Chris – Erick’s Boyfriend
Evan - manager of The Big Cup Coffee Shop
Michelle – a barista at The Big Cup Coffee Shop
A Quintet of Young Men
“There’s an irony to us sitting here,” Erick says to Chris at a table in front of the new Hollywood location of the Big Cup Coffee Shop.
“How so?” Chris asks, picking at a muffin.
“Mitch used to work at the Westwood location.”
“That’s right. That’s where the two of you met. But I wouldn’t so much call that ironic as coincidental.”
“It’s also where he told me he was moving to New York.”
“And then you followed him.”
Erick shoots Chris a playful glare as he takes a sip of his soy chai latte. “I would never follow an ex. He just happened to wind up there after a convoluted series of questionable decisions.”
“Fair enough. Because then you left.”
“And I came back here.”
“And he followed you back.”
Erick shoots Chris a less playful glare as he takes another sip of his soy chai latte. “No. I just happened to be back here at the time he decided to return – with a boyfriend.”
“And then you met me.”
“And then you met him.”
“And now we’re all friends.”
Erick thinks about this for a moment. “I don’t know if it says more about me or more about you that my current boyfriend and my ex-boyfriend are friends.”
“It’s says more about me. Much more.”
Erick smirks. “And what does it say about you?”
“It says that I’m a really great guy,” Chris replies, tilting his head.
Erick mockingly tilts his head. “What does it say about me?”
Chris straightens his head and leans in. “It says that you are very fortunate to have me.”
Erick straightens his head, grabs Chris’s hand and kisses it. “But not as fortunate as you are to have me.”
“I won’t argue that,” Chris concedes with a smile as he leans back in his chair.
Erick takes another sip of his latte. “You couldn’t argue it if you wanted to.”
A small group of guys had been watching this exchange between Erick and Chris while approaching the coffee shop, all but one of them wearing varying degrees of disdain on their faces. “Fuckin’ faggots,” the apparent ringleader grumbles as they walk by the table.
Erick pulls his hand away from Chris, to Chris’s surprise. “Don’t worry about it,” he says reassuringly as he places his hand on Erick’s thigh.
Erick watches the group walk into the coffee shop. The tall, skinny and presumably youngest member of the group looks back at Erick with a blank stare.
“It’s okay,” Chris says. “If they give us trouble, we’ll give them trouble right back.”
Erick was never one for public displays of affection. In fact, when he and Mitch were together several years ago, such exchanges were limited to the confines of the four walls of their respective apartments. At the time, they were both younger and hadn’t been out as long so this was what they were both most comfortable with.
But now Erick is older, outer and prouder. He’s in a relationship with a man he absolutely adores who fully reciprocates that adoration in every kiss, every stare and every ass grab. Though far from ashamed, he has never found anything beyond holding hands and kissing appropriate for public viewing.
Mitch and his own current boyfriend Cole are a different story. If Erick and Chris are more “reach across the aisle” in their concern about people around them, Mitch and Cole tend to fall on the more “in your face/get used to it” side of things. Sometimes they pay for it – even in California, which is widely considered to be more liberal and open to things many other places are not.
“It’s not okay,” Erick responds. “I can’t believe I just did that.”
“It was a natural reaction.”
“To a potential threat.”
“They didn’t do anything.”
“They demonstrated what happens when five people share one malfunctioning brain.”
Erick chuckles. “I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t be. Are you ready to go?” Chris asks as he stands up.
“I kinda want to face them again,” Erick replies. He stands up as if readying himself for battle.
“There’s no point. We’ll probably never see them again.”
Suddenly, the door to the coffee shop swings open and the quintet emerges empty-handed. The ringleader glares at Erick and Chris as he walks quickly past them. The tall, skinny and presumably youngest member of the group manages a faint smile as he lags behind the rest of the group. Erick acknowledges him with a nod.
A barista walks out of the coffee shop and approaches Erick. “I’m sorry about that,” she says, pointing to the departing quintet.
“I was clearing off a table nearby when I heard what that guy said. So I followed them inside and talked to my shift manager, who told them they had to leave.”
“That’s very good of you. Thank you.”
“It was the thing to do. That type of stuff shouldn’t fly anywhere – especially here. My manager told them to ‘take that shit back to whatever provincial back woods Podunk rock of a town you crawled out from under.’ I don’t think the guy knew exactly what my manager was saying but he knew enough to leave,” she continues with a smile.
“Can I talk to your manager?” Erick asks.
“Sure. Come with me.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Erick. It’s a pleasure.”
“I’m his boyfriend Chris,” Chris adds.
“It’s nice to meet both of you,” Michelle replies.
Erick and Chris follow Michelle into the coffee shop. She brings them to the manager, whom Erick and Chris instantly recognize. “Evan?”
“Hey Chris,” Evan responds with a smile.
“You work here now too?” Erick asks.
“He and Simmons in HR didn’t get along all that well,” Chris explains.
“Yeah. So they let me go. When I heard about this place opening, I talked to my friend who owns the Westwood location I used to work at and asked if I could manage this one.”
“How’s it going here?”
“I want to thank you for what you did with those guys.”
“Dude, I had to. Plus, you guys are good people.”
“As are you,” Erick says as he and Evan shake hands. “We’re going to head out but we’ll be back here soon.”
“I hope so. We’ll be here.”
“See you then. Thanks again to both you and Michelle.”
Erick and Chris walk out of the coffee shop. As they walk down Hollywood Boulevard, they see the group of guys walking toward them. Erick tenses up for a moment.
“Are you okay?” Chris asks.
Erick stares at the approaching group for a moment. He and the ringleader stare each other down. Erick takes Chris by the hand. “Fuck ‘em,” he says. The ringleader is stone-faced but silent as he and Erick walk by each other.
A look of satisfaction sweeps across the face of the tall, skinny and presumably youngest member of the group.
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