If Aloise was nervous about standing in a grocery store aisle in front of rows and rows of prophylactics, she didn’t let on. Manny was nervous but knew this was necessary. He let her take the lead.
“Ooh! Glow-in-the-dark.” She picked up a package and Manny fought to keep a straight face. “Those could be fun.” She tossed them in the empty grocery cart and turned back to the wall of condoms.
Manny tried to make a sincere attempt to study the choices, but his face turned red just reading the labels. Lubricated, ultra-thin, flavored? He had to turn around and nearly choked out the words, “Just choose whatever you want, and we’ll try them all.”
Just as he said that, and while Aloise held three different packages, jockeying to not drop any of them, Manny’s former high school principal, Mrs. Laker, came around the corner.
“Well, hello, Emanuel,” Mrs. Laker said with a smile, not having noticed what aisle they were standing in. When she glanced down and saw what Aloise was holding, her mouth gaped open. Aloise quickly threw the boxes in the grocery cart, which now contained at least half a dozen.
“Mrs. Laker”—Manny cleared his throat and then gently pulled Aloise closer— “I’d like to introduce my wife, Aloise. Mrs. Laker was my high school principal… four months ago.”
“Wife?” Mrs. Laker’s eyes darted back and forth between them then glanced down at their left hands, which clearly did not display wedding rings.
Manny leaned closer to Aloise. “We should buy wedding rings. Nobody’s going to believe we’re married.”
“I hadn’t thought about that.” She looked down at her left hand. “Is there a jewelry store in your town?”
“This is your town now too, babe.” His voice lowered. Aloise giggled as they stared into each other’s eyes.
“I hadn’t heard that you were getting married…” Mrs. Laker drew their attention back to her. “Your mother must be, um, thrilled.”
“She doesn’t exactly know yet,” Manny said.
“We just got married this afternoon,” Aloise said.
“Oh, you’ve eloped. How romantic.” Mrs. Laker glanced at the grocery cart full of condoms. “I guess that would explain your desire for, um, well…”
“We don’t want to get pregnant,” Manny said, dropping his voice lower.
“That’s a wise choice,” she said. “As young as you are.”
“Yeah, I bet you wish Tommy and Amy had made that choice over homecoming weekend, huh?”
Mrs. Laker shifted uncomfortably. “Their adorable little girl is… a blessing… in disguise.”
“Her water broke during our graduation ceremony,” Manny said, leaning close to Aloise and keeping his voice low. “In front of about nine hundred people.”
“Oh!” Aloise covered her mouth with her hand, then dropped her hands to her sides. “That must have been… a blessing… to have so many people around to make sure she got to the hospital in time.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Laker said, nodding slowly. “A blessing.”
“Anyway, we have some more shopping to do before we… go home.” Manny gulped. “It was very nice to run into you this afternoon, Mrs. Laker.”
“You as well, Emanuel. And nice to meet you, Louise.”
“Aloise,” Manny corrected her, and Mrs. Laker cocked her head to the side in confusion. “My wife’s name is Aloise. With an A.”
“Oh, well, I hope you have a lovely day.” She stepped away from them, backing her grocery cart with her.
“We intend to have a lovely day,” Manny said, pulling Aloise a little closer and gazing into her eyes. “Gracias.”
Mrs. Laker was gone by the time Manny was done kissing his wife while standing in the grocery store aisle across from a wall of prophylactics.
After a brief tender moment and then a lighthearted chuckle about running into Mrs. Laker, they strode over to the aisle where beach towels were sold and placed one on top of their other selections. Then had fun goofing off picking out different items that they might possibly need, commenting on their necessities.
A candle, bubble bath, massage oil, a box of Kleenex, various energy restorative snacks, sports drinks for electrolyte replenishment, matching silky pajamas, a negligée, and a romance novel with a half-naked couple on the front. Everything they could think of for a lovely day, as Mrs. Laker had pointed out.
By the time they got to the checkout lane, their selections weren’t any less suggestive than if they’d filled their cart to the brim with condoms. They also forgot they’d planned to use the self-check-out lane until they’d unloaded most of the groceries onto the conveyor belt.
The little old lady who was their cashier probably would laugh off their collection of paraphernalia. As Manny turned to the row of chocolate bars, a girl approached the little old lady and said she could take a break and the girl would take over for her.
Manny could have picked her voice out in a crowded room the size of a gymnasium. He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes. “This can’t be happening.”
“What’s the matter?” Aloise stepped closer and reached her hand up to touch Manny’s face, trying to comfort him.
“The girl who is our new cashier. Does she have red hair?”
Aloise slowly said, “Yyess.”
He spoke through clenched teeth. “She’s my ex-girlfriend.” Manny opened his eyes and met her gaze.
“If we can get through discussing family planning with your high school principal, I’m sure we can handle having your ex-girlfriend for our cashier.”
“Sure, we’ll go with that.”
Aloise pushed past Manny and strode right up to the girl, extending her hand. “Hi, I’m Aloise. I understand you’re friends with my husband.”
Lexi paused from scanning eight packages of condoms and glanced up to realize Manny was standing next to Aloise, one arm around her waist. She lowered her gaze to the box in her hand that read Glow-in-the-Dark, then scanned it and placed it in the grocery bag beside her. Lexi slowly lifted her hand and shook Aloise’s.
“Manny must have… changed his mind… about certain things he claimed he wasn’t ready for a few months ago.” She scanned the next box, and the next.
“Amazing what happens when you meet the right girl, huh?” Aloise didn’t wait for an answer to her rhetorical question, just turned back to Manny. “Did you pick out which candy bar you’d like?”
Manny held up his selection. “Snickers.”
“Fitting for the day we’ve had.” Aloise stepped closer and winked. Manny placed his hands on her hips and fought the urge to press his lips to hers again but changed his mind at the last minute.
“Let’s pay for these groceries so we can go home,” Manny said.
“I would like that very much,” Aloise answered in a voice that was almost a purr.
By the time they were done gazing into each other’s eyes with longing and fire, most of the groceries were scanned and in bags. As Aloise loaded the bags from the carousel back into the cart, Manny swiped his debit card and smiled at his ex-girlfriend. “Nice to see you again, Lexi.”
“Have a nice day, Manny,” Lexi said in her most professional voice.
“I’m sure we will.” Manny turned and walked away, ready to take his wife home so they could put into practice all the exciting things they’d discussed since that morning when they’d decided to get married.