't even respond, skittering over to another case of frozen yogurt.
The man sighs and turns to her. "I'm sorry about Katie, she can be a real pain in the as—butt when she gets excited about something, but overall she's a good kid. She didn't mean to tip you into dropping your ice cream."
She restrains a powerful snort. Wasn't that always the story? No matter how bratty and spoiled a child was it was always "overall a good kid."
"It's… alright." She manages to force out. "I…"
"Let me buy you a new one." He whistles at the server sharply. "Oi! Can I get another vanilla cone for the lady? And a…" he did a quick scan of the available ice cream labels, "Shi—oot, just give me a plain chocolate and a double scoop of whatever the squirt wants."
"I ain't a squirt!" The child pipes up.
"I am not a squirt." He corrects swiftly.
"Whatever," the girl mumbles before turning her attention back to the tubs and the employee, "I want this one and this one!"
She feels distinctly annoyed and just a bit guilty that a stranger was going to spend his hard-earned money on a vanilla cone for someone he'd never met.
"You don't have to do that." She tells the man.
He grins charmingly at her. "Don't worry about it."
"No, really, I should be going anyway." Fuckit, she didn't want to try this second-rate crap anyway. She'd just web-surf and sign up for a mainstream factory tour and learn from the pros how to make her own goddamn ice cream.
"Seriously, I insist," he pushes, "It's the least I can do."
She raises an eyebrow. 'Interesting.' "Well, actually, the least you could do would be nothing. But all right."
He laughs, beaming. "Great! Hey, Katie, pick a table for us! I'm Jess, by the way." He picks up the vanilla and chocolate ice cream cones from the server. The child is bounding around with all the energy of a hummingbird, only worse, shoveling ice cream out of her cup and into her pink mouth.
'Ugh, no manners whatsoever, that child.' She bites in the inside of her cheek, meekly taking her new cone from him. "Marcie." She replies curtly. Hesitantly, she takes a lick of vanilla ice cream.
Not as good as she'd hoped, but not as bad as she's expected. It's good. She won't need to resort to supermarkets or factory tours after all.
She nods toward the child. "Is she your daughter?"
He pulls a face. "No. Ugh, God, no. No kids for me for a long, long time. She's my niece."
"She's the first kid in the family to not have a name that starts with a 'J' in ages. My family has a serious thing with the letter J."
"That's… interesting." It isn't really, but she isn't going to go out of her way to be rude. She is entangled in a conversation now, no way to back out without looking like a frigid, anti-social hag.
"Would you like to sit with us? Or are you in a hurry…?" Jess asks.
Well, actually, she is kind of a frigid, anti-social hag, especially when she has her ice cream or frozen custard or frozen yogurt. Still, it's hard to turn a cold shoulder on someone who was being genuinely nice.
"I could. But… I don't really like kids…"
He isn't deterred. "Don't worry, Katie won't talk your ear off. Not while she has ice cream, at least. She has this weird habit of ignoring strangers, anyway. She'll just pretend you aren't there and you can do the same to her. She won't give a flying fu—fish, really."
"Uncle Jesse almost said a bad word!" Katie sings.
"And you need to stuff more ice cream in that pie hole, squirt."
"Not a squirt."
The child swings her legs under her chair enthusiastically. "Shure fing, Umple Jeffie!"
He rolls his eyes, sliding into his seat beside the girl. Marcie takes position across from the two, nursing her vanilla ice cream. It was a treat to be enjoyed thoroughly, not gobbled down as if it would vanish at a moment's notice. One really couldn't expect better from inexperienced youths, though. Some things could only be learned with age, like a gourmet palette. Not that Marcie is any sort of gourmand, but still.
The employee brings out a mop and bucket to clean up the sludgey corpse of the previous vanilla ice cream cone.
"Sorry about that," Jess says.
The teen nods. "S'kay," she mumbles, giving him several short, shy glances.
For a moment, Marcie feels almost disgusted at the teen's expression, but retracts the train of thought as quickly as it pops into mind. Why shouldn't the girl ogle a bit? He was not unattractive. Marcie thought he resembled the Café Chocolate Mocha: coffee tinged skin, fudge brown hair, chocolate brown eyes, overall ordinary but nice and a good combination of flavors; definitely likeable.
"So, uh, have you ever been here before? Katie and I come by all the time, but I don't think I've ever spotted you."
She wonders: was that a casual question or discreetly disguised pick-up line? She rolls her tongue over the front of her teeth, mulling the thought over.
"No, I've never been to this store until now. I used to go to Paradise Glacier, but they closed down so now I'm here."
She takes another lick of her ice cream; something to busy her mouth with because she can't think of anything to talk about and she's not particularly interesting in talking anyway, especially with an ordinary guy with rude relatives that she hasn't even known for five minutes.
An awkward silence reigns for an entire eleven seconds before he shoves his way through it, chatting away almost one-sidedly, but often asking her simple yes-or-no questions she can grunt in reply to. He's so outspoken and talkative and—
She doesn't let herself think "weird." He's not, and she knows he's not; he's just of a liberally different personality than her.
'Probably a Democrat. He likes to hear himself talk.'
Not that there's anything wrong with Democrats and it's not like she's an extreme Republican herself or anything, really, it's just an observation—she's always been good at noticing the small things; maybe that was due to the OCD she endured as a small child—but it really was a pointless, insignificant little observation, but she really found it hard to think about much of anything when he just. Wouldn't. Stop—
"You talk too much." She says sharply and suddenly, and he flinches, falling silent and eyes going wide as if she's just slipped a pocketknife between his ribs. His chin is hovering a few centimeters above his palm, eyebrows high, his weight no longer on the table—'ugh, get your elbows off the table!'—lips parted just enough to breathe through. She stares icily at him a moment longer before turning her face away, licking at her cone again.
Unexpectedly, he laughs. "You're kind of… anal, aren't you?"
She can't help it; she blushes and she knows—oh, she knows so embarrassingly well—that her face is now as red as the cherry on a sundae. "Only when it comes to ice cream."
"No kiddin', lady!" The little girl says.
Jess chuckles at his niece, his half-smile bewildered. "I thought you didn't talk to strangers?"
The girl—'Katie,' her mind reminds her, pointlessly interruptive as always—raises an eyebrow at the male and purses her lips, shoving her dripping spoon under his nose. "Yeah, but the lady makes a good point, Uncle Jesse! You don't get between a person and their ice cream, like, ever! It's ice cream!" She puts dramatic emphasis on the final two syllables as if that explains everything—and Marcie can't argue with that logic because in her opinion it does explain everything.
The giggle that bubbles out from between her cold lips is a surprise and her attempt at covering her mouth with her hand in response results in her gaining a nose-full of vanilla. She bites her squeal back to a quivering whimper, acutely aware that the two sitting across from her have erupted into unrestrained laughter as she fumbles for a paper napkin. Her cheeks are burning with humiliation and anger—at herself or the two giggling J-whatever-persons across her? She isn't sure—melting the ice cream faster than ever; it's dripping off the buttoned-tip of her nose and dribbling across the cupid's bow of her lip like snot and 'Ugh, Goddamit, why did this have to happen in public?'
"No, please, laugh away at my expense, I don't mind in the least." She barely manages to keep herself from snarling, but there's no mistaking the bitter sarcasm in her tone.
Jess sucks in his laughter at once, but it bursts out anyway in a loud, ungentlemanly snort. "S-sorry, we weren't laughing at you—"
"Yes, we were, Uncle Jesse, you liar!" Katie interrupts and Marcie can't help but wonder how she thought of the little, skinny-legged imp as remotely human moments ago.
"Okay, maybe we were—" He concedes, "Ha!" declares the girl, "But," he continues, glaring at the youth ('Put a muzzle on the little beast,' Marcie thinks), "We are sorry. That was rude of us."
"I'm not sorry!" The girl protests. "Don't go puttin' words in my mouth, dummy!"
"Katie!" He snaps, true irritation rising in his brown eyes.
"No!" She bites back, sticking her tongue out at him—it's green, mint green and there's a bit of something-or-other jammed between her two front teeth—and stomps away, ice cream in hand and her ponytail swishing like a pendulum.
He sighs and stands, knowing duty implores him to chase after the child. He pauses, though, leaning down to look at her in the eyes, his gaze unflinching and deep.
"I'm sorry. I really am."
She contemplates him for several moments, staring hard at him until she can see him getting uncomfortable. She wipes at the underside of her nose, sniffing. Her nose is free of ice cream now, but it feels sticky.
He beams, and she feels like a Popsicle on the 4th of July—melting away and melting fast under the sun's blazing heat.
"Thanks," he says, and he means it. He's ready to walk away now; his body's tense and his eyes dart to the sidewalk his niece is quickly vanishing down, her tomboyish form watery and unstable in the summer haze.
"By the way," he says, drawing her attention back to his face, "You missed a spot."
Suddenly there are lips on lips, soft and moist and sticky and her vanilla cone is a good as ancient history because all she can taste is chocolate and it's sweet and rich and warm and 'oh my God, what's happening?'
He hums, a throaty masculine rumble and she has to strain her ears to hear his breathy murmur of: "Mm, vanilla," before he's at arm-length again, with the smile of a cat whose gotten the cream.
"See ya, Marcie!" he says cheerfully—infuriatingly cheerfully—and though her mind is screaming at her to throw her half-eaten cone after him, she's too stunned to do anything but sit and gape, appetite virtually ruined.
The pimply teen behind the counter sighs wistfully. "Lucky."
'That son of a—!'
To Be Continued...
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