Thanks for stopping by. As mentioned in previous blogs I’m going to share flash fiction stories from time to time. I hope you enjoy this one:
You Never Know
It was a balmy Friday night in May. Val was inspecting Fuji apples at a grocery store when Bo’s text came in.
Five months had passed since she’d heard from him.
“Hey. What are you doing?” Bo texted.
“Hey, getting ready to go out. What are you doing?” Val texted back regretting how quickly she hit send.
Admitting she was grocery shopping — in sweat pants and a faded Coldplay shirt Bo left in her car the last time she saw him — was out of the question.
Val put a Fuji apple in her basket then set it on the ground to check her phone for Bo’s reply. Nothing.
She headed to dairy with her phone in hand so she wouldn’t miss a notification. She leaned against a cooler door that someone left opened and set her basket down to check for Bo’s reply. Nothing.
The baking aisle caught her eye. Homemade chocolate chip cookies suddenly seemed like the whole point of Friday night shopping. Organic flour, Ghirardelli chocolate chips, walnuts, and baking powder added weight to her hand basket so she headed to checkout.
In aisle #9 Val was sandwiched in between a cart piled high behind her and a customer with only a couple of items in front of her. She set her hand basket on the ground and pushed it away with her foot so she’d have space to check her phone.
“Just wanted to say hi” Bo texted 90 seconds earlier.
Val texted back “hi.”
Her phone pinged back immediately after she sent her reply. But when she looked at her phone she noticed the sound notification wasn’t for her after all. A minute later another notification sounded,
“I’m about to go out too” Bo texted.
“Where are you going?” Val texted.
Like before, the second after Val sent her reply a notification pinged, but it wasn’t her phone; then another ping that was hers.
“Wait, give me two seconds,” Bo texted.
The line was growing longer and customers were getting antsy. The piled-to-the-sky cart behind Val rolled closer and bumped into her purse causing her to move it to the other shoulder.
Val thought it was a coincidence that the customer in front of her had the same notification sound that she had. Annoyed at the store’s slow pace and not thinking clearly, she texted Bo, “?!” Ping, she heard.
Then, her phone pinged, “?!” appeared.
Is that Beau in front of me?
Val’s heart raced, her face flushed, and butterflies swarmed her stomach.
She had never seen the over-sized plaid shirt the man was wearing, or his gray ball cap. His hair was much longer than Bo’s too, hanging at least three inches past his hat. And he had a beard, or at least needed a shave.
I thought that guy might be homeless, she thought.
Bo and Val had the same text notification sound ever since last New Year’s Eve, five months earlier. They were at a party in a swanky hotel where they felt out of place. They’d been drinking champagne for hours and hadn’t eaten any lunch that day when they started making fun of each other’s texting sounds. Val’s was Presto and Bo’s was Blues. They joked and argued that the other’s was too long, boring or offensive to others, especially if the volume was high.
For two hours, before midnight, they carried on with sloppy drunk, nonsensical bantering. Finally, they called a truce saying that if they couldn’t at least agree upon and share the same text notification sound they would never be able to share or agree upon anything together. When the clock struck midnight they clumsily cheered, drool kissed and switched their ring tones to: Complete.
But after the party their friends relentlessly reminded them of embarrassing details: you were so loud, remember when Val laughed and choked at the same time saying she “hated Bo more than smelly fish,” and the manager had to ask them to quiet down.
By mid January Val and Bo were no longer a couple.
The line stopped moving because a new cashier came on duty.
Val noticed Bo was buying Cabernet, Boars Head, potato salad, and hoagie rolls. She wondered why he hadn’t chosen any sweet items; dessert was Bo’s favorite.
The conveyor belt moved an inch.
“I didn’t know you liked Cab?” Val texted.
She heard Bo’s phone ping and smiled watching him look at the wine bottle move on the conveyor belt. Bo looked up at the ceiling, then at the floor, then left and right. He looked in the window reflection and could see the line behind him, but not who was standing directly behind him.
His heart pounded like a drum as his groceries started scanning. Val inched closer to him. He felt her energy behind him. He ran his hand over his unshaven face and adjusted his ball cap.
The checkout clerk asked, “debit or credit?”
As Bo turned to answer he saw frozen pizza, baking supplies and a Fuji apple out of the corner of his eye.
“Bo?” Val said.
“Debit or credit?” the checkout clerk asked again.
The piled-high cart behind Val nudged her again, this time a little harder. She pretended not to notice.
“Debit, add her things too” Bo said pointing to the chocolate chips.
“That’s not necessary” Val said.
He whispered, “You caught me. I wanted to ask you out but didn’t know how.”
Val whispered back, “You caught me too. I couldn’t admit I didn’t have plans.”
“Tomorrow night?” Bo asked.
“Why not tonight?” We have everything we need in these bags. I noticed you skipped the bakery? I’ll make cookies.”
“Ok, sure, why not…if you’ll take me looking like this?” he said rubbing his chin and adjusting his hat again.
“Look at me,” Val said tugging at Bo’s old Coldplay shirt.
What began as a dull Friday night trip to a grocery store, turned into an evening of sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, Cabernet and Coldplay at Val’s apartment, just like old times.
They talked about missing each other and maybe getting back together. They laughed about their epic argument on New Year’s Eve and the miracle that they both still had the Complete sound on their phone.
They re-lived the coincidence of texting and running into each other in a grocery store on a Friday night, not knowing the other was nearby.
As they sat comfortably slumped, shoulder-to-shoulder on Val’s worn out sofa with half-full wine glasses on a wobbly table in front of them, Bo sent Val a text,
“What will be will be,” he said.
Val texted back,
“lol, you never know…”
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