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Bull In a China Shop

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Carlos looked at his watch. He’d been at work since seven am. He was the only manager on duty, and thanks to Audrey calling in, he would be closing.

(‘Family emergency’, Audrey said. Carlos knew damn well she was going to the spa. Why did she even have to work anyway? She didn’t need the money.)

So Carlos was tired, he hadn’t eaten, and was just counting down the minutes. But really, nothing that bad had happened-

“Six hundred dollars for a purse that size? My dick wouldn’t even fit in there!”

“Oh boy,” Carlos muttered, and looked at Jane, who was working the jewelry department. “I’ve got it.” Jane looked terrified, but nodded as Carlos went in the direction of the yelling.

“What the fuck is this? Eight hundred dollars? Hey, would you actually fucking buy this? You don’t have anything better to do with your money? There’s kids out there who need school supplies and three meals a day, you know that?”

Carlos turned the corner and saw a tall man with long hair, well built and handsome. He was wearing sweat pants and a tank top and drinking out of a half pint bottle of whiskey. He was glaring at the purses, and a lot of his wealthier clients were on their way out of the door.

Carlos took a deep breath, and stood in front of the man. “All right, that’s enough,” he said, big fake smile on. “I’m the manager. You need to leave.” The man stared at him, brow furrowed in confusion. He was really cute, Carlos noticed. “Come on, you’re scaring paying customers.”

The man kept staring. Then he got a huge grin on his face. Just when Carlos wondered if he needed to call security, the man reached out and messed up Carlos’s hair.

“Catch me!” He sprinted across the sales floor.

Goddamn it, Carlos thought. His feet hurt too much to run. He followed the giggling maniac running through his store at a slow jog.

Then the man cut through the jewelry section, where Jane was. Jane waited until he was nearly there, and flipped the short door to her section open. It caught the man right in the groin. Carlos heard a choked-off cry as the man he went down. Carlos caught up to him as he writhed on the floor. “Jane, I’m getting you a raise for this,” he said. “Now I’m taking this idiot to my office. You watch the store while I’m gone.”

Carlos got the man under his arms and dragged him across the floor to his office. He wasn’t knocked out, and he kept muttering things, but he made no effort to get away. When Carlos got them in his small office, he locked the door behind them.

“What are we doing here?” The man seemed to be sobering up a little. “That hurt, by the way.”

“You’re in my office, and I’m calling the cops,” Carlos said as he got on the land line for the store. “You scared away some of my best customers and then acted like an ass. You’re gonna go to jail for public intoxication, and probably more.”

The man was silent for a minute, but then Carlos felt a tug on his pants. Jay was still on the floor, but looking up at him, pleading. “Don’t call the police, please. I’ll be good.” Carlos leaned down to push the man’s hands away. “I don’t want to go to jail.”

“You should have thought about that before you got drunk and came in here,” Carlos snapped. “I’ve had a terrible day, and I don’t need this on top of everything else. I haven’t even had a chance to eat today. I’m going to call the police and get you off my hands.”

Carlos got the phone, ready to make the call.. He felt another tug on his pants, and ignored it. Then he felt something against his hand and looked over. The man had pushed a granola bar onto the desk. “Here,” the drunk man said. “I always keep one with me.”

Carlos looked at it. It had been a bit squished from being dragged, but it was intact. “Go ahead and have it,” he said. “But please don’t call the cops. I don’t have a way home.” The man stared at him with big dark eyes. “My name’s Jay.”

Carlos put down the phone, and picked up the granola bar. “Jay. My name’s Carlos.” Carlos looked at the coffee maker behind him, and got up to make some. “Sit up if you can,” he said. “You can have some coffee if you stay back here. Until you sober up.”

“Okay,” Jay said, and he moved until he was propped up against the wall.. Carlos made two cups of coffee, and ate the granola bar with his. Jay sipped his coffee slowly. “I’m sorry,” Jay said. “I’ve had a bad day too. My boyfriend left me.”

Carlos nodded. “Sorry to hear that.”

Jay nodded. “I’d tell you about it, but having trouble focusing,” he said. “I’m tired. You said I can stay here?”

“I’m here until closing,” Carlos said. “When I have to count down drawers, you need to go. But until then you can be here. If you don’t have any money I’ll call you a Uber.”

“I’m not sure if I still have my phone,” Jay said. “I might have lost it on the street.” He started to fumble through his pockets. “Oh good, it’s here. My wallet’s gone, though.” Carlos sighed. This man was a disaster.

A cute disaster, but still.

“Okay, I’ve got a store to run,” Carlos said. “Stay in the back area. There’s a bathroom down the hall. Do not come out onto the sales floor. If you do I’ll have you arrested immediately. Do you understand?” Jay nodded. “Thank you. I’ll check on you every now and then. Bye.”

“Bye,” Jay said, and Carlos hurried back to the floor, not sure what he would tell Jane.

He did check on Jay a few times. The first time he went back, he heard the sound of retching from the bathroom, and turned right around and went back to the sales floor. He went back a couple of hours later, and Jay was asleep his office chair, snoring softly. At least he wasn’t being disruptive anymore. Jane’s surprise attack must have taken the fight out of him.

By the time he locked the doors, Carlos was exhausted. He told Jane that he had something else to do, and went back to his office one last time. Jay was awake and poking at his phone. “Okay. Did you call for an Uber?”

Jay nodded. He seemed down then, and Carlos remembered that he’d had a breakup. “Okay. I’m going to let you out of the back door. I hope I don’t get in trouble for this. There’s cameras everywhere.”

“I hope you don’t either,” Jay said softly. ‘I’m really sorry I ruined your day.”

“It was ruined before you got here,” Carlos said. “Let me show you out.” Jay followed him down the hallway, and Carlos opened one of the employee doors. “Have a better night.”

Jay stood in front of him for a minute. “You too. Thanks for not calling the police.” Then the tall, beautiful man hugged him and left. Carlos watched him go, then closed the door.