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Joyce “Joy” Knight juggled her purchases as she moved forward in the checkout line in Kohl’s department store. Armed with her coupons and cash, Joy had gotten everything on her list plus a few extras. Hopefully, the small toys she snagged for Christmas gifts wouldn’t put that much of a dent into her grocery money. I should have started Christmas shopping earlier in the year instead of waiting until November, she thought. Her credit card was deemed untouchable by the balance inching toward the max. Her small shopping cart seemed like a bottomless pit as she placed training pants, clothes, shoes, housewares and the few toys on the conveyor belt. The clerk scanned each purchase with ease, but Joy began to worry as she watched the cash register display. She had mentally calculated her total. Something was wrong. They had to honor the advertised specials, didn’t they? “That will be one-hundred twenty-seven dollars and thirteen cents,” the young cashier stated as she stretched the plastic bag with the last of three stuffed animals. No. There was no way I could be off twenty-one dollars with tax. No way. Joy dared a glance over her shoulder and groaned. She hated when a patron held other customers in line hostage for petty stuff. Cringing, Joy exhaled because she was about to become that culprit. If she didn’t question a few prices, then the cashier would have to start removing some of her purchases.
Leaning closer to the woman with an ad insert, Joy pointed to the display listing the cost of the items. “Excuse me, the training pants are on sale and so are those two sweaters. Will you check please? Otherwise, I don’t have enough for everything.” A look of uncertainty crossed the cashier’s face. The young woman reached for the intercom phone to page for help. That’s when the snickers, huffs, and insults rippled behind her. Plastering a smile on her face, Joy turned to apologize. A bulky older man, with more wrinkles lining his forehead than she wanted to count, stared her down. Leaving well enough alone, Joy faced the cashier again. “Just a moment, madam, my supervisor is coming to assist me.” The cashier paused and lowered her voice. “It’s my first day.” Great. Joy exhaled slowly, keeping a smile in place. “Oh, come on, lady.” A complaint down the line led the chorus of copycats. “She knew she didn’t have enough money when she got that stuff,” a woman with a mannish voice snapped. Joy took a deep breath, so as not to respond. After all, she was a professional, a mature adult—and a woman who was out of money. “Can you call for backup or open another lane?” a man yelled, then mumbled some choice words that stung Joy’s ears. It wasn’t worth the humiliation. “Just take off some items to reduce my total to onehundred and six dollars, including tax. Start with the toys.” Joy just wanted to get out the store. I definitely will survive. ***
Towering over most of the customers ahead of him in line, Christian Andersen was offended himself at the insults hurled at the lady at the checkout. The vulgarity and lack of patience was unwarranted. He had noticed the pretty lady earlier roaming the aisles. The heels, fitted suit and her demeanor hinted she had just left work. She never made eye contact with him as she gnawed on her lips comparing merchandise. Now, he felt embarrassed for her, especially when a woman attacked her uppity attire. He happened to like women in black. Christian had had enough. It was time for him to be part of the solution. “Pardon me, excuse me,” Christian said as he made his way to the front, digging in his back jeans pocket for his wallet. “Here, let the lady keep everything.” He handed the cashier a fifty-dollar bill. Dismissing the damsel in distress’s protests, he reclaimed his spot in the back of the line. An elderly woman, wearing a worn dark wool coat and a colorful scarf, tilted her chin to meet his eyes. She gave him an awestruck look. “You’re a secret Santa.” Shaking his head, Christian smiled. At six-two he towered over the woman by a good foot. “No, I’m a Christian and it’s no secret.” “Humph,” Christian heard someone grunt. Immediately, he scanned the line for the offender. Muscular, fit and sometimes bearing a cocky attitude for the right reason, Christian had no problem asking the person to repeat himself, but the line began to move speedily after that. When Christian put his three items on the counter, the clerk smiled at him. “That was nice of you.”
Christian shrugged. His generosity was never about him. God was the one who made it possible for him and his family to have the wealth they possessed. Taking his receipt and bag, he strolled out to the parking lot. He didn’t expect to see his damsel in distress still wrestling with her purchases. He slowly approached her. The woman was actually rearranging things in her SUV to make room for her bags. “Need any help?” She twirled around, seemingly ready to bite off his head. “Having a bad day” was smacked on her gorgeous face, then she relaxed. “No thank you. I’ve got this, unlike my earlier situation back there.” She pointed to the store. “You didn’t have to do that, Mr.…?” Drawn into her magnetic brown eyes, her words were slow to register. He was a goner when he took in her jet-black hair and black suit—definitely his type. “Oh, I’m Christian Andersen.” She repeated his name and nodded. “I’m Joyce Knight, but friends call me Joy…ah, I wasn’t short fifty dollars.” Joy. He smiled. The beautiful woman was really a joy to admire. “Friends call me Christian. Don’t worry about it. Consider it a gift for your frustration. Evidently, their computers weren’t updated with the correct prices.” “Well, I was so embarrassed in there. In my twenty-seven years, that has never happened to me before. I’m pretty good at math, and I was sure I had enough funds.” Joy’s eyes teared. “Thank you again. I guess I’d better go. I still have to get to the grocery store.” Taking charge, Christian grabbed the last bags from her cart. When he was about to load them in her vehicle, he noted the reason for her dilemma. Although it was spacious, space was at a premium with two car seats and a booster taking up space.
As if she could read his thoughts, Joy saved him the trouble of asking. “I have four children at home.” “Then you’re short one seat,” he teased as he checked her ring finger under the hood of his lashes. “Bethani’s ten, so she sits up front with me.” Christian deducted ten from twenty-seven and concluded that Joy had become a mother at a young age. Then he took the liberty to remove two packages of Pampers from a bag. He noted they were Push-Ups training pants. Okay, she definitely didn’t have an infant. As he strategically placed one on the floor and another between the car seats, he berated the man who would leave this jewel of a woman to fend for herself and children. If Christian wasn’t a Christian now, he would be calling the father all kind of names. The loser gave men a bad name. Joy’s laugh embodied a musical scale. He liked the sound as he looked over his shoulder, finished with his task. Her face glowed with pure amusement. “I was going to do that next.” She chuckled. Standing to his full height, Joy stood just under his clean-shaven chin in her heels. “Sure you were.” He laughed with her as he folded his arms. “Should I follow you to the grocery store?” he flirted. She blushed. “No. I’ve made a list and I’ll check it twice. I may not have someone as kind as you there for backup.” “I wasn’t talking about the money. You may need an extra truck to get your groceries home.”
“Stop it.” Joy scrunched her nose, which he noticed was turning red. The temperature had dropped. Although he was enjoying their chat, he probably should let her go and get home to her children. Backing away, Christian grabbed the empty cart to return it to a holding station. “Joy Knight, it was a pleasure rescuing you. May the Lord watch between me and thee while we’re absent, one from another, in Jesus’ name. Amen,” he said, quoting Genesis 31:49, the scripture that his pastor oftentimes used as a benediction. He waved good-bye when he really wanted to follow her and find out her whole story, but he had just prayed the prayer to watch over her until they met again. “Lord, make a way for me to see her again.”
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