The Archipelago of Islands that made up what was widely considered to be "Destiny Islands" was a mix of several small islands clustered around one large Island. Most people had jobs on the main island where the elementary, junior high school, high school, and university were. There were actually two shopping districts and though most island inhabitants wouldn't want to admit it there was in fact a red light district. The big island connected to two other medium sized islands by bridge and the rest of the smaller islands were easily accessed by boats. On the smaller of the medium sized islands sat a cozy albeit dingy diner that was famous for its hotdogs and handsome waiter, not to mention its superb location smack dab in the center of the main road that went through the small island city.
The bell over said diner door clanked sourly as the old wood hit it. Irvine tightened his apron and grabbed the torn old note pad he used to jot down orders and his stubby little pencil. He scanned the crowded diner for the new face and meandered slowly and unimportantly over towards the young lady who was busily reading the menu at the far end of the counter. He timed it almost perfectly so that he approached her as she was setting the menu down.
"Something to drink ma'am?" He drawled with a mostly fake smile.
She glanced up at him through long, dark eyelashes and pouted her lips the slightest bit as she gave his question some thought.
"Well, I was thinking a lemonade, would be nice, but I really want hot chocolate, you can do that right? Even though it's like, September and all?"
"Sure, I can do that for you. Are you ready to order, or should I come back?"
She puckered her lips again and tapped her chin. "I don't know. What do you suggest?"
"The Deli down the street." Irvine replied with a smirk. Someone from behind the counter heard him and gave a disapproving holler. "But if you have to eat here, I'd recommend the hot dog, those are pretty hard to mess up."
"Then I'll have a hot dog." She giggled. "But I want my hot chocolate first, and with loads of whip cream, got it?"
"Sure thing, I'll take care of it personally." Irvine tipped an imaginary hat at her and headed off into the yellowing kitchen to heat the water and hunt down the insta-cocoa and any whip cream that wasn't congealed. "The lady at the end wants a dog Vern." He added to the cook who swatted at him with a greasy spatula.
"Don't knock my cooking cowboy. If it's good enough for the customers it oughta be good enough for you."
"You know I don't mean none of it Vern. I just have a sour stomach. Ring up when her dog is done will you?"
"Of course cowboy, go flirt."
Irvine tipped his imaginary hat again and retied his long auburn hair into its usual ponytail and primped his uniform shirt which had had so many previous owners that it didn't matter much what he tried to do with it.
"Your hot chocolate ma'am, heavy on the whip. Did you need any sprinkles with that?" He pulled out a jar of sprinkles from under the counter and measured a spoonful.
"Oh, no thanks. Sprinkles ruin the flavor." She replied with a toss of her hair. She took her cup from Irvine and vigorously stirred the cream into the drink turning it into a weird swirled pattern that didn't look natural; he leaned in closer to watch. She glanced up from her concoction and frowned at Irvine. "Don't you have other customers?"
"Nah. They're all good." Irvine shrugged, but just to prove it he straightened up and shouted across the counter "Ya'll need me for anything?" to which there were multiple grunts that sounded like no's. "See? I'm just here to look good and make conversation….and occasionally get paid." Irvine laughed at his joke and resumed his position of leaning on the counter watching the young lady.
"So you live around here? I ain't seen you in here before and I know just about everyone on this little island."
"No, I came out here for a present for my mom, she likes old things. I just figured I'd stop here for lunch."
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Irvine asked. "There're a couple antique shops a little further ways up the road."
"Oh I know that's why I came out here. But it's taking forever you know? Mom's are so hard to shop for."
"You go to the High school?" Irvine asked changing the subject.
"Of Course." She replied with a raise of the eyebrow. "What about you?"
"I graduated from there three years ago. But I'm going to the University now, my truck hates me for it too, the mileage is putting way too much wear on the poor old thing."
"You don't say?" She asked with very little interest.
"How's the coco?" Irvine asked as Vern pinged the bell that sat by the stove to let him know the hot dog was ready. "Oh, I should get that." Irvine hurried into the kitchen and returned with a blank hot dog and everything anyone could ever hope to put on a hot dog. He laid everything out in front of her and was quickly summoned away by new arrivals to the diner.
Irvine was relieved when she finally flagged him down to pay the bill. "Here, you can keep the change for your tip. You can tell the cook that it was really good too."
"Well thank you!" Irvine exclaimed as he flipped through the small wad of cash she'd given him. "By the way, can I get your name? That way the next time you come in I don't have to call you 'hey girl with the big green eyes and cute smile'."
She laughed. "Selphie, My name is Selphie. See you around Irvine." She gave a girly little wave and headed out the door with another cacophonous clang of the rusted old bell. Irvine grinned and then wondered how she'd known his name before remembering that for once he'd worn his nametag. His smile grew broader and he pocketed his tip and put the rest into the register. The rest of his shift blurred into a slow haze of unimportant people and trying to recognize the cars that drove down the busy main street out in the September heat.
The rest of the week passed in a similar boring haze between work and classes and Irvine began to regret all his daydreams about Selphie coming back. He could just imagine her bouncing in through the door and coming up to the counter, professing how she had been unable to eat or sleep over the last week because thoughts of him had her desperate for another chance to see him. Saturday rolled around and brought a torrent of rain with it as October announced its intent on arriving the very next day. Irvine found himself glancing up from whatever he was doing every time the bell over the door bitterly chimed in protest at being hit. Every time was a disappointment as the day grew in length and the rain refused to lighten up. Around four the diner was empty and the weather outside had taken a turn for the worst.
"Boy you are too distracted!" Vern bellowed as he swatted Irvine on the head. "You break any more plates today and you're fired! Your little girlfriend isn't going to be coming out in this weather and I doubt you'd want her to anyways. It's dangerous, lookit, the trees are horizontal out there, that's some nasty wind." Vern handed Irvine the broom and pointed to the broken plate and Irvine knelt to take care of his mess.
"But, if she came in she'd be soaked and possibly terrified and maybe a little in danger, like her car broke down or something and then I could come to the rescue. I have it all planned out you see. She'd come in with a loud clang of the bell because the door would be slammed open by the wind," the bell chimed over the door. "And she'd come in and call out for me, and I'd…did you hear that?" Irvine asked as he stood up.
"Irvine? Are you working today? Helllooooo?" Selphie called out.
Irvine grinned broadly at Vern who gave him a puzzled look. "How'd you do that cowboy?" But Irvine just shrugged and went out to greet Selphie.
"Evening Selphie. Glad you came back. Want a towel so you can dry off, you look cold."
Selphie gave Irvine a thoughtful glance before slowly nodding. She brushed a the rain that clung to her bare arms and shivered a bit, but was more worried by the ridiculous smile Irvine had on.
"Did I catch you at a bad time? I thought you could use the business since the weather out there is so down right awful." Selphie took the towel from Irvine and rustled her hair with it.
"Well Vern and I were having a party, but I guess we can work since you're here." Irvine laughed and offered Selphie a coat that was clearly two sizes too big.
"I could really use some coco if you don't mind. October is always so cold here, but you wouldn't expect it to be because we live in such a tropical climate." Selphie gave a trembling shiver that shook her all the way down to her toes.
"My coat should warm you up pretty fast, it's been sitting back here in the kitchen since this morning so it'll be dry at the very least." Irvine called from the kitchen where he was boiling the water for Selphie's coco. The typical diner melody that was hardly noticeable if you didn't pay it any mind crackled and broke as a radio announcement came through the crusty old speakers.
"ATTENTION ISLAND INHABITANTS THIS IS A BROADCAST OF THE EMERGANCY WEATHER SYSTEM. ALL INHABITANTS ARE ADVISED TO SEEK SHELTER INDOORS AS HURRICANE DONALD IS EXPECTED TO HIT DESTINY ISLAND WATERS IN THE NEXT 15 MINUTES. WE ARE PREDICTING WINDS OF OVER 100 MPH AND THERE WILL BE DEBRIS MAKING IT VERY DANGEROUS TO GO OUTSIDE. PLEASE STAY INDOORS FOR THE DURATION OF HURRICANE DONALD AND STAY TUNED TO THIS STATION FOR ANY FURTHER UPDATES."
"Alright Irvine, hop to." Vern said as he shut off the gas for the grill. Irvine nodded and grabbed an old baseball cap from somewhere in the kitchen and darted out the back door into the rain.
"Where's he going? Didn't he hear about the hurricane?" Selphie asked as she leaned against the counter for a better view of the back door which slammed shut with more force than necessary thanks to the wind.
"He's got to go make sure my mom is set for the storm. She's old you see and I'm old too, so I send Irvine to tuck her in and lock the house so she can't get out. Plus he needs to lock up the chickens." Vern explained like it was a daily occurrence. As was typical for most of the buildings on the smaller island houses were tucked behind the shops on the main street with usually just a yard or fence to separate them. Vern being a sensible man liked to keep chickens on hand for all his egg related needs and the yard between his house and his diner was the perfect place for them. It also meant Irvine had extra work to do which was nice when the diner was slow.
Irvine came back in through the door he'd left through with an insanely strong gust of wind and rain. He grabbed the ball cap of his head and left it hanging by the door to dry and joined Selphie on the outside of the counter. Vern leaned against the inside and divided up the last of the hot dogs he had made before he turned off the grill.
"Hey, do you have a phone? I need to call and let someone know I'm safe." Selphie asked scanning the yellowing walls for any sign of a phone.
"Here use mine, the land lines are all going to be compromised in this weather." Irvine handed her a cell phone and turned his attention out the window. "Vern, you think we should try and board this old place up? I don't really feel like putting in new windows."
"If you want to wrestle with a giant piece of plywood in this weather then be my guest." Vern waved a hand towards the window where Selphie watched shingles and debris blast by.
"You'd be safer to stay in here." She added. She grabbed Irvine's arm for emphasis.
"You'd better call your folks before the cell tower gets knocked over." Irvine smiled at Selphie as he brushed past her and headed towards the windows. "We can put the blinds down at least, or board up on the inside. This storm came in way too fast, I would've liked some warning."
"Hello, Tidus? Hey babe, no, I'm borrowing a friend's phone. Yeah, I'm stuck on the north island at a cute little diner on main street." Selphie chuckled into Irvine's phone.
Irvine snapped his head up at the word "babe" and frowned before setting himself back to his task.
"Well it's not my fault this freak storm just happened to come up! … You know Tidus I can only tolerate so much of your crap…FINE!… So it's like that Huh? Yeah, yeah you're all talk you know that? You'd better plan on making it up to me I mean seriously! Where do you get off talking to me that way? Yeah. Yeah? You too. Ok, L- love you too. Uh-huh. Byeee." Selphie clicked Irvine's phone shut and handed it back to him. She was a little red in the cheeks from the argument she'd just had, but other than that looked just as chipper as ever. "Thanks for that. He'll let my mom know."
"Your boyfriend?" Vern asked with a corny grin that was directed more towards Irvine than Selphie. Irvine glared at Vern before he went back to work on blocking the windows from the inside.
"Yessir. He can be a real twerp sometimes though. Sometimes I wonder if he really likes me for me, or if I'm just some substitute for a girl he used to know."
"Well if he loved you," Irvine grunted as he reached across a table for the pull cord to the blinds. "He wouldn't do things that hurt you." He leapt back and let the blinds clatter noisily to the window sill.
"He does love me. I -I think. He says he does at least." Selphie argued.
"Saying is a whole different ball game from doing little darlin'" Irvine cooed and tapped Selphie on the chin. Selphie frowned and retreated to the counter unwilling to have another argument. She sipped at her cooled coco and looked around the little diner.
"How long until Donald blows over?" She asked Vern who shrugged and dug around under the counter for something.
"Your folks'll know that you're safe. So you might as well tough it out here with us." Irvine sat down at the only booth against the far wall and prayed that the wind wouldn't change direction. "Hand me one of those dogs will you? It's about time for my lunch break."
Selphie placed two plates on the table and was joined by Vern with a third plate. They squeezed into the booth together and ate in amiable silence.