May 04, 2021
10 mins read
Finn stood in the checkout line, both hands gripping the very full basket, and tried not to stare at the being running the register. They were the perfect definition of a Minotaur; two magnificent horns stretched out sideways, then curved upwards. The tips, instead of ending in the sharp points she was sure the bone still held, had two small black items plonked on. She squinted, trying to see what the item was. It looked like a small ball, but there were enough dips and shadows she was positive there was a deliberate look to it.
She was surprised Merry hadn’t told her to stop ogling them. Or, a little unsure about the vampire who’d adopted her in the middle of the supermarket, maybe she’d be told to bring both to her apartment so everyone could have a little fun. Finn snuck a look at Merry, who gave a brief wave as she continued talking on the phone.
“Next, please,” the cashier called out. Finn shuffled forward and dropped her basket on the conveyor belt. “Do you have an eco bag?”
“...no?” Finn gave an awkward smile. “I didn’t think to bring one with me.” She looked at everything in the basket again. Even if she’d only had the meat, that wasn’t something she wanted in her purse. Finn shuddered at the thought of meat juice dripping onto her phone.
“Fine. That’ll be an extra two dollars added.”
“Because you didn’t bring your own bag,” they said in the same tone.
“Oh, Derry, dear, she has a bag.” Merry reached into her purse and pulled out a purple and neon-orange nylon eyesore. “She can have this one.”
To be fair, if the two dollars was going to get her an eco bag from the store, that might be a better choice than this one. Then again, she’d just moved and money was going to be a little tight for a while.
“Thank you for the bag,” she said, taking it from Merry’s hand and giving it to... a quick look at the nametag pinned to their chest showed that his name was Dermot. Did Merry know everyone?
“Do you have a point card with us?” Dermot asked, taking the bag opening it up. The items he scanned were packed neatly away.
“No, I just moved here. Should I get one?”
“Probably.” They paused, looked over at a person in the Customer Service area, and sighed. “Yes, you should sign up for our point reward system. It’s very rewarding, the more you spend, the more you save.”
“You don’t sound as if you believe in the system.” Finn smiled. “But, I remember working at a toy store and having to give the same speech. Since I’m living nearby, I might as well fill one out.”
“Here’s the registration form.” He handed her a piece of thick paper the size of a postcard. “Please use a blue pen and take it to Customer Service when you’re finished.”
“Sure. Would they have a blue pen?”
Dermot shook his head, still focusing on scanning the items.
“Probably not. Most of them use plain black.”
She was about to mention the stupidity of that reasoning when she remembered the stupid rules she’d had to follow at her job, such as offering to cut the tags off of stuffed toys, but not having a spot to keep scissors at the register.
“Also, I need to mention that some of this stuff is not...” He gave her a look, “strictly for humans. You okay with that?”
“I’m buying it, aren’t I?”
“Yeah, little miss just moved here. You’re buying it.” The register beeped as he typed in the steak’s purchasing number. “But it’s part of my job to tell a human when they’re buying something from the monster side.”
“What’s your problem with that?”
“Nothing. Eat whatever the hell you wanna eat. I just don’t wanna listen to you go all Karen when you come back complaining that you didn’t know your meat sauce was made for were-folks, or your dessert was dairy free.” The last item scanned and placed in the bag. “Your total’s $75.24. How do you want to pay?”
Finn’s eyes widened, and she felt a little lightheaded.
“Seventy-five...” She couldn’t. Well, she could, but she shouldn’t. There was still almost a week to go before work started up, and then there would be another couple of weeks until she got paid, and if they didn’t like her or she messed up again-
“No worries about the amount, Derry, sweetie. Just add it to mine.” Merry was off of her phone and flashing her fanged smile at him. “Most of that was my fault anyway, the poor dear was just trying to feed her neighbor and I’m the one making it a lavish dinner.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He nodded, then turned to Finn. “I need you to move out of the way.”
“What’s the magic word?” she snapped at him, anxiety bleeding into her tone.
“No, that’s not it.”
Merry laughed, bright and bubbly.
“Dears, I need to get back home soon, so stow the sexual tension and let’s get on with today’s ordinary actions.”
Derry snorted as Finn squeaked.
“Besides, Derry honey, didn’t you have that girlfriend?” Merry tapped her chin. “Oh, what was her name? I’ve forgotten again.”
“Yes, Angelica the,” she coughed, “angel.” The smile on Merry’s face wouldn’t have melted butter, but by the deepening frowning, it was only making Derry grumpier. “How’s that relationship working out?”
“She dumped me,” grunted Derry, not meeting Merry’s gaze. His hands pulled and scanned items at a rapid pace.
“Oh, dear. I am sorry to hear that.”
Finn drew in a breath to offer an apology too, but Merry was already speaking again.
“I told you that woman wouldn’t be a suitable match, didn’t I? She’s much too hung up on appearances. Who did she start dating after she broke up with? Another angel or a devil?”
“Devil.” Muttered Derry.
“See? She wasn’t going to spend her days with a minotaur; the symbolism she loves to use isn’t there.” Merry turned to Finn and slapped her on the back. “Take this lovely-looking lady.”
The blush was back, and Finn tried to cover it with the side of the eco bag.
“She’s making dinner for Evans.”
“I don’t know who that is.”
“Yes, you do,” she scolded Derry. “I’ve been trying to get the two of you together for a while.”
“So...” said Finn, trying to slide into the conversation and shift it away from poor Derry. The guy’s ears were lying flat against his skull, and she could almost taste the embarrassment rolling off of them. Heck, at this point she was humiliated for him. “I’m going to go to customer service and fill this out. It shouldn’t take long.”
Derry’s ears flickered towards her, and he gave a soft grunt of acknowledgment. Finn smiled at him, nodded, then concentrated on walking past way more tails, wings, and spikes than she was used to. The Customer Service sign hung near the exit, and if Merry got done earlier than Finn expected, she’d be able to spot the vampire leaving the store in time to save the dinner food.
There was exactly one person behind the counter, but they were sitting out of sight and going over a thick ream of papers with a red pen.
“Excuse me?” Finn stood on her tiptoes to see over, hoping there was another person there and she wouldn’t have to bother this one, but no such luck for her. They carefully popped the cap back onto the pen and laid it across the top sheet. Knuckle cracked, arms stretched, and they finally stood up, peering over wire-framed glasses. Human-looking, though they could a vampire, or a shifter. Or some other species she really didn’t know about.
“Yes? How may I help you?”
“Do you have a blue pen I can borrow? I’d like to fill this membership card out.”
“I might have one. It depends if the pen grew legs and walked off.” They stuck a hand in the draw to their left and began fishing around, glaring every couple of seconds.
“Does that happen often?” Finn asked. “You know, pens walking about. Like little monsters.”
The rattling stopped.
“It was a joke. Usually an employee steals my pens, and if not one of them, then a customer. But, you’re in luck as I’ve found one.” They put the pen on the counter and pushed it over to Finn.
“Oh. Um, thank you.” She started filling out the information, wanting to say that she knew it was a joke and was simply making one of her own, but... Finn ignored the need to explain that she wasn’t stupid. She filled out line after line and jumped about a foot as someone next to her cleared their throat.
“Apologies, dearie. I didn’t mean to startle you. Have you finished?”
“Just about... there. Done.” She handed over the notecard.
“You’ll receive your card in the mail after a few weeks. If you keep your receipts from now until then, we’ll be glad to give you point compensation later on.”
“She will, and I’ll take two of the calendars you’re selling, James. Don’t pretend they’re still in the back, I know you have them this early.”
“Sure thing, Meredith. And as always, thank you for your generosity.” James bent down and brought the requested items to the top of the counter. “Proceeds help all the mothers.”
“All the mothers?” Finn was feeling like a needle stuck in a record.
“Absolutely.” Merry smiled at him and started reaching for her wallet. “Finn, buying these helps our city’s juvenile homes, and the ‘mothers’ that run them. In addition, think of it as a study guide. The topic for each month is an iconic, historical setting for monsters.”
She reached out and flipped one of them over.
“See? Frankenstein and his bride, with their lovely house, have February. Us vampires usually get October, if our major groups aren’t fighting over what the ‘perfect’ vampire house looks like. And, probably no surprise, July belongs to the mermaids and sirens. It’s a lovely idea, celebrating our heritage and helping with modern-day problems at the same time. One of these is yours, by the way. A hearth-warming gift, welcoming you to Trion.”