Perfume Girl

The hours seemed to slow as Danielle stood in front of the mirrored counter, her finger poised over the spray button on the perfume bottle. Harried crowds edged past her, ignoring her entreaties.

‘Would you like to try Chanel Chance?’

Heads shook and people gazed at their shoes, or pretended to be occupied with their children. Danielle had seen it all before.

Some were kinder than others. A dishevelled woman with a toddler gave her a half smile and proffered her wrist.

‘Just a small spray, love. I forgot to put some on today. What’s it called?’

Danielle went through the sales pitch for the fragrance on autopilot. ‘Chanel Chance, eau de toilette. Base notes of citrus and floral create a fresh and summery scent. The top notes are pink pepper, lemon and pineapple.’

The woman held her wrist up to her nose, inhaling. Her eyes twinkled. ‘Heavenly. I’ll have to get the old man to buy me some for Christmas.’

She winked and scuttled away, reaching out for her tow-headed toddler, hell-bent on escape.

Danielle sprayed a few of the sample cards and shook them, scoping out the mass of people for a customer. Sometimes they did not fit the demographic and purchased despite all expectations.

She wasn’t allowed to put sales through at the till, only to lure customers, like a mermaid beckoning sailors into the Bermuda Triangle.

That morning she had spent an hour straightening her dark hair and applying immaculate, natural makeup. She wore a black pencil shirt and white blouse—the uniform of the cosmetics promotional girl.

There he is, she thought. It was the same man. She had dubbed him ‘Saville’ for his hand-stitched grey suit. For three days he had walked past at around the same time. They did not speak, but he would cast her a furtive glance and the beginnings of a smile would curve his lips.

Speak to me, she willed him, eyeing his crisp shirt and honeyed skin. His eyes were aqua blue with flecks of green. Not that she was staring.

‘Hello,’ he said in a smooth voice. ‘What have you got there?’

Danielle was speechless, the sales pitch stilled in her mouth. ‘Chance. Chanel. Perfume.’ She was robotic, her limbs as lifeless as metal.

His smile was wide and enveloping. Almost perfect teeth, with one eye tooth overlapping the front one.

‘Are you going to give me a card?’

Danielle’s consciousness made its way back into her body. Thud. Her eyes widened and a deep flush spread on her cheeks.

‘Yes, please take one. It’s really fresh and summery.’

He placed the card under his nose and breathed in, his eyes still fixed on her.

‘It’s delicious. I enjoy fragrance, but I don’t think I’ve smelt this one before. What did you say your name was?’

She felt warmth in her stomach spread to her throat. ‘I didn’t. It’s Danielle.’

‘Mmm, Danielle. I smell citrus, vanilla, and florals.’

‘You’re good, that’s exactly right.’

‘I’ll take the one hundred ml bottle. The parfum. Lasts longer.’

Danielle grinned. ‘You know your stuff.’

She led him over to the staff at the counter, who frowned at her. She was being too familiar.

‘Rosa will look after you.’ Her eyelids fluttered. ‘Who is it for?’

He did not skip a beat. ‘My wife. Thanks so much for your help.’

Danielle blanched and made her way back to the edge of the counter, already trying to erase the interaction from her memory.

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