The next weekend Nicole came back, and I was happy to see her, because Justin was in the store. Justin was a really nice little somewhat-emo kid who was 16, played Magic and had a good head on his shoulders. I'd hoped Nicole would take a liking to him and put a stop to Tom's ridiculous cradle-robbing antics. Lucky for me, Justin was sitting at the demo table we kept in the front of the store, sorting his cards, when Nicole stepped in.

"Hey Swami!" Nicole said, cheerfully.

"Sup." I said. "Hey, Justin, this is Nicole, she's looking for someone to play Magic with." Justin lifted his head and smiled a little.

"Oh yeah? Cool." Ah, the wheels were turning. Nicole went over to the demo table and started commenting on Justin's cards.

My work here was done. Or so I thought.

The bells on the front door rang and in came Tom, holding a big card box, wearing his terminally dorky work clothes.

"Hey Nicole!" he practically shouted. "I brought some cards, are you ready to play?" Nicole lifted her head.

"Oh, yeah, maybe a little later, this guy here has some amazing decks." Nicole said, sitting down next to Justin. Atta girl.

"Well hey, maybe we can have a three-way! A little, you know, meh-nayge-ah-troys!" Tom said. It was all I could do to not leap over the counter and strangle him until his eyes popped out of his worthless little skull. I wasn't sure what offended me more; his slaughtering of the french language or the fact that he was so aggressively pursuing a sixteen year old. Justin fortunately had more sense than I'd thought.

"Dude, there's like, a Battletech tournament in the back. You're like, third on the list." Justin said.

"Oh, you're right. Shit, I forgot. Hey, I'll come out after I'm done and we'll all play together, okay?" Tom said, moving back towards the Gulag.

"Sure!" Nicole said, and gave him a little wave. Tom gave her a thumbs-up. Christ, what a faggot.

"That guy's kind of a creep." Justin said.

"Yeah, but he's nice anyway and I need people to play Magic with." Nicole pursed her lips.

"He's probably just like... trying to hit on you. Anyway did you want to play?" and the two kids started sorting out their cards.

About an hour later Nicole got up and went to the bathroom, so Justin sat back and put his feet on the chair in front of him. Tom came out, sweating like a pig.

"Hey, where's Nicole?" he asked.

"She's off reporting you to the police for being a pederast." I said. Justin laughed.

"Eight-year-olds, dude!" Justin snapped. This kid was alright.

"Very funny, you little fucker." Tom barked to Justin. "I saw her first." he sneered.

"Go fuck yourself, Tom. She isn't interested in you." Justin just sat back, shuffling his cards.

"Tom, she's way too young for you and if you scare off another female customer I'm going to ban you from the store." I said, crossing my arms. It was an empty threat, because the five to six hundred bucks Tom spent in the store every month was worth far more to me than Nicole's business, but I wanted to scare him. Just then Nicole came out. Tom turned to regard her.

"Hey Nicole, ready to play?"

"Actually Justin and I were going to get some lunch." she said, avoiding eye contact with him.

"Oh! Well hey, I'm starving, can I come along?" Tom begged.

"No." Justin said. I laughed. So did Nicole. Tom got all huffy and turned, stomping back to the Gulag. Nicole and Justin sauntered out of the store. I liked where this was going.

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