The end of his shift, finally. Time to go home and spend a few hours playing Red Dead Redemption, maybe chill on reddit, eat a frozen pizza, and catch some sleep. He didn’t have to wait for Chuck tonight either. He’d thought it would be neat having his younger brother work at the store with him, but Chuck was still working on getting his license, so it had really just been a pain in the ass. Chuck worked in the seafood department, which closed an hour earlier than the deli, so you’d think it’d be chill. Nope, freaking Chuck took forever to finish his cleaning checklist, leaving Adam to sit and wait in the break room for thirty or forty-five minutes every night. Chuck liked to complain that Adam had help and that’s why he always finished closing first. Yeah, Adam had covered seafood before. They never scheduled more than one person because they didn’t need to. Closing seafood was a breeze. Chuck was just a slow, whiny asshat.
Emily walked back to the time-clock with him, but she was on her phone the whole time, so he didn’t try to talk to her. Adam thought about asking her out sometimes. He wasn’t sure about it, only ‘cuz they worked together. They were the only two who liked closing, so they worked alone together four nights of the week on average. That’d just be weird if it didn’t go over good.
After they’d both punched the time-clock, Adam gave Emily a wave and ducked into the coat room to grab his windbreaker.
“Hey, Adam?” Emily called.
He stepped back into the hallway, shoving his arms into the sleeves of his coat.
“Do you think you could give me a ride? My friend was supposed to pick me up, but now she’s saying she can’t.”
“Um, yeah, sure. Where do you live?”
Emily gave a sheepish smile.
“Where’s that? I never heard of it.”
“Only like an hour.”
“An hour? Why do you live an hour away from the store?”
Emily shrugged and pushed a strand of dark blonde hair out of her face. She always took her hair down the second they were out from behind the deli counter. She always said that after wearing a hair-net all day, she couldn’t stand to have her hair in a bun any longer.
“I moved a few weeks ago,” she said. “After me and my boyfriend broke up.”
Adam’s eyes widened. He hadn’t even realized Emily had a boyfriend. She’d never mentioned him. Adam would know. He’d been paying attention. An hour was inconvenient. It was definitely shaving off some of his relaxation time. Still, spending some time with Emily outside of work could give him a better idea of whether or not she was feeling him like he was feeling her.
“Yeah,” Emily continued, darting into the coat closet to snatch her purse and sweatshirt. “I’m living with some friends of mine. Pepperell is just over the Massachusetts border. I’d owe you big time if you could give me a ride. Seriously, next time you need a shift covered, I’m all over it.”
She pulled on her sweatshirt, one of those ones that said “Pink” all over it, even though the color of the clothing was black.
“I guess it’s not a huge deal,” Adam relented. “I’m not driving Chuck home tonight, so why not?”
Emily thrust her purse onto her shoulder and gave him a stunning smile.
“Great! You’re the best, Adam.”
“Yeah, so I hear,” he muttered sarcastically.
He led her out to his car, parked on the receiving end of the building next to the dumpster.
“Wow, this is your car?”
He didn’t miss the note of disgust in her voice. She wrinkled her nose, looking over his battered 2009 Volkswagen Jetta. She took a step back, eyeballing the stickers plastered over the bumper and around the edge of the back window.
“Oh no,” she laughed. “You’re an anime guy?” She pointed at the One Piece and Death Note stickers on the right side of the bumper.
Adam fumbled in his pocket for his eyes and unlocked his door. He decided not to answer the question. Whatever. Let this girl judge him for being a weeb. What did he care? Not like he had any chance with her anyway. Stupid. He was always aiming for girls out of his league. His first and only girlfriend had set him up for failure. Monica hadn’t known how hot she was. If she did, she wouldn’t have gone out with an awkward, ginger kid like him. They’d only dated for three months during their Sophomore year of high school. And now Adam kept catching feelings for chicks who didn’t even exist in the same reality as him, that’s how hot they were. He really needed to knock it off and find himself a weeb girl already…
He reached over the passenger seat and unlocked the door. He hurried to clear the crumbled fast food wrappers and empty Newbury Comics bags littering the seat.
Emily kind of half-laughed, half-scoffed, watching him do this. He was tempted to ask her if she wanted the ride or not. It wasn’t like she’d given him any notice that he’d be giving her a ride home. She sat down, stepping over the empty soda bottles and trash on the floor and turning up her mouth in distaste.
Adam had always liked Emily. It was amazing what five minutes outside of the work environment could do.
He turned the car on and lowered the volume of the music. He kept the volume turned up loud when it was just him in the car. He always had Ozzy, Alice in Chains, Disturbed, or Slipknot in the CD player.
“You can direct me?”
“Yeah. Head down to route three and I’ll direct you from there.”
He drove out of the parking lot, heading down Amherst Street, the same way that he’d normally take home. He had to head toward Nashua to pick up route three. He lived in Merrimack, the next town over. Emily was quiet for the first ten minutes of the drive. Adam drove and Emily scrolled through her phone. It looked like she was browsing Instagram.
As Adam pulled to a stop at a red light, Emily looked up from her phone and stared at the CD player.
“What are we listening to?”
Adam sighed. “What kind of music do you like?”
“I’m a total Swiftie and a Directioner.”
Why had he liked this girl again? Shitty pop music. It was occurring to him now that he’d never talked about anything except work with Emily. All they ever did was make fun of customers and their stuck-up bosses. Maybe turning the conversation back to work could save this hour-long ride from cringe-inducing awkwardness.
“Did you see that mess with Steve today?”
Emily burst out laughing. “Oh no!” she howled. “You saw that too?”
“I was helping move a pallet in frozen food. I think I caught the tail-end of it.”
“What an idiot. He always tells us not to chew gum. He blew a freaking bubble while talking to a customer. Who does that?”
“Apparently Steve does.”
“She tore him up. That old lady was mad.”
“Good. That guy’s a prick.”
“I heard he used to be really fat. Like obese.”
“Seriously?” Adam shook his head. “He’s always making fun of fat guys. This makes so much sense now.”
“He’s unprofessional as anything. Wish they’d fire him.”
“If they’re gonna fire anybody, it should be Mike.”
“He reeks like booze every time he comes back from lunch. It’s like he bathes in it.”
They spent the rest of the ride this way, sticking to work-related topics. What else was he gonna talk to her about? Weeb shit and metal music? Or he could let her lead the conversation and he’d be talking about Taylor Swift and the latest Marvel movie. She just struck him as the sort of girl who watched whatever everybody else was watching and Marvel was having a real moment right now.
He was sick of her by the time he dropped her off in front of her house.
“Thanks for the ride, Adam.”
“See you tomorrow.”
Ah, she was okay. She couldn’t help it. Most females were boring as shit.