Shaina follows me into the frigid grocery store on my heels. The icy air conditioning bites into my exposed skin as Shaina continues the rant she started in my car ten minutes ago. I push the cart into the produce section and stop to rub some warmth into my bare arms. My red bandana print sundress and strappy sandals are perfect for the heat outside. Not so perfect for this icebox.
Shaina holds the side of the cart with her right hand and walks backward as I make my way through the produce, picking out what I need for dinner tonight with my boyfriend, Evan. She is unfazed by the heat outside or the cold inside in her black leather biker jacket, Metallica t-shirt, black ruffled skirt, black tights, and black boots. Her short hair is dyed black and styled in spiked chunks. Black eyeliner heavily rims her eyes and ruby lipstick paints her lips.
“I don’t know why you’re even bothering, Jules,” she says then cracks her gum.
I can smell the fresh bubble gum scent. “Maybe if you had a boyfriend, you’d understand,” I mutter, not even looking at her.
“He’s clearly not interested in you anymore.”
“And you know this how?” I pick through the tomatoes on the vine, searching for the firmest.
“How many times have you seen him in the last week?”
“None,” I answer flatly.
“How many times has he called?” she plants her left hand on her hip.
My eyes flit around nervously, but no one seems disturbed by Shaina’s gum cracking. “Twice.”
“He’s seeing someone else.” She inspects her red nails.
“He was on a business trip.” My tone is full of annoyance as I move to the condiment aisle.
“Clearly a cover.” She keeps an eye on me while walking backwards.
“Dammit, Shaina,” I snap. “Stop cracking your gum already.”
“Don’t avoid the subject,” she demands.
“I’ll avoid whatever I want.”
“You can’t avoid the truth.” She blows a big bubble and pops it.
I sigh in exasperation. “Twisted truth isn’t truth.” I eye the price points for the kalamata olives.
“It’s only twisted if you keep denying it,” she pushes.
“I’m not denying anything. If he didn’t want to be with me, he’d break up with me.” I pick up the store brand jar and read the label.
“Why break up with you if he gets what he wants from you and whoever else he’s seeing?”
She blows another bubble and I want to pop it myself with my fist. Or maybe with this jar of olives.
I set the jar back on the shelf. “Enough already,” I state tartly. I pick up another jar, check the label, and add it to the cart. I push forward but Shaina moves in front of the cart and holds it in place.
“Move, Shaina,” I order.
“Not until you admit he’s cheating on you.”
I shove the cart into her. “No,” I say sharply.
She shoves back and I stumble. “Yes,” she challenges. “You just don’t want to admit to another failed relationship.”
“He’s seeing and calling you less,” she says callously. “He’s got the next woman on his line before he lets you off the hook.”
I drop into a crouch and cover my ears with my hands. “SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP!” Twenty straight minutes of Shaina’s relentless accusations broke me. I squeeze my eyes closed and will her to disappear.
A gentle hand touches my shoulder.
I open my eyes and a male store employee is hunched down in front of me. Shaina is nowhere in sight. My hands fall into my lap.
“Are you okay?” he asks concerned. “Can I call anyone for you?”
“I’m fine. I’m here with a friend.” I straighten up.
He looks confused and stands with me. “Ma’am, I’ve been working at the end of the aisle. You came here alone.”
©Debi Smith, 2014