Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Fool in Love

A Fool in Love

“Gum?” Josh offered Shelly. She snorted, “That’s the oldest gag in the book!” But her little brother’s crestfallen face and pleading eyes made her take it. Even though she was expecting it, she shrieked with the snap of the small mousetrap device hidden in the fake gum wrapper and packet. Shelly pandered to her teenage brother’s obsession with cheap joke props and tricks. Whoopie cushions that never ceased to cause embarrassment and amusement at family gatherings, as did the plastic flies or spiders in drinks and at the smorgasbord tables.

“Alright you,” she punched him goodheartedly on the arm, “I’ll see you after work.” He trudged off into the shopping mall to take his place amongst the trolley boy brigade. She locked her small car and made her way off into the glittering labyrinth, to the specialty shop where she bided her time as a cashier.

Shelly smiled enthusiastically at each customer as they visited her register which their chosen purchases. Apart from Josh’s injections of good humour, her home-life was tense. At work she could forget about the fighting and nagging. No one here reminded her that she was reaching her used by date; left on the shelf like one of the less popular products at work. At work there was no pressure for her to go out and find herself a nice husband, everyone just accepted her for who she was. The management and clientele treated her with the respect that was her due.

“Grrr, so old fashioned,” grumbled the voice of reason in her head. Still, she did wish she had at least a boyfriend - like everyone else.

A tall, slightly ungainly young man approached her counter and dropped one of his items, sending the rest cascading out of his arms and over the floor. Shelly immediately bent over to assist and they banged their heads together, apologizing profusely to each other and then laughing. She helped him gather the rest of his items and rang up the total of his purchase. As she stamped his loyalty card, she smiled and said, “Gee you must love coming here! I must miss serving you most of the time.”

He smiled shyly, “You seem to be popular with the customers – but I see you…” He coughed and looked away. “ Umm, well I like it here, you never know what surprises are in store for you when you’re here,” He stammered, with that, he gathered his bag and collected his card with finesse .

That evening as she was cashing up, she noticed a playing card in amongst her banknotes. Turning it over she saw that it was a jester, his staff held high in the air. Shelly shrugged, grabbed a piece of blu-tac from under the counter and stuck it above her cash register, thinking it must have been one of the other cashiers idea of a joke. She would play along, she always did.

The next day, just as she was thinking about going to lunch, one of her regular customers commented on the card. Glancing up Shelly sucked in her breath. The card was now adorned with three gold hearts. The stickers had not been there when she started and she hadn’t left her counter all morning.

Shelly, preoccupied with the end of morning shift, didn’t notice who her last customer. As she closed the drawer for the second last time that day, a voice asked her how her head was. Looking up, she saw the young man from the day before, sporting an enormous egg shaped bruise and bump.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, are you alright sir?” Shelly fussed, overly concerned.

“Rick” he smiled. “How are you?”

Shelly’s hand flew to her head and he gently pushed her hair aside, his eyes studying her forehead.

“Humm you got off lucky. Not a scratch!” Rick exclaimed with relief.

An uncomfortable silence widened and was broken only when Rick handed her a packet of matches and a twenty dollar bill. Thankful now she had something to do, Shelly rang it up and handed him back his purchase, mumbling a goodbye with her eyes cast down.

“Nice hair clip sis! “ Josh enthused later, as they met back in the carpark.

“Huh?” Shelly mumbled as she felt her hair for the foreign object. She pulled a glittering heart shaped hair clip from her locks and stared at it.

Over the next fortnight, Shelly found odd heart shaped objects in her cash register, her jacket pocket and around her counter. She had seen Rick at the shop and had served him again a few times, but conversation never progressed further than chat about the transaction at hand.

One afternoon, Jo, the manager handed each shop assistant an envelope. “It’s a double pass to the variety show at the theatre tonight. We got a bunch of tickets from the event co-ordinator in exchange for their flier in the shop window.”

The evening was more enjoyable than she had expected. The MC announced the final act and asked for a young lady from the audience to volunteer as an assistant. The MC pointed at Shelly, motioning for her to come up on stage. Shelly protested the whole way, as her workmates and Josh cheered wildly.

A well executed plume of stage smoke cleared, revealing Rick, magnificent in a black satin cape and top hat. A single rose materialised at his finger tips for Shelly, who stood transfixed and staring at the anomaly before her. The bumbling lanky lad in the shop had chrysalised into a charismatic and sexy magician. She managed the composure to play along, to engage with him and his act to the unrepressed glee of her workmates and Josh.

Shelly was impressed with the ease and grace Rick performed his illusions. His stage show was breathtaking, even with her cynical eye, and her extensive experience at the magic shop. At the end as they took their bows, Rick’s arm snaked around her waist.

“That was all you – the things in the shop. Why didn’t you say anything to me all this time?” she whispered.

Rick grinned waving to the cheering crowd.

“I wanted this moment to be one you would remember for ever,” Rick whispered back. “I’m a fool for you Shelly, will you go out with me?”