He blurts it out in the middle of the Publix, a can of sliced peaches in his hand.
“I had a dream about this, you know.”
Caroline looks at him with confusion, along with, he hopes affection. Typically, the two go hand-in-hand.
“You fantasized about syrupy-sweet canned fruit?” Her lips twitch with a smile. “Why does that not surprise me.” She pushes the cart with the squeaky left wheel past him.
“What? No! Not the peaches, per se. Just—”
She stops and looks over her shoulder. The shoulder he kissed this morning. The one that would taste even better with a drizzle of peach juice. He shakes his head and manages to pull his thoughts back to the grocery aisle.
“I had a dream about us. You and me. Grocery shopping. On a Sunday.”
This happens to him sometimes. Eloquent-sounding sentences in his head shed all structure—verbs, pronouns—as they exit his mouth. He’s left sounding like a better-dressed Neanderthal. Well, he hopes better-dressed.
“Planning, you know.” He swallows hard. “Meals. For the future.”
Now he’s said it. The other F word that comes with more strings attached than its four-letter cousin. The word he’s been dodging all his adult life. Until now.
Caroline makes a U-turn and stops the cart inches from his waist. The metal cage presses uncomfortably against his belt buckle. A scrap of paper dangles from her hand, full of this week’s groceries in his and her scrawls. The humor is gone from her face, replaced by something soft around her eyes.
“You dreamt about meal planning with me?”
She’s teasing. It’s what they do, a light touch on heavy subjects. A clumsy dance between novice partners.
But, he’s ready to learn the steps. Right there in the canned food aisle.
“I dreamt about you.”
Her smile, the one he dreams about right along with canned fruit, broadens. She stretches over the cart and plucks the can out of his hand. When she moves again, it rattles alongside their dozen eggs, frozen chicken thighs, and non-fat chocolate milk.
Patti Jurinski writes flash fiction and is working on her first novel. She lives in Florida, but will always be a New Englander at heart.