She was at the perfume shelf the first time I saw her; a quiet little thing in a coat that was too big for her, hiding her face under a waterfall of long, red hair.
That was all it took to make me want her.
I watched her eyes scan the row of bottles until she stopped at the pink one with the fancy crystal stopper; a French perfume called ‘Seduction’ that was our best seller. It had rose and vanilla in it, and since I started working here I’d seen lots of women buy it. It made me angry when they were old or unattractive women; a perfume of that quality was wasted on them. But this girl was worthy of it; she deserved to smell as beautiful as she looked. She picked it up with a smile, and I imagined her spraying it onto her wrists, her neck… and other secret, sexy places…
And then she saw me watching her. Her body tensed, and her face froze with uncertainty. Perhaps she was afraid of what I’d do. I smiled right back into her beautiful eyes, sending her a message in my mind that she shouldn’t be afraid of me. That she could trust me.
“Danny, have you finished putting out those suppositories yet?”
Mr Blane, my boss, was heading towards me looking pissed off - as usual. I’ve always had a problem with daydreaming on the job, and that made me a slacker in his eyes. He pointed to the crate at my feet, still half-full. “You’re not even halfway through” he snapped “what the hell have you been doing?” Before I could answer he picked up the crate and thrust it into my hands. “Get a move on, or I’m going to start docking your pay.”
He was still muttering as he stomped back up to the counter. I turned back to the perfume shelves, but my angel was gone. Did she get that fragrance after all? Maybe she’d come back again.
I hoped she would.
I saw her regularly after that. She came in almost every day, in her secondhand coat, giving me occasional shy glances as she browsed the shelves. I think she knew I was looking out for her, because she didn’t try to hide anything from me anymore. She’d let me watch her trying out cosmetic samples in front of the mirror; painting hot pinks and reds onto her lips and pressing them together… like she knew I wanted to kiss them. Or she went to the underwear section and picked up lacy bras and thongs, holding them against herself to imagine how she’d look in them. And she knew I was imagining that too. She’d glance sideways at me and smile, knowing I was picturing her wearing them in her bedroom at home. I don’t know if she knew how much further my fantasies went though. Did she know that in my head I peeled all that underwear off and screwed her right there on her bed? And that, back in the real world, those were the times I ached so hard for her I had to sneak into the bathroom for a while before I could concentrate on work again?
I wanted to tell her. I wanted her to know how much I needed her. But it was too risky. If Mr Blane knew I was watching her he’d get suspicious – and I was in enough trouble with him already.
I’d have to pick my moment carefully.
And then I got that damn virus and had to call in sick. It was only for a couple of days – but they were the worst two days of my life.
Was she missing me? I was certainly missing watching her. What if Mr Blane had started watching her too, while I wasn’t there? Oh god, no…
By the third day I still felt terrible, but I went back to work anyway. I couldn’t stay away any longer. Of course Mr Blane didn’t appreciate my efforts.
“You look like death” he grunted as I stood in front of him with throbbing sinuses. “You can’t go out on the shop floor like that. Stay in the stockroom for today; you can tidy it up and check the inventory. At least that way no-one’ll see you.”
And I wouldn’t see her either. I wanted to argue, but the look on his face told me that was a bad idea.
I waited until the stockroom door slammed behind me before I kicked the wall in frustration. Now I was stuck in this poky little room on my own for the rest of the day. A room filled with shelves of crap, and Blane’s stupid desk with a crappy old tv on it…
That tv was connected to the security cameras out on the shop floor! I could still see her, even in here. And even better, I could lock the door. Total privacy. No need to worry if she got me all steamed up again…
I had to wait a couple of hours before she finally came in. She looked around a few times - like she was looking for me – and then headed for the pharmacy shelves. By this time I’d figured out how to stop the view cycling through the different security cameras, so it would stay on just one for as long as I wanted. I found the one that showed her facing the camera, and zoomed in a little to get a better view. She was standing by what Mr Blane called the Intimate Products, and as she reached out towards the shelves I could feel myself getting harder. What was she going to choose? My hand was already hovering over the zipper of my flies as she picked something up – a small box, with gold writing on it. I had to zoom in a little further to see what it was.
It was a box of condoms.
Wait a second, that didn’t make any sense…
We hadn’t even talked about having sex – hell, we hadn’t talked at all. Besides, she didn’t know I was here, so she couldn’t have been getting them for me… she didn’t need them. There was no reason for her to get them…
I took some deep breaths as I watched her read the back of the box. She just picked them up, that’s all. I’d watched her in this store a million times, and she never took everything she picked up; she wasn’t stupid like that. She only took the things she needed. And there was no way she needed condoms. It was fine. She’d put them back in a second…
I watched her do that look from underneath her long red hair; the shy, sideways look in each direction. The hand clutching the box of condoms slipped downwards, towards an inside pocket on her oversized coat, before disappearing inside. When she pulled her hand out again it was empty; her little magic trick. Another quick look in each direction, and she turned and crept out of the shop. No-one noticed her leave.
No-one except me.
How could she do that to me? I’d protected her all this time. I let her do what she did and never told anyone, because I loved her and she knew that. That was the understanding; our special, secret thing, just between us. Her and me.
Screwing someone else behind my back was never part of the deal.
As I turned away from the tv I suddenly noticed a shelf above it, stacked with videotapes that had dates on them for the last six months. I guessed it was archive footage from the CCTV cameras. It was all the evidence I needed.
I opened the door and went out to find Mr Blane. I knew what I had to do.
Next time she came in Mr Blane and I were ready for her.
I watched her steal a pair of earrings and a necklace; she even flashed a smile at me, as if everything was still fine between us. She wasn’t expecting Mr Blane to be waiting for her at the door when she tried to leave – or for him to demand that she turn out her pockets. I called the police, and made sure I looked her right in the eye as I was doing it. She had the nerve to look confused – hurt even. Like I was betraying her.
She kept staring at me even as they put her in the police car and drove her away, but I just looked right through her. She was dead to me now; a cold-hearted cheat who got what she deserved.
“Well done Danny” said Mr Blane as we went back inside. “Good catch. Maybe you’re not completely useless after all.”
“Thank you sir.”
I should’ve felt good about it, but I didn’t. A broken heart still hurts. And it’d take me a while to get over this one.