It’s a hot, swelteringly humid Thursday night and Genieve wants nothing more than to fall into bed. Preferably face first. She’s running on Monster and four hours of sleep, feeling sweaty and disgusting, but she needs this job.
So here she is—nearing midnight, too exhausted to concentrate on any homework and staring blankly at the aisles in front of her.
Just one more hour. One more hour and then she can go home.
The door swings open and Genieve flicks dull eyes over to her new customers. It lasts only a split second, but it goes like this:
Two strangers enter. Genieve locks eyes with the girl, and it’s like an electric shock running down her spine. The girl’s eyes are sharp and cutting and silver, and Genieve swears she can hear her heartbeat in her ears.
But there’s a wrongness there—a terrible, terrible wrongness. Suddenly, her legs feel shaky.
By the time Genieve shakes off her trance, the two have already brushed past her. She shifts to get a better view, still trying to remain obtrusive.
The first thing she notices is that the girl is tall—at least a head taller than her male companion. She has to be over six foot, and Genieve doesn’t know any woman other than her aunt who’s that tall.
It’s oddly intimidating.
Then they’re out of sight, slipping between the aisles, but Genieve can still catch snatches of conversation. She tries not to listen. She feels enough of a creep as it is.
Genieve drums her fingers on the counter. What was that? What the hell was that? She glances nervously at the aisles. She can’t see them. Does she want to?
After a few agonizing minutes, they finally start heading towards the register and Genieve hurriedly busies herself with doing nothing, trying to remember how to act natural.
“Hello,” the boy says, smiling at her as he places their purchases on the counter one by one. Genieve smiles back as she starts to scan. It’s mostly just snacks and desserts, as expected from any college kid in the vicinity.
His companion is looking away from them, head tilted to the side like she’s listening to something. “Oh, skittles!” she suddenly says, eyes lighting up.
Hide. The word snaps into her mind and Genieve’s hands falter. There’s a buzzing noise in her ears and her head feels fuzzy.
“Everything okay?” the boy asks. Genieve blinks rapidly, glancing up. It’s just the boy there now, brow furrowed slightly and looking at her with clear concern. She hadn’t got a good look at him before, but he looks soft. Gentle eyes and wavy blond hair.
It’s like if a golden retriever was a person.
“No, no, I’m fine,” Genieve says quickly, realizing she’s been staring at him. “Just tired, you know the drill.” She laughs, but it sounds strained even to her own ears. She’s hot
and freezing all at once, a cold sweat clinging to her skin. It feels like she’s about to pass out.
“Alright,” Alex says slowly. “If you’re sure.”
Genieve knows he doesn’t believe her. It’s okay, she wouldn’t either.
The girl returns in a blur of motion, slamming the bag down on the counter and looking far too pleased with herself. “Alex, I got the skittles.”
“I can see that,” he says dryly. “Great job. I’m glad you didn’t get lost.” “Oh, like you would?” The girl crosses her arms, cocking an eyebrow. “Poor, poor Alex, can’t even see over the shelves to find his way to the register.”
“That’s basic,” Alex shoots back. “What are you, five?”
“Please.” The girl sniffs haughtily. “I’d at least be a seven-year-old.”
He rolls his eyes. “Okay, well, you’re acting like a little kid who just walked into a candy shop for the first time.”
She smirks. “Takes one to know one.”
“I’m not—” Alex casts Genieve a pleading look.
“Nah, you give off a dad vibe,” she says honestly, shoving the last of their purchases into the bag. Maybe she shouldn’t be throwing gasoline on the fire, but this is entertaining. “Dad?” the girl gasps, staring at Alex with wide eyes. “Is that really you? You left to get milk like—”
Alex rolls his eyes again and clamps a hand over her mouth. “Okay, you're done.” He starts dragging her towards the door, snagging their bag with his other hand, and—wow, he really does remind her of a single dad with a hyperactive toddler.
“Thank you!” Alex calls over his shoulder, flashing a smile.
Genieve waves at them, bemused. “Bye.”
The second they get outside, the girl tosses off his grip and tries to put him into a headlock. They tussle for a while, their laughter muffled by the glass. Genieve cranes her neck, but she’s still not sure who’s winning.
She thinks wistfully of her younger brothers. Even if they were annoying at times, she’ll admit—
Genieve stops. Blinks. Then she pinches herself.
The girl glances back as if she heard her, eyes unerringly locking on to hers. Genieve freezes and for a moment her vision tunnels until those eyes are all she can see. Those eyes, burning—
But then the girl simply grins and raises a hand goodbye, turning away.
Shaking off her trance, Genieve smiles politely at her retreating back, vaguely registering the fine tremor running through her hands.
By Samantha Batt