Scoops Ahoy, Starcourt Mall. June 1985.
Steve really didn’t need this in his life right now. He was working a dead-end job in a tacky mall for minimum wage, forced to wear a god-awful sailor suit eight hours a day, constantly taken advantage of by the horde of kids he babysat once a week, and routinely made fun of by his only tolerable coworker. Having his high-school nemesis pop in for a sundae was really just the cherry on top (pun intended).
“Ahoy!” He turned around, customer service smile slipping off his face as he saw who was standing at the other side of the counter. “What do you want, Hargrove?”
Max’s asshole brother gave him a shit-eating grin. “Can’t a guy get some ice cream around here, sailor? Max is busy with that weird El friend of hers and I’m hungry.”
Steve sighed and ran through his mandatory spiel. He didn’t get paid enough for this. “Fine, I guess. Welcome aboard as we set sail on this ocean of flavor. I’ll be your captain. What flavor of ice cream would suit your fancy today?”
Billy Hargrove’s sleazy smile only grew wider. “Holy shit, that sounds so dumb. I’ll have a scoop of chocolate chip and a scoop of chocolate. And make it snappy, princess. I got a couple of harpies I gotta drive home in a few minutes.”
“Coming right up.” Steve tried, and failed, to put his customer service face back on. He hated how easily Billy got under his skin. They weren’t even in high school anymore, why the hell was he still so dead-set on this rivalry bullshit?
He eyed the clock as he got Billy’s order together. 3:55. “Oh, shit.”
“What was that, Harrington?”
“Uh, nothing.” Steve wasn’t a very fast thinker. He contradicted himself immediately by yelling, “Hey, Robin! It’s almost four o’clock!”
“Be there in a sec, dingus!” She shouted back. Steve’s coworker/friend(?) emerged from the break room and gave Billy an unenthusiastic smile. “I’ll ring you up. Have fun with your science experiment, Steven.”
Billy looked between them and frowned. “The fuck is she on about?”
Steve opened his mouth, and closed it again. How was he supposed to put this. “There’s a… something weird happens every day around this time and I’ve been trying to figure out what it is.”
“Sounds stupid. Let me see.”
“I’m not supposed to let customers back here, sorry..” Steve scratched the back of his neck.
“Aw, come on! Live a little!” Robin elbowed him in the ribs. “I won’t tell if you don’t.”
This was a horrible idea. “Alright, just don’t be disappointed when it’s not that exciting.”
He reached to open the gate, but the blond beat him to it and slid over the counter, hopping off and landing uncomfortably close to Steve. “Lead the way.”
“Okay, so this is gonna sound really weird,” Steve grabbed a cup of rocky road with chocolate sprinkles that he’d put together earlier out of the freezer, “But every day at exactly four o’clock the power goes out.”
Billy raised an eyebrow. He was chewing a wad of gum and he blew a tiny bubble that popped in Steve’s face. “And? Maybe the mall’s power is shitty. It is kind of an electricity-sucking nightmare.”
“Yeah, but this is different.” Steve insisted. “The power only goes out in here. Lights, freezers, everything. But if you look outside through that window over there, everything outside stays exactly the same.”
Billy’s eyes narrowed. “Prove it.”
“Give me a minute and I will.”
Sure enough, as the clock struck four, the fluorescent lights above them fizzled out and the hum of the freezer abruptly stopped. Steve took a deep breath and placed the cup of rocky road under the table with a spoon stuck in the middle. Then, on Steve’s command, they waited in silence.
After a few minutes had passed, the lights buzzed back on and the freezer started up again. Steve nodded to an amused-looking Billy. Together, they hopped off their chairs and crouched to view the space below the table.
The cup was empty and the spoon was gone.