He went to her shop every day. Well, it wasn’t strictly speaking her shop – she just worked there, behind the till. He first noticed the way she tucked her hair behind her ear before she used the red-eye scanner, and the way her face took on a look of concentration as she focussed on passing the barcodes over the glass plate. This approach paid off; she had never, as far as he knew, had to scan an item twice.
He lingered at the shelves, pretending to browse magazines or jars of cooking sauces, watching her from a distance. She really was a graceful creature. Even in the shapeless overall of the chain of shops’ uniform, she was beautiful. Natural. Just a hint of makeup.
The first time he’d approached her with a packet of extra strong mints he’d been too nervous to look her in the eye. He just about managed to croak out, “Just these, please” but when he held out his pound coin, he’d dropped it on the counter. Handing him his change, her fingers glanced against the palm of his sweating hand. Her touch was electrifying! From that moment, he made an effort to visit the shop every afternoon. He soon got to know the rota. She didn’t work Wednesdays, unless she had the Saturday off. She took a tea break at 3:45. She didn’t hang around at the loading bay, smoking. Good; he’d prefer a girlfriend who didn’t smoke.
Weeks turned into months. Their exchanges never got beyond the pleases and thank-yous of the business transaction. He made sure to vary his purchases. It didn’t look good to keep buying extra strong mints; she might think he had rotten halitosis. On one excruciating occasion he essayed a comment about the weather, which had taken an unexpected turn for the better. But one of her co-workers had come along asking for change and so the moment was ruined.
She never seemed to notice him. There was never a flicker of recognition when their eyes met. And he would leave the shop and sulk all the way home, his heart threatening to crack. And he would dream, and he would plan, building a whole life together with the beautiful shop girl.
If only she would notice him!
One day it became too much. He couldn’t bear it. He had to speak to her and open up his heart. Then she would be bound to fall for him, bound to reciprocate his undying passion. If only she knew how he felt!
And so, instead of going into the shop, he lingered outside. He waited for the end of her shift and for her to emerge from the staff exit. She was buttoning up her coat and hitching her bag onto her shoulder. To him, she was the picture of elegance.
He followed her at a distance but he became anxious he would lose her so he picked up his pace. She seemed to be heading for the bus station but then she turned into a side street. He darted across the road, ignoring the angry honks from startled motorists, and was just in time to see her duck into an alley. A shortcut, perhaps. Perhaps she lived nearby.
Time was running out. He had to catch up with her and open his heart. It was now or never. The sooner he told her how he felt, the sooner their wonderful life together would begin.
She was waiting for him in the alley. He blushed when he realised. She beckoned him to come closer.
“I’ve noticed you,” she chuckled, “Watching me. Every day. We can’t go on like this. Come here.”
He couldn’t believe it. He stammered something inane and inaudible. He hurried towards her with open arms. At last!
He didn’t see the knife until she withdrew it from his chest. He collapsed to his knees and then fell face down at her feet. With a kick, she rolled him over and stamped on his ribcage.
When he was dead, she ripped him open and tore out his heart. She dropped it into her plastic lunch box and shut it in her bag. She pulled out a wet wipe and cleaned herself up before heading for her bus stop.
As she got on the Number 48, she tucked her hair behind her ear.
The bus driver blushed.