Anna’s steps faltered as she pushed her cart up to check stand twelve. There he stood, Hunk Hotty, that rippling, ravishing specimen of check-stand manhood. She flung back her flowing locks of golden curls. Hunk flung back his flowing locks of golden curls.
“We have to stop meeting this way,” Hunk said. The glow of his “this aisle open” light illuminated his perfectly tan, chiseled face.
“You don’t wish to see me anymore?” Anna’s heart pounded with each beep of the check stand.
His eyes smoldered as he typed the code for asparagus. “It’s not you, Anna. I... I have a secret, a secret that could destroy us both.”
Anna clasped her accordion file of supermarket coupons to her aching heart. She knew it was too good to be true. What made her think that she, an orphan who never spoke an unkind word to any living soul and who donated her time and very limited resources to various internationally recognized charitable organizations, deserved the kind of happiness she instinctively knew could be found in Hunk’s fitness-magazine-quality arms?
“You have fallen in love with someone else, haven’t you?” Anna’s innate honesty compelled her to speak the words, though doing so robbed her of every ounce of happiness she had ever or would ever experience in life.
“There could never be anyone else, Anna.” Hunk reached out to touch her face, but stopped himself at the last possible moment. His overtly masculine hand clenched in a fist of frustration. His epitome-of-a-shampoo-commercial hair tossed about as he turned his head to place her eggs, gently, atop her produce in the reusable grocery sacks she never forgot to bring with her out of a deep and abiding love for all nature.
Anna bit her lip as she was wont to do when emotionally distraught. “But you are devastatingly handsome and I am plain, unattractive and undesirable.”
“No. Never that.” His muscles, clearly defined beneath his flattering employee apron rippled with the intensity of his feelings. “Do you not realize that you are astoundingly beautiful?”
She shook her head and shyly diverted her eyes. “My inborn humility will not allow me to be aware of my supermodel good looks and flawless figure, necessitating that you tell me in excruciating detail of my own perfection, which I will then deny with the appropriate degree of embarrassed blushing and growing adoration for you.”
Hunk held up her bag of clearance priced chocolates. “You see yourself as store brand chocolates, Anna, when you are actually imported European chocolates—perfection, itself.”
“Oh, Hunk.” A sob rose in her throat but she fought it down even as she dabbed daintily at the tears gathering in her eyes. “How is it you knew that expressing your feelings using a chocolate analogy was the surest way to my heart?”
“I have the inexplicable ability to say precisely what a woman wants to hear, regardless of whether or not a man would ever actually utter the words I regularly speak.” He looked torn, conflicted, as though he were in the grips of the greatest agony imaginable but, by virtue of his deep-seeded inner strength, endured it with dignity.
Anna’s heart broke. “I do not deserve you.”
“No,” Hunk said, placing her rolls of bathroom tissue inside her cart. “It is I who do not deserve you.”
“Must we always be forever wallowing in indecision and the inability to recognize any flaws in each other whilst simultaneously remaining in utter ignorance of any redeeming qualities which we, ourselves, possess?”
“Yes,” Hunk said. “It seems we must.”
“Is there no hope for us?”
“For a while it will seem there is not.” His breathtakingly handsome eyes held her captive. “Then something will suddenly and conveniently change, removing any and all obstacles to our love and we will live happily ever after, provided you are not kidnapped by bandits who, until the opportune moment, were neither mentioned nor alluded to, having made their appearance at a time when artificial sources of tension had been made excruciatingly necessary by a premature solution to all our problems.”
She looked away, his hunkiness too much for her disintegrating heart.
“Bandits or not,” he said, “our love is doomed the moment you know my... secret.”
“Tell me, Hunk. Tell me and I promise to love you still.”
He scanned her cans of soup, the movement accentuating the sinewy nature of his arms. “How can you promise me that when you do not even know what that secret is? What if my secret is that I wish with every fiber of my being to hurt, maim or otherwise injure you?”
Anna grasped the check writing stand and glanced up into his mesmerizing eyes. “I would love you even more than I do now.”
She reached out for him, but knocked over his bottle of water. Her embarrassment nearly overcame her. With effort she fought the sensation of a swoon.
Hunk tore off his apron, then pulled his shirt over his head, using it soak up the evidence of her humiliation. That he would use the very shirt on his back rather than either of the large spill rags she could see under the cash register only further convinced her that nowhere on the face of the earth was a man who reached his level masculine perfection.
“How long must we wait, Hunk, before we can at last have our happily ever after?”
He held up her bag of brown sugar. “No matter how long, all we endure will only add to the sweetness of our love.”
His eyes bored into hers.
Her heart pounding in her chest, she opened her file. “I have a coupon for that.”
As she handed him the small square of paper, their fingers brushed. She gasped. The supermarket spun around her. Her legs gave out beneath her and she felt herself crumbling to the floor. In a burst of characteristic heroism, Hunk leapt over the check stand, catching her in his capable arms and holding her to his apronless, shirtless chest.
She knew in that moment that no matter his devastating secret, no matter if hordes of unannounced bandits carried her off to parts unknown, that even in the face of her continued disbelief in her own obvious beauty, she would love him until the day she died and she would never, never, take her groceries to any checkout lane but his.