Prompt: Sam desperately needs money during college. The only place hiring near campus right now is a garden center, and they hire him on the spot because he's big and tall and can haul heavy things around. Problem is, Sam is allergic to a wide variety of plants. Cue Sam being miserable and sneezy/stuffy at work, and Jess making him feel better when he gets home.



The Choices We Make


At six-fourteen on the dot, Jess heard Sam in the hallway. There was the sound of his sneakers on the floor, the clicking of his bicycle as he walked it to the door, and one massive sneeze followed by a groan. Jess was at the door and opened it just as Sam reached for the doorknob. She ushered him inside and put a hand on his chest to keep him from going another step.


Then, as he stood there with his mouth open and nostrils flaring, Jess dismantled her boyfriend. Her hand snuck under his forest green garden center T-shirt and pulled his belt out of its loops. She slid his sunglasses off, and tried not to wince at the sight of his bloodshot eyes. “Shit. I thought the sunglasses would help.”


Sam nodded. “I thidk they did.” Swiftly, he lifted a fist to his nose and mouth. “hahhh-GIHTCHhhhhh!


She sighed. “You sound worse than yesterday. I wish you didn’t have to work at this place.”


“I did’t hab a choice. We deed the bodey, Jess. It was the odly blace aroud here that was hiridg.”


Jess understood, but she didn’t have to like it. The Happy Flower Garden Center had taken one look at Sam and hired him on the spot to help move their entire spring stock. They were lucky to have him and he was lucky to be paid pretty well for all the manual labor. And they were lucky he hadn’t quit as soon as he realized there was something at the garden center he was horribly allergic to.


hah… hahhh-KITSCHHH!” The sneeze threw him forward, and he took a step. But she pressed her hand against his chest again.


“Oh no. Not another step. Now strip.” She pulled his shirt off over his head, watching his hair flop back into place and his nose twitch immediately.


hahh-SHIKUhhhh! Ihkrshhhh!” He grabbed the balled-up shirt from her and buried his nose in it.


“No, Sam!”


IhhChfff! hahChuhfffff! Hah-IHXShhffff!” Of all the things he could have chosen to sneeze into, that shirt really should have been last on the list, but it was too late to do anything about it now. “hah-GIHShfffff!


She unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans, guiding them down. They were covered in streaks of dirt. “I thought you were going to talk to your bosses and ask that they move you to a different part of the center.”


“I did. They… hah—“ He buried his face in the shirt’s folds. ”huh-HIXSChhffff! They did. But I’b still aller… alerhuh…huh-Cufffffffffff!” He snuffled into the t-shirt, which only seemed to make him worse. The sneezy expression hadn’t left his face from the second he’d walked in the door; probably not while he’d been at work either. “hahh-Chshfffff! I thidk I’b allergic t-t-tuh-huh-KXshfffff! To everythidg dow.”


“Oh babe…” She squatted down, untying his shoes and slipping them off, one at a time. She looked up at him, so tall and strong but weak and exhausted at the same time. Working his ass off at the garden center was one thing, but doing it while sneezing his head off? That wasn’t at all fair. “Step back.” He stepped out of his jeans. “Okay. Now straight into the shower. And give me that.” She pulled the shirt from his grip and dropped it into the laundry basket by the door. “Now go.”


And that’s when he did it. He still looked like he had to sneeze, mouth half open with soft gasps. But he dipped his head and looked at her with the biggest, most pathetic puppy dog eyes he’d ever flashed her.


Jess moved in to kiss him on instinct then stepped back, pushing him away. “Wait, I don’t want you getting the pollen or whatever all over me. Shower first, second base second.” She pushed him toward the bathroom and this time he went.


huh-HuhSchihhh!” He went sneezing, but he definitely went.


She grabbed his jeans and threw them into the basket as well. It was a good thing he was making more than minimum wage at this job if a dollar and seventy-five cents had to go to laundry every day.


After running them down to the washer, she got back to the apartment in time to hear the shower stop running. When Sam emerged from behind the curtain, she stood in the bathroom with her arms crossed over her chest. “How’s the sneezing?”


He sniffed and shook his head. “Still-huh still bad. Kuh-HRSchhhhh!


“You’re taking that 24-hour allergy pill every night before bed, right?”


He nodded and cupped his hand to his face this time. “hh’KTSHHH!


“Good. Then, Mister, you’ve earned yourself a choice. Option A is a cup of peppermint tea and lying down on the couch with a cool compress on your eyes. Option B is a shower.”


Sam looked confused and actually glanced back at the shower head. “Jess, I just took—“


Her hands slid downward, took hold of the bottom of her shirt, and then lifted it up over her head. “FYI, I’m choosing Option B. How about you?”


Rubbing at his nose, he stepped aside to give her room to get into the tub with him.