Sixteen-year-old Roberta Steinkeller trotted along eagerly behind her two older friends, listening to them babble excitedly about various celebrities. She had long since given up trying to join in; they always ignored her. But Bobby was content to simply listen, tagging along behind with a huge smile pasted on her freckled face.
As the three teenagers strolled through the grimy, bustling streets of Times Square, a certain lieutenant Tyrone Brannigan sat on a nearby bench, peering over the slightly crumpled pages of his newspaper. He saw those three girls walk by most every day, and had developed a certain interest in the shortest one. She always followed the others, but never joined in their excited conversation. But she was always happy, a wide smile illuminating her pale, freckled face, her blond ponytail swishing back and forth as she skipped behind her two brunette compatriots.
The trio then disappeared into a nearby café. The officer sighed, flicking his newspaper out and continuing his half-hearted reading of the sports section.
Bobby and the two other girls sat at a table, the two eighteen-year-olds chatting and sipping on milkshakes, and the youngest being ignored, as per usual. But this time, she couldn't handle not speaking up; she was really thirsty.
"Um… girls…?" she piped up timidly. They gave her an exasperated look.
"What is it?" asked the tallest one.
"Uh… why didn't you let me order?"
The two best friends shared a meaningful look, and sighed.
"Okay," started the second teenager, "I guess if we have to tell you."
"Have to tell me what?"
The tallest brunette sighed again. "Look… whatever your name is. We have never liked you, and honestly, we don't even know why we let you follow us around. It's, like, really creepy!"
"Yeah," agreed her best friend, "We tried ignoring you, but you're apparently too blonde to get the hint."
"Yeah! You're too dumb to hang out with us. Get lost."
Their words hit Bobby Steinkeller like a sledgehammer crushing her fragile heart.
"W-what?" she mumbled, feeling tears starting to cloud over her bright blue eyes. "I thought you were my friends…"
The first eighteen-year-old chuckled, shaking her head.
"Uh… no. Now go bawl your eyes out somewhere else, you crybaby."
The sixteen-year old had heard too much. She let out a huge sob and sprinted out of the café, drawing some annoyed attention from other clients. As she bolted away from the two girls who had broken her heart, she was not at all aware of what was going on around her. That is, until she rammed herself at full force into the black-coated chest of Lieutenant Brannigan, sending herself flying back to land not-so-gracefully on her rear end. The officer raised an eyebrow, glaring at the girl who had just collided with him.
"S-sorry, officer..." she croaked, peering up.
The lieutenant recognized the girl and immediately softened his expression. Normally, he would have scolded anyone who flung themselves so carelessly into him, but this was the ever-happy teenager he had seen earlier and she was in tears. So instead of yelling at her, he forgave the young girl.
"Oh, it's alright. But you don't look so fine. You want to tell me what's wrong?" he said, in the most gentle tone he could muster.
She scooted to the edge of the curb and curled up into a ball.
"Come on, you can trust me." he said.
Bobby only sobbed harder. "That's just it - I can't trust anyone anymore!"
Brannigan sighed, sitting down on the curb beside her. "Tell me what's wrong. I'm listening."
"My friends- they don't actually like me! They called me dumb and a crybaby, and they told me to get lost!" She wailed.
The policeman took off his hat and set it down beside him, revealing his meticulously gelled brown hair. "They don't sound like very nice friends."
She shook her head. "They were so mean to me!" She hiccuped.
"Well, you don't need them anymore, do you?" Tyrone continued, tentatively placing a hand on her shoulder.
"They were the only friends I had!" She bawled harder than ever. "And now I have no friends!"
"I could be your friend." he offered.
She looked at him, her eyes showing a glimmer of hope. "Really?"
"Of course!" he assured her, smiling, "And I promise I'll be a lot nicer than those girls."
"That's really kind of you, officer." She said, having ceased her crying.
He reached into the breast pocket of his and pulled out a handkerchief, which he gave to her. "My pleasure. And please, call me Ty."
"I'm Bobby." She said, drying her tears.
"Nice to meet you." Brannigan said, extending his hand. Bobby shook it gently, offering a timid smile.
"You feel better now?"
"That's good. Say, now that we're friends, how about we go for ice cream?"
She smiled. "Yes, please! I would love that!" Ty grinned back, grabbing his hat and getting to his feet. He offered his free hand to help Bobby up. Once she was on her feet, he jokingly placed the black velvet hat on her head. They laughed, walking away, arm in arm.
From the doors to a nearby café, a certain pair of eighteen-year-olds stared in jealous awe as their former friend was led away by the attractive young policeman.