She slumped into the red leather booth behind me, gripping ahold of cheap chicken nuggets in one hand and an oversized cola in the other, quickly slamming them to the table. Even through her inaction, she was feisty. At first I found that a bit intimidating, making the first approach all the more difficult, but now it’s infatuating.
“So, what are you doing?” Amber said. Her eyes were hazel, with deep and burrowing bags underneath. They looked tired, like always, but with character. As though she had been awake for the past three days, but still saw the light with optimism and not pain.
I sat down opposite her, placing my slightly-smaller cola beside hers, and a tiny bag of fries to my side. The leather was comfy, expected given how new the place was. It was made to replicate an old-style American diner, flush with vintage bulbs, a jukebox repeating the same decrepit cliche songs, lengthy oval windows, frilled aprons and checkered floor tiles. Even the food had vintaged typography on the packets – making the mundane fries a little more appetising.
“Why aren’t you eating?” She asked me, the fourth such time in the past five minutes. By now, half her nuggets were gone, and she was quickly making moves on the few remaining. All whilst maintaining dead eye contact with me.
“I’m just not that hungry,” I responded. She smirked, sarcastically. She also rolled her eyes, turning instead to glance outside of the window to her right. She watched as people passed by – truckers to their trucks, bikers to their bikes, Mrs Robertson to another mans car (her husband was at work, as she so often told us) and the same kids desperately trying to skate in the parking lot. Trying being the key word.
I was hungry, I thought. But I couldn’t bring myself to eat, and I think Amber knew that. I’d been the same for the past four months, so today wasn’t any different.
“She’s getting fat, isn’t she?” She asked, pointing aggressively towards Mrs Robertson as she tucked herself into an awaiting Ford 4×4.
“…and I don’t like her hair anymore,” she stated.
“…and her dress is shit.”
“How is your food, guys?” A cheery voice asked, aiming it to the table in the hope we both knew she was talking to us. The waitress had her dull blonde hair plaited either side of her cheeks, dropping down to her chest. She held a clipboard, like she was about to drop us a survey of exactly how each and every individual chip tasted, or some business infographic on how ‘all our chicken nuggets are sourced from the finest chickens’, ignoring the fact those finest chickens were probably crammed 100-per-cafe in a shed in some farmers garden.
“Yeah,” Amber said.
“I…I’m sorry…” the waitress responded, confused, perplexed and with a slight tint of ‘I’m pissed off at your response, kid’.
“Yeah, whatever,” she said, rolling her eyes this time. Her responses were also muffled by the few remaining nuggets she had crammed into her mouth, all whilst sipping cola through an oversized stripped straw.
“Ignore her,” I sighed. “She’s had a bad day.”
The waitress walked away, by now really pissed off.
“What the fuck, Amber? Want us to get kicked out of the second place today? Go ahead.” She giggled, sort of in a cute way, but also with a cockiness and mischief – her eyes puffing up a bit and tiny dimples appearing to her cheeks.
She played around with her afro, now realising that there were no more chicken nuggets to eat, but her eyes were drifting towards my fries. It was fascinating to watch, mainly because each strand sprung back to shape with elegance and speed, and because how attractive she looked with it. It was also effortless, and very much a beautiful piece of her.
“So…are you eating those?” She asked, which I already expected by now. I nodded, and once again drifting my view around the diner. The waitress was now washing some milkshake glasses, whilst intensely glaring at us both, muttering under her breath with each thirst of her towel-wrapped hand into the glass. A few families were dotted around, each smiling synthetically in leather-bound booths, taking in all the “authentic American beauty” of the tacky red and white decor. The lights were suspended down from the ceiling, and had cute little cones just above the bulb. But the view was almost always spoiled by an abundance of flies sticking to the bulb, some dropping dead onto the floor below.
“I don’t get it,” Amber said, looking straight into my eyes.
“Get what?” I sighed. She asked a million questions and I had minus a million answers.
“Why do you like me?” She asked. She smirked again, still keeping eye contact at a hundred percent, knowing it made me anxious.
I laughed. Not in a laugh laugh kind of way, but in a nervous ‘what the fuck do I say now?’ way.
“Who said I like you?” I responded. Flirting was fun, but always a battle with Amber. She knew the buttons to press to make me uncomfortable, and she got a kick from it. The fries were long gone by this point.
She smiled again, this time playing with her bottom lip with her fingers.
“Your sister told me.”
Well, that’s the last time I ever say anything to my sister again.
“She also told me that you said you love me.”
Well, that’s the last time I ever let my sister step inside the house again.
“It’s okay, I won’t embarrass you too much,” she proclaimed, before spinning the now empty cola glass under one finger. And almost like in a movie, it slipped onto the floor and smashed, shards splattering everywhere and through the minefield of dead flies.
Glancing straight at the waitress, knowing what was coming next, I watched as she slammed a plate and towel down, and steamed down the aisle towards us. Her face was red, her hands clenched, and now the families in the perfect little booths had all turned around to watch what would happen to us.
“Why the fuck did you throw the glass on the floor?” Amber said towards me. Through her angered statement, she let slip a split-second smirk.
“Oh, so it was you?” The waitress demanded, now hovering directly above me in an awkward and uncomfortable position. I craned my neck to look up to her, and again down at Amber, who by now was positively about to piss herself in laughter. I looked back up to the waitress-turned-prison guard, and sheepishly nodded.
“You stupid boy. Both of you…” she said, waving her arms frantically and eclectically at both of us, “….get out of my fucking restaurant.”
“There goes your ‘family friendly’ rating,” Amber smirked, pointing towards the dozens of kids sprawled across the diner now jaws-agape at the language the waitress had used. Some were also repeatedly saying “fucking” to their parents, much to their frantic frustration and anger.
“Your dress looks shit too, and your hair,” she added, before grabbing my hand and leading me out of the diner. The waitress didn’t say anything to this, instead now desperately pleading with the parents inside to stay, offering free milkshakes and balloons.
“You shouldn’t have dropped that glass,” she said, now turning to hold both my hands and staring straight at me once again.
Under the moonlight, she looked so much better. Her dark skin shone and glistened purely, aglow with the silver streak of the moon and the hideously saturated neon sign of the diner behind me. Her eyes were deeper here, too. Deep, defined, and intense. And the bags under them were positively tired, but adorable, and attracted me closer.
Holding both her hands, slightly clammy with nerves, we kissed.
It felt like forever, but it was warm. Her hands rested on my chest, and mine on her waist, and we held each other in position for eternity. The late night mist settled on our arms, adding to the goosebumps of the moment and slightly dampening my long and annoyingly-curly hair.
After a little while, I pulled back.
“You’re so annoying,” I said, alluding to the broken glass. She smirked again, kissed me on the cheek, and ran off towards the bus station.
“Shouldn’t have dropped the glass,” she joked. “I’ll see you in class tomorrow, yeah?”
A bit awestruck at what had just happened, I nodded clumsily, watching as she ran into the thick mist in the distance.