A Package Deal

By: Robin Patchen
1





A thousand packages, a thousand destinations, a thousand places Josephine Domani would never see. She smiled at the woman across the counter. "It should be there by Wednesday. Will that work?"

The customer, a frazzled mother fighting to keep her twins from climbing the card rack by the window, nodded. "Wednesday's fine. Cody, stop that!"

The little boy shot his mother a who, me? look while the other boy darted across the lobby of the UPS store and hid behind an oversize box.

Jo stifled a laugh while she rang up the transaction.

The woman managed to grab her receipt, corral the boys, and shuffle them out the door, nodding her thanks to the man who held it open for them.

Oh, it was that man, the one with the dark hair, the trimmed beard, and the sky-blue eyes. Every week or so, he came in carrying the oddest assortment of boxes addressed to the oddest collection of places. He crossed the lobby and set a large box on her scale.

"Hey there," she said. "What's inside today?"

"Same as always. A mold."

She typed the information into the system, then read the address he'd scrawled on the top of the box. It was going to Shanghai.

Another place she'd never see.

She ensured he'd filled out his customs form correctly, then entered the information into her system. "Is Friday all right?"

"Perfect."

She nodded toward the sticker as she adhered it to the box. "Have you been there?"

He smiled. "Had to go to get the measurements for the mold."

"What was it like?"

"Crowded." He shrugged. "Loud. Busy."

"I bet you stood out."

His eyebrows lifted over those beautiful eyes, and heat crept into her cheeks. "Because you're so tall. And those blue eyes..." Holy babbling brook, shut up! "Maybe that's a stereotype, though. What do I know? I've barely left Oklahoma." Her face burned all the way to her hairline.

"No, you're right." His smile was somehow both kind and amused. "I did stick out. The owner of the plant was a big fan of Hollywood. Kept calling me James Bond."

She giggled, then forced her mouth shut. So professional. Sheesh. And anyway, this guy was way more handsome than the latest 007. She pushed the thought away, finished the transaction, then handed him his credit card and receipt. "Have a nice evening."

He lingered until a customer behind him cleared her throat, then he said, "You, too," and turned to go.

Jo watched until he reached the door, where she noticed her mother, Lila Domani, standing right inside. Mom smiled at the man, then eyed Jo with that telltale sparkle in her eyes.

Jo kept the groan to herself and helped the next customer.

When the store had emptied and Andrew, Jo's only employee, had flipped the sign to Closed and headed to the back to sort packages, Mom stepped to the counter. "Busy day?"

"Busy few minutes anyway."

Mom turned toward the door, then turned back, fanning herself despite the November chill seeping in through the old windows. "That man. Ooh-eee, what a looker." Her Louisiana accent was especially pronounced when she got excited. Her words were dripping with it right now. "And he seemed quite taken with you."

"He's just a customer."

"Don't tell me you didn't notice."

As if anybody could have missed the guy. He looked like the blue-collar equivalent of GQ. "Do you need something?"

"I do." She hoisted her giant yellow purse onto the counter, slipped out her laptop, and opened it. "I was looking over that dating site, the one you supposedly joined."

"I joined. I said I would, didn't I? And anyway, what are you doing on a dating site?"

Mom unwound her red wool scarf and brushed her silver hair behind her ears. "Maybe I was thinking of joining too."

"Were you? Oh, Mom, you should. It's been five years since Daddy died."

"As I'm well aware." Mom navigated to a website. She shifted the screen for Jo to see. "As far as I can tell, this is you. It says Josephine Domani."

Jo crossed her arms. "What's wrong with my profile?"

"Where's your photograph?"

Jo lifted her hair as if to push it away from her face—a nervous habit that should've fallen away when her hair had. The short strands slipped through her fingers, and she dropped her arm to her side. "I decided to skip—"

"You promised your friends you'd join a dating site."

"I did." She pointed to the screen.

"Without a picture you'll never get a single date. No picture, and all the men will think you have a big wart on your nose."

Whatever. Who wanted to date a man that shallow, anyway?

"Having a photograph increases your shot of finding a date by eighty-three percent."

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