I had no clue what to do with this song. Seriously. I listened to it an unhealthy amount, and finally, the lyrics that kept grabbing me were “I want you to notice/when I’m not around”.
Jude glanced at the clock and swallowed the groan when he saw that barely fifteen minutes had passed since the last time he’d looked. After the morning rush in the coffee shop and barely having a moment to breathe, it was as though time had slowed, and it was fucking unbearable.
Or more unbearable than usual. He hated every freaking minute of he had to spend in this place catering to the most self-centered, self-involved people known to man, but if he wanted to pay rent and eat on a regular basis, the job was a necessary evil. And he was going to have to pick up as many shifts as he could since his paycheck had already taken a hit courtesy of the stupid flu that had kept him home the last week. Add to that the enormous amount of coursework he had to catch up on… Yeah, he was pretty well screwed in a horrible, non-satisfying way with no end in sight. It was going to be non-stop work and studying until the end of term with nothing on the horizon to ease the bullshit.
Not that that was a change from the norm. Not really. His naïve dreams of things being different when he moved here for school had been demolished fairly quickly. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. It was different here than it had been back home. He didn’t have to put up with endless abuse from fucktards who had made it their mission since grade school to make his life miserable. He didn’t have to pour his mom into bed after she’d lost the battle to stay firmly on the wagon yet again, all the while listening to her apologies and tears.
No, here, he was just…invisible. Unless he was calling in sick to work; then, he was noticed a bit. But other than being short-handed and having to pick up the slack, it wasn’t as though his co-workers gave a rat’s ass that he was gone. He hadn’t made any real friends at school. Hell, even the regulars that came into the shop, people he saw nearly every day, interacted with, just ordered their skinny mochas or lattes with a shot of this and that as always—the fact that he’d been gone for a week never even blipping on their radar.
“Fuck,” he muttered under his breath as he grabbed the bucket of soapy water. The last thing he needed—ever—was to get lost in self-pity. It wouldn’t change anything and sure as hell wasn’t going to do him any good.
“Gonna clean the tables,” he told his co-worker Jake, who leaned lazily against the counter.
Jude rolled his eyes as the other guy waved him off without pausing in his determined flirting with the blonde he’d been working on for at least a month. Jude was fairly sure the girl was just in it for the free coffees Jake threw her way but whatever.
He worked his way from table to table, clearing the trash people left behind without a thought and wiping every surface. As he was finishing, a bunch of guys came through the door, shoving at each other and laughing. Jude’s heart stuttered then began to beat rapidly, almost painfully.
“Stupid,” he berated himself, even as his gaze centered on one guy in particular. On one face Jude waited to see every day. Like a complete moron.
Jake tore himself away from the blonde to take the guys’ orders, though he stared after her, nearly drooling, as she walked out of the shop, hips swaying, free coffee in hand.
Walking in back, Jude emptied the bucket and set it aside, before taking a deep breath and heading back out. He just hoped he made it through the next few minutes without tripping over his own feet or making a fool of himself in another humiliating way in front of the guy who had snared Jude’s attention the very first day he’d had started this job.
“Hey, can I get some help here?” Jake said, a little desperately, as he steamed milk. He nodded at the cups lined up the counter, each one with with a name and order scribbled in shorthand on the side.
Ah, how much harder the job of making a simple cup of coffee was when it didn’t involve a pretty girl.
Without a word, Jude began filling the orders. The group had wandered over to one of the larger tables, chatting and joking as they waited, each one coming up to grab his drink as it was finished. When only one cup remained empty, Jake wiped his hands on a towel.
“You got that last one, yeah? Gotta take a piss, and it’s time for my break, anyway.” Without waiting for an answer, he ducked through the swinging door, out of sight.
Jude swallowed heavily as he grabbed that final cup, the one he’d avoided taking the whole time. His cup. Fucking Jake. Probably realized Jude had been crushing hard and had purposely left him to it. Left him to make an ass of himself in front of the hottie. Because that was definitely something Jude would do. It was inevitable. And as much as Jude hated being invisible, it was better than the alternatives. He’d lived those and didn’t want to again.
Just make the damned coffee and hand it off. He’ll smile at you—that throwaway smile everyone has for baristas or the help—and it’ll be the pathetic highlight of your day. Even though it’ll mean nothing to him.
Snapping the plastic lid on, Jude cleared his throat. “Cameron,” he said loudly, proud of the fact his voice didn’t crack.
He watched as the lanky man stood, stumbling slightly as one of his friends shoved him. He flipped the bird without looking back and walked to the counter. He shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans as he approached, and Jude found his gaze drawn to the Cameron’s crotch. Fuck. Jude’s face heated as his head snapped up.
When Cameron made no move to take the cup, Jude frowned. “Large caffe americano, double shot?”
Blue eyes crinkled—fucking adorably, damn it—as Cameron smiled. Slowly, he pulled one hand out of his pocket and reached for the drink. His long fingers glided over Jude’s, and if he hadn’t taken the cup, Jude was certain he’d have dropped it.
“Thank you, Jude.”
What little breath he had left him at the sound of his name on Cameron’s lips. So much for not acting like an idiot. He was gaping at the other man like a fish out of water.
Cameron took a sip of the coffee, but didn’t move away. “So…” He glanced back at his friends a moment before continuing, “Where have you been?”
“Huh?” Oh, that’s brilliant…
He leaned a hip against the counter, head tilted to the side as he ran his gaze over Jude slowly before returning to his eyes. “You haven’t been here all week. And I haven’t seen you on campus.”
“You…you noticed that I…” Jude’s mouth snapped shut, and he shook his head, face flaming even more.
“Yeah, of course I noticed. Wait…” Cameron leaned forward, lips pressed together briefly. “Does that make me seem all stalkery?”
“No! God, no. Not at all.” He shook his head, mind spinning. Seriously, of all people, Cameron noticed he hadn’t been around?
Giving an exaggerated sigh of relief, Cameron grinned. “Good. Hate to think, after a week of being convinced I’d missed my chance, that I’d ruined everything by coming off too eager.”
“Missed your chance…” Jude shook his head again. “Sorry, Cameron, but that’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. Have you seen you?”
“Hmmm.” He took another long drink of his coffee. “I don’t think I’m the one who needs his eyes opened about himself. I notice when you’re here, and I sure as hell notice when you’re not here.” He pulled his other hand from his pocket and reached over to grasp Jude’s hand, a piece of paper crinkling between their palms. “First, call me Cam. Second, call me when you’re shift is over?”
“Really? This isn’t…” He glanced at the group behind Cameron and found every set of eyes on them. “This isn’t a joke, is it?”
Cameron’s fingers tightened around Jude’s. “Not even a little. Are you going to call?”
Jude stared intently at the other man, hoping that the sincerity he saw was true and, for the first time in a long time, took a chance. Because, damn it, he’d noticed what no one else did. How could Jude ignore that?
“Yeah, I’m gonna call.”