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Changing Her Heart
By Gail Sattler
Steeple HillCopyright © 2006 Gail Sattler
All right reserved.
"There's something you don't see very often."
Lacey Dachin's mouth dropped open. All the pins she'd had pressed between her lips fell to the floor.
A man was standing at the panty hose rack, holding two types of panty hose, one package in each hand, quite obviously comparison shopping.
Lacey got to her feet, knowing she would never get her customer's hem straight now.
She kept her voice down to a whisper. "You know, Vivian, I've seen him before, but I can't remember where."
Lacey and Vivian stared as the man looked back and forth between the two packages, and then appeared to study one of them more closely.
"The one he's so interested in is the most expensive we have," Lacey muttered.
He tucked the less-expensive package back into the rack, and continued reading.
Vivian's gaze dropped to the man's pants. "I hope he's not buying them for himself."
Lacey stiffened. As creepy as it was, she couldn't stand in judgment. "Who he's buying them for is not my concern. It is only my concern that he needs help."
"Then...then I think I should be going," Vivian stammered. "I'll leave the dress in the changing room, and I'll be back on Friday."
"Thanks. That gives me plenty of time. I'll see you then."
Once Vivian disappeared back into the changing room, Lacey gathered her courageand swallowed hard. She'd seen many odd things over the years when she worked at the La Boutique downtown branch, but this was not something she expected to deal with at the suburban outlet. "Can I help you?" she asked as she approached him.
"Um, yes.... Can you turn around for a minute?" Lacey turned around. She didn't understand what it was he didn't want her to see, but again, she wasn't sure she really wanted to know.
"That's good. Thanks."
As she turned back to him, she saw his cheeks redden, and he averted his eyes. "I — I guess you're about the same height and, uh, stuff," he stammered, then extended the package toward her. "Without having to get too personal, what size would you buy if you were buying these for yourself?"
Lacey felt her own cheeks burn. The sizing on the back of the package was determined by height and weight. She had a bad feeling she knew what he had been looking at when she turned around, but at least he hadn't asked her to bend over. For a second she considered telling him one size lower than her own, but his reason for wanting to know had nothing to do with her vanity.
"I'd buy that size. Is it the right color?"
"I guess so. I'll take it."
She started walking toward the sales counter, not quite comfortable with him being behind her. "Is there anything else I can get for you?" she asked over her shoulder.
Once again, his cheeks darkened. "No," he mumbled. "I think this is enough torture for one day."
Feeling bolder with the counter between them, she finally noticed he was wearing the name badge, "Randy."
"You work at the computer store next door, don't you?"
The red blush crept upward to his ears. He stared down at the counter and pushed the package closer to her. "Yes."
"Can I ask you something?"
His lips tightened. "This isn't for me."
"Actually, I need to buy a computer, and I need help to figure out what kind."
His entire posture relaxed and he raised his head. "In that case, ask me anything," he said with a smile.
Lacey's breath caught at the sudden eye contact. It suddenly hit her what an attractive man he was. His blue eyes sparkled and little crinkles appeared at the sides of his eyes, making him almost movie-star handsome. Not that she had never come in contact with a good-looking man, but it was rare to find one in the hosiery section.
She returned her attention to the transaction. "I don't know much about computers."
"That doesn't matter. I can still help you pick the right one. Do you want a desktop or a laptop?"
"I don't really know. Bryce went back to university, and now he's in his last year. Everyone says his computer is too old to be upgraded, so I'm going to surprise him with a new one for his birthday."
His smile faltered, but only momentarily. "That's a really nice surprise. If you tell me how much you want to spend, I'll show you a few."
"I'd like that."
Randy checked his watch. "I'm sorry to do this, but I have to get back — my break is up. If you want to come into the store, I can show you anything you want to see."
"Thanks. I appreciate it."
He nodded, and before she could say any more, he turned and walked out.
Lacey stared at the empty space. She'd tried to make it a pleasant transaction, yet it appeared that he still felt awkward. But she really did need a computer, and for some reason, she trusted him, even if he did buy panty hose.
Randy Reynolds tossed the bag containing the panty hose onto the counter toward Carol. It skimmed past the cash register and came to a stop inches from her hand.
"I hope you're happy," he grumbled. "I've never been so embarrassed in my life."
"Knowing you, I doubt that," Carol said, then laughed, which only made Randy more annoyed. She lowered her head and began to pick at the hole in the panty hose on her leg. "Besides, this was your fault."
"It was your fault for standing too close and getting in the way. I told you to move when I was rearranging those display cases." He glared in disgust at the bag.
"Quit complaining and look on the bright side. This gave you a chance to meet Lacey. Isn't she cute?"
"She's a grown woman, not a six year old. She's not cute."
Carol leaned over the counter and latched on to his sleeve, preventing him from walking away. "No. She's more than cute. She's gorgeous. And she's nice, too."
Randy stared down at Carol's perfectly manicured hand. "Forget it. I'm not interested."
Carol pulled his sleeve, forcing him closer. The only reason he complied was because he didn't want to make a scene while they were supposed to be working.
Her voice lowered to just barely above a whisper. "I don't understand you. Why don't you date women?"
"It's okay. I don't date men, either."
She failed to laugh at his little joke. Unfortunately, she also failed to release him. "You know what I mean. I want you to be happy."
"I'd be happy if you let me go."
She did, but instead of letting him get back to work, Carol hustled out from behind the counter and stood in front of him. "Look at me!"
Carol ran her fingers through her bright red hair, the color of which Randy knew came out of a bottle. He couldn't help but compare the fake color of Carol's hair to the natural brown of Lacey's. He liked the natural shade of Lacey's better.
"What about you?" he asked.
Carol raised her left hand and flashed her engagement ring in front of his nose. Not for the first time, the size caused him to wonder if the diamond was as fake as her hair.
"See how happy I am? I want you to be happy, too. My wedding is only two hundred and twenty-seven days away."
And his best friend Bob's wedding to Georgette was getting closer, as well.
At the thought of Bob's upcoming wedding, Randy's heart clenched. Bob was getting married, and their friend Adrian was married. Already Celeste was pregnant, and the baby was due sometime around their first anniversary. He knew Bob would also want to be a father shortly after his wedding. Of course Randy was happy for all of them, but at the same time, watching Celeste's tummy grow was a stark reminder of what Randy knew he could never have. He could never get married, and he certainly couldn't ever be a father.
Carol clasped her hands, pressed them to her chest and spun around in a circle. "It's so wonderful to be in love. Haven't you ever been in love?" she asked melodramatically.
Randy's mouth opened, but no words came out. He couldn't say he ever had been in love. For too many years he'd been totally wrapped up in himself, doing only what he wanted, when he wanted, regardless of the cost to anyone else. Now he was paying the price, and he had to make sure that no one else had to pay the price with him, ever again.
He certainly didn't want some unfortunate woman to think he was marriage material. Now he had no one but God to answer to for his mistakes. It was better that way.
"I'm a free spirit," he said.
Carol sighed dramatically. "I know Lacey would be perfect for you."
"How can you say that? I've never even heard you mention her name before."
"I know. I've only met her a few times. She only started working next door last week."
"Last week?" Randy sputtered. "Then what makes you qualified to make such a statement?"
"A woman just knows these things."
"You don't know anything. Now quit fooling around. We'd better get back to work."
This time, Carol did leave him alone, but all day long, her words kept coming back to haunt him. He couldn't stop thinking about Lacey. She was kind of pretty, in a wholesome and unpretentious sort of way. She was also a few pounds heavier than what was considered fashionably thin, but that hinted at a lack of obsession with her weight. More important, it looked like she had strength of character, which was better than the superficial charm Carol displayed with skirts that were consistently too short to be respectable for someone doing retail sales.
Excerpted from Changing Her Heart by Gail Sattler Copyright © 2006 by Gail Sattler. Excerpted by permission.
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