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Pricetag

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Click. Paste. Click. Paste. Click. Yuri sighs. The monotony of the afternoon isn’t at all broken up by the stamps of the price gun. She sticks one of the dozens of blank stickers to her forehead and huffs.

It isn’t working the way it had before and Yuri knows that whatever she witnessed before really happened. She’d been confused about the sticker that came out before, far too many numbers stamped onto the small rectangle that she’d swiped onto a carton of strawberry milk. She clicked the trigger and stuck another sticker to the carton and that one at least read with the price she’d intended to stamp there.

A girl with short hair and a glittering smile bought the carton of strawberry milk, hadn’t even blinked at the sticker which stated way too many digits to be a price. And Yuri had stuttered her way through the transaction and managed to look as though she was enamoured by the girl’s prettiness rather than fearful of how the numbers that could almost be mistaken for a date and time flickered and blurred before her very eyes.

And then the girl narrowly avoided a car which mounted the pavement as the driver lost concentration and steered too far out of its domain.

It was strange then and it is still strange now.

Click. Paste. It’s the price that Yuri had been told to stick to all of the crisp packets. And she still doesn’t have an answer. She doesn’t have a clue whether her suspicions are correct. Yet she can’t shake off the thoughts that occurred to her in the dreams where the car veered right into the girl or the dreams where the car never happened and some other freak accident took its place.

Click. Paste. Still no significant date of death or accident or any warning at all.

If Yuri is right she wants to be able to help out customers who need to know something is coming towards them. But she probably should be glad that until now there has been nothing. She shouldn’t be upset that there isn’t anyone around her who needs the warning. It’s better that there’s nobody at risk.

After Yuri sweeps up as many adhesive curls of failed labels as she can with her hands she puts them in the bin behind the counter with more trouble than she'd like and hopes nobody asks her about wasting a whole roll of stickers. She rubs her eyes and leans against the counter. The fluorescent lights are harsh at all hours of the day but into the evening when all is quiet between clusters of customers perusing the booze the light reflects too harshly from every surface.

Yuri blinks the dryness out of her eyes when the bell above the door alerts her to the arrival of a customer. She tries to sound cheerful enough to earn her weekly wage though she isn’t quite sure why it startles the two girls on their way to the back of the shop. She thinks herself lucky that she cleared away the spent stickers before the customers arrived and the girls look confused as they return her relieved smile.

While the girls discuss their options quietly at the end of the alcohol aisle Yuri sags over the counter. She must not be sleeping enough and she considers the merits of having a nap as soon as the customers leave. It is late enough that she might get away with it. Though it isn’t late enough that she’d get away with fully resting her head on the counter while there are customers in the shop.

“You’re not dead are you?”

Yuri stands up quickly and the two girls startle into each other and knock all the chewing gum from the display beside the cash register. They giggle nervously into their relief and Yuri apologises as well as she can considering the circumstances. She tries to be extra polite as she scans everything through and quotes the payment total. There's a hushed discussion of who should pay for the mound of snacks bulging out of the carrier bag Yuri had packed for them but it is just thing unusual enough that Yuri can't prevent her eyes from losing focus as she waits.

She snaps right out of her reverie when the whispers end and the pouting girl combs her fringe absently as she announces she'll be the one to pay. She’s glad her responses are trained to reflexive speeds because she soon has to dodge the hand extending across the counter towards her forehead.

“What are you doing?” The other girl asks, looking more dazed than irritated at her friend’s behaviour. But the other girl doesn’t answer. She keeps reaching and following Yuri’s retreat until she’s pressing her fingers against the outgrown fringe on Yuri’s forehead. And then she seems to peel something away.

“This was distracting me,” The girl says as she fiddles with a curl of white adhering to her fingertips. The strip isn’t completely white though. Yuri swears she can see the faint print of ink smudged over it. But it flutters away as though it were nothing and Yuri can’t ask to see the price label no matter how much she’d like to.

“Stop being weird,” the other girl says crossly as though it isn’t already strange enough that she has opened a packet of crisps and begun scoffing them before they’re even paid for.

“I’m not being weird. It’s called being considerate. What if someone came in after us and thought strange things about--” she squints at Yuri’s nametag before straightening up and folding her arms and squaring up to her friend “--poor Yuri here.”

But people must have been thinking lots of things about Yuri for a while since she’d been obsessively pulling the triggers of priceguns to find another significant date. And now she’d have to deal with strange thoughts even from people she should probably try to help.

“I’m Yuri.”

The girl eating crisps looks alarmed as she chews even more quickly. “Hurry up and pay.”

Unfortunately for her there doesn’t appear to be any urgency to pay in her friedn’s eyes. She leans over the counter and grins. “It’s nice to meet you, Yuri. I’m Yena and I will always save you from bits of paper stuck to your forehead.”

It’s not the most thrilling introduction and Yuri wonders why she feels so terrible about introducing a substanceless sticker into the equation in the first place. It might mean nothing but it could just as easily mean everything as Yuri clasps her hand limply around Yena’s and wishes for the things she sees to be tricks.