"Are you okay? What happened yesterday?"
"I'm alright and, um, nothing much."
"Liar, I know something's up."
"Just leave me alone, okay."
Maybe my tone was too harsh because Ben gave me a sad look before he walked away to go bother Hailee. I usually love coming to work to see Hailee and him, but today just isn't my day. I didn't want to come to work and showing up late was a result of that. I don't know why, but ever since Emily just walked away, I have been worried about her. I would rather sit outside her door than be here restocking, cleaning, or working the register. It's pissing me off, to be honest.
"Niall, don't forget to dump out the old anchovies when you're done putting the dough away." Ivan ordered from somewhere. I swear, he knows he is torturing me with his freaking orders and he loves it.
"Okay, Ivan." I said while giving a fresh dough ball to Paul, one of the other workers.
"And we're going to need pizza boxes folded." Ivan added.
"Check the napkin holders as well."
"Refill the ice for the soda machine before you do the anchovies."
"Okay," I sighed and prayed he wouldn't add something else to his list. Luckily, that was it.
"Ivan's keeping you busy again, huh?" Paul joked as I started to get the extra dough together to put back in the freezer.
"When doesn't he?" I asked in reply and he laughed with Steven, the other worker in the kitchen.
"You have four more hours today, hang in there." Steven smiled as I was leaving. I gave him a forced one and frowned as soon as I turned around.
I was pissed and grumpy, and I didn't care one bit. As I left the freezer, I grabbed one of the containers of ice and carefully made my way to the soda machine in the front. I noticed Hailee and Ben talking, but I ignored them. I'm acting like a jerk to everyone, and just maybe that's a quality that was rubbed on to me from a certain someone. I was trying to focus on the task at hand to keep my mind busy, but I failed miserably when I heard footsteps near and around me.
"Niall, are you okay?" Hailee asked.
"I am as okay as I can be. Sorry, Hailee, but it's not my day and I'm in a really shitty mood. If I am acting like a jerk, it's not intentional at all." I never turned to face Hailee as I answered her. I wasn't sure if my tongue would betray me and suddenly tell her off because I had already answered the same question in the morning. I could never be rude to her and I don't want to make today an exception. I respect our friendship and her too much even if I'm pissed off, because she's innocent.
"Do you want to talk about anything?"
"Um," I actually gave thought to that. Do I want to tell Hailee about Emily and I? How would I explain my problem to her anyway? She doesn't know we even talk to each other, so how would she react? Why am I worried about hiding this?
"You can talk to us about anything, Niall." Ben tried to comfort and it worked, for once. As much as I don't want to admit it, Ben has become a very good friend of mine, even best friend.
"Maybe later after work, okay?" I said while turning to face them both. I knew they weren't too satisfied with my response, but it was the best effort I could give.
"Alright," Hailee and Ben chorused together in the same tone.
I tried to give something close to a smile in return before I left to take care of the anchovies. As I walked to the back of Rocky's, my mind was bombarded with too many thoughts.
The work day ended too late for me and my eagerness to leave was trying to break through to the surface. I wanted to leave- no I needed to leave- so I could get home to the apartments in hopes of running into Emily. My hopes were that she would be outside smoking and would at least greet me. Of course, there's always that one thing in your way that kills- no murders- your hopes and turns them into embarrassing wishes. I nearly forgot that I was supposed to talk to Ben and Hailee until I saw them waiting for me by the entrance of Rocky's.
"Hey Niall, ready to go?" Ben asked, sounding as I eager as I was moments before. What a jerk he is.
"Yeah," I answered as we left together and made our way to the parking lot.
"So why was today a bad day? Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Didn't have a good breakfast?" I could tell Hailee was trying to lighten the mood and probably heavy conversation, but it didn't work.
"No, that's not it. I... I am worried about Emily. And I am worried a lot, honestly. We were talking yesterday while she smoked. All of a sudden she was asking questions and then she left. I haven't talked to her or have seen her since." The silence that followed was expected. I patiently waited for them to absorb what I had said and conjure up a response.
"How long have you been talking to Emily? Why would you worry about her?" Hailee asked, sounding more than only confused.
"What were you guys talking about?" Ben asked curiously and simply ignored everything else I said.
"I've been talking to her for.... well, I have been talking to her for a long time. I am worried because... because we have become close and I worry for her well-being. I may like her, too, but I don't think-"
"What?" Hailee interrupted.
"No way." Ben breathed, obviously too dumbfounded.
"I am worried for her. There's not much-"
"No, you said you liked her. Do you like her as a friend... or more?"
"Are you mad?" I unintentionally spoke my thoughts. I cursed myself in my head and bit my lip nervously as I waited for Hailee to respond.
"Why would I be mad? I just can't believe it. I tried to talk to her... but she would always shut me out. She pushed me away from her while I tried so hard to be by her side. I didn't care much that she wanted to be alone and hate the world, I just wanted be there with her while she did it. But I ended up giving up on her. There weren't any reasons for me not to after a while, because it was crystal clear she didn't want to be my friend.
"I still cared about her as a person and friend, but after years that slowly fades away. She became a memory to me. I don't think much of her now and when I do it's only pity. She was so sweet and nice before she changed. I don't why she did so drastically and I don't know why you, of all people, was allowed into her life. But after saying that, I can see why. You're a good person."
"Oh, thank you." I breathed and didn't know what else to say. I had no idea Hailee felt that way. Why did I expect the worst? I did the same to Emily.
"I knew you liked her." Ben admitted with a smirk adorning his face. I looked at him questionably wondering why he was saying that in this moment, of all moments.
"Sure, okay." I said and looked back at Hailee. She was staring at Ben with an expression I coudn't read.
"Why do you like her?" Hailee asked and still didn't look at me.
"I don't know? She's different and I guess I like different. I don't know? There's something about her and I find her... captivating, attractive, intriguing, wonderful, amazing..." I started to trail off and caught myself when I realized I was giving a very descriptive answer that was unnecessary.
"You like girls who are jerks and who hate everyone and smoke a deadly amount of cigarettes?" Ben asked.
"You are only looking on the surface. There's so much to her that none of you know. She's actually a great person, she just chooses to hide that side of her where others shove it in your face."
"Okay, but name something we don't know about her that makes her great." Ben challenged.
"She loves the chocolate chip cookies I bake and she cares about me."
"She cares about you?" Ben asked with a suggestive look.
"She does care about me and she's told me before. Look, I don't need to be interrogated by you or anybody. You guys asked why I was pissed off and I told you. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go home now."
"Wait, don't leave yet. I'm sorry I asked questions. This is all just... weird. You being so close with Emily is weird and I'm surprised you haven't left back home to Oregon for good. I thought Emily would have made friends with someone who wasn't like you, but I was wrong. You're right, we don't know her. Sorry, Niall." Ben apologized. Of course, he's not the jerk I always assume and accuse him of being.
"Okay, but I'm still going home."
"Fine, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Hope things get better with Emily. She's lucky to have a person like you in her life, and I'm happy she knows that. I really don't want her to hurt you, though. I have this weird feeling about her. But I believe what you say, so yeah. I'll see you tomorrow, Niall, and hopefully you're not so grumpy." Hailee smiled like the amazing friend and person she is.
"Thanks, Hailee. I'll see you tomorrow." I returned a smile of my own, this one being genuine.
By the time I reached my truck and headed on my way home, I remembered why I was in such a bad mood at work. I fell back into that mood as the worries crashed into my mind like an inescapable tsunami. It sucked and I just wanted to know if Emily was okay. If she's okay, then I'm okay. It's easy and simple, but nothing is ever that way with Emily. I'm not sure if I even care why she walked away from me anymore. I just want to be assured that she's not in any pain.