An excerpt from Zaill’s writing.
I walked into a late night cafe just off main street, and the tired looking girl behind the counter pulled her eyes up from her magazine to stare at me as I was passing. “Hey kid!” she called me back annoyedly, cocking her head and saying none too shyly, “You getting anything?” She looked over my nice clean cloths, and gestured to some baskets holding sweet bread, brownies, muffins and the like, and said, “The mini muffs are only a buck fifty for three of your choice. And don’t go telling me you can’t afford em.”
I stood scanning the various selections for a moment while she watched me impatiently, pretending to peruse the menu and reaching into my back pocket to jingle the small change I kept there just for the little noises it made. I pulled some of the corroded coins out of my pocket and counted them out on the counter. I had just barely enough for six if I wanted them. The muffins were small, but I wasn’t really that hungry anyway, so I bought only three, I just wanted something to occupy me. The girl smiled, satisfied, and rung me up on the register, not even bothering to ask if I wanted a receipt.
I walked with my small purchase to the very back of the café, and unwrapped one of the miniature muffins as I went. Sitting down at one of the over polished wooden tables surrounded by matching stools, I turned my head slowly to look around at the many strange paintings and photographs lining the walls, prints and originals telling a story of minor fame, nearly every one showing some grand scene or celebrity.
A pair of girls my age wearing high heels and too much makeup pulled up stools next to mine, and said “Hi!” I offered them my other two muffins and they accepted a little too quickly, had they come over just to steal from me? “My names Danielle and this is Lyn.” said the brunette. She was wearing a skimpy pink and black dress, and her thick mascara made her eyes look way too big. “We were just about to leave when we saw you come in mister lonely. How’s your evening been going?” she put a hand on my shoulder, “You look sort of down.” I shrugged and said that it wasn’t going too well, but that it was getting much better now with them around.
I told them about Lenny’s absence and how they reminded me of some girls we’d met a few years back. Especially Lyn, who had long blonde hair and a different face, but the same light blue eyes as Alice. They seemed to glow with youth and curiosity like two little sapphires that grew darker towards her unfathomable pupils, and I told her so. The girl giggled at my compliment, showing a pair of tiny dimples that appeared whenever she smiled, and said that I looked familiar too.
Lyn and I talked about old friends and how we wished we could see them again, the disappointments and the regrets, the wonderful days that never seemed to end, and the times we hoped we’d never forget. The other girl looked annoyed that she wasn’t being as included in the conversation, and soon she motioned to her friend that she wanted to spend the rest of her evening away from ‘mister lonely.’ Lyn shrugged her off without even a glance, and turned all the way to face me. Danielle didn’t like that at all, but she kept quiet for a time before getting up and announcing her departure.
Lyn reluctantly turned to face her friend then, saying sourly that she wanted to stay; but Danielle wouldn’t have it, and when she started pulling on Lyn’s arm Lyn had to tell her quietly, “Don’t worry, I’ll catch up to you.” The other girl rolled her eyes, said fine, and turned to stalk out of the café.
Lyn and I stayed until the café closed at two, and even then we didn’t feel like letting the warm night come to an end; so we walked around some more, talking about the friends and homes we’d left behind, the happy times that seemed to keep slipping by, and the times when we’d stood frozen in the face of something unbearable. Until finally the sun started to peak over the horizon and we had to go our separate ways. I told her that I’d come back to the same café on Saturday, and she said reassuringly that without a doubt she’d be there to meet me, kissing me and squeezing my hand goodbye before she skipped down the street into the fateful night.