"Finally!" Sara throws her arms around me, squeezing so tight that it gets hard to breath for a second, "You're here!"
I gently push myself away from her grasp, "Alright, alright. Cut the act. I know you don't mean what you're saying."
She grins, smacking me on the shoulder, "Yeah, whatever. Don't give me that attitude especially since you're the one who's late."
I look around the new mall, crowded and stuffed yet still something to look forwards to.
"In case you haven't noticed, Dustin still isn't here yet. So technically, he's the one late." I point out.
"That idiot Dustin is waiting for us inside." She rolls her eyes. "He came extra early today, you know."
"How come?" I ask as we both make our way towards the new building.
"He told me something about a wanting a job in the café." She shrugs.
"What!" I snort, "Dustin Brown and work? I have a had time believing that."
She laughs, "I'm just as taken aback as you."
"But why would he want to do all that work in the first place? I mean winter vacations are almost, here right? Does he even know that?" I frown.
"We've known the guy since middle school and yet he's still plain confusion in my eyes. One second he's completely irresponsible and the other, he talks about 'future and dedication'." Sara sighs.
We enter inside, through the automatic gates, a wind of air-conditioned air hitting us on the face.
"Holy shit..." Sara swears, gaping the view with wide eyes, "I know his mall took three years to build but i wasn't expecting this!"
"You're so right." I grin. "This is going to be awesome..."
"Where do you think we should go first?" Sara questions, her voice squealing in excitement.
I open my mouth to answer when a loud shout interrupts us, making us jump in surprise.
"I got it! I got it!"
Dustin runs to us two, smiling toothily ear to ear.
He reaches us in a flash, panting with the long run, hands on his knees.
"You scared the hell out of me!" Sara yells at him, hitting him hard on the back.
"Ow!" He scowls, but keeps on taking a deep breath, "What did you to that for?"
"Think of it as a warning for next time when you consider to scare me like that!" She huffs.
"Oh yeah. Sorry, I forgot you were such a baby to get afraid of bloody everything!" He shots back.
"Well, I'm sorry you don't know how to walk up casually to others." Sara snaps.
Dustin looks ready for another comeback when I decide to stop their argument.
I shake my head, "Stop it you two. I didn't come here to listen to you fight all the time. This is supposed to be an 'epic' day, you know."
"Sorry." Dustin mumbles, but his cheeks are flushed with enthusiasm.
"Okay, sure." Sara crosses her arms, looking questioningly at Dustin, "You were saying something?"
"Well," He beams, "I got the job!"
"Great!" I smile, heartedly.
"Good for you." Sara says.
"Did I mention I got it in this very mall!" He adds, proudly.
"Where exactly?" I inquire, curious.
"It's better if I show you." He grabs my arm, dragging me to the escalators. Sara hold my hand, so the three of us don't get separated in the crowds of people.
"Hurry!" Dustin says, loudly, through the music blaring through the speakers.
Every shop had employees standing up front, introducing the products to the customers.
"We'll definitely go to the cosmetics store." Sara tells me.
"We'll check all of them," I assure her, "We've got plenty of time.
"Yeah, yeah, do your shopping after this, okay?" Dustin says, frustratedly.
"Aww, Dusty, are you jealous?" Sara teases, "Do you feel left out?"
"No, I do not!" Dustin snaps, "And for the millionth time, stop calling me 'Dusty'. Ugh."
I snicker. "Someone's getting cranky."
"I still have no idea why I'm friends with you in the first place." He mutters, pretending to regret it but we both know he's joking.
"Please." Sara counters, "You wouldn't last a day without us!"
"You wish, Miss Jonathan."
Sara lets out a fake cackle, setting us all into laughter.
After a few turns around the corner and we finally stand in front of the small opening leading to the café.
We enter inside. And the look of it is so breath-taking. Everything felt so homely in the small place. It felt cozy, with all the steam from the coffee mugs and the aromas of varieties of food. The place looked so friendly that it was already filled with people, ordering from the menus.
"Wow, Dustin." I say, wide eyed, "This place-"
"Is amazing!" He finishes my sentence, looking excited as anything.
"I agree." Sara approves.
"When do you start working here though?" I ask.
He shrugs, "The manager dude said from Monday."
"But for how long?"
"Four hours, right after school. Same goes for the weekend. He also said I can have all the tips. And my weekly payment is about thirty something dollars. I'll call it fair."
"Not too bad for a beginner." I admit.
"So what will you do here?" Sara interjects.
Dustin creases his forehead in thought, "Probably making coffees or writing down orders. Who cares? As long as I get my money."
I look at our surrounding.
Maybe I should get a part-time job. Not here, but some other place in the mall. That way, I can at least buy somethings for Emma and I. I heard she wanted some new stationary for her crafts. And though I don't really admit it much often, she's surprisingly good at what she does.
My eyes stop darting when I see two familiar persons sitting in the corner next to the table.
I shake Dustin's shoulder, who's still talking to Sara, my stare never leaving the two people.
"Yeah?" Sarah says.
I motion my head towards their direction.
"Isn't that Mr. Tremblay over there with his wife?" I mumble.
"You're right," Sara squint her eyes. "That's them, alright."
"Whoa!" Dustin grins, "Who knew our English teacher would come here today."
"Well, he's a normal person. What do you expect?" Sara scoffs.
"I'm going to go and greet them." He smiles, mischievously.
"Oh no," I grab hold of his hair, before he could take his steps, "Don't you dare ruin this for the guy."
"Ow!" Dustin cries out, "Stop tugging at my hair! It hurts."
"Such a cry-baby!" Sara sneers.
"Hey! What do you mean I'm going to ruin it for old Allen?" He blinks all innocently, as soon as I let go of my grip.
"Give him a break, Dustin. Allen isn't that old. He's only 32 and just got married." Sara defends.
"The hell you care about him?" He smirks, raising his eyebrows.
There's a long pause before Sara frowns in embarrassment.
"Shut up, you weirdo!" Then she gives me a doubtful look. "Remind me why the hell do we even hang out with him again?"
Dustin laughs, "I'm kidding, Sara, come on!"
"Let's just go and shop or something." I suggest, trying to change the subject.
"But I want to meet Allen. Why are you not letting me talk to him, Charlie?" He begs, giving his usual sad and pitiful eyes when he wants something I won't allow.
I cross my arms, "Please. Don't give me that look. The whole school knows the bitterness between you and Mr. Tremblay."
He lets out an exaggerated gasp, "What!? How could you say such thing, Charlotte Quin? Allen and I get along so well!"
"Yeah, right." Sara jeers.
"Then I'm just going to have to prove you guys wrong!" He announces, pushing us away to walk up to Mr. Tremblay.
"Dustin, you idiot, come back!" Sara hisses, running after him.
"Sara no, he's trying to lure us towards the couple!" I whisper-shout but get forced to follow her too.
Someone needs to be there to control Dustin from saying anything stupid.
"Helloooo Allen, my man!" Dustin shouts excitedly, at the man, who jumps in surprise because of the sudden voice.
He gives Dustin a long stare before sighing, "Ahh Mr. Brown. To what do I owe you this 'pleasure'?"
One thing Allen Tremblay is known for in the whole town. His sarcastic humor. Some people love it, some say they despise it. But we all know they're lying. Come to think of it, he's the only likeable teacher in our school. Everyone loves the way he talks to his students – actually enjoying his job. Since he's the youngest teacher here, all the female teacher have a crush on him too. He's just that type of a person.
"Hi Mr. Tremblay." Sara says, sheepishly.
"Miss Jonathan." He nods.
His wife sitting next to him has a nervous and confused smile on her face, tucking her short black hair behind her ear. Probably wondering what's happening.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Tremblay. Don't mind us, we were just leaving." I say, firmly.
"So…whatcha doing here, Allen?" Dustin leans forward, purposely annoying him.
The middle-aged man smiles, the expression clearly showing he's switching on his 'sarcasm-mode'.
"Nothing. Just waiting for the NASA agent to come and reveal me my next mission. You know being a secret-spy-astronaut-alien-fighter can be really hard sometimes."
Sara giggles, but not as much as Dustin cracks up.
"Oh, Allen, see this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. I love you're jokes!" He pats at Mr. Tremblay's shoulder. Something no one had the gut to do.
But Dustin…well, he's just Dustin. This is the kind of thing you can expect from him.
Mr. Tremblay blinks, raising his eyebrow, "No, no. What makes you think I'm joking? Believe me, you kid, you're the last person I'll mess with. It's actually the other way around."
I can't help but snigger at Dustin, who's too dumb to understand that Mr. Tremblay really doesn't like him.
"Mr. Brown." He looks at Dustin, scowling, "Didn't we have an agreement to not meet each other when not in school?"
Dustin laughs, "But I'm not the one to break the promise! You're supposed to be in school."
No one says anything for a moment, his words dawning at us.
"Wait…" Sara looks at me, with a perplexed look.
"For the hundred and millionth time, Dustin," Mr. Tremblay shakes his head in exasperation, "The teachers do not live in the school. They are ordinary people who stay in ordinary houses!"
"Sure, big guy." Dustin smirks.
"Shut up, already." I nudge him with my elbow, then give Mr. Tremblay and his wife an apologetic look, "I'm really sorry for bothering you, sir."
"Yeah." Sara glares at Dustin who shrugs.
Mr. Tremblay smiles, "Not at all, Charlotte. I'm used to his antiques by now."
"Same." Dustin grins, proudly.
"Anyway, I'd like you to meet my wife, Rachel," He gestures toward the woman who gives us a warm smile. "She didn't used to live in this town before."
"Hi." The three of us greet her, smilingly.
"Hello." She beams, "It's lovely meeting you guys."
"How'd you like this small town of ours so far?" Sara asks, frankly.
"More importantly, how'd you like our Allen over here?" Dustin teases, winking at Mr. Tremblay, who returns a smile that says 'just-meet-me-after-so-I-can-kill-you'.
Rachel laughs, sweetly at that, but you can see her feeling awkward by the redness on her pale, delicate face.
"Umm…Rach, this is Charlotte Quin and Sara Jonathan, my two top and highly-qualified students." He says hastily.
Sara flushes, "Please, sir. I'm nowhere as good as Charlie. She's hella good when it comes to writing."
"Yes, I'm aware." Mr. Tremblay smiles at me, genuinely – which is quite rare since he's always sarcastic.
"Thank you, sir." I flush.
In the beginning of the year of his classes, Mr. Tremblay rarely noticed me. It's because I don't really talk to people. One day, he gave us this assignment to write a short story. I forgot all about it and wrote it the last minute. I was the last person to submit it and he wasn't happy about it, so he decided to check it in front of the whole class. He probably thought it was a good enough punishment when he'd point out the mistakes. But instead, he got so shocked about how I wrote it and was honestly, impressed.
And after that, we all know that I'm his favorite. But I'll say second-favorite since no one can take Dustin's place.
"And I'm Dustin Brown!" Dustin announces, "Your husband probably mentioned me."
She raises her eyes, looking at Mr. Tremblay with a surprised expression.
"Uh…Yes. He did, actually."
Sara and I exchange looks, knowing that it's time to go.
"Anyhow. Have a good lunch, sir." I say, grabbing Dustin tightly by his arm so he gets the hint. "See you on Monday."
"Yes, of course."
"Hey wait!" Dustin whines, "I wasn't finished talking yet!"
"Just shut up, will ya?" I hiss.
"Haven't you embarrassed yourself enough nitwit?" Sara scowls, "Have some self-respect."
The two of us reluctantly drag him out of the café.
Although Dustin can be a handful, all the folks can easily agree that he's the smile of our town. I won't be shocked if Mr. Tremblay thinks so too.