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This one is based on a true story… I’m joking, I wish! This is a slow burn story with lots of build-up but I think you’ll find it worth your while. I know I did when I was writing it! I would love to hear your reactions – happy reading!
* * * * *
Against my better judgement, I opened the kitchen cupboard and peered at the shelf that should contain my snacks. Nothing. I should have known. I didn’t have any unruly, hungry roommates to blame for that. I lived on my own, so this was all me: emptying that cupboard as soon as there was anything there worth eating.
To be fair, my body didn’t show it; between my natural leanness and my tendency to alleviate any work stress with a run or a bike ride, I could eat whatever I wanted and stayed in shape without any issues. However, I still felt that I should try and snack less. So I hadn’t actually bought anything naughty for a while, thinking it would stop me from wanting it. It didn’t.
And now, Friday night had arrived and I was doomed to have a movie night without any chocolate. After a manic workweek, I had spontaneously decided to have a night in, instead of joining my colleagues at the cocktail bar near our swanky office block. This meant I would miss the opportunity to try another cocktail from their extensive menu and, more importantly, to watch the cute pink-haired bartender make said cocktail with her signature down-to-earth style with just a hint of flair. It was crucial to make this lack of eye-candy worth my while, and for this I needed chocolate with my movie. And possibly some wine.
An all too familiar internal debate ensued between the healthy me – pleading I could easily watch a movie without chocolate – and the indulgent me – arguing it really was no effort at all to go the supermarket and grab some. As usual, the indulgent me won. Slightly annoyed with my own lack of a backbone, I stepped into my sneakers without bothering to tie the laces, and grabbed my leather jacket.
It was chilly outside but at least it was dry. Autumn was slowly setting in, but so far the endless and dreary grey days had not yet made an appearance. The walk to the supermarket was quick. I had been living in the same residential area for a few years and knew all the alleys connecting the cul-de-sacs. This was why I loved walking and cycling places; there was always a more direct route.
The small suburban supermarket was deserted, apart from a bored teenage employee playing on his phone behind the till, and an ambitious cleaner hoping for an early night. Most people would be out drinking at this time, having gone straight from the offices to the pubs. At least this would be a quick in-and-out then; my movie was waiting.
As I started my beeline to the sweets aisle through the fruit and vegetable aisle, I noticed a woman in a long black coat standing in the middle of the aisle with her cart, appearing slightly lost. She was holding a bag with two leeks and was looking around for something or someone.
As I approached to pass her, she turned to me and mumbled: “Oh, you don’t work here.” She looked away quickly, as if she was either terribly shy or in a huge rush to be on her way. She did not speed off, however, so I assumed it was the first.
“No, I don’t, I’m afraid,” I replied politely, “I think the kids who are on shift are all either playing on their phones or secretly smoking out the back.”
“Great,” she sighed, slapping the leeks across the palm of her hand. She glanced at me, pale blue eyes meeting mine for just a split second, before she turned away again slightly, her shoulder-length blond hair obscuring part of her face. I couldn’t help noticing how beautiful she was.
I never thought it would be this difficult, the woman with the leeks thought. Let’s just cook a healthy meal from scratch; that will make me feel good. Famous last words. I can’t even get the ingredients right! I have no idea how much of this stuff I need; 2 cups, what does that even mean?
And of course there isn’t a soul around to ask. Are supermarkets always like this? I’m glad it’s so quiet, but I could really use a little help to figure this one out. Although, would one of those kids who work here even know? My kids for sure wouldn’t. Now that they’re all off to uni, they’ll have to learn soon enough.
Maybe I should just leave it. I can find other ways to empower myself than cooking and buying groceries…
“Thanks anyway,” she said, as she turned to walk away.
There was something about her tone and her body language that made me want to help her, whatever it was she needed. She looked so deflated, as if all her hopes and dreams had just been crushed by my lack of an employee uniform.
“Hey, but I do come here a lot. I practically live in the sweets aisle. It’s a bit of squatter’s situation, actually. They’re not very happy about it,” I started, rambling; overdoing it in attempt to keep her from walking away. kağıthane escort Get to the point. “Maybe I can help you? What do you need?”
Maybe you can… You don’t look like much of a cook either, but at least you’ll know how this supermarket thing works.
She glanced at me again with her captivating pale eyes and smiled. “Oh, it’s nothing, really. I was just looking for the scales to weigh these.”
She slapped the leeks across her palm again. Somehow it made my knees go weak, watching the fortunate vegetables impact with the elegant hand in such a deliberate action; it triggered inappropriate associations in my imaginative mind.
“You only weigh them when you get to the check-out,” I replied, banishing envious thoughts towards the leeks or the hand.
What? That doesn’t make any sense. How do you know how much you’re going to buy? Or do people just magically know how many leeks fit in a cup?!
At her next quick look at me, I told myself to take in a few more details so that I could piece together the picture of her face. She had pronounced cheek bones and a wide mouth with well-formed lips, the bottom one slightly fuller than the top one. I felt defiant, sneaking a peek at her face while she was clearly doing her best to hide it from me. She still looked puzzled and even a bit frustrated.
“That doesn’t help?” I asked carefully, part of me wishing I had just skidded past her, grabbed my chocolate, and left. As much as I always enjoyed talking to a beautiful woman, I did not want to be on the receiving end of some sort of produce-induced tantrum.
She sighed, looking embarrassed. “I’m supposed to put two cups of leeks in this dish I’m cooking. I have no idea how much that is in grams or ounces, let alone in actual leeks.”
There, I’ve said it. I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m completely useless at this. You’ll probably think I’ve escaped from a convent or something.
I couldn’t help but chuckle. I could understand her frustration; those kinds of measurements were completely puzzling to the novice cook. Although, I wasn’t sure how she could be a novice cook. She was surely not a student living on her own for the first time. If anything, I would have guessed she had a family to cook for. Perhaps she’d just left a partner who’d always cooked for her; of course she’d be single in my optimistic mind.
“Well, let’s see. One cup of raw leeks is about 250 grams. That’s one large or one and a half medium-sized leeks. Those two you’re holding are medium, I’d say, so you’ll want one more and then you have your two cups,” I reasoned quickly. Calculations came easy for me and I was no stranger to converting kitchen measurements.
“How do you just know that?!”
She now looked directly at me with a perplexed look on her face. For the first time I saw her face in its entirety, its overwhelming beauty catching me by surprise, despite the sneak previews I’d had. I’d never seen anyone this attractive around here, just wandering through the supermarket. There was something familiar about her too, like I’d seen her face a million times but in a different context. It was that typical experience of meeting your gym instructor in plain clothes in a restaurant and not having a clue where you know them from. Did I know her? I was convinced I would have remembered her if I’d met her before.
I realised I was staring at her and quickly responded: “I cook a lot.” My brain was struggling to focus on having a normal conversation, working overtime to place her in different places I’d been to see if she fitted anywhere. Something must have shown on my face because she looked away again quickly.
You just recognised me, didn’t you? I shouldn’t have looked at you like that. It’s my own fault. This au naturel appearance only works so far in keeping me incognito, I guess.
Oh well, this will be a nice story to tell your friends, to laugh about while you prepare your meals with your perfect measurements; how you met the famous actress who had no idea how to cook for herself. I should get going before we’ll end up taking selfies with my groceries.
“Thank you very much. You’ve saved my dish from a shortage of leeks.” She turned away, undoubtedly off to add another leek to her bag.
“You’re welcome. How many people are you cooking for?” I knew it was a feeble attempt to keep some form of conversation going, but I still hadn’t figured out if I knew her and from where. At the same time, I realised, I was desperately fishing for any confirmation of my theory about her being recently single.
“Just me,” she replied dismissively, while still avoiding eye contact.
“You must be quite hungry then. Or very fond of leeks…” I could kick myself for my silly response. I was usually quite confident around women and was known to be a bit of a flirt, but now I wasn’t being my usual smooth self. Something kartal escort bayan about her was throwing me off, as if the coolest version of me still wouldn’t be cool enough to talk to her.
Despite my lame comment, she said with a conspiratorial smile: “Maybe both…” At that, she walked off and left me wondering if there could possibly be any double meaning in that. If there was, it was too obscure for my occupied brain to grasp.
For lack of anything else to do, I continued towards the sweets aisle to choose my chocolate. Usually this was a task I enjoyed greatly but when I looked at the shelves now, I did not see any Cadbury, Lindt or Galaxy; all I saw was her face. The sudden realisation hit me like a slap in my face. I did know her. Or rather, I knew who she was. The whole world knew who she was.
It had seemed like nothing out of the ordinary, her being here. She had looked like any other person doing their shopping at the end of a busy day. But she wasn’t like any other person. Her well-known face should have looked out of place in this insignificant environment, like a fully-costumed extra in a fantasy movie who had wandered onto the set of a rom-com. Yet, her lack of make-up and designer clothing seemed to transform her; make her blend into the everyday without drawing any attention to herself. So much so, that even when she’d looked directly at me, I hadn’t made the connection.
I remembered that when I’d first seen her on the big screen, I’d thought she was striking. Since then, I had watched many of her movies and had developed a bit of a soft spot for her. Many people had; she was incredibly talented and widely acclaimed. Not only had she won two Academy Awards and hundreds of other prestigious awards, she was also intelligent and witty, as far as I could glean from back-stage material and TV interviews.
I was struggling to comprehend how this could possibly be happening when a sudden brain wave brought some much-needed enlightenment. I recalled reading in a tabloid magazine that she had recently sold her exorbitant city penthouse and moved to the suburbs. Whereabouts it didn’t say; they probably didn’t know. At the time I had dismissed it as a wild guess altogether – these tabloids were not known for their fact-checking. A recent divorcee, she was currently enjoying a bit of a sabbatical from acting and was looking for some peace and quiet, the same article had claimed. She’d supposedly confided in them that she needed to regroup and rediscover what was important.
So it was true? She’d moved to the suburbs – my suburbs? And here she was, just casually strolling through my local supermarket? At the very least that last part was true. I never would have thought a star of her calibre would do her own shopping, or at least not by physically going to the supermarket. But then again, perhaps it provided a much needed sense of normality.
And – let’s focus on the important things – she was indeed recently single, my optimistic brain quipped. I reprimanded myself; there was no way of knowing that for sure. Besides, what was I going to do, hit on her in the supermarket? I laughed out loud at the thought.
I grabbed the first piece of chocolate I could get my hands on, my usual debate about brand and cocoa percentage suddenly seeming irrelevant. I felt lost, as if I was missing something important. What else was there to do? What else could I have done? I’d had a perfectly pleasant but completely meaningless conversation with her. She would go on her merry way and forget about me, and I had no choice but to go on mine: back home to my movie. Maybe I could watch one of her movies then; that would at least be something.
Still beating myself up for my lack of smoothness and my failure to make her fall for me on the spot, I crossed to the wine aisle and grabbed a nice Chianti; that would cheer me up. I made my way over to the check-outs. A moment later, I was stopped in my tracks when I saw that she was there too.
My heart skipped a beat and my mouth went dry. Should I go up to her and ask for her autograph, maybe a photo? I would certainly regret it later if I didn’t. But then, she probably didn’t want to be bothered like that while doing something as mundane as grocery shopping. My politeness and wish to respect her privacy battled with my desire to have one more moment with her and somehow capture that moment for eternity. I watched her briefly. Hiding in her inexplicable anonymity, she was even more captivating than on screen, if that were possible.
I remembered then that I’d already been interested in her before I’d realised who she was. Even to me, it sounded like a puny justification for wanting to speak to her again, but it was true nonetheless. I realised I could not just stand there endlessly; either way I had to go where she was to pay for my groceries. The bored employee who had been kurtköy escort bayan at the tills earlier had disappeared, so we were both confined to the self-service check-outs; my usual choice regardless. Shyness engulfing me, I set my products down on the check-out next to hers.
“Hi again,” I mumbled, without looking at her. I hoped I didn’t come across rude; that was the last thing I wanted.
Oh you again, the only person to be seen in this whole place; one person, whom I couldn’t even keep from recognising me! Still no ‘Can I have your autograph’ or ‘I’m such a big fan’, though. That’s a relief.
Right, let me just figure out how this damn thing works so I can get out of here. Whatever happened to people doing this for you?
“Hi,” she said simply, as I quickly scanned my products and put them in the reusable bag I’d brought. She looked over at my check-out like a student peeping on a test, then glared at the machine in front of her and tapped the screen awkwardly.
I tried to be inconspicuous as I lingered slightly longer than necessary and watched her struggle for a moment. Did she not know how to use the self-service machine? I could hardly believe that. But then again, she probably hadn’t done this very often and the things could be confusing at first. I realised this was my chance.
“Are you alright there? Is the machine not working?” I asked, not wanting to make her feel bad.
I think you can see very well that it’s not the machine, but that’s very kind of you to put it that way. Once again, maybe you can help me out here, supermarket whizz…
“I’m sure the machine is fine. It’s me, I’m technologically challenged. Would you mind? I can’t figure out how this thing works.”
I was impressed with her honesty and, of course, I was more than happy to give her a hand. Even if it had been the machine, I imagined I would have opened it up and debugged it, if it meant I could help her. She looked at me earnestly, less inclined to hide her face now. She probably thought I’d recognised her by now anyway. For some reason, I didn’t want her to think I was only talking to her because she was famous. I wished I could explain to her that I hadn’t even realised before, without sounding silly.
“Of course.” Moving over to her, I walked her through the initial settings – she hadn’t brought her own bags – and showed her how to scan the products and bag them so the machine would register their weight.
Standing side by side, we worked together: she scanned, I bagged. Her physical proximity still made me feel nervous, but I felt reassured by the banality of what we were doing, and the fact that I had been able to teach her something new, no matter how trivial.
“You haven’t shopped in a while then? You haven’t had to use one of these before?” I tried to make conversation.
“I usually go to the normal check-out, but it seems the people who work here are still not around.”
Well, that’s what I would do, if I did do this more often. But there’s no need to dwell on the fact that I haven’t done my own grocery shopping for years. It would just make me seem snobbish. But I’m not, I’ve just always been so busy! But now that I have more time off, it’s nice to do these things myself. This is the whole reason I moved out to the sticks. Well, part of it anyway.
The next item was the bag of leeks. She stopped, for lack of a barcode to scan, and looked at me helplessly.
“This is where you weigh them,” I explained and selected the right item on the screen. The weight showed as 493 grams.
“See, two cups is about 500 grams, so you should be good,” I confirmed, “even if you are very hungry and very fond of leeks.”
She smiled genuinely and I melted a little.
“What are you making?” I continued. I realised I wanted to know so much more about her; not about her spotlight life but about her everyday life. I wanted to picture her in her kitchen, preparing a meal in her comfortable clothes and her slippers.
“It’s an oven dish with pasta. I can’t remember what it’s called. It’s one of those lean, mean, green things.”
The recipe looked easy enough to start with. If that works out well, perhaps I can graduate to something a bit more complicated. Or have people over. I’ll see about not poisoning myself first.
“Lean, mean, green?” I laughed, “you don’t look like you need to worry one bit about your leanness.” It had come out before I realised it. Apparently, my optimistic brain had still not given up on the thought of hitting on her in the supermarket.
Oh smooth! That’s very nice of you to say, but at my age these things don’t come as easy anymore. I always have to worry about staying in shape, and about my PT shouting at me for eating the wrong things.
And did you really just flirt with me? That’s flattering, but it’s going to get you nowhere.
“Why, thank you. It’s working then.” Her eyes became slightly slanted as her smile engulfed her entire face. “What are you making? I noticed you’re on a healthy diet of chocolate and wine.” She grinned.
“Yeah, I just came in here to give into my cravings. I have a lot of those.” I grinned at her cheekily. I couldn’t help it. My brain had initiated a flirt sequence and I felt myself slipping into that zone.
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