The cycle of Strangers

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Chapter 7

I emerge back into the main store, spotting his body leaning against the counter. His fingers ferociously tap a screen. I can’t tell whether or not he’s playing or if he’s texting someone.

“Put that away.” I nonchalantly say, in attempt to hide the feelings boiling deep within my system.

“It’s just a phone.”

“It’s a distraction!” I let the words leak through my gritted teeth. If he never spoke to me three weeks ago, Molly wouldn’t be mad and neither would I.

“Sorry, but I’m busy.” He smirks, lifting up his phone like a trophy.

“Whatever.” I swallow, combing my fingers through my my 4c blow out curls, resting beyond my shoulders.

“What’s gotten your knickers in a twist?” For some reason, instead of getting the hint to shut up and continue getting the shop ready for opening hour, his voice echoes through the room like an idiot.

Every single emotion rushes through my body, way too fast for my stable conscience. I have to balance myself to prevent the rush of adrenaline, prompting me to shout at the fool with the oddly over the top British phrase, he thought was oh too smart to use.

“The store’s opening up soon, please continue stacking shelves.”

“Which ones?”

I groan, in the highest volume I can get it to.

“Go through every shelf. Wherever there’s a gap, restock from the storage room and do that until no gaps are left. You have fifteen minutes before we open.”

“And what are you going to do?” He questions.

“Mind my business.”

“If I’m doing your job, you owe me something.”

“Sure.” I roll my eyes, not agreeing to his words but filling them up with my amazing sarcasm.

“On our lunch break, you’re taking me to the park.”

“We don’t have a lunch break.” I lie.

“Molly said we can have 45 minutes.”

“Shut up.”

“So that’s a yes?”

“Go back to work.”

I walk into the toilets and stand at the mirror.

Looking back at me, is the reflection of the girl I built myself to be. The girl who overcame her fear of how people see her. The girl who lost weight for herself and not others. The girl who spends every night revising, for herself.

Every time I stand behind a mirror, I remember to say one line.

“I am a beautiful black woman.”

People may say it’s stupid to say this to myself. People may call it vain. However to me, saying those words act as a fuel stimulating my immediate want to continue being... great.

You know what I mean?

Because sometimes, life gets rough. No one is there to give you support, no one is there to help you overcome the challenges you go through in life. If I’m going to be totally honest, no one dies with you. So why on earth, shall I live to satisfy someone else? I’ve learnt over the past few years, that if I’m not happy with myself, it’s not going to change how I feel when someone else is happy for me. It doesn’t hit the same.

I glance down to the sink then look up at my eyes. My most powerful feature I have. The same feature I was bullied for, is now bought in shops. Silver-blue eyes.

One glance at them and you can already imagine the struggle I had with growing up. From young, I had always been told my eyes were a lie and that it’s not possible for me, a black person, to have eyes of a colour, other than brown. Now, I look at them as a badge of honour. I don’t know how I got these rare things, but I can’t complain.

My parents did give me a mix of both their skin complexions. My mum being dark skin and my dad, light skin, made me a transitioning brown skin. What I mean by that, is that the type of lighting I’m under, is what chooses whether or not I’m dark skin or brown skin that day.

As much as I love every feature on my body, including the beauty spot beside the side of my eye, one thing I would change is my freaking hair texture.

Don’t get me wrong, when I style my dark brown, 4c hair, it comes out looking bomb. But when it’s wash day or just the hairstyling process, I feel like simply picking up the relaxer.

Today, though, my hair is giving me very much volume and length. I have my fringe hovering over my eyes, with the rest of my hair blow dried to the sides. One of my favourite styles, but also the most risky. I should just hope it doesn’t rain.

I take a deep breathe in and walk back out to the main area to find Gio stacking all shelves with air pods in each ear. His broad shoulders move in as he contracts from the sudden movement he uses when placing a book away.

I look away to turn the sign around and let the customers start trailing in.

Today, I woman the till, since Gio doesn’t know how to use it and Molly is still in the staffroom. Gosh, I know I upset her, but right now I feel like the one in charge and it sucks.

Three hours pass and an excited Gio walks up to the counter.

“How may I help?” I roll my eyes with a small smile.

Ever since the store opened, my annoyance seems to have cooled down. Especially when seeing the teenage girls walk into the store, notice Gio, walk back out, and re-enter with their friends. They think we don’t notice, but we see it all. As much as I hate to admit it, maybe we do need Gio. Because of his presence we’ve definitely had more customers. Wait until he gets onto tills, we’ll have even more sales.

Gio didn’t hold back, though. He flirted with some of them, filling into their bookstore fantasy dreams.

Other than that, when the store was quiet, the two f us actually communicated without my sarcasm and annoyance. That surprises me even more that it should.

“Aren’t you going to ask for my hand in marriage too?”

“You wish.” I wave him off, hissing.

He sticks his arm out, grabbing air with his hand and pulling it back to his chest.

“That wish will come true.” He says, dramatically.

“Shush. I’m going to go eat.” I walk around the till counter and turn the sign back around, so that it reads ‘closed’ on the customer side.

“The park.” He smiles.

“No.” I return the smile.

“But you-”

“It’s cold, please no.”

The real reason, is that the cold will shrink and harm my hair.

“It’s only November. Don’t worry you can have my hoodie.” He cooes.

“I have my own coat.”

“Rosalina, we’re going to the park.”

I know I felt something there.

“If there’s a dog, you have to shoo it away.”

“Are you allergic?”

“N-no.” I stutter, looking down.

“Oh, so you- You’re scared of them.” He bursts out laughing, holding his belly.

Fool.

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