Heat flooded every last spot of the town. The sun was ruthless as it beamed down on us. My skin was on fire and nothing could cool me down. One could imagine my relief as I walked through the doors of the sandwich shop where the AC was on full blast.
I looked around the shop, noticing it seemed a little dead. Everyone was either swimming or sucking on a frozen treat.
I walked up to the counter and watched the intelligent employee clean up the counter despite it already being clean. “No customers, eh? Allow me to be of help.”
He jumped out of his skin for a moment before pushing his glasses further up his nose. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“I’m sneaky. I’m like a predator catching its prey.” I shrugged and looked at him again. “I’d like the same order. Would you be willing to make that? Do you remember my order?”
“Yes, meatball sub and another sandwich on Honey Oat bread with all the meats, lettuce, mayonnaise...and cheese, correct?” He pointed at me.
“Cheese melted on top, yes. Also, extra bacon and Philly cheesesteak.” I looked at the deli bar.
“So, you like phillies? I’m a Phil.”
I looked at him. “What?”
“Philly Cheesesteaks. You seem to really like them and my name is Phillip.” He pointed to his nametag.
The realization dawned on me and I finally understood, cracking a chuckle. “I see now. Nice to meet you, Phillip. I do love phillies.”
He finished making me my sandwiches, making sure he didn’t forget anything this time. He rung up the order himself since the shop was already so empty.
I paid for my money and sat. “So, when do you get off work? I imagine they’ll let you go early.”
“I got about another hour.” He shrugged. “Early or not, doesn’t matter.”
“Do you prefer when it’s dead or super busy?” I took a bite of my sandwich, now head over heels for this beauty.
“Well, when it’s a short shift, I like when it’s dead. This allows me to relax and get things done. If the shift is long, I would rather be busy because then the shift goes by much faster.” He wiped the counter.
I nodded and continued eating. He let me eat in silence and it was nice because I was too focused on savoring my food to keep up a conversation.
He watched me and shook his head. “How can you fit that much food? That was a foot long and a half.”
“I’m hungry all the time.” I sat back. “I have a big appetite. It doesn’t go anywhere but out. I mean, I have a high metabolism so I don’t gain the weight from eating as much as I do.”
I winced, grabbed my left side. A sharp pain was spreading under my ribs, making it hard to breathe. “Spoke too soon.”
“What’s happening?” Worry laced his voice.
“Nothing. I think sometimes maybe my system has a problem with too much meat. It’s that or I’m having unknown issues for other reasons.” I shrugged.
“None of that sounds good.” He threw away his gloves and covered up the ingredients in the deli bar.
I yawned, pulled my cloak closed. The AC in here was making me cold now. “I’ll be fine. I’m always fine. I just wait it out and it deals with itself.”
He continued to clean up until someone else came in and replaced him. He clocked off and came out of the back room. “I’m done.”
I looked at Phillip and crossed my arms. “You want to go out and do something then?” This was a risky question. Nobody would make such a risky decision. It could ruin his reputation to be seen with me, the criminal. He may have talked to me but it didn’t mean he wanted to befriend me.
“Sure. What would you like to do?” His response shocked me. He agreed. He had agreed to hang out with me.
“Oh, I didn’t expect you to say yes. What do people usually do? We can go get ice cream and learn about each other maybe. I mean, you’re very different from those in this town and I want to know more about you.” I stood up from my seat.
He swallowed. “Right, about me. I can do that.” He choked on a small laugh and followed me to the ice cream shop.
“I’ll be taking the sherbet with a scoop of mint chocolate.”
Phillip asked, “You want to mix those together?”
“Of course. I want some minty chocolate but I would like to taste part of the rainbow as well. Skittles are the entire rainbow but sherbet is part of the rainbow. Rainbow is always yummy.”
The employee behind the counter scooped them into a waffle cone and gave it to me. I paid for my ice cream and Phillip picked out a flavor. “I’ll take rocky road.” He paid for his ice cream and followed me outside.
“Rocky road, eh? Didn’t picture you as the guy to go for that. I would have guessed vanilla or strawberry.” I licked my ice cream, beginning to suck it into my mouth.
“I surprise you a lot, it seems.” He sat. “I’m going to be going into my senior year in college this fall. I’ve been working to get my degree so I can become a math teacher.”
I took another bite of my cone, getting some ice cream mixed in. “Really? I always sucked at math. Good for you, though.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot of work. I can’t wait to be done with school so I can go onto my career. Subway is just a job paying the bills until I get there.” He licked his rocky road.
I kept my eyes fixed on the cement sidewalk. “I like that. You’re making a life for yourself and doing what you love. You deserve to succeed. You’re a nice guy.”
“Nice guys finish last. Guys like me didn’t get the girl in high school. Bad boys got the girl. Jocks got the girl. I was too shy to even talk to a girl.”
I nudged him. “You’re talking to me. I think I count as a girl.”
“That’s true. I wish that was true in high school. I mean, I guess it’s not always a bad thing. I had good grades and it gave me the chance to focus on my future.” He looked at me and smiled.
I smiled back. “This is interesting. What are your hobbies?”
“Well, I actually enjoy math, school, serving people, and some other things. I’m not a big fan of reading. I know people would generally expect a nerd to love reading but I just don’t. I don’t have interest in the fiction world.”
I nodded, eating more of my ice cream. “Do you watch movies or TV?”
“I don’t. I’d rather study for school or do something productive for my future.”
I looked out at the street. It was also empty as everyone was most likely swimming right now. Across the street from the ice cream shop was a bookstore, but not a single body walked in or out of the doors.
“There’s nothing wrong with not being interested in fiction. There’s nothing wrong with being interested in it, either. Sometimes people just really hate life and the only way to survive is to escape reality in a healthy way. We want to visit another world.”
Phillip nodded. “Of course.”
“We should go ice skating.” I stood up. “It’s a hot day and we may as well.”
“I can’t skate.”
“Yes, you can. Let’s go.” I pulled him up and he seemed to get nervous about it. I let go of him, shaking my head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Before he responded, I walked the other way. We both kept our mouths shut the entire walk to the ice rink. As we arrived, we paid for our skates and put them on. I looked at him and watched him struggle to walk. I chuckled and crossed my arms. “I see how it is.”
“Skating is so hard.”
“No, it’s not. Roller skating is harder.” I walked out to the rink and looked at the ice. There were a few people but most people were at the lake or pool.
Phillip appeared behind me, grabbing onto me for support. “Are you crazy? Roller skating is so much easier. You’re on four blades. It’s like putting little cars on your feet. Roller skates are cars for shoes. Ice skating is a blade that is along the bottom. You have to balance on it.”
I glanced back a bit before realizing how close his face was. His arms were wrapped tightly around my waist as if he was a scared little boy. “Have you ever rode a bike?”
“Then this shouldn’t be too hard. This is the ice version of biking with blades. Ice skates are bikes for your feet but with blades instead of wheels.” I smirked and removed his arms from my waist and moved my blades along the ice, propelling myself forward.
I took it slow for a minute until I sped up, racing around the rink. I looked at Phillip and stopped as I came back around. He hadn’t stepped onto the ice yet. He still held onto the plastic frame that caged us into the rink.
“I can’t do what you can do,” he said.
“Sure you can. You can learn. I didn’t get where I am by standing there. I just had a lot of practice on the lake during extremely cold winters. The lake is a free rink and it’s never crowded with the people who hate me.” I pushed my blades, slicing through the ice again. I took a few more laps and stopped again when Phillip didn’t move. “Dude, get out here.”
I rolled my eyes and grabbed his arm, pulling him onto the ice. He wobbled and struggled, falling on his butt. I shook my head and bent down. “Do not let me down. Just come over here and get your ass off the ice.”
He swallowed and pushed himself up, barely moving along.
“There you go. You’re a big boy now.” I smiled and grabbed his wrist, pulling him slowly. “Just keep your blades steady and straight, in the direction you want to go, which is where I’m going. It’s just like riding a bike on ice.”
“It hurts my ankles.”
I looked back at him, still moving at a slow pace along the rail that outlined the rink. “That’s because you’re doing it wrong. You’re not balancing correctly and allowing your skates to glide on the ice. You need to balance and it takes the pressure of the skates off your ankles.”
He groaned. “Skating is so hard.”
“So you’ve said.” I smiled as we skated along. I had to be the one who got him used to the action. He could never enjoy it if he refused to learn.
Over the next hour, I taught the boy to skate on the ice while he worried about his glasses falling off.
“Do your glasses really not stay on your face? Become an old person and put a string around them so you can wear them as a necklace.”
“I am not going to do that. It’s weird. It’s not cute on a guy who’s my age.”
“How old are you?” I looked at him. “If you don’t mind me asking.”
He shrugged. His hands slid along the rail as he skated, while I was a foot ahead of him and using my own balance to keep me going. “I’m nearly twenty-five, why?”
“Just curious. I’m twenty-two if you wanted to know.” I spun around a few times and watched him as I now glided backward, around the rink.
“The rink is closing!” someone over the PA system shouted.
I laughed and looked at Phillip. “Alright. Let’s go home then.”
We made our way back to the door and sat in the locker room area. After returning out skates, we left the building and he looked around, noticing the darkening sky. “Let me walk you home.”
“It’s a sweet gesture but I’m more afraid of you knowing where I live than someone attacking me. It’s a thing. I can handle my own. I’ve survived this long. Thank you.”
“Alright, well, I had fun anyway.”
“Me too. Until next time, Phillip.” I nodded my head and turned, leaving him behind.