The Fox's Cafe' buzzed with life as the afternoon hours crept past. Patrons were entering just as much as they were leaving and the place was filled with office workers and students. The cafe's door bells jingled again as the door opened to make way for Noah Watkins. Watkins was a seventeen year old, fourth year attending Jackson High School in the Midwestern United States.
One ear bud perched in Noah's ear as he shuffled his way between the full tables of the coffee shop. He clutched a bright orange apron in his hand, and held the handle to his messenger bag in the other. He shimmied behind the counter and passed by his recent friend, Iris Page. Iris looked him over and shook her head, chuckling under her breath. "You're late, Noah," she paused, running a hand through her high pony tail, black like the night, "again."
"Oh, shush," Noah retorted, reluctantly pulling his ear bud from his ear and wrapping the cord around his iPod before shoving that back into his pocket. He dropped the messenger bag behind the counter and kicked it to make sure it was out-of-the-way completely. "Where's the boss?" he asked, taking station behind the cash register.
Iris moved a loose strand of hair from her face to behind her ear and pushed her glasses up on the bridge of her nose. The black frames neatly fit her face, hiding her dark hazel eyes behind them. "I dunno," she answered, setting a newly filled cardboard thermos on the spacious counter. "Caramel macchiato, double espresso shot for," she paused to read the name, "Cathy!" The woman dubbed Cathy dismissed herself from her coworkers and retrieved her coffee. "Have a nice day, miss." Iris said as she nodded politely to the older woman.
Noah Watkins looked around the store and groaned quietly. "Why do we have to work during the summer?" he asked no-one in particular.
"Well, you could always quit," Iris answered, uninvited. She stood beside him, leaning on the counter, propped on her elbows, staring at her iPhone's screen.
"My dad would kill me. He lined this job up for me, ya know?"
Iris nodded, mumbling an agreement. "Are you even paying attention to me?" Noah asked, peering over Iris' shoulder. "What manga is that?"
"It's called Loveless," she said quietly.
Noah read with her for a moment before his own phone vibrated in his back pocket, making him jump. He pulled the phone from his back pocket and slid down the drop menu. A text from his father. He groaned, sliding the menu back up and returning the phone to his pocket without bothering to read the text itself.
"What's up?" Iris asked, looking up from her phone.
"Nothing." Noah looked around the cafe' once more, the tables were packed and showed no signs of emptying soon but luckily no-one was coming in. "Why are we the only ones working?" he asked.
"I signed us up for today's shift."
"I signed us up for to --"
"I heard you the first time!"
"Then why'd you ask me again..." Iris looked dumbfounded, pressing the lock button on her phone and putting it in her apron's pocket. "I'm going to go wipe down tables." She shimmied from behind the counter and disappeared in the midst of the crowd.
Noah resigned to leaning over the counter, chin in the palm of his hand. I want to go home he thought, flashing a look the clock. It's only one o'clock, six hours left until close. The jingling bell of the cafe' was drowned out by the hyena-like laughter that accompanied it. Coming into the Fox's Cafe' was a harem of cackling blondes, with one boy mixed in.
That boy was Christopher Patterson, a chatterbox of a popular teen who teenage girls flocked to for attention. Everything about Christopher rubbed Noah, a fellow fourth year, the wrong way. He was too loud and obnoxious and his hair was too long and he always brought a bunch of screaming girl with him wherever he went.
Christopher approached the cashier's stand, where Noah was stationed, his harem of teens behind him, putting various things in his long, dirty blonde, hair. "Welcome to the Fox's Cafe. How may I help you?" Noah drawled, sky blue eyes judging the short boy in front of him.
Christopher Patterson smiled kindly to Noah, his own sea-foam green eyes smiling with him. "I'd like a large vanilla latte', please," he bore his teeth in white friendliness.
Noah rung him up and peered to the side of the dirty blonde teen to his entourage of girls. "What are they having?" He pointed.
"Um," Christopher turned to consult his counsel. "They will be ordering their own drinks," he said once he turned around.
Noah met his eyes and sighed. "Great," he muttered under his breath.
Once the teens were all ordered, Noah had Iris fix up their drinks when she returned. He had enough of the blondes and would gladly give their drinks free and send them on their way if it didn't mean he would lose his job.
"Christopher Patterson," Iris said, shaking her head, "he's quite the queen, ain't he?"
"If that's what royalty has come to, I don't want to be serf in his kingdom," Noah joked seriously. It made Iris snicker.
"Better get used to it. He's here for good, he's a fourth year like us," she informed.
"We've got a long day ahead, Noah."
"Yup, bar the gates and call the guard."
"Our watch starts now."
"It was an honor serving with you, Iris Page."
"And you, Noah Watkins."
The day dragged on but eventually Noah and Iris were free. The keys to the Fox's Cafe clanked together in Noah's hand before he shoved him in his pocket. His messenger bag was thrown over his shoulder by the longer strap and he turned on his Converse's heel to face Iris who was swinging around a lamppost by her arm. "Where to?" he asked her, running a hand through his chestnut hair, it appeared black in the fading light of the summer day.
"Oh, I dunno," she responded. "I got an invitation to Christopher's party tonight. Apparently his parents are out of town, or something. I wasn't really paying attention. We could drop by though, it might be fun, ya know?" She stopped her swinging and approached her friend. Her small Pikachu backpack was hoisted on her back
"You really want to?" Noah was beside the idea, thinking it something out of character. "We could just go back to your place and... hang out?" he asked more than suggested.
"C'mon, we haven't been a party at all this summer."
"There's a reason for that, Iris," he said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Fine, fine. We won't go. I'm sure we can bake cookies or something at my place. Let's hurry, we're gonna miss the bus," she said, clutching the straps of her backpack. Noah nodded, taking up a place beside her in their walk towards the bus stop. They rounded a corner in silence, and their shoes clicked on the pavement. Noah reached for his iPod, unraveling his ear buds from around the device before swiping the screen searching for a song. EdSheeran popped up and he placed one bud in his ear.
Iris had done the same, putting one bud in her ear from her iPhone while it's screen displayed another manga. The summer breeze was warm and nice against their bare forearms and shins and they walked in silent communication, in tune with one another's steps.
Once at the bus stop they waited quietly as the sun set over the city skyline. The city they lived in was spacious, somewhere between Chicago and Des Moines, with huge skylines in some places and pleasant suburbs in others.
"Hey, Iris," Noah spoke up, breaking the silence between them. They were the only ones at the bus stop, the only teens in the city without independent means of transportation.
"Yeah, Noah?" she answered, looking up from her phone.
"Did you really want to go to that party?" He looked to her face for a reaction.
She kept her poker face and shrugged. "It would have been nice, you know, we don't go out much and this is our last year before we go off to university. Perhaps we should try to be more open about things this year. That's all I'm saying." She met his eyes with her own, smiling forcibly.
Noah nodded in understanding. "You don't think it's too late to go, do you?" He smiled to her.
Iris' smile brightened. "Do you really mean it, Noah?" She paused, her smile fading. "I don't want you to change your mind when we get there."
Noah frowned for a moment before shaking his head. "No, it's fine. We should try new things, how else are we supposed to have a happy fourth year!"
"Good! I'll just text Christopher really fast, all right?"
Noah nodded, watching Iris' nimble fingers dance quickly across her iPhone's screen. She looked to him after the message was sent. "Awesome, the first party of the year!" she exclaimed, balling her fist up and thrusting it into the air in achievement. Noah couldn't help but smile, clutching both his phone in one hand and messenger bag strap in the other. The thought of a party made him nervous. The only parties Noah Watkins had been to were those for little kids with clowns and bouncy playhouses.
Iris' voice buzzed in her hand and she scanned the message as soon as it popped up. "He says that the party has just started," she said as she read. "Right on!"
Noah nodded stiffly. He hadn't expected Christopher to actually say that, he had hoped that the party had been well underway but not enough time had passed for that dream to become reality. "All right. Here comes the bus now," he said lowly, pointing with his phone hand to a distant corner where the city's bus tugged around the corner.