Collin was tempted to close the liquor store early that day, maybe he would have if he had the title of manager. The truth was he was still waiting for the owner of the store to realize that he was already managing and give him the pay rise that went with the title.
The pay meant very little to Collin, it was the recognition that he wanted. The incident earlier with Harry the alcoholic hobo had shaken him - quite literally - but all he could think about was the drop in daily sales that would accompany a regular customer drying up. He needed this promotion.
Collin counted the cash in the register, penciling in the daily totals a few minutes before the store would actually be closed. A low buzzing sound announced another customer had walked in at the last minute. Collin groaned internally but put on his happiest face, wearing it like a mask.
“Afternoon, Col.” The owners voice was not easily forgotten, light and cheery with a slight rasp - thanks to his smoking habit.
“Afternoon, Brent.” Collin was glad he hadn’t shut the store early.
“How was the day?”
Collin almost started telling Brent about the Harry incident, but realized that he was not actually asking about his day. “I’m not finished counting yet, but it looks close to twenty one.”
Brent nodded, “Over two grand in daily sales for the second month in a row, keep this up Collin and you’ll be getting that promotion in no time.”
Collin smiled, but he could feel his mask cracking. Brent had been vaguely promising the raise for over a month now. The promotion had nothing to do with the work that Collin put in, only the figures at the end of the day.
“At book club with the other old ladies with nothing to do.” Brent chuckled, Collin joined in but didn’t like the way his boss spoke about his own wife.
“And Charlotte?” Collin asked, even though he already knew.
“Studying something I don’t understand. She’s a clever one my girl.”
Collin nodded, careful not to show how much he agreed.
He’d taken a liking to Charlotte a couple years back, their families were close so they had known each other growing up. Collin had accepted this job from Brent as a way to get closer to her - and to gain her fathers respect. Respect was as elusive as his promotion it seemed, Collin hoped that the two were entwined - and coming soon. Despite Charlotte working at her fathers store, the two were usually on alternating shifts and had only worked together on a few weekends over the last couple of years.
“You almost done here?” Brent asked, bringing Collin back from his thoughts. Thoughts of Charlotte.
“Just about.” He chirped in reply, hating the way he sounded.
“I’ll leave you to it then.” Brent patted Collin on the shoulder and left.
“As you always do.” Collin mumbled. He’d have no idea how to run this place. He thought.
Collin felt his expression relax, the mask of his smile crumbling for the day. No more customers, no more visits from the owner - done for the day. He wouldn’t need to pretend for following hours.
Satisfied the store tidy, Collin locked the front doors from the outside, the daily takings in the satchel slung over his shoulder. It was just a quick walk to the bank and then he was free. He had the mental discussion about the store needing to have a safe installed so he wouldn’t have to have to carry money through the city everyday. This was a conversation he had often, but never out loud.
Collin pulled out his phone and checked his messages.
There was one from Charlotte: Wat Doing?
Walking to bank. U? He hit send and sorted out his headphones and playlist, beginning his walk.
A sharp ‘ding’ interrupted the first song he had picked, the music quieting down to make way for the alert. Collin flicked the phone onto silent to avoid further disruption of the track, but held the phone in front of him even after he read the message.
Study break. It read.
Ur on those a lot around this time of day. Collin replied with a smirk.
She replied with a selfie, her tongue sticking out and mischief in her eyes. Collin smiled, a genuine one that he didn’t have to fake. It was refreshing - and she was cute.
Collin pulled a face in the reverse camera, his eyes crossing and his nose scrunching up, just as he hit send, something hit his head.
He went down and everything went black.
Collin awoke slumped in an alley, the same alley he took to get to the bank everyday. Someone crouched beside him, they wore a suit and had a familiar face. Probably a regular.
“Hey, you alright?” Collin managed a nod and pushed up against the wall in an effort to stand up. The stranger/ regular helped him up steadying him with firm hands on his shoulders.
“That’s the third time someone’s touched my shoulders today.” Collin said, unsure of why it mattered. He touched the back of his head, a lump was forming and stung to touch.
“Had too much to drink?”
“No, I don’t drink.” Collin mumbled his thanks to the man in the suit and continued his walk to the bank, his head pounding.
He made his way to the fast deposit box. His heart raced, but his mind felt blank and numb to his surroundings. He opened his satchel and stared at the empty space. The takings were gone. Collin felt his pockets for his phone, but it was missing as well.
His gut went hot and the hairs on his neck stood on end. “I’ve been mugged.” It may have been obvious if his head wasn’t swimming in an ocean of pain.
Collin walked back to the alley, there weren’t any security cameras - no way to track down his attacker. He could hear something familiar, a Gorillaz song played from tiny speakers on the ground. Collin picked up his phone and sat down against the wall. He stared at the shattered screen that overlaid the selfie Charlotte had sent back. She grinned like a child, like the child he knew growing up.
Is all of this worth it? He couldn’t help but smile. She’s worth it.