Better Than Chocolate

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She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out the image of a tall, handsome man holding the bouquet of flowers at the end of her register . It was February 14th, and he was not a surprising sight. He was exactly like the dozens before him, and the dozens that would come after, that would rush through Shannon's express line in a frantic and steady stream until 4 o'clock.

Then she could make a merciful escape from the constant barrage and go home. And spend the night alone. Maybe she'd have a couple amusing but unsatisfying AIM conversations, but that would be about it. Another Saturday night would come and go.

Another year without anything but some stale candy hearts. She willed Mr. Macho Flower Man away, but by then she knew that such wishes never came true. The customers were relentless.

She kept her eyes fastened attentively on the man, but her thoughts wandered as they usually did. Hi, how are you, did you find everything alright?- she barely heard her own words as they issued mechanically from her mouth. All she could think of were boys, girls, flowers, couples, romantic dinners, chocolate.

. . and love. She scoffed at the mere thought.

Whose bright idea was that? She fumed, but despite herself, she handled the man's dozen long-stem red roses with care. 'This is the worst holiday ever,' she muttered, reaching for a bag. Every year it came like some sort of giant mocking nightmare, and every year it left her aching with loneliness and the unshakeable knowledge that no one would ever care for her, no one would ever want to be her Valentine.

Wearily, she cashed out the boy, silently cursing him for being. One register over, she could hear two girls excitedly babbling about the night to come. Where they were going and Ohmigod! What should they wear? She resisted the urge to hurl a can of pineapples right at their gorgeous, undeniably desirable selves.

A barely audible sigh escaped her lips as she instead put the can in a bag, picturing the scene that would inevitably unfold. The girl, blood streaming from a severe head wound, wouldn't notice anything but her smudged mascara. She brushed a dark strand of hair out of her eyes, enjoying an unprecedented lull in the tidal wave of customers, all eager to get those final ingredients for their candlelit dinners.

She glanced down to peel a sticker off her scanner, seeing that it was for- the cruel irony- passionfruit- when she heard a low, soft, familiar voice. Her head snapped up and when she saw who it was, she melted. 'Andy!' she exclaimed, feeling her heart speed up and beat frantically against her ribcage.

He stood before her, brown hair boyishly mussed, green eyes gazing into hers with an intensity that clutched at her soul. She ran her gaze, as inconspicuously as she could, down the length of his long, lean body, feeling a familiar spasm deep inside. He was so tall, so unconsciously sexy- it was all she could do, any time they were together, to keep her shaking hands to herself.

A faint flush crept into her cheeks and she felt slightly weak in the knees. She was having some serious physical reactions. He had visited her at work before, she had thought nothing of it. Plus, she had seen him mere hours ago at school.

Sure, she liked him a ton, but she could usually still function when he was around. It could have been the element of surprise, it could have been her wistful, longing mindset. It could have been some long-incubating jungle disease finally seizing her body, but something told her this was not the case.

. . . .