Val is a mood killer. I make a mental note for myself reminding me to ask Val what all that ‘baby’ thing was about as I turn to her breathing through my nose loudly. “Good morning Valerie, did you bring what I asked?” Val looks offended at my words, but I know her, those are all theatrics. She nods lively and all the dark curls of her head bounce shooting in different directions. “Hey! where are all your good manners Maze?” She asks with both arms on her hips. “I am Valerie or Val for my friends and lovers. So take your pick but choose carefully” She tells Ailie with a wink. “And you, Mr grumpy. Yes, I did bring what you asked and yes I am fine this morning thank you very much. But now I’d like to focus on our guest so shoo.” She tells me waving me away. Val is lucky I really like her, she about interrupted the only moment I felt like Ailie was starting to open up to me and now she is shooing me away. Unbelievable. No way I’m going to leave tornado Val with Ailie, she might scare her away or what’s worse – “Hi, you look incredibly good on that uniform, you know that?” Yeah, that. Now Val’s face is two inches away from Ailie’s and she is – “Mason, is your girlfriend openly flirting with me right now?” Yeah, that.
Val’s high-pitched laugh leaves her and she starts clapping. “Oh boy I really like her. Can I keep her?” She tells me bouncing around me. “Can I keep you?” She asks Ailie now. “Sure thing… Val.” Ailie replies winking at her now. This seems to please Val even further, because her laughter is now more of a shriek. Perfect, I guess best friend approval has been granted.
“Val, how about you get everything ready for opening?” That seems to remind her that we will be soon having clients walking in. She stops and picks up a bag from the floor, hands it to Ailie, winks again and leaves. “Val’s my best friend, and much to my regret, also my coworker here.” I tell Ailie. “I hear you, you know?!” Val shouts from the other side of the cafe. “She’s a bit too much sometimes, noise and a little bit crazy,” I continue. “I can still hear you, dumbass!” Val shouts again. “But she is actually great.” I tell Ailie toning down my voice slightly. “I love you too, Maze!” Val says from behind. Ailie’s grin tells me she’s enjoying the banter and that calms me. It’s important for me that she gets along with Val, she is like family for me. I surprise myself thinking that both Val and Ailie’s approval are meaningful for me; I try to not to analyze it too much and bury it deep in my head but it’s a little too late too late for that now. If there is one thing I know I am, that’s being honest with myself.
“So,” I say. “I asked Val to bring you some clothes and shoes.” I say as I hand the bag to Ailie. “I’d say you are about the same size, although not probably height.” I stop there before I let out how aware I am of her body. “Shoes were really a gamble.” I chuckle. Ailie is lost for words for a moment, and then moves quickly to grab the bag. “Thank you so much. You really didn’t have to do this.” She brings one hand to her chest after speaking. “You are welcome, baby!!” Val shouts from the opposite corner of the cafe now. We both chuckle at the same time. Ailie stands up now from the stool holding the bag to her chest. “Thank you,” she tells me sincerely. “BOTH.” She adds significantly louder for Val. She then heads then to the staff bathroom and on her way she stops shortly. Right when she reaches the right end of the counter, close to the spot I am standing in, she looks at me over her shoulder. “I understand now.” She tells me. “What?” I ask in shock. “The tag on your uniform, it suits you.” She keeps walking and closes the door behind her.
“Dang! Pang chica pang pang!” Val sings in the distance lifting her brows and shaking her hips. “You are ridiculous this morning!” I tell her trying to regain my composure. For better or for worst, today is going to be a long day.