Though it’s one o’clock, I’m still not very hungry—residual nervousness from my first day still has my stomach flipping a little—so I head over to the juice bar. A smoothie sounds about right for lunch today. It’s not too heavy, but it is substantial enough to get me through until dinner. Besides, the juice bar is the closest thing to me, and at this point, every step counts.
When I get there, there’s no line—everyone seems to be hanging at the pizza and Indian food stations today. There are two guys behind the counter, neither of whom seems in that big a rush to take my order. Which is fine, since I don’t know what I want yet anyway.
The menu’s not that extensive—eight different smoothies, and six different juices, including wheatgrass and beet, neither of which is high on my list of things to try—so it doesn’t take me long to make up my mind. And still neither guy tries to wait on me. I’m more intrigued than annoyed, though, especially since it looks like I’m not the only one who is new today. One of the guys is definitely instructing the other on the fine art of smoothie making, and he’s being very particular, talking about things like the proper juice-to-fruit ratio and how important it is to make sure that the frozen yogurt is just the right temperature. He even goes so far as to instruct him on exactly how many blueberries should go into the smoothie he’s making. It turns out thirty-eight is the right number. Not thirty-seven. Not thirty-nine. But thirty-eight.
Coming from another guy, the whole speech probably would have sounded jerky. But this guy is so passionate about smoothie making, so determined that it be exactly right, that he doesn’t sound jerky at all. Instead, he comes off like the Dalai Lama of blended-drink making. Patient, wise, omnipotent.
And the guy he’s talking to is hanging on his every syllable, like the words that fall from his lips are actually directions on how to reach nirvana. I’m amused despite myself, and am almost sorry to see the lesson end when the smoothie finally gets poured into two cups. Or I would be if the minutes of my lunch hour weren’t ticking rapidly away.
“Excuse me,” I say when it eventually becomes obvious that they’re both more than happy to stand around staring at the reddish blue smoothie in front of them for many moons to come. It’s like they’re both completely entranced by the drink, and I can’t help thinking that maybe Frost Industries doesn’t take their no-illegal-substance policy all that seriously. Because these guys have to be high on something, right? Otherwise a simple smoothie just wouldn’t be all that interesting. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m ready to order now.”
The trainer looks up at the sound of my voice, his dark blue eyes immediately zeroing in on mine. That’s when I realize he wasn’t as oblivious to my presence as I’d thought. He’d been testing me as surely as he’d been testing the other employee, waiting to see how each of us would handle the situation.
The knowledge gets my back up. It’s just a stupid drink, just a stupid little power play, but I don’t enjoy being manipulated. Even over something as ridiculous as a drink.
“No need to order,” he says, pressing a lid down onto one of the cups before sliding it across the counter at me.
“You can have this one. It’s the Ethan Special.”
“No, thank you.” I don’t even glance at the cup. “I’d prefer a Hawaiian Sunrise.”
“How do you know that’s what you’d prefer? You don’t even know what’s in the Ethan Special.”
Judging from his behavior, I’m thinking grass of the non-wheat variety. And since this is my first day, I’m not exactly prepared to risk it, no matter how hot he is. “I don’t have to know what’s in it to know that I’m in the mood for” —I glance back at the menu— “A refreshing blend of strawberries, bananas, pineapple juice, and orange sherbet. None of which appear to be in the drink you just made.”
“This drink has strawberries in it. Seven, to be exact.”
Thirty-eight blueberries and seven strawberries. Is this guy for real? There’s a part of me that’s intrigued despite myself, but I’m not about to let him see that. So I just look down my nose at him and answer, “One out of four ingredients is not what I would call a perfect match.”
“Is that important to you?” he asks, one dark eyebrow raised. “That things match up perfectly?”
Absolutely. I’m obsessive about it, really, making sure things fit exactly where they’re supposed to. Making sure the i’s are all dotted and the t’s are all crossed and the rules have all been followed. Tori calls me OCD, but it’s not like that. It’s not the routine of doing something a certain way that appeals to me. It’s the order of the end result that I crave, the knowledge that things are exactly as they should be.