Anna was glad that her dad had brought his old Army jeep. The motorhome was cumbersome at best in parking lots. Ophelia unhitched it from the back of the motorhome. They loaded Anna’s wheelchair into the back, and the sisters headed into town.
“It’s bigger than I thought it would be,” Anna said, looking around.
“Yeah, somewhere between Mayberry and Storybrooke,” Ophelia said. “And I was right. Behold the BoxMart!”
They pulled up to the building. It was an older build of the large retail chain. The “M” of the Mart was dimmed and flickering.
“Yup, we found it,” Anna said.
It was a tiny store compared to the larger ones Anna was used to. Despite that, the thought of wheeling all over the store after the long day of traveling was not appealing. Off to the side, Anna saw the motorized seated carts. She smiled. She wheeled up to the cart and transferred herself over.
“What are you doing?” Ophelia demanded.
“Phee, I’m tired and irritated and I’m being lazy, ok?”
“Whatever,” Ophelia said. “I hope this thing goes faster than two miles an hour.”
Save for a small, persistent squeak of one wheel, the thing ran smoothly as they wandered through the store. The produce section left much to be desired, but they found some decent-looking grapes and a watermelon. Then they headed to clothing once they loaded the fruit into the cart.
The rack of bathing suits when they found it was minuscule. Large floral prints were the pattern du jour. Anna found a plain black one-piece in her size. She figured it was the best she would get with as small a selection as they had. A yellow pullover caught her attention on another rack. It had slits up the sides to allow the bathing suit to peek through.
“Adorable,” Anna said to herself. “Hey, Phee! I’m heading to the fitting rooms to try this suit on.”
There was a definite problem when Anna got to the fitting rooms. There was only one stall capable of fitting the monstrous contraption she drove, and it looked like even then it may not fit. The lady folding the same pair of panties over and overlooked up grudgingly. Her eyes widened when she saw Anna.
“I’d like to try these on,” Anna said when the woman said nothing.
“Uh, yeah, just go ahead,” the woman said. “Can I help you with . . .”
Anna stared at the interior. “Um, I think I’ll be fine.”
It’s just like driving school, Anna, she thought to herself. It’s just like parallel parking.
She drove up a little ahead of the door, turned the steering wheel a sharp left and slowly backed into the stall. The basket barely made clearance and the woman, her face a picture of awe and nervousness, shut the door for her.
Anna got the suit on and it fit nicely. She reached for the pullover when Ophelia’s face appeared under the door. In the background, you could hear the fitting room lady saying, “Uh, miss, someone’s already in there.”
“What did you find?” Ophelia said. “Oh, I like the black. It’s got a plunging back to boot. Very sexy.”
Anna rolled her eyes at her sister and was halfway to getting the pullover on when her sister gasped.
“That is so adorable! Where did you find it?”
“On another rack. Doesn’t this look great with the suit?”
“Yes,” Ophelia said. “I want to try it on.”
Ophelia reached over to pull it off Anna.
“Hold on there, bucko,” Anna said, pushing her sister’s hand away. “The last time I let you try on something I liked, it ended up tearing. Nope, not going to happen.”
“Don’t be like that,” Ophelia said, still trying to angle to get the pullover. “Its knit. You couldn’t possibly tear it. And in my defense, I thought we were still the same size when I put that dress on.”
“No,” Anna said, trying to be serious through her giggles at the ridiculousness of the situation. She leaned back on the far edge of the seat to keep her sister from getting a good grip on the pullover. “I’m officially kicking you out of this fitting room. Go.”
Ophelia straightened up and looked like she was about to leave when she suddenly lunged for her sister. In the surprise of the moment, Anna felt herself slipping off the seat and landed with a thud, stuck between the wall and the shopping cart. Ophelia’s hand flew to her mouth.
“Oh, Ann, I’m so sorry,” she said, laughing.
“You are the biggest, stupidest brat,” Anna said, attempting to pull herself up from the awkward position. Anna’s attempt ended in her falling back into an even more awkward position. “Get over here and help me up!”
Ophelia leaned over the seat and grabbed one of Anna’s hands. She pulled as hard as she could, but Anna realized that it wasn’t just the wedge that made it impossible for her to get up.
“Phee, I think the pullover’s hooked on something down here,” Anna said. She tried and failed to pull it over her head. It was pulled tightly against her and wouldn’t budge in her hapless position.
“We’re going to need some help,” Ophelia said between giggles. She turned and unlatched the door. The woman working the fitting rooms stood in the doorway, wide-eyed. Her hand flew to her throat, and she rushed to her desk and grabbed the phone. The store intercom blared, “Code 11 at the fitting rooms, Code 11 at the fitting rooms.”
Blood rushed into Anna’s cheeks. Probably the code for a medical emergency. Internally, she fumed. A balding man in a polo shirt and slacks rushed up to the door. His eyes widened at the scene. “Do I need to call an ambulance?”
“No,” Anna almost growled. “I just need to get unhooked where this pullover is stuck on the cart.”
The man looked at the fitting room lady. “I’m going to get Phil.”
Anna sighed. Sure, she thought, let’s bring the entire store so they can all gawk at the crippled girl.
A few moments later, the store manager returned. Following behind him with a first aid kit and a toolbox was one of the best-looking men Anna had seen in a while. He wore his security guard uniform well. He reminded her of Hugh Jackman in his Wolverine phase, or a young Mel Gibson. He grinned when he saw her. He peeked his head into the stall and looked around, trying to assess the situation.
“So, this looks uncomfortable,” he said, squatting down on his haunches.
“Yup,” Anna said, emphasizing the ‘P’ sound.
“How did you even get in there?” he asked. He actually looked impressed.
“Um, parallel parking?” Anna said.
He laughed. It was a deep-bellied laugh that made it hard not to smile back at him.
“So the best I can figure,” Phil said, standing up. “We’re going to need to take the door and this panel off so I can move the cart out a bit. Then we can figure out how to get you untangled.”
Anna nodded and watched in awe as he took charge of the situation despite the store manager standing right there. In less time than she thought possible, the two men had the door and panel off. Phil slid the cart to the side, so she was sitting squarely on the ground. Phil knelt beside her and put the side of his head on the ground, looking at the tangle of cloth. His cologne hit her senses like champagne bubbles. She held her breath, not trusting that she wouldn’t lean over and sniff him in front of everyone. She could feel even more blood rushing to her cheeks.
“It looks like you are hopelessly tangled,” he said, sitting back on his feet. She looked deeply into his dark brown eyes. She was thinking how beautiful they were until she realized she was staring. She looked away quickly, hoping she didn’t just add to her already awkward situation. “I’m sorry, Bill. It looks like I’m going to have cut her out of here.”
“That’s ok,” Bill said nervously. “It was going clearance next week, anyway.”
“Well. Thank goodness for that,” Phil said, his eyes twinkling with amusement.
She giggled in spite of herself. What am I sixteen with a crush on the star football player? Anna thought, Geez, Anna, get a grip.
As Phil was getting a pair of scissors out of his tool kit, Ophelia arrived with Anna’s wheelchair. He deftly cut the fabric off of Anna and she could finally scoot away from the cart.
“Sorry it took me so long,” Ophelia said, out of breath. “Someone had moved your wheelchair and I couldn’t find it for a minute.”
“That would be me,” Phil said to Anna with a sheepish grin on his face. “I saw it there and thought I should move it to a safer place. If you’ll allow me, I would be happy to lift you into your wheelchair so you don’t have to scoot across the floor anymore.”
Anna opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, Ophelia said a little too loudly, “She’d be happy to have you help her!”
Anna shot her sister a nasty glare before Phil looked back at her. “Um, sure. I just hope I’m not too heavy for you.”
Phil laughed his laugh again. “You can’t be any heavier than the rucksacks I’ve carried on my back.”
He took her gently in his arms. She hooked her arm around his neck to take some of her weight off of him. It afforded a magnificent view of those brown eyes. Without even a grunt, he picked her off the floor and set her down in her chair as if she weighed as much as a pillow. She adjusted her position and smoothed down the swimsuit, suddenly aware that she was wearing almost nothing.
“Can I escort you ladies back to your car?” he asked. “That is if you’re finished shopping.”
“Definitely, ” Ophelia said brightly.
“I think I have to pay for this stuff first,” Anna said, poking her sister in the arm with a finger.
“Yes, let me get you to a register,” Bill the manager said. “You won’t even have to change out of the suit. Are you sure you don’t need any medical attention? I mean, with your situation and all.”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Anna said. “I’ll just pay and we’ll be on our way.”
Bill fawned on them the whole way to the front registers and rung them up himself. He even pulled a little receipt tape out so he could write his phone number for her to call should any complications arise, he said. It took all of her strength not to roll her eyes at him.
True to his word, Phil followed the sisters out to the jeep. He even put the wheelchair in the backseat for them.
“Thank you, you’ve been very kind,” Anna said.
“My pleasure,” he said giving her a devastating grin. “Drive safe.”
“He was so hot!” Ophelia said as they watched him walk back to the store. “And he was so into you!”
“What are you talking about?” Anna said. “He helped me into my wheelchair. That hardly qualifies as being ‘into’ me.”
“Nope, he only had eyes for you,” Ophelia said, as she started the jeep. “And you – you looked at him like he was a filet mignon you wanted to take a bite out of.”
Anna shoved her sister. “I did not!”
Ophelia just laughed.
“This goes in the sister vault,” Anna said. “No telling mom and dad. Promise me!”
Ophelia pouted. “Fine. But I get full rights to tease you when they’re not around.”
“Whatever,” Anna said, rolling her eyes. But somehow the smile wouldn’t leave her face.
Homesite of author Whitney Sivill. I'm a mother of three, a wife and a student. In between, I write clean romances, fantasy tales, and mid-grade & young adult fiction. I might throw in the occasional fanfiction, too.