Strawberry Superstores

I enjoy writing fiction which are based around life experiences. While I was at University I did work in a small convenience store so this story is very loosely based on my life.

‘Please go away’ Tala though savagely smiling sweetly at the rather large man who was browsing through the candied snacks. He had already come into the store on five previous occasions rifling through the wrappers and picking up a large number of chocolate bars.

Tala had been working at Strawberry Superstores, the little convenience store by the beach, for a whole year now. The man was a regular customer of hers and would often stay late to browse the confectioneries. She hadn’t originally planned on getting a part-time job alongside the substitute teaching she was doing but she was saving to go away after University, somewhere nice and exotic, but for that she needed money.

Tala didn’t care much for the woman who owned the store. Deborah Garraway was an old lady in her sixties with a holier than thou attitude. She would often complain if there were a few pennies miscounted from the till or if the shelves of fizzy pop hadn’t been stacked with all the labels facing the correct way. Her sunken in mean eyes would be more than enough to have Tala’s heart racing and thumping every time she walked into the shop, thinking she was always doing something wrong. Worse than that she would never appreciate the hard work Tala put in to ensuring the shop was clean the next morning, mopping and sweeping until long after the last customer had left. The only reason she put up with Tala is because the money was pitiful; she paid her $4.50 an hour which was hardly anything in the grand scheme of things but it was the only job Tala could find so they kept at their mutually beneficial relationship.

“What time do you shut?” the large man asked his rather large chin wobbling as he looked up and smiled.
“Oh in around 5-10 minutes.” Tala said in her sweetest un-frustrated voice.
“Oh good, I still have time then,” He chimed happily waddling over to the crisp section and piling on a large bag of corn chips.
“Well only 10…minutes!” Tala began but her words were wasted the man had become interested in buying the dip and couldn’t seem to hear anything. She sat with a brooded expression on her face all the way until he left the shop. He was quite surprised when she had even insisted it was time to leave and all but pushed him out of the door; his hands, laden with unhealthy treats, spilling on to the streets outside. “Sorry!” She mouthed wincing and closing the door behind her with a snap. She continued to smile at him apologetically as she locked the door from the top and then fastened the padlock.

Tala sighed relieved that it was almost time for home; walking over to the counter she continued cashing up the till; $50, $20, $10, and placing the money in neat plastic wallets. It was a menial trivial task but Tala liked this time best of all her hours working. It was a little free time to herself, even though she had a job to do. Tala was always very careful about how she behaved at work, after all Deborah had a camera in the store which fed right back to her home computer. Tala hated the thought of someone constantly watching her every move. She had trained herself to not look up at the camera spot as she felt it made her look guilty if she was staring right into the camera lenses.

She had just looked up momentarily to see what shelves needed to be re-stocked for tomorrow when Tala heard the familiar jingle of the bell as the door opened and a cold breeze swept through the shop. Frowning she rushed over and battled against the door to force it closed. ‘How odd’ she thought. She had been quite sure the door was bolted and padlocked, but with waking up early, university, and working to un-godly hours, it had been a long day. It was then that Tala first experienced the sensation of a silent scream. She was so petrified of the sudden intrusion of a little man standing in front of her that she sucked the air right back into her lungs and gasped, shuddering backwards.

“Sorry to startle you” smiled the little old man looking up at her. Tala held her heart as she drank in the view of him. He was absolutely tiny with a broad grin on his round face. He was not hairless but he was balding around the edges. Looking at him Tala got the impression he was possibly from Burma or some other exotic East Asian country. Most importantly Tala noted how well dressed he was with his 3 piece white suit and slick black cane in his right hand. The other hand was clutched around a packet of sugary treats.
“May I pay for this?” he asked ever so eloquently in a silky voice. The hairs on the back of Tala’s neck stood on edge and she suddenly felt very alert, her heart was racing and her breathing had increased rapidly so that she could hear herself panting.
“Yes” Tala replied in a constricted voice. She would ordinarily have had an outburst of anger at a late customer walking through the door but all she wanted as for him to leave the shop and never come back.
“What’s your name, child?” The man asked with an air of curiosity.
“Tala,” Tala whispered back, she couldn’t understand why she felt so breathless, so lifeless by this strange man’s presence.
“You seem like a sweet girl, Tala.” The man smiled so widely that his eyes crinkled to the shaped of upside down half-moons and she could see all of his missing teeth.
Tala felt like she needed a drink of water. He throat was so dry and it ached in pain.
“What’s you name,” she asked distractedly as she took the crisp 5 pound note from his cold icy hands, secretly praying that the man would leave soon.
He smiled so wide that she was sure his face would split into two.
“Oh, I go by many names, child.” He smiled while he received his change without counting it.
“But you, you can call me Dhas.” Tala did not like the way he emphasized the ‘you’. He looked upon her with the most curious of expressions, like he was reading her face but he simply smiled again when he saw how worried Tala looked.
“I have an appointment that I must get to. So my dear, I must be on my way.” ‘How strange,” thought Tala. Who in their right mind would have an appointment at 9PM? Rather than indulge him and continue talking she smiled mechanically and nodded him out of the shop, rather glad to be rid of him. Just as he had walked over the threshold of the door way Tala snapped the door shut, triple checking all of the locks as she closed the door for the second time that night.

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