At the end of the shift, around 11pm, as they always did after working together until closing, Lucy and Willow relaxed in the bar area before heading home.
“Hey, Willow,” Lucy said, and stole a glance at her friend from beneath her lashes. “You and Christian worked together really well today.”
“Yeah, hey. I was surprised at how easy he was to work with.”
“Can I say, ‘I told you so’?”
Frown lines crinkled Willow’s forehead. “For what now?”
“That Christian’s not the ogre you think he is.” Lucy grabbed Willow’s stool and spun it around toward her. “In fact, the kitchen staff love him. Praising how he’s always willing to show them something, offer a kind word, or the space to express their creativity. Sounds like a good mentor to me. A good person.”
Willow gaped at Lucy. “Jislaaik. Did he take a pay cut in exchange for you to say these things? What’s up with the fan club?” Silence hung thick in the air as Lucy sipped on her cola, while Willow eyed her. “Answer me, Lucy. When did you become a pom-pom cheerleader poppie for that guy?”
Lucy took a sharp breath in as she swallowed, and a bout of coughing had her doubled over as tears streamed down her cheeks. Willow thumped her back. “Hey, now, no need to kill yourself. Some of America’s presidents were cheerleaders, you know.”
Lucy burst out laughing. “Now you’re talking even more rubbish.”
“Fact!” Willow raised her hand in solemn oath.
Lucy stared at Willow, wide-eyed and serious now. “I’m not cheering for Christian. During their employee reviews, the staff only have good things to say about him, and … well, I noticed a kind of … chemistry … between the two of you today.”
“Oh, puh-lease.” Willow rolled her eyes. “He’s probs trying to get closer to you through me. I see how he faffs about you – always trying to please you. Don’t you know? Guys know that when the best friend approves of them, it improves their chances with the target girl.”
“You’ve just proven your own point.” Lucy snapped her fingers. “The way I see it, that’s the reason why he’s seeking my approval. He likes you.”
Willow looked at Lucy with a deadpan expression. “Askies? When did you start talking through your bum? That’s the stinkiest crap I’ve ever heard.”
Lucy punched Willow on the shoulder. “Is that your final answer? Are you sure you aren’t cheating yourself out of a chance with a nice guy?”
“I’m sure. With a positive and a plus.”
Lucy twirled her glass and gazed at Willow. “Okay. I’ll just say, ‘I told you so’ … again.”
* * * * *
Meanwhile, in Christian’s car, Bongani, Christian’s sous chef and close friend, replayed the day’s events in his mind. “Ekse majita” he said as he twisted his body toward Christian, “what’s up with you and lady boss Jenkins?”
Christian’s foot slipped off the accelerator and the car jerked in response. “What do you mean? There’s nothing going on between us.”
“You mean, you wish there was. You skeem I don’t see what’s going on? The way you look at her when you think no-one’s watching you.”
“Crap!” Christian said but felt his face flame up.
“I don’t know why you bother with the Iron Lady. Sure, she’s pretty with a rocking body, but fuck man, ntombazana yonke – right in your kitchen – will serve themselves on a platter if you so much as looked at them.”
“You’re yanking my chain, Bongs. But even if it’s true, there’s only one Willow. She’s like a crème brûlée dessert ― hardened exterior, but soft and sweet on the inside, and as strong as a double shot of espresso coffee.”
Bongani slapped his hand on the dash and guffawed. “Chris my bra, you’ve got it bad, ekse. You, my friend, have been Willowped,” he said, making a swishing motion.
Christian chuckled at Bongani’s expression. “You better shut it or I’ll kick your butt out right here.”
“Ja neh, the truth shall set me free.”
Tell us: Do you think a person can successfully hide their attraction for someone from their friends? Or should you always share such info with your friends anyway?