Gay, dramatic, and flamboyant, Avery Jennings first fell in love with Joe Gunderson back in their sophomore year of high school when Joe asked Avery to tutor him for an English Lit class. Avery didn’t think he stood a chance with straight Joe and therefore hid his attraction to the handsome football player. When the tutoring ended, so did Avery’s time with Joe.
Years passed and when it’s time for college, Avery takes a job at the diner of a family friend and he’s shocked when his boss hires a new server ... Joe. Joe’s out and proud now but comes with a boyfriend, once more crushing Avery’s dreams.
Sometimes life brings someone back to you for a reason. Can Avery figure out what’s between him and Joe before it’s too late?
I was working the front counter that day and when Joe came over to pour a couple of coffees, he saw me watching him.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he muttered.
I nodded and continued to serve my customers, but a couple of hours into the shift, he looked like he had something to say to me.
“What?” I asked.
“Jeff and me. We broke up.”
“I’m sorry, Joe.” And I was.
He looked so sad, I couldn’t be anything but sorry they had broken up.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” I had expected him to say no so I was surprised when instead he nodded.
“Do you think later when our shifts are through, you’d maybe go for coffee or something? I could really use a friend.”
“Sure, no problem.”
I was surprised, really, because I hadn’t thought in all the time I knew Joe he thought of me as a friend. Not really. But I wouldn’t have said no, anyway.
Since Joe had walked to work that morning, he got in my car and we made the short drive. There was a coffee place maybe half a block down the street. One of those places that have baristas and serve fancy coffee drinks.
I ordered an iced mocha latte and Joe ordered just a regular coffee, which I noticed he drank with only one sugar, no cream.
I waited for my cue from him because I didn’t feel like I could just blurt out, “So, what happened?” I inserted my straw in my drink and took a few sips.
“I never saw it coming,” Joe finally said after what seemed an eternity.
“His breaking up with me. We’d gotten an apartment together just about a month ago.”
“Sucks.” I bit my lip after saying that, thinking that sounded kind of lame and unsympathetic.
Joe nodded. “It does.”
“Was ... was there someone else?”
“He said no.” Joe played with the empty sugar packet in front of him. “He said he just decided he wasn’t ready for a committed relationship like he thought he was. It was too hard.
“Yeah. You ever hear from Brett?”
“Nah. We said our goodbyes when he left. I don’t know what he’s doing. It’s hard to be just friends, you know, after you were more.”
Joe lapsed into silence again and I thought maybe he’d stay that way, when he said, “How come you didn’t go with him? To college back there?”
It was funny, really, because we’d never had very personal conversations, and him asking me that, well it seemed personal. I guessed maybe Joe really did want to be friends.
“My parents mostly,” I said. “I’m their only kid and they had me when they were both in their forties. Dad has diabetes and Mom has had breast cancer. It’s in remission, but I don’t really want to be that far from them.”
Joe smiled a little, his dimples just making an appearance. “You’re sweet.”
I felt myself blush and took a large sip of my coffee, shaking my head.
“Yes, you are,” he insisted. “That sucks about being an only child, though. I have five brothers and three sisters.”
He laughed. “Yeah, it’s nuts. All of us trying to share a couple bathrooms. That’s why I couldn’t wait to get my own place.”