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Drama Fiction

“LIZZZZ! Liz! Hey!”

I stopped in my tracks as that high pitched voice invaded my unprepared eardrums. The drawn out zzzz was like a nest of hornets swarming my head. I recognized that voice. I debated running. Hiding. I could slip down the housewares aisle and pretend I didn’t hear her. Stoop down low and really investigate the specifications on a coffee maker. Something. Anything. 

          Nope. Too late. She was now jog-running at me. I could hear her quickening steps and knew it was now unavoidable. I took a deep breath and tried to fill my lungs with zen and sunshine.

    Ugh. I turned and made my “surprised” face. It was Carolynn with two “n”s. She was dressed in fashionable workout clothes, her hair on point, not a smudge anywhere in her perfect make-up. Do women like her sweat? 

“Carolynn! Oh my GOODNESS!” I said, trying to match the bar she had set in decibel level.

Her jog-run did not slow down. I took a step back. Oh no, was she going to hug me? She was! I felt like a human target, unable to avoid this impending arrow aimed at me flying faster and faster. Her noodle arms flung around me and I immediately stiffened like a corpse at a wake. I’m not a hugger. I don’t like touching. I started to sweat. Is it rude to push someone off you? Before I could bring my hands up to remove her lilac scented body from mine, she had stepped back to examine me. 

“Liz! You look wonderful! What have you been UP to? Gosh, it’s been years!”  she said, beaming a smile so white-bright I felt like I was being interrogated by the cops under a truth-lamp.

“Oh, you know. Working. The kids, their activities, it just never ends, you know? What about you? You look amazing!” I crooned at her. Was I smiling? I flexed my mouth muscles and hoped it wasn’t overly Cheshire. 

“Oh, do I? I’m just a mess today! I was just at the gym, then stopped for my latte, and realized I should probably stop here and grab all the things I DON’T need! Isn’t that always how it is here?” Carolynn said with a laugh so hard (fake) that she doubled herself over ever-so-slightly as she awaited my reaction. She continued to smile at me as she looked up through her thick black fake eyelashes perfectly glued to her eyes. They looked like little furry hamsters resting themselves for a spell. 

“Yes, well, I mostly came for laundry detergent.” I shrugged and began inching myself further back from the conversational onslaught of forced socialization. 

“Do you remember Amy? Amy from high school? She was dating Mark back then, but then got married to Dave, and well THAT was a disaster! I just saw they are now the big D officially and I HEARD it was because he was cheating! Can you believe that? Well I sure can. I never liked him you know. Not even in high school. She can do so much better. Oh, are you still married? How’s Bill doing?” 

“Jim. And yes, still married.” I offered. I tried to invoke my superior body language skills to convey subconsciously that I was in a hurry and just couldn’t stop to chat today. Or any day. Ever. Just go away. Shoot, did I just say that? No, Carolynn was still smiling and talking. All I could hear though was the droning of bees again rather than words. 

Just nod. Smile. Agree. Repeat. 

My body language attempt had failed. Sigh. 

“So are you working now?” I smiled and asked, forcing feigned interest. I tilted my head to the side. That looked more like I cared, didn’t it? That was a nice touch. I mentally patted my back. 

“Me? Of course not! You DO know I’m a member of the Green Hills Country Club, right? I’m just forever busy attending lunches and banquets, I just don’t know how I would squeeze in a job too! AND I’m on the PTA, so that takes up a lot of my precious time too! Are you still doing that teacher thing? Is that volunteer work? I do love volunteer work!” Carolynn chirped. 

“No, they pay me. It’s a job. Certainly keeps me busy! Oh and speaking of busy, I —“ 

“Oh you must find it so rewarding to work with children! Changing the world, my friend Liz! Greg and I think teachers are just so important. He’s away this week on business. His firm is doing so well, they just keep sending him all over meeting up with clients! I keep busy, and good thing I’ve our Nanny to help with Elyse! She’s such an energetic 7 year old! Sara is SUCH a help though!” Carolynn went on. 

“Yes, I would imagine that DOES make things easier for you! Oh, it has just been SO wonderful catching up today!” I told her in an attempt to end it all. 

“Oh most definitely! Let’s meet for lunch one of these days! You MUST call me!” Carolynn said as she reached for my not-quick-enough-hands for a squeeze. Could she feel them sweating? 

“Absolutely! Any time!” I lied. 

Oh no, here it was again, another unsolicited hug. Get off. Get off. Get off. Her tiny arms gathered me in, held tight. A few seconds too long, even by my standards. I suddenly realized maybe Carolynn needed this hug. I gave in. My arms returned her squeeze this time. 

“Now, don’t you be a stranger! We just have so much in common, I’m sure we could talk for hours!” said my dear “friend”. 

And with that, Carolynn scurried away down the center aisle to get all the things she didn’t need. She would take them back to her immaculate house in the best part of town. Lawn greener than the hills of Ireland in the front. Pool sparkling blue in the back. 

I went to the self-checkout, otherwise known as the quickest exit lest I see her again. As I pushed my credit card into the reader I glanced to my right and saw a familiar looking man in a red baseball hat. He was scanning a box of condoms and two packs of gum. A young woman walked up to him nonchalantly looking at her phone and the two walked away together. So. That must be Sara. 

I took my detergent, but I wasn’t thinking about MY dirty laundry as I walked out of the store. 


August 29, 2023 12:41

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19 comments

Hannah Lynn
19:12 Sep 07, 2023

I love your writing style. I could just imagine being at the store and ducking down an aisle to avoid (or try to avoid) this type of encounter haha!! Fun read!

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Nina H
19:15 Sep 07, 2023

Lol! I’m very much the person who tries to avoid these situations! Awkward small talk, trying to escape… 😂

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Hannah Lynn
19:18 Sep 07, 2023

The worst is when you duck down an aisle only to come face to face with them a few aisles away. Twice as awkward!!

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Nina H
19:23 Sep 07, 2023

At that point, just run from the store and abandon all intended purchases. It’s the only way!!! I think we should write a “How To” manual on this. 🤣

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Hannah Lynn
19:24 Sep 07, 2023

Omg hilarious!!!!!!

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Michał Przywara
20:44 Sep 05, 2023

Fun story! Irritating too, in all the best ways. Carolynn comes across very well, very strongly. I could actually hear the sing-song stress in her dialogue, the overly chipper voice. Given the end though, seems like the narrator was right. Maybe Carolynn *did* need that hug. Odd how often the perfect looking life, isn't. Some great lines too, like "Are you still doing that teacher thing?" Oof. And hot on the heels of being too busy to have a job, because of lunch :)

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Kevin Logue
10:21 Sep 02, 2023

A great take on the prompt, and so relatable. We all encounter, or wish we didn't, that person every now and then. It was making me cringe at points, but in the best possible way storytelling does. The artificial hug, marvelous! Ha. One small edit if I may, this line "She said with a smile so white-bright beaming at me that I felt like I was being interrogated by the cops under a truth-lamp." It has a bit of clunk with the position of beaming, but easily fixed with a swap. - "She said, beaming a smile so white-bright I felt like I was being...

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Nina H
11:23 Sep 02, 2023

Great suggestion, Kevin! I made that change and it definitely flows better now! Thank you, my friend!! Artificial hugs can be so awkward 😂

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Delbert Griffith
10:33 Aug 30, 2023

A grim tale of a "perfect" life - but it isn't all roses and unicorns, is it? I'm guessing that the man in the red cap is Carolynn's hubbie, and Sara is helping out with more than just taking care of the daughter. Or am I reading this wrong? If this is the husband, then he's a dumbass for shopping at the same place that his wife shops. The take on the prompt was clever, Nina. Very nice. Cheers!

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Delbert Griffith
10:33 Aug 30, 2023

A grim tale of a "perfect" life - but it isn't all roses and unicorns, is it? I'm guessing that the man in the red cap is Carolynn's hubbie, and Sara is helping out with more than just taking care of the daughter. Or am I reading this wrong? If this is the husband, then he's a dumbass for shopping at the same place that his wife shops. The take on the prompt was clever, Nina. Very nice. Cheers!

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Nina H
12:28 Aug 30, 2023

Yep, you got it Del! And yeah, he doesn’t seem to care she also shops there! The title tells the name of the store they’re at, but also how the MC becomes targeted by her “friend”. I love Target. It deserves a story set there 😂

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Delbert Griffith
12:57 Aug 30, 2023

LOLOL Yeah, I think that's clever. You pack a lot, even in the title, my friend. Still doing the teacher thing? Oooh, that hurts me. I did the teacher thing for decades. Not an easy gig. Cheers!

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Nina H
13:19 Aug 30, 2023

What did you teach? I taught high school English for several years then retired. I went back to school for speech therapy, and back to a school setting. I currently therapize the children in a janitors closet next to fuse boxes that control the power to the building. (Insert diabolical laugh…) 😝

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Delbert Griffith
13:45 Aug 30, 2023

Damn, Nina! They can't find a more suitable setting for you and your kids? Public education has a lot to answer for, I think. I taught math, mainly AP Calculus and AP Statistics. I loved every minute in the classroom, not so much anything outside of the classroom. I'm sure you know what I mean. Cheers!

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Nina H
18:39 Aug 30, 2023

There’s a sign on my door that says something about the level of hazardous chemicals contained in my room is “moderate”. I just leave it there even though there aren’t chemicals in there anymore. I don’t think. 🤔 I’m so impressed, Del! You wrote so brilliantly and you’re a former MATH teacher?!? And the high levels too!! Want to know how I passed math in high school? I earned enough extra credit washing the blackboards daily to make up for my failing tests 😂

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Mary Bendickson
02:17 Aug 30, 2023

As if a teacher with kids has time for lunch. Love those hugs.🤗

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Chris Miller
17:50 Aug 29, 2023

The prompts were about AI and the human touch, so you went for an artificial hug! Great idea. "Are you still doing that teacher thing?" struck areal chord for me. I was once airily asked "You did that law thing, didn't you?" When I had been a very busy lawyer for several years. Good work Nina. Thanks for sharing.

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Nina H
18:54 Aug 29, 2023

Lol! That takes a certain kind of person to be dismissive about doing that law thing!! Thanks for the read, Chris! And yes, it was a little different take on the hug to open the story!

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