“Really, no really. Can’t you cut me some slack,” Joshua roared in anger at nothing in particular. The universe maybe? Or whatever god was available to listen to his angry pleads. Joshua walked to the block his mom had dropped him. If he could only get his hand on a cell phone then he could call his mom to pick him up. That’s as good a plan as any. There were small shops up ahead, he should be able to borrow a cell-phone. Josh came across an antique store towards the entrance of the Plaza. He’d not remembered seeing the shop before. He’d driven through this section of town quite a few times. The store must’ve just opened, he thought. Maybe he’d just not noticed. Mom was always complaining that he was in his own world. Nothing wrong with that. His own world didn’t include bullies and a student body laughing at his abuse. Funny, he remembered going to that same pizza parlor next door to the antique store. But for some reason hadn’t noticed the creepy looking place. The closer he got the more his skin crawled.
Josh was strangely attracted to creepy places and creepy things. Living in Jax, short for Jacksonville, he’d had pet frogs. His mom hated the idea of a snake in the house, so he was forbidden. The frog was bad enough, she’d said. What others thought as creepy, he always considered with a different perspective. His taste was simply more peculiar? Yes, peculiar was the right word. Another word might be unique, like a gentleman sipping a 50-year-old whiskey while watching over his killer sharks from the comfort of his living room. Something he’d seen on TV. That was not creepy at all. Just a matter of perspective. What was really creepy, not to mention scary, was going to those school dances and flopping around like a jellyfish. Do they even dance at those things? Kids probably just stand around in their tuxedos looking like a bunch of penguins.
Either way, he needed a cell phone and he needed it quick before the rain began. The closer Josh got to the store the more the hairs danced around on his arms. There was something definitely creepy about this place, he thought. For a brief moment, he forgot his troubles. He became entranced by the mystical place he was about to walk into. His pace slowed. He became weary of his environment. It was as if someone or something was watching him. Must be his imagination. He’d recently sneaked watching the Stephen King movie ‘IT.’ Josh half expected a demon clown to poke its head up from the manhole. Something impossible for a regular human being, but totally possible for ‘IT,’ Pennywise or whatever ‘IT’ was. Josh had never before felt like this. He thought of going to another store. The pizza shop next door seemed a far safer prospect, but his curiosity was piqued. Joshua set his face into firm determination, strode up to the door, and kept walking hoping no one saw him make a fool of himself. He couldn’t go through with it. His logic overrode his curiosity. “Stupid, I am so dumb,” Joshua said to himself disgusted at his own cowardice. There was nothing to be scared of, but he was afraid. The creep factor was way off the charts for that store. He’d find a cell phone somewhere else.
A voice called out behind him, freezing him in place, “Hey, hey you!” It was the voice of a girl. A sweet voice. It was kinda melodic, as though she about broke out into song and dance. It frightened Josh. Had she seen him walk up to the store, reach for the handle only to shy away in complete horror? Joshua’s thoughts escaped him. Turn around. No, don’t turn around. He felt his head might split in two from the sheer embarrassment. He knew this was foolish. But after literally bearing his soul to 15 of his classmates, he wasn’t quite ready for anymore socializing. He knew he should at least respond, as that would be the polite thing to do. A reasonable response was as far as a kite stuck in a tall tree. Adrenaline, run and hide, fight or flight; or just keep walking, pretend he didn’t hear her. But then he remembered how he tried running and hiding all day and what that got him; deep sea diving in the boy’s toilet. He has to make a stand, here and now. No turning back. A girl is not a runaway train you fool, he thought. What is he so afraid of? He heard footsteps, the approach of a dangerous female tiger. No, not dangerous, just a girl. He could imagine the great cats on the plains of the Sahara. His tongue instantly cleaved to the top of his mouth. If it’s just a girl, why was he so nervous? He became instantly parched. Of course, this would happen when he needed his voice the most.
“Hi, I saw you walk up to the store just now. Was there something that caught your attention? Maybe I could show it to you,” Josh turned, locked eyes, and nearly gave up the ghost. She was gorgeous. She smiled sweetly at him; perfect teeth and the cutest dimples. Josh’s heart melted in his chest. This is not happening.
“I, I, I, just, just, ahh” words, were are the words. Oh no, he thought, I’m making a complete fool of myself. The pretty girl chuckled. Josh’s heart broke. Great now, she’s was laughing at him. A small fire welled up within him, “what are you laughing at?” Josh spoke more solid, the anger sparking his courage. She must’ve seen the look on his face. Her own face echoed the horror.
“Please, I wasn’t making fun,” she said, hands raised with a slight look of embarrassment. She smiled and Josh’s belly did backflips. “I just thought you were kinda cute.” Stunned! Totally stunned! All thoughts escaped him. Her smile wide, warm, reaching her eyes. She was amused by his total bewilderment. It melted Josh’s icy fears to mere puddles.
“I was only looking to borrow a phone,” he tried explaining. His words came out jagged. He wondered if he made any sense.
“Oh okay, sure, my cell phone is in the shop,” the pretty girl turned and started towards the shop’s entrance. She turned and looked back at him. “Are you coming?” Her words were like a spell releasing Josh from his cursed stupor. He trotted after her, nerves bubbling, heart pounding.