I rushed home to change and luckily Leo wasn’t there. I changed quickly and hurried down to the cafe.
“Where the hell were you? What happened to my month of no morning prep?” Anna was already there working hard.
“It was just an offer. You don’t have to use it right away or even all at once, so you have to let me know when you want to use it. Offer is only valid until next year.” I put on a stupid voice like in those lame infomercials as I put on my apron.
“What about when you graduate? How are you supposed to cover for me if you go to so fancy, far away university?”
The talk of what to do after school always made me a little uncomfortable, “Well~, I can’t tell you what I don’t know.” I just jokingly shrugged it off and started helping her. After we were done with most of that I went out to the front to help serve. It was fairly busy and I didn’t even notice Rory and his friend had come in until I was bringing their order to their table.
“Oh, it’s you. So did you come to apologize?” I asked leaving all of their things right where they were on the tray I had resting on my hand and shoulder.
His friend, I recognize as the guy from this morning, looks at him confused. “What the hell did you do?”
“Nothing really. I was just honest.” Wow, he really pisses me off.
“Okay, but I know you to be an asshole, so you probably said something awful.”
“It’s not so much what he said as his attitude.” I spoke in a low tone, but switched to slightly happier one just to address his friend. “I didn’t really get to introduce myself this morning. I’m Jackson, Rory’s soulmate. Who are you?”
He easily returned my positivity in a way that seemed to purposefully irritate Rory. “My name is Eric. I’ve been Rory’s close friend for over 20 years. It’s a pleasure to meet you Jackson.” He extends his hand and I take it with my free hand and shake gently to avoid disturbing my tray.
“Oh, everyone just calls me Jay.”
“Okay, great, can we have our stuff now.” Rory is definitely annoyed and gestures to their order.
“Oh this? Well, how about I give it to you after you apologize?” Rory rolls his eyes and seems to immediately give up.
“Wait, what about me? Can’t I have mine. I’m not an asshole.”
“He won’t give in on his own. I need you to teach him some basic human decency and get him to do it properly. Sorry, but I guess that makes you collateral in your friends pity party.” Eric looks to Rory, obviously annoyed. "I’ll keep all this in the back. I’m going back to help with baking again so feel free to come back whenever you’re ready. I’ll let Tanner know to let you in.” I turn to head back, but address them one more time. “I’d hurry. I’d hate to have to serve you cold coffee.” I throw a wink at Eric and they seem to start animatedly discussing solutions.
They actually come to the back a lot sooner than I thought they would. Anna had just gone outside to take out some trash when I heard the door to the front swing open. I turned to them. “Wow, Eric you must really have him whipped, I didn’t expect you to get him ready so quickly.”
“About that, there is something we really need to talk about.”
“Oh?” I was a little puzzled by what he said, but he didn’t have time to elaborate when Anna rushed back in.
“Jay what did you do? Never mind no time just run!”
“Anna?” I was very concerned by what she said, but more so for her mental state than for my own well being. Then Leo stormed in and it quickly began to make sense.
“Jackson Elliott! What the fuck is wrong with you? Why the hell would you lie to me?”
“What do you mean?” I am not a convincing liar so she sees through me.
“I just saw Gwyn and he was very confused when I asked how you were, so I said, ‘He stayed at your place last night right?’. Can you guess what he said to me after that?”
She was pissed and I was getting a hailstorm of sass from her. “Well he probably said ‘No.’ because I didn’t.”
“So where the hell were you last night? Why did you lie to me?”
“Because you-” I started to explain myself, but Rory surprisingly spoke up.
“He stayed at my place.”
“Who the, aren’t you that guy from yesterday?” He nodded, “Jay! Didn’t you cause him enough trouble yesterday? And you just met him, why the hell would you stay over?”
“Why does it matter so much to you?”
“Because Ben would kill me if something happened to you!” She paused and took a breath to calm herself before continuing, “Speaking of Ben, you need to come back to the house because he’s coming and he’s going to want to talk to you.”
“You stole my alcohol and I was fine letting that go, but then I found out you lied to me about where you were staying so I called him right away. We were going to go looking for you if you weren’t here.”
I groaned in annoyance. I really didn’t want to have to deal with my dad. “Why did you have to get Ben involved? You could have called me. I can explain all of this.”
“I did call you. About 12 times!”
“Oh yeah. You, uh, left this at Rory’s place.” Eric reached out to hand me my phone and I stupidly checked my pockets before taking it. “Will you need some time?”
“We don’t have time. We need to get this sorted out as soon as possible.” Rory seemed impatient.
“Great since everyone has got so much to discuss with me we can all go to the house. Everyone can take turns chewing out Jay.” I was clearly irritated, but Rory didn’t seem to care. His agenda was clearly more important.
“Sure let’s go.”
“Wait what about the cafe?” Anna was worried that I was leaving.
Then right on cue Tanner peaked in from the door to the front. “Uh, I could use a little help.” He was a great server/barista, but he was very soft-spoken.
“Sorry guys, complicated family issues to take care of. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” I held the back door open for everyone else to leave first. "You’ll do great Tanner. I believe in you.” I gave him a thumbs up before heading out the door, but I managed to hear him respond weakly.
“But it’s a Saturday…”
Leo lead the way to the house, which is a very short walk from the cafe. We got in and she told them all the get comfortable. I started making coffee for them since they never got any.
“Here, it’s not as good, but it’s better than nothing.” I handed them each a mug and sat the cream and sugar on the coffee table for them to use freely.
“So, I’m a little behind in all of this. Care for some more introductions?” Eric looked at Leo for some clarification.
“Well I would assume she’s his sister since she talked about him taking her alcohol last night.” Rory chipped in.
“No. Jay why do you do this? I’m his aunt. My name is Leanne, but most people call me Leon. It’s kind of a long story. Who are you two again exactly?”
“My name is Eric Ynfante, and this is my close friend Rory McCabe. Thank you for having us by the way.” Eric is very polite and knows how to conduct himself, Rory on the other hand.
“So why the hell did you call her your sister?”
“We were basically raised together since Ben is so much older than her. So she feels much more like a sister to me.”
“Look an older sister would almost hate her younger brother, an aunt can love and spoil her nephew.” She put her arm around my neck and pulled me in tight to tease me.
“Then who the hell is Ben?” Rory is tactless.
“He’s my brother and this idiot's dad.” She kept hold of me and messed up my hair with her other hand.
“You call your dad by his name?” Eric gave me an odd look.
“He was still in university so my grandparents took care of me. I just got used to what everyone else was saying. I call my grandparents dad and pops, and since everyone called him Ben so do I.”
“Who the hell is Gwyn then? What did he have to do with anything?”
I was shocked that Rory even remembered Gwyn since he had only been mentioned once earlier. “Gwyn isn’t important. He’s none of your business and we definitely don’t mention him to Ben. Okay?”
Before anyone had a chance to respond, Ben came in with an authoritative attitude. “Jackson Elliott Vandergard! Would you care to explain yourself?” I hate when he does that.
“That’s not my name.”
“This is no time to talk back. Start explaining… Who are these gentleman?” His tone changed as he looked at Eric and Rory confused. Eric looked almost terrified when he went to respond.
“Excuse me, so are you Benjamin Vandergard, of the Vandergard Co.?”
“Yes, do I know you?”
“So sorry for the intrusion Mr. CEO, I’m lead researcher Eric Ynfante and this is Rory McCabe, the advertiser in charge of the upcoming event.”
“Ah yes, I heard there was a setback regarding soulmate consent.”
“Yes sir, that has a little bit to do with why we are here.”
“Okay? Well I have family issues to sort out at the moment. So if you could step out.”
“No, they should be here. They have a lot to do with this.” I inserted myself back into the conversation.
“How so? Go on and explain yourself.” Ben was back into parent mode with his arms crossed. “Why did you steal alcohol from Lee?”
“I didn't steal it. I just, kind of borrowed it with the full intent to pay her back or replace it later.”
“Without telling her?”
“I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“Then why did you lie? Lee said she saw the friend you told her you stayed with and they had no idea what she was talking about.”
“I stayed at Rory’s. I only lied because she didn’t know him. It was more convenient.”
“And how exactly do you know one of my employees well enough to stay at their home?”
“He doesn’t, they just met yesterday! He brought him to the bar in between hours to make him coffee, but he was clearly bothering him. So why the hell did you stay over? Why would he let you?” Leo decided to rat me out pretty hard.
“I was drunk and passed out. I didn’t realize that he’d stayed until I woke up this morning.”
“Are you guys trying to get me killed?”
“You stayed at a strangers house without their permission?!” Ben was pissed.
“He isn't a stranger!” I raised my voice.
“How exactly isn't he a stranger if you only met him yesterday? He could have been any kind of awful person. Do you have any idea what could have happened to you?”
“I knew I was going to fine.”
“You can’t know something like that!”
“No Jackson, you can’t just-”
“He’s my soulmate!” I basically yelled at my father and everyone was silent. He looked stunned and walked over to Rory.