It was Friday night around six, and I was in the grocery store -- not the big chain store, but the little one that was more expensive but had nicer produce. I’d gotten hooked on salad and was trying to lose some weight -- maybe ten or fifteen pounds, nothing amazing. I wasn’t serious about it, but I liked the raw veggies, and the pickled this and that and a bit of lunchmeat and cheese. Whatever. I was carrying a basket, because I don’t generally need much, and filling a cup from the complimentary coffee pot when I saw her.
She was rushing, but she wasn’t in a hurry -- it was agitation and defensiveness and distraction layered over something else. I was a traffic hazard to her and her cart, so she looked up at me without adjusting the irritation in her expression, then she stopped and whatever was under there bubbled up for a moment. Then she looked away, adjusted the trajectory of her shopping cart and turned into the next aisle.
I kept tracking. At a guess, she was wearing pantyhose under her thin cotton pants -- everything was very smooth, if a little thick. She was a little thick all over -- which is nothing amazing, it’s pretty much average. A doctor will tell you that damned near everyone is a bit overweight. This one was probably fifty pounds over the line, but it was distributed well -- she was just a little thick everywhere. Nothing was hanging out and inciting a riot; I went through my initial impression and it had been her face and her eyes that had caught my attention, not her bustline, which was certainly there but not humongous by any stretch. She was conservatively dressed in a long-sleeved blouse, a little jacket, and the pants -- kind of a uniform -- with no-nonsense shoes. She had plain old light-brown hair, swept back and pinned up to make a mess of curls at the back of her head that wasn’t quite a bun and wasn’t quite a ponytail.
So why was I looking?
It was her face, I guess -- not her features, though. She had a wide forehead and regular features with maybe a bit of pixie in them -- but she wasn’t Catherine Zeta Jones, by any stretch. No, it was her expression -- her eyes, mostly, although they were an unremarkable brown under slightly bushy brows. It was what was in them -- and what was in her face -- that put me on Yellow Alert and caused me to undock from the coffee machine and reposition to head up the aisle she would be returning down.
If you’re a guy, I know you’ve been out and seen women that you just wanted -- one look and it’s there. Sometimes, they look back and it seems to be mutual -- but somehow, neither of you has the guts and you each go your separate ways. Maybe it’s because you’re following the woman you have a long-term relationship around the store and you’re aware that she wouldn’t appreciate the diversion. Maybe it’s timing. Maybe it’s a total lack of testicular fortitude. The opportunity comes and it goes ... That’s more or less what I expected as I entered the ethnic foods aisle.
She picked me up from the far end and we came at one another like a couple of fighters on an attack run, strafing. I eyeballed her fingers -- thick, like the rest of her, and not bearing any rings at all -- and she watched me like a hawk, catching the move and recognizing it for what it was. Neither of us looked at a damned thing until after we’d passed one another, at which point we both stopped and pretended to examine some product while eyeing each other sidelong from a distance of thirty feet. She actually backtracked to do real shopping while I loitered over the canned chow mein. Each of us pretended not to be looking -- but we caught each other twice. Finally, she resumed her original course and slowly moved into the next aisle.
The aisle contained paper products and such -- including baby things. I had no business there, but she did -- and she took it out on a bundle of pull-ups, certain that the action had put an end to things.
It hadn’t, though -- although it would have, normally. Collecting baby supplies tended to negate the lack of a ring at the very least, putting the assumption that she was single at risk. At a minimum, one could assume that she was a mother -- and unwed mothers were a danger in and of themselves. They tended to be a wary adversary, for good reason -- and if you got in, well, that could be THEIR trap! But I was all in and a tactic had presented itself, so I slid forward into engagement range, wary, but committed.
“You shouldn’t be buying that stuff here,” I hazarded, “It HAS to be cheaper at Wal-Mart or the big chain markets.”
She didn’t look at me, but muttered, “I’m too tired to hit another store. Besides, after I’ve paid for the gas, have I saved anything? Damn! I need the pink ones!” She put the mildly ravaged bundle back on the lower shelf and reached up for the bundle of the proper color.
They were stacked high -- higher than she could reach. She jumped and gave a little push to the bundle on the bottom of the stack on the top shelf and the bundle above it tumbled forward as she stumbled back. I stepped up behind her and put one hand on her hip while I reached out to stop the bottom one from falling too with the hand holding my basket, using it to press the bundle back.
“You should have let me do that,” I admonished, “since I’m here.”
She looked up at me, wide-eyed, having backed into my right hip while catching her balance. She started to lurch forward, but stopped, still watching my face, then slowly turned to her right, not breaking contact and allowing my hand to slide over her belly while she bent to put the bundle in the cart.
“I’ll need the other one,” she muttered in a choked voice.
Fine.” I flipped up the basket enough to have it slide down over my wrist to the elbow and used the hand to collect the second bundle, not releasing her. She took the bundle, and then pulled the basket off my arm and placed it in the cart.
“Since you’re helping me, you’ll need both hands,” she muttered. She moved to behind the cart -- slowly, so as not to disengage my hand -- and started pushing it up the aisle. “I need some wipes,” she said, pointing.
I snagged them with my left hand and tossed them into the cart. “Two?”
“Yeah, I guess.” I repeated the move and found her looking up at me. “Why?”
The question wasn’t ‘Why are you helping me fill my cart?’
“I don’t know. Let’s not analyze it,” I replied. I didn’t, either -- and this wasn’t the time to look a gift horse in the mouth for either of us. She nodded in agreement.
“Let me know if you need anything.”
“It won’t be in this aisle!” I chuckled -- and she stiffened, and I knew I’d hit a sore spot. “Maybe the next,” I added hurriedly.
We had to work our way through the toddler foods and supplements and this and that and she got more and more antsy until we rounded the corner and were into the frozen foods. Then she relaxed; I rubbed her hip and she relaxed even more. We went up the aisle like a married couple, not saying much except, “Two of those, please.”
“No, the ones next to them.”
I would step away to get things, but come back and put my hand back on her hip and we would move on. A couple of women smiled at us, totally unaware that the relationship hadn’t done much more than start.
Eventually, though, we approached the checkout.
“Did you get everything?” she asked.
I went through in front of the cart and checked out, then dropped my single bag into her cart as we unloaded her things from it. Then she did her thing, and it became clear she had food stamps or whatever -- and that it was an embarrassment to her. I ignored it. We went out through the door and she got hesitant in the parking lot. I gave her a vague wave; she pushed the cart to her car and popped the trunk, and I helped her shift the load -- including my things.
At that point, the trunk still open, she turned to me, picking her fingers. “What are we doing?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I just couldn’t stand seeing that look on your face.”
“That look.” It was back, that look -- one of fear and loneliness and a little righteous anger at the world for being so cold and unfeeling -- and the anticipation of an uncertain but unhappy future. I stepped in and wrapped my arms around her; she hugged herself close and stuck her head in my armpit -- and we stood there like that for ten minutes, at least. Finally, she broke loose and drew a shuddering breath. I turned to slam the trunk lid.
“Are you doing anything?” she asked, mustering her nerve.
“Nothing important,” I replied. “Let’s go home.” It was clear that I meant hers, not mine. She nodded, ducked her head and opened the driver’s door, unlocking the passenger door for me with the button on her key fob. I got in, pushing a bit of detritus off the seat. There was a car seat in back, naturally, along with toys and this and that. My car was cleaner, but I didn’t have any kids...
Hell, I didn’t have much of anything, except free time. I was thirty, and this was already more exposure to a woman than I’d had in a year. I’d been planning to bake a pizza and drink myself unconscious -- not because I liked alcohol, but because I might not sleep, otherwise, and I didn’t like drugs. Porn would handle the other urges, more or less -- it usually did. I was as needy as she was -- maybe worse. The one thing that could have screwed us hadn’t come up -- the, ‘We can’t go home -- my husband... ‘ admission. The more we were together, the less likely THAT was. When she didn’t object to taking me home in her car, it pretty well defined her relationship status.
Typically for how things had gone thus far, nobody said anything on the ride over to her place, in a not-too-prosperous-looking apartment block. She got out and I grabbed probably three-quarters of the bags out of the trunk. She grabbed the rest and led me inside to a first-floor place -- and straight into the kitchen, where we put her things away, and shoved mine -- bag and all -- into the refrigerator. Then we went in and sat on the couch -- for an hour, at least -- with me doing nothing but rubbing her arm and squeezing her against me.
It was weird; we didn’t say a word to one another. I think we were afraid that if one of us started asking questions, we would find some reason -- aside from the obvious ones -- for me to leave. Instead, she leaned against me and we drew comfort from one another. I luxuriated in the whole notion of having a woman’s body pressed against me and she apparently did the female equivalent. We started out merely leaning against one another, but it seemed to progress as time went on and we continued to relax until it was like we were flowing over one another, without even moving. We weren’t even watching TV -- it was all about that feeling. She went for a while just cuddling, then she turned her head into my shoulder and started to cry, and no explanation was necessary -- I got it. After a bit, that was over and she started slowly rubbing my chest, her face tucked into my shoulder. I started playing with her neck, rubbing it from behind.
Suddenly, it was eight o’clock and her phone rang; she got up and fished it out of her purse and from the conversation, I gathered that it was her babysitter -- who was apparently her sister. She looked over at me and asked, “Can you keep her? Something has come up...”
I could hear the response from ten feet away -- an angry rasp that included some kind of accusation over ‘going out and partying.’ I waved it off, motioning that she should bring her daughter home; she looked worried, but I waved THAT off, too.
“Okay, forget it -- bring her down,” she said into the phone, and hung up. “Sorry.” I shrugged. “Sis will freak...”
“I’ll duck out of sight.”
“Would you? It would save some explanations and a big hassle.” There was a knock -- apparently, dear old Sis lived in the building. I hopped up and headed for the bathroom.
I could hear the harangue from there. My hostess put an end to the thing fairly quickly, though, leaving just the sound of a young voice -- one expressing happiness at seeing her mother. I wandered back in to take a look.
“This is Lisa. She’s two.” The munchkin was pretty cute, actually, with light brown hair and wide, green eyes that regarded me owlishly for a bit while she gripped a finger when I wandered too close. But those eyes drooped and she lost interest fairly quickly.
“It’s past her bedtime -- let me put her down,” I was told, and they moved off. I resumed my seat on the couch; after all, I wasn’t going anywhere without my car...
When she came back, my hostess said, “It’s getting late -- have you eaten? I haven’t. I was just going to throw a pizza in the oven -- is that okay?”
“Fine,” I replied, “I was going to do the same thing, actually.” She moved off and I heard baking pans bang and this and that, then she returned to the couch.
“It’ll be a few minutes before the oven heats.” I noticed that the little jacket was gone and the blouse was open one button further than I remembered -- and her breasts, which had been fairly tightly reined in, seemed to be moving under it. There were worse things ... She settled onto the couch beside me again and cuddled right up, and when I wrapped my arm around her I could tell that she’d made her bra go away. The plan was to keep it clean, but show my appreciation, so I tilted up her chin and went in for a kiss.
She opened up like a flower! Things just seemed to leap to the next level, which was an order of magnitude up from where we had been! We went straight to a serious tongue duel, running wide open while she held my head in place to keep me from going anywhere. I wasn’t paying any attention to my hands, but I’m pretty sure I kept it clean until the buzzer went off, telling us that the oven had pre-heated.