Sweets 'N Treats

Submitted into Contest #133 in response to: Set your story in a confectionery shop.... view prompt

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Romance

There was no worse place on Earth to be than a candy shop on Valentine’s Day. Dozens of customers flocked through the doors of Sweets ‘N Treats all through the day as they frantically purchased last minute chocolate and candies for their loved ones. It was the most profitable day of the year for the store, so every Valentine’s Day the shop remained open until midnight. 

Ella had been one of the unlucky souls who had been scheduled to work the 4pm to 12 am shift. After around 8 pm, foot traffic into the shop dwindled significantly and by 10 pm, there wasn’t a customer seen in sight. Ella grabbed a broom from the back closet and mindlessly swept the floor as the minutes on the clock crawled on slowly. There was really no point in cleaning, she had already done a run through of the store just an hour ago and it wasn't like anyone new had walked into the shop since then. 

“Do we really have to keep the doors open until midnight?” Derek, the only other worker who had been scheduled that night, asked as he watched Ella sweep up imaginary dust.  

“That’s what the boss said.” Ella muttered under her breath as she thought about their boss and the way he had conveniently taken the day off so he could spend it with his wife. 

“But who’s going to be buying chocolate at this hour?” Derek questioned. 

“You never know.” Ella shrugged. She learned the broom against the front counter and scanned the store to see if there was any other task that they could do. She felt like she was going to die from boredom any second now. “You think maybe we could clean the ceiling? I don’t think it's ever been cleaned.” 

“And I think it's gonna stay that way.” Derek replied. He sighed and tapped his fingers on the counter. “This is some way to spend Valentine’s Day, isn’t it?” 

“It’s not like I had any other plans. My only option was to spend the holiday stuck in this crappy dump.” Ella quickly retorted. She didn't mean for her words to be that sharp but it had slipped out before she could stop herself. 

Derek stared at her in surprise. “Well that came out of nowhere.” 

“Sorry.” Ella quickly said. She grabbed the broom again and frantically started sweeping again, making sure to deliberately face away from Derek as she did. She knew it wasn’t fair of her to take her feelings out on him, it's not like it was his fault. 

“What was that about?” From behind her, she heard Derek’s voice call out to her. 

“What do you mean?” Ella responded, feigning innocence as she made her way around the shop and through the aisle that was farthest away from the front counter. 

“Well it is the day of love today, at least for two more hours anyway and you don’t seem to be in a very loving mood.” Derek said. 

“It’s not like I have a reason to be.” Ella shot back. She was surprised to find her blinking back tears and she felt her face flush. No, crying was not an option right now. There was no way she was going to let her co-worker see her cry, she would never recover from that sort of embarrassment. 

“So I take it you don’t have a Valentine this year.” Derek said, but not in a mean way. His voice softened and his footsteps echoed through the air as he left his post at the register and walked over to where Ella was. 

Ella could sense that Derek was standing right behind her, but she held her head up high and instead focused her gaze on the jars of licorice that decorated the shelves in front of her. Maybe if she tried counting all the pieces of candy, she’d be able to distract herself from the waves of sobs that were building up in her chest. 

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about, I don’t have a Valentine either.” Derek continued on, taking her silence as an invitation to keep talking. 

“You don’t?” Ella asked quietly. 

“I don’t.” Derek confirmed. “There were so many girls showing up at my doorstep that I decided it wouldn’t be fair to pick between them. I thought about maybe drawing one of their names out of a hat but that seemed like too much work.” 

“You’re totally lying.” Ella chuckled slightly, although she quickly placed her hand over her mouth. What if he wasn’t joking? She finally turned around to look at him and saw that there was a wide grin plastered on his face. 

“I totally am.” He said. “The only girl showing up at my place these days is my mom, and it's usually because she can’t figure out how to use any of the apps on her phone.” 

“That’s sweet that you help your mom out.” Ella said. Then, before she could stop herself she added. “The last girl that showed up at my apartment was the one that my boyfriend hooked up with while I was out of town last weekend.” 

“No way.” Derek’s mouth dropped open in shock. “You mean ‘ex-boyfriend’, right?” 

“Yeah, ex-boyfriend.” Ella confirmed. “We were supposed to spend tonight watching movies and eating take-out…but obviously that’s not going to happen anymore.” 

“Geez, I’m sorry that happened to you.” Derek said, his voice full of sincerity. “That guy sounds like a total jerk. He didn’t deserve an awesome girl like you.”

“Thanks.” Ella said, and she couldn’t help but smile slightly when she heard Derek call her awesome. “Valentine's Day is overrated anyway."

"Yeah, totally." Derek agreed. He grew silent for a moment before he suddenly spoke up again. "You know...I know this isn't how you imagined your Valentine's Day would be, but I have some movies downloaded on my phone. And I know it's probably too late to order take-out but we have the entire candy shop to ourselves..."

"What if any customers walk in?" Ella asked, although she couldn't stop herself from grinning like a fool at the thought of spending Valentine's Day with her co-worker.

"We'll just lock the doors." Derek replied. "No one's buying candy at this hour." He took one step towards the door before spinning back around to look at her. "What do you say, are you in?"

"Of course."

February 19, 2022 04:58

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