Erin rests her elbows on the counter behind her, looking around Cream. The volume of talking teenagers continues to rise. Plates and silverware are being cleaned in the back of the kitchen, the sound of water splashing and dishes connecting with one another. Waiters and waitresses dodge in and out of the oblivious customers on roller skates, expertly arriving at each table to take an order, refresh drinks, and bring food. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and grilled cheeses sizzle on the grill behind the counter. It is no wonder this place is always packed. It is the only hang out that remains for local students. All other attempts at nostalgia such as skating rinks, movie theaters, and coffee shops have all come and gone. The 50s diner hangs on by a thread but the owner of Cream has managed to hang on due to the influx of adolescents who defy their parents and head there every weekend and week day after school. Some teens have gloves or even face masks on to prevent sickness. But the majority doesn’t care or just doesn’t want to stand out.
Ned is sitting at the counter, finishing his drink. Erin counts at least three girls, all sitting at one of the red plastic booths, trying to check her brother out. “Pathetic,” she thinks. Erin looks at each girl, assessing that none of them would ever have a chance with him. Her brother is completely oblivious, slurping the remainder of his cherry soda. She stands up straight to tell him she is ready to go when the color of a fireball catches her eye. She focuses on the color, which is the bright spot on a head of hair of a girl sitting on a lone brown metal bench outside the soda shop. The girl is cute. She is little, with toothpick arms and legs. Her hair is thick, out of control, and shoulder length, chocolate in hue with the orange making its presence known in her bangs. The bangs cover a portion of her eyes, giving her something to hide behind. She is sitting with her shoulders pressed forward and her chest sinking in. Her head is down so Erin can’t tell what she really looks like. But she knows she wants to get a better look.
“Let’s go,” Erin says to her brother, grabbing his arm. Ned spins around on the silver glitter covered cushion and raises his eyebrow at his fraternal twin.
“Why? We just got here. I was going to order some fries.” He gestures at the server at the other end of the counter but fails to get his attention. He opens his mouth to order when Erin covers it with meticulously zebra patterned nails.
“No you aren’t. You are going to walk outside with me. There is a girl out there sitting by herself and she looks like she needs to be rescued.” Erin starts towards the door, gliding through the crowd of teenagers who are overpopulating Cream. The click of her knee high boots on the black and white checkered tile floor echo the urgency of her movement. She doesn’t turn around, full of confidence that Ned will follow.
Erin is outside less than a minute when she feels the warmth of her brother’s presence. She doesn’t need her cat eye sunglasses, the muddy clouds are hovering as they always do, blocking the sun. She points at the girl on the bench, not caring if she is seen.
“Erin! Don’t point at her. She’s going to know we are talking about her.” Ned shifts back and forth on his blue and white skater shoes. He bumps into the ashtray trashcan sitting innocently to the right of the entrance, almost knocking it over. He takes a step back, trying to distance himself from his abrasive sister.
“Ned! Look at her. She doesn’t look like she has a friend in the world. That’s sad. Let’s do our good deed for the day and talk to her.” She decides to put on her sunglasses anyways, to give her an air of toughness, like Rizzo in Grease.
Ned starts to say, “Maybe she doesn’t want a friend..” when Erin sets off to complete her mission. He has no choice but to go after her.