Prompt: Gift Giving
Characters: James, Bernd, Cesare, James’s bosses (who are unnamed), mention of Amber, Greta and Tino
Word count: 2706
Summary: Bernd visits James at work and they go to lunch…
Author’s Note: Please note that James, Amber, and Greta belong to Kat. I’m just borrowing them. Thanks also go out to Kat for pinking this.
Happy Bday, Kat, with love…
James handed the woman her change, before placing the books she had just purchased into a paper bag. He smiled at her as he handed the bag to her, despite wanting to throttle her for letting her brats run wild through the bookstore. His smile faded as she turned to go, grabbing the older of her kids before he could run off to the comic book/anime section of the rather large book store. As soon as the bell on the top of the door chimed, announcing their departure, James was out from behind the counter to survey the damage. While he was straightening up the comic books, a group of hipsters walked in and made a beeline for the small coffee bar towards the back by the large bank of windows. Across from it on the other side of the store, was the “adults only” section. That had been one of James’ favorite haunts when he was younger. He got away with because of his height, since most people assumed he was older than he actually was. It was during one of his visits back there, when he impulsively tidied up a display of magazines, while waiting for Bernd to hurry up and pick something before they got thrown out, that got him the job.
James took his time, getting over to the coffee bar, not caring in the least about their threats to complain to the owners. That group of hipsters had been in several times before. They may have been whiny and impossible to deal with, but as long as they eventually got their coffee, they were fine and tipped well. Besides, they made fun of Bernd’s pink hair and messed up James’ newly faced shelves when they came in. As far as he was concerned, they could wait until their asses fell off, if they did not like it, then too bad. Also, James had a feeling they were probably insane anyway. Instead of being encouraged to go elsewhere by James’ generally hostile behavior towards them, they kept coming back to hang out at the coffee bar and discuss the latest trendy titles. James, after a while, looked forward to them coming as much as he did their leaving. They may have been the biggest pain in his ass with their lame attempts at getting him to make them some stupid-ass fancy coffee, but at least they were big tippers, despite the limited coffee selection.
So he put on his best surly smile, one he had perfected at the Greek diner he worked at with his friend Julio, and brought them their coffees. James also puttered around the tables, picking up the used cups and assorted trash some previous customers had left behind that he never got a chance to clean up thanks to the two brats that ran around the store. James quickly washed and dried the coffee cups. While he was cleaning up, Bernd walked in and hurried over to him.
“Hey, James!” Bernd flashed his trademark smirk. “They get in that video you wanted?” He was practically vibrating with excitement.
James sighed and steered his friend away from the hipsters, who had sat up to listen to their conversation. “It’s here and not so loud.” He frowned as he walked towards the register in the front. “And they got the latest Red Sonja comic in too.”
“Awesomeness!” Bernd fished out his wallet while James walked behind the counter.
“Shit! I need to ring this up in the back!” James, remembering that all “adult” material needed to be rung up at that section’s register, put the video back in the bag he hid it in.
Bernd shrugged. “So let’s get the comic now and I’ll get the rest after lunch.”
“Okay, but lunch is going to be a while. The bosses decided to take an early lunch.” James walked out from behind the counter, the video tucked back in the space under the counter. He headed towards the comic book section near the large front window.
Bernd followed him. “You have any ideas on what I can get Amber?”
“There’s some puppet show/play coming to the Gabriel Theater that she might like,” James said. “It had something to do with Cthulhu,” he started, only to be interrupted by his friend.
“Is that that scary squid thingy?” Bernd said, tilting his head and grimacing.
“Not really… But close enough. Anyway, it opens on our birthday,” James said. Probably closes then too… “And tickets are cheap and if you get her that artsy book she wanted, she’ll be happy.”
“The one with all the naked girls in it?” Bernd grinned, as he liked that one too. “Is that also in the back?”
James wanted to face-palm. “No, it’s an art book about nudes, and art isn’t porn according to Tino and the bosses. But it is on a high shelf to keep it away from young and impressionable eyes.” James snorted.
Bernd laughed. Any kid with half a brain cell, who wanted to have a look at it, just needed to move one of the library ladders over to that bank of shelves where it was kept, and a quick trip up and they could grab the book, before getting “lost” in the rows of shelves. There, they could spend hours ogling the nudes that graced the book’s pages without being disturbed.
They reached the comic book section. While James rummaged through the bin containing the “Rs,” Bernd browsed the small anime section. The store had a little, spinning DVD rack and a similar rack of popular manga titles. There was also a small display of Pokémon plushies, along with various figurines from popular anime and DC and Marvel comics. Bernd picked up the box containing a Harley Quinn and put it down when he spotted a random anime girl with impossibly large breasts stuffed into a bikini that looked way too small for her. He smiled, thinking she looked even more like Amber than Red Sonja did.
“Found it!” James called out.
Bernd put the figurine down. As much as he wanted to get it, both Amber and his father would be annoyed at him and now that he was feeling better, thanks to his medication, he decided not to risk upsetting everyone. Maybe I can get James to get her for me for Christmas… “Thanks!” he called out as he hurried over to his friend. Taking the comic book from James, they retraced their steps back to the register.
James rang up the comic book and the fancy white chocolate bars Bernd handed him from the counter display next to the register. “That’ll be seven dollars and eighty-three cents,” he said.
Bernd paid him. He chatted with James about Amber and her girlfriend Greta while they watched the hipsters leave. “Can we go now?” he said, tilting his towards the curtained off area in the back.
“I guess so.” James came back out from behind the counter, the video in his hand. “But we need to make this fast. The boss-man doesn’t really like it when I’m back there and new customers come in.”
They hurried to the back of the bookstore to the small adult section. They pushed through the curtain separating it from the rest of the store into what was the portioned off front part of the stockroom. Along one wall was a tall wooden shelving unit full of DVDs, with a small section of anime porn on the bottom shelf. The opposing wall and a standing bookcase down the middle were filled with books of erotic fiction. In front of the counter, where the register sat, was a short magazine rack of with a variety of “adult” periodicals. Normally, the room had its own cashier that floated between there and the coffee bar, but only during peak business hours. The room was totally at odds with people’s perception of the sweet, older couple who owned the store. Most people thought they were so frigid, they could show Vati a thing or two about being uptight and Puritanical. James, however, knew better. The picture of the naked redhead with her legs spread that was hung on the wall behind the register was none other than the boss-lady, who had worked as a nude model to put herself through college. According to the boss, who was also her husband, she had posed for a skin magazine, hoping to make it big, but wound up married to him instead. The other pictures, hanging up, were a couple of friends of hers that agreed to pose for her husband, a one-time aspiring photographer.
“That’ll be twenty-one ninety-five,” James said, breaking his friend’s reverie. Bernd had been staring at a picture of a naked woman leading a horse, and James had a feeling he was mentally trying to get Amber to pose like that for him. Shaking his head, he said, “Bernd, you need to hurry up and pay as I need to get back out front.”
“Sorry.” Bernd blushed as he handed over twenty-two dollars. “I guess I’ll catch you later?”
“Yeah,” James said as they left the adult section. Out of all the jobs he ever had, this one was his favorite and he hated to do anything that could get himself fired. “Don’t forget, the Gabriel Theater’s doing that play Amber would like and if you hurry, you can make it to the box office before it closes for lunch.”
“That’s right! I’ll be back in an hour!” Bernd held his purchases close as he left the bookstore.
James wandered around, putting some books back and straightening out the shelves, while he waited for his friend to return. The hour went surprisingly quick as James was busy ringing up books for the elementary school’s summer reading program as well as several barbeque cookbooks for those wanting to have a “fancy” Fourth of July party. While he was ringing up a customer, the bosses returned from their lunch. James wished Bernd would hurry up and get here as he was eager to start his lunch break.
James looked up at the sound of the bell, hoping it was not another customer. He sighed in relief, when he saw Bernd enter the bookstore and walk over to him. “Get the tickets?” He fixed the books on the shelf.
“Yeah…” Bernd righted a book that was shoved upside down on the shelf.
“You don’t sound happy about it,” James said as he picked a book up off the floor.
“Well… I got the tickets, but I realized too late that I got them for the fifth.”
“That’s your birthday.”
James snorted as they walked to the coffee bar where the owner was pouring a cup of coffee for a customer. “It’s her birthday too.”
“I know! But I kinda wanted to take her to the play, James.”
“Oh.” James shrugged.
“But we’re having your party then and I can’t miss that! And uh, here,” Bernd handed him a bag from the fudge shop, “Happy Merry Christmas in July!” He grinned.
James laughed. “Thanks!” Reaching the coffee bar, he said to the owner, “Is it okay if I go to lunch now?”
She smiled at them as she rang up the customer. “Yeah.” When they turned to go, she called out, “Bernd, tell your father that book he ordered came in.”
They left the bookstore and walked over to the Subway, where Cesare worked. He happened to be working the lunch shift and he groaned loudly when they walked in. Bernd was always so picky and James always wanted a handful of this and a double handful of that. Plus, he never wanted to pay for all the extras. Cesare glared at them, despite the smile plastered on his face.
“What can I get you?”
Bernd grinned. “Hey, Cesare! Can I get my usual?”
Cesare rolled his eyes. “You want a white six-inch with turkey and Swiss, no mayo, right?” He could never figure out why Bernd always wanted no mayo. It was one of the few things he normally ate and with their bread being so dry and tasteless, mayo was a must. Well, to most people it was. Bernd on the other hand… Cesare just mentally shrugged at his friend’s weird eating habits.
Cesare turned and grabbed a small loaf of white bread from a bin. He cut it neatly in half, tossing the unused bit back. After cutting the remaining loaf in half, he proceeded to slap on a portion of turkey, followed by two slices of Swiss cheese. Cesare rolled the sandwich in paper and cut it in half. He plopped it onto a tray and pushed it down the line, before starting on James’ order. James already had that smirk on his face and Cesare mentally groaned. His order was going to be one innuendo after another. Cesare steeled himself. He was not going to blush or yell at work today! As he finished with James, several “regulars” walked in. Cesare was never so happy to see them as it meant he could take his break later, when he actually wanted to and not now to go sit and hang out with his friends.
“Where do you want to sit?” James said, mildly annoyed he had been unable to fluster Cesare, as they walked over to the tables in the front of the shop.
“Anywhere’s good,” Bernd said, amused at his friends’ antics.
They found a table and sat down to eat. They talked about anything and everything in between bites.
“So what’s bugging you?” James said as he reached for his soda and drank.
Bernd sighed. “I kinda wanted to go with Amber to see the play…”
“Oh…” James could not help the disappointment bleeding into his voice.
Bernd was torn between spending time with each twin alone for their birthday. He found it hard to choose, especially since he liked the two of them and he wanted to be with both of them. It must have shown on his face as James sighed. Oddly enough, it helped Bernd make up his mind. “We’re still on for your party, right?”
“Yeah…?” James wondered where this was going.
“Great! I’ll bring the beer and I guess Amber’ll have to go with Greta.” Bernd toyed with his bag of chips.
James grinned. “I don’t think she’ll mind too much.” His sister had recently started dating Greta, much to Bernd’s annoyance and James’ delight as it meant he could spend more time with him. James even put up with Bernd’s whining about it as he knew from past experience that his friend would eventually get over it since this was not the first time Amber dated someone besides Bernd.
“Good.” Bernd ate another bite of his sandwich.
James chuckled and finished his lunch. “I should get back to work.”
“That time already?”
“Sadly, yeah.” James gathered the trash on his tray and stuffed it into his empty drink cup. He stood up as Bernd did the same. They threw out their trash, leaving the trays stacked on top and left Subway. They hurried back to the bookstore and stood just outside of it.
“See you tomorrow, James!”
“I can’t wait for the fireworks to start tomorrow night!” Bernd grinned.
“It’s the start of your birthday celebration!”
“If you say so.” James rolled his eyes, fondly.
“I do! So uh, you want your gift now or later?” Bernd held out the package with DVD he had bought for James to take.
“Later! And we’ll watch it at the party, okay?” James grinned at his friend.
“Awesomeness!!” Bernd grinned. “It’s gonna be great!!”
“If you say so.” James chuckled.
“Bye!” Bernd waved and turn to go.
“Later,” James said as he watched him go. When Bernd turned the corner, James went inside to finish his shift. He was looking forward to the party, as Bernd had a knack for throwing these crazy parties. Besides, beer and porn were always a good combination in his humble opinion. Throw in some good food made by his friend Julio and James had a feeling his twenty-first birthday celebration was going to be one to remember.