Valentine’s Day. Mabel would have liked to meet the miserable oaf who came up with it. And who was in charge of those candy hearts, huh? Who thought to themselves, “Hey, you know what we should do? We should make candy that tastes like chalk…and sell it to people who are too love-sick to notice!”
The truck behind her honked. How long had the light been green? Mabel accelerated through the rain - the fat droplets pounding on her windshield getting louder by the second. The same truck was still riding her tail at five over the speed limit, so she eased her foot onto the brakes. That was the kind of mood she was in. Mabel glanced in her rearview mirror, smirking at the scowl on the driver’s face. She had no idea someone’s brows could move so close together.
Her eyes turned back to the road ahead, and her smile faded. The expression felt wrong on a day like this. At least it did to her. Not to her sister. Perfect Lyla was going to make perfect cookies for her perfect husband to have on their perfect date. But she had made a mistake - an event with infinitesimal odds. Lyla had left the M&Ms in a communal space. What was Mabel supposed to think? In any case, her sister’s discovery of the half-empty bag was why Mabel was now sitting in the nearly-empty grocery store parking lot, preparing to be soaked in a matter of seconds. Only people who really had their life together carried umbrellas. At least it wouldn’t be crowded. Plus, she needed toilet paper anyway.
“You know your life is sad when toilet paper becomes the silver lining of your day,” Mabel muttered to herself as she took the keys out of the ignition. She took a deep breath and pulled on the handle to the driver’s side door. It didn’t budge. Not again, she thought as she climbed onto the passenger’s side. She did it with little to no grace despite having to complete the same maneuver almost every day. Her legs were always able to find new directions in which to flail, and the top of her head had become a battleground of bumps and bruises. Fortunately, the passenger door gave way to Mabel’s push. Unfortunately, an ill-timed gust of wind swung it open so forcefully that she feared the door would rip off completely. The thought wasn’t too irrational when considering a twenty-year-old sedan.
Mabel hopped out of the car and slammed the door shut, the biting wind filling her eyes with tears and turning her nose into a numb, runny mess. By the time she made it to the sliding doors, her ears were stinging, and the bottoms of her jeans were soaked through. Mabel had to accept that at least some of her misfortune was her own doing. Who wore jeans in a rainstorm?
The entrance to the grocery store was blissfully warm. In fact, at that moment, Mabel wouldn’t have minded staying in that spot for the rest of her life. Her eyes got wide. Were all of the carts kept outside? Mabel was not going out there until it was absolutely necessary. Maybe not even then. She spotted the baskets stacked against the wall and considered using one, but it wouldn’t fit a package of toilet paper. It looked like her arms would have to do.
The Valentine’s Day display was front-and-center. It made Mabel want to puke. The stuffed toys decked out in hearts, the boxes of disappointing chocolates, the corny cards, the sickeningly sweet candles - all of it. She made a beeline for the pink and white M&Ms and was on her way. The toilet paper aisle was stupendously dull - absolutely normal - extraordinarily ordinary. Mabel even found the exact brand and size she liked. Toilet paper really was turning out to be the highlight of her day. She grabbed the pack of twenty-four two-ply rolls with both arms, keeping the M&Ms under her chin. With her head tucked and the giant package in front of her, Mabel could barely see a thing. Not seeing another option, she started in the general direction of the registers.
Not ten steps in, she was on the ground surrounded by M&Ms, tail bone aching.
“I’m so sorry! I was in such a rush I didn’t look at what was around the corner! Here, let me help you,” a deep voice said from above Mabel’s head. She looked up through the stars in her vision; the wind knocked out of her chest.
No. It was hard to know for sure, especially when his eyebrows weren’t furrowed into a V, but after a few seconds, there was no doubt in Mabel’s mind. This was the idiot from the truck. She may have hit her head on the way down because she couldn’t help but find him kind of…charming. Mabel hadn’t noticed the depth in his dark eyes or the chiseled structure of his face in her rearview mirror. She hadn’t seen his lopsided smile until it was directed at her. Why was he smiling at her? How long had it been since he had said something? How long had she been staring? She had to say something, anything, and quick.
“Do you drive a truck?”
“Uhh…yeah. Is your head hurting at all?”
“Sorry, it’s fine, it’s just that I think you were driving behind me on the way here,” Mabel said as she started to get up. She lowered back down as soon as the stars began clouding her vision again.
“You’re the jerk who slowed way down just to spite me?! I had to get here before my wife realized I forgot to get her something!” the man shouted angrily. The furrow was back.
“Excuse me?!” Mabel gasped, although she shouldn’t have been surprised given her luck when it came to love. Or anything. It was only after the forgetful truck guy had left her sitting in the middle of the toilet paper aisle that Mabel realized his lopsided smile hadn’t been a smile at all. It had been a smirk. His concern had been nothing but thinly veiled sarcasm.
Mabel got up again, this time successfully. She grabbed the pack of toilet paper from where it had slid and limped awkwardly to the nearest self-check-out. She then lingered a few minutes longer than needed in the store’s entrance before braving the rain that was coming down harder than ever. How she managed to find the courage to leave the dry sanctuary that was the nearest Safeway, she was not sure. Mabel dashed madly to the driver’s side of her car, momentarily forgetting the jammed door.
“Shoot! Shoot, shoot, shoot!” she murmured through her teeth as her white socks became see-through. Mabel hurried to the other side and swung open the passenger door, not caring how far it went now that she knew it could handle it. She hurled the giant package of hopefully-not-damp toilet paper into the backseat before hastily climbing in. Though, at that point, it didn’t seem like she could get any more soaked if she tried. Mabel cranked the heat up as high as it would go before she realized she hadn’t picked up a new bag of M&Ms. Valentine’s Day really was the worst.
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This story gave me a good laugh. Poor Mabel. Very lighthearted, I loved it!
Thanks, Sue! I really appreciate your feedback, and I'm glad it made you smile!