I wrote this in about an hour and didn't edit, so please don't blame me if there are any errors. There's an explanation for this short piece at the end. Please take your time to read this. It's different from what I usually write, but it's something I really needed to do.

Seventy-Five Cents

Mileina Vashti stood in the convenience store in aisle two, glancing at the packages of crackers while trying to locate the ones her father liked. She spotted the blue boxes and grabbed two, but felt one was crushed in on the back and opted for the one behind it instead. Glancing through the basket on her arm, she decided she had everything she needed and made for the checkout, pausing as she spotted the box of chocolate cake rolls on the end of the aisle. Snatching up a box, she smiled to herself as she moved to the front of the store.

It was a small place, one that had only four checkout lines and only one open at the time. She still liked to shop there on occasion, since everything was really cheap and still just as good as the more expensive name brands. She walked up to the checkout and waited for the clerk to ring up her items. She only had six things in the basket, so it went pretty quick. The clerk's name was one of her favorites—and relatively unheard of in this day and age—so she made a point to comment on it.

The clerk thanked her with an awkward smile, then finished ringing her items up and offered a total. Mileina moved to swipe her card through the slot to pay, pausing and glancing to her left at the girl behind her in the line.

She was about her age, give or take, with short hair except for the fringe that framed her face. She wore her bangs down over one eye, and a red ring piercing going between her nostrils. Black makeup lined her eyes, and her pink-dyed hair clashed with her red and black top.

Mileina felt a slight twinge of fear for the girl, but managed a quick smile and looked away. The clerk said something about how her card hadn't gone through properly, asking her to swipe it again. She squirmed slightly, feeling that pink-haired girl's eyes on her as she ran her card through the slot again.

From her left, a small and quiet voice mumbled, "Hi."

She turned back to the girl and flashed a smile in response, internally hoping her transaction would be done so she could leave. Finally, the clerk held out a receipt and her bag of purchases before offering a smile and a 'have a nice day.'

Speedwalking out of the store, she made a beeline for her mom's car and popped the trunk to set her bag down. As she was climbing into the driver's seat, she saw the pink-haired girl walk out of the store and approach her. As she got closer, she kept her head down, but lifted her chin to ask, "Do you have seventy-five cents?"

Mileina wasn't sure what to think, but managed a smile as she dug in her purse to check. She pulled out her wallet and moved to look as the girl asked, "What are you doing tonight?"

She paused, but kept her smile up. She would probably end up staying at home, watching TV while her parents worked late again. Her friends from school all had boyfriends they were spending the Saturday night with, but she didn't have one. But, frankly, she was put off by this girl and didn't want to tell her she had such a free schedule. But unable to produce a decent excuse, she managed to murmur, "Probably go home."

"I could show you my place. I'm unpacking, so I could show off all my stuff." The girl stayed put and ran one hand along the strap of her bag, the other holding a small white roll.

It didn't look like any manufactured cigarette she'd seen before, so she felt the need to say, "Sorry, I don't do that stuff."

She looked as though she didn't hear her, and asked again, "Do you have seventy-five cents?"

She had completely forgotten about that and lifted her wallet again, checking in the change pocket to find dollars worth of change. Biting the inside of her lip, she thought about how much a soda cost from the vending machine at school and decided to wing it, saying, "Sorry, I just have a lot of pennies and a few nickels and dimes."

The girl nodded slowly and just seemed to realize what she'd said about the roll in her hand, then shook her head, saying, "Oh, this is just a cigarette. Here, I'll light it to prove it."

This girl seemed so lonely and hopeful for a friend, but she was kind of creeping her out, too. She held out her hand as a means to stop her and said, "I don't do that, either."

She pulled the cigarette out from between her lips. "Then I won't light it 'cause it stinks." She was silent for a bit, then asked again, "You don't have seventy-five cents?"

A pang of guilt rose inside her and she shook her head. "Sorry, I don't."

"It's okay. Thanks, anyway."

Giving another smile, she moved to climb into the car the rest of the way and watched as the girl moved down through the parking lot. She walked over to a car sitting there with an open window and someone in the driver's seat, out of earshot but probably asking for those seventy-five cents.

As she sat down, she pulled the door shut and locked the door quickly, deciding that no matter how hot it was outside, she would wait to open the windows until she left the lot. That girl had scared her for a moment, and but as she pulled down the road in the direction of her home, she started to wonder. What had she wanted those seventy-five cents for? Maybe there was something in the store that she wanted, but was just shy of affording.

She drove away, feeling more and more guilty of not giving her the change. She could have at least given her a quarter or fifty cents and get her started. It was just a soda that she would have spent the money on, anyway. Oh, well. She hoped that girl would be okay. She had seemed so lonely.

This story is actually something that happened to me today. I met this girl, who did look very different from Feldt, even though I don't say her name here. I never did find out that girl's name, so that's why I don't mention it here. I really was a little scared of her, but now I wished I had helped her, at least given her the change.

To the Girl in Search of Seventy-Five Cents, if you're out there, and you're reading this, I'm sorry. I should have helped you, and I regret it now. So I wrote this story as a form of apology and to immortalize this meeting. I'll never do the same thing again. I hope you found your seventy-five cents and, more so, I hope you found someone to talk to tonight. Take care and good luck.