“You’re late,” Robin tells Steve with only a slight glance up from the massive textbook in her lap. “Keith’s going to make you inventory the adult room as punishment.”
“Keith’s not going to find out because you’re my friend and it wasn’t my fault. It’s snowing.”
“You’re still late.” She snaps her gum and turns another page. “Some of us might have places to be.”
“You definitely don’t. The library’s closed and I’m not just saying it’s snowing, like, oh, it’s snowing. It’s really snowing.” He stamps his boots for emphasis. “Honestly, have you not looked outside since your shift started?”
Robin realizes there haven’t been many renters coming through, and that no one has asked anything of her for at least an hour. She lifts her head and takes in the parking lot through the bits of glass not obscured by New Release posters. “Shit.”
He’s been arguing with her since she first started putting her coat on two hours ago about how it wasn’t safe and there was no way he was letting her leave when the weather was like this and she should have watched the news before leaving the house.
But Robin’s as stubborn as he is. “I ride my bike here every day.”
“You know that’s a lie because I drive you whenever you ask me to.”
With her feet on the arms of his swivel chair, she adjusts her weight so he spins to look at her more directly. “Unless Dustin needs you for some sort of scheme.”
“They’re not schemes.” He slams a copy of The Muppets Take Manhattan into the rewinder. “What were you doing here all day? Besides not rewinding videos.”
“I have a test on Monday. And, alright, if it’s not Dustin, you definitely would blow me off for another girl.” The tape stops right when she finishes speaking, and it feels uncomfortably quiet without the rapid whirring of the wheels as a background of the conversation. Steve’s face has collapsed like every cake she’s ever attempted to bake.
“You don’t believe that, do you?”
Robin pulls on one of the loose threads of her vest, looking away. “Guess I don’t now.”
“That’s fucked up, Robin.”
“I’m sorry.” She says it softly, embarrassed not only to have said it, but to be so insecure about him. About anything.
He puts another tape into the machine, she doesn’t see which, but she feels when he rests his palm on her ankle. Squeezes the delicate bones underneath her high-tops.
Robin is ready to apologize again, to make sure he knows she only kind of feels that’s where they’ll eventually end up, when he finds a girl who will give him everything, but Steve speaks first.
“For a brain, you’re really a dingus sometimes, you know that?”
She kicks at his bicep and he howls and laughs and shoves at her and it’s stupid how this is the part she worries most about losing. The way he just looks at her like she’s worth looking at. Like he sees her and still doesn’t want to look away.
Keith hates it when they take candy from the displays, but they’ve got an hour left on Steve’s shift, and there’s no way she’s not falling asleep without some sugar in her system. “I want the Candy Buttons.”
“Watching you eat those is repulsive. So I repeat, Skittles or Sour Patch Kids?”
“What’s wrong with how I eat Candy Buttons?” Robin leans her weight onto her elbows on the counter.
“Not just how you personally eat them, it’s just they’re terribly designed. Who wants to eat paper?”
“It’s barely any paper you wind up eating.”
He shrugs. “And yet you’re still eating paper.”
“Fine.” Robin rolls her eyes dramatically at him. “Give me the Sour Patch Kids.”
Steve tosses her the bag and she automatically starts taking out all of the yellow ones for him, making a little pile beside the cash register.
Outside, the snow is slowing down, and everything inside is somehow kind of dark and flourescent at the same time. It feels safe in that way things feel safe when they’re familiar and a demon hasn’t ravaged your town in months.
“Alright, back to European History,” he says with a hip check like he knows anything about the Franco-Prussian War, before popping one of the lemon candies into his mouth. "You've got that test on Monday."
Robin knows if he studied on his own last year like he studies with her he wouldn’t be here at family video and she’s grateful he was a fuckup even if that’s cruel. “On July 16, 1870, the French parliament voted to declare war on Prussia,” she tells him from memory. “The war would last a little over six months.”
He nods, and asks her to name the leader of each country at the time which she does, in perfect succession.
Steve had gone out and cleaned the car off, started it up, while she closed out the register and flipped off the neon open sign. When he came back in, winter caught in his stupid hair, she gave him a salute, some acknowledgement that they make a good team. That she appreciates him.
There’s no one milling around in front of the arcade, it’s just him and her in the shopping center it seems, and it’s this stupid feeling it always is of she wants this and she wants so much more than this.
When he looks at her, she says, “I’m sorry again. About saying before that you’d bail on me for some girl. I don’t know why I said that. It’s not even like you’ve mentioned anyone.”
Steve flips the keys in his hands, the sound like ice clinking against glass. “Well. Kind of hung up on someone, so, you know, doesn’t seem fair to be looking.”
“I’m...” and she doesn’t know how to finish that sentence because she also doesn’t know if she’s annoyed or guilty or sad that he said it. Her lungs hurt and it has nothing to do with the cold.
“No, don’t do that. I didn’t say it to hurt you or pressure you or whatever. Just being honest.”
“She must be pretty special,” Robin jokes, quiet, and Steve does that scoff laugh thing he does when things are equally funny and tragic, which sadly, she feels they encounter a lot in their friendship. It would be so much easier if she could just...like him. “You know if I was into guys I would, probably, against my better judgement, be into a guy like you.”
Steve melodramatically throws his right hand over his heart, closing his eyes with a hint of a smile around his mouth. “You’re killing me, Buckley.”
“Take me home then.”
“That sounds fair.”
The front seat is warm and he turns up We Built This City when the chorus kicks in because he has the worst taste in music. Snowflakes are melting on the windshield and she knows Steve wants to hold her hand and that if he actually reached over, she’d let him.