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What Are Friends For

 S.C. Wade
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 S.C. Wade
What Are Friends For
by S.C. Wade  FollowFollow
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S.C. Wade has been writing since he was a child. He is currently 26-years-old and lives in Sarasota, Florida. He works, volunteers, and still...read more makes time for the craft of writing. His work can be found at Daily Science Fiction and in Villipede's first sci-fi anthology, The Glass Parachute.
What Are Friends For
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"This is exciting, Ric.” Stacey closed the passenger door and looked across the roof of the two-door sedan. “I get to be your wingwoman.”

“Let’s not make too big a deal about it.” Ric felt his back pocket for his wallet before he shut his door.

“Not make a big deal? Ric, we just drove a half hour to a diner off the highway to try and get a girl’s phone number.”

“Correction – I drove.”

Stacey rolled her eyes. “In any case, the romance scale is flippin’ off the charts! I’m excited.”

Ric shook his head. “How did you talk me into this?”

“You said you liked this girl, right?”

“I don’t know the girl enough to like her.”

“But you’d like to know her.”

“Well, yeah.”

She snapped her fingers and pointed at him. “Exactly.”

The two walked up the steps that led to the diner’s platform landing. Ric pulled on the diner’s door and let Stacey walk in first. “I should’ve done this a different day. Preferably one where Drake wasn’t working.”

“You’d prefer my boyfriend here over me, Ric? Come on, this’ll be fun.”

When Ric entered, he noticed the two employees behind the counter. One was a redhead whose hair was pulled into a bun, her eyes covered with crow’s feet. The other had her blonde hair fashioned in a ponytail. She laughed at something the first waitress said, but her facial muscles remained frozen.

“I didn’t realize you were into cougars,” Stacey whispered.

“Shut up. She isn’t here.”

When Ric stopped by the diner a week prior, after visiting the orthodontist for a consultation, the young woman who waited on him left a great impression. He didn’t have the nerves to say or do anything then.

“We’re still gonna eat though, right?”

“A deal’s a deal,” Ric said.

“Good afternoon!” The red-haired woman stepped from behind the counter with two laminated menus tucked beneath her arm.

“Hello, how are you?” Stacey asked.

“Good.”

Ric looked around the diner. Out of the fifteen or so booths, only four were occupied. “Can we sit near the exit?”

“Of course.”

Ric and Stacey sat at the booth nearest the exit as the waitress handed them the menus. “What beverages can I start you off with this afternoon?”

“Water’s fine,” Stacey said.

“Pink lemonade for me,” Ric answered.

The waitress smiled. “I’ll have that right out for you while you look over the menu.”

Ric’s focus was on the entrance. He also tried to get a peek in the kitchen in the back. He noticed Stacey staring at him. “What’s your problem?” he asked.

Stacey planted an elbow on the table and lifted a finger. “One: ‘Can we sit near the exit’? What is that? Are you expecting to make a quick getaway? You’re gonna give that woman an ulcer. She probably thinks there’s a bomb or something now.”

“I don’t want to miss the girl.”

Stacey lifted a second finger. “Two: Pink lemonade? Really?”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing, but whoever this girl is might raise an eyebrow.”

“You don’t even know her.”

“Aaaw, you’re defending her and you don’t even know her name.” She rested her chin on her palm. “Your cuteness factor is mad high right now. It just jumped like five points.”

“Look over the menu,” Ric griped with an underlying smile.

“I think I’m just going to get a hamburger.”

Ric looked at his watch. It was roughly the same time he entered the diner last week. Same exact day. Did the employees have set schedules? Did the girl still work at the diner? He found it hard to believe if she didn’t. She was genuinely welcoming and had a phenomenal memory.

“Do you think this is weird?” Ric asked Stacey. “Honestly?”

“Guys ask for numbers all the time.”

“But not me.”

“That’s because you’re a gentleman and an all-around good guy who doesn’t want to lead on any girls. Anyone will be able to see that.”

“So if you were the girl, you wouldn’t find it weird that I was doing this?”

Stacey paused. “No. I’d be cautious because, let’s face it, you’re a stranger who came back to a restaurant specifically to see me.” She added as an afterthought, “But there’s also a charm about it.”

Ric spotted brunette hair in the kitchen. He straightened up in his chair and tried to get a better look behind the swinging door.

Then she stepped out. Her round face. Her curly shoulder-length hair. She jerked her head back in a bout of laughter and Ric smiled at the sight of dental perfection.

“That’s her.” Ric said, suddenly warm. He tugged at his shirt collar a few times.

Stacey turned in her seat to look at the young lady. “She’s cute.”

“Glad you approve.” He sighed. “Unfortunately, she’s not our waitress now. We should’ve waited two minutes before we came in.”

“Your naivety is so innocent.”

“What do you mean?”

Their waitress returned and set their drinks in front of them. “Are you ready to order?”

Stacey pulled a five dollar bill from her purse. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ll tip you to not be our waitress. Instead, give us the young brunette over there.” She pointed behind her.

Ric gawked at Stacey and then slowly looked to the waitress. The waitress, a confused expression on her face, stared at Stacey. When Stacey simply returned her gaze as if to question why she was still standing there, the waitress took the money and dismissed herself.

“Mikalah, can you cover this table for me?” She walked behind the counter.

“That was really rude, Stacey,” Ric said.

“What? How? I’m the customer, shouldn’t I have a say in who gives me service?” Stacey pulled her straw out of the wrapper and dropped it in her water. “Oh, and since you said this lunch would be your treat, I fully expect you to pay me back those five dollars.”

Ric groaned.

Stacey smiled. “Look on the bright side. We now have your lover’s name.”

“Mikalah.”

“Please don’t chant it.”

Seconds later, Mikalah approached their table. Her raised eyebrows showed her uncertainty. “Hi, my name is Mikalah. I suppose I’ll be your waitress this afternoon.”

“Oh, Ric!” Stacey said, reaching for his glass. “It looks like the other waitress gave you the pink lemonade instead of me.” She set his glass in front of her and slid her water towards him. “Here, have your water.” She winked at him and he stared.

Mikalah asked, “You have company today, huh?”

“Yes.” Ric nodded.

“Oh, you two know each other?” Stacey asked with the perfect casual tone.

“No,” Mikalah replied. “He was just in here last week. Came from the dentist, I think.”

“But you remembered him,” Stacey said. “He left an impression.”

“Well, I just started the job and he was my first table.” Mikalah smiled and her skin turned a brighter shade of red. “And he left a nice tip.”

“How nice?” Stacey raised an eyebrow at Ric.

Ric placed both palms on the table. “That’s not important.”

“You tipped her double the bill, didn’t you? Didn’t you?”

“The bill was only like six dollars.”

Stacey looked up at Mikalah. “He likes you.”

“Stacey!” Ric chided.

Stacey continued to address Mikalah. “But don’t worry, I’m not his girlfriend. We really are just friends. In fact, my boyfriend is his best friend.”

“Oh, dear God.” Ric covered his face.

Mikalah didn’t say a word; she merely nodded slowly, keeping her hands politely in front of her, fingers wrapped around her notepad. Very professional.

“I’m sure you’re feeling very awkward right now,” Stacey said to Mikalah. “So we’ll just go ahead and order so you can walk away without feeling like you’re giving bad customer service. And FYI, your professionalism – he finds that even more attractive.”

After they ordered, Mikalah walked off to the kitchen to put in their order. Ric folded his arms across his chest and glared across the table. “What are you doing? …Really?!”

“I’m trying to get you two to bond. It’s at my expense, of course, but if you two can talk about how much I’m crossing the line, you’ll have something to discuss.” She clapped her hands. “It’s all very calculated. If she sympathizes with you, it’ll open up a thread of conversation.”

“Don’t you think that makes me look desperate?”

“No, it makes you look like you have a loving, caring friend. Desperate would be if I asked for her number for you.” She sipped the pink lemonade and smacked her lips with a frown. “Is that what you’d like me to do, Ric?”

“No!”

Ric knew he needed someone to egg him on and encourage him to ask for Mikalah’s number, but the scenario that Stacey was painting wasn’t how he envisioned it. He had to get rid of Stacey for a little bit so he could talk to Mikalah. But he needed Mikalah to stick around the table. He had a brilliant idea.

He reached out for his glass but purposely knocked it over. The water crossed the table and spilled into Stacey’s lap.

“Aaaahh!” Stacey shrieked and stood. “It looks like I peed myself!”

Ric couldn’t say he was sorry, so he just kept his plastered expression of surprise. Stacey went off to the bathroom, and Mikalah walked over with a rag and started cleaning the table.

Ric took a few breaths. “Sorry about Stacey. She can be a little inappropriate at times.”

Mikalah giggled. “It’s alright.”

“Do you need a hand cleaning that up?” He removed some napkins from the dispenser.

She tilted her head to one side, her locks of curls hiding her cheek with a mysterious attraction. “It’s okay, thanks. And I have a friend exactly like yours. A couple friends actually.”

“Intrusive?”

“All comes from love though, which I can appreciate.”

Ric nodded and wanted to say something else, but the fact that Mikalah knew he liked her couldn’t allow him to be at all normal. Was Mikalah freaked out? Endeared? How could he know?

“I just really want to apologize for her again.” It was all he could think of to say. “I mean…”

“It’s okay,” Mikalah giggled again. “It’s actually sweet to know I left an impression on you like you did me.”

Ric was seventy-five percent sure she was flirting with him.

“Can I ask you something?” She asked.

“Sure.”

“Why did you give me such a big tip?”

Ric’s temperature rose and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I just wanted to make your work worthwhile.” He quickly grabbed his water and started drinking. He realized after the fact that his statement could’ve been misconstrued.

Mikalah flashed a smile with a cocked eyebrow.

“Nice smile.” Ric cringed inside himself at the corniness of that statement.

“Thanks!” She said. “So, are you getting braces?” Mikalah began wiping up the water on the pleather seat.

Ric was always a little self-conscious about his teeth but his parents never put out the funds to get them for him. Since he got his own job and developed a decent nest egg in the past few years of college, he thought he would get them done on his own.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Nice. I had them for a few years as a teenager.”

“They did a good job.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m Ric, by the way.” He threw his hand into her personal space and then regretted the forthrightness.

“Mikalah.” She accepted his hand with hers. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too…” Ric scratched behind his ear. “Um, do you think there’s any possibility that I could maybe get your number? I mean, well, if you don’t have a boyfriend or fiancé or by some off chance you’re underage.”

Mikalah burst out laughing and placed a hand on her chest. “Underage? How flattering… And I am single.” She wrote on her notepad. “And here’s my number.” She tore off the top sheet and set it on the table.

Ric looked at the ten digits written neatly on the paper and the surge of accomplishment made him smile. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” She walked away.

After Stacey returned and sat back down, she said, “I love those hand dryers in the bathrooms. I feel they were created specifically for purposes like this. Just place my leg under the hole and voila! Dry like the Sahara.” She looked around. “Now, tell me you got her number.”

Ric narrowed his eyes in confusion.

“Ric, come on, give me more credit than that. I’ve known you for how long? You had to get ticked off at me and my antics enough to want to correct them. And to correct them, you would’ve had to talk to her. The question is whether you made it far enough to get her number.”

“How did you know my spilling the drinks on you was planned?”

“I thought it was legit at first until you didn’t apologize for it... Jerk.”

Ric laughed.

“Don’t leave a woman in suspense. Did you get her number?”

He nodded. “I got her number.”

She clapped. “You’re welcome.”

1 comments

Discussion

  25 months ago
Cute and an easy read. I enjoyed this.

I wonder if this story is now out of date. Instead of numbers I think the kids ask 'if we can be friends on Facebook.' That sounds kind of desperate though. Otherwise they can do something called flicking left or right on something called tindr. Sounds...read more like a euphemism for something. But I don't know. That's just what my sources tell me about the kids.