Grocery Store Encounterbyjulybear7©
ALERT: the sex in this story occurs after the closing conversation. I suppose it could have been classified as non erotic, but I think two adults coming together and making the decision to share themselves helps define eroticism. Obviously, everyone is over the age of eighteen. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it. Jb7
Greg Smithers sat in the supermarket parking lot in his Chrysler minivan. As he sat there, he was going over his, now, 'long' shopping list. Since his wife had died unexpectedly last year, his long list usually included only ten or twelve items instead of the thirty to forty when he had done the shopping for the two of them.
"Strange," he thought, "how much I enjoyed doing the shopping then. It was an adventure, a challenge to see how much I could buy and still stay within the budget." And, he realized, it had been a break from the stress of caring for his invalided wife. Not that she had needed a lot of care. She had been able to take care of her toileting needs right up until she had gone into the hospital the week before she had passed away. But there had been the bathing, dressing, cooking and feeding, and medications.
Now grocery shopping was simply a chore. Something that had to be done to keep body and soul together. Even though he was an accomplished, and a talented, cook for an amateur, cooking for one was usually simply too much trouble. "Well, even if it's no more than sandwiches," he said to himself as he got out of his van,,"I gotta go in and get the makings."
As he meandered through the produce section, he noticed an attractive, early-60's looking woman trying to make up her mind about choosing a vegetable. As he looked at her, he recognized several signs of stress. She looked fatigued, and drawn. From her general condition and posture, he could tell she had worked once at keeping her body in shape, but between the fatigue and lack of exercise, it looked like she was starting to add some unhealthy weight.
Although he was generous with his time and possessions with friends, and with money and time to causes he believed in, Greg normally had a difficult time reaching out to strangers. Thinking he might know the cause of her stress, he decided to try, this once. As he maneuvered his grocery cart past hers, he glanced in her cart.
"Excuse me," he asked, "what is that?" He nodded toward the vegetable she had finally decided to buy.
"Fennel," she replied.
"Fennel? Italian licorice? So that's what it looks like."
A small smile lit up her face. "I guess you could call it that. It has a sort of licorice flavor, anise, more. Not as strong as licorice."
"How do you cook it?"
"I don't. I slice and chop it for salads. I suppose you could braise it, or cut it up in a stew. I've heard of people doing that." From which ensued a conversation about the merits of several ways of preparing vegetables vs not preparing them.
After several minutes, Greg looked her in the face and asked, "Could I buy you a cup of coffee?"
"I really should be getting on," she said, starting to push away.
"It's just a cup of coffee. One cup." He put out his hand to stop her cart. He cocked his head to one side and gazed at her for a few seconds. "Sarah, right?" He held out his hand. "Hello, Sarah. My name is," pausing and obviously thinking up a name, "Jeffrey. Good to meet you."
She looked at him, understanding it would be an anonymous conversation. Any sharing hidden by the false names. She saw a man, a few years older than herself, in fair shape for his age. Brown hair, shot through with grey, bright blue eyes behind bifocals, About six feet, his shoulders starting to sag with age, but, she sensed, still able to pull back and make a powerful impression if necessary.
"Nice to meet you, too," pausing "Jeff. I guess I can spare time for a cup of coffee. Sort of like the couple in You Got Mail."
"I can think of worse outcomes, but yeah, I guess, a bit." He smiled and led the way to the in-store coffee bar.
During the forty five minutes they talked over coffee, Greg learned her husband was terminally ill with the aggressive form of prostate cancer, and was not expected to live out the year. She had two children living out of the area, far enough away so that getting home to help on a routine basis was out of the question. Nursing help was ordered, and the aides came for an hour or so a day, but they weren't all that much help. Like Greg's wife, Sarah's husband was able to handle his own dressing, when he felt up to it, and toilet needs. And, when push came to shove, he could fix himself a sandwich or heat up some canned soup if he was hungry. As it had been for Greg, the weekly shopping trip was her respite time, her escape from the responsibility for another adult, however briefly.
As she talked about her life, Greg found he was anticipating and finishing many of her thoughts. He related his experience with his wife. How she had collapsed one day and been taken to the hospital, and died of heart failure a few days later.
When they realized how long they had been talking, Greg asked her "Do you always come the same time every week? We could have coffee again."
"Yes, that would be good. This has been good. It has been so helpful, talking with someone who understands. Not that I don't love Harry, but frankly, you men can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. Excuse my french."
Greg laughed. "No apology necessary. I know what you mean. But then, so can you ladies."
She just smiled enigmatically. "Perhaps we'll meet next week. I usually get here Friday afternoons, about one."
"'Til then, Sarah."
"Jeanne. I hope so," she paused, raising her eyebrow in a question.
For the next few months they met for coffee and conversation every Friday. Occasionally, when a really good movie was playing at the multiplex, Greg could convince her to plan ahead for time to see the movie. During one of those times, he gathered the courage to take her hand in his. He felt her start, and then start to pull away. Just as he was about to release her hand, she stopped and gave his a gentle squeeze. They sat that way through the movie, enjoying the gentle intimate contact with another person. They walked out holding hands, and as they exited the theater, Greg changed their positions so that she was holding his arm as they walked the distance of the mall to the grocery store. There was no conversation, just the comfortable silence of two good friends. As they parted outside the store, he simply said, "See you next week?"
She nodded and reached up to caress his cheek. Then she went into the store.
But she didn't show next week. Nor the next, or the next. It was five Fridays, with no word. Greg understood. They had agreed, no last names. Still, he worried. When he saw her again, as she entered the store's dining area, a single glance at her haggard face told him all he needed to know. He gathered her into his arms right there in the store, "When?"
She buried her face in his chest, her arms folded between them. "We were out shopping at some farmers' stands the Thursday after you and I went to the movie. When we got home, he complained of being tired. I had him lay down, but when I called him for supper, I couldn't wake him. I called his doctor, who called an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He died on the way." She shuddered violently. He led her to a booth and sat across from her, holding her hands across the table, as if he was afraid she'd get up and leave.
She raised her face to look at him, and pulled one hand away. She patted the seat next to her and said, "Come, sit next to me."
When he did, she moved close to him and laid her head on his shoulder and took hold of his hand. "I called the kids right away. They both got here the next day. They were a big help with the funeral and stuff. Bobbi, our daughter, she's the oldest, took care of the funeral arrangements and the notice for the paper. Harry junior took care of the insurance and the will, contacting the lawyer, getting everything changed into my name. Even though we don't have to go through probate, there is just so much crap to go through. But you know all that. I just wasn't ready for it to happen so suddenly. It reminded me of how you said it happened with your wife. How did you cope? "
"Mostly day to day. Sometimes hour to hour. I was still having some bad days when we met. Our Friday coffees helped a lot."
She nodded. "I've missed them, needed them. While we were shopping that day, the day he died, Harry asked me if I had found a friend to talk to. He said I had seemed more at ease lately. He said he hoped there was someone, That when he passed, he didn't want me to be alone.
"I told the kids about you, how much talking with you has helped the last few months. Bobbi is supportive, but cautious. Harry junior thinks you're after my money. I'm afraid he seems bit ...can you be paranoid worrying about somebody else? You're not after my money, are you?" she asked looking up at him with a smile.
"Didn't know you had any to be after."
"Not a lot, but with my pension, Harry's pension and Social Security, I don't have to work anymore. And all the bills are paid off." She reached up and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "How'd you like a home cooked meal tonight?"
"To meet the kids?"
"No, they're gone. To meet me." She straightened slightly, to meet his eyes. "You probably know me better right now than anybody else I know, but this walled off relationship we've had has forced us to keep parts of us hidden. I'm inviting you to a sort of unwrapping dinner.
Greg grinned. "And just how much are we going to unwrap?"
Jeanne smiled back. "Breakfast is an option."
"Have to warn you. I'm Viagara dependent, and it doesn't always work."
"Mmhmm. Harry, too. I'll be satisfied just to get in bed and cuddle. That Friday, when you took my hand, that was the most intimate contact I'd had in months. It was enough to know I'd like more, and I'll take whatever you can give."
He smiled at her. "I'm told I have a talented tongue, and ten delightful digits." She smiled and gave him a lingering kiss on his lips.
"Why are we still here?"