Late night shopping

***This is the concluding part to a serialised story. If you have not read the previous episodes, please do so first, or it will make no sense.***

This is a fictional short story of 1200 words.

Gary waited until the tea break to check his phone. After almost being late, he didn’t want to be seen looking at it at his desk. Sure enough, there was a message from Andrea.

Morning gary i hope you u had a good night i woz so excited i could hardly sleep
just today 2 go then we r out on friday i really cant w8 i hope im busy today so it goes by fast and friday comes sooner love andrea xxxxxxxxxxxx

He replied in his usual polite but restrained fashion.

Me too Andrea. Love Gary. xxx

Gary looked again at the new photos Andrea had sent him. He didn’t mind her short hair at all. There was a time when he thought girls with shorter hair were more attractive anyway. And what if she looked at least the same age as him? That was better than her looking too young, wasn’t it? He switched off his phone and dumped his half-drunk plastic cup of tea into the bin. Old man Wilcox was on his case this morning, and arriving back early from tea break would look good.

Not for the first time, Andrea was wishing she had someone to talk to about Gary. In most offices, girls would chatter on about boyfriends and dates, she was sure. But she was the youngest in her department, and the two other ladies were a little distant. Edna was really old, so old she was a widow. And Dorothy only ever talked about her son, who was a successful lawyer. Neither of them ever asked Andrea what she did with her spare time, or even if she had a boyfriend. She was annoyed with herself for forgetting to bring the tote bag with her high heels in it. She would have to try on the new dress wearing the flats she had on for work. Never mind, she would go on tiptoe, and simulate the effect.

When Mr Wilcox left early that afternoon, Gary was smiling. That meant that they would all get off on time, and he could get across to the new shopping centre, and buy that shirt. When he had checked his phone at lunchtime, there was no message from Andrea. He was a little put out by that. Funny how soon you get used to getting regular messages, even though they seem a pain at first. He smiled to himself, wondering how he could miss someone he had never met, or spoken to.

Andrea picked up the dress in her size. She took all three colour options into the changing room, just to be sure. The dark red had been the first one she had spotted, but finding the same style in midnight blue and sea green had made her doubt herself. She would try them all, and then she would be left in no doubt. As none of them would look right with the grey tights she was wearing with her business skirt, she stripped down to bra and pants, going with the red dress first. The changing cubicle was quite large, and the mirrors on each side allowed her to see the full effect. A few inches above the knee, and just low enough at the front to be suggestive, but not revealing. Quarter sleeves suited the design, and it fitted well, without being too clingy. But after trying on the other two, she was torn. The midnight blue really looked the part, much dressier. She decided on that one, and changed back into her work clothes before heading over to the cash desk.

Gary found the shirt, and quickly flicked through the rail, in case there was one he liked better. But he knew his mind well enough, and stuck with his first choice. After paying for it, and being handed back the shirt in a bag, he realised he had plenty of time. He would go down to the food court to get something to eat. As he approached the escalator, his phone went off in his pocket, and he stopped to look at the message.

O gary i just got the best dress for tomorrow its a gr8 colour and i think u r gonna luv it just 1 more sleep and 1 day at work then we will b meeting up at the chinese i cant w8 love andrea xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Gary smiled, stupidly content that she had sent a message after all. He slipped the phone back into his pocket and walked onto the escalator, failing to notice that he had walked straight in front of a lady who was just going around him. She tripped over his leg as he stepped out, tumbling straight down the moving stairway, head first. Her handbag and shopping bag went flying as she fell, and she continued almost to the bottom, until her fall was blocked by the body of a big woman lower down. Gary ran down the left side of the stairs, and before he could get to the lady, a crowd had started to gather around her, with some shop staff talking urgently into hand-held radios.

Andrea felt rather silly. She was lying on her back with her legs sprawled wide open and her skirt around her hips, displaying the comfort gusset of her tights to everyone around. Her elbow hurt, and as she tried to get up, a woman in the shop uniform told her to lie still. “Help’s on the way” she shouted, as if Andrea was deaf. Someone had pushed the emergency stop button on the escalator, so at least that had stopped moving under her leg. A serious young man pushed through the people around her. He was carrying a first-aid bag, and had a radio clipped to a tab on his shirt. “Lie still madam, that’s a nasty cut on your face. I’m just going to put a dressing on it. An ambulance is on the way”.
Andrea nodded, wincing as he pushed a bandage of some sort onto her chin. Looking over his shoulder, she could see a man a few steps further up. He looked strangely familiar, but she couldn’t immediately place him.

Gary couldn’t get down to the lady he had inadvertently tripped up. Shop staff and first aid people were around her, but she looked up and caught his gaze. Her hair was very short, and the long lines either side of her nose ran down to the edges of her top lip. Before he could stop himself, he blurted out a name. “Andrea?” The serious first aid man looked up. “Do you know her? Are you together?”

Andrea answered. “Yes we’re together. His name is Gary, and he’s my boyfriend”.

Years later, they would still laugh about spending their first date in the emergency department of the local hospital. They never did get to that Chinese restaurant. And Andrea never mentioned his height, not once. Just as he never mentioned the huge scar that ran right around her chin.

78 thoughts on “Late night shopping

  1. Excellent story! I thought the ending worked really well. It made a good climax to all that nervous tension. I think Andrea’s fall must have shaken her up quite a bit because she sounds remarkably confident at the end there. No need for all that nervous texting, trying second-guess each other, when you’re lying flat on your back with your legs in the air? So a happy ending, but not too cheesy. I think it had at least as much reality about it as it would have done if you had killed her off.

    Talking of which, the non-tragic ending made a welcome change. I had stopped reading your stories because, in my not very humble opinion, they were getting way too predictable. Trying to guess how the horrible ending was going to come about was fun for a while, but then I tired of it. I did like the one where we were left to imagine the ending, though. Sometimes it’s nice not to know. Michael Morpurgo’s ‘Private Peaceful’ ends with Tommo gearing himself up for the battle of the Somme, but we are never told whether he makes it home again. I liked that ending because it would have been too easy if he’d survived and too heartbreaking and too anticlimactic if he’d been killed. (As in, what were all those other pages for?) Life has a dark side, a bright side and an ambiguous/enigmatic side and I think all three have a place in the stories we tell each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, and your comment, Ros. Those predictable (and sometimes hopefully unpredictable) twists became something of a trademark here, and I wanted to change that, if only to try out something different. One reason why I didn’t kill her in the fall. Too many readers might have been anticipating disaster. πŸ™‚
      I have read ‘Private Peaceful’, (and watched the animation) and agree it is very good.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are the master Pete! I always expect an unconventional ending but never guess how its going to end and this time you excelled, a brilliant engrossing read, even with children climbing over me πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great ending. I’m not usually one for happy endings, but I’m pleased things worked out for them (even if not as expected). They were both trying so hard, they deserved a chance. Thanks, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I sense you are emerging from your winter gloom! Loved the story. As I mentioned you introduced me to the 50% of men who are anxious about dating. Funny. On one of our first dates I had a bad fall and a trip to the E.R. No lasting effects, but a bonding incident for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Andrea fell in love on her phone. And then she fell out of love on the escalator. At least that’s what I was thinking after she tripped. But she only fell…and stayed in love! I didn’t see any of this coming, and, of course, that was the point. Great ending, Pete. I hope you do another serial soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You very nearly got one, Peter. I desperately wanted Angela to be killed by the fall, and Gary to never know what happened. But I thought I owed everyone at least one happy ending! πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. HA! THANK YOU for the happy ending. Very nice meeting of the two and the fall and ending were perfect. I was wondering if he was going to be with her since her texting was so ANNOYING to read. There you go, that informal way to text with jumbled numbers and letters drives me nuts. All the xxxxxxxxxxx and her neediness would be a turn-off if I were a guy. A fine story about the silliness we go through and think about when anticipating a date. The emotional line created by social media devices is insane. For example, why don’t they just call each other on the phone and talk?
    Great job, Mr. Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Cindy. That rubbish texting gets my goat too, hence why it appeared in the story. And I don’t think they do talk much these days, which is why I didn’t have them talking to each other on the phone. (I could be wrong, as it’s a long time since I dated…)
      I am very pleased that you enjoyed it, and liked the happy ending. I was so desperate to kill her off, I almost changed it at the last minute! πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete. x


    1. Because I always do that, I thought I would have a happy ending instead. But even as I pressed ‘Publish’, I was almost on the verge of recalling the post, and going with one of my familiar endings.
      I really wanted Andrea to die from her injuries of course, and Gary to never know what happened. πŸ™‚
      That alternative ending has to stay in my head this time.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

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