“Barbara,” a loud voice rips me out of my item-scanning routine, and I first move my gaze to the costumer packing her things in plastic bags, but when I realise it was not hear that spoke, I look to my right. “Oh hey Dave,” I breathe and lower my eyes back to the items.
“You need to trim the goods in the baby and children section, so I will take over here,” Dave, my co-worker, orders in a slightly rushed tone. I nod a little, hoping that he catches it.
I quickly finish scanning my costumer’s items, let her pay and hand her the receipt - before I slide down from the chair and feel my tired legs yearning after three hours of sitting still. Dave glides past me and I back away a little, letting him take my place on the chair. He lowers it, sends me a glance and then turns his attention to the next costumer.
I am needed in the children's section, I fast remind myself and don’t take too long to escape Dave's annoyed glances. Dave has been working here for many years as a full time employee, and there is nothing he hates more than us new and young employees. We are slower and often understand less of what is happening, but I think that is fair enough, since we in some way always will be new. We work only a few hours after school each week, so we will never fully learn how to scan items in the blink of an eye, or how to keep ourselves from drifting off as we are trimming the candy section.
I pull a little at my red polo, one that I am forced to wear at work, and head for the children’s section. It is in the opposite side of the store and in the back. It takes me a short minute to reach it, and as I turn around the corner to swing into the diaper section, I am greeted with a sight I never thought I would see. A sight that makes me panic without further reason. My flee-from-the-situation-instinct sets in, but I do not get a chance to spin around on my heels and disappear into another section before I am caught.
“Barbie?” The curly haired boy, whose gaze lifts from the pack of diapers in his hands, asks in surprise.
“Harry,” I manage to breathe out and my eyes fast shift to what he is holding. Diapers. Harry Styles is holding diapers and for the hundredth time since meeting him, I am hit with realisation that I do not know him at all.
“I did not know you worked here,” his surprised look fades as quickly as it arrived, and he lowers the pack of diapers before stepping closer to me.
“No, I… Well it is a pretty new job, so…” I tuck a strand of hair, that has gotten loose from my ponytail, behind my ear and try to look less tumultuous than I feel. My eyes keep on shifting from his face and to the diapers. It takes him only a second to realise, and then the deep, calm laughter, that gets me every time, rolls off his tongue.
“I have a little sister,” he explains and my face drops in obvious relief.
“Of course,” I nod.
“Wait…” Harry’s forehead wrinkles slightly, “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” He does not look concerned, but rather amused - I can tell by the way his mouth pulls up in a wry smile. I dig my front teeth down in my lip and nod, “Yeah.”
He cocks an eyebrows, demanding an explanation.
“I did not want to miss work.”
“So you decided to take your shift with a concussion?” He almost sounds judgemental and it confuses me.
“I don’t feel that bad,” I feel a weird need to stand up for myself, but then his smile widens a little and the usual relaxed gesture is all over him again.
“Of course you don’t,” he chuckles.
What is that supposed to mean?
“I should be in school tomorrow,” I say.
And he nods, “I missed you today in physics.”
“You did?” I did not mean to say that.
He laughs, “Yes of course - it is not nearly as fun without someone who obviously doesn’t get what is happening.”
“Oh,” my lips from a perfect ring before breaking into a smile, “You’re mocking me.”
“If that is what you call it,” he sounds playful.
I can not help but grin.
He steps a little closer and my breath gets stuck in my throat for half a second, “You should be more careful, though.” He tilts his head a little to the side and pierces my eyes. His cocky smile is still dancing over his lips, and it almost hurts that I can not look away. He parts his lips to speak, but is interrupted.
“Harry!” A female voice sounds, and Harry fast shoots his gaze away from me. I follow his eyes and look over my shoulder. A brunette woman is standing with a filled cart. She has soft eyes and slightly curled hair. She glances at me, smiles and then looks back at Harry. My gaze momentarily turns back to him. He takes a step backwards, leaving more space between us. I feel an instant loss.
“Coming,” he fast replies and the woman sends him a smile, before she pushes the cart forward and moves out of sight.
“Was that your-“
“Mum?” He finishes my sentence and I nod. “Yes, that my mother.”
I force myself to not look nearly as surprised as I feel. I was caught off guard when I found him in a grocery store, and even more when he was in the diaper section and now I have completely lost track of him. I had not for one second guessed that Harry I-am-always-in-charge Styles would be grocery shopping with his mother.
“It was nice seeing you, Barbie.” He then says.
“You too,” I send him a smile and let him pass me, but before he turns around the corner, he stops and throws a look back over his shoulder - catching my eye. “Don’t go to school tomorrow,” he then says - very spontaneously and out of the blue. He catches me off guard for the fourth time in the past five minutes.
“Why?” I ask - not quite understanding.
“Let’s do something else. Just the two of us,” he makes it sound so casual that I completely forget that we are not exactly friends - or are we? I get caught up in my own confused and forgets that he waits for an answer. I want to say something, but I need to process the words that he spoke and then try to make out what he meant.
“Okay?” He drags me back into reality.
I nod quickly, “Sounds good.” But it does not sound good; it sounds like new terrain and I am so unsure that it makes my head spin.
A smug grin spreads across his face, “I’ll call you.”
My heart sinks.