Caffiene and Clearance Jeans

August 1, 2008
By Lauren Rasch, Orland Park, IL

The Schaumberg Mall was not unlike any other mall in the United States. There were the usual creeps that just seemed to wander around without a point. There were the hypoactive shoppers who never seemed to cease power walking. You know, the ones who look as though they are in an obstacle course and not a mall. Then, of course, there were the teens that went around in little cliques, just like in school, mainly circulating around Abercrombie and Hollister and such. They all seem to look the same: the girls have straightened hair and form-fitting clothes and the guys wear sweatshirts or tees and some sort of jean. You can’t tell them apart. There were the moms on overload, dragging their wandering young ones around. Some had even resorted to using the classic child leash. Over in a corner by the fountains, sat the Emos and the Goths. They all just kind of sat there, staring into space, which tended to creep many people out. Random salespersons strolled around trying to find people to sell to but most failed miserably.
Christina witnessed all of this from behind the glass window of ‘Sixteen’ clothing store she had somehow managed to end up working long, and boring hours at. Every single day was the same: fold, check out, receipt, bag, clear out the dressing rooms, fold, check out, receipt, bag, clear out the dressing rooms, over and over and over again. , her nagging manager always getting on her back for “slacking”, supposedly.
She didn’t know why she didn’t just quit: it may have been for a number of reasons.
From Christina’s spot behind the register facing straight out of the store, she could see everything: the Macy‘s at one end, the Hollister and the Abercrombie and Fitch next to it, the Caribou Coffee directly opposite of ‘Sixteen’, the Baskin Robbins to the right of that, and the Sears all the way to the other end. She could see everyone and what they were doing. Somehow, it interested her. She would sit there and just observe these little people rushing by. It was oddly amusing.
Or it may have been that she needed the $5.50 an hour for the addiction she had to Caribou Coffee. Actually, it wasn’t that Christina had an addiction to the coffee; it was that she had an addiction to what was there. In fact, she didn’t even think their coffee was even good but she would go there everyday for the rest of her life if it still meant that she had the chance to at least say hello to the person who held her heart.
Though, he didn’t even know her name, much less who she was.
Everyday on her break, she would grab her purse from the back and head over to Caribou Coffee. There she would wait her turn in line, all the while keeping her eye on that certain someone and rehearsing in her head little witty comments she had come up with while working that day. Eventually, she would be at the register, her heart beating, face to face with him. He had piercing blue eyes that stared into her soul every single time her uttered the words, “How can I help you?” By then, she was at a loss for words and all those flirty remarks she had dreamed up were gone. She would then blurt out what she wanted, which was always the same which just mad her seem even more boring than she already was. The beverage of her choice was a fruity iced tea drink that she didn’t have the slightest idea of how they made. She would ask him that someday. If ever. His dirty blonde curls would move with his head. He didn’t have an afro. God no! Christina found that such a turn off. No, his hair was perfect. It was just short enough so that you could still see his curls but not long. He looked like a surfer. Although, Christina was fairly sure there were no surfers nor beaches in Schaumberg, Illinois. Then he would say, not even looking her in the eye, “ That’ll be $3.78.” She would hand him her money and he would give her the change. When he set the small change into her hands, they would touch, sending a sensation throughout her body, all the way down to her bubble gum pink toes. Then he would tear off the receipt with a customary handwritten thank you and his name, which was Matt, smile and say, “Have a nice day,” at once turning away from her like he didn’t even care about her, which he tragically didn’t. Then all happiness would stop because then she would have to leave him to deal with the coffee jerk. After receiving her drink, she would sit down at a smaller table with only two chairs near enough to the register where he worked to be seen but far enough away so that she wouldn’t be bothered by a child of one of the deranged mothers that have been described previously. There she would sit sipping on her drink, flipping through a magazine, trying to look as cute as possible, and thinking up other things to say to him.
Her friends thought she was insane. She probably was but she didn’t care. She couldn’t help how she felt!
It was a Tuesday night, right after school, when her life changed. Being a Tuesday, the mall was basically dead. Christina was dressing a mannequin in the front window. She slipped the top on the figure, a cream peasant top. She went to the back of it to fix the shirt where it had bunched. After smoothing out the ripples, she looked up only to see a pair of ice blue eyes staring back. Her heart nearly stopped. It was honestly a wonder that she didn’t collapse. At the moment their eyes met his pair dropped back down as if nothing had happened. Christina moved to the mannequin next to this one and began preparing it, all the while trying to figure out what had just happened to her.
He didn’t look her way again all that night which almost put Christina into depression. It was like letting a dog lick a steak but then ripping it away and eating it yourself: harsh, cruel reality.
The next day she worked, she was folding clothes. Christina managed to steal a small peek at Caribou Coffee and low and behold, what did she encounter? Those big blue eyes once more ricocheting off of Christina and to some other place that she couldn’t remember the name of but that didn’t even matter because that wasn’t important. He was looking at her. That Tuesday night wasn’t an accident. She felt like she could fly.
Christina worked the next night that week. So did Matt. Oh, how she loved the way his name rolled off her tongue like honey. She was crouched behind the counter like a mad woman but she didn’t care. What would she do if he looked her way again? What was she supposed to do? With no older sibling, she had been left on her own with such problems. Here goes nothing…
Shakily, she stood up, acting as though she had been looking for something. She busied herself with a few receipts that needed to be filed. Just as she opened the folder for material like that, she took the plunge: she looked up. Like an echo, there they were again, piercing through her soul like some sort of x-ray or laser beam but much more defined, and beautiful. This time was different though. This time their gazes held. Christina desperately searched her mind for something to do but, it was no use. She was paralyzed in his stare. She managed to smile at him, but then, involuntarily looked down at the manila folder in her hand.
Before she left the mall that night, she stopped over at Caribou Coffee. Just water. That was all she needed.
There was no one there. The mall was basically silent by this time. She walked straight up to the register where Matt was stationed.
“Hi,” She managed to get out meekly.
“Hi,” he said, flashing a set of pearly whites at her. “What can I get you?”
Of, course. She had forgotten the actual reason she was there. “A water, please.”
Matt walked over to the fridge behind him and grabbed a small bottle of water. He walked back to the register with her bottle. “I see you’re changing it up today,” he commented, beginning to ring it up.
Christina stood there confused. She raised an eyebrow at him. He nodded toward the bottle. “The water?” he said. Oh. He meant the water. Gotcha. She was still confused.
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“You usually order our fruit tea lemonade: you’re getting water.”
Duh. How could she not of gotten that? He probably thought she was a retard now. “Oh, sorry, I’m kind of tired. My mind’s moving slowly,” she lied an excuse.
“I see,” He said, ripping off the receipt. Grabbing a pen from beside the register, he began to write his thank you. “Should I be expecting anymore surprising drink requests from you?” He finished his name on it.
“I don’t know,” Christina shrugged. “We’ll see.”
That was their first real conversation together. Christina replayed it in her mind all that night. It was bliss.
Every day after, Christina went to Caribou Coffee as with her usual schedule. But, it wasn’t usual. The next day after the “Water Incident”, after ordering water, she received a note on her receipt. It was almost like a Hallmark card or something. On top it read, “To: Water Girl”, the actual receipt followed and then at the bottom it said, “What did tea ever do to you? -Matt”. It was wonderful. She smiled as soon as her eyes fell upon the handwritten words.
The second day, she received a receipt with a top ten list of why she should go back to drinking tea. The third day, her receipt had a dead fish on it with a charming little caption that read, “SAVE THE FISH! You’re drinking all the water!” She couldn’t help but laugh.
On the fourth day, she gave in and ordered the tea. He said nothing. He just smiled to himself as he rang it up and wrote his note. The receipt said, “I win.”
On the fifth day, there was no note. Christina had to call in sick that day. She felt like she was going to die: of course, she wouldn’t work feeling so. Sadness overcame her when she came to the realization that no blue in her room, in the rainbow even could compare to his blue and she wouldn’t be seeing such a wonderful shade today.
On the sixth day, fully rested, she went back to work. When she made her trip over to Caribou Coffee, Matt looked up and smiled. “Why weren’t you here yesterday?”
“Sick,” she answered simply.
“Oh. Are you alright now?”
“Much. But, I did miss my Caribou Coffee yesterday,” she smiled.
“Well, let me guess what you want to order…” He teased.
“Fruit tea lemonade… sweetened,” the recited in unison which made them both laugh.
“Yeah, I’ll take that,” she added sweetly.
He turned around and began making the drink she ordered. After ringing it up, he handed her the receipt. Thanking him, she began to walk out. Christina looked down as she opened the door. Seven good reasons why she should never be sick again.
The seventh day after the “Water Incident”, she headed up the line once more. Every time she thought about him, her stomach would go into Olympic gymnast mode. The very sight of him made her blush. He treated her like any other customer though. Except for the whole extremely personalized receipt thing. On this seventh day, her receipt didn’t even have his name or thank you. All there was, at the very bottom of the receipt in smaller handwriting that usual, was “Guess what.” Christina turned around to look at him quizzically but he was already helping another customer. Maybe she would get the answer tomorrow.
On the eighth day, she could barely wait to get to Caribou Coffee, but she was disappointedly working late. By the time she got there, the mall was closing down and she was very literally the last customer. A brief hello was spoken. He was acting odd. He barely even looked at her. Her heart dropped within her. Her drink was given to her. He took a minute more than usual to write his note but when she was given it; she was rudely interrupted by an announcement over the speaker system that said that the mall was now closing.
“Oh, God,” she said looking at her cell phone. “I got to go.” She began to head out the door. Opening the door, she looked down on the receipt. Christina stopped halfway through the door. She couldn’t even make it out the door.
At the bottom of her receipt, there, in his perfectly perfect handwriting, were the most wondrous words that had even been written. They filled her whole body with such emotion that she didn’t even know what to do with herself. They were: “I think I want to be more than just a coffee guy to you.”
Her head managed to turn back in his direction. He was there, still behind the counter, with a look of anticipation on his face, waiting for her reaction. She gulped and managed to find her voice. She walked back to the counter. “You forgot something,” she got out casually.
He blinked. Their eyes were frozen in each others. “What?”
“This.” Before even she knew it, she had cupped his face with her hands and was kissing him over the counter. It was all that she had day-dreamed of for so long. The most surprising of it all was that he kissed her back. The sunshine she had felt in her soul was lost when he tore away. He smiled at her. He came out from behind the counter. There he took her into his arms. She fit there like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. It felt wonderful, feeling so safe and protected. He tipped her head up to kiss her again, but before he could, she said, “Guess what?”
He smiled. “What?
“I think you already are.”

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