Thursday’s were the best day to work. Quiet enough throughout the day that stock could be replenished well enough ready for the weekend rush, but still with a steady stream of customers to ensure the day passed quickly.
Yes, Katie loved her Thursday shifts. But ultimately, she wasn’t fussy, she enjoyed all her shifts. In fact, it was a wonder to her boss how a young woman could be so content with her life, just working in a little shop, selling bread and milk. But Katie never complained, not when it was manic and busy, or when business was so slow, she found herself cleaning shelving units to pass the time.
“Here, Kate,” Her manager approached her where she stood at the front of the shop, reorganising the display on the end of the aisle. A chocolate promotion which a colleague had set up on the nightshift and had done a pretty shabby job of it. He passed her a box of King Size Dairy Milk, “Are these what you were looking for?”
“Perfect, thanks, Daz,” She grasped the box from his hands and turned back to her display. She stood back for a second, then pulled her box cutter out on its retracting cord and tore her way into cardboard.
The shop was nothing special. A small convenience store owned by one of those bigger supermarket chains. Katie had been working there almost three years, just part time. Enough hours to pay the bills, but not so much that she didn’t get any time with her family. But she loved it. She loved the variety of customers. The commuters first thing in the morning, just going about their day. She liked to wonder where they were all headed and what they did for a living. Then the regulars, the old dears who liked to stop and talk. She loved to listen to them and hear their stories. She’d often remind some of her younger store colleagues that many elderly people live alone and that might be the only conversation they have all day. A little kindness never hurt anyone.
Her constantly upbeat attitude to her work, of course made her popular with her customers and co-workers alike. Many of the regulars knew her by name and asked after her on the rare occasion she was not working her usual shift.
“Looks good, you’re a diamond,” Daz stood behind her, admiring her work.
“You always say that,” Katie shoved his shoulder gently, and laughed, “You should save the compliments for when you’re really desperate.”
“Funny, Kate,” He turned to stride to the back of the shop before stopping short, “I don’t need to ask if you’ll be alright on your own for half an hour? I’ve got some stock taking to do out back.”
“I’ll ring if I need you,” Katie nodded. She flattened the now empty box and held it out to him, “Can you stick this out back? I’m going to get on the till.”
She gave the shop a once over, checking down each of the small aisles before setting herself up behind the till. She straightened her navy uniform, and then busied herself tidying the counter top. The sound of the electric sliding door opening caught her attention, and the sound of the rain hammering down outside filled the shop.
The customer stopped just far enough away from the door, so it shut behind them, and yanked the hood of their rain coat down. Katie recognised them immediately. She’d have probably recognised them from their height and build alone had she been paying more attention. It was the stores local celebrity.
Tom Hiddleston, Katie knew only lived a stone’s throw from the shop. He’d been a fairly regular customer since before she even started working there. Of course, owing to the shops affluent location in North West London, he wasn’t the only famous face that frequented the store. But he was by far the nicest.
Katie watched for a second as the man got his bearings, and then as always, he turned and shot her one of his famous smiles, “Good Morning!”
“Is it? It looks atrocious out there,” Katie quipped, and he laughed, nodding.
“You got me there,” He told her, “You’re right, it’s ghastly, you’re much better off in here.”
“Did you leave your little doggy at home today?” Katie remembered Tom’s lovely Cocker Spaniel that he normally tied to the post outside and asked her to keep an eye on whilst he did his shopping. She peered out, but he wasn’t there today.
“Yes, he hates the rain, won’t set a paw outside.”
“Well I can’t say I blame him,” Tom chuckled again, in a low ‘eheheh’. Then, as per normal, he nodded politely, and headed down the aisle in front of him. Katie smiled to herself, he really was quite lovely.
She wasn’t a fan, not that she didn’t like his work, she just had very little time to indulge in her own hobbies. But she didn’t live under a rock either. Everyone knew of Tom Hiddleston’s reputation as one of the few remaining ‘true gentlemen’. Although Katie knew nothing more about him other than he liked his milk semi-skimmed and his bread Warburtons Granary, he’d never been anything other than polite, and friendly, and she didn’t doubt the media’s portrayal of the actor.
“Have you been busy?” Tom’s voice interrupted Katie from where she’d started unpackaging cigarettes and restocking behind the counter.
“Oh no,” She shook her head, “Not busy today, never is on a Thursday.”
“That’s alright then, well actually, I’m sure you prefer it a little busy.”
“I do, it keeps things interesting,” Katie picked up the bottle of wine he’d placed on the counter and scanned it, “Eight Pounds ninety please, special occasion?”
“Excuse me?” Then he realised she was talking about the wine, “Oh, no, no…well I suppose…my Mum’s coming over for dinner this evening.”
“Oh, that’s lovely!”
“Yeah, we don’t get much time together, so I said I’d cook for her.”
“Making anything nice?”
“A tentative Lamb Tagine.”
“Oh, very adventurous!”
“For me, yes, normally I’m a Bolognaise or Roast Dinner kind of person. Keep it simple.”
“Oh, come on, a roast dinner isn’t simple, all the timing and stuff.”
“Do you enjoy cooking?”
“I prefer eating, but yes, I don’t mind cooking.”
Just then, the door slid open again, and another customer came in the shop. Katie waved, “Morning!”
“Well, I shouldn’t keep you, have a nice day, Katie,” He grinned, “I hope you don’t get caught in the rain on your way home.”
“Thanks, I hope your Tagine is a success, you’ll have to let me know.”
Then he was gone. That was a standard conversation between Katie and most of her regular customers. Exchanging general niceties and wishing people a nice day. But that was the first time Tom had used her name. She wondered for a moment if she’d ever told him at any time, or if he’d heard one of her colleagues speaking to her. But she was mostly in the small shop alone, her boss normally dealing with stock or other managerial tasks out back in the office. It was only when she glanced down and her name tag caught her eye, it struck her. He’d purposely looked for her name, so he could address her formally.
The thought made Katie’s tummy flutter a little. Alright, so she had a little bit of a crush on her customer. Along with the rest of the female population.
But that’s all it was, a silly crush. Who could blame her? He was obviously gorgeous, even in his puffy North Face Rain coat, and tatty jeans, you’d have to be blind not to appreciate his sharp jaw, and cerulean eyes. But he was also a charming, kind man who seemed to have every woman he met swooning at ‘hello’.
Katie had been fine with having a crush, up until this point. It was harmless.
But now she knew how her name sounded upon his lips.
Tom almost slammed the bottle of wine on his kitchen counter, giving Bobby cause to yip loudly at the noise. Shucking off his rain coat and slinging it over one of the stools at his breakfast bar, Tom cursed himself under his breath.
He’d used her name. She was going to think he was one of those creeps that leered over counters to check their servers name badge, so they could repeatedly address them by their name. He’d heard from friends who had worked in shops that this was just about the most annoying thing any customer could do.
The truth was, Tom didn’t need to lean over the counter to check her name badge. He’d clocked it about a year ago. That was when he first really noticed the pretty woman at his local store.
Of course, he’d seen her before, they’d exchanged ‘hello’s’ and ‘have a nice days’ for probably two years prior. It had been not long after he came out of a pretty rough break up. Well no, the break up had not been tough, but the media attention it garnered had been unpleasant. He’d been stressed, massively. His PR had been on his back about the damage the attention could cause to his career. He was dealing with a minor heartache and a massive headache. He’d been having a particularly bad morning, and he was craving a strong cup of tea, when he realised he’d run out of milk. He’d stormed down to the shop just footsteps from his front door, and the first thing he heard was a cheery ‘Morning!”
Katie had been up on one of those round stools designed for shelve stacking. She had a huge trolley of stock beside her and was a little breathless. Clearly up to her eyeballs in work, but rather than continue with her stacking, she hoped down and grinned at him.
“You look like you could do with something a bit stronger than milk today.” He’d laughed at that, because he realised he must have looked incredibly miserable and pissed off. But rather than shy away like most people, she continued to chat away cheerily, “Jack Daniels is on special, a litre for twenty-three quid. I might buy two!”
He’d watched, bemused as the bubbly girl almost bounded behind the counter and waited for him to approach with his milk, and a pack of milk chocolate hobnobs because he needed a sweet binge. She picked up the biscuits and waved them at him, “These will work too! You know they’re on buy one get one free, you should grab another packet.”
“If I buy them, I’ll eat them,” At the time he was meant to be losing a bit of weight for an up coming role.
“Nonsense look at you, you look like you could do with a decent lasagne.” It was the first time in weeks he’d truly laughed, and he walked home with a smile on his face. The next time he’d seen her he’d been sure to check her name badge and ever since then he’d made a point of talking to her each time he visited.
She was pretty. He couldn’t ignore it. He couldn’t really vouch for her body, because her frumpy shop issued uniform did its best to conceal most of her assets. But it couldn’t completely hide her generous bust. The navy t-shirt she wore stretched across her chest but lay baggy everywhere else. She was tall, for a woman he thought. In her flat black shoes, she came to just about his chin.
But her face was what really caught his attention. Fair skin and dark chestnut hair, which was always tied up in a pony tail for work. But it swung around behind her as she bounced around the shop. Her eyes were hazel, and she sometimes wore glasses, which he liked, and she had a lovely mouth. Lips pink but not too thick, and she was always, without fail, smiling.
That was what drew him in. Her smile. He knew it was genuine because it reached her eyes. But it wasn’t just for him, it was for every single person who entered her shop. She had a cheery smile and greeting for everyone who crossed her path, and that was just a breath of fresh air.
It was silly, he knew it. She was just a woman who worked in a shop. He knew absolutely nothing of her, other than her first name. But he’d found himself thinking of her sometimes.
Normally it was when he was getting a little stressed or over worked. He’d think of her smile, or her voice and feel calmed by it. He hated to admit when he’d felt lonely and insecure, he’d thought of her pretty lips and how they might feel against his.
He’d all but decided the only thing he could do was bite the bullet and ask her too dinner. But that was easier said than done. Whilst she was working, how on earth could he just walk in and ask her out? As friendly and chatty as she was, it was clear she loved her job and in that respect was very professional. He doubted she’d entertain the idea of having any sort of personal conversation whilst she was working.
Tom knew he was acting like a teenager with a crush. He’d even found himself making excuses to go to the shop and see her. She must have thought he really liked milk, because right now there were four pints in his fridge, and he probably had five or six loaves of bread in his freezer.
But he couldn’t even find it in himself to feel bad about his behaviour. He was human after all. He might have had hundreds of thousands of women fawning over him, but he still had insecurities and fears of rejection. How could he just ask someone out when he knew literally nothing about her? In his sensible head, that was just asking for trouble.