'I used to believe fairytales when I was a kid, too.'
Uncle Steve's startling clear blue eyes twinkled at me as he deftly popped a cigarette into his mouth.
‘Not inside!’ called a surly girl with a hefty bosom from behind the counter.
'Alright, alright!' But a teasing smile smile played at the corner of lips as he glanced across at her.
Glaring sunlight coursed in through the window, baking spilled ketchup into black smears on the formica table between us. A radio babbled inanely - some guy forcing smiles into his voice.
I swallowed, and my throat was tight and hard. 'I'll pay you back, I swear. I just need to give it chan-'
‘Kid, I don’t wanna piss on your parade.’ He leaned forward on leathery elbows, interlacing strong, work-gnarled fingers. 'I know you got to follow your dreams and all that. But I just don't want to see you get hurt.' He indicated at my milkshake, a melted, sticky mess at the bottom of a tall glass. 'You done with that?'
‘Yeah,’ I said, pushing it away. With a nod, Steve was up on his feet. The meeting was over. 'C'mon, let's get you to school.' His hand was on my shoulder.
I got up to follow him out through the door, the blind rattling as I let it slam behind us. The sun immediately and mercilessly poured heat all over us, but Steve didn’t seem to notice. The jaunty swing of his gait was unhindered as we walked past cars sitting on the forecourt, quietly shimmering and cooking.
We stopped at an old midnight blue Ford with a mean chrome grimace.
‘S’open,’ said Steve as he made a grab for the driver’s door. I slipped around to the passenger side and folded myself into the infernal heat inside the car. I fumbled with the scorching seatbelt buckle while Steve leaned forward, twisting the key in the ignition and sending the car into a furious roar. The radio burst into life, blaring rock n’ roll through the speakers. Steve glanced back at me and winked.
As we rolled off the forecourt and nosed our way back onto the highway, I briefly slipped my fingers into my back pocket to check the business card was still there. I didn't need to take it out to read what was on it: ‘Adam Sutcliffe, White Label Music, A&R’. I still believed.