“Hi,” he says. “How you doing?”
“Good. Busy.” She smiles at the roses. “You’re sweet. Unless those aren’t for me, then I’m spitting in your coffee.”
“All yours,” Dylan says.
Samantha picks up a cup, writes Dylan’s name inside a heart, and gets his spit-free large coffee started. “What can I get you, Ben?”
“I don’t know. A strawberry lemonade, I guess.” Sugar FTW.
“Small, medium, large?”
I look at the prices on the menu. “Small. Definitely small.” Holy shit, $3.50 for a small cup of half ice, half juice? I could go on an adventure with a $2.75 single ride MetroCard with change to spare. Buy a gallon of orange juice. Three packs of Skittles and five Swedish Fish at the corner store.
“You got it,” Samantha says. She draws a smiley face under my name. “I’ll be free in a couple minutes. Let me just close out this line.”
We wait at the end of the bar. I take another peek at the dude in the Human Torch shirt. He’s wearing headphones now and I wonder what he’s listening to. Hudson liked a lot of classics. I’m more into whatever is trending that month. I don’t seek out new songs, but if it’s catchy, I’m set. It’d be cool to date someone who liked the same stuff I did. We wouldn’t clash during road trips to see life outside the city. We could share earphones and vibe to the same song while relaxing somewhere quiet.
A girl gets up from her corner table, wiping it down with napkins, and before I can charge to see if she’s leaving, two vultures—excuse me, dudes in suits on their lunch break—swarm in and take the table.
“You should’ve let me get the table,” I say.
“Isn’t she awesome?” Dylan asks.
“Yup,” I say automatically.
Samantha comes out from behind the counter, singing our names. “Here you go.” She walks to the standing bar. “Thanks for stopping by.”
“Dylan wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I say. “Me either, obviously.”
“Beats going home and doing homework, right?” Dylan says.
I just nod.
I don’t really want anyone knowing I’m in summer school. It was embarrassing enough sitting in homeroom toward the end of the school year when I wasn’t handed my report card and had to go meet with the guidance counselor. Everyone in homeroom knew it meant I was getting the go-to-summer-school-or-repeat-eleventh-grade-in-a-different-school chat. I should’ve gone that second route. I would have my summer and be Hudson-free in September and beyond too.
Samantha takes a sip from her iced quad nonfat one-pump mocha with whip. I think she can tell talking about summer school is awkward and touchy for me. I wish my best friend was as quick on this front. “I love working here, but I sort of miss my freedom too. But I want to work in business one day, and my mom said it’s best to work at every stage possible before climbing the ranks so I never turn into some monster expecting masterful work from employees making just enough to get by.”
“What kind of business?” I ask.
“I would love to start my own app games. I have this one idea. It’s like Frogger, but instead of heavy-traffic streets, it takes place on the sidewalks of New York. You die if you get hit with someone’s shopping cart and you lose points if you cross a tourist’s path while they’re taking photos. Stuff like that.”
“I would play the hell out of that and dominate the leaderboards,” I say. “Dylan was practically playing a real-life version of it on our way over here.”
“What? I didn’t want to miss the start of her break,” Dylan says. He’s sheepish about it, which is not a word I would usually tag on Dylan. It’s kind of adorable how every minute counts for him. The classic honeymoon stage where everyone feels like they’re riding a unicorn on floating rainbows while drinking Skittle smoothies. But eventually you realize the unicorn was just a horse in costume and now you have cavities.
Samantha smiles at him, like she wants to call him sweet but is holding back. “So yeah, video game apps for me. If you ever have any ideas you want me to profit off of, let me know.” She winks—it’s not a perfect wink, but it’s still charming.
“Can you make a one hundred percent foolproof app that helps people find their soul mate?”
“I was hoping for suggestions on something easier, like a dog-walking app with some sort of twist, but sure.”
I really like her; it’s going to suck to see her go. Maybe I can befriend her behind Dylan’s back. A friendship affair.
“I know it was your call, but how are you doing post-breakup?” Samantha asks. It throws me that Samantha is caught up on Hudson. Probably too soon for Dylan to fill awkward silences by telling Samantha why he broke up with Harriett. He claims it was because Harriett liked being someone’s girlfriend on Instagram more than she actually liked him. But I know it’s because Dylan just woke up and wasn’t feeling it one day. Yeah, definitely not something you tell your potential next girlfriend.
“First relationship. First breakup. First time someone really hates me. I just wish we could be friends,” I say.
“I’m sorry,” Samantha says.
“It is what it is.” I down my sour strawberry lemonade in four sips, like some depressed adult throwing back shots, and I chew the ice because I paid for that too dammit.
“I hope he comes around,” Samantha says.
“His loss,” I say, trying to shake it off. I throw my Happy Best Friend Face back on. “So, Titanic, huh?”
“I’ve loved it since I was a kid,” Samantha says. “Though now I want to see a favorite of Dylan’s.”
“Transformers, hands-down,” Dylan says.
Samantha cringes. “Maybe dinner tomorrow instead. I can take you to the seafood spot I was telling you about.”
“Tomorrow is Friday the thirteenth,” I say.
“Oh right! I’m not superstitious, don’t worry,” Samantha says.
“Me either,” Dylan says. “I walk under ladders like it’s no one’s business.”
“Yeah, like when you were eight and you broke your arm an hour later,” I say. He was so freaked out by the pain that he had a panic attack. He swore he was dying, it was so bad. But I’m a good friend and I never bring that up. I’m so glad I wasn’t around to see him fall off his bike.
“Bad coincidence,” Dylan says.
“Or bad luck.” I shrug. “Anyway. We have a tradition. Horror movies at House Boggs on Friday the thirteenth.” This has been running strong since eighth grade. “I’m in a Chucky mood.”
“Why Chucky?” Samantha asks.
“It’s awesome. It’s like Toy Story but fucked-up.”
“I’m definitely not messing with tradition,” Samantha says. “This sounds amazing.”
Dylan side-eyes me.
I really don’t want to be a cockblock, but I’m pretty sentimental. And Dylan can’t blow me off for a girl he’s known for less than week, no matter how awesome she is. Back in April Hudson and I were going to watch the new X-Men movie, and it was one of the few things he was excited about after the divorce, but it released on Friday the thirteenth, so I canceled our plans like a good friend and Hudson saw it with Harriett.