Lotto walks hunched over for two blocks, watching for shadows. She puts her arms around her torso to keep warm, cursing herself for not bringing her pullover just because it didn’t go with the outfit. After turning the corner she straightens up. The street lights are dimly lit to conserve energy so Lotto keeps jumping at shadows, the nonexistent boogeymen out to get her. A rustle of the wind makes her heart stop like a defibrillator. She looks over her shoulder every few minutes to make sure she isn’t being followed. The letters Cream at the top of the soda shop make the street lights look like they are turned up full blast, with only the r and the m at a whisper. The remaining C, e, and a are content to just make the buzzing sound that is supposed to accompany the appearance of light. Lotto stares at the sign for a few minutes, wondering if she will be the only witness when they all decide to shut down; not unlike the movie theater projectors.
When she is tapped on the shoulder by Ned, she jumps back and knocks them both to the ground. “Smooooooth,” Lotto thinks. She doesn’t dare stare at Ned, terrified of his reaction. When she hears him laughing, she relaxes but still doesn’t want to meet his gaze.
“Are you okay?,” Ned asks. Lotto nods and forces herself to get up off the ground. When he sees her face, Ned gasps. “You’re not okay! Your face is all red. Are you scratched?”
“Dumb ass, she’s blushing,” Erin points out as she walks up with three 32 ounce Styrofoam cups with red and white striped straws sticking out the top. She drinks out of one of the three and stops when she is right next to Lotto. She offers Lotto one of the remaining two cups. Lotto gratefully accepts the cup and takes a sip, not bothering to ask what is in it. She sucks down the vanilla milkshake until she realizes freezing her brain cells when she needs them the most is not her grandest of ideas. She stops and says, (turning to the right) “Thank you Erin” and (turning to the left) “I’m sorry Ned.” When he doesn’t respond, Lotto sneaks a glance at him. He is glaring at his sister.
Erin innocently says, “What? She was. I didn’t say it was because of you.”
Ned drops his head and tells Erin, “Just shut up.” He grabs the untouched milkshake out of her left hand and takes a few steps towards Lotto. He asks again, “Are you okay?”
Lotto whispers, “Yes,” and finishes off her milkshake, brain freeze be damned.
Erin throws her cup into a trash can and claps her hands to get their attention. “Are we ready? Good.” Without waiting for Ned and Lotto to follow, Erin walks away from Cream towards a parked four door midnight blue Honda Civic. The car blends in with the night, all four windows rolled up, making it near impossible to peer inside. Erin puts in a key to the lock on the driver’s side and turns her wrist to the left. Lotto wonders if this is because the vehicle doesn’t have an alarm or because Erin is trying to be discreet. Lotto can’t look far enough into her future to see having a car at her disposal. The car isn’t fancy but it might as well have been Jake Ryan’s red Porsche for all Lotto cared, she wasn’t getting either anytime soon. The car makes a slight sputter before coming to full throttle. Erin looks at her brother and new friend and asks, “Are you getting in or are you going to choke on my dust?” Lotto goes to open the backseat door but Ned beats her to it.
“Ladies up front.” Lotto walks around to the front passenger door. She barely has time to close the door and buckle her seat belt before Erin screeches away from the curb.
“Where are we going?” Lotto asks, afraid to hear the answer.
Erin doesn’t look at Lotto as she says, “It’s a surprise. Now sit back and relax a little. I promise it won’t hurt.” Lotto slumps into her seat, afraid of what she has gotten herself into.