Authors: Lila Atkinson
Mint chocolate chip is the bane of my existence. Tiny spoons are the devil, and contrary to popular belief, ice cream doesn’t make everything better.
“This sucks,” I mutter under my breath.
I glance up at the woman standing on the other side of the glass case. “Nothing,” I say, flashing a half-hearted smile.
It’s the best I can do since it’s Friday night and I’m wearing a pink and brown outfit. I’ve spent the last six hours shilling ice cream treats to a line snaking out the door and around the corner of the shopping complex. With the back of my hand, I brush my bangs out of my eyes and peek at the clock. We’ve got four minutes until closing. I nod at my coworker and she pushes past the people to lock the door, cutting the line.
” she says, locking the door with a click.
get through the string of customers, when again, I’m reminded that mint chocolate chip was created by demons, because Josh and Tricia are the final customers, and I already know that’s what he wants. Free, of course. A milkshake, too, which is like five scoops and makes my wrist ache like a ninety-year-old woman. I turn to my co-worker, Colleen, and offer, “I’ll give you a dollar if you’ll take the next order.”
She looks over the coun
ter at Josh. He gives her a friendly smile and a cheesy wink. “Hi, Colleen,” he says.
She steps back from the glass case.
“No way. He’s your boyfriend; you break your own wrist.”
“He’s not m
y boyfriend,” I say. Josh is handsome and funny. He’s a good friend. He’s also very, very gay. Realizing Colleen is a lost cause, I face him and pout. “Come on! Please don’t make me,” I beg. The mint chocolate chip is the hardest of all the ice creams, and after a full Friday night, one more scoop just may break me.
“If you make it for me I’ll tell you something exciting.”
“You buying new jeans doesn’t qualify as exciting.”
He twists so I can see the back.
He does look good in those jeans. And the tight sweater. “They do look great, right? But that’s not what I’m talking about. Promise.”
Holding a silver scoop, I rest my hand on the top of the case. “Fine. What is it?”
I glare at him. “I hate you.”
I exaggerate the pain and work that goes into making his milkshake, leaving Colleen to help Tricia. I’m not supposed to give out free stuff and if my jerk boss, Mark, comes in, I’m screwed. He already warned me once. I mean, what’s the point of working in an ice cream parlor for minimum wage if you can’t give your friends free treats?
“Here,” I say, handing the cup over. “Tell me now and then leave. Mark will be back any minute.”
Josh sips his milkshake and leaned towards me and whispers, “I think I have a job opportunity for you.”
ou’re kidding,” I say, a little loud. I don’t care. I need out of this place immediately and have desperately been searching for something else for weeks. I hate it here. I only took the job because I was new in town and happened to hear about the position from a classmate.
“I’ll take it.”
don’t even know what it is yet,” he laughs.
“I don’t care. I hate this place
. And the people that work here.” Colleen shoots me a dirty look but I don’t care. “And my boss and how he makes us practice forming the perfect ice cream scoop and weighing it on the stupid scale. And the mint chocolate chip hurts my arm and at night I have nightmares about the endless lines of customers where the scooping just never stops.”
Tricia licks her ice cream
cone and shakes her head at me. Whatever. Her parents give her spending money. Mine don’t. I have no choice but to work. Josh hands me a slip of paper out of his pocket with the name Cindy across the top and a phone number. “Call her tomorrow. “
I fight the urge to squeal jump up and down
, mostly because I’m not one of those girls that squeals and jumps up and down. “Thank you, Josh, I’ll owe you forever.”
He’s not impressed because
I already owe him by giving me a place to stay when I transferred schools. He and Tricia have both been an awesome support system, which was critical, because moving sophomore year could have been disastrous.
a slurp of his milkshake and nods. “I know. Forever.”
Before they leave
the shop, he winks at Colleen again, whose face turns purple. Tricia and I laugh at her embarrassment over our too-hot for himself roommate but I stop short. My boss stands in the doorway. My tiny, trollish, hates me, boss.
the milkshake and Josh bolts out the door. He knows the shit is going to hit the fan.
“Did he pay for th
at?” he asks.
“Um,” I look to Colleen for help but she’s busy washing dish
es in the sink. “It was extra from someone who just ordered one. I made too much, by accident.”
Zadie, I’ve talked to you about this. No freebies for friends—or boyfriends.”
I stare at him hard an
d think about kicking him in his tiny shins. “It won’t happen again,” I mutter.
, it won’t. That’s your final warning.” His beady eyes glimmer from the stainless steel ice cream case. “For punishment, you’ll have to come in early tomorrow and clean out the soda machine.”
I untie my
ice cream-splattered, vomit-pink apron and toss it on the counter. “Forget it. I’m done with you being such an overbearing ass.”
“What did you say?” Mark is twenty-five and thinks he’s king of the world. Because he manage
s an ice cream parlor. That’s what I’m dealing with here.
, and,” I dig in my pocket and pull out three dollars. My
three dollars. “This is for the milkshake.”
“You can’t quit. Y
ou’re on tomorrow!”
“Sorry. Not anymore.” I walk past him to the front door—refusing to
go out the back like he prefers.
One glance back and I see the dumbfounded look on Mark’
s face as he tries to figure out what just happened. Colleen just looks sad to be left alone with him, so I give her a thumbs up and walk out the door, pretending there’s not only twenty-seven dollars and eighteen cents in my checking account.
Josh has lined up for me it better happen. Otherwise, I’m screwed.
After washing the ice cream off my hands and badgering Josh for more information, I call Cindy. She asks me to come in for an interview at the local community center. Apparently Josh’s ‘in’ was with the manager of the indoor pool. Year-round work lifeguarding. He knows I’m certified from last summer when I worked as a camp counselor. The pool pays way more than my barely-minimum wage at the ice cream shop.
I hand Cindy
my credentials and fill out an application. I leave the ice cream parlor and Mark off my references. No need to open that can of worms.
, you’ll need to sign up for twenty-five hours a week in shifts. It’s first come, first served on the sign-ups. Which means if you aren’t proactive, you’ll end up with the 5 AM shift.”
“Exactly. We have a pool manager, Henry, that will oversee you and the other three guards. He gets first dibs on the shifts since he’s in charge of scheduling.”
“Okay, sure,” I say, looking around. We’re in a tiny office off t
he pool deck. Basically it’s a warm, humid warehouse with a pool inside. A skinny guy about my age lounges in the guard chair, looking bored.
“This summer there will be some more opportunities to
add hours. We have summer camp, which requires several guards at once. We also send you guys out on occasion to other events, plus we open our outdoor facility.”
“Sounds great. I’ll be here all summer.” Some students go home over the break, but I already had plans
on staying. My parents don’t care as long as I chip in on the room and board.
“Here’s the current week’s schedule. I went ahead and
signed you up to work with Tate for the first two days so he can train you.” She pushed the sheet toward me. “You can fill in the dates and times you want. Just make sure it adds up to 25 hours, okay?”
Since I’m new
, I obviously got a couple of terrible shifts except for the two 4-9 slots I’m working with Henry. I notice he manages to have weekends off and none of the 5 AM positions. Lucky bastard.
“Thanks for the opportunity,” I tell Cindy on my way out. I don’t know how Josh found this job
, but word of mouth is the only way to find work in a college town, so I’m not looking a gift-friend in the mouth or anything.
“Seems like it will be
a good fit,” she says. “Oh, here’s your uniform.” She hands me a T-shirt with “Lifeguard” across the chest, a pair of red shorts and a sporty bathing suit. “There’s a book of rules and instructions on the desk. Feel free to look it over when you come in. Henry’s a great guy. He’ll make sure you’re prepared.”
“Can’t wait to meet him.”
Yep. No way those words would come back to bite me.
I recognize him the instant I step on the pool deck, even though I haven’t seen him since he graduated from our high school three years before. Dark brown hair arranged in messy curls. A thin layer of stubble catches my eye, highlighting his sharp, masculine jaw. We wear matching red shorts and white T-shirts, but he looks good in his and I look like…well, like a dork.
went to my high school. He’s a year older than me and was one of those guys that was always been too pretty for his own good, too popular, and had that air of invincibility around him at all times. We were on the swim team together and were sort of friends. Our social circles crossed on occasion and I had a deadly crush on him. Deadly for me because I only had eyes for him during the three years we were in school together.
Hughes terms, he was Andrew McCarthy to my Molly Ringwald.
Much to my distress
, he and his friends called me ‘Pip’ because I’m short and they treated me like a kid. The nickname made me furious, just like my size, and I spent most of my school years acting bigger than life to make up for it. Most of the time I failed, but when I decided to make myself known it tended to go off like Hiroshima.
Most of my time back then was spent with Tricia and Josh. One a geeky techno-nerd and the other a gay guy with a penchant for hats. But during Henry’s senior year, I decided to take a shot at getting his attention. My efforts ultimately led to complete heartbreak and embarrassment and I promised myself I’d never do it again. I’d never let an unattainable guy consume me like that.
Seeing him now in all his ridiculous hotness brought back a rush of emotions. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still harbor a three-year-old crush and a touch of festering rage. Josh must have known I’d flip out if I knew Henry would be my boss.
“Hey,” he said, from the edge of the pool. He’s grown, of course, over the last three years, in that obnoxious way boys have of turning into men before your very eyes. Broad chest, lean biceps. Damn.
I try to meet his
eyes but I’m waiting for that awkward moment where he recognizes me. I wait, letting a beat pass, but then I realize with further annoyance he has no freaking idea who I am. I lower my eyes and just stare at his feet. Why are they already tan?
“Zadie Parker,” he says, spinning a whistle around his finger. Oh God, he
remember me. I’m not sure if this is better or worse, because now I’m wondering how he feels about the whole thing that went down between us. You know, that whole ‘breaking my heart’ thing.
He checks me out again, head to toe and my cheeks burn under the scrutiny. What I would have given for him to look at me like that three years ago. “Of course,” he says nonchalantly, as though this is not an epic moment between us. Okay, maybe just for me.
, this is kind of weird, huh? Josh didn’t tell me you worked here,” trying to keep my face neutral but not bitchy. I’ve been told I have resting bitch-face. Photos confirm this.
Josh?” he says, his eyes narrowing in confusion. “You mean from upstairs?”
Upstairs? Henry Fletcher lives benea
th me and I never knew? Increasingly, the annoyance with Henry shifts to my roommates. Sneaky bastards.
“You were always such a tiny chick,” he laughs, eyes still surveying me. The
n he goes for the kill. “We used to call you—“