The Face of Reality

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Chapter 1

“Seventeen dollars," I said, briefly looking up to the customer, a man of average height with a huge tummy protruding forward.

He paid with a note of $20, I returned the change and proceeded with my job as a cashier in this department store. Outside the store, the sun was slowly descending back to its hiding and the environment seemed to be floating in a vast atmosphere of. . . yellow. Inside, the store thronged with customers and there were queues in both my desk as well as my friend, Jessica's, which was right opposite mine at the other side of the store entrance.

Jessica and I have known each other since high school, although we weren't really close back then. But somehow, by the end of high school, we learned that both of us were applying for college here at Coasuta. So, we kind of started to discuss it and then ultimately, we ended up even sharing an apartment as well not far from Coasuta University campus.

Then, dragging me back to earth from my brief retrospection, came two stacks of a dozen notebooks, pen and pencils, nutella and cheese, shampoos, detergents and soaps, protein bars, protein powder and energy drinks, a children coloring book, Barbie pencils and erasers in different attractive designs and heart-shaped candies. And a lot more.

Aww, so sweet.

With a pleasant smile stretched on my face I looked up – expecting a sweet looking mom – only to bump into a sharp gaze of a guy in gray sweats, staring right back into my eyes like "get your job done".

"Oh. I thought you were a mom," I blurted to him without a second thought, my smile dropping to the floor awkwardly.

Apparently confused, his eyes vaguely narrowed into mine in an instant but he didn't return a word. For no reason I immediately felt extremely apologetic as though I had done something terribly, terribly wrong and crossed him. With nothing more to say, I tugged at my lower lip and dropped my gaze back to my desk at once.

Throughout my life I've heard many eminent leaders and scholars, celebrities, advising us young people to always speak our mind. Little do they know, sometimes it just doesn't work.

I picked up the scanner and proceeded to evaluate the amount of the things he'd bought; very much aware of the fact that just a moment ago, I had smiled to him for no reason and that he was probably staring down at me like I was some weirdo who smiles around at customers just like that.

The store was pretty noisy with the amount of customers but for me, it was starting to feel oddly quiet. I could sense his constant gaze burning into my scalp as he waited patiently. Standing as erect as a pole with his hands jammed in his pants pockets, his presence made me feel like I was being monitored, like he was waiting for me to fumble and then take that chance to rave his lungs out at me.

Hold on, Sophia. You forgot you're delusional. That's just stupid.

"175 dollars," I said, turning my face up to him with a pluck of courage.

Turns out I was right. He was as normal as any customer could be. He didn't rave at me. It was just me and my over-the-top imagination playing with my mind again.

Psycho.

The scary stranger pulled his right hand out of his pocket along with his debit card and swiped it across the card machine. In that short fraction of time as he pressed in his pin code, I, Sophia Swann, taken by utter curiosity, seized the moment to study his appearance.

Hmm. Sharp features.

Tall and broad.

Rugged. Tanned.

Ooh! Exotic!

God, that jawline is delllllicious!! Slices my retina into a million pieces.

Swing swang swong!

Okay. Enough, Sophia.

His eyes darted up to me from the machine, catching me standing there transfixed for a moment.

Whoops! Okay.

I shook my head openly right under his eyes without a second thought, exposing myself entirely to him that I had been studying him and that he'd caught me in a daze. Nevermind. That's just me being Sophia Swann.

After his payment was taken into account, I proceeded to pack up his purchase into two shopping bags and then held out the receipt to him. His thick fingers - which looked more like tree roots to me with all the roughness - came to hold the end of the white paper as if careful not to touch my hand.

I'm still not quite sure what came over me that instant that I held onto the paper in my hand and looking up straight into his eyes, I quipped with a smile, "Thanks for shopping here!"

Just to get a response, a word. Hear how his voice might sound like.

Only in that moment did he deliberately meet my eyes. The world seemed to stop rotating at once, time seemed to stop flowing as if in reverence to the reality of me, My Grace Sophia Swann, locking gazes with a pair of steely green eyes that seemed to hold an ocean of depth and mysteries. The world had disappeared from my consciousness and all I could think of in that very moment was. . . 'Oh shit!"

Shit shit shit!

He was too intimidating. Just one look in his piercing eyes and the sharp flashes in his green irises hissed that he wouldn't take any bullshit. My face fell again for the second time in front of him that evening. I cleared my throat in an attempt to brush it off. He pulled the receipt out of my hand and the next thing that followed was a surprise.

The steely look in his eyes cleared out mildly and this scary stranger - with an air of dignified confidence about him - gave a solemn nod to me in acknowledgement. For some reason, that small act, which was even barely noticeable, stumped me and I could only frown back at him in confusion.

What the hell?

He, then, crumpled the receipt in his hand, shoved it inside his pocket, picked up the two bags from the counter and left without a word. Not a single word.

Wow.

In few quick strides, he was out of the store and all I had left to do was stare at his broad back, dazed at the fact that he actually acknowledged me. . . and intimidated the shit out of me too.

What the hell, Sophia? Woman up!

Taking a deep breath, I felt relief surge over me once he was gone. Honestly. It hadn't been long since I started working here at this department store, Regetta, and so far, I had been doing done pretty well. No arguments with rude customers, no embarrassing incidents, been very comfortable with customers. I've been a hella good Cashier Queen. . . That dark haired stranger was the first one to have made me feel this meaninglessly uneasy.

It's weird.

It's funny. Intriguing.

He seems to be so full of mysteries.

Will make a great character for my next book.

All evening after that tiny incident, I had a smile on my face. For some reason, I found the whole thing funny too. I had been so meaninglessly scared and intimidated in the beginning but, in the end, now that I've realized it, it was just normal. But I knew I wouldn't mind seeing him again. He just made my day a bit more interesting. Added some spice.

I kind of wished I could see him again. He struck me as a huge pool of potential inspiration for my future books that I hoped I have enough inspirations and ideas to pour into pages.

I wanna know more about him.


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