(Shh, I know this was supposed to be posted yesterday, but we’re just going to overlook that, okay?)
Challenge: Go sit in a public place and eavesdrop on a conversation. Turn what you hear into a short love story (no matter how much you have to twist what they say).
Despite the name of my WordPress, it turns out that I’m terrible at eavesdropping on command. This weekend I went on three outings with the express purpose of eavesdropping for this challenge, and all three times, I got distracted and failed to catch any juicy conversations—or any conversations at all. During the third outing, I did manage to hear a cashier tell a customer, “Here’s your coupon. There you go,” so I guess I’m going with that. Wish me luck?
It’d been exactly two days since an entitled soccer mom had demanded to speak to the manager, and Liza reveled in the new store record—until a hot mess of eyelash extensions and hellfire swept in and ruined everything.
Ms. Hellfire had purchased a dollhouse a week ago. Liza herself had completed the transaction. Then, this morning, Ms. Hellfire must’ve determined that the dollhouse was no longer good enough for her niece and that this problem was Liza’s and Liza’s alone.
Without a receipt, all Liza could offer Ms. Hellfire was a coupon, but that worked less like appeasement and more like kerosene. Ms. Hellfire tore the coupon into three pieces before throwing it in Liza’s face.
Liza spent her 15-minute break reapplying her eye makeup, and when she clocked out, she headed to the nearest bar.
By her second whiskey, Liza stopped fantasizing about quitting in a grandiose fashion—tossing all the cash from her register into the air and tipping a kiosk on her way out— and settled for shoveling peanuts into her mouth.
She finished off her drink and brought her glass down on the bar with a satisfying clunk. When she looked up to flag down the bartender, her eyes met a pair of baby blues nestled under eyelash extensions.
Liza immediately pulled her gaze down. “Shit.”
She inhaled a handful of peanuts and fumbled in her coat pocket for her phone. Without any new texts to answer, she busied herself with scrolling through her email—up and down, up and down, up and down.
Liza jumped a little when Ms. Hellfire, suddenly beside her, spoke: “Hi.”
Another handful of peanuts bought Liza a moment to decide how to proceed, and she found herself a little grateful that she’d finished her whiskey; throwing a drink in Ms. Hellfire’s face wasn’t an option.
But, man, it would’ve been satisfying.
Liza gulped down the peanuts she definitely should’ve chewed more and wrangled her voice into something more than a wheeze. “Hello.” Her customer-service voice surfaced against her will. “Can I help you?” She stared at her glass and swirled it as if it still contained liquid.
“I just wanted to apologize.”
“What?” Liza’s eyes snapped up and met Ms. Hellfire’s, which had begun to well with tears.
“The way I treated you at the store was completely unacceptable, and I’m so sorry.” Ms. Hellfire looked down. “I’m horrified at how I behaved, and I just hope that I didn’t upset you too badly.”
“I—um. I—” Liza cleared her throat. “Well, thanks. You’re not the first customer to, er, get emotional, but you’re the first to apologize. So thanks, I guess.”
“And if I caused any problems for you with your manager, I’ll go back to the store first thing tomorrow and fix it. You did nothing wrong, and you shouldn’t lose your job because I lost the receipt—or because I was stupid enough to buy a dollhouse for a fourteen year old.”
Liza didn’t mean to laugh. Really, she didn’t. But the image of good ol’ Joe firing her because of a customer’s temper tantrum was too much to bear.
She quickly turned the laugh into a cough. “Don’t worry about that. My job is safe.”
“Good, good,” Ms. Hellfire said, nodding. “Now, can I buy you a drink, you know, as an apology?”
“Whiskey neat.” Ultimately, Liza knew she shouldn’t exploit this woman’s guilt, but sometimes her minimum-wage job paid off in unexpected ways, and she’d learned to go with it.
“Sooo,” Liza said carefully, “a dollhouse for a fourteen year old?”
“I know, I know. I just—I haven’t spent much time around kids, and I only just recently reconnected with my niece, so I’m new to buying gifts for her.” Ms. Hellfire knocked back a vodka shot. “Her mom—well, this is my niece’s first Christmas without her mom, and I was just trying to make that special, you know? But I screwed up.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. The holidays are a lot of pressure for people.” Liza cracked a small sympathetic smile. “Believe me. You’re not the first person to throw paper shreds in my face—not even this week.”
“Oof.” Ms. Hellfire buried her face in her hands and peered at Liza through slightly parted fingers. “I am so sorry.”
Liza sipped her whiskey. “Lucky for you, I’m easily bought.”
Ms. Hellfire smiled and extended her hand. “Hi, ‘easily bought.’ I’m Allie.”
In an effort to start the summer strong, I’m doing Writer’s Digest’s 12-Day Plan.
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9