By: Kaitlin Arocho
I open my phone to Instagram and start scrolling, just like yesterday, and the day before that, and every day before that for the past eight months. I’m not really interested in anything I see. I should stop scrolling, but I’d be lying if I said I was scrolling just to scroll. It’s better if I just so happen to come across something rather than looking it up because then it’s seen as stalking. After five minutes of scrolling, I don’t find it, so I shut my phone and just lay in bed.
Time passes and I start to get ready for work. As I’m buttoning up my shirt my phone rings.
“Are you on your way yet?”
“No, I’m about to leave right now.”
“Well hurry up dude.”
“What’s going on? You’re never this eager about work.”
“Malissa’s covering Jeb’s shift today.”
“Have you two ever had a real conversation?” I ask as I walk out the door.
“Complaining about management isn’t a real conversation. I’m talking outside of work.”
“Who are you to judge me?”
“Your best friend,” I say, starting the car.
“Then as your best friend let me tell you, that you should have a real conversation with Ally instead of stalking her on Instagram.”
“I don’t stalk her.”
“Just because you don’t search her doesn’t mean it’s not stalking.”
“Yes it does. Anyway, I’m driving off now, be there in ten.” I hang up and drive off.
When I get to his house he’s already waiting outside for me. He got in the car and I drove off. We managed to get through half the car ride without saying anything. Just the radio playing whatever the next big song is. However he felt the need to run the pleasant silence by bringing up a topic I would prefer to avoid.
“I don’t see the problem with just talking to her.”
“She’s moved on. I would always reach out to her. I would ask to see her but she would always give some reason why she couldn’t, give some reason why she couldn’t even talk to me. So I stopped. I stopped trying because if she really wanted to talk she would’ve reached out.”
“So then if you know she doesn’t really want to talk to you why’re you so upset?” I just look at him. “Yeah, I realized what I said as soon as I said it. But, come on. You’ve had a crush on her since we were ten. And I know you two were going to try the whole dating thing, or at least that’s what most people thought,” he looks over at me, “but guess not. I meant why’re you upset if you’re the one who let her go?”
I stay silent. He had a point. That’s why I was upset, not at her, but at me. Sure, it made my skin itch at the thought that she didn’t have time for me, that she may have never been as interested in me as I was in her. But it made me want to throw something at the fact that I just left.
We get to work and it’s the same routine. Park, clock in, table assignments, wait for people to sit down and give you their order. We’ve been here for two hours, and Nick’s hit on Malissa about five or six times now. I’ll give him credit for trying. She doesn’t seem uncomfortable or disinterested, yet I’m not sure that she’s completely interested either. But hey, what do I know?
“Justin, table nine needs you,” Malissa says.
“What, couldn’t cover it since you were there?”
“Not my table.”
“Also, I like your friend’s confidence. Might actually give him a chance.”
“My friend? Do you even know his name?”
“Course, it’s Nick. Nick Buchanan. A leo, loves the color green, hates baseball and likes walks in the park.”
“Wow, you really know your stuff.”
“I like to know what I’m getting myself into. Anyway, table nine.”
She gives me a look. She doesn’t like when I call her that, said it makes her feel old. I walk over to the table. A couple of girls around my age are seated there.
“Hey, welcome to Cheddar’s my name’s Justin and I’ll be your server today. Can I get you started with something to drink?”
“I’ll have a coke and she’s gonna have a tea, please,” the redhead said.
“We’re actually ready to order.”
“Okay, what’ll it be today?”
“I’ll have the grilled shrimp alfredo.”
“Will do, and for you?”
The second girl had her head down the entire time and seemed to be really interested in whatever she was looking at on the menu.
“I’ll have the half rack of ribs. Fries and broccoli cheese casserole as the two sides please,” she says. After a second she closes the menu and looks directly at me. Her face is blank but her eyes are saying everything from “it’s been a while” to “please forgive me.” It’s Ally. I just stare because that’s all I could do. I soon snap out of it because I have a job to do.
“Uh, yeah. That’ll be coming out shortly.”
I take their menus and leave. I give the orders to the kitchen, while I wait for the food I bring their drink to their table and wait the other tables. I feel weird. I’ve been working here almost a year now and she’s never come to eat here. Not even with a friend or family. Eventually the food is ready and I bring it to them. She’s yet to make eye contact with me again. Time seems to go by slowly, but they’ve only been here for forty-five minutes. I bring them their check and eventually they pay. When they’re leaving I’m on my way to a table when Malissa stops me.
“Hey, I’ll cover whatever table you’re about to go to. One of the girls that just left asked to talk to you outside.”
“Did she offer you money or something?”
“No, the only reason I’m covering this table for you so you can go talk to her is because she’s cute and seemed like she’s really interested in you.”
“Yes, now go.”
I tell her what table I was going to and walk outside. I try to think of everything that I could say when I see her in the ten second walk out the door. But it all goes out the window when I see her there. She’s by herself, standing with her ankles crossed and her hands in front of her chest fidgeting with her nails. I want to look at her in this light longer, but she turns around, her brown hair flicking to the side a little. We make eye contact and we’re just there. I think for a second she’s frozen until she finally says something.
“Hey,” I say, releasing a breath I didn’t know I was holding. “You look good.”
She lowers her head to hide a shy smile. “Thank you. You don’t look too bad yourself.” we stand there in silence. “Listen, I’m really sorry. I’ve been meaning to reach out but things would pile up and then it’d be really late. Or I’d have plans and it wouldn’t be fair to reach out if I couldn’t talk, so I never did. But I wanted to. And I know that this isn’t exactly the best way to reach out, but I thought it would be better than sending all this in a message or even calling you.”
“I get it, you don’t have to apologize.”
“But I did. You were my best friend, and I haven’t been acting like one back to you.”
I don’t know what to say so I stay silent.
“So I was wondering if you would maybe want to hang out with me? Tomorrow? Next weekend maybe? Or whenever you’re free, there’s no rush really.”
She smiles and nods. “Great.”
“I can pick you up at…”
“One works for me.”
“One it is then.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She walks away and I walk back inside. My spirits are boosted and I can’t wait for tomorrow. The rest of the day goes by fairly quickly. After work I take Nick home and he tells me all about how he has a date with Malissa next week.
“I told you. With persistence, anything is possible.”
“Yeah, you really showed me.”
“Anyway, how come Malissa took one of your tables today?”
“What? No way. She showed?”
“Yeah, she and a friend came to eat. Then after she and I talked outside; we got plans tomorrow.”
“What’re y’all going?”
“What’s a good question actually. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m pickering her up at one.”
“Well whatever it is, good luck.”
I drop him off and go home. I have to think about things we could do tomorrow. Also, I know I need to get some sleep tonight, but I don’t know how I can. I get to see my best friend tomorrow after eight months. I get to see Ally.
* * *
I tap on the steering wheel as I wait outside Ally’s house. I intentionally got here a few minutes late because I didn’t want to seem like that guy. It’s not long before she comes out, and as she does she has the biggest smile on her face. I unlock the door right as she gets to it.
“I see you’re still taking great care of the Camero,” she says as she closes the door on her way in.
I put the car into gear and we drive off. She flips through different stations on the radio until she finds the one Nick was playing earlier. She turns it down some to have it as background noise before she asks, “So what do you want to do?”
“I was thinking we would go downtown, eat, walk around.” She looks over to me.
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
“You don’t want to.”
“I didn’t say-”
“You didn’t have to. I know you well enough to know when you do or don’t like an idea.” She bites her lips as she thinks. Then she says, “How about this? We go get something to eat. Something terrible for us. Completely awful. Then we go to the movies and watch something that we both like. And, if there’s still room in the tank we can get popcorn, drinks, and candy. How about that?”
“Guess I should turn around because all the terrible food is the other way.”
She laughs, and it sounds beautiful. We did as she said. We went to McDonalds, watched Bloodshot, shared a large popcorn and each got a drink and a candy that should probably be shared.
We stay until the end of the credits as we usually did. It gives us a chance to talk about it and to listen in on other people’s opinions. She really liked the premise of it and the way they went about the reveal and his reactions. I liked it too, mostly for the action. I take things at face value, more or less. While she likes to look at things deeper and in a more analytical light. As we walk out of the theater it’s about four thirty.
“So what now, Ally?”
“I don’t know. You can pick.”
“I basically did.”
“No, I did. I said everything we should do and we did it. Just because I changed my original idea to something that you liked doesn’t mean you picked it.”
“Mmm, it basically does.”
“Fine. So then I get to pick?”
“Yes, and this time, I will go with it.”
“Don’t worry, I like you’ll like this one. But. I get to drive the Camaro.”
“Whoa, that’s a little far.”
“You said you’d go with it.”
“I meant like if you wanted to go shopping or something.”
“You should’ve specified then.” She holds her hand flat out and makes a gesture, “Keys.”
I reluctantly hand them over and get in the passenger seat. “By the way, the only other person who’s driven this car is my dad. And that’s only because he brought it home from the dealership.”
“Would you calm down? I’m an excellent driver. Besides, we’ll be there in no time.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
She rolls her eyes and we take off. She was right. Before I knew it we were here. We get out of the car and she tosses the keys at me.
“See, it wasn’t even that bad.”
Without saying anything else she starts walking and I follow her. It takes me a little while to take in where we are. It’s this place with a lot of open area and there are trees everywhere. I come to the conclusion we’re at a park of some sort, although I see no paved walkways or anything like that. I keep following her and see a huge hill in front of her. To my disappointment she starts walking up it. Eventually I get to the top and stand next to her.
“Are you going to explain why you drove us out here and walked us up this huge ass without any explanation?”
Without looking at me she says. “Are you really that oblivious? Or have you just forgotten?”
“What are you talking about?”
Still facing forward she brings her finger up to my face and turns it so I’m facing the same way she is. My eyes widen when I see what she was talking about. About twenty feet away is a pond the size of three quarters of a football field. Lily pads float on different areas of the surface with the occasional water lily to accompany them. There’s also one singular tree across the way.
“Do you remember now?”
“Eleven years ago we came here on a field trip. We had the freedom to go wherever we wanted as long as there was someone with us. Little did you and I know that meant an adult,” she laughs, and so do I. “We found this hill, and I said I’d race you to the top. I won, no surprise.”
“Same as when we were eight. You always have liked bragging.”
“No, I’ve just always hated losing.” She pauses. “When we got to the top we saw that tree. I said I thought it was magical and you said magic didn’t exist. I begged to differ. Then you said, ‘Fine, how ‘bout this. If magic does exist then that tree will make this come true.’ then I asked what you meant and you said-”
“From this day forward you and I will be best friends. No matter what happens, it will be like that forever.” I turn to look at her, but she’s already looking at me.
“I don’t know if the tree is magic or not. But you have always been my best friend. Even these past eight months. I know I said I haven’t been acting like it, but I want to fix that.” She reaches out and takes my hand. “You said this eleven years ago, and now I would like to say it back to you. If that tree really is magic then this will be true: from this day forward you and I will be best friends. No matter what happens, it will be like that forever.” I look at her, but she’s looking down. “And,” she raises her head to make eye contact with me. “Maybe someday, you can be more than just my best friend.”
I’m shocked. I don’t know how to respond but luckily I don’t have to because she pulls me in for a hug. I return the embrace and want nothing more than to make her wish come true. I don’t know how it will work out. But I do know that I will try to make it work. To show her that magic is real. And if not that, then persistence.
Art Piece by Jasmine Botello