“Popcorn?” Melissa proffered the red and white snack container, her hands held the snack, but her eyes were fixed on the dark-haired girl at the express lane checkout counter.
“It’s that good?” I took a cautious handful. “What’d you put in it this time?”
She shrugged. “Chili powder…maybe some lime juice.”
I made a face. “Who’s the new girl?”
“Some little perky thing, name’s Tamina.” Melissa crunched another mouthful of popcorn. “I’m getting a toothache just watching her.”
“Really?” I sank down on the scuffed wooden bench, watching the flow of customers blurring by. The supermarket club was always busy on Fridays and running the express lane was a time-honored horror-story—no one ever wanted to do it—but if you could survive the shift, the reward was worth it.
“She was here even before I got on break.” The curly redhead wrinkled her nose, peering into the plastic popcorn container. “I’d like to know where Dennis found her.”
“You have no idea. I don’t even know how long I’ve been here. I’m starving.”
“You didn’t eat yet?” I held up my insulated lunch pack. “Come on then, let’s go.”
“Share?” The blue eyes immediately took on a tear-like shimmer. “Please?”
“Absolutely not—come eat your own lunch.” I tugged her up from the bench and steered her towards the back of the club and the employees’ lounge.
“She must have energizer batteries in her or something.” Melissa fell into step beside me, her mind still back on the bench.
“Yeah. I swear, she hasn’t stopped smiling since I sat there and everything is just so peachy-wonderful, I could hit her.” A dangerous flicker filtered through her blue eyes. “I guess Dennis dug really deep to find her.”
I smacked her lightly over the head. “It’s nobody’s business, quit moping. If you wanted the overtime, then you should’ve spoken up about it.” There was an answering grunt as she rubbed her head and we entered the employee lounge. She left first, her break ending before mine did and I promised to meet her in the next couple of hours as was our routine.
What I didn’t expect was to find her stalking her newest obsession—the temporary check-out girl, Tamina.
“Melissa?” I watched her pretend to set up one of the check-out displays of candy and snacks near the register lines. “What are you doing?”
“She’s not human.” Her eyes flickered dangerously once more. “I’m serious.”
“Right.” I poked her again. “It’s none of your business. Stop fiddling with that—you’ll tear out one of the tabs.” In the corner of my eye, Tamina switched out with another check-out girl, approaching our display with Dennis beside her. “Uh, Mel?”
Melissa shrank behind the cardboard display. “Dennis. Hi.”
“Melissa, you were free this afternoon, right?” Dennis gestured to his left. “Tamina’s got to go, can you cover the last few hours?”
The redhead gulped.
Tamina was already shrugging into the hoodie she’d had tied around her waist for the greater half of the day. “Sorry again, Dennis. I really have to go—call me any other time you’re filled, alright? I can always work something out.” Her fingers wiggled in a little wave and the dark-haired beauty vanished, her cellphone already plastered to her ear. “Hi Mom? Yeah, I’m off, I’ll come pick you up, did you call in Dad’s prescription?Why not—oh, well, I guess I could, I hate changing flat tires though…”
Dennis watched her leave with something akin to admiration in his voice. “Melissa?”
“That’s fine.” She managed.
He smiled. “That kid’s got guts.” He nodded towards the pink hoodie blending into the crowd. “I don’t know how she does it.”
“Where’d you find her?” Melissa countered.
“Arcade on South Beech.” He shrugged. “Apparently, she’s a jack-of-all-trades to help anyone out in a pinch with a smile. Said she’s worked more jobs than I’ll ever imagine and had good recommendations behind her. She’s fast. I’ll give her that.”
Melissa scowled. “Alien.” She muttered, beneath her breath.
In the parking lot of the supermarket club, Tamina climbed into her car, flipping a switch to darken the windows. “Supreme Commander?” Her voice shifted accents as she pressed a few buttons on the dashboard. “The intel was right, we’ve found her. She’s posing as a redhead named Melissa—your orders, please?”
The reflection in the rearview mirror twisted and morphed into something decidedly less human. “Of course, I’m already in place.”
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