Matty pushed his cart through produce lined aisles under fluorescent lights. “Shit, out of potatoes?” The stock shortages are getting aggravating as hell. He checked his tinder account again, scrolling through all the rejected images of women, for inconsequential traits that reminded him of previous exes he would rather forget.
“Where are you Tabitha,” she’d given him the time and place. “It’s almost 5 o’clock.” Is she worth breaking the quarantine for? It’s not like he could just go to a bar on a Saturday night and meet someone. Nope. It’s a little more complicated than that these days.
Mushrooms, check. Onions, check. Garlic?
“Motherfucker… no damn garlic?” How the hell was he going to cook his grandmother’s secret recipe for spaghetti sauce for Tabitha, so he could win her heart for the night? Grandma’s spaghetti sauce had always been his sure thing. His lucky charm. Works nearly every time.
He looked up.
Her green eyes snared him over a mountain of rutabagas.
Elaine switched the basket from one arm to the other. Why she still refused to get a cart was a subject that had ended her last two-year long relationship. Her stubborn refusal to accept reality. The bulging basket was heavy enough to bend the plastic handle and she wasn’t nearly done yet. She’d started with three bottles of Côtes du Rhône. Did she really need three bottles? Yes. Her sore arm and the groaning basket begged to differ.
“Hush,” her robust rationalization system overrode her prickly conscience. She’d be lucky if she didn’t turn into a raging alcoholic like poor old uncle Tom who everyone avoided. Including her.
Elaine’s phone buzzed. She opened the text. Her sister Gertie; if you see any baby wipes grab them for me. Heart.
Elaine rolled her eyes. How did she always know? Oh, fucking find-my-friends app. She was done with produce anyway. Spinach, yes, beets, got it. Needed goat cheese and now baby wipes.
She turned around, almost tripped over a fallen rutabaga, “shit,” she caught herself, “that’s going to kill someone.” She bent to grab it, almost capsizing the overflowing basket. Somehow, she managed to stand up with the fallen rutabaga and not lose the load.
Matty checked his phone again.
Tabitha’s message said, “I’ll be over in the produce section standing by the rutabaga.”
“Why rutabaga?” Matty texted back.
“It’s the only thing that always seems to be there,” ;-) wink emoji.
“laughing tears emoji.”
Matty looked around. There she was. Green eyes dancing over her Paisley mask. She was holding a rutabaga.
He made his way over, smiling beneath his black skull and crossbones mask.
Elaine debated putting the rutabaga back with the others. Inspecting for floor dirt, but she couldn’t see it. Poor rutabaga to be cast aside and discriminated against, because of a gravity mishap. People are supposed to sanitize their food nowadays anyway. She placed the rutabaga securely on top of the rutabaga pile.
“Ma’am, I believe you’ve just committed a produce violation.”
Elaine jumped, almost losing the mushrooms from her basket, “I believe it wasn’t attempted suicide, sir. He didn’t jump. He was pushed…”
“Well carry-on then.”
Matty said, “you must be Tabitha?”
“Could be,” her green eyes sparked. Is he worth breaking the quarantine for?
“That sounds like a definite maybe?”
“You could say that.”
“Still in the mood for spaghetti?”
“I do make a mean spinach and goat cheese salad,” she hesitated, “with meatballs?”
“If you’re into meat?”
“Definitely,” she smiled.
He looked relieved. “So, you’re ready to go then?” Matty went to reach for the heavy basket. Pulled back and awkwardly gestured toward his cart
“Ha, sure,” she rested the overburdened basket in his cart.
“Just need one more thing!” Elaine darted back toward the aisles.
“Okay, I’ll grab us a spot in line.”
Elaine came back with baby wipes, set them beside the beets in her pile on the register conveyor belt just before it moved out of reach behind the plastic guardrail.
Matty raised his eyebrows, but didn’t say anything.
Elaine watched his reaction, “dealbreaker?”
“No, but it does answer the question your place or mine,” his lips slid into a half grin behind his mask. He shook his head.
Elaine nodded. Unable to see his mouth, she paid extra attention to his eyes. His warm but sharp brown eyes had a registered a flash of curiosity, followed by uncertainty and settled into a glow of acceptance.
“Anyway, they’re for my sister.”
“I wasn’t even going to ask,” he said. She smiled. “You didn’t have to.”