“It’s been a rubber ducky kind of day, and I’m out of here. My bathtub is calling me. I may or may not be in tomorrow. Who knows, maybe I’ll go to Asia or Australia. A cruise around the world is calling my name.” The barista who was at least in his mid-twenties swept past me in a whirl of drama and almost-sheer fabric as his flowy shirt moved around him.
I’d been standing in the back of the line long enough to have seen several customers get a little snippy with him, but nothing that was probably out of the ordinary. The woman with the bright purple hair he’d been speaking with just rolled her eyes and hollered after him.
“Drama queen! You’d better be here tomorrow. If you take that cruise without me, you’re a dead drama queen.” No one else in the room seemed to think the interaction was odd, so I tried not to react.
But it was…difficult.
I was starting to get the feeling that moving to the city hadn’t been such a good idea.
Not that this interaction had been my only clue.
My downstairs neighbor had threatened to call the police when I’d brought over a package the mailman had inadvertently delivered to me, and if the internet was correct, the people who lived in the townhouse next to my apartment building might be worshiping Satan.
Not that it was any of my business, but the large statue in their backyard was a bit unnerving.
They were supposed to be polite, however, and didn’t have any problems with the Wiccans on the other side. Evidently, my street was…unique. Idaho was starting to look better and better, even though I’d been bored out of my mind in the tiny town I’d been raised in.
Forty-five minutes to the nearest chain grocery store wasn’t looking so bad now that I’d gotten a taste of “civilization.”
Well, it wasn’t looking so bad compared to most of civilization.
There were bits and pieces I found fascinating…like flowy shirts and dramatic men with well-shaped asses who took baths with a rubber ducky.
Would he take bubble baths?
Was that his only toy?
Had he been serious or had it just been for dramatic effect?
Based on the people I’d met lately, it could go either way, but something about the young man just stuck in my head. I kept rolling over everything he’d said in my mind, and by the time I got up to the counter, my thoughts had only gotten more vivid.
“One second, cutie.” The woman with the vibrant hair hurried around the small space, moving faster than I could’ve ever dreamed of as she cleaned random things and finished up someone’s order.
When she came back to me a few moments later, the small coffee shop was significantly quieter, and I was the last in line.
She smiled as she leaned into the counter, giving me a chance to see that her name tag read Amber, but I thought some of that was because she was glad to see there was no one behind me. “That afternoon rush gets more insane as the week goes by. All those snippy office types are desperate to get their fix at the same time.”
“So I should come just a little bit later. That’s good to know, thank you.” I was being sincere, but she grinned, obviously finding something amusing. “A hot peppermint tea and a brownie, please.”
I could’ve made both of those at home, but getting out of the house was just as important as the chocolate fix.
She cocked her head, studying me before her fingers flew across the pad in front of her. She gave me my total, and as I scanned my card, she nodded to herself. “Yeah, either about eleven or right about now is good.”
She gestured toward the front of the store and the buildings that surrounded it. “That’s when most of the finance guys that work around here are in meetings or getting ready to head into meetings.”
“Thank you.” Moving downtown had seemed like the best way to make the change complete since I was already moving clear across the country, but I was starting to second-guess that decision.
Along with several others.
As she moved around getting my order together, I thought back to the man and couldn’t hold back my question. Surely if he’d meant to keep his life private, he wouldn’t have said anything.
“May I be nosy for a moment?” I found myself glancing back over at the door, picturing the graceful man’s dramatic exit.
She must’ve known what I was thinking because as she handed over my tea, she nodded and smiled. “Sure, honey, we’re pretty open around here.”
Hopefully, she meant that.
“The gentleman that left before…he was…may I ask why he mentioned the rubber duck?” Before she could even respond, I found myself apologizing as I took my brownie from her hand. “I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.”
She chuckled, shaking her head as I stepped back. “Cutie, that man doesn’t know the meaning of the word private. Hell, half the regulars could tell you what he was talking about. He’s not the world’s best at finding ways to relax.”
I thought that was reasonable, so I found myself nodding…well, right up until she explained how he released his stress.
“So when he gets frustrated and has worked just a bit too much, he has little night.” She kept going like that sentence made perfect sense. “He runs himself a bubble bath and has toys and eats cake for dinner.”
That didn’t sound healthy at all.
And that must’ve come out of my mouth because she gave me a nod like I’d said something wonderfully smart. “The man needs a Daddy and a few more vegetables, but since he’s the boss…and a guy…that’s not my job.”
No matter what people said about people in cities being closed off and private, that hadn’t been my experience.
I just wasn’t always sure what to say.
Her mention of a Daddy and how she’d basically made it sound like the young man needed a keeper brought back memories of a profile I’d seen on an online dating app. But since I didn’t have nearly enough experience with anything interesting like that, I kept my response simple.
“It sounds like he needs someone to help him relax. Stress is terrible for the body, but cake for dinner really isn’t the answer.” I must’ve gotten the tone right, at the very least, because she smiled.
“Absolutely.” Then she flashed me a flirty grin. “Maybe next time you come in he’ll be in a better mood.”
Refusing to blush and stammer like an idiot who’d never dated, I managed to keep a somewhat adequate blank face and shook my head. “I won’t bother him. I’m sure he’s busy.”
And even I knew men like that did not date men like me.
Studious was only sexy in porn…and even then, it wasn’t really believable.
She flashed me another smile and shook her head. “Honey, he’s not going to be bothered by you at all.”
Refusing to get my hopes up just because she was polite, I smiled. “Thank you for the tea and for humoring me.”
“Any time, honey.” As I walked out the door, she called out again as more people started filing in. “Check out the store’s site. I think you might find Saturday nights interesting.”
With that slightly curious order bouncing around in my head, I walked back to the apartment I’d been renting for the last month. I’d made myself sign a year’s lease to the building that had looked so interesting online, but as I walked through the busy streets, I still wasn’t sure I’d made the right decision.
There was a big difference between telling myself that I needed to step out of my comfort zone and actually doing it.
Heading back to my building, I went directly to a small rooftop garden that had been the push I’d needed to actually sign the lease. In the afternoons, the sheltered space was always empty, so I went over to a small table in the corner and sat down with my food.
Setting my phone down on the table, I studied it as I ate the brownie, sipping on my tea and just letting the conversation work through my mind again. I wasn’t so out of touch that the word Daddy and the mention of finding ways to unwind were completely foreign, but at nearly forty, it was the first time I’d run into this situation.
I’d always spent more time studying than living, even when I was younger. But growing up in a small town where there had been only three gay men, two of whom had lived together for my entire life and were basically antiques at this point, my dating life had been limited to the times that I’d driven into Boise.
Which hadn’t been that often.
A handful of one-night stands and two long-term, long-distance boyfriends didn’t make me worldly enough to understand what the young man wanted, but there was something about the whole situation that kept pulling me back to it.
Finally giving in, I did what I did best.
One hour and several websites later, I had a better idea about what he was into and why he’d been looking to escape into a bubble bath with his toys, but it’d also left me with a nearly endless list of questions.
First of all being…why couldn’t I get it out of my head?
I’d never been fascinated by the odd corners of the internet. I’d always known they were there. I’d looked up porn enough times to have seen things that seemed a bit unique, but I’d never stopped to study them.
This felt different, though.
I just wasn’t sure why, and I didn’t know what to do about it.
He was a stranger.
This kind of obsession had to be rude.
But then the barista popped up in my mind, and I saw the look on her face again. She hadn’t been upset by my lack of manners. She’d liked it. I had some people skills. Not many, and very few when it came to men, but she’d been encouraging me.
What had she said?
Saturday. I was supposed to look up the website and see something about their schedule, maybe?
Once I found the coffee shop’s website, I had to laugh. Mixed in with pictures of the feisty barista were pictures of coffee and comments from their patrons about what the fascinating man had said. It seemed to be some kind of game of one-upmanship to see who he’d insulted more.
No one seemed offended…well, not in a bad way that would make them ignore his business, but I couldn’t help thinking that he might need a vacation…or more bubble baths.
A few more rubber duckies couldn’t hurt either.
I clicked on the weekly schedule link. Where I’d expected to see a list of hours and specials, I was surprised to see truly special events instead.
They had people who played as puppies?
I felt like I was intruding, even though nearly everyone’s face was obscured in some way. They were clearly playing and having fun, but it felt personal. I had to admit that was probably just the way I saw things, though.
Looking through the information on the page, I ignored the photos and focused on the words and the details of what was happening. Research. I needed to research, not look at pictures of people dressed up as puppies or with toys and binkies.
He had a binkie.
There weren’t many pictures of him, I would’ve noticed otherwise, but down toward the bottom of the page he was sitting on the floor petting one of the puppy people and sucking on a binkie.
So yes, I’d gotten my research correct.
That was good to know, but after a few minutes of staring at the page, I realized I hadn’t read the words yet.
“Back to work. Focus.” Scrolling back to the top of the page, I ignored the background and just went over the text. “Fascinating.”
But why had she told me about it?
Sitting back, I ate the last of my brownie as I played with my cup. I knew I didn’t look like I belonged in that kind of environment. The fact that I was gay always surprised people, so she wouldn’t have immediately classified me as interesting in any way.
No one ever did…because I wasn’t interesting…correct?
Taking a breath, I read through the words again. The opening information about the coffee shop being an inclusive, welcoming space didn’t surprise me, but the fact that Saturday nights were for people to express themselves in more unique ways was fascinating.
Thankfully, the rules made it clear everyone had to be covered.
I wasn’t naïve. I’d seen pictures online, and I knew that people in BDSM weren’t always fully clothed, but I was just glad if I went that I wouldn’t have to figure out how to ignore naked puppy people.
No, I wasn’t going to go.
I had absolutely no reason to go, and I wasn’t going to intrude on the young man’s personal space with his friends.
But maybe saying hello would be appropriate?
At the very least I should go back and buy more tea to support his endeavors. Having a small business was hard. It would just be polite. Yes, I should definitely go back…but not on Saturdays.
I was just going to say hello.
Sometimes it’s just a rubber ducky kind of day…especially when you work in customer service.
Skyler knows he’s not the most well-mannered business owner, but luckily the curious people who wander into his coffee shop don’t expect him to behave. They like the drama that whirls around him like one of his fabulous dresses.
Well, everyone but Nash likes the drama that plays out.
Nash is much more interested in getting to know the real person behind the drama and outrageous behavior because he’s never met anyone like the captivating Skyler. Rubber duckies and little time are completely out of his comfort zone, but the more he gets to know the fascinating barista, the more curious he becomes, and he starts to wonder…what does it really take to be a Daddy?