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Old 10-08-2022, 08:10 PM
Scooter Scooter is offline
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Default Two Hours 'til Closing
Hey all, new story for everyone. My last story was sugary sweet, the ideal for a phobic. This one is decidedly not that.

That's not to say this is a cruel story. It's meant to be more of a... teasing atmosphere. Still not overly sexual beyond the female lead being good-looking (exact appearance can be tailored in your mind based on appeal.) And like before, may not be everyone's cup of tea.

I hope you enjoy.

---

“Sheesh, can this night GET any longer?” Thinking this, Jed could barely contain a yawn. Closing shift wasn’t a new experience for him, but the complete nothingness that came along with it tonight certainly was. Kipper’s may have been a small-town department store with only a few other shops under its brand umbrella, but even they got customers looking for one last specific item all the way until closing. But not tonight.

Jed turned to look at his watch. 10:00 PM. Only two more hours ‘til closing. A sigh escaped Jed’s lips. “Think on the bright side,” he thought, “At least you aren’t in this ALL alone.”

And it was true. The shop wasn’t entirely dead, for there was another person on duty, his manager Stephanie. Despite the higher position, Stephanie was only a couple years Jed’s senior, and the two shared a close work friendship thanks to Stephanie’s good sense on the job and general affability earning the respect of the other employees. Jed was no exception. And for a young man like Jed, Stephanie also being tremendously good looking (at least in his estimation) certainly did not hurt. “How much of it was looks, and how much of it was personality?” he wondered.

Jed turned to look at her. She was bending down to organize the magazines. “Any chance of getting out of here early?” he inquired. She turned to look at him, and he realized she was chomping on some gum. She blew a small bubble, before it quickly burst with a tinny snap, and she drew it back into her mouth. She responded, “No dice, kiddo. Corporate would have my head if they found out we closed early.” She paused to chew some more. “But tell you what. If you’re needing a job to do to pass the time, I have just the thing.”

“Anything’s better than standing here for two hours.” Stephanie’s gum smacking picked up, as she gave him a little smile. A sense of relief flowed through Jed, but that sense soon vanished when she explained what the job was. “We’re having a new sale on our children’s toys starting tomorrow. I was going to have Night Crew blow up some sale balloons for the area tonight, but since you’re dying for something to do, I figure you can do them instead. Shouldn’t take more than half-an-hour anyway.”

Jed’s mouth immediately went dry, his mind in a daze as he blindly followed Stephanie towards the children’s toy area. How should he explain to her that he was NOT the right man for the job? What would she say when she learned his secret? Waiting for in the area there was a 50 pack of balloons. His heart dropped further seeing the bag. There they were in all of their rainbow glory.

“Oh, silly me! Have to go grab the tank. And don’t worry, if anyone does come in while you’re over here, I’ll take care of them.” Stephanie gave a quick wink and spun-around, power-walking towards the store’s storage room. Now Jed was alone with… them. He couldn’t be too nervous though. They weren’t blown up… yet. Nothing to worry about… yet. Nobody could see the complex emotion on his face… yet.

Jed sighed. “This is silly. Let’s see what I’m actually afraid of.” He walked over and picked up the bag, reading the label. “Says ‘helium-quality’ right there. That’s a good start. 16 inches too! That’s pretty big.” The positive words advertising the supposed quality and toughness of the product did put Jed’s heart at ease a little. By now he had confidence. Maybe he COULD blow these balloons up after all.

It was then Stephanie decided to return, bringing the helium tank along with her. Jed awkwardly tried to hide how intently he had been staring at the bag by, like lightning, placing the bag back onto the chair it originally sat on. To his relief, it seems Stephanie didn’t notice. She was too busy getting the tank in a good position. By this point her smacking had stopped. “Guess the gum lost its flavor.” Jed mused.

“There! All set!” Stephanie turned to face him. “Even though the bag says 50, you only have to do 20 of them. The rest are extras in case some burst.” She said that last sentence very casually, but it reminded Jed once again of what could maybe happen during this job, no, this mission. Stephanie must have noticed the color drain from his face because she followed with, “Wait, do you even know how to use a helium tank? I guess I can do one for you, to demonstrate.”

Stephanie got out the scissors and cut open the bag. From the bag came a blue balloon, the words “Children’s toy sale!” written in a goofy font printed on the front of the latex object. Without hesitation, she took the blue balloon and placed it on the nozzle.

“See?! You just set it right here and gently turn this.” At this she took the knob on the side and turned it clockwise a full hand turn. The helium was released, the head of the balloon springing up, coming to life. It began to fill with the lighter-than-air gas. The body of the balloon continued to get bigger… slowly… slowly. Stephanie looked back at Jed. “Make sure to get it nice and full. We might give them out during the day, and we want the kids to be impressed with these big balloons.” He suddenly became very thankful tomorrow was his day off.

While Stephanie’s eyes didn’t sit on any one subject too long, Jed’s eyes remained glued to the expanding balloon. The dark surface shimmered, the text in a bold white standing out against the sapphire background. For Jed, this may have been the first time in his life he would find a balloon beautiful. But that beauty was becoming short-lived. To Jed, the balloon looked sufficiently filled. A neck was even starting to bulge. And yet Stephanie didn’t move, her mind seemingly elsewhere. Alarm bells rang out once more in Jed’s mind, but before he could get a word out Stephanie interrupted him with “Just make sure not to get them too full, otherwise-”

On cue, the blue balloon burst with a thunderous BANG. Shards flew everywhere in the children’s toy area, and Jed nearly fainted at the sound. Too late he covered his ears, and he squatted on the floor, eyes and ears shut to the world around him, tears beginning to form. In contrast, Stephanie barely seemed to flinch from the bang, a sly smirk growing on her face. Seeing the over-the-top reaction from her employee, she began to laugh before giving him a quick tap to the leg with her foot. “It’s okay, get up. Just wanted to show you how big they could get before they burst.”
Stephanie’s playfulness had bitten him here. Jed weakly got to his feet again, and finally Stephanie began to realize something was up with her usually confident and relaxed employee. She took some time to think about what happened, and the light bulb finally went off inside her. “Don’t tell me you’re scared of balloons or something.”

“As a matter of fact I am.” After hearing this, Jed could see she was once more trying to hold in some chuckles. It seems Stephanie could hardly believe a grown man would be so frightened of the common party toy.
“You have my sympathies.” she got out. “I do still want these blown up though… Why don’t I stay and help you? I’ll blow them up and tie them, and you can arrange them to look perfect for tomorrow. But we’ll need to get it done quickly. You wouldn’t want Night Crew to learn of your little secret now, would you?” Jed shook his head slowly in response.

“Thought so.” With this, she reached for the balloon bag again, pulling out an orange one. She stretched it in her hands, making sure it would be nice and loose, perfect for inflating. Jed couldn’t help noticing how… sharp her nails looked as she did this.

Once the balloon was stretched to satisfaction, she placed it on the nozzle the blue one had met its demise on. It too began to come to life. Jed shifted from side to side watching as it got bigger and bigger. Stephanie noticed him getting antsy. “Chill out, I’m not gonna pop it like the other one. It’s just a balloon.”

Stephanie was true to her word here. Right as the balloon went past a perfect oval shape, she shut the knob off and snatched it off the nozzle. Jed watched as she deftly tied the neck into a perfect knot. Even her nails didn’t seem to get in the way. Jed could tell she was a pro at this. He began to wonder how many balloons had she blown up? For the store? In front of others? In her lifetime, even?

As if reading his mind, Stephanie offered an explanation. “Most of my friends already have children, so I’ve done a lot of party prep in my day. Never seen anyone as nervous around them as you though.” She tied a ribbon on the knot, the purple of the ribbon forming a nice contrast to the orange and black lettering of the balloon. With this, she let the orb go, as it floated up until it reached the full length of the ribbon. She held it out to him. “Now put it somewhere nice.”

Jed took the ribbon into his hand, and the balloon obediently followed. Stephanie immediately got to work on the next one, so Jed didn’t have much time to decide on a spot to tie the orange balloon. He picked a short aisle filled with action figures of various famous names in the world of wrestling. “Close enough.” He didn’t really want to spend more time with the balloons than he had to. He made his way back to Stephanie, whose shapely figure was hunched over the next balloon, trying to tie it. This one looked noticeably bigger, with an actual neck starting to form. Jed not being there probably made her more lax in the inflation amount. But there was still not much to worry about here; the balloon soon found its home just like the last one.

This continued on for some time. Stephanie’s balloons seemed to be creeping bigger and bigger again, but Jed had faith she knew what she was doing. She had said it herself, she had a lot of experience with balloons. Three balloons down, 17 to go… Four balloons down, 16 to go… Five balloons down, 15 to go… Six- BANG!!

Just as Jed was coming back from tying the sixth balloon, another loud noise rang out. He quickly turned to see the obvious culprit looking sheepish, pink shards raining down around her. “Must’ve been defective. Woops.” She offered a sigh, a shrug, and a shake of her head, but none of it could clear the suspicion that she had done it on purpose to make him jump.

There was a desire to raise an objection to this, to her, but Jed swallowed his feelings. If he got overly upset now, she would just make him do it all himself. There was no way he’d be able to blow them up and knot them himself, at least not to her satisfaction! This was the only option. Not to mention, he knew if she became bitter at him that she could easily continue to hold it over his head. His work days with her would no longer be ones of friendly chatter and laughs on the job, but ones where “accidental pops” when no-one was around would become the norm. No, he would have to suck it up, and keep going.

Soon enough, he found a groove again, despite being a little shaken by the defective balloon bursting early. They were only a couple balloons away now. He still couldn’t rest easy though… now the whole area was filled with the big, floating rainbow orbs all advertising the new sale. Jed had to admit though, he was a little impressed. The area was certainly eye-catching, and the amount of decorations made the area surprisingly beautiful.

He made his way back, where he was surprised to find Stephanie didn’t have a balloon ready to go for him. She seemed to be grappling with the one she just blew up. It looked ready to escape from her grasp, as she tried to tie a knot on what remained of available space from the neck. The balloon made squeaking sounds of frustration all the while. Twist, turn, squeak! Right as she’d get it in a good position, it would suddenly turn away from her. Stephanie was very obviously frustrated. She never could keep a straight face. Jed watched the show in awe. Miraculously, the balloon conceded first, and a knot was eventually tied. Jed held his hand out for it, but was received a… different response.

“No.”

Jed looked on in horror as Stephanie held the balloon, a bright lime green, in front of her. “This balloon was bad. I’m sorry, but I think I need to punish this bad, bad balloon. I just… need… to vent a little…” Jed took a second to process the information, the meaning of her words finally hitting him as she begun to dig her nails into the rubbery flesh of the balloon. It squirmed, resisted. Jed scurried away as fast as he could, ducked behind an aisle, and covered his ears in fright at what was about to come.

The balloon continued to frustrate once more, putting up a surprisingly valiant effort against Stephanie’s sharp nails. However, eventually it could fight no longer, exploding with a deep BOOM. Stephanie did not flinch, her adrenaline still going. Jed, still shaking, peeked from behind the aisle, making sure he was sure the coast was clear. “Sorry! Had to get that out of my system! Stupid thing just did not want to tie!” Stephanie beckoned him over. “Another sale like this, and your balloon fear will be totally cured.” Jed doubted this, but he didn’t have the strength to argue. He looked at his watch again. 10:20. It had only been 20 minutes since when he was offered the job in the first place. How was that possible?

Luckily for Jed, there wasn’t much more to go. On the last balloon, Stephanie made a show of pretending she was going to keep going until it burst again, before cackling, shutting the nozzle off, and letting a little bit of helium out of it. Jed didn’t particularly find this that funny at this point, but Stephanie didn’t seem to care. Finally, it was done. 20 balloons, all floating, tied with string. Jed breathed a sigh of relief. No more worrying about balloons for a good, long while. He rolled the bag down and grabbed a clip to keep the remaining balloons shut. But then…

“Hey, you knooooooooooow…” Just at this Jed closed his eyes and rubbed this forehead. “What now?” Stephanie bounced over to him, stopping him from putting the clip on the bag of balloons. “We could have some more fun with the balloons. We still have plenty in the bag, and corporate’s not going to care about some silly ol’ balloons. Maybe I should blow one up for you… as thanks for doing this job for me?” Jed swallowed. There was something enticing there in her voice, and he did have to admit she did look gorgeous with a balloon beside her, but did he really have the courage to spend more time with Stephanie and her balloons?

Fate would not let him answer her question. A cry of “HEY! ANYONE WORKIN’ HERE?! HELLO! I WANNA CHECK-OUT NOW! AIN’T NO WAY I’M USING SELF-CHECK, YA HEAR ME?!!” could be heard coming from the front of the store. Jed was saved, for a customer had indeed wandered into the store for a last-minute item. He got up to go over, when Stephanie stopped him, and whispered in his ear two simple little words that would eat at him for the next few days.

“Next time.”

The customer had his item rung (didn’t even bother with a receipt), and soon the store was quiet again. People did mosey in and out, and it made Jed wonder if that brief period of nothingness had been destiny, destiny to link him and Stephanie together with a bond formed of balloons. In Stephanie’s case she did not mention it for the rest of the shift. She merely carried on like nothing was different or changed. The endless shift did eventually have an end, and as the lights were dimmed in the store and Night Crew came to organize the shelves, Jed took one last look at what Stephanie and him put together. The balloons still looked beautiful in the cool light, like they were dancing in the open air. But the kids wouldn’t care. They wouldn’t notice their hard effort. These balloons would meet their fate tomorrow, Jed was sure of that. “Nothing worse for balloons than grubby kid mitts.” Would some kid be traumatized tomorrow, just like he was so many years ago? That he couldn’t be sure about. But it was better not to think about it, and enjoy the simple beauty before him.

“Ready to go, kiddo?” Stephanie called out to him. “’Bout to lock up for the night.” Yeah, it was time to get going. He looked at his watch. Midnight. It was already a new day.
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Old 11-08-2022, 12:05 AM
lyckr lyckr is offline
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Default Re: Two Hours 'til Closing
This was teasing in more than one way. Any plans of a sequel?
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Old 11-08-2022, 03:29 AM
Scooter Scooter is offline
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Default Re: Two Hours 'til Closing
Originally Posted by lyckr View Post
This was teasing in more than one way. Any plans of a sequel?
Like before, yes and no. Nothing right off the bat, but I may choose to return to this later down the line if I have the right idea for it.

Does Stephanie simply like teasing Jed, and the balloons are just her method of doing it, or does she also have... hidden feelings about balloons, and teasing Jed is the outlet for those feelings? For now, it is up to the reader to decide.
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Old 11-08-2022, 04:13 AM
b0f0s0f b0f0s0f is offline
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Default Re: Two Hours 'til Closing
Excellently written! Great story.
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Old 11-08-2022, 08:31 AM
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loonerfun00 loonerfun00 is online now
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Default Re: Two Hours 'til Closing
Very well written. Nice flow and very simple. I liked it a lot.
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