The Check Out Line
Summary: A young woman goes to the corner store and finds more than was on her "to buy" list. If you'd like, read, and if you're really nice you'd review. ;)
Disclaimer: This is mine, except for the store name, and other products, but don't steal. Stealing is bad. My plot. Mine.
Beth stepped out of her car into the Walgreen's parking lot on Saturday night, intent on buying a new razor, face wash, and shampoo before church the following morning. 'Well, what else would I be doing on a Saturday night?' she thought resigned. 'Partying? Definitely not. On a date?' She snorted at the notion. 'Definitely definitely not. Like a guy would even look twice at me, let alone shelve out money for my meal and a movie,' she scoffed, pausing slightly for the automatic to door to acknowledge her presence and admit her to the store.
The two cash registers were located to the right of the entrance, and Beth quickly glanced to see who was working that night. The register was unattended at the moment, though. There was an elderly man who rang her up a few times previously, and was very kind and good-natured, asking how her day was going, and genuinely seemed to care about her response. He was an exception to the general attitude of most employees in various service industries. That was something that always bothered her. In almost all stores and restaurants one is asked how they are doing, generally when one is paying. Ninety-nine percent of the time it is blatantly obvious the employee really doesn't care how you're doing, and just wants to go on a break. Beth always wanted to try to be honest for once whenever she was asked, but never had the guts to tell the person about the killer traffic jam she was in and the jerk that almost clipped her front bumper as he wove through the heavy traffic like he were playing a video car racing game and had no concern for other drivers.
'If you didn't want to know how I was really doing, then why do you ask? You've got to say what you mean, and mean what you say,' she thought as she walked down the outside aisle where she knew the shaving cream and razors were hiding in the back.
She perused over her choices, but didn't relish making one at all. Her skin was fairly sensitive, and no matter how much shaving cream she used or how little strokes she tried to make, she ended up with razor burn and stubble legs. 'Why can't our society just accept that women's legs grow hair just like men? In some cultures it is considered beautiful for a woman to be very hairy.' Beth almost wished she could find that culture and live the rest of her days without worrying about blunt razors or empty shaving cream canisters. Almost. She fully enjoyed indoor plumbing and air conditioning. If that meant she would have to pay the price by keeping her legs hair- free, then so be it. Instead of choosing on a razor, she walked back toward the entrance where the face cleanser and moisturizer aisle was located. She had less than two uses left in her face wash, and didn't want to have to resort to using soap. Razors could wait.
'Isn't it closing time yet?' Garret thought sighing as he turned on the water to wash his hands in the dimly lit restroom. He decided to take advantage of the lull in customers for a much needed break.
'Decided?' he snorted. 'There was no choice involved. It was either take a bathroom break or attempt an explanation to Melissa why there needed to be a clean up behind the cash register.' He squirted out the gelatinous soup and lathered it into foam on his hands. As he did so, he examined his reflection. 'Why on earth did you take this God-awful job in the first place, Garret?' He frowned back at his reflection as he remembered his last summer job.
Flipping greasy burgers and frying questionable chicken parts (or what they called chicken nuggets), having to clean up the grease used to cook said food, and mopping the forever dirty red-tiled floors after spills of milkshakes, or worse, more grease. He narrowed his eyes in thinking of the contrasts between the two workplaces. 'I guess working here isn't as bad as that hell-hole they called a "family" restaurant. But that doesn't mean I have to like working here. Melissa can be such a witch. Just because she's now the assistant manager doesn't mean she can go on a quasi-Nazi power trip whenever John is gone.'
He rinsed his hands and reached for a paper towel from the receptacle near the sink. But his dripping hand found it empty and he let out a groan of frustration. The paper towels were in the storage closet, and he knew he didn't have time to get them. He'd have to ask Melissa for the key to unlock the closet, find the paper towels to restock the restroom while dodging her yelling about getting back to the register. Thinking about restocking the bathroom also reminded him of Melissa's idea of a surprise when he came to work that day: after closing it was his turn to clean it. Toilets and all.
'Oh joy. Oh rapture. Just what I need tonight.' Wiping his hands on his trousers he glanced at the clock. The hateful thing glared balefully back at him, telling him he still had two hours before closing, and another hour and a half after that before he got to leave. He hurried back to the register after Melissa sent him a menacing glare from the school supplies aisle. He considered himself lucky to escape alive.
A middle aged woman was hovering around the register, waiting for someone to assist her.
"I can take you right here, ma'am," he said. He mentally grimaced at his word choice, wishing his mind didn't work the way it did. Sometimes it gave him nightmares. The woman pursed her lips in response and dumped her items on the counter to be scanned. She didn't seem to think it was any funnier than he did. That or she was just impatient from waiting for him to return. He really hoped it was the latter. As he slid the various feminine products and batteries across the scanner, he glanced past the woman down aisle three, where a girl his age was looking over face wash. She had a deep frown on her face, and it seemed she was debating with herself the attributes of the different cleansers. He quickly let his eyes roam over her, and wasn't incredibly impressed, though she did have a nice chest. Heavier than he usually liked, 'But hey, that's definitely the kettle calling the pot black. Or was it the pot calling the kettle...?' He shook his head slightly, reminding himself he was at work. He rang up the total, put the cash in the register, handed the woman her change, and told her to have a nice night. He wished he could have a nice night once in a while, too, but it didn't look like that would happen any time soon with Melissa, her highness, on her rampage.
'Why the heck do I have do be so indecisive? I can just buy what I got last time, and move on,' Beth reasoned. 'But no, I have to make this difficult by considering the new face washes out now, and stand here for five minutes agonizing over what to get. Ugh, I'll just come back again. I need shampoo, and at least there I know what shampoo I'm getting.'
Beth headed over to the hair care product aisle, and saw it was slightly crowded. There was another woman looking over the more expensive hair styling products and an employee half heartedly restocking the shelves. Unfortunately the girl's cart full of hair dyes was blocking the section of discount shampoo Beth wanted. For a moment, she moseyed around the aisle, wishing the girl would move her cart down a bit. No such luck. She carefully brushed past her and looked around at the other myriad of shampoos and conditioners, still wishing she had the backbone to ask the girl to move her cart down a bit.
Beth stood pretending she was looking at the other hair products awkwardly until the girl finally moved. 'Success!' she beamed as she eyed the Suave brand shampoo for under two dollars. She smiled with her victory of not spending over six dollars for the same amount of the "uppity" brands, as her mother called them. 'A penny saved is a penny earned,' she thought, happy she was satisfied with at least one of her choices.
She continued along the back wall of the store, remembering her niece's upcoming second birthday. She looked up and down the limited toy section for anything that jumped out at her, but saw nothing she thought Sarah would like, or that she could afford.
She clumsily shifted the items in her hands, and thought it would be smart to get a basket. For some reason she now couldn't recall, she didn't want to bring her purse with her, thinking it would somehow make the outing briefer than usual. She had her keys, cell phone, wallet and beloved shampoo in her hands, and didn't think her cell would tolerate being dropped onto the speckled linoleum. It was so temperamental.
There were baskets stacked together by the closed pharmacy. 'Apparently even the pharmacists have somewhere to be on Saturday night,' she thought morosely. She laughed aloud at her self-pity.
'Get a grip, Beth!' exclaimed her more sensible and sometimes irritatingly positive side. 'Despondency never became you, darling. Just because your friends left for college early doesn't mean you can't have a social life anymore.' She rolled her eyes at the advice. 'And besides you're leaving in a couple weeks too, so why are you complaining?'
She rolled her eyes and answered, 'Because I can,' and went back towards the face wash aisle, intent of getting what she needed and going home.
On the aisle now was a woman about eight years older than Beth with a cute little boy about four years old with blond, curly hair. 'It seems young children are always blessed with such great hair,' she sighed as she subconsciously tucked her own dark mass behind her ear.
She was slightly uncomfortable looking for face wash for her not-so-perfect complexion with another person on the aisle, but there didn't seem to be anything she could do about it. Acne brought up another issue she had with her society, well at least with advertising. Why was is that for all acne medication commercials, they hire actresses or models with perfectly flawless skin? Why would they be advertising something they have absolutely no use for? Or worse yet, one of the models bemoan a nonexistent or micro blemish, with a dance coming up that weekend! 'Whatever is a girl to do?' she mocked. Beth pursed her lips in distaste and huffed. Stupid advertising. Pushing her criticism of her consumer-centered society aside, she tried to get back to task. A look past the woman and child revealed the register was now occupied. It definitely wasn't the elderly man from before.
'Hmm...' She stepped back a little to get a better view, her eyes narrowing slightly. 'Not strikingly handsome, but certainly not hideous, either.' He was probably slightly older than her, and taller, which was an incredible plus. Beth turned back to face her respective cleanser choices: she didn't want to get caught staring. She herself reached a highly disrespectful height just shy of six feet.
'Shoes with any sort of heel easily bring me past that dreadful six feet mark,' she thought glaring at her worn sandals from her self-perceived too lofty height. 'I suppose it wouldn't be so bad, since the average height for a model is 5'10".' Her head cocked to side considering, agreeing it might be advantageous.
'Well, yes, but the average weight for a model is 110 lb.' With that particular thought a scowl came upon her face as she silently cursed models and all other women whose thighs don't rub together when they walked.
Wanting to dwell on the positive, or at least the fantastical, she risked a glace back at the cashier. He had dark eyes, but she was too far away to really tell what color they were. His mop of hair was longer for a guy, the back brushing a few inches past his shirt collar in brown waves.
'Another plus,' she thought, liking him the more she saw. She always loved the thought of longer hair for guys. Her best friend, just recently relocated for her collegiate career, highly disagreed with her and preferred the shorter, more conservative style. 'I like something I can run my hands through,' she thought. 'It also helps to have something to hold onto,' she added, turning back to the cleansers, smirking face heating.
"Mommy, can we go to the candy aisle, now?" the little boy asked, fidgeting and bouncing around like only little boys do. Beth grinned in amusement, though she still was avidly looking for face wash.
His mother, looking up from sun block she thought about getting, sighed and said, "Not right now, mommy has to find a few more things first." The boy let out a quiet groan and started bouncing around more, clearly agitated. But Beth was surprised when he didn't make another sound; he seemed to know his mother's limitations, and how much he could get away with before he got in trouble.
Beth looked toward the bottom of the shelf, and saw the various depilatory creams, waxes, and other hair removal products proudly bearing the red and white sticker of "As seen on TV!" She usually passed by these without another glance. Her experience with sugaring (which is the same idea as waxing) wasn't something she wished to repeat. She didn't care how painless the box claimed it to be. Her gaze moved to Nair and similar products, which brought up other unpleasant memories of sitting on the rim of the tub, waiting for what seemed like forever, legs tingling, alright, they were burning, inhaling goodness knew what (although the bottle claimed it was berry scented) to have at the end flaming red, very sensitive, and indeed yes, hairy legs. They might have improved somewhat over the years since then, but still wasn't up for paying to try it again. There was a new depilatory cream from another company she remembered seeing in a commercial, and on impulse put the container in her basket.
'A slave to advertising,' she thought of herself, shaking her head. She shrugged and reasoned, 'Well, if it doesn't work, which with my luck it won't, I'll save the new skirt for next week and wear my khakis tomorrow. Also, I won't have to buy a razor.' That made her feel significantly better.
"Brendan?" the woman called. "Brendan, where are you?" Beth looked around quickly and saw that indeed the boy was nowhere to be found. The woman looked to her, but Beth shrugged and shook her head, not knowing where he was either. Immediately, the woman headed in the direction of the candy aisle with a worried and slightly angry look on her face. Beth looked down the aisle again before going in the other direction. She may not have ever had children, but was sure it wasn't a picnic to lose one.
Beth was just reaching the outside aisle when she heard Brendan say, "Mo- om? Mommy?" When Beth appeared beside him, he was holding now-forgotten eyelash curlers, looking around with a frown on his little face.
Beth smiled at him and said, "Honey, your mom went the other way to look for you. Come on, I'll take you to her." She replaced the curlers in a bin, and lightly set her hand on his shoulder guiding him in the other direction, not wanting his mother to take more contact, such as picking him up or even holding his hand the wrong way. 'It's sad how much we have to distance ourselves from others just to stay safe nowadays.'
"Okay," he said worriedly in response.
They briskly walked past the cashier counter and his mother appeared in front of the candy aisle, her worried face melting to a picture of relief as she saw her son was alright.
Brendan ran to her crying "Mom!", and she enveloped him in a hug. In a second however she pulled back to hold his shoulders firmly and said, "Don't you ever do that to me again! How many times do I have to tell you not to run off? You scared Mommy half to death."
He looked down contritely, and mumbled, "Sorry." The façade almost instantly transformed into a hopeful smile and asked, "Can we go to the candy aisle now?"
His mother laughed for a second, and straightening up said, "No." She took his hand and turned to Beth, nodded, and said, "Thank you."
Beth smiled. "No problem."
'Aww,' she thought. 'If that happened on the Hallmark Channel or PAX I would've thought that reunion was cheesy. But it was so sweet!' Smiling she turned around to go back to what she now dubbed as "her aisle". On her way she glanced up at the cashier and was surprised to see him currently looking back at her with those dark eyes. She held his gaze for a second before lowering her reddening face and almost fleeing back to the astringents and face masks.
'Oh my gosh. Was he looking at me?' She stared wide eyed at the now familiar products expecting them to give her an answer. When they proved unsatisfactory, she bit her lip in indecision and finally darted a glance back in his direction. She was just in time to see him quickly turn his head away and start rearranging various knick-knacks on the check out counter with what appeared to be serious contemplation in their placement.
'Well, slap a Chiquita sticker on me and call me a banana... he was,' she thought, cheeks scorching, staring amazed at the overnight spot-treater that doubles as a concealer during the day. 'Imagine that.'