✘ 5:30 PM ✘

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1990

5:30 PM—record on replay, used record store, NJ

Fia

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I sit behind the counter on my unbalanced stool, staring out the window of the record shop. Rain drizzles to the ground, creating a hectic soundtrack to go along with the Italian shouting outside, and the fan beside me that's ready to combust. The phone on the wall joins in, trying to make me do my job.

I let it keep whining—begging me to pick it up—and keep my gaze on the scene unfolding in front of me.

The boy in the jean jacket stands in the exact same spot he always stands in, looking around cautiously, while smoking an almost burned-out cigarette. He runs his fingers through his damp hair a couple of times before looking over at my window and right at me. Any minute now he's going to cross the street and walk in here, a crumpled up paper bag in his fist. After that, he'll look around for the trash can, as though he's never seen it, and toss the bag into the overflowing bin.

He breaks the contact first, pretending to look anywhere else until his timing is perfect.

Becoming bored quickly, I shift my focus over to my friend, Matteo. He stands on the opposite end of the street as the jean jacket boy—his box of fresh, red peppers sitting on his forearms. Acting like his red peppers are the only buyable peppers in town, he stops an old lady by shouting something at her in Italian. I can't hear much of the exchange between the two. But, I can guess that Matteo made one of his classic, insulting remarks when the old woman starts whacking him on the head with her purse.

I laugh quietly to myself, shaking my head at his undeniable stupidity. The laugh turns into an angry grunt when the phone starts to ring again, getting its way when I finally pick it up.

"Record on Replay, how can I help you?" I say, trying to keep my annoyance a little less obvious. Unfortunately, it becomes impossible when the little bell above the entrance rings, giving me jean jacket boy's cue.

I look over my shoulder at the boy, a piece of wet hair hanging in his eyes. He looks around for the trash can and then over at me. I simply point my finger in the right direction, a genuinely fake smile on my face. He nods his head as a thank you before tossing the crumpled up bag in the bin.

The voice on the other end of the call becomes audible to me once more and I find myself all together lost at the conversation. Instead of thinking of something logical to say, I slam the phone back on its hook, hanging up on the person.

Slowly, I make my way back over to my seat, fumbling around with any loose papers on the counter to make myself look busy.

Discreetly, I look up at him through my lashes.

He looks like he belongs here—hidden amongst the maze of record boxes lined up row-after-row. Maybe that's why he doesn't think I suspect a thing. I'm not easily fooled, in fact, I knew he had stolen a tape the very first time he stepped through that door. Now, four weeks later, he's still stealing them.

A normal person would've stopped him a while ago. I would have too if I didn't find him so intriguing to watch.

He reaches his hand up to the back of his head, scratching it as he turns around, "where do you keep the oldies' cassettes?"

I lean down on the counter, a small smile slipping onto my face. "Thought you'd know by now," I start, pausing to watch his reaction. "They're over there by the display player."

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