I’m giddy-excited about this! Not only is it a long-time dream come true, but I actually love the story. I re-read it last weekend and laughed, teared up, became aggravated – all with the characters I wrote. I guess that’s a good sign, if I feel those things while reading it and I know the story inside-out.
Read, enjoy, and comment! (And pass it along!)
When Elizabeth got to the grocery store, she decided on a cart instead of a basket, just in case. And it was a good thing; either she was really hungry or she felt like her wallet deserved to be aired out, because one hundred dollars of groceries later, her cart was filled. She found chocolate on sale, fresh fruits and vegetables, Italian seasoning to go on some garlic bread she wanted to make, yogurt, and something from almost every aisle, it seemed. She decided it was just because she was used to shopping for a family of four. But really, Elizabeth knew she would eat most if not all of that food between now and the end of her vacation.
The rain had slowly started up again as Elizabeth was about three quarters of the way through shopping. She tried to take a little longer so that the rain had a chance to blow over by the time she wanted to go home. She saw it had dissipated when she was at the checkout counter, but when she realized her cart held a total of ten bags, she stopped dead in her tracks.
I walked, she thought, the dread on her face visible. I’m such an idiot. Elizabeth had rented a car for the two weeks, but because it had been such a beautiful night, she had decided to save the gas and enjoy the outdoors.
What in the world was she supposed to do? Could she leave the groceries here, walk home, and come back for them? She’d have to. Or she could take the cart all the way, promising to return it.
Yeah, right, Elizabeth, she chided herself. That’s dumb. Well, I guess there’s nothing else I can do but—
“Miss, are you all right?” the cashier asked her. Elizabeth had her no-car realization after she had paid and therefore had gone into a daydream state, blocking those behind her from being checked out with their own groceries. The cashier startled Elizabeth out of her slight shock. She was mortified; how long had she been standing there?
“Are you okay?” he asked again.
“I’ll be fine; thank you very much. Have a nice day!” she said with a nervous smile.
The bags holding Elizabeth’s groceries were altogether too heavy for one woman to carry. She went to the service desk to humiliate herself further. Explaining her situation, Elizabeth watched the customer service worker’s expression go from indifference to altogether disinterest. The lady behind the counter was about twice Elizabeth’s age. With a scowl on her face and a furrow on her brow, the woman promptly rejected Elizabeth’s request for understanding and continued on with her business. Even after Elizabeth tried to convince her to please understand, the woman would not budge on her decision. Upon asking to speak with the manager, the rude lady said that she was the manager on duty and to please step aside so she could help the next customer.
Down the street Elizabeth went, carrying ten bags of groceries, including fragile things like eggs and bread, heavy things like milk, and a pound of chocolate. She had four bags in one hand, six in the other, about equally weighted. After only three minutes, Elizabeth’s hands began to lose circulation, so she sat herself down on the step of an antique shop. She saw purple and red lines on the insides of her fingers and fleetingly wished them to fall off so someone would have to help her. After taking a short breather, she picked up the bags again—they seemed heavier this time—and continued walking.
Elizabeth could see her doorstep, so she sped up. She almost tripped on an uprooted sidewalk square, but she quickly caught herself while two little boys on their porch let out a couple of giggles.
She could feel the beads of sweat trailing down her face and arms, and her triceps were burning.
At least I’m getting exercise, she reasoned.
The last twenty steps felt more like six hundred. As soon as she walked in the door, the groceries went to the floor as Elizabeth plopped right down with them. She sat against the back of the door and put her head back, gazing up at the ceiling. Breathing heavily, she wondered aloud if she was crazy and decided no, she wasn’t crazy; she just had vacation brain.
All of a sudden, a knock and a bark came from the other side of her front door.
Who in the world could that be?
She brushed off her jeans and stood up, spruced up her hair, looked out the window, and momentarily stopped breathing.
It was Smoothie Spiller with the yellow lab. She ran her fingers through her hair again, nervous, confused, and a little bit excited. She hadn’t thought about him since she looked at her new shirt earlier that morning. But suddenly she was very aware of how sweaty and out-of-sorts she was.
Opening the door slowly, she immediately decided how nice he looked in his khaki shorts and white t-shirt that had two thick navy blue stripes across the middle. His dark hair wasn’t fixed in any special way, and tan was a good look for him.
“Hi,” he said cautiously, going off her disheveled look. Jax, on the other hand, read no social cues whatsoever as he pulled on his leash in an attempt to reunite with Elizabeth. “Jax, sit,” Smoothie Spiller said firmly, but quickly bounced back to a smile in Elizabeth’s direction.
“Hey, there,” she said with a smile; Elizabeth was trying not to look as flustered as she felt. “How are you doing?”
“I’m doing just fine, thank you,” said her handsome stranger. He was smiling too. “I just saw you outside, walking with an armload of bags; I wanted to make sure you made it in okay.”
“Oh my goodness,” she said. She laughed a genuine, hearty laugh. “I think this is where I get really embarrassed.”
He paused, waiting for her to explain. His easy grin said that he was at least a little attracted to her, especially as she tried to iron out an explanation for her grocery trip home. There was no escape, was there? He had seen her fumble down the street. He probably heard her collapse against her door, maybe even her sigh of relief. But still, this was a handsome man, and she didn’t care to present herself as being this ungraceful.
He’s going to find out sooner or later, anyway. Wait! Where did that thought come from?
Regardless of her roaming thoughts, Elizabeth was aware of the raised eyebrows standing at her door, waiting for an answer to a question. And so Elizabeth began describing one of the most embarrassing stories she could ever recall telling about herself.
“Well,” Elizabeth started, and then paused. “Wait, first thing’s first. My name is Elizabeth Tenner; I’m afraid we neglected that little detail last night.”
His smile grew even wider. “I’m Nathan. Nathan Monroe. Nice to meet you, Elizabeth.” He was still studying her with a look of amusement on his face, silently inviting her to continue. His left hand was in his pocket, and he rocked slightly on his heels as Jax sat waiting for his next command.
“Right, well,” she continued, “I wanted to go grocery shopping. And as soon as I got there, I got pretty excited—as usual—about buying some food. So I grabbed a cart instead of a basket, forgetting I didn’t have my car with me. I got all those groceries,” she pointed to the pile next to her, “and had no way to get them home! The ridiculous woman at customer service wouldn’t let me leave them there so I could get my car, and therefore I had to carry them here by myself. I can’t feel my fingers, but I’m sure that’s only temporary. I also almost knocked over a kid on his bike. But I made it! I was just about to get out some chocolate and wine to celebrate.”
“Celebrate? For getting your groceries home?” Nathan looked at her with a sideways glance this time.
“Well … you know those posters that suggest a reason to party every single day of the year? I have the same kind of idea, but it’s reasons for celebrating with chocolate and wine.”
Elizabeth invited him into her simple house. It was a cadet blue two-story home with two old wooden rocking chairs on the front porch. The inside was just as charming, with two plush sofas in the front room, hardwood floors, and an antique-beach theme throughout. Once inside, Nathan immediately noticed the warm, light scent that filled the house.
“Wow, it smells really good in here; what is that?”
“Oh,” she said as if she didn’t notice anything different, “that’s a mixture of honeysuckle candle and the cinnamon raisin bread I made earlier. That and the rain. I have most of the windows open.”
“Well, it smells great.”
“Well, nature and I thank you,” said Elizabeth casually.
Nathan smiled, clearly enjoying their easy conversation. He apologized for dropping by unexpectedly and shared his bemusement by the fact that Elizabeth carried all those bags from the market. His eyes were slightly squinted and his eyebrows were somewhat furrowed as he spoke, but he was so good-natured about it that Elizabeth could easily see a combination of amusement and delight on his face. Elizabeth knew she seemed a little out of it, but there was nothing she could do about that. And to his credit, Nathan wasn’t making fun of her. He only smiled and said, “I don’t have to stay. I can let you get to your groceries. Like I said, I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
That’s sweet, she thought. Say that out loud and ask him to stay.
“That was very sweet of you, Nathan. Thank you.”
Should she ask him to stay? She wasn’t sure. Elizabeth was really enjoying the time to herself, but company would be nice, refreshing even, since she rarely entertained company at home. Especially from someone her own age, and of the opposite sex.
Hanging around a good-looking guy never hurt anyone. And she had felt safe with him last night; he ordered cotton candy ice cream, after all. Harmless, she thought. She went for it.
“Would you like to stay and help me put groceries away? Then you can have some of the bread I made; I’ve been told it’s pretty good. Though I don’t have anything to offer Jax.”
Nathan smiled and immediately accepted her offer, stating Jax would be fine with the tennis ball Nathan had taken out of his pocket. He also took eight of the ten grocery bags into the kitchen—Elizabeth managed the other two by herself.
“You rented a nice house,” said Nathan.
“Thanks. My brothers pitched in to rent it for me for a couple of weeks,” she said.
“That’s awesome. The one I’m staying in is a ranch, and the colors are more beige than blue. It’s really nice, though; I like it. It has a deck off the kitchen like this one. I’ve sat out on it almost every night since I moved here, reading or listening to music, or just enjoying the silence.”
“What are you reading? Anything good?” asked Elizabeth.
“The Bible,” said Nathan with a shrug, as though it was a book everyone read in their spare time. Elizabeth hadn’t expected that, but she didn’t dwell on it.
“Well, I’m enjoying my porch too. It’s so relaxing. It just feels like you’ve left the crazy and entered the serene. You forget that the real world is just on the other side of the door. You know what I mean?”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself.”
“So,” she asked, “would you like a piece of bread? I can warm it and butter you up—”
Nathan smirked as she corrected herself.
“Butter it up, I mean.” Oh, how red Elizabeth felt her cheeks get. Good thing they were both smiling.
You tell me:
Let me know what you think, and then pass this along!