He’d been acting differently ever since he’d gone to that smoothie place. Emma couldn’t get him to shut up about it. She knew that Andy had always had an addictive personality. He would discover some new restaurant, or some new band, and he couldn’t stop talking about it. After a few weeks he’d surely get burnt out on the subject. He always did.
But this time felt different.
“They’re only smoothies.”
“They’re excellent smoothies,” Andy said to her. “The best smoothies I’ve ever had. I’ve been there three times already. We should go sometime so I can show you. In fact, we should go tonight. I’ll pay for it.”
Thursday nights were supposed to be their movie nights. They’d been doing it ever since they’d started dating. Almost four years, now. They’d seen every movie on Netflix, and a lot of them twice. Emma knew it was serious if he was willing to skip it tonight. They were supposed to be rewatching one of Andy’s favorites this week.
“What’s this place called?” Emma asked.
“Yeah. Opened less than a month ago. And I gotta say, they really know what they’re doing.” Andy’s smile looked strained. His eyes were wide with eagerness. Emma had to genuinely wonder if he’d been doing drugs. Hey, they could drug the smoothies. It wouldn’t be a terrible business strategy. Keeps the customers coming back.
Emma tried to change the subject. “Which movie are we watching tonight? It’s your pick, remember?”
“I know, I know.” Andy’s smile was frozen on his face. “But I really want a smoothie tonight.”
“But it’s movie night!”
“No problem. We’ll go out, we’ll get the smoothies, bring them back.”
“It’s late. And it’s cold out. And I’m not really in the mood for a smoothie.” Emma put on her best pout, but Andy was unaffected.
He said, “It’s not far from here. Five minute’s drive. Maybe ten. We’ll be back before nine. Plenty of time for a movie.”
Emma threw her head back. “Fine. But if it’s busy, we’re not sticking around.”
They got in the car. The drive was much longer than ten minutes. Probably twenty. And the parking lot was full too, so they were pretty much guaranteed to get home after nine thirty. Smile Smoothies was a big place, a big chunk of the shopping center it resided in. People were coming and going, the door constantly open. They seemed to be smiling, so the place didn’t have a terrible name. The cups were all a bright green, and the interior was the same color.
As they went in, a young couple around the same age as them was talking about free samples. In fact, it sounded like everyone was murmuring about them.
“Hey, Smile Smoothies!” the employees at the door said as they came in.
“Hey, Smile Smoothies!” the man at the register said.
“Hey!” Andy said to them, grinning. “Smile Smoothies!”
“Ha ha ha!” the employees laughed.
The other customers joined. “Ha ha!”
“Ha ha!” Andy agreed. “I brought my girlfriend. She’s never been here before.”
The man at the register pointed at them. “Free samples?”
“Yes!” Andy said. “Emma, have a free sample.”
Before she knew it, somebody had put a little paper cup in her hand. The smoothie was the same bright green. It seemed too watery, not thick enough for a proper smoothie. Emma realized it was the same shade of green that cartoons always used to indicate radioactive materials.
She tipped the paper cup into her mouth and drank it.
“Hm,” she said. It wasn’t that great. It was more like a juice than a smoothie, really, and she wasn’t much of a juice person.
Emma noticed that she was walking without realizing it. Her feet had brought her to the trash to toss her cup away. She felt funny. Her arm had thrown the paper cup in the trash as if outside of her command.
She tried to move her legs back toward Andy, but she realized that she couldn’t. Her body was moving all by itself.
Emma felt dizzy.
Her head turned as more customers came in, a family of four. “Hey, Smile Smoothies!” the parents said.
“Hey!” the employees echoed back. “Smile Smoothies!”
“Smile Smoothies!” she heard Andy agree.
“Hey!” Emma told the family. “Smile Smoothies!”
She had no control over her actions whatsoever. The words had simply popped out of her mouth. She was trapped in her own body, watching herself doing all of this. She found herself crossing the room, taking a tray of little paper cups, and holding them out to the family.
“Ha ha!” the father of the family said. “I brought my kids. They’ve never been here before.”
“Free samples?” Emma heard herself offer.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Andy smiling at her. It was that same strained smile that she’d seen on his face before they’d left the house. And his eyes were wide, not with excitement, but with fear. He was experiencing the same thing she was. He’d been taken by the smoothies days ago.
And he’d had to watch her drink it.
The children in the family took the little paper cups from her tray. Emma wanted to stop them, to yell, to knock the cups out of their hands, but she kept smiling, and her body was perfectly still.
“Hm,” said the youngest child, who’d drank it first. The kid threw the cup in the trash and returned to the family, smiling.
“Hm,” said the other two kids. Then they were smiling too.
More customers came in. “Hey, Smile Smoothies!” the employees all cheered.
“Hey!” the customers said. “Smile Smoothies!” But it wasn’t all of the customers who said it. It was only about half of them.
“Hey!” Andy said. “Smile Smoothies!”
“Hey!” said Emma. “Smile Smoothies!”
“Ha ha!” laughed the employees.
“Ha ha ha!” Emma and Andy laughed, grinning at each other.
And the customers laughed too. Most of them. “I brought my husband,” a woman told them. “He’s never been here before.”
Andy went to fetch a tray. “Free samples?”