Chris yawned and moved to the next section of shelving. A big truck had made for a long night, leaving him and the rest of the night stock crew facing up the store after opening.
"Never ending, man," his friend Alan grumbled from the other side of the aisle.
"Feels like it."
"At least the scenery ain't bad."
After turning around to see where Alan was looking, Chris followed his gaze to see Amy - one of the cashiers - working her register. She was hot, but she was also married to a trucker who could probably smash him into meatballs. That was enough to keep him from doing more than stealing the occasional glance.
The discussion had come up before, so Alan tossed his line without Chris saying a word. "Bet you it would be worth the black eyes, bruises, and lost teeth. Has to be wild in bed, the way she talks and teases."
"Feel free. I'll come visit when you get out of intensive care."
Al laughed and continued down to the next set of shelves.
"Think Kelly has finished an aisle yet?"
A voice greeted them from the next aisle over, "I heard that."
Al and Chris both paused in surprise. "You're already in eight?" Chris asked.
"Just the paper towels and toilet paper left."
"Maybe we will get out of here before we die of old age," Alan remarked.
"Where are you guys at?" Kelly asked.
"Al's got the dog food left, and I'm about to hit the soap."
Chris felt his spirits lift, as they would be done in ten minutes at the most. He had expected at least twice - and probably three times that long. As he stood up to reach a higher shelf, something else made him grin. When he glanced up toward the front of the store, he saw Alyssa walking toward the break room stairs.
She ran the floral department, and as far as he was concerned, there should be a picture of her next to Milf in the dictionary. She had ample curves in all the right places, light blonde hair that bordered on platinum, and a smile that could stop you in your tracks. Even better, she was divorced, so there was no jealous husband to worry about.
He'd had a crush on her even before starting to work at the store. She had lived just down the street from his parents' house. All those days of looking out his upstairs window to see her laying out to soak up the sun had made a lasting impression. After the divorce, she'd moved into the same apartment complex where he lived now, and always made a point to stop to talk to him whenever they saw each other. Her boys were always coaxing him out to the playground with them, and he liked the little buggers. He'd gone beyond sexual attraction and straight into wishful thinking about more some time ago.
Al chuckled. "You and your Milf fetish."
"Can't tell me you wouldn't," Chris countered, feeling his face grow a little warm.
"I'd hit it like a prize fighter if I had the chance, but it ain't gonna happen."
A customer appeared at the end of the aisle, cutting off the conversation. Shortly thereafter, Chris finished his side of the aisle and turned to see Al blocking up the last few cans.
"Go put the stools up and let's get out of here."
Chris grabbed the two stools and took them up front to where they were kept when not in use. The alcove was near the bottom of the stairs up to the break room, and he heard Alyssa talking to Amy upstairs. He missed most of what Amy said, but he clearly heard Alyssa.
"Mom is picking up the kids from school and keeping them overnight for the next couple of days. For some reason, she still thinks I have a life and might need to have the kids out of the house for Valentine's. I don't have the heart to tell her that all I'm going to do is sit around the house in my PJs and eat ice cream. The only way I'm getting flowers or anything else is if I bring them home with me."
His eyebrows lifting, Chris considered that for a moment as Alan and Kelly walked his way. The last he knew, she had been dating a guy her age for a couple of months. It didn't mean he had a chance, but at least she wasn't currently attached.
Wheels turning in his head, he kept it to himself as he and the rest of the night shift crew headed upstairs to clock out. The conversation upstairs ceased, though Alyssa said hello to him when he stepped into the break room. Amy waved to everyone, but she was a notorious flirt, so that was hardly surprising.
"I guess I'll see you all tonight," Alyssa remarked as he clocked out. "I'm coming in later to get everything ready for tomorrow."
"Yep, see you tonight," he responded. Kelly and Alan said much the same. Heading back down the stairs, Chris grinned. He was looking forward to seeing her out of the concealing smock she wore while the store was open.
In a good mood after having the opportunity to steal glances at Alyssa in a fitted sweater and tight jeans all evening, Chris headed to the back room with Alan, helping control a cartload of boxes for the baler. He knew Alyssa was in the back room, and he meant to take the opportunity to chat with her a little while the boss was out on the floor.
As soon as he kicked open the double doors to the back room and turned around, he got a surprise. Rather than being on the produce side of the back room, Alyssa was instead looking behind boxes in the central area.
"What are you looking for?" Alan asked, having noticed her as well.
"A box of crystal vases. They were on a pallet back in produce, but I can't find them."
Alan shrugged. "No clue. Sorry."
He continued toward the cardboard baler, but Chris paused, remembering something. "You know, I think I saw Scott putting some stuff up in the loft over the produce cooler a few days ago."
Alyssa's brow furrowed. The produce manager was forever moving her supplies, complaining behind her back that her things were in his way because she shared his section of the back room. "Thanks, I didn't think to look up there," she said.
Seizing the opportunity, Chris said, "I'll grab the ladder for you. Hey, Al; if Dave asks, I'm helping Alyssa."
"I appreciate it, but you don't have to," Alyssa said as she turned back toward the produce room and Chris fell in step with her.
"No problem. It beats facing shelves." He stepped off to the side and picked up the ladder, resting it on his shoulder.
Once in front of the produce cooler, he set up the ladder. "There you go."
"Thanks," she said as she climbed.
Alan pulled his empty cart around. "Find them?"
"Scott may have stuck them up top," Chris answered.
Alyssa breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the box she was looking for. "They're up here. Thank heavens." After a brief pause she asked, "Any chance I could get some help getting it down?"
Alan shrugged. "Yeah."
"Sure," Chris agreed, and then said, "Bring it over to the ladder and we'll relay it down."
He and Alan handled the box with ease, and it soon rested on Alyssa's table. She climbed back down and said, "Thanks so much."
"No problem," Alan said at the same time as Chris, and then the pair headed back out to the store floor.
"Gotta admit that was a nice view when she came down that ladder," Alan said. "You should make a move. If she's going to go cougar with anyone, it'll be you."
"And get fired for sexual harassment. I was awake through that tape."
"See. There's my excuse."
Chris rolled his eyes and headed for the first aisle. With all the back stock checked and the fast-moving items filled, it was time for break, and then to face the store again. As he and Alan finished the first aisle, Alyssa walked out of the back wearing her coat and carrying a purse.
"Ready to head out?" Alan asked.
Alan stood up on the step stool he was sitting on and yelled over the shelves. "Hey, Dave. Alyssa's ready to head home."
Alyssa heard the jingle of keys flying through the air, and then Alan caught them.
"Somebody walk her out," the supervisor called.
"Well, you've got the keys, so I'm on guard duty," Chris said as he stood up.
Alyssa said, "I appreciate it. I parked as close as I could, but..."
"Yeah, you never know," Chris agreed.
The three walked to the front door, and Alan unlocked it. Chris walked close by as he escorted her to her car, and then waited until she'd unlocked it and put her purse inside.
When she straightened to climb into the car, he said, "You're probably tired. Be careful driving home."
"Exhausted is closer to the truth. I will. Thanks."
"No problem. Get some sleep. Big day tomorrow."
"For work at least," she said, and sighed. "You have any plans?"
He chuckled and shook his head. "Sleep. It's my night off."
She reached out and touched his arm. "You need to get out more. You're letting this job run your life. It's going to pass you by before you know it. Believe me. I know."
"Easier said than done."
"I know that too. Good night."
"Night," he said as she sat down in the seat.
Walking back to the front door, he had an idea that quickly turned into a plan. When her car went by and she waved out the window, he decided to go through with it. A little lost sleep might just be worth it.
Chris walked up to the counter, feeling completely out of place in the flower shop. He didn't have a lot of choice, as it was far too late to order anything online and have it delivered.
"Can I help you?" The woman behind the counter asked.
"I hope so. Any chance of sending some roses and maybe some chocolate today?"
.... There is more of this story ...