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Rated: E · Short Story · Romance/Love · #2289878
Short story based upon the song/video for 'Tangerine Skies' by Declan J Donovan


"Pardon my interruption, but why are you smelling the oranges?"

James held the fruit near his nose for a few seconds more, taking a long deep breath. He set it gently in the basket he carried and selected three more that looked absolutely perfect. "Tangerines."

"What? Oh, yes," Mary dipped her chin towards the little printed sign that gave that detail, plus the price, "Ah, ok. Little oranges, then. Still, why are we here? Gertrude usually does the shopping, sir. You've never complained about her choices before, have you?"

"Trudy does a fine job of shopping and cooking. I just," James paused to let an older woman go by with her cart. She gave him a sweet smile, then did a double take and stared for a moment with her mouth open. He gave a sheepish smile, nodded and went on his way before she could say anything to engage him in conversation. "I just wanted to be out for a little while, like a normal person."

"That's the problem, sir. You aren't one of those." Mary made the statement offhand as she tried to take in everything and everyone around them at once. So far, they had pretty much gone unnoticed, but she knew that wouldn't last for much longer. "If you're almost done, sir, I can have Greg bring the car round."

"Done? I have four tangerines, Mary."

"What else were you wanting to get? Perhaps some bread? Or candy? Milk is always a good choice."

James let his shoulders slump. He had just wanted a few minutes out in a regular grocery store like a regular, everyday person. Mary was so tense, you would think he was in the middle of a warzone with enemies all around. She had her finger pressed against the little silicone speaker that was never outside of her ear and was talking into the microscopic microphone on the cuff of her sleeve, most likely already calling Greg to bring the car round front.

Then, he heard it.

The murmurs behind him started to grow, then spread like a rolling wave of sound. He picked up the piece of produce he was standing closest to and tilted his head forward as if he was examining it, but really used his peripherals to check out his surroundings.

The little old lady whom he had let cross in front of him was standing in a group of women her age. They were all tittering and making gestures in his direction. Every cashier was trying to watch him and still check out items. Several men were standing together by the meat counter, looking his way.

There were no less than three groups of women near his age that were talking amongst themselves. Some of them were primping and adjusting their clothes, hair, touching up makeup. He even saw one of the women shove her toddler towards an older woman, he could only assume it might be the kid's grandmother? Who readily accepted the child and kept a pointed stare on him.

"Is that..?"

"Oh, yes, that's him! Can you believe he is here?"

"Oh my gosh, I've got to talk to him!"

"You talk to him? Why you? You're married, Linda!"

"Kathy, forget the lipstick, just go say hello before any other woman gets over there, for heaven's sake!"

"He looks shorter in person."

James coughed to cover a laugh. The last had been said loudly by one of the men, who were all frowning his direction.

"Excuse me, Mr. Sinclair? It is you, isn't it? James Sinclair of Sinclair Enterprise?" A balding man wearing a jacket the color of the store's logo with a name tag that said 'manager' was standing a few feet away, only because Mary was keeping him at that distance. He held up a business magazine that had his James' face plastered on the front of it. "If we had known you were visiting, sir, I could have arranged to have the store open early so you could do your shopping without interruption."

In his mind, James heaved a huge sigh. That's exactly what he didn't want. He spent most of his life alone, even when he was surrounded by people. He took the frustration and sadness and shoved it into a corner of his heart to deal with later. No one looked at him as him anymore. What did he have to do to get someone to see him and not a big dollar sign? Hungry-eyed women were barely holding back beyond Mary's outstretched hands.

"That's funny, I don't remember you liking eggplant, James."

James froze, his mouth open, ready to respond to the manager. A tingle went up his spine and nearly made him shiver. The manager sputtered, trying to say something that would keep his attention. James closed his mouth, gave him a smile and turned.

Standing on the other side of the produce display was Samantha Montgomery. Brunette hair pulled back in a ponytail, yoga pants, and an old sweatshirt, she was pushing a cart half-filled with groceries.

"Sam," James felt her name more than heard it. "You look..."

"Watch it, there buddy," she warned, raising an eyebrow at him, wiry grin quirking her lips. "My Saturday mornings are gym, then grocery."

"Wonderful. I was going to say, you look wonderful." He laughed, the first real laugh he could remember in years.

"So, eggplant?" She gestured to what he was holding. He quickly shook his head, making a grossed-out face and carefully put it back.

"I haven't done this in a while," he said, giving an awkward laugh. He felt his cheeks heating up.

Samantha looked for permission from Mary before moving towards him. She stepped close enough that he could smell the familiar scent of her perfume. Looking in his basket, she plucked a tangerine out and held it up to smell. Her eyes closed, and her lips curled into a slow smile. "Camp Oseewah. Tuesday night. Tangerine sky by the lake."

"Sitting on the dock, letting our feet hang in the water, watching that sunset and eating these." He picked one up and held it, glancing down quickly to see that she wasn't wearing any wedding ring. His eyes came back to her face to find her staring at him knowingly. The heat from his cheeks spread down to his neck.

"I'm not. Never could find anyone quite like..." It was her turn to blush and look away, down to the basket.

"Well, I've got the tangerines." He ignored the furious beating of his heart and took the plunge. "Pick you up at eight?"

"Sure, as long as it's actually eight this time," she admonished with a teasing grin.

"Not my fault the car broke down," he said with a laugh. "I'm pretty sure that won't be a problem tonight." He watched her walk away with a light heart and a feeling of excitement that he hadn't experienced in years.

"Big date?"

"Yes, Mary, a big, very important date."

"Think she's going to realize she forgot all her groceries?"

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