Delia released the steering wheel and sighed. Ok. I can do this.
Head high, she emerged from her car, pulled up her hood, and splashed up to the sliding glass doors. As they parted, she heard the cashier chirrup, “Welcome to Walgreens!” at her entry. She ignored it, grabbed a basket, and made for the back of the store.
They were out of Coiff-Icient shampoo in wild strawberry. But there were three bottles of the same brand in coconut breeze, her second choice. Her third option, LoveyLocks in strawberry coconut, was also in full stock. She grabbed one of either for good measure.
Not bad so far.
Delia discovered several boxes of SmileWhite for sensitive teeth in the dental hygiene aisle. She stuffed three into her basket and turned on her heel.
Great luck there!
She rounded the corner to the grocery aisle. Her heart fluttered: both BerryGood and Dappleberry cranberry juices were nowhere on the shelf. After a tense second, she found the sole bottle of BerryGood cranberry juice behind a bottle of Dappleberry grape. Delia shoved the grape drink aside and liberated her cranberry juice.
Close one. Now let’s get out of here…
The cashier, a young man of high school age, smiled at her when she approached. Hiding the trembling in her hands, she plucked her items from the basket and placed them on the counter.
Keep it together. I can do this.
“Did you find everything you needed?” he wondered, scanning her toothpaste first.
Delia swallowed. “Mm, yes. Thank you. I found everything fine.”
Not bad. A little stilted, but good recovery. She had practiced the response no I didn’t everything was fine, but he did not ask did you have trouble finding anything.
He paused to re-ring her juice. She could relax her shoulders in relief, now. Outside the sliding glass doors, the drizzle had picked up into a lusty shower. But Delia did not mind. In a second, he may ask her about the rain and she would respond as she had practiced. Then they’d say their goodbyes and she’d go home. This is almost over. I’m so close. In ten minutes I’ll be home in my sweatpants and Isis curled on my lap. I’m almost done. I’m almost —
“Is this stuff any good?”
Delia froze. Her vision swung back to the cashier. He was holding up her box of LoveyLocks. He was waiting for her to answer.
“This any good?” he repeated, giving the box a shake. “My girlfriend mentioned it before. You like it?”
This wasn’t part of the script! How dare he! Who did he think he was? His job was to greet her, ring up her merchandise and remark about the rain! Pretty bad out there, isn’t it? Or even It’s bad out there, isn’t it! Maybe Wow, that’s some rain, isn’t it? She could respond to all with a friendly, “Yes, it’s pretty nasty today.” Then he’d thank her for shopping, tell her to be well, and she’d leave!
Delia opened her mouth to speak. But nothing came out.
The cashier gave a single-shoulder shrug and dropped her shampoo into a plastic bag. He turned back to the register. “Total’s $25.43.”
“IT’S REALLY GOOD,” she exploded, startling both the cashier and the man in line behind her. She cleared her throat. “Sorry, I meant — it’s good shampoo. Smells good.”
The cashier stared. “Ohhh kay,” he murmured.
Damn it. Cringing, Delia tapped her phone on the scanner and paid for her items.
The cashier finally gave her his final line. “Thank you for shopping at Walgreens…”
But she didn’t wait for him to add be well. Instead, she interrupted with a shrill “THANKS YOU TOO.”
Both of them froze — her in fear, him in confusion.
After a second, he made a face. “Uh…yeah. Be well.”
As Delia snatched her bags, the man behind her chuckled. That was odd, he said to the cashier as she stepped toward the sliding doors. Yeah, I know, came the reply.
Face burning, Delia hitched up her shoulders and stepped out into the summer downpour.