I stood at the register and stared at the door that was maybe a couple yards away. I don't know why, but today has been a long day at work. Maybe it's because today is Hailee's day off, though I'm not sure. Ivan promised me he would let me off a few minutes early, but I am positive he will forget when the time comes. I don't see how he can be so busy if he's not one of the people making the food, selling it, or putting in any effort to prepare it. It seems like he takes pleasure in sitting around and telling people what to do. He has had me on my feet nonstop since I came in, except for lunch when I sat at an empty table by myself. I really wish Hailee was here to take my mind off from work. I am hoping that if I keep staring at the door, no one will enter until I have to leave.
"Niall, don't look so happy and thrilled to be here." Ben joked.
I would say Ben is a close second after Hailee to the people I like here in Arcade and Rocky's, excluding Emily. I'm not nearly as close of a friend to Ben as I am to Hailee, but I enjoy talking and laughing with him. I think by now I could classify him as a friend if I truly had to. We are planning on watching the basement concert together on Thursday and we've hung out a couple of times before. We are building our friendship slowly- yeah, that's it. Besides, none of the other workers here seem to be around my age anyways.
"Oh don't worry, I am over-the-hill excited to be here." I assured Ben. I finally turned to face him before we both shared a laugh.
"It sucks not having Hailee around, huh?"
"Yeah, I'm so used to seeing her everyday at work. I forgot she has days off."
"So, what were you thinking about? I noticed that there are times when you are by yourself, you tend to just zone out like you are in your own world. Is everything okay?"
"Of course, I just-" I stopped and tried to think of something that would be a satisfying excuse. Not only had I been thinking of how crappy today has been by myself, but Emily crept in as usual.
"What do you know about Emily?" I asked as if I haven't been told or warned about her by the few people I have come across here. There is no need to be specific because I am sure everybody knows her.
"I went to school with Hailee and her. They used to be really close and then they weren't. Emily changed. It wasn't major in elementary school; she went into this shadowy stage, but came back out and seemed okay yet not the same. Emily turned into the person she is now when we entered high school. Honestly, if you're asking for specifics, I have no clue. We were all just little kids at the time, so no one questioned why Emily was quiet for a long time or why the adults gave her so much attention after she missed a week. Teachers and everyone told us not to pick on her. We eventually let it go because she distanced herself. I've wondered myself about Emily, but it's a lost-cause type of thing. It's best to just leave her alone. She's quite bitter."
I nodded taking in every word Ben said. That's the most anyone has told me. I mean, it wasn't much, but I can get somewhere with it. All I can do is wonder why Emily would miss a week of school and then keep away from people when she came back. Like Ben said, something happened and now I am determined to find out more about Emily. The next step would be to know why she chooses to enclose herself from the world.
"Uh, Niall? Dude, you're doing it again." Ben said causing me to blink a couple of times and look at him while feeling flustered.
"Sorry, I was just-"
"You were just thinking about Emily, why?" He asked and very flatly, too.
"She's very... She has this.... She's mysterious and it lures me in. The fact that she's totally different from any girl I know is fascinating. It's not like she's a bad different at all, she just acts differently. There is definitely a reason why and I will find out everything there is to know about her."
"You are the only person who would even think to do it, let alone set out to do it. I'm sorry, but you will need all the luck you can get and that's not enough."
"You're discouraging like everyone else."
"It's true. You find it easy because you are the new guy- well sorta- and you still don't know much about anything."
"But we've talked before and she told me she wants to try." I muttered stubbornly in defense for Emily and myself. It seemed to surprise Ben enough for him to widen his eyes a little at me.
"Oh really? This actually happened?" He questioned skeptically.
"Yes, yes it did happen and in my apartment." I answered confidently mixed with a little pride.
"There isn't much for me to say, then. You're obviously crazy and-"
"How is trying to figure somebody out crazy?"
"I know you want to change Emily."
"She thinks the same thing. Look, I don't even know if I want to do that anyway. I just want to get to know her."
"I already told you. I find her interesting."
"Are you sure about that?"
"Of course, I'm sure."
"Most people try to convince that they are positive." Feeling my frustration about to tip over the edge, I turned to the side and faced the door again.
I know Ben isn't purposely trying to irritate me and piss me off, but it's happening regardless. I like how we are not very close and now I don't think I would want to be close to the guy. He's assuming things that aren't true. With another wave of frustration, I closed my eyes and took to the calming effect of breathing to ease me. It helped and when I opened my eyes, I checked the time wondering how much longer I have until I leave Rocky's. I hate it when Hailee has days off.
"Blondie," Emily called just before I entered the apartment complex. My breath managed to get stuck in my throat when Emily acknowledged that she noticed me. After a crappy day at work, maybe she wants to finally talk. God, I hope this isn't some delusional hope of mine.
"You seemed pissed off, and no, I'm not worried or curious." Emily said as she dropped the butt of her cigarette on the ground and stepped on it.
"Okay," I answered, ready to head inside and run up the stairs to my apartment because that's the childish thing to do when you've had a bad day.
"Did you have a bad day at work?" She asked, walking from her place by the wall over to me at the door.
"Yeah, I did."
"Do you, um, wanna talk about it?" Emily asked cautiously.
"Do you want to hear it?" I asked her wondering when she started to give a care about me. She has distanced herself from me a couple of days over two weeks.
"No, but I'm willing to suffer through the annoyance. I just now prepared myself." I knew by preparing, she really meant, "I just smoked, so I've numbed myself enough to sit through your complaints."
"Thank you," I mumbled as I let her follow me up the stairs.
I almost ran up the stairs for the pure enjoyment that she's coming over again. Luckily, I cleaned up the place and she doesn't have to wait for me to put groceries away. This time, she's not leaving. Screw my day and what Ben said. Nobody in Arcade knows Emily. I'll be the first and only person to know her, and the anxiety of the miraculous web coming undone has me as high as plane. All I have to do is tone down my excitement over this, mostly because Emily is always far from it.
"I'm sorry if the place isn't that great today." I apologized as Emily walked inside and looked around.
"Yeah, I see a dead roach in the corner. Very homey," My face turned red until I looked in the corner she mentioned and saw nothing there.
"You need to calm down, Niall. Please, tell me about your horrible day and maybe it will ease your nerves."
"I don't think I am enjoying your sarcasm about everything, but I will accept it nonetheless."
"I don't think I'm actually going to be able to sit through this, but I don't have anything better to do."
I stared blankly at Emily as we sat in the same exact seats we were in the last time she was over. I tried to figure out if she was just being honest or if she was really into making a joke of all this. She's possibly making a joke about it because we aren't friends, we don't talk much like we are, and she knows that I know she's not the most considerate of people for anyone other than herself. Either way, I'm taking advantage of the situation.
"It was just a really long day and my friend wasn't there to help get through it."
"Awe, that's cute. You missed your only friend here."
"Thank you for your comforting words."
"I apologize for being ruder than usual. It wasn't a good day for me, too."
"Nothing out of the ordinary. Every day just sucks." Emily shrugged, and I don't think she understood what she said at all.
"Why is every day so bad?"
"Okay, not every day is. I admit, the past couple of weeks were shittier than before. I realized during the time that it is very difficult to avoid this guy who prefers to be a fake blonde." I couldn't help it and smiled at her. Emily admitted she missed me. This is a giant step for me- wait, not really. I am trying to understand her.
"The past couple of weeks did suck." I agreed, but Emily rolled her eyes at me just like she always did.
"Do you know how to swear? I said it was shitty, not that it sucked."
"I do, but I was-"
"Never mind, I don't want to hear your lame reasoning. I think you know why I came back." I nodded my head in response.
"Okay, good, we are getting somewhere."
"Can I ask you something?"
"I don't know, can you?"
"Yes, why did you come to me? Of all the people, why me?"
"You really can't figure that out? You know, you're the only person who I can talk to without having the urge to scream for the stupid words that come out of your mouth. Really, you've never said anything mean about me. I heard what you said to your dads after I went up the stairs. You're just... different than everyone else here. You actually seem to care and you know nothing about me."
"I would know something if you told me." I watched Emily shift on the couch and scoot not even an inch further away from me. Nice one, she just said she liked me and I managed to mess that up.
"I don't think you'd want to know me." She whispered, but I still heard every word clearly. I bit my lip as the inevitable silence came, making me wish she never wanted to come over.
"Do you want to.... I'm going to get a popsicle, do you want one?" I asked. I know it's random, but I could use an excuse for not trying to talk to Emily right now.
"Can I have a purple one?" I nodded and went to fetch a purple popsicle for her and a red one for myself.
When I came back to the couch, I handed Emily the purple popsicle and saw a smile appear on her face. I sat down and stared at Emily in awe, because this is the first time I've seen her smile genuinely and naturally. Who knew a freaking popsicle of all things could do that. As I began to lick and suck on my popsicle- slowly eating it- the silence turned into something more enduring, because we enjoyed a small, peaceful moment together.
"The last time I had a popsicle was when I was ten. The first time I had one was when I was seven." Emily finally said.
"Yeah, it was in the middle of the summer and really hot outside."
"You're not going to elaborate any further, are you?"
"The first time I had one was with my best friend, Dennis. When we were little kids, I used to call him Dennis the Menace. He'd always take the red popsicle and I'd take the orange or purple ones. We'd ride our bikes to the park by his house and use the sticks from our popsicles as swords. Somehow, he'd always managed to win our pretend duals."
I closed my eyes after I told Emily about Dennis and wondered why I had to tell her all of that. Just the other day I cried over him and confessed to my dads that I tried to runaway from my memories of him and the worst day of my life. But Emily didn't reply, she just sat there beside me and finished her popsicle. She didn't ask any questions and I was extremely grateful for that.
"Honestly, what were your first thoughts when you saw me."
"I thought you were fascinating and different than the girls I know. You seemed dark and like a punk girl." For a second, Emily and I stared at each other until we laughed.
"What did you think of me?"
"I thought you were lame and annoying like everyone else. Yes, you were the new guy in town, but you pissed me off when you stared at me while I was smoking."
"But I'm not lame or annoying."
"You're not lame, but maybe a tad annoying." Emily smiled before she laughed at me.
"I'm just kidding."
"You know, I thought you were actually a mean person."
"What makes you think I'm not?"
"I got you to smile and laugh with me."
"But I'm laughing at you,"
"You don't mean it, you're just kidding."
"Now you're twisting things around, Blondie." I stared at Emily for a moment trying to figure out if we weren't just having a good time. Her face was blank and I swear I would've believed her if she didn't smile in the end.
"You have to stop doing that, it's getting irritating."
"Yes, finally!" Emily grinned and threw her hands in the air.
"What? I don't think this is a time to celebrate... nothing."
"I finally got you angry and annoyed."
"I've been that way about someone before."
"Did you tell them you were? No, you didn't."
"Whatever," I muttered as I stared at my Rocky's hat in my hands. Emily found it funny and giggled.
"Okay, you can stop now. I was mad, whoop-de-do." That made Emily burst into uncontrollable laughter, further annoying me.
"I'm sorry, but I can't believe you said that. Nobody says that."
"You're making a big deal over nothing."
"And it's pissing you off. You're cute when you're annoyed."
I looked over at Emily as her laughter died down and all that remained was the smile on her face with this glint in her eyes. She just called me cute and caused this feeling I can't describe to come back. I only get the feeling when I think about her sometimes. Maybe I'm taking her words too far. Cute is a word tossed around so easily these days, like Emily really thinks I am cute. Next thing I know, she'll call some little puppy cute or a stranger's baby cute. There is no way she means it the way I think, but there is something telling me she does and it makes me happy. If I don't get to know Emily, I will be satisfied with spending time with her because I don't want this- us hanging out on my couch- to ever stop.