Inho smiled sheepishly at Jasmine and nodded, “Ok let's go, I could really use a smoke right now.” Quitting when you’re under stress is goddamn impossible, Inho thought, admitting defeat. Also, in all honesty, servers who smoked got more leeway for breaks than everyone else. She led him through the rear fire escape door, then paused to pull out her buzzing phone.
“Ah, shit. Here,” she handed him the pack. “I gotta take this call real quick. You go first, and I’ll be down in a sec.”
She turned back inside and Inho stomped down the wet slick stairs alone to the alley below. He patted his pockets for a lighter and dug out a business card instead. He lifted it and looked it over, though he already knew what it said.
Stephen Wren, BS, MBA, CPA
Witt Accounting Ltd.
Fancy, he sneered to himself. Jamie had a fancy card too, and all Inho had was a new apron. He eyed the card again, running his thumb over the embossed letters. It must be nice to have multiple degrees, and an enormous apartment downtown. Must be great to be so tall, wear expensive clothes, and have such perfect fucking hair. Stephen looked fit too, broad-shouldered, the outline of his chest had shown right through his shirt like a goddamn superhero. Inho crossed his arms over his own slim chest and hissed smoke out through his teeth. He could see Stephens' charming grin in his mind’s eye.
He gave his head a little shake as if to dislodge these weird thoughts. Why was Stephen haunting him so much? Was it the obvious proposition? Now that was a shock. It wasn’t something he’d considered before- being attractive to a man- and a part of him still wondered if it had been some sort of intimidation tactic. Inho had often felt like a bit of a narcissist for how his interest only ever ignited when somebody else pursued him first. Jamie had kickstarted their romance with very aggressive flirting, as had all his previous girlfriends.
So, with this new experience, he couldn’t help but guess at what Stephen saw in him. What he wanted to do to him…He pictured Stephen as he’d looked yesterday, how his bright blue eyes had looked at him so hungrily. Being desired in that way, who wouldn’t wonder?
His musings were interrupted by the wobbly clang of Jasmine coming down the metal stairs to join him.
“So where are you from Inho?” She spoke around a cigarette in her mouth and leaned forward for him to light her.
“South Korea; I live in Seoul.”
“Oh? And what brings you here then? Are you an international student? Your English is so good.”
“Nah, I wish. I’m just here to see my girlfriend. She usually visits me back home.” Inho drew deeply on his first cigarette in 2 months. The smoke flooded his lungs and he felt himself relax instantly. “It’s my first time in Canada. I grew up in the US though, so I learned English there, ‘til I was like 7.”
“Wow, that is looooong distance,” Jasmine said, puffing a cloud to Inho’s right. “I couldn’t do that.”
“Well it’s not going great,” Inho gave a soft rueful laugh. “I’m on a recovery mission right now.”
“That’s rough,” Jasmine bumped her fist softly on his shoulder. “ I just had a breakup too. You gotta get back out there; there’s lots of fish in the sea.”
“I’m not ready to move on yet,” Inho tapped his cigarette lightly with his thumb. “I think I can make it work. She’s just having a tough time right now, and can’t focus on me. I can get her back. I can fix it”
Jasmine looked at him and cocked her head, her braid flopping over. “I’ve heard that a time or two, Kid.”
Inho grinned at her, “Who are you calling kid? No way you’re older than me.”
Jasmine smirked, “There’s older, then there’s wiser. Let your big sister here show you the way. You can thank me for the job by the way. The boss swears the last guy will come back; He’s such a dreamer.”
“Oh yeah? What’s Nathan like? He seemed kinda intense.”
Jasmine took a long pull on her cigarette before answering through a rush of exhaled smoke. “He’s a trip, man. He can be harsh, but he’s fair. He’s got some weird ideas, though.”
Inho raised his brows quizzically, but she didn't expand.
"You know what,” she paused, thoughtfully. “Nathan likes to have little welcome dinners with drinks for new staff. You’re having a rough go right now – why don’t we do one tonight after close?”
“Oh,” Inho hesitated, suddenly shy. “You don’t have to do that.”
“It’s fine, we all love an excuse to drink, and you’re part of the family now!” She jostled him lightly with her elbow.
“Well okay, if the boss is fine with it. Might be kinda nice.” Inho smiled, feeling encouraged somehow.
Jasmine took a final puff and ground her cigarette out under her heel. Starting back up the stairs, she spoke over her shoulder, “It’ll be a good time. I promise.”