Cold air hits me like a blizzard wind as I open the freezer door, and shelves of pop and brightly colored Gatorade bottles stare blankly back at me. There’s no air conditioning in the store, and my mouth feels dry as I notice the condensation beading on the cans of Coca-Cola. Four unopened crates of Gatorade sit at my feet.
“Have fun,” my brother Aiden smirks as he walks by in his soccer uniform. I roll my eyes and lean my forehead for a moment against the cold glass of the freezer door.
“I will,” I call after him, bending down to tear the plastic off one of the cartons. Then I crack open a bottle of watermelon Gatorade, take a gulp, and gag.
“Watermelon’s the worst,” a voice says, right beside me. I jump, spilling cold, hot-pink liquid down my arm. I straighten up and find myself staring into the eyes of a girl my age, maybe sixteen. She’s wearing jeans despite the intense heat, and the rubber on her black Converse is covered in intricate doodles. She has brown hair in a pixie cut and hazel eyes that change color as she tilts her head slightly, probably scrutinizing me the way I am her. Ashamed of my limp hair and ragged cutoffs, I blush and drop my gaze.
“Do you work here?” the girl asks.
I nod. “My parents own the store.”
“Cool,” she says, smiling. “Hence the Gatorade.”
I manage a feeble smile in return. “Do you need something?”
“Yeah,” the girl replies. “Do you have any Du Mauriers?”
So she’s over nineteen, and a smoker. I can’t help feeling disappointed, until she grins and says, “Joke. I’m actually here for cat food.”
I’d pinned her as a dog person, but this girl is full of surprises. “It’s over here,” I say, walking to the end of the aisle. I reach for a can before remembering my sticky hands.
“I’ll get it,” the girl says. She pulls a can of Friskies off the shelf with more grace than a ballet dancer doing a grand jeté.
We stand awkwardly for a moment, staring at each other. Then she sticks her hand out. “I’m Ava, by the way.”
“Harriet,” I reply, shaking it with my clean hand.
“Harriet.” I love the way it sounds coming from her, like bubbles rolling off her tongue and popping when they reach the ground.
“Yeah. And you’re too young to buy cigarettes, I’m assuming.”
Ava grins. “And here I was thinking you couldn’t take a joke.”
“Cool. Well, that’ll be a dollar.” I point to the can of cat food in her hand. As soon as I say it I wish I’d given it to her for free, but it’s too late now.
She slides four quarters across the counter and turns away. Just before she reaches the door, she turns and says with a twinkle in her eye, “Confession? I don’t have a cat. I just came in to get a better look at the cute girl working here.” Then she’s gone.
I stare at the closed door for a moment before returning to the freezer, a smile playing on my lips.
Emma Russell-Trione is a grade twelve student from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to writing, she loves books, cycling, and cats.