I knew as soon as I walked in to the United Shipping Service store it was going to take longer than the quick stop I was hoping for, making my already strained schedule that much more tight, like the growing knot in my stomach. The customer in front of me, an elderly woman with a worried look on her face, was pacing small circles impatiently, muttering now and again at the attendant, a new girl I’d never seen before, being a regular at this shop. After only a quick glance my way that barely acknowledged I’d entered, she looked back to a giant mess in front of her, and stood silently on the phone, enduring. This position behind the counter was usually occupied by the owner, a slick and bejeweled Samoan of enormous stature and equally large, almost mawkish exuberance who had a strong penchant for both inexpensive aftershave and enthusiastic gum chewing, a gregarious sensory overload from which today I was happy and relived to be spared given my deteriorating mood. In his usual place, behind a pile of packaging materials pulled from the open box of whatever aborted mailing attempt the woman had brought in, stood this waifish young girl who couldn’t possibly be over twenty, staring blankly into space with the phone pressed to her ear. Her two-tone burgundy/blond hair, done up in a quick knot held in place with a pencil, and teal hipster glasses cast a curiously rebellious contrast to her brown corporate polo. I caught myself staring at her, and shifted my eyes up, noticing the clock on the wall. I had to be back for an eleven o’clock meeting, which gave me only forty five minutes to get everything I needed done. But this poor rangy neophyte had such a little-girl-lost look about her that I suddenly sensed I was about to reprioritize my morning.
With every agitated comment from her increasingly anxious customer about confusing procedures and forgotten reading glasses, the young woman cooed a short and reassuring apology across the phone as she continued to hold. I took my tiny parcel and moved to the far side of the shop, waiting silently while attempting to avoid eye contact with the entire situation, while at the same time using this less conspicuous vantage point to further appraise the girl’s form.
From my oblique angle she wasn’t as skinny as I’d initially thought, and there were some definite curves lurking beneath her unflattering top and horrid khaki pants. The slight rise of her chest hinted at a playful pair of Bs, and I imagined a shapeless, plain bra, possibly only worn as store policy, halfheartedly supporting girls that would otherwise better represent themselves on their own. Were they pert and round, fully formed but compact? Or were they still budding, softly and slowly aspiring to fuller greatness. I caught myself licking my lips, imagining her puffy nipple striving to grow stiff in the gentle clasp of my mouth, my hands around the subtle inward curve of her lean waist. I could tell from the inconsiderate drape of her formless slacks that even though this curve was slight, it arced outwards again beneath her low beltline to form tiny taut buttocks, modestly poised behind pointed hip bones and thighs that surely didn’t meet as she stood her post.
Her face was rather angular, made more so by the situation, but was still delicate and demure despite her youthful air of defiance. Her eyes, small without being beady, were lit with a fire that seemed deeper than her current temperament. They shone through the glasses that sat a top a darling button of a nose, above thin lips that were pressed tight together. Her otherwise pale cheeks, high and drawn, held an intriguing blush. She was all crossed up at the moment, but I could see radiance and beauty in her, and was just dying to see her smile. She gave me a darting sidelong glance and I realized again I’d been caught staring, and she turned slightly away, raising the phone a little higher as a shield against my intrusive scrutiny and the elderly woman’s incessant patter until finally, unable to reach a human on the other end, the girl left a brief message and hung up. She then deftly and courteously convinced the woman that all would be taken care of from this point forward, and that she was free to go. When the door chimed the woman’s exit, I looked behind the counter and caught her briefly closing her eyes in relief, no doubt completing a quick count to ten, and I couldn’t help but cheer for my little mod heroine on what had every indication of being her first day on the job.
“Not always the easiest place to work, huh?” I said, doing my best to side with her without sounding snarky.” She smiled her pretty brown eyes at me before assessing my package and coolly nodding to the scale.
“You can just put that there, I’ll take care of this in a sec,” gathering up the small mountain of crushed paper surrounding the weigh station to make room. The skillful tact and confidence she’d displayed only moments ago was replaced by an odd shyness I wouldn’t have expected as she shifted the pile to the back counter and returned her focus to the computer screen next to the scale. She was either being the consummate professional, or I had already earned her bored disdain.
“Where’s Aku?” I asked in reference to the unusual absence of the owner, letting her know I was familiar with the shop, and if she cared to put it together, also that she was new to the job.
“He’s out for the morning,” she said almost flatly, but I noticed her glance up from the monitor to the clock, and ever so briefly to me, up and down in one quick scan. Was I perturbing her with idle chat, I wondered? Better find out.
“I bet this job gets a bit tedious now and again, right. How long’ve you been here?”
“You mean today, or in general?” still not looking me in the eye, but flashing the barest hint of a smile from the corner of her mouth at her wry little joke. I’d been watching her the entire time since handing over my package, and was discerning a truly charming set of features hidden behind the agitation on her face, as well as beneath her uninspired wardrobe, and I cheered internally once again for her, rooting her on as she won me over in spite of her defenses.