Holiday Shopping Goes Awry

21 Dec 2021  C. chou  11 mins read.

She looked down at her cellphone, as she stepped into the train car. Swiping down, she began sorting through her notifications, as she always did, every evening immediately after work, on her commute home. As she swiped each message away, one caught her eye. A love seat. The very one that she caught her boyfriend eyeing for months now. She couldn’t believe it. It was on sale for over half price for only two hours.

With their current budget, getting something like that was out of question. But this deal… With this deal, she could make it fit. She could already imagine the smile on her boyfriend’s face when he finds out. That decided it. She would stop by the store today, on her way home. They were going to have a surprise present this Christmas.

You know those times where things don’t quite go as expected? Well this was one of these times. The store was unbelievably crowded. She could hardly get any breathing room, let alone search for the couch. Hours went by. She spent more time in the store then she had intended. It was already half-way through Christmas night, and not only had she not found the present, but she was also late.

Her boyfriend had been expecting her home by dinner. They were supposed to share a meal together, something that was so rare on the average weekday. The differences in their work shifts practically meant that unless one of them explicitly takes an hour off work, they couldn’t eat together on those days.

The happiness that she imagined on his face was quickly replaced by an image of disappointment. He always worked extra hard on Christmas week, to ensure that his supervisor would approve of his leave request. She pulled out her phone, quickly texting him that she would be late. At least this way, he wouldn’t worry about her safety and whereabouts. As she tried to tuck the phone back into her pocket, she was struck by a shopping cart from behind, and the device flew out of her grasp and crashed onto the floor, before she could react.

She quickly moved forward, trying to close the space between herself and her, unfortunate device, before another shopping cart ran over it with a crunch. By the time the device was in her hand again, it’s screen was totally cracked and illegible. She couldn’t even make out the last text he sent her. Sighing, she tucked away the damaged device. Now, she not only ruined her boyfriend’s Christmas, but also her own. That phone would take ages to replace. All of this, with nothing to gain.

Disappointed, she followed the crowd, pushed along by their snail-like current of movement through the store that slowly inched them closer to the exit. There was no other way out. The place was far too crowded that movement was essentially restricted to one direction throughout the entire building. As they walked, she noted that they were passing a furniture section that was complete with its own help desk service. She extracted herself from the main stream of movement, and added herself to the queue before the desk. Perhaps, She the trip wouldn’t be a waste after all.

Finally, it was her turn. She stepped up to the desk, pulling out her phone to show the deal, only then remembering its condition. Sighing, she tucked it away, and did her best to describe what she was looking for. The two hour interval was either at an end, if not already long over, but with the crowd in the store, she could only hope that lenience would be awarded.

“I’m interested in the love seats you have on sale.” She told the woman at the desk.

“Excuse me, which item?” The employee asked.

“A sofa with two cushions.” She explained.

“We have many of those.” The employee answered.

“I’m looking for the one that was a part of your Christmas day sale.” She said, a bit exasperated.

“Do you have the item number?” The woman asked, seemingly trying to do her best to help.

“No.” She answered. “Unfortunately, my phone is unusable. Can you just search for love seats?”

“I did and am looking at all the seats in the store, but none are currently on sale.” The employee responded.

“The sale probably just ended, but I got here hours ago to search for it. The store was too crowded, and so I probably missed the window.” She told the store employee. “Can you help me find the one that was on sale and maybe extend the deal? Your security cameras and my phone location, which is probably backed up by now can prove that I was here the entire time.”

“Is it this one?” The employee asked, turning the screen for her to see.

“Yes!” She exclaimed. “Yes! That’s the one!”

“I’ve applied the discount for you.” The employee said. “We still have one last one in stock.”

Both excited and grateful, she reached into her pocket, for her wallet. It wasn’t there. Her happiness quickly fell into dread. She could’ve dropped it anywhere from her office to anywhere in the store. Suddenly, she remembered that she set up G-pay. “Do you accept Google Pay here?”

“Of course.” The employee answered.

She lowered her phone to the panel but nothing happened. Either the NFC feature wasn’t turned on, or she dropped her phone so hard that its internal components broke alongside the screen.

“Can you wait for me?” She asked starting to feel desperate. “I lost my wallet somewhere in the store. I just need to search for it.”

“No problem.” The employee said. “I’ll cancel the order. As long as you can get back before the last copy is sold, or before the store closes, the item is yours.”

“Thank you.” She mustered, before turning back into the crowd. Worse, she had to go against the current this time. Running as much as she could in the space before the help desk area came to an end, leaving the crowded pathway as the only option for traversal, and doing her best to despite the many legs and feet trampling the area, she did her best to search for her missing wallet.

Frantic, looked back and forth, double and triple checking every step, looking under each pair of shoes that passed by. Please let her find it. Inside, she had half of their entire monthly budget, in cash. And besides, she could hardly cancel her cards with her boyfriend home, and her own cellphone dead. He would know what happened to her phone.

Not here. Not there. She wasn’t sure how long she’s been looking. The crowd of people had long since dwindled to a small stream. She passed the store, retracing her footsteps, time and time again. There was nothing.

“Excuse me.” A voice said behind her. “We’re closing.”

“I lost my wallet.” She said, turning toward the man. “It must’ve fallen somewhere, but I can’t find it.”

“Come back tomorrow and check the lost and found.” The store employee answered. “Please leave now.”

She sighed, heading toward the door, with the employee at her tail. Once outside, the store employee locked the doors. She was left in the darkness of the night, snow falling upon her, staring into the store and it’s light through its glass door. Falling to her knees, she stared into the place in despair.

“Aria.” A familiar voice shouted behind her. She turned to find her boyfriend. He lowered himself into a crouch and pulled her into a hug. “I’m glad you’re okay. When you said you would be late, I suspected you went gift shopping. The subways are already closed at this hour. What were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry.” She answered, burying her face onto his shoulder, and letting herself go. Tears spilled out of her, as she sobbed. “I just wanted to make your Christmas better, but everything ended up so much worse.”

“There. There.” He said, patting the back of her head, before pulling her aside, so that he could look her in the eye. “As long as you’re by my side, my Christmas will always be perfect.”

“Even if I destroyed my phone and my wallet, which had half of our entire month’s budget?” She asked, tears still spilling from her eyes. He wouldn’t forgive her. She ruined everything. In her brief moment of greed, she shattered what could’ve been a lovely holiday. It was over between them.

“Yes.” He answered without hesitation, looking her straight in the eye. “All of those things can be earned back. We can cancel the cards. We can reduce our spending further. We can buy a new phone. But none of those things are as valuable as you are. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.”

His words only made her sobs louder. How could he be so forgiving? He pet her head again, before tilting her chin up to look at him. “I thought you already knew.” He whispered, as he lowered his face to hers. “But all I’ve ever wanted for Christmas was you.”

Wiping away the tears that trailed her face. He cupped her face. Closing his eyes, he pulled her into a kiss that surprised her with its intensity. Melting in his arms, she kissed him back, realizing that she was wrong to doubt him. He smiled down at her as their faces parted, and she realized then, that she didn’t need anything else to make him smile.

“Let’s get married.” He whispered. And she nodded, as it became clear to her that she shared his sentiment. All she wanted for Christmas was him. Somehow, the Christmas that she thought was ruined became one of the best Christmases she’s ever had. She looked up at him, and the snow flakes that clung to his hair, before drawing him into a kiss of her own. Perhaps, as young children believed, there was some magic to holiday season after all.

This story was inspired by a combination of a writing prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication, and the song “All I Want For Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.

You’ve just received an alert on your cellphone. There is a 2-hr sale on something you’ve desperately wanted. Write a story.

C. Chou
C. Chou

A writer that loves cabbages and bamboo, but also enjoys writing and sharing fiction (particularly the fantasy genre). Find me on Medium at: