Good morning! Today I noticed my words written count for December is abysmally small. While rational me would have reminded myself that this is because I’m revising a book, irrational me panicked. I decided to take some time this morning and write something in the idea journal.
Things this year look a little different and I haven’t addressed any pandemic type things in my fiction … until today.
Enjoy this piece of random fiction. Remember, comments and feedback are always welcome but stealing ideas never is. Also, remember this is drafted this morning and shared right after. No editing happened. Do with that what you will.
She sits in the car watching the stream of people flow into the store through her windshield. The windows are up but the temperature in the car is dropping the longer she sits there without the engine on and the heat running. She throws her head back and sighs up at the ceiling. “I’m just gonna run in, grab the gift, and get out. I’ll be home before she is. I may even have time to wrap it. It’s fine.” She puts her hand on the door handle, gently tugging up. The burst of cold air flies in, making her shiver and increasing her urgency. Now she moves quickly–grabbing her purse off the seat beside her, stepping fully out of the car, slamming the driver’s door, and clicking the lock button. She’s halfway to the store before finally finding her mask in the bottom of her purse and slipping it over her ears to cover her face and nose. She smiles at the person stationed here for security purposes then fully blushes when she realizes no one can tell she’s done that. Gone are the days when she has to feel obligated to smile at strangers. No one can accuse her of resting bitch face under this safety face mask, can they? She chuckles at her own joke and the sudden feeling of power.
The store is crowded today. She wasn’t sure what to expect when she left the house. They haven’t left the house in weeks, they’ve been working from home and ordering food in. They’ve been sitting on the couch at night, not sure what to talk about when you’ve been witness to each other’s entire days. This trip to the store is supposed to be for milk. They don’t have the money for gifts. They aren’t bothering with gifts. But she can’t bring herself to do nothing in the face of a holiday that just doesn’t feel like a holiday right now. Maybe one gift, unwrapped and hand delivered, will make it feel more special.
She walks quickly, checking the aisle markers that are now present on the floor to see which direction she is allowed to move. She ignores the people who are going the wrong way and gives a wide berth to anyone not wearing a mask. She stops in front of the flowers. On a walk around the neighborhood a few weeks ago they’d had an entire conversation about flowers and how you miss them when it’s winter and they’re gone. But they’re large and they’ll die in a few days. Flowers aren’t going to work.
She moves up and down a few more aisles, feeling more and more like she’s wandering aimlessly. She passes up candy, which they’ve eaten too much of lately. She dismissed movies, which they’ve been streaming for months. She heads to the refrigerated wall of dairy, thinking maybe she should just get the milk she came for and go home. Her hand wraps around the handle of the gallon before her eyes fall onto the price. When did they make milk $3.29? She can easily remember getting an entire gallon for $1.99. She lets go of the handle and sighs. Yes, it’s nice to have milk on cereal in the morning, but it is really worth the price increase? With both of them having to drop to part time, can they really afford more expensive items? She grabs the half gallon instead, priced at the same price point she remembers the gallon used to be.
On the way to the registers, she passes a display of headphones. They’re tiny, made to fit snugly inside your ear. They’ve talked about these before. The headphones that everyone on TV seems to have. They don’t go over your head or connect to the computer with a wire. It would be more convenient for work calls if there was a set of these available. She imagines not having to listen to the rambling coming from the other computer and smiles. That would be better. Her eyes only flash on the three digit price tag before she grabs the small box.
She gets in line and reaches into her purse to pull out the wallet she carries. Effortlessly, as if it’s something she’s done thousands of times, she slips the headphones into the place the wallet has vacated. The only registers open here are the self check out machines. There are three employees standing guard over them, wiping them down in between each customer. She wonders if this is really more efficient.
She steps up the machine and scans the milk. Then she takes three single dollar bills out of her wallet, feeding them one at a time into the machine. Change spits out and she grabs it and tosses it into the donation bucket. “Thanks for the donation,” the employee suddenly over her shoulder says.
“What? Oh, yeah. No problem.” Her heartbeat slams into her chest and her palms sweat. She keeps her wallet in her hand and rushes to the exit, her hands clutched around the cold plastic of the milk carton.
At the exit, she spies yet another employee. She completely forgot they check receipts here. She pats her pockets and checks the bag looking for the receipt. She’s cautious of the bag, keeping it tucked under her arm so it won’t fall open. The employee must notice the people are starting to pile up, too many of them checking out quickly. They are all waved through, pandemic protocol takes precedence over the receipt check.
The cold outside air feels like relief. She walks quickly to her car, unlocking it when it is in sight. She drops her suddenly heavy purse onto the seat beside her. She isn’t sure how she’ll explain where the gift came from, considering she left the house with only $3 in her wallet. But she feels better knowing she has something. Now it feels like Christmas.