‘Hands off! It’s mine!’
‘No it isn’t! I saw it first!’
Mikey watched as the two overweight women fought over the last packet of toilet rolls. They were wearing face masks and gloves but you could see their Bonds underwear, which had been pulled up instead of being hidden by their tracksuit pants.
That’s when he saw her. A woman in all her youthful splendour. A lock of coal-black hair had escaped from her green hijab. He continued to stare at her from where he stood in the aisle once filled with toilet paper and now with elegant, chocolate, Easter bunnies. The young woman had a fair complexion and wistful, dark eyes, which stirred his blood.
He grabbed a rabbit, put it in his trolley and pushed it towards her. He caught her eye and their eyes locked.
‘Hey,’ he said and gestured towards the two women. ‘Things are pretty insane at the moment, aren’t they?’
She smiled. ‘Yes.’
‘I’m Mikey by the way,’ he said holding out his hand. When she didn’t extend hers he said. ‘Oh, is it because of your religious beliefs?’
Her smile widened. ‘No, silly! It’s because we’re in Stage Two of restrictions!’ Then, she pushed the loose lock of hair back under her veil. ‘I’m Nashwa.’
‘I think you’ll find Nooshwa or whatever ya name is we’re now in Stage Three of restrictions!’ one of the women piped up.
Mikey shot a look of daggers at the woman. ‘It’s Nashwa – get it right!’ he growled before turning back to the woman in question. ‘Wanna get out of here?’ he asked. ‘We could grab a coffee.’
‘Yes, but it will have to be takeaway. Dining in isn’t allowed anymore.’
‘Man, these restrictions are certainly harsh.’
‘Well, what have you been doing? Aren’t you paying attention to the news?’
Mikey grinned. ‘I try to avoid anything with ScoMo on it,’ he said.
‘Well, I’ll have a take out coffee with you. However I must confess, I don’t usually date non-Muslim guys.’
‘No, I don’t either,’ Mikey quipped. ‘I’m a typical, white, straight Aussie male of Generation Y. Everyone listens to me! Even this chocolate bunny!’ he said holding up the elegant rabbit and pretending to engage in conversation with it.
‘Very funny,’ Nashwa said. ‘And I bet you like football and beer as well?’
Mikey nodded. ‘As a matter of fact I do! I’m going to the bottle shop after I finish here if you care to join me.’
‘No thanks but I’ll grab that coffee with you. Might be good to take my mind off the craziness of everything that’s going on!’
‘Ready to go to the checkout?’ Mikey asked.
They headed to the checkout where a mother was fighting with her toddler daughter.
‘No, Brianna! I’m not buying you a lolly!’
‘But I want it!’ the child wailed.
‘I said no!’ the mother yelled swiping the treat from the child’s hand and putting it back on the shelf.
Mikey rolled his eyes and Nashwa sighed. They looked at each other and shook their heads.
After they went through the checkout, Nashwa waited outside the bottle shop while Mikey went in and grabbed a slab of Pure Blonde beer. When he caught up with Nashwa she looked at his purchase then looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
‘I used to drink Corona beer but not anymore!’ he declared.
‘Isn’t that from Mexico?’ she asked.
‘Yep! Sure is! Hey, look! There’s a café. Let’s go in.’
They ordered their drinks but instead of walking straight out, Mikey sat his behind down at a table.
‘Mikey,’ Nashwa urged. ‘I don’t think we should be here!’
‘Hey, look, I’m only going to be here for five minutes while I drink this. Putting up with screaming children in the supermarket is hard work. I think I’ve earned a rest.’
Nashwa looked for the man behind the counter who’d served them but he’d now gone to the back room wanting nothing more to do with them. The young woman tapped her foot on the floor and looked at her watch before pleading with him again.
Suddenly, a man dressed in an expensive suit holding a microphone barged in. Behind him was another man with a ponytail holding a camera. The man with the microphone shoved it in Mikey’s face and introduced himself as a reporter from one of the major networks. He demanded to know what they were doing there.
Mikey looked up at him with wide eyes. ‘We’re just having a coffee, mate. We won’t be here long.’
‘You shouldn’t be here at all!’ the reporter scolded.
The news reporter told him he should be in self-isolation at home and that he was putting others at risk. With that, Mikey grabbed his coffee, beckoned for Nashwa and together they pushed their trolleys out the door.
After exchanging numbers the couple went their separate ways. Mikey was never more relieved than he was that night when he could finally put his feet up, pop a bottle and watch TV. He almost choked on his beer when he saw himself on TV with the pushy news reporter being interrogated about why he was sitting in the café. He quickly grabbed his cell, dialed Nashwa’s number and asked her is she was watching the news. She was.
‘I guess what we did was pretty stupid,’ he said.
‘Yes, it was,’ she agreed.
‘Hey, wanna go out again?’ he asked.
He could almost hear her smiling on the other end. ‘I told you, I don’t date non-Muslim guys.’
Mikey grinned. ‘And I told you, neither do I. I’m a red blooded Aussie male!’ he said with a laugh. ‘I just want to be friends. In this time of self-isolation I need all the friends I can get.’
‘Friends aren’t allowed to go visiting anymore.’
‘Happy to be Facebook friends?’
‘Sure,’ Mikey said.
He sat back on the couch, linking his hands behind his head and smiled for he was happy he’d made a friend in a time of craziness.