For part one of this not-so-soapy tale, please go here.
But she was late, and she had to get out to her car and over to the puppies. So she looked down again and went on her way.
She thought of Ed, though, as she went about her routines that day, and for several days after, because he didn’t appear at the co-op at their usual time.
And she found she missed the booming voice, the inappropriate comments. She wondered if he was well. Perhaps he was sick? Maybe he would have liked some soup. But she had no way of knowing his preferences and tastes, or even if he was home, or perhaps on some vacation. Maybe with a companion. Maybe with a younger woman. And it certainly wasn’t any of her business in any case.
So she continued to have her coffee and her vegan muffins and to read her paper or whichever mystery she had brought with her that day.
On Saturday, Farmers Market Day, she had her grocery stroller with her when she entered the co-op. It was quite full with her supplies for the week – carrots, apples, turnips and onions from the market, along with a loaf of John’s bread and some eggs from Joan. She’d also bought her co-op supplies – a can of beans mixed with rice, some Bangkok curry noodle soup, lamb sausages and a package of ginger snaps.
She’d wheeled her cart out of the front entrance and into the café, because it seemed like she’d be too disruptive if she took the inside passage by the salad bar. She needed the cart – she just wasn’t strong enough to carry all the bags alone, but it was certainly bulky, and it took up so much room. She wished she were stronger, and could carry the canvas bags that so many of the younger women carried with ease. They certainly seemed to take up less room, and they weren’t in anyone’s way. Not like she was.
The line at the counter of the café was typical for a Saturday – long and slow-moving. And on top of everything, she had that cart. And no matter where she placed herself and her cart, she was sure she was bumping into one of the other patrons. And she was sure that they were annoyed. She muttered, “I’m sorry,” over and over under her breath, the way others might chant a mantra. Or maybe it wasn’t under her breath, because it seemed to her that several people were staring at her.
Be that as it may, she tugged at the cart and made her way slowly to the front of the line, chanting apologies as she did so. She didn’t even notice that Ed was back, sitting in his usual corner and reading his usual paper. She also didn’t see that with each “I’m sorry,” Ed would lower his paper and glare. So totally was she in her own world that she didn’t observe that Ed was becoming increasingly restless, ruffling his paper, and turning the pages with ever sharper snaps, as he tried to concentrate over the noise, the line and the infernal apologies.
As Emily got to the counter, she paused, and quite impulsively ordered a chai latte. Usually she would just have coffee, but it was Saturday and she felt like the sugar and spice of her favorite splurge. But having ordered it, she realized that she was now committed to waiting at the drink pick-up area, and that now she’d be in the way again. She thought about leaving her cart at a table, but it was crowded on Saturdays, and she didn’t think it fair to reserve a table for herself when others might get their drinks before hers was ready. So she kept the cart by her side and tried to keep to herself.
She wondered again about Ed and if he was better, for now she imagined that he had been sick, after all. She turned behind her to look at his table, sure it would be inhabited by a young couple, or a father and toddler, but she was startled to see Ed’s sea green eyes fixed on hers.
She was so startled that she jumped a bit, thrusting her cart into the rear of a large woman waiting in front of her. And the woman turned and certainly glared this time. And Emily imagined that Ed had been glaring, too. And she wanted to shrink down. Shrink down under the table and just disappear. And she said, rather loudly, as she was wont to do when she was nervous, “I’m sorry!” It was a plea to the universe in general. A plea to make herself disappear.
And Ed leapt up from his table and stood by her, put his hands on his hips and roared, “STOP with the ‘I’m sorries!’ I can’t THINK for the ‘I’m sorries!’ I can’t READ for the ‘I’m sorries!’”
At that moment, her chai was called and she grabbed it from the counter and fled. There were tables outside the entrance, and it wasn’t too cold. She’d just sit there, instead.
So she turned quickly and this time, not minding whom it bothered, she threw herself out of the door and over to an outside table and collapsed. She took a deep breath and warmed her hands with her chai. Her eyes searched the Farmers Market crowds. She was deeply ashamed. Embarrassed. Angry. Hurt.
And she didn’t see Ed towering over her.
“I’m sorry,” he said gently, quietly. “I’m sorry.”
She looked up.
“May I sit?” his sea green eyes looked soft. “Please?”
And she nodded. And he sat.
And they’ve been sitting together since that day.
Don't forget to read other sudsy tales through Brillig's and Kateastrophe's Soap Opera Sunday - either keep reading or come join us for some writing.