Getting close, and I’m so excited! Just got my cover back from the designer (Annie Walls) and I’m in love. She did a great job.
Take it Back
That split-second decision you want to yank back – a minute, an hour, a day later. The difference between the better choice, and what we ultimately do. These moments regularly made me wonder if maybe I wasn’t as good a person as I liked to believe. I tied off the third bag of tomatoes, stopping at eight instead of the ten pounds I needed, and spun my cart the opposite direction.
Across the expanse of the produce section, Vera had looked up from a pile of peaches just as I looked away, a near miss of glances. Too late to act pleased to see her, raise my hand in a wave of recognition, or even offer a civil nod, I fled to dairy with my heart in my throat – probably wanting to say, “Yo, asshole. How do you live with yourself?” I’d come back for the bags of onions and ten cucumbers still on my list when the coast was clear.
Almost a year had passed since I’d seen Vera, and she still looked damn fine. Usually, when I saw her, I wondered what it would be like to touch her, kiss her, feel her skin against mine, but then if I wasn’t such a bonehead, I would know, because I had touched her, kissed her, slid my hands over her naked skin, but I was too drunk to remember when the morning after rolled around. Never mind three years later.
One more decision I wished I could take back, because not only did that terrible night of impaired judgment hang over my head, Vera’s insistence that it never happened was like lemon juice on a paper cut. The sting made my skin crawl and my stomach lurch. She denied it. Acted like I was some kind of freak for suggesting such a thing.
Up and down the aisles, I made a point to keep my gaze low, stealing glances around to watch for her. I focused on humming along to the elevator pop music piping into the store, like it was so amazing it had me completely absorbed. The detached demeanor didn’t save me from two women asking me to fetch items from the top shelf for them – an inevitable chore for a tall guy at the grocery store.
My escape was nearly complete, if you didn’t count the fact that she knew I’d seen and ignored her. The cashier announced my total.
“This is for the Argos restaurant,” I said, then rattled off my account number.
In the lane behind me, the other cashier said, “Your card was declined. Do you have another one?”
“That’s not possible,” Vera’s shocked whisper carried to my ears, just as forcefully as a shout. “I just came from the bank. There’s money in the account. Please try again.”
“I tried it twice, and that’s all we’re allowed. Do you have a credit card?”
Sneaking a glance over my shoulder, I saw Vera’s face, bright red, eyes downcast. “I don’t,” she said. “I left my purse at home. Can we call the bank?”
“Ma’am, I have a line of people waiting –”
So much for hiding. Without thinking, I pulled my wallet from my pocket and reached over to hand the checker my card. “I got this.” The woman didn’t hesitate, swiping my card and handing it back.
Vera’s gaze flashed to me. Her blush grew a shade deeper. This was killing her. She didn’t handle attention well. I grinned, hoping to ease her discomfort. “Same thing happened to me last month when I tried to get a coffee at the gas station. My insurance payment pulled and put me over my limit for the day. Probably something like that.”
By the horrified look on her face, I could tell she wanted to refuse my help, but she was holding up the line and her only other option was to leave her purchases behind and flee the store. Those incredible eyes she rarely turned on me widened before quickly looking away. My cashier asked me to sign my receipt, so I turned around, giving Vera time to recover.
“Thank you, Nico. I’ll pay you back.” The screech of a stubborn wheel on her cart sounded a few steps behind as I aimed for the sliding exit doors.
“I’m not worried. I know where to find you,” I tossed over my shoulder.
“I can drop it by the Argos later. Will you be there?”
I would, but I didn’t know if I could handle seeing her twice in one day.
“Just give it to me next time you see me.”
The screeching wheel stopped and I turned to see her ready to head to the opposite end of the parking lot. “That might be a little tricky. It’s not like I have fifty-three dollars on me at all times.”
“And it’s not like every day without that fifty-three dollars pushes me closer to bankruptcy. Don’t worry about it. I’m not.” I didn’t give her a chance to respond and as soon as my back was turned, I pushed Vera Watson from my mind.