Contagious smiles

This is a short story I wrote as part of an assignment in the British Council CW course. My first ever attempt on writing anything other than exams or office e-mails. Plain development of a situation given.

🙂

Linda could see the shopping assistant girl go freeze while handing her the last piece of all the orange shaded, plus size dresses that they have. Following her gaze, Linda saw the terse looking sales guy approaching. The popular dress store is particularly crowded on that weekend. A good thirty minutes into shopping and she was not getting a sales person to help her, yet.

She happily waved at him to which he responded with a curt nod.

“Good morning madam. May I help you?”

Glancing at his name plate, Linda replied “It is good afternoon already, er … Jay. You guys seem to have a busy day today. And why not? Holidays are here already! But I must say you have not stored enough bright shades this season.”

The assistant girl smiled shyly, but Jay completely ignored that comment and asked again “what can I help you with today, madam?” Darting her eyes on both of them, the girl took her position near the shelves.

Cursing himself for the umpteenth time, Jay waited for Linda’s response. He is one of the most experienced sales men of the store, in the formal dress section for men. Among colleagues, he is known for his temperamental nature. Having served the business class people shopping for the best brands of office wear, he detested the women’s floor. “Half of them are here for pleasure and time pass” he used to think. But it is Easter season, one of the busiest times in the year. Manager had called off their holiday for the second week in a row. He needed to shift his rented apartment at the earliest. His daughter cried to sleep last night, all her friends have already seen the musical animation movie about two princesses. He had promised to take her to the movies today.

Linda’s chirpy voice woke him from thoughts “young man, the one right on top of the first set. And second one from the bottom. Oh, I love bright colors, you know. Wonder how some people pick the dullest for themselves” she chuckled.

Handing her the dresses for trial and folding the rejected ones neatly away, he could not help thinking “how much she talks. Nonsense. God knows how long it will take to get rid of her.” He tried in vain to keep his mind from going back to the scenes at home.

Almost twenty minutes passed; Jay was helping another customer when he heard Linda behind him. “Well, do I look fat in these? May be I should try a less fluffy fabric. Don’t you think so?” Jay looked at the woman in her late 40’s. What miracle is she expecting from the fabric now? “Do you want me to show something else?” he asked with a visible disinterest. Oblivious to his tone, Linda answered “oh, yes please. So Jay, all prepared for the holidays? In which part of town do you live?”

For a second, Jay stared at her. It brought back the irritable land lord’s face to his mind. He must have come again to know when they will move out…

Checking another piece he gave her, Linda happily hummed a tune. Jay looked around. His colleagues are briskly walking around, guiding and helping one customer after the other. Floor manager is looking around to make sure every customer is attended to. He would have had a peaceful day on his usual floor today. With some persuasion, manager would have let him end the shift a bit early too. He felt irritable when Linda started going through the stacks of dresses once again.

“Mmm… this seems better. Or maybe this” She turned to Jay for his suggestion.

This time Jay could not contain his anger. He said “whichever. But please make it fast. Other customers are waiting.”

Linda seemed taken aback. But her shock was momentary. Regaining her smile, she said “Sure sure. I can see you have a hectic day ahead”. Then she headed to the trial room.

Jay was a little confused. Ok, nobody else heard me. Hopefully she will not report it to the manager. That will make things worse.

“I think I am going for this” handing him the dress, Linda smiled again. He took that when she asked “hope everything is alright, Jay?” He was apologetic, but did not want to show that. Trying to look normal, he said “yes madam”.

Looking at him intently, Linda again said “festival times should be happy times. I really think you need to relax a bit and let the spirit of holidays get you“. He nodded. Warmth of her words almost brought tears in his eyes and he smiled through that.

“Thank you so much for helping me to choose the right outfit. This is for a special family occasion. We will be meeting the family of our daughter-in-law for the first time. I wanted to look my best and make my son proud” she winked at Jay. He could not help a hearty laugh. Shopping assistant girl startled and looked up from the next section. Linda walked away after shaking hands with Jay.

Later in the evening, Jay rushed out of the store after his shift. The toy shop in the next street is not closed yet. A movie themed doll of her favorite princess should bring the smile back on his daughter’s face, he thought while entering the shop.

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