Parking Lot Romance
I watch the digital clock on my checkstand monitor, trying to will it to go from 7:55 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with just the sheer power of my mind. My eyes shift to the day’s date alongside it: February 14, 2021.
“Excuse me!” My heart jumps as I rip my gaze from the clock to the customer standing before me, bottle of rosé in one hand, ice cream in the other, and an annoyed look upon her face. “Can I get some help here?”
“Yes, of course ma’am,” I stammer from beneath my mask. I quickly scan her wine as she runs her card through the POS system. I reach my hand out instinctively to grab the receipt, tearing it from the printer just as it finishes printing. I turn back to the woman and do my best to smile with my eyes. “Have a nice Valentine’s Day!”
The woman humphs at me as she takes her receipt. “Honey, we’re quarantining, the only romantic date I’m having tonight is with my boyfriends, Ben and Jerry.” She waves her ice cream in my face as she stomps away.
I glance back at the clock. It reads 7:58 p.m. Only two more minutes until freedom. I sigh, trying to relax my nerves and daydream about what the night may have in store. It’s my first Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend, and even though most date spots are closed due to Covid-19, I am still looking forward to a nice evening. I thought maybe we’d pull up a few rom-coms on Netflix, break out the wine, and maybe try to cook up some semblance of a romantic dinner from a Pinterest recipe. I pull out my phone as stealthily as I can to look up my “pinned” recipes when I feel a tap on my shoulder.
“Saw that!” I whirl around to see my manager, Anna, staring at me with a triumphant smirk.
“Sorry,” I mumble, shoving my phone in my back pocket.
“Eh, that’s okay, I don’t really care. Say, my closer just went home sick, was vomiting and everything.” She seems to shudder at the memory. “I was hoping you could close for me, since no one else is available.”
My heart sinks. I turn my head back to the clock. 8:02 p.m. I really want to tell Anna no, that I have plans and need to go. But then I think of the utility bill sitting on the counter at home, waiting to be paid, and how I have not gotten a decent amount of hours in weeks. I slowly exhale, allowing myself to come to the realization that I need to take any extra time I can get. Even if that means watching rom coms another night.
“Okay,” I say reluctantly. “I guess I could -”
“GREAT!” Anna practically shouts in my ear. “Thank you so much, you just saved me big-time.” She prances away happily, probably to relay the latest gossip about her Tinder escapades to girls at the customer service desk.
I pull out my phone quickly and shoot a text to my boyfriend.
Hey Ty, have 2 close 2nite. So srry. Raincheck?
Suddenly, I hear loud thuds at the end of my checkstand. I look up to see a man dumping what must be a hundred cans of cat food onto the belt. I slip my phone back into my pocket and take a deep breath, screaming internally as I force a friendly smile behind my mask. “Good evening sir! Do you have a loyalty card with us?”
I trudge my way to the time clock, feeling absolutely exhausted from my night. As I clock out I see the time on my phone. 11:50 p.m. No response from Ty either. My stomach churns with guilt. I shouldn’t have stayed. Or I should have called. He’s probably so dissappointed in me. I start to fumble in my pockets for my keys as I walk out of the store, hoping that maybe I can still get home quick enough to salvage at least a little of our evening.
I look up from my keys and begin to feel tears welling up in my eyes.
Ty sits on the tailgate of his truck in the middle of the empty parking lot. It’s dark outside but I can see him grinning from ear to ear under the glow of the fairy lights he has strung all around the back of his truck. Blankets and pillows cover the inside of the truck’s bed. As I walk closer I start to see the rose petals that Ty has laid down, and the bottle of wine that’s propped up against one of the pillows. The heavenly smell of Chinese takeout fills the air. My mouth is gaping open.
“What is all this?”
Ty smiles. “You said you had to work late, and I knew how much you were looking forward to this, so I thought I would bring our evening to you.” He holds up the takeout bag that is the source of the fragrant aroma. “I know you wanted to cook dinner, but I figured this would be easier to eat in the truck. Besides, you know I’m no good in the kitchen.”
I throw my arms around him and bury my face into his neck.
“Thank you,” I whisper. “It’s perfect. I love you.” He wraps his arms around me, and we begin to sway, as if the traffic noises from the street behind us were our very own love song.