Chudleigh Angus fidgeted with the coins in his jeans pocket, his other hand holding a plastic shopping basket. This was going to be the day, he thought. I am going to ask her out. Pulling his hand out of his pocket he wiped the nervous sweat on the back of his jeans. Under his t-shirt his heart was beating a punk two-beat.
He retraced the path to this opportunity. It started with Dave’s party a few weeks back. She was a friend of a friend. When asked his name, Chudleigh paused, drew breath and delivered his name with clarity. Before she had a chance to take a breath, Chudleigh gave his spiel.
“Before I was born my father wanted a girl and his favourite name was Chelsea. My mother wanted a boy and her favourite name was Hadley. In the delivery suite, the doctor presented my parents with a child and asked for a name. They simultaneously gave their name of choice without checking what was between my legs. It came out as ‘Chudleigh’ and it just stuck.”
“That’s a sweet story.”
Chudleigh felt relieved because she hadn’t laughed at him and his weird name. He was beginning to like this girl.
“And what’s your name?”
“Is that short for anything?”
“No. Just Andy. Seems like my parents are as weird as yours.”
Chudleigh had laughed and liked her even more. He found out she worked weekends at the local supermarket and went to the girls’ school down the road from his school. Since then he made a point of wandering in throughout the weekends, buying odds and sods and going through her register.
Their conversations lasted as long as the transaction required and Chudleigh’s heart hiccupped when she briefly and ever so lightly, brushed his hand returning his change.
He joined the queue for her register even though it was long and he only had a few items. The basket contained the requisite milk, bread and peanut butter as per Mum’s instructions, and a bottle of Coke and packet of chips for himself. He watched her over the magazine rack, shifting the weight of the basket from hand to hand.
She moved with practiced grace, scanning groceries, packing shopping bags, accepting cash and delivering change. Each customer was greeted with a smile, always with a smile, her brown eyes making contact. She knew never to pack heavy items with the eggs; bread and biscuits were good together, but not tins and fruit.
Today her hair was braided across the side of her head to her left ear. Chudleigh liked it best when she pinned it back with bobby pins or clips, her unruly black curls escaping.
The queue shuffled forward as trolleys disgorged weekly grocery expeditions. Chudleigh checked the change in his pocket and worked out he had enough for a chocolate bar.
As each customer moved forward, Chudleigh’s heart increased in tempo. The tall man in front of him put the plastic marker down on the conveyor to demarcate his groceries from Chudleigh’s. As he unloaded onto the conveyor, Andy’s voice cut across the noise of the PA.
“Hi Andy. How are you?” he began to ask but she had turned her attention to the customer. Today her name badge read “Andrea.” He scanned his meagre provisions, thinking he had underestimated the time he needed. More quick calculations and he added a packet of Life Savers to the conveyor. He reckoned seven items should be sufficient.
“Have a nice day,” came Andy’s voice directed at the back of the previous customer walking away.
Bleep. The first item scanned.
“Did they spell your name wrong?” Chudleigh asked.
“I lost my old one. Everyone thinks Andy is short for ‘Andrea’ so they gave me this name badge.”
“Despite what I put on my application form,” she said.
“Andy is a cool girl’s name.”
“Thanks.” A huge smile kick-started Chudleigh.
“How’s school going?” he asked.
“Pretty hectic with exams coming up. How about you?”
“Same really, but I have a few assessment tasks due first.”
Bleep. It was now or never.
“I was just wondering…”
Andy turned her head to the cashier behind her. “Justin, can you throw us some more bags when you get the chance? Thanks.”
“Sorry about that Chudleigh.”
“Would you like to catch up…”
“That’ll be seventeen thirty-five.”
Chudleigh handed over the notes, his moment disappearing like the notes into the till.
Andy handed over the change, counting it as she put it into Chudleigh’s hand. “Two dollars and twenty, forty, sixty-five cents. See you next time, Chudleigh.”
She turned to the next customer, signalling the end of their transaction and the beginning of the next.
“Yeah. See you next time,” said Chudleigh as he collected his groceries and walked away.