The pier had burned down. The police were looking into all of those teenagers who had been having a bonfire. The ones I had talked to. I was relieved that I had gotten out of there before the whole thing went down. Otherwise, maybe I would have been the one sitting in the back of a cop car.
After seeing this on the news in the bar, I got up and headed out for another jog. Life seemed so . . . so disjointed then. Nothing really seemed to fit. I was training to be a fighter, but that was something that I really didn't have any interest in doing. I didn't have any friends, I didn't take part in anything fun. Most of my time was consumed by training, and the little I had left was used on trying to scrape my drunken dad's vomit off the floor, or trying to force him to go to bed.
Life was meaningless to me, and it left a large void in my heart.
I decided I'd try to fill the void with some ice cream from the local ice cream parlor. So I jogged down in that direction.
Once I arrived, my muscles seemed to give a sigh of relief as I allowed a few moments of rest. I sat down at a table and felt my pocket for a wallet. I didn't have it. What kind of a guy starts jogging towards an ice cream parlor without checking to see if he has cash?
This guy apparently.
I sighed. I stood up and entered the ice cream parlor, deciding I'd just ask to sample something and then leave. To my surprise, the girl at the register looked familiar. Real familiar. It was that girl from the beach . . . the one that wouldn't tell me her name . . .
"Hello! And how are you today?" she said in a slightly monotone voice. It was obvious she was bored out of her mind.
I gave a nod, though I wasn't too sure what a nod communicated. "Can I try one of everything, please?" I said, getting right to the point.
If she recognized me as well, she didn't do anything to indicate it. "Yeah, sure," she said, forcing a smile. She walked around and started handing me little spoonfuls of each flavor of ice cream.
I started scarfing them down. Some were sweet, some were minty, and some were just plain awful. Regardless, I ate each one and offered a, "Thank you" in return.
After finishing them, I paused for a moment before turning and heading for the door. "Thanks again," I said.
"What? You're leaving?"
I stopped with my hand on the door. Guilt suddenly rose in my chest. I turned around and sighed. "Look, I don't have any money . . . I was just really in the mood for some ice cream . . . I'm sorry. That was a stupid thing to do . . . I'll come back tomorrow and buy something, alright? I promise."
She looked kind of puzzled for a moment, almost hurt. I wasn't too sure how anything I had said or done could have hurt her, so I assumed her mind was elsewhere. I swallowed deeply.
She seemed to snap out of it. "Oh, you know what? That's fine. I totally understand." She smiled at me, and it was one of the first times it seemed genuine.
I smiled back and nodded, not sure what else to say. I turned towards the door.
"You know, how about I buy you a cup?"
I frowned and looked at her. "What?—no! No way. It's okay. I'll come back tomorrow."
She pulled out her wallet and put a five pound note into the cash register. "I need to have a lunch break anyway. How about we go over to Starbucks," she motioned to the coffee shop across the street, "and we can talk over a cup of ice cream and coffee?"
I laughed at that idea, but then stopped. I looked at her cautiously. "Well, that's very nice of you . . . but . . . I don't know."
"Why not? Do I intimidate you?"
That made me laugh again. "No, no! Of course not. I'm not easily intimidated."
"You know, I don't usually do this. I don't usually tell guys I don't know to have a cup of coffee and ice cream with me. But I guess I just want to talk to someone. So, why not you? I'm sure you have something you'd like to talk about as well?"
I looked at her blankly for a moment. I contemplated the last few words of her sentence. Was there anything I wanted to tell her? Anything I could tell her? Why wouldn't I just accept a free cup of ice cream? Then again, why would I? Did I really want to take advantage of her? Or was she taking advantage of me?
"I'm sorry, I'm probably scaring you," she said, interrupting my thoughts.
I realized that my gaze had fallen downwards, and so I shifted it back to her. "No, not at all. I was just thinking . . . you know, forget it. Let's do it. Sounds like fun."
"It will be fun," she said. "Okay, just give me five minutes . . ."
I decided she was worth ten, and took a seat at a table.