Frankie was ten customers deep when I finally arrived after the senior class meeting, and we hadn’t had a break in four hours. Friday nights were always hectic, but that didn’t stop Frankie from ranting about my confrontation with Sonny.
She put her hand on her hip, and all of her weight on one leg. “I am so proud of you. For real. I think it’s the first time you’ve ever stood up for yourself, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know. It wasn’t really standing up for myself. I just told her that I was staying.”
“And to sit her bitch ass down.” She wrinkled her nose. “That part’s my favorite.”
Just as the sun began to set, the pace eased up a bit. The last car left the parking lot, and I began scrubbing the huge mess we’d made when we didn’t have time to clean up after ourselves—or be careful—before the next rush.
A truck pulled in quickly, and I knew instantly who it was. Weston Gates was the only person in town with a lift kit and Rock Star rims on a cherry red Chevy. He hopped down and jogged over to my window. He was sweaty, still in his baseball cleats, and alone.
“Hey,” I said, glancing over to Frankie. “What can I get for you?”
Weston watched me for a moment.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
He blinked. “Yeah. Yeah,” he said, shrugging. “Are you?”
I shrugged. “I’m fine. Can I make you something?”
“Just a . . . whatever.”
I made him a Hawaiian Blizzard and he paid, still with that expectant look in his eyes. “I’m sorry. About today.”
I shook my head dismissively.
“I should have said something sooner.”
“Yeah, like ten years ago,” Frankie shot back.
He nodded and then walked back to his truck, but he was hesitant, as if he were leaving something unsaid.
Frankie sighed. “I shouldn’t have snapped at him. He seems like a good kid.”
“He is,” I said, unable to stop staring as Weston climbed up into the driver’s seat and shut the door.
“That was . . . weird.”
“Yeah, I wonder what that was about?” As I watched his truck pull onto Main Street, a wide grin stretched across my face.
“I think he likes you.”
The smile vanished. “What about that bizarre exchange brought you to that conclusion?”
She shrugged. “I was in high school once.”
Frankie and I finished up our shift, and then closed the shop. She offered me a ride and I refused then walked home. I kept mostly to the yards of the houses along the way, to keep from being mowed down by the traffic traveling toward Main Street. That was the main drag, and on Friday nights everyone congregated at the ball fields that were straight across from the Dairy Queen.
A block from my house, a familiar engine revved from the other side of the street. I looked over to see Weston’s red Chevy. His window was rolled down, and the truck was crawling along next to me. He was alone again.
“Hey,” he said, his elbow poking out as he rested it on the driver’s side door.
I didn’t respond.
He smiled. “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?” I said, trying not to smile the way I had after he’d left the DQ.
“It looks like you’re walking home. Do you have plans tonight?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. He knew I didn’t.
“Wanna hang out?” he asked.
“Aren’t your friends at the ball fields?” I already knew the answer. They were there every Friday and Saturday night if there wasn’t a party. What I really wanted to know was why he was driving next to me, instead of hanging with them.
“I told them I was tired and going home.”
“But you’re not?”
“Well . . . more like bored. But then I saw you . . .”
I looked down. “I’m not really dressed to hang out.”
“You’re talking to someone who loves ice cream. You think it offends me that you’re covered in it?”
“C’mon!” he said with a smile that had been perfected by braces. He’d only gotten them off the summer before. “I’ll beg if you want me to.”
“You don’t have to beg,” I murmured.
I chuckled. “Fine! Just . . . let me change first.”
I pointed at him. “Park right there. I’ll be out in a second.” We were still half a block from my house, and I didn’t want the absurdly loud glass packs of Weston’s Chevy to attract Gina’s attention.
Trying not to rush, I walked to my house, up the two stairs to my porch, and pulled open the door. Out of habit, I listened for Soul Asylum, but no such luck. I pushed through the door, to see Gina sitting on the stained, gold velvet couch in the living room. A ripped-open case of Keystone Light was next to her feet on the floor. She didn’t even look up.
I went straight to my room, dropped my backpack to the floor, pulled off my apron, the rest of my clothes, and re-dressed. Everything I wore to work inevitably smelled like grease, so it all had to come off. I put on a black T-shirt and a pair of heather gray cotton shorts, slipped on some flip flops and grabbed my purse. My second pair of jeans was on the floor spattered with chocolate syrup. It was the day before laundry day, so even though it was a little chilly, the shorts were the only thing I had clean.
I closed my door quietly and tried to rush past Gina, but she noticed me walk by and sat up.
“Where the hell you goin’?” she asked.
“Riding around. I’ll be back in a little while.”
She sat back against the couch cushions. “Bring me back some cigarettes.”
I nodded and hurried out the door. She would be passed out before I got back and wouldn’t remember that she asked me for anything. Unfortunately I’d only learned that after wasting over a hundred dollars of my own money buying her smokes to appease her.
I stopped in the yard, half expecting Weston’s truck to be gone, but there it was, in the exact spot I told him to wait. His eyes lit up, and he waved. As I made my way to his truck, he leaned over and pulled the lever, pushing the door open.
“Climb in!” he said with a sweet grin.
He wasn’t kidding. I had to use the door and climb up via the running boards to reach the passenger seat. I bounced into the black leather and shut the door.