Deborah Arrington looked up from her battered copy of Pride and Prejudice when the 'ding' of her door bell sounded. She welcomed the familiar chime like it was the first rays of sunshine on a chilly winter day; since the opening of big chain stores like Value More in nearby towns, she's had fewer and fewer customers wandering in to buy her sweets, and very soon she was struggling to keep her store running. She's considered closing it down of course, but just couldn't bear to part with her beloved little space that she's called her own for the last thirty odd years. It was this store that supported her family financially when she lost her husband Graham in a car accident fifteen years ago and provided her with enough money to send her children off to college.
The sentimental value of it was too great for her to let go, so she tried to stay afloat, praying for a miracle to happen to allow her to continue to flip the sign over to 'open' everyday. And thank heavens her prayers were answered this morning – the Value More in their town shut down just a few days after its grand opening. For what reason Deborah wasn't sure, because it was Margaret from next door that told her the news and everyone knew that Margaret had the tendency to exaggerate sometimes.
Although she did feel sorry for the employees who lost their jobs, she was glad that they wouldn't be seeing the mega-store anytime soon. Too many of her neighbours had lost their own businesses because they were out-competed by the cheaper and newer competitors.
Deborah smiled warmly at the young couple that walked in, and the dark-skinned man answered back with a half-smile of his own while the woman tugged him towards the aisles almost impatiently.
"Calm down, Parker," he chuckled amusedly. "It's like you're on a sugar high already!"
"Look!" Parker exclaimed, holding up a box of Goo Goo Clusters. "Goo Goo Clusters! I haven't had these before!"
"Which is why we're getting some," the man said. "I loved these when I was a kid. Nana used to put one in our Christmas stockings when we were little, and I always got an extra one for helping her in the kitchen."
"That's nice," his companion smiled up at him before her attention was drawn away by something else.
"Ooh! Cherry Mash! And they have gummy frogs too!"
"We are definitely getting some of those," the man reached for the brightly packaged bags and surprised Deborah when he took all the packets on the shelf.
"Would you like a basket, dears?" Deborah asked when she saw him juggling the many items in his arms.
"Yes, please," he replied politely and gave her a grateful smile.
She put the plastic container into Parker's hand and watched as the man carefully deposited the candies into it before taking the basket.
The pair continued to wander around the place, picking up all sorts of things. Deborah smiled at Parker's delighted expression; most kids these days took things for granted, especially when it came to candies. Candies have become so common that they can be purchased anywhere, unlike when Deborah was little. She very rarely had the chance to have sweets then, so she treasured the opportunities when she got to have anything sugar related. Parker looked like a little girl who was seeing Santa for the first time as she explored the shelves.
"Let's get something for Nate and Sophie and Eliot too, Hardison!" she said to the man as she held out a bar of Hershey's Chocolate.
"Okay, mama," Hardison agreed, nodding towards the chocolate bar. "I think Nate and Sophie would like those."
"And we can get this for Eliot!"
"No way, woman. We're not getting Eliot that!"
Deborah saw that Parker had a giant lollipop in her hands. The confectionery was a bright shade of pink with hints of purple in it, and it was easily as big as her face.
"Fine. But you'll be the one Eliot chases around the damn kitchen later," he grumbles, but the tender look in his eyes told Deborah that he would've done anything Parker wanted.
A few minutes later, they came up to the counter with a full basket.
"You remind me a lot of my husband," Deborah told him as she took out the things and started adding up the numbers. "Handsome, polite, and you look at this young lady here the way my Graham used to look at me."
Hardison ducked his head shyly as Parker asked, "'Used to?'".
"He's been with God ever since a car accident fifteen years ago."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Hardison replied earnestly.
"It's okay, dear. I like to think that he is at a better place now."
"I'm sure he is."
Deborah smiled at him as she gave him the price of their purchases. He pulled out a few bills from his wallet and shook his head when she counted out the change.
"Keep the change, ma'am."
"Thank you," she replied. "And it's Deborah, not 'ma'am'. I don't need to feel older than I already am!"
"You're not old, Deborah," Hardison said.
Beside him Parker nodded. "You're still very pretty."
"That is very sweet of you, dears," Deborah placed the boxes and packets into a paper bag and handed it to them.
"Now, before you go, I just wanted to tell you that time passes by very, very quickly, so cherish the time you have with each other, or you might end up regretting the things you've never done," Deborah said as she thought about the trip to France her and Graham planned to go but never went. They said they'd go after they retired, thinking they had all the time in the world, but then the accident happened, and Deborah had since often wondered why they didn't go when they could.
"We will," Hardison promised.
With matching smiles on their faces and his arm around her shoulders, the couple turned around and left Deborah's little store, but not before Hardison dropped a kiss on the top of Parker's head as they walked out.
"Just like my Graham used to do," Deborah thought, picking up her forgotten book.
Idiot 9: All this candy talk is making me hungry... Read and review, pretty please with with Skittles and M&Ms!