Charlie is a single mother of two. After losing her husband, she is unwilling and seemingly unable to let herself love again. Might a certain, hat wielding lead singer change that? Probably.
The heat seemed to hang in the air, casting waves of haze across the black asphalt parking lot. It was one of those days were the moisture became inescapable and clung to the skin in droplets. California was definitely not conducive for those of us cursed with curls. No amount of hair spray or de-frizzers would save me now. Admitting defeat against the inhumane weather, I tied my dark hair into a messy bun which sat happily at the curve of my skull. A vast array of vehicles were scattered across the grocery store parking lot, so I was stuck in left field.
I smiled inwardly at the cars that slowly circled, waiting to pounce on the first available spot that involved very little travel time to the store itself. And we wonder why America is the fattest country in the world. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with our reluctance to do anything relating to movement...or effort.
As soon as the sliding door opened, a gust of fresh, cold air washed over my body, sending chills down my sweat coated spine. It almost made grocery shopping bearable. From the depths of my purse, I pulled out a crumpled excuse for a list.
Stove Top Stuffing
Ramen (Chicken and Oriental)
Wait a second...
I scanned the list briefly before spotting the problem.
Heroin? I didn't write that...and I certainly wouldn't come here for my narcotics.
Of my two possible culprits, I could easily rule Jocelyn out. Unless there was a new segment on Sesame Street regarding illegal substances then I doubt it was her. Not to mention, her motor skills were still developing. That left Jeremy...my resident trouble maker.
Nice, Jere, very nice. Are 13 year olds even supposed to know what heroin is?
I sniggered to myself as I grabbed a plastic red hand basket with the store name blazon across the sides. Once I hit the snack aisle, I went about my usual routine of deviating from my neatly and painstakingly constructed list to grab whatever deliciously fattening treat caught my eye. This was how I spent my Monday mornings.
After the attack on Aisle 8, yielding no survivors, I headed for the produce section. It somewhat balanced out my sweet tooth. That's my delirious rationalization and I'm sticking to it.
As I reached for a bag of salad mix, I noticed a pair of curious eyes upon me. I grinned almost triumphantly. Not bad for a 32 year old mother of two. Not bad at all. You still got it, Charlie.
My admirer couldn't have been much older than 20. If he was 25, I'd be surprised. A goofy trucker hat sat upon his light brown tresses, allowing a few wisps of hair to peak out from under it. A set of full, pink lips sat just under a distinguished nose. His pale blue shirt cascaded over his slightly rounded stomach and resided over his snug black pants.
As soon as we made eye contact, he quickly diverted his gaze to a large pile of oranges. He grabbed one resulting in the entire display crumbling, sending a stampede of fruit across the tiled floor. Color rushed to his pale face, giving his cheeks a crimson tint. He immediately knelt down to collect what he could.
I hurried over to the man, placed my basket down, and aided in his attempt to wrangle the runaway produce. He glanced over at me and smiled sheepishly.
"All those years my mother said 'Look with your eyes, not with your hands' I assumed it was senility sinking in. I guess she was right." He said ruefully. I emitted a small chuckle.
"Mothers usually are." I replied with a knowing grin. Together, we managed to gather most of the oranges with the exception of a few renegades.
"Thank you so much for helping out an inept idiot." His face was still tinged pink as he placed the last orange on the display.
"No problem. I'm glad to offer my assistance." And with that, I picked up my basket of goodies and continued to shop. Once everything on my list was assembled-minus the heroin-I wandered over to check out.
"Taco Vender Turns Tiny UFO Into Alien Sombrero. Fascinating." I turned away from placing my items on the conveyor belt to see Orange Boy holding up a rag mag. A smiled spread across my face.
"I knew there was something strange about that burrito." He chuckled and put the magazine back on the rack.
"I'm Patrick, by the way." Oh Charlie, you minx
"Charlie." He arched an eyebrow at me.
"In my experience, most Charlies don't look like you." I tilted my head up at him.
"Well, it's really Charlotte. Charlie is just a nickname I got stuck with a long time ago. It's kinda grown on me." He smiled and nodded.
"I think I like Charlotte better."
"You're total is 43 dollars and 38 cents." The elderly cashier said, holding out her gnarled hand in anticipation of receiving my money.
"Thank you ma'am." I said as she handed over my change. "See ya around, Patrick. Stay out of trouble." He laughed and waved slightly.
If I had a To-Do list, I'd be able to scratch off grocery shop, get dry cleaning, wash car and pick up the ankle bitter from preschool.
"High five for me." I sighed as I plopped down on the worn, micro fiber couch. No sooner did I start to relax when the phone rang. I frowned at the device before picking up the cordless.
"Hey Charlie." My frown deepened at the sound of my older sister's voice.
"Hello, Denise" Note to self: screen phone calls.
It's not that I didn't like my sister. In fact, it's the opposite. I adore her. But lately, she has just been insufferable with her constant nagging about "getting back out there." And by "out there" she meant dating. She even went so far as to create an account for me at some online-dating site. Nothing screams creepy and desperate quite like looking for men on the internet.
"I know you're angry about the whole Match.com thing, but I'm just trying to help."
"I don't need your help, Deni." I said as I looked over the nails on my free hand. She sighed.
"I understand this is hard for you, but-" This is one of many similar conversations that involved her "understanding" a situation when in reality, she couldn't possibly fathom it. I wanted to tell her when the love of her life dies, then she can begin to comprehend...but as usual, I held my tongue and let her babble on regarding my reluctance to date again.
"Listen, I gotta make some lunch for Jocelyn, I'll talk to you later, OK?" She voiced her hesitant compliance and we hung up. I placed the phone on the near by coffee table and began to rub my temples. A headache was on its way.
Unfortunately, I had no time for headaches. I lifted myself off the couch and headed for my daughter's room. It was the typical girl's room. Her walls were a lavender color, which went nicely with the dark purple carpet. Toys were scattered across the floor and left forgotten as she sat at her Preskool desk, intently coloring away at a piece of construction paper.
"Miss Jocelyn?" She looked up with her gray eyes and smiled, showing off her dimples...they were her father's dimples.
"How about we clean up these toys then we'll make some lunch." She nodded and placed the crayon she was using on the table. Once the toys were away, we went to the kitchen.
"What'll it be, sweetness?" I asked, already knowing the answer.
"The usual." She replied as if it were obvious before heading to the fridge to get the strawberry jelly. I got out the creamy peanut butter, a blunt knife, and a loaf of bread. She observed curiously as I constructed the perfect PB&J.
"There you go, babydoll." I placed the plate on the kitchen table. I watched with amusement as she climbed onto the chair. She was in that "I can do it myself" stage, so any assistance would be met with a severe scolding.
"May I have some milk, Mommy?" She asked, mouth full of sandwich.
"Yes you may. And no talking with food in your mouth." She smiled sheepishly before dramatically swallowing.
"Sorry." I grabbed one of her Cinderella themed cups and filled it with the icy, white beverage.
"So, how was your day?" I asked as I placed the cup in front of her and took a seat across the table.
"Fine," she took a sip of milk. "Kenny asked me to marry him today." I raised an eyebrow at the four year old.
"Did he?" She nodded, her brown curls bobbing with her.
"Yep. And he gave me this ring. Isn't it beautiful?" She stretched out her arm, allowing me to see the small Cracker Jack Box ring adorning her tiny finger. I grinned. Ah, young love.
"It's stunning. Have you decided where you're going on your honeymoon?" I asked, playing along.
"Well, we were thinking about the jungle gym. Kenny absolutely loves it." I couldn't help but chuckle. Kids are great. I highly recommend them.
"I hear it's beautiful this time of year." She continued to eat and chatter about the latest preschool gossip and scandals between bites and gulps of milk. She was quite the character.
Once she finished her sandwich and put her plate in the dishwasher, she grabbed my hand.
"Come look at my drawling." I smiled down at her.
"Drawing" I corrected softly, but it was irrelevant to her. On her table, sat the work of art. There were four stick figures. One was considerable smaller than the rest with brown squiggly hair and a pink dress. Clearly, it was herself. Next to her was a slightly taller stick figure with brown hair covering its face. I grinned at her rendition of her brother. I was next, donning the same mess of curly brown hair and pink dress as my daughter. The forth figure was the tallest and had yellow scribbles for hair. Above his head, was a little yellow circle. I squinted at the character, trying to decipher the blue things jutting out from him.
"Honey, what are those." I pointed to the blue markings in question.
"They're wings." My eyes widened. It was her father...as an angel.
*I can't take credit for this word. The lovely Alex(FrostedGlass) is the orginator :)