Roger Bruner worked as a teacher, job counselor, and programmer analyst before retiring at sixty-two to pursue his dream of writing Christian fiction full-time. The first two novels in his young adult Altered Hearts series, Found in Translation and Lost in Dreams, will come out in 2011. A guitarist and songwriter, he is active in his church's choir, praise team, and nursing home ministry. Roger also enjoys reading, photography, web design, mission trips, and spending time with his wonderful wife, Kathleen, and their two cantankerous cats. Find out more at RogerBruner.com or join his tribe of influencers at rogerbruner.wordpress.com.
“Randy!” Amanda yelled across the store.
“Hey, Randy!” Sarah echoed.
I waved my arms like a windmill on steroids. I didn’t care whether the people in line at my register thought I was crazy or not. Attention from these two girls was worth it. It was special. Our paths didn’t cross as often at school as I wished they would. But I could count on seeing them at least several times every Saturday.
That was my day to work at The Fancy Pig Dress-Up Shoppe.
The Fancy Pig was a one-of-a-kind, mid-priced boutique of sorts. Its slogan—“If we can make pigs look good enough to invite to a dinner party, imagine what we can do for a beauty like you”—may have broken every marketing rule, but it kept crowds of ladies coming in. Even from several towns away.
It was a good, clean, fun slogan, and the townspeople never failed to grin at it. Our quality and prices were good for smiles, not laughs, and that’s what really counted.
So why would a manly fellow like me choose to work in a place like that? You aren’t much of a guy if you have to ask. Girls. As the only male working at the Fancy Pig, I got a lot of attention.
But what I lived for week in and week out was attention from Sarah and Amanda.
Morning seemed to be their time for buying cosmetics and looking at clothes. At mid-afternoon, they came back for more expensive purchases. Maybe they needed to ask their parents’ permission before spending more than a certain amount. They both struck me as the kind of girls who respected their parents’ finances.
They always came to my register, even when shorter lines were available, and they just about talked my ears off. Like they’d really missed chatting with me since their last visit and were desperate to catch up. Even if they’d just talked with me that morning.
They were both as nice as could be. They went to the same church, but a different one from mine, and I wanted to ask one of them out. But I couldn’t make up my mind which one.
They were both as cute as they could be. Pretty would have been out of my league, since I wasn’t that terrific looking myself; to the best of my knowledge, no girl had ever referred to me as a “hottie.”
But what complete opposites these two girls were.
Sarah was tall with short dark hair and a radio announcer’s soothing voice. Amanda was short with long blond hair and a slight giggle. Not the obnoxious kind many girls have; just enough to demonstrate a cheery outlook. Sarah seemed quieter and perhaps more serious.
Except around me.
Both had eyes a guy could just stare at and dream about. I’m too much of a Christian gentleman to comment about their figures, but I sometimes had to force myself to stare at their eyes rather than, uh, at their curves.
But which one would be the better choice for me? You know how women always go to the bathroom together in a restaurant? That’s how Sarah and Amanda were. Inseparable. I didn’t think they were gay—that would have solved my dilemma, although not very pleasantly—but the thought had crossed my mind.
I couldn’t simply ask one out and then ask the second one if the first one turned me down or if the date rated a minus on the great dates scale. Not that I thought either of these things would happen, you understand, but I had to be realistic.
The second girl would know as soon as I asked the first one out that she’d never be more than my second choice. What girl in her right mind would accept that?
So I could ask one girl out, but that would permanently eliminate the other one from future consideration. I faced that dilemma weekend in, weekend out. I kept hoping—the back of my mind kind of hoping, anyhow—that one of my girls would start going out with somebody else and prevent my having to make a decision.
Things would have been different if I’d had a crush on one or the other, but I didn’t. I had a crush on both of ’em. An equal crush.
Summer was coming, and I’d saved almost enough money to buy my mom’s old car. Perfect time to make a decision and invite one of the girls to Six Flags. My parents had bought season passes, so I’d have to pay for only her entry fee. Not that our snacks wouldn’t cost just as much . . .
But which should I ask? I’d made a lengthy list of pros and cons comparing the two girls. What I liked—that part was five or six single-spaced pages long. And what I disliked—I wrote the same for both girls—“never comes in by herself—apparently needs constant female companionship.”
If only I could have discovered some outstanding negative quality I couldn’t put up with. Like smoking, drinking, or cursing. But Sarah and Amanda were pure and clean—at least from my limited knowledge of them, and I’d done a lot of asking around.
I prayed over my lists every night. “Lord, show me the one. Don’t let me make a mistake on something this important.”
I didn’t know at the time if my sudden inspiration was a God-idea or not, but looking back it must have been. Sarah and Amanda had both made small purchases that morning. The same item, in fact. Some kind of quality cosmetic. Each girl held a three-dollar-off coupon. I’d seen enough of those that day to recognize them without a second glance.
“Great coupons, girls,” I said.
“Mmm,” Sarah said, smiling. “If I had another one, I’d buy some more.”
“Me, too,” Amanda said.
That’s when I knew. Not the outcome, but the solution. I felt like Joseph putting the money in Benjamin’s sack when his brothers came to Egypt to buy food for their starving families and waiting to see if they would give the cash back.
So instead of putting the coupons in the register drawer, I slipped them into the girls’ bags along with their purchases.
After they left, I put six dollars of my own money in the register to make up for what I’d done. Then I waited to see what would happen when they came back in that afternoon. They would have discovered the coupons by then and would want to purchase more of the same item.
If they both attempted to use the coupons again, that would be my answer, albeit a disconcerting one. I’d know that neither of them met my standards, and I would not ask either of them out.
But I had a feeling that wouldn’t be the case.
I waved to the girls across the store that afternoon, barely able to keep my heart from pounding out of my chest. I felt like I’d been running too long and hard in a never ending race and I’d finally spotted the finish line. They waved back, smiled, and rushed toward the cosmetics section.
My quandary would soon be settled.
Sarah came over to me. By herself. I’d never seen her by herself before. She looked extra nice without Amanda.
“Randy, I hope you won’t be offended, but I can’t use this coupon you put in my bag.”
“It was an awfully sweet thing for you to do, but it wasn’t honest. I can’t cheat the store, and I can’t let you do it, either.”
With trembling hands I reached out for the coupon. I was afraid I’d bubble over with excitement.
“I tried to convince Amanda it was wrong, too,” she said, “but she wanted another bottle and didn’t want to pay full price. She was really impressed that you’d do something like that.”
“I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear that.”
Sarah looked disappointed, teary-eyed. “Randy, both of us have been hoping you’d ask one of us out, but, well, I’m dropping out of the race. Maybe this isn’t fair, but it seems to me that a boy who’d cheat over a few dollars to impress a girl isn’t my type of guy.”
“What would you say if I told you I put three dollars in the register for each of you and have been waiting nervously to see which of you would refuse to reuse the coupon?”
“I’d say are you doing anything special tonight? I like the way you make decisions.”