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Girl on Aisle 10

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Amity sighed and glanced around the front of the store from behind her register; it was quiet and empty for the moment, for which she was infinitely glad. Something about the middle of the night just seemed to bring out the worst in people. 

Or rather, it seemed to bring out the craziest of people. It was, thankfully, quiet at the moment. The majority of the time, people only made 1a.m. runs to the local 24-hour Owl-mart for food, in her experience at least. She preferred when she got stuck on stocking duties where her customer interactions were few and far between but since it was the middle of the night, she doubted there would be many anyway. 

When Amity took this job it had been with the understanding that she would work swing shifts. 

Somehow though, a few people quitting at the same time had left a giant gap in the overnight shift and she'd been punted into it.

She hadn't been given a choice and she didn't have the option of quitting.

At least it still worked for her. 

Most of her classes were online lectures and they recorded them so she could sit and listen to her professor's drone while working in the middle of the night, or early morning, as it were. 

Was she supposed to?

No, but she didn't exactly have a choice. Not if she actually wanted to be able to afford to keep going to school.

The last thing she ever wanted to do was go crawling back to her parents for money. She'd sooner choke.

So here she sat, half leaning over the counter, listening to Professor Clawthorne lecture in her Instructional planning class through one earphone and jotting down notes for later studying.

It took entirely too much effort to get anything done at home. She'd ended up sharing an apartment with two people whose ad she had answered looking for a third to share rent with near the school.  But...

Boscha and Skara were… a lot.

Skara, one could get on with well enough. She was more friendly, laid back, and unobtrusive than her girlfriend, though she had a petty streak and a certain air about her that screamed I know I’m better than you. She was also a terrible gossip and was always trying to chat Amity's ear off when she was trying to study.

Boscha… she could only barely handle. She was loud, rude, and obnoxious. Where Skara merely exuded ‘better than you’ vibes, Boscha flat out said it. To everyone, all the time. 

 Amity stayed out of the apartment as often as she could. Sometimes even crashing on Willow’s couch if she was too tired to make it home.

No, she had to get as much done at work so she could just sleep at home. Her free time was vastly limited and precious as gold. 

That being said, there were some drawbacks to her job; mostly the customers. 

Speaking of…

Movement from the corner of her eye made her look up and sure enough, a man was moving toward her and she slipped out her earbud and shoved it into her pocket.

“What can I help you with, sir?” she asked.

“Show me where the fruit is,” he all but demanded and Amity blinked. 

“What kind of fruit are you looking for? Most of the fruit is over in produce but there are some in other areas of the store,” she calmly explained. 

“I just want fruit,” was the reply and Amity did her best to keep her face neutral and nodded.

“Most of it is over here,” She pointed, walking out from behind the counter and leading him into the produce section. “Is this what you were looking for?” she asked as they stopped in front of a long row of bins holding various fruits and vegetables, his eyes scanned the bins carefully before shaking his head.

“I want fruit in bags,” was all he said and Amity had to fight to keep the frown off her face.

“You can put the fruit in these bags -” she gestured to the rolls of plastic bags hanging off the bins. “ - then take it up to the register,” she informed him. He looked around for a few minutes, Amity lingering in case he needed something else, and she got a feeling he would. She had developed a certain sense for these kinds of customers. 

“No, none of this is it.” He shook his head and Amity spent the next twenty minutes walking him up and down the aisles, trying to find what he was looking for and growing ever more impatient with her.

“Do you not know where the god-damned fruit is?!” he started yelling at her and she shrank back at the outburst.

Luckily, one of her managers was nearby; Viney, 

Thank goodness.

After a quick run down the older woman was doing her best to placate him and figure out what he wanted as he just grew louder and louder, cussing them out before turning and stomping away. 

Amity sighed the second he was out of sight and Viney shook her head, sending Amity a rueful grin.

“Are we having fun tonight?” she asked and Amity snorted as the other woman patted her on the shoulder.

Fifteen minutes later she had returned to her register and her lecture when she looked up and saw him, he walked straight up to the counter and shoved a bag of raisins in her face.

“Fruit!” he screamed before turning and walking away, leaving Amity standing there, both stunned and annoyed.

She sighed tiredly to herself.

“What was that about?” A voice made her jump and turn to find a young woman, probably about her age, standing there in front of her register. Dark eyes were looking back at her curiously. 

“He was looking for fruit… Did you find everything okay?” she asked, almost automatically as she grabbed the first of the woman’s items and didn’t think anything of the bottle of superglue as it passed over the scanner, nor the measuring tape but she did cock a brow at the faux fur and the roller skates but didn’t say a word.

“Yeah, I think so,” she nodded, smiling. “How’s your night?” she asked and Amity couldn’t help but smile back after her brief excursion with Mr. Fruit. 

“Fine, thanks.” 

The woman nodded and paid for her things before leaving with a cheery wave. Amity watched her go for a moment before pulling her phone out of her pocket and went back to her lecture.

~ ~ 

Two nights later, Amity found herself wandering around the store, clipboard in hand and taking inventory.

Very, very slowly. She just wanted her shift to be over.

She was exhausted and bored.

She just couldn't find it in her to work on any of her classwork tonight. The air conditioner had gone out in their apartment today and since her roommates were out all day, they hadn't been hard-pressed to get it fixed right away.

So she had laid in bed all day, trying to sleep as her bedroom became a hot box, resulting in very little sleep. 

She sighed to herself and rounded the corner of the bread aisle and stopped. Halfway down the aisle, a woman was on her knees, sifting through the bread. 

Now, that by itself wouldn’t have been all that strange, except for the fact she had two loaves of bread, squashed flat beneath her knees as padding.

She decided she didn’t have the energy for that tonight and turned and walked back down the aisle, turning the corner only to run smack into someone in a flurry of limbs.

She almost went sprawling back onto the tile floor when an iron grip wrapped around her wrist, jerking her to a halt.

She blinked, trying to reorient herself while a jabbering voice filled the previously quiet air around them.

“I am so sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going…!” Was most of what she caught as she blinked and found herself staring back into bright brown eyes as she was settled back on her feet. “Are you okay?” they asked and Amity nodded. The same woman from the other night, who had been buying roller skates and glue, she remembered vaguely. It had been her only positive interaction of the night, after all. 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she mumbled, glancing down at the hand still wrapped around her wrist and the other woman must have noticed too because she immediately dropped it, taking a step back. 

“I’m really sorry!” She apologized again.

“It’s fine,” she said and started to step away but stopped.

“Um… I hate to ask now, after running into you… but uh, do you have arepa flour?” she asked, scratching the back of her head and Amity blinked, thinking. She had never heard of it before.

“Let me check…” she mumbled, pulling the electronic scanner off her belt and looking for said item; after asking how it was spelled. “Yeah, over here,” she said and led her down a few aisles where they kept all their Latin dry foods. 

Amity scanned the shelves when someone tapped her on the shoulder, a middle-aged woman in pajama pants and an oversized t-shirt. Before she could even open her mouth to say she would be right with her, the woman, in an exasperated tone, asked her where the soft shell tacos were.

“The…,” Amity started as her brain tried to process the request. “Tortillas?” she asked and the woman frowned, grunting. 

“No, the soft shell tacos,” she insisted and Amity didn’t know what to say to that. 

“That’s not a thing…,” the other woman behind her piped up, drawing the older customer’s attention. 

“How would you know, you don’t work here,” she snapped. 

Without missing a beat, the younger woman just gestured vaguely to the dark skin of her face, and all the rest of her and Amity did her best to strangle the amused snort that threatened to burst past her lips.

Without waiting for a reply, the older woman just huffed and spun around, stomping down the aisle. 

Amity couldn’t help but snort as she stomped out of earshot and the customer standing beside her just grinned at her. Amity cleared her throat and grabbed the item she was looking for off the shelf and held it out to her.

“Here ya go,” she offered, a smile still pulling at her lips.

“Thanks… does that kind of stuff happen a lot?” she asked, head tilted curiously and Amity sighed.

“More than I wish,” she mumbled.

“Ah, well, thanks…” she glanced down at the name tag slapped on the front of her vest. “...Amity.” She smiled and Amity looked back at her for a brief second before jerking back into herself.

“You’re welcome,” she managed before the other woman waved and turned, walking down the aisle and disappearing from sight. Amity stared at the place she had been for a long moment before shaking her head and getting back to work. 

~ ~ 

Rain was pouring down in endless sheets outside as it had been all day and she could hear it pounding on the roof and glass of the skylights, extra loud in the silent store.

3 am.

It was dead and would be for at least another two hours, not that she cared. Her shift ended at five when she could go the hell home and go to sleep.

As far as it went, the night had been pretty uneventful, at least for her. She did feel bad for Viney, who had been standing around chatting with her about midnight when a call had come in over their radios, asking for a manager at the bathrooms by the service desk. 

Viney had taken off and about 5 minutes later, Amity’s radio had crackled to life with her manager’s voice.

“Sweet mother of god… it’s everywhere. Send the maintenance crew, all of them, now!”

Amity didn’t need nor want to know what it was and the look of horror on Viney’s face when she returned, well over an hour later, told her to be glad she didn’t have to.

“I don’t make enough money,” the shorter woman had mumbled under her breath as she passed by her, heading for the back office. 

After that, it had grown pretty quiet, save for the rain she was half listening to as she jotted down the answers to the paper she had been working on. It wasn’t due for another three days but the sooner it was done, the better.

The late hour and weather had kept the store all but empty, which suited her fine.

She was just finishing the last line when movement in her peripheral made her look up. 

The same woman from the other night was back, the one with the bright eyes and even brighter smile. The one Amity had thought was kinda cute as she waved goodbye.

Except now, she was standing in front of Amity’s register, sopping wet. Her hair and clothes plastered to her like a second skin as she dripped water onto the tile floor and held a handheld basket overflowing with bags of shredded cheese. 

She also looked very, very… embarrassed?

“Hey, Amity…” she smiled sheepishly and Amity blinked back at her before snapping out of it.

“Hey,” she nodded as the woman sat her basket on the belt and Amity glanced at it before her eyes moved back to the drowned and soggy woman before her. 

“Get caught in the rain?” she couldn’t help but ask and swore she saw the customer's cheeks darken as she pushed her soaked hair back out of her face.

“A little…,” she mumbled. “I didn’t mean for anyone to see me like this but all the self-checkouts are down…” 

“Oh, yeah, lightning took them all offline earlier tonight,” Amity nodded as she scanned bag after bag of cheese, growing slightly more concerned with each one. She glanced up curiously and the look was easily readable, causing the woman to chuckle.

“This is not for me,” she was quick to explain and Amity couldn’t help but grin at her. 

“You don't need… thirty-five bags of shredded cheddar cheese?” she asked after finally scanning the last one and glancing at the total number on her screen.

“Dios, no! I’d literally die; I’m lactose intolerant… not that you needed to know that…,” she trailed off, face a dark red. Amity chuckled under breath. 

‘Okay, she is cute.’ 

Even while sopping wet and making some of the strangest purchases Amity had ever seen.

“This is for my boss,” she said quickly and Amity glanced at her, still smirking.

“The cheese?” she asked and the woman nodded. 

“She saw something on tv about it helping get back a ‘youthful appearance’ and sent me to buy cheese in the pouring rain,” was the explanation.

“How does it do that?” Amity had to ask. The answer was a shrug. 

“No idea,” she chuckled, grinning at her, and Amity swallowed, feeling strangely tongue-tied all of a sudden. 

She spat out the total and bagged all the cheese as they paid. 

“Thanks, Amity, stay dry,” she called as she started to walk away back toward the main doors but before she could take more than three steps, Amity heard her own voice come out of her mouth before she even knew it was hers.

“Hey?” she called and then they turned around, peering at her in silent question. “You know my name… but I don’t know yours.” She managed to get out and a bright, toothy smile broke out across the woman’s face.

“I’m Luz,” she said, brown eyes dancing in the shine of the harsh, overhead lights. 

“Bye, Luz.” Amity managed to get past her lips and Luz grinned, waving before disappearing back out into the storm. 

She spent the rest of her shift lost in thought and listening to the sound of thunder rumbling overhead. 

~ ~ 

Luz became a staple at the store, appearing every two or three days, usually running errands for her, apparently, eccentric boss. When it was dead, Luz would hang around the register far longer than she should - or - needed to and if anyone but Viney was ever upfront to see, she most likely would have been in trouble.  

Instead, her boss had merely grinned at her when she caught sight of them and gave them a knowing look, one Amity ignored. 

They just talked about little inane things. The weather and work… Luz told her about her boss, Eda, and her two… very eccentric coworkers. Amity would, in turn, talk about school. Her roommates that she did her best to avoid and her siblings; who she also did her best to avoid.

Pretty soon, Luz had become the highlight of her night when she appeared. Sure, she acted a little crazy at times and bought all manner of weird things but she was never rude, destructive, or bizarre like many of the other clientele Amity had to deal with on a nightly basis. She was sweet, funny, and made Amity’s shift feel just a little less grueling whenever she appeared.

Viney had passed by one night on her way to the back office just in time to see Luz leave, smiling and waving at her till she trotted out the front doors.

“We don’t get paid to flirt with cute girls, Amity,” she chuckled, leaving Amity standing there, red-faced and spluttering for something to say in her defense. 

Amity absolutely, definitely, for sure, did not have a crush.

Except, she sort of did, and she had no idea what to do about it.

Luz was the last thing on her mind today though.

Amity was pissed

She was supposed to be off today. She had intended to take the night to put the finishing touches on her midterm paper which was due next week.

Unfortunately, they were only two weeks out from Christmas and the influx of people coming in at all hours of the night combined with one of her co-workers calling in sick had resulted in her being called in. She wished she had never answered the phone. 

It was that wonderful time of year that was only wonderful if you didn’t work in retail. 

Then it was a holly jolly nightmare .  

She had heard stories from her other friends who had worked in high school about what a giant pain in the ass it was and how crazy it would be. She had known it would be busy but now she was seeing it first hand. Every night, since December had started, was busier and busier, even during the hours it was normally dead. 

That and the constant stream of holiday music playing in an unending loop over the speakers was slowly but surely driving her insane. 

She had hardly had a break all night and she just wanted to finish her shift and go home to get some much-needed sleep.

She had just come back from her - long overdue - break, so no one had yet inserted themselves into her line, though it was slightly quieter now. Not nearly as many people meandering around the registers.

She did happen to catch sight of one person though.

Luz.

She was walking down the row of checkouts, looking like she was looking for something, until her eyes fell on Amity and her face lit up with a wide grin.

“Hey Amity!” she greeted her as she walked up to the register. 

“Hi, Luz.” she smiled back. It was hard not to when someone beamed at you like that, especially Luz, who always seemed like she was genuinely happy to see her. 

Then, Amity took notice of the most ridiculous sweater she had ever seen.

It was a blinding red and green but instead of the usual holiday motifs, it had little green t-rexs on it and a large plush one sticking out of the front and back of the sweater like she had been run through by the creature. Luz was quick to notice her staring and grinned.

“Like it?” she laughed. 

“It’s…. something,” she hesitantly agreed, making Luz laugh.

“I think it’s cute,” she defended but didn’t seem at all offended by Amity’s lackluster response. “But it’s not everyone’s thing, I get it.” She nodded and set an identical sweater on the conveyor belt. Amity shot her a look and she shrugged, smiling. “My buddy liked it though, so I’m getting him one for Christmas.” 

“Right.” Amity smirked and scanned it. “Eighteen dollars,” she said and the smile fell from Luz’s face but before Amity could ask what was wrong, Luz held up her other hand, a cloth bag fit to bursting held aloft.

“I’m really, really sorry about this,” she mumbled and sat in on the belt. It jingled and clinked and Amity realized exactly what it was. 

A bag of coins.

“Like, really sorry… but this was how my boss paid me tonight,” she grimaced.

“Why?” was all Amity could ask.

“She thinks she’s funny…,” Luz grumbled as Amity pulled the bag closer and opened the knot. Pennies, nickels, and dimes all spilled out. “I was gonna have it exchanged at the bank before I bought anything but the bank doesn't open for hours and our gift exchange is tomorrow…” she hurried to explain.

“It’s alright, Luz,” Amity insisted, starting to count the coins into piles.

“Let me help,” she said, starting to stack some dimes into little pillars on the counter.

They were silent for several minutes before Luz spoke up again. 

“It seems like it's been kinda crazy here lately…,” she said. “There were two ladies fighting over a sweater in the clothes section.” She jerked her thumb in the general direction behind her. Amity snorted.

“I believe it. I got shoved into a pallet of blenders on Black Friday,” she said and Luz frowned. 

“I don’t go out on Black Friday,” Luz hummed.

“Bless you,” Amity said, looking up at her and Luz chuckled.

“I just pay in sacks of pennies.” She grinned and Amity laughed. 

“Of all the things that have been happening lately, this is the easiest to deal with,” she assured her.

“I still feel bad about it…,” Luz mumbled and Amity looked up at her, carefully counting out the coins.

“It’s okay, Luz.” She smiled and saw the hint of color starting to splash across Luz’s face.

“Maybe… but… maybe you’d let me make it up to you anyway?” she started quietly, making Amity look up at her curiously. A split second later it dawned on her. 

Was she…?’

“Maybe this is kinda sudden but would you, maybe... wanna, like, get lunch with me or… something?” she asked. Amity stared back at her, wide-eyed and a hot flush erupting across her cheeks and stretching to her ears.

Before Amity could even think to give a response, a disgruntled noise made them both whip to look behind Luz and a small line had formed, looking rather disgruntled.

“Oops, sorry,” Luz chuckled sheepishly and finished counting out her coins before shoving the rest into the bag and grabbing her sweater as she hurried away with a small backward wave at Amity, not sticking around for a response.

The line of people were rude and unruly but Amity hardly paid them any mind, operating on autopilot. All she could think about was what Luz had asked her.

“...like, get lunch with me or… something?”

Luz had asked her out.

Her stomach flipped at the idea and she thought about it the rest of the night and morning, up until she got home to find her roommates fighting. 

She ignored the yelling couple and went straight to her room, flopping onto her bed and staring blindly up at the ceiling. 

She hadn’t even got the chance to think of an answer, much less give her one. Luz seemed nice enough, she definitely didn’t mind the idea of getting to know her better. 

She’d talk to her next time she was in the store.

  ~ ~ 

She didn’t see Luz again until two weeks later.

She was disappointed but that was life sometimes.

So, she was more than surprised when she did see her again. Not where she expected to either. 

It was her day off and she was running errands, not really in a hurry with school on break till mid-January. She had her hands shoved into the pockets of her jacket and every breath became a cloud in front of her face.

It was cold but not bitterly and as the day had worn on she felt herself growing more tired; working nights had completely mixed her up and the cold did wonders for helping her stay awake.

She was walking down the sidewalk through the bustling little shopping district, typical of a college town, lost in thought and glancing through the shop windows. She hadn’t been looking for anything in particular, just casually browsing. It was early evening and she had nowhere she had to be.

That was when she saw her.

Luz.

Through one of the shop's glass fronts, she saw the familiar figure, standing at the counter inside, talking to a tall woman with a long mane of gray hair. Amity stared into the shop, trying to decide what she should do. 

On the one hand, she could go in and talk to her… but on the other, Luz hadn’t been back to the store herself since she’d asked her out. What if she hadn’t come back by because she had changed her mind and decided that she didn’t want to and just didn’t know what to say to her?

Her mind ran through a gauntlet of scenarios, all stinging just a little more than the last. She shook her head returning to the world with a tight-lipped frown, ready to walk quickly away when her eyes re-focussed to find Luz, standing on the other side of the glass and beaming at her. She jerked back half a step, only to realize Luz was mouthing something to her through the thick glass.

Dark brows scrunched between her eyes but before she could move, Luz had leaned forward and breathed on the glass, before swiping her finger through the fog.

“Come in!” Complete with a little smiley face. 

She was a mess internally but managed to nod, which seemed to make Luz smile all the harder. 

She took a deep, calming breath of cool winter air before pushing open the door, the little bell overhead heralding her arrival. The shop was warm and she was glad, the warm air hitting her cold skiing and turning it red made for a good cover for the flush she was sure would be there otherwise. 

“Amity!” Luz greeted her. “What are you doing here?” she asked as Amity closed the door behind her.

“I’m off today and was running errands,” she said, feeling awkward, standing here in front of someone who had asked her out and then vanished before she could give an answer. She wasn’t sure how she was supposed to act here. Luz, however, seemed completely unbothered by the tension that only Amity seemed to feel.

“Is this where you work?” she asked, looking around the shop. Shelves upon shelves of strange and bizarre knick-knacks and curios filled the room. 

“Yeah, welcome to Eda’s Antiques, Collectibles, and Conversation Starters!” She grinned, holding up a hand to show off a taxidermied squirrel with a bright purple mohawk. 

“It suits you,” she snickered and Luz only continued to grin at her.

“I think so too, it’s nice to be back after two weeks,” she said casually as she looked around the place with a fond eye. 

“Two weeks?” Amity questioned and Luz nodded.

“Yeah, I just got back into town last night, I took off to see my mom for the last two weeks for the holidays.” 

She’d been out of town, that was why she hadn’t seen her, not because she was avoiding her. Amity felt an immediate rush of relief.

As quickly as it came though, it was washed away by the realization that the question she had asked her was still very much alive and unanswered. 

“I don’t pay you to flap your gums unless it’s to sell something, Kid!”

Amity looked up as the gray-haired woman returned. Tall and frowning; a single gold tooth peeking out from her top lip.

“Amity, this is Eda, my boss.” Luz introduced and Amity raised a hand in silent greeting.

“Amity huh?” Eda tilted her head curiously before a mischievous spark lit her eyes and she smirked. “Amity as in the ‘pretty cashier’, Amity?” she asked and Amity nearly choked at that. Luz had talked about her? Called her pretty?! Her face was quickly heating up again but it was nothing compared to the dark crimson color Luz was turning. 

“No!” She shouted before her eyes happened to find Amity’s. “I mean yes… I... no… I thought you were doing InVeNtOry?!” She finally settled on, her voice cracking on the last word and making Eda snicker. 

“I was, but then I heard you jabber-jawing up here with someone and I can see why now.” She smirked, crossing her arms over her chest as she looked at Amity, who was turning just as red as Luz now.

“Well, you’d better go finish that!” Luz stressed every word between grit teeth, making Eda throw her head back and laugh.

“Sure… sure,” she took pity on Luz and turned to go but not before glancing at Amity over her shoulder, wicked grin, carefully hidden. “You got work to do though, so ask her out and get back to it,” she said before walking into the back of the store, snickering to herself the entire time before she vanished into the back.

A tense silence settled over the two, as neither one knew just what to say. 

“So… that’s Eda… who pays me in coins and wants to embarrass me to death…,” she mumbled and though Luz was red as a stop sign, it did make Amity feel better about the situation as a whole. She managed to scrape her courage together and pulled her shoulders back.

“Well… I have to finish my errands and I guess you have to get back to work… so, if you’re going to…” she trailed off meaningfully and Luz looked puzzled for a moment before it struck her what Amity meant.

“Oh... yeah!” She jerked, nodding. “So, do you wanna get lunch… or something with me?”

“Yes,” Amity should have been more embarrassed by how quickly she answered but couldn’t find it in her. 

“Great!” Luz smiled brightly and they exchanged numbers before Amity left, waving at Luz over her shoulder. She glanced back in the window and stopped, watching Luz pump her fists excitedly before catching sight of Amity watching her and smiled, sheepishly, waving. 

Amity laughed to herself and waved before walking down the street.

Once she was far enough away, she grinned, pumping her own fist.