They had reached a sort of wordless agreement: whenever she had work, he would give her a ride and as payment, drank some tea. He never stayed for long, but C.C. worked often enough that Cindy finally got the hang of saying his name and he started a tab.
Of course, it didn’t really mean that the two talked more often at school. In fact, they began to talk even less than before (and before, they had spoken to each other maybe once in a blue moon) simply because of the fact that Lelouch couldn’t be bothered to deal with Kallen’s intense jealousy but enjoyed his tea far too much to stop. A little selfish of him to be so reckless, perhaps, but he was only 18 and so only knew that he liked the iced tea at Panita Thai and Cindy’s toothless smile and C.C. with her hair up.
She was a good server. Even if at school she was stand-offish, she was considerate and took good care of her tables, and he liked watching her work. There was just something about the way she moved and spoke that made him feel that he could just sit there at the counter for eternity, content with simply watching her.
So it was only natural that his stays became longer and longer until he’d first have a glass of tea, wait some to let it settle, and then have this or that dish. Sometimes it was spring rolls, other times pad thai or fried rice. He wasn’t a picky eater at all, which pleased Cindy enough to give him a special discount.
“She start working here two years ago. She like my baby. I care for her when things too hard, but I don’t care. I love her.”
“And she certainly works hard, doesn’t she?”
“Yes, very good worker. The best.”
Cindy beamed at him, and the young man returned her infectious smile. Hobbling around the corner, the old lady patted his knee before tilting her head up. Gesturing for him to lean closer, she whispered into his ear, “C.C. tell me you have girlfriend.”
He glanced over her shoulder to look at the girl in question. She’d been talking about him to Cindy? Or to anyone for the matter? Interesting.
“There is someone,” he said slowly,” but I don’t love her. Not anymore anyway.”
“Because you love C.C.?”
He only laughed, but there was no humor to be found in the wrinkles of her face. Squeezing his knee with a surprisingly strong grip, she frowned at him. Squinting, she clucked.
“If you no love her, why you with her?”
He was quiet for a long time. He liked Cindy – she was kind and good to him, and she had a good sense of humor – but he didn’t like her enough to tell her that it was complicated because the truth of the matter, the interest in C.C. as an unusual specimen of classmate had gradually evolved into…something else over the course of the past few weeks, and that he hadn’t yet announced his intentions of separating from Kallen because she was already a handful, what with him giving C.C. a ride every week. If he told her that he was breaking up wit her, she’d only say that she’d been right all along and that he was in fact fucking her and then promptly demand to know what it was that that witch had that she didn’t. And quite frankly, he liked C.C. too much to put her through that.
“Sometimes it’s just easier not to do anything,” he said with a crooked smile. She nodded understandingly.
“But only sometime,” she warned. “Other time, it better to do something.”
“That is true,” he said softly. “That is very true.”
He meditated on this for the next half hour while he stood in the back and quietly washed dishes. Every now and then, he liked to help out in terms of labor. Not to mention how it was better for him too; wealthy his parents may be, his wallet was no bottomless well. Especially with the recent turn of events at home. He did things like wipe tables down, wash dishes, or prep. Cindy liked the way he cut things, apparently; much better than C.C., though she was no fool either when it came to slicing and dicing.
He looked up when he heard a quiet “Shit.” Perched atop a step stool, her fingers just grazed the stack of white take-out boxes. Wiping his hands dry, he used the first step as a boost before reaching for a handful from behind. She turned, though she obviously wasn’t expecting to see how close together they were because she nearly lost her balance. Catching herself on the edge of the sink, she did her best to avoid looking at him as his gentle breath tickled her ear.
Glancing at him from out of the corner of her eye, she reached up to gently nudge him down and to give her some space when she heard him say her name in a voice she’d never heard him use before. Heart nearly stopping, she held her breath as she finally faced him.
Her lips brushed against his cheek ever so slightly, but it was enough to raise the hair on her nape and his blood to start rushing. Turning his head ever so slightly, he looked at her with hooded eyes as her lips teased his.
“You…” But the accusation had been weak anyway, and had quickly expired in her throat as she felt his arms wrap around her waist.
“I what?” he asked softly.
But he never found out how she had meant to end that sentence because her fingers were brushing his cheek and his hand was on the small of her back as they kissed one another, first tenderly, shyly, apprehensively, then honestly and hungrily; greedily, as if they’d been starving for the other all throughout the last few weeks but hadn’t said anything out of fear and respect for the other.