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Romance

“Why are there three quarts of sour cream on your mother’s list?” Heather asked

“We’re a big dip bunch!” Rosalyn said with a wide grin

“I could have gone my life without hearing that phrase.”

They both shared a laugh as Rosalyn pushed the cart and Heather monitored everything that was going into the cart. To minimize time and save money the only things going into the cart were things on the list that Rosalyn’s mother, Donna, had given them.

They made their way slowly down the aisles looking lost. The idle wander of someone trying to navigate an unfamiliar grocery store. In theory all grocery stores were laid out in a particular pattern with some discrepancies but it was still a very slow process to get the few small things that were on the list as neither one of them felt socially comfortable enough to ask the locals where cold pressed black olives were.

Early into their trek Heather had playfully admonished Rosalyn for not knowing where anything was as they were in her hometown’s grocery store. It arose when they made their fourth pass on a particular aisle with cereal and sugar. The store had changed too much since Rosalyn was in there last.

“It’s a trick they do,” she said “to get you lost so you end up finding more stuff and spending more money”

“Mmhmm,” Heather barely accepted the excuse

Item by item they made their way down the list. When they got to the dairy wall there was a woman stocking and naturally she was doing so directly in front of the one item they were lacking, the near gallon of sour cream needed by Rosalyn’s mother.

              Rosalyn being the most local approached the woman, “Excuse me…”

              The woman spoke before she turned “Sorry hun, you need here?”

              As she turned a bolt hit Rosalyn and her hair stood on end.

              “Oh, Rosie.” She knew Rosalyn.

              “Carolyn. Hi.” Both of the words fell out, unconnected to each other.

Rosalyn’s eyes wide, she was at a loss.

              “What brings you back?”

              “I’m just visiting town with my…my uhh…

              “Girlfriend” Heather stepped forward and did a small wave, “Hi I’m Heather.”

              “Nice to meet you.”

              Heather felt like Carolyn was answering everything like it was a test.

              “Carolyn and I were…friends in school.”

              Carolyn nodded and it was there, in her eyes, the truth and it bounced back and hit Rosalyn

              “I’m sorry did you guys need something here” she said indicating the shelves

              “Actually were looking for sour cream.” Heather answered.

              “I think we got some in the back.”

              Carolyn said with a forced smiled and went to the back

              Heather had a wide grin. “Who was that?”

              Rosalyn hesitated and then “She was a friend.”

              “Mmhmm” Heather said raising an eyebrow in suspicion.

              “We were…close.”

              “Close? Or “close” close?” Heather was ceaseless.

              “She was my first kiss…”

              “Ahh…”

              “And first…other things”

              “Oooo”

              Rosalyn was getting annoyed with how much Heather was enjoying her squirm.

              “She was…kinda my first girlfriend.”

              “And you wrote her off as a friend. Ouch.”

              “Hush. It wasn’t that serious. It was just…you know high school flings.”

              “Some high school flings get married.”

              “We weren’t the quarterback and the captain of the cheerleaders, it was just dumb high school drama stuff. All teenagers are dumb and overly dramatic.”

              “Mmhmmm” Heather still wasn’t buying it.

Their conversation was cut short when Carolyn reappeared with a cardboard box. She sat it on the ledge of the coolers and cut it open.

“How many do you need?”

“Three.” Rosalyn answered

“Wow, three quarts?

“That’s what I said” Heather said in full slapstick

“Shh!” Rosalyn hushed her

Carolyn handed over the quarts one at a time.

“Well it was good seeing you again.” Carolyn said stiffly.

She was ending the conversation.

I hurt her feelings Rosalyn thought

“It was good seeing you too, really” Rosalyn said

It was too little too late and the sentiment was lost no matter how sincere it was.

With the shopping now finished, they pushed the cart towards the front.

“So that was fun.” Heather broke the silence.

“Hush.”

They checked out and headed back to Rosalyn’s parents’ house. The whole drive was silent. Heather thought to bring up Carolyn but Rosalyn’s stone features as the focused on the road told her it probably wasn’t the best idea. Once they there and carried the bags into the kitchen they began to help Donna unpack everything.

“Find everything okay?” She asked almost rhetorically.

“Yea it just took time to find some of the smaller stuff.”

“Plus we got stopped by someone Rosalyn knew”

“Shh!” Rosalyn said but it was too late.

“O yeah, who’d you see?” Donna asked naively curious.

“Carolyn” Rosalyn said the words and they fell to the floor with weight.

“O yeah Carolyn” she said it so casually “I always forget she works there.”

“Yea Rosalyn said they were friends in high school.” Heather chimed in wanting more.

“Friends? Ha! Those two were inseparable”

Inseparable” Heather whispered to Rosalyn with a smile.

“They met in what was it seventh grade and from then on it was like they were connected at the hip. They would make sure they had all their classes together. They went to all the football games together. They were each other’s dates at the dances.”

Heather comically feigned shock.

“Not to mention the sleepovers”

“Okay mom.”

“I tell you, that’s when I knew.” Donna was speaking directly to Heather at this point.

“Mom!”

“You might not have but I did. A mother knows.”

“Thank you mom, you can stop now” she was pleading now.

“What?” Donna said defensively “You weren’t exactly subtle. No child is at that age. I knew you both weren’t as innocent as you played out to be…those sleepovers…I knew! Your father didn’t, but I did.”

“Shut up mother!”

“What? She was a nice girl. Plus I didn’t have to worry about you getting knocked up.”

“Mother! Enough!” Rosalyn was almost shouting.

“Fine,” Donna held her hands in surrender “I won’t say another word.”

Rosalyn sighed heavily, “Thank you.”

She picked her phone off the counter and walked out of the room.

Heather was leaning against a counter when Donna leaned over and spoke quietly.

“Nothing against you dear but I honestly thought they would end up together.”

“What happened?”

“I dunno one day they just stopped talking to each other. I asked what happened but Rosie said nothing and being the typical teenager just pushed off. I tried snooping. I asked some of her teachers but they didn’t know anything and Rosie never kept a diary so I couldn’t snoop through that. Not that I would’ve but I would’ve liked to know why my daughter was so mopey all the time. I dunno.”

Donna seemed to disconnect for a minute and then popped back.

“Now where did I put that whisk?” she said returning to her task list.

Heather stood upright and went to find Rosalyn.

Rosalyn was sitting in their room for the weekend, the guest room, formerly Rosalyn’s old room.

“You okay?” Heather asked from the doorway.

“Yeah I’m fine.” She lied.

“Wanna talk about champ?” Heather said with every intent of a “very special episode” parent

Rosalyn huffed out a laugh.

“Your mom said one day you two just stopped talking to each other. What happened?”

“We didn’t stop. I did.” Rosalyn confessed.

Heather waited for Rosalyn to continue.

“I was every bit the self-loathing teen. I was overly dramatic about everything. There was mentality in the school and I placated it. I developed these stupid misgivings about my sexuality. No one was actively bullying me or saying anything but I…I don’t know I just felt the world laughing at us. At me and I refused to believe I was gay. That was fringe stuff. That was unacceptable lifestyle.”

“But you said your parents weren’t like that at all.”

“Exactly! They were accepting and no one else cared but for some reason I had this idea that the world was out to get us and I didn’t want to be that outlier. I wanted to be part of the larger picture. And to make sure I wasn’t an outlier I had to break away from Carolyn and I pushed her away.”

Rosalyn swallowed hard and continued.

“I told her that it wasn’t right and we were just trying to make believe that it was something that it wasn’t and would never be that. I told her that it was over. Whatever we had decided it was. I told her that we shouldn’t see or talk to each other for a while. She tried to balk against it. Against me. And I fought it. I ended up telling her that I didn’t love her and…

Heather usually cheeky features were softening with the weight of the story.

“That I never did.”

“Then what?”

“Then nothing. We finished high school. I moved on and eventually it just moved out of my mind. I didn’t forget it but it didn’t feel like it did back then. Last I heard she had married some guy.”

“So you haven’t talked to her until tonight.”

“Yeah, that’s why I was a little jolted.”

“Heh. A little.” Heather said

Rosalyn smiled.

“You think I should go back?”

“If you want to. If you think you should.”

She took a deep breath in and out and got up.

“Don’t worry, I’ll help your mother with the dips.”

Rosalyn’s eyes rolled as she left the room.

Ten minutes later Rosalyn walked back in the grocery store with eyes fixed on the dairy section when she saw Carolyn at the service counter and panicked. She dove behind an island of fruit and tried pitifully to be nonchalant looking intently at pears.

Carolyn was helping someone so she hadn’t noticed Rosalyn or her madcap dash behind the pears. With time to look, Rosalyn studied Carolyn as well as she could without staring outright. She had aged well. She was a little heavier than high school but everyone was. Her hair was still the same shade of soft black. Carolyn had always been pretty and she still was, it was no surprise that she had found someone else. Rosalyn took some amount of relief in that she had found someone.

When Carolyn was finished with the customer, Rosalyn casually walked around the island and then made a beeline towards the desk.

Carolyn’s eyes widened slightly when she saw Rosalyn but quickly settled back down into her professional face.

“Forget something Rosie?”

“Yea I uh…earlier I just…I wanted to apologize.”

“For what.” Her face was stone.

“I…well I didn’t…I didn’t tell my girlfriend about you…about us…until after we left here.”

“Okay.”

She was annoyed

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m sorry…”

Rosalyn was cut off when an old woman approached the desk beside her.

“Can I buy stamps here?”

“Yes ma’am.” Carolyn blanked Rosalyn as she helped the customer.

“Would you like a book or a roll?”

“Just a book please”

Carolyn typed on the register.

All right it will ask you to approve the total on your screen and then you can swipe your card.

The old woman swiped.

“Would you like your receipt?”

“No thank you dear”

“You have a wonderful day ma’am”

“You too.”

When the old woman had cleared earshot Rosalyn went back to the counter.

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that…I’m sorry for how it ended. How I acted….I know I don’t deserve to be forgiven or…

“You’re right, you don’t.”

Rosalyn was silent.

“Do you know I cried myself to sleep for two weeks after that day?

“Of course you don’t know,” she gave a pained laugh “because every time I tried to call my number was blocked. You would think that I woulda gotten the hint but I was dumb. You broke me that day. When I finally accepted it I wanted to hate you. I wanted to hate you so much. I would act like I did, when my parents asked or anyone else in school but every time...I just couldn’t bring my heart to hate you.  And I kept wondering why. Why you had done it. Why did you say what you did? What did I do? What did I say? I was so convinced it was my fault. That I had done something wrong and it killed me. And when I heard about…when I heard you had found a girlfriend in college I…

She was fighting against her own emotions and losing.

“My heart broke all over again because then I knew for a fact that you had lied to me that day. And it wasn’t my fault. It was you. I was done letting you have so much control over me and I wanted to hate you again. I wanted to hate you because I loved you like an idiot.

“Then you come in tonight and it starts over again. For you. Not me. I’m not dragging this around anymore. I won’t forgive you. Not because you don’t deserve it, which you don’t. But because you don’t deserve to have a happy ending to this. I didn’t get one why should you.”

Carolyn was white all over and her eyes were wet with tears but she stood solid.

Rosalyn was clammy and shaking. She was biting on her lip and just nodded.

“Right. Well I’m gonna go.”

The whole drive back was a blur. She got to her parent’s house and went straight to her old room and laid back on the bed staring at the ceiling. Heather must have heard her come in because the door opened shortly.

“You okay?”

“Am I good person?” Rosalyn asked meekly.

“Wow, I’m guessing it did not go well.”

Her lips were tight, she was holding onto tears. Heather saw it and went to lay beside her. Squiggling around enough to get Rosalyn’s hand to hold.

“Am I a good person?” She asked again.

Heather sat in the silence weighing the question and thinking of the most appropriate response to keep her girlfriend from melting into a puddle.

“I think if you can recognize in yourself the need to BE good, you ARE good.”

Rosalyn squeezed her hand. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I need to say it more often” 

August 10, 2020 06:00

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