“You look beautiful today!”

Her first customer in the morning often dictated the mood for the rest of day. At least that was she hoped for before a man staggered in front of her face, reeking with alcohol, breathing hard on her while slurring the words he just said.

“The store is still closed,” she said, showing him the cardboard sign she hanged outside.

“You’re here! I want to buy.” He tried to hold her arms which she jerked away from his reach.

“I am sorry but I have to go to the market,” she stepped backward, keeping her distance from him.

A shuttle van braked to a stop behind them. When the door opened, a muscular man wearing dark-colored glasses alighted.

“Can I be of help, Miss?” he approached the two, his target thought was the male. “Is he giving you a hard time?”

“Not anymore,” Stella replied, trying to diffuse a confrontation. “He is leaving. Isn’t that right, Jimmy?”

“If you say so,” he retreated, aware he was no match to the tall guy. “I’ll buy later.”

“Come back when you are sober,” the stranger reminded him.

“Thank you for your assistance,” Stella smiled her best, wishing that the man of her dreams has arrived.

“No problem at all, Miss.”

He turned around without introducing himself. “I’ll be on my way.”

Stella could only wave to him, a bit dejected that her daydream was not realized.

After lunch, she sat behind the counter and stared at the road, again waiting earnestly for someone, anyone who would sweep her off her feet and be happy ever after, A fantasy romance it might be but she expected less if it could happen soonest.

Stella’s current situation originated when she decided not to pursue a college degree. Instead of working in the office which offered her no satisfaction, tending the small sari-sari store she established herself consumed most of her time. In a way, as a homebody, it was the best option of earning a living while taking care of her aging parents.

However, the years went by, leaving her choosing from only those men who strayed near, most of them jobless, irresponsible or worse drunkards. Even the occasional text mates she entertained were all similar, either pranksters or opportunists, luring her to provide free cellphone loads, which at first she gave with the thought they were sincere would-be suitors.

There was a time she surrendered all her hopes of attaining marital bliss. It was short-lived though because she envied her female customers, especially the pregnant and those with small children.

Her thoughts was broken when another shuttle van stopped at the corner, twenty feet away. Another man, wearing pilot-styled glasses (she gushed), walked straight toward her store.

“Do you have bottled mineral water?” he asked, smiling, showing a perfect set of white teeth.

“Yes!” Stella was figuratively floating. “Whatever you say, yes!”

After receiving his payment, once again she was disappointed when he left just like any ordinary customer, without giving her a parting glance.

Dismayed, Stella turned her back to the world and sat in front of the medium she faced everyday, where wishful thinking was freely available and abundant.

“I love that song, too.”

The mellow male voice sounded too friendly. When she turned her head, she saw him wearing shades.

(to be continued)



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