"I'm starving! Remind me again," Dustin groans, "why didn't we just eat in the café? I have a discount for being an employee there you know!"
"But you didn't even work there yet." I point out, "I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have given you one just yet."
"We could have begged!" He whines.
"And lower my self-respect?" Sara snaps, "No thank you!"
"What self-respect are you talking bout?" Dustin retorts, "We're teenagers! Not some snobby rich adults who have some sort of reputation!"
"Don't argue with me when you know you lost 'Miss Jonathan'." He smirks down at Sara, "Mr. Tremblay really likes to act formal with you guys huh? He doesn't with me! We're like buddies!"
Sara scoffs to that.
"Now that you mention it, we had disturbed Mr. Tremblay enough. Poor guy certainly didn't expect us to show up." I mutter, "We'll just go down to McDonalds'."
"In that case I'll take two chocolate sundaes and a big mac with fries and a drink!" He smacks his lips.
"As long as you pay for your food." I reply, "You can buy the whole hotel for all I care."
"Well that's not fair!" He complains, "Shouldn't you two be paying since I didn't even want to go there in the first place? I don't have enough money to buy myself all that stuff! And I'm gonna die if I don't eat it!"
"Surprising how you don't get fat even after eating so much." Sara says, frowning.
"Yeah," I nudge Dustin with my elbow, "Since when did you started working out?"
He grins, "What can I say? I don't work out but basically eat tons every day. It just runs in the family genes or something, I guess."
"Lucky." I smile.
"Hell yeah, it is!" He paces ahead of us, "Now hurry up, before I decide to leave you slow-pokes behind!"
We walk for about a few minutes when my eyes catch something on the right. I stop in my tracks, looking at the small and yet friendly looking place. A bookstore.
I want a part-time job so that I can buy some stuff that I may need, as well as collect money for a better and elite college in the future. Dad won't bother if I don't get myself a scholarship. And I'm not even doing good in Math, lately.
Apart from that, I think I need to get some more effective meds for my headaches. The usual ones aren't really doing anything lately…It scares me that I won't be able to bear them in the future.
I may not be the talkative or confident type to handle a café like Dustin, but I can speak a lot when it comes to talking about books. I wonder if I can ask to work here?
Can't be that hard, right?
"Charlie?" Sara interrupts my stare.
"Huh?" I look back at her, "What?"
She looks back at the bookstore, over my shoulder then sighs,
I give her a pleading glance.
"Please let me go there! Please! I'm asking you this one time! Please!" I protest.
"Every time…" Sara shakes her head.
"Nooooo!" Dustin cries, and even though he's several steps away from us, he probably guessed why we stopped, "Don't let her go in there, Sara! Don't you dare! She'll take hours!"
I roll my eyes, "I know you hate it when I go to buy books but I don't judge you when you go to that ridiculous gaming shop."
"Hey!" He frowns, "at least my shop doesn't bother anyone!"
I raise my eyebrows in a 'yeah, right' sort of way. Then explain,
"Look I'm not going in there to buy books. I just want to-"
"No Sara!" Dustin shouts, dramatically, shaking Sara forcefully by her arm, as if by doing that I'll change my mind, "That's even worse! She'll waste so much time and won't even get anything out of it!"
"What the hell am I supposed to do?" Sara replies, loudly.
"Stop her! Block the entrance of the store!" Dustin yells, "Anything!"
Frustrated, I smack him on the head, something I make myself do when he creates a fuss in public to knock some sense.
"Relax, dimwit," I say, wearily, "I just want to check if I can get a part-time job here."
"What?" The two say at the same time.
"You want to work?" Sara frowns, "Why?"
"Yeah. Can't I?"
"But you never really showed interest about it." Sara says, "It just seems a bit off how you randomly decided it."
"Relax, Sara." I smile, "I just want some experience, that's all."
"Experience?" Sara gives me a judgmental look, clearly not convinced, "Really?"
I give a nervous laugh, looking at Dustin whose confusion breaks into a broad grin, "So you wanna work in this mall?"
"Uh yes." I reply.
"That's amazing!" Dustin whoops, "Now the two of us will work together!"
Sara interjects, "Hey! Charlie are you really meaning this?"
"There's nothing wrong about it." I say.
"Yeah Sara." Dustin huffs, "Stop trying to change her mind, will you?"
"Anyway, it's not even confirmed if they need someone to help them." I assure my friends, "I'll go check it out."
Dustin places his hand on my shoulder, "Wait, let me do it." He offers, "I already went through this so I'll get all the info for you."
He jogs off to the shop, giving me a thumb-up before entering the store.
"Now, will you tell me why you want the job?" Sara asks.
She has always been the smartest one in the group, so I'm not surprised that she didn't believe me.
I sigh, "Just want some money for my needs."
"Which are?" She just won't give up.
"You can always ask your father."
"I don't really want to talk about this right now."
Sara folds her arms, shaking her head disappointedly.
"You worry me, Charlotte."
"I didn't ask for you to worry about me." I mutter.
"What else do you expect me to do?" She snaps, "What bothers me more is that you didn't even tell Dustin about this! I know he can be a pain but we've known him for so long. Don't you trust him?"
"I do. I just don't want to be more of a burden to anyone."
"But it's Dustin we're talking about." She keeps on going. "The person who cares about us. I hope you know that he wont judge you."
I don't say anything to that.
Sara's right. Dustin deserves to know the truth.
But what if things change?
What if he sees me differently after that?
Pity me? Feel sorry for me?
What if things got awkward?
He's a gullible person. If i tell him, he'll think that whatever he wants to do can't b done because I'm 'sick'. He'll care. But in the end, our friendship will turn into more of a duty for him. And that's the last thing I want.
Sara gives me a quick glance then tell me she's going to meet us in McDonalds, after she buys some things for herself.
She's giving me time to think.
But I don't want to.
Sara won't admit it, but after finding out, she started acting different towards me.
She thought I couldn't take care of my stupid headaches.
Well, she's wrong.
"Charlotte!" Dustin comes running back.
"So?" I ask, "What did the owner say?"
He frowns, "Don't tell me Sara's gone!"
"No, she said she'll catch up."
"Well, that's good. I don't want her running away like last time"
I snort at the memory, but quickly get back to the point, "So tell me what happened?"
"Oh yeah." He blinks, "The owner of that bookstore is this old lady. So, basically she didn't even know that she could hire employees if she wanted to."
"So, i told her how you're interested to help," He explains, "And she agreed to pay you and all, but here's the catch: If you don't draw in customers in a week than she'll fire you."
I frown, "I don't really find this fun. Just some pressure."
"No, no. She promised to give you some benefits." He assures. raising his hands, "Like, she let you have books for half the price or whatever."
That's not a bad offer if i think about it.
"Alright." I beam, "That isn't bad. When do i start?"
"You'll have to meet her tomorrow." Dustin looks just as thrilled as me.
"Why not now?" I ask.
"Cause i told her that you're busy right now."
"Busy?" I scowl, "With what?"
"Us!" He exclaims, acting like it's obvious, "Now hurry before I die with hunger or something."
Roofus gives me a welcoming bark, rushing towards me with his tongue sticking out of his mouth.
I smile, kneeling down on my knees, "Hey, boy! Were you waiting for me this whole time?"
He wags his tail in response, rubbing his head against my chin.
I look at the sky, the evening tars already shimmering. Time really flies when you don't want it to, huh?
"Sorry it took me so long." I scratch Roofus' ear with my hand, him enjoying it, "You know how that idiot Dustin can be like when it comes to ice-cream. Plus, Sarah was really excited to explore the mall further."
My dog woofs in agreement, rolling on the ground, begging for a belly rub – which I do.
"But then again," I sigh with relief, "I'm not sure what I'd be doing if it weren't for them. Those to idiots are amazing."
I blink away from my thoughts, staring at Roofus, "I hope Emma didn't forget to feed you?"
Judging by the energy, she didn't.
"I'm so exhausted." I whine, "I really shouldn't have come this late though. I can already imagine that Dad won't be happy about this."
Roofus gives me a look of confusion, standing up, finding me depressed. Whining, he presses his wet nose on my face, as if to console me.
"Don't worry boy." I laugh, "I'm alright."
I get up, unconsciously wiping my hand on my legs,
"I'll come after a little while, okay?"
I pat him on the head and then slowly walk myself to the front door, opening it.
The living room is oddly quiet for my liking, as well as no light being on.
I switch a blub, the whole room, brightening up.
"Hello?" I call out, "I'm back…"
Not that it matters.
I look at the clock, hanging at the wall. I still have some time until Dad comes back. So, I'll just heat up the leftover from yesterday since I'm not really hungry and Emma probably made something for herself.
"Charlotte?" comes a voice, startling me.
I jump, turning around in a flash, watching a figure creep out from the darkness.
Why did he come so early today? I wonder.
With a dead-serious expression on his face he says, "We need to talk."