Eddie

He used to care about boobs. But now as he glanced over at the rack full of silicon- enhanced beauty, he felt nothing. He’d really chosen a crappy gas station this time; there was dirt everywhere, and the porn was right out in the open. He had a theory on gas stations. They were the best places to buy beer because there was an abundance of them and the turn over rate of the employees was astronomical. They weren’t like grocery stores either, where you’d have to deal with all those people, the mothers who just had to bring their whole tassel of brats and the old people who couldn’t move fast enough or drive a damn cart. The problem with liquor stores was, well, they were liquor stores and they paid too much attention, they remembered customers. Besides, they charged too much for beer; it was the hard stuff that you bought at a liquor store, the stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else. He reserved those trips for the holidays, when clerks weren’t so judgmental.
He’d better grab the Budweiser, pay for his gas, and go; it was almost six o’clock.

Grace

Glee was the first word that popped into Grace’s head when she thought about the Christmas tape she was about to push into the cassette player in her car. It was officially autumn now, so it wasn’t all that strange to be listening to Burl Ives and Placido Domingo singing about the holidays. December would soon be here; it wasn’t like it was July or something, though she had caught herself humming the tune to “White Christmas” a few times in August. She only had to wait three more months before it would be winter. You could get pregnant and not know it for three months; you could get through almost an entire semester of school in three months; you could lose 30 pounds in three months. But that was a long time to wait when you were in the spirit now.
“Let’s see, it’s 2:50 now, and it takes 15 minutes to get to Dr. Myers’ office,” she said as she applied more pressure on the gas pedal. “If I do 80 all the way there, then I can make it on time.”
Grace’s three o’clock eye appointment was the finish line. She realized that she was keeping up with the flow of traffic rather well. Maybe she’d better do 80 in a 65 more often, instead of her usual 73 mph. As she glided along the highway, she was amazed by the number of Clear Lake High School Student Parking Stickers she saw keeping pace with her. She glanced over at her own faculty permit and wondered if any of the students noticed it.

Hy-Vee, where there’s a helpful smile in every aisle!

“God Damn little bastards!” He still couldn’t understand why people brought their kids to the store with them. Why not just leave them at the day care and pick them up after the trip to the grocery store?
He swung his basket and nearly hit one of their little runny noses. He would never spawn. He truly believed that kids were evil. Besides, he seemed to scare them. At the end of the day, he would trade in his pinstripe suit and shiny black loafers for a leather jacket, jeans, and clunky boots. His business persona would give way to his inner longing to just be left alone, and his gentle frown would become a pronounced scowl. His body was lean and muscular, despite all of the alcohol he consumed, and his hair fell in soft waves that cascaded into his blue-green eyes. He could never quite figure out what it was about his appearance that intimidated children, but he decided not to change anything, in hopes that his “charm” would stay intact.

He looked down at his quickly scrawled list:
5 apples
bananas
bagels
Jameson’s
M&Ms
pizza
steak
Coke

Eddie was still addicted to M&Ms at thirty-four. He and the hard-shell chocolate- candies- that melt- in- your- mouth, not in your hand, had been having a passionate love affair for as long as he could remember. After getting his bottle of Jameson’s he’d hit aisle five and grab a bag or two. But when he rounded the corner of the liquor aisle he saw a woman with long reddish-brown hair hovering in front of his whiskey. Thinking she was the conversational type, because, well, just about every woman was, he did an about face and decided he’d go get the M&M’s first. Maybe by the time he crossed the store two times, she’d have made up her mind and gotten out of his way.

Still in shock from her appointment with Dr. Ayers, Grace drove to the grocery store. She couldn’t believe what had happened in the examining room. Dr. Ayers had actually propositioned her. Flirting with her had always been something he’d done, but he took a huge leap away from flirting when he told her that he thought she had the most beautiful corneas he’d ever seen.
“Your retinas…oh, your lens…oh baby, give me those pupils…” Grace could just imagine what he’d say in bed. He was sixty and married, and he had asked her if she would like to meet him at the Marriott later that night “for dinner.”
It would have been horrible, all that staring across the table. She was glad that Dr. Ayers was her optometrist and not her ob/gyn. Somehow, her outrage would have been greater.
As she wandered around Hy-Vee searching for appealing items and wishing that the annoying store theme would quit playing, she noticed a striking man in a leather jacket. She watched as he almost hit a 3-year old girl with his shopping basket, and running his fingers through his sooty hair, quickly apologized to the child’s mother. She saw him again as she was selecting a cantaloupe. He had chosen five Royal Gala apples. And it was him that she saw when she was standing before the Jameson’s.
Irish whiskey was the mark of her family. It was the one liquor that they all drank. You couldn’t make Irish coffee without a bit of Jameson’s! It would be considered a travesty by Grace’s mother and father, who had taught her that in order to make a proper Irish coffee, one must use more than a splash of Jameson’s.
There she stood before her parents, before her future, before her love (though that part comes later). She grabbed the last green bottle and decided she’d rather have a shot tonight.

Eddie strolled back to the liquor aisle with plain M&M’s in hand. The chick was leaving, so he strode to the spot that he knew so well. He was horrified when he saw the gap. There was no Jameson’s. It must be a mistake; they must have moved it. But, no, it was not further down, and the label was clearly stuck to the beige metal shelf directly below the terrible gap.
Instinctively, he followed the course that the redhead had taken. He didn’t know why he really followed her. It wasn’t as if he could actually walk up to her and say, “hey, I believe you have something that is rightfully mine.” What the hell was he doing?
He stayed behind her and studied her figure. It had been a long time since he’d scrutinized a frame that he was drawn to. And he was drawn to her, the soft curve of her hips as they rounded her ass, and the way her shoulders seemed to be proportional to her hips, and there was her long, luscious hair that fell down to the middle of her back; she looked so feminine. But, as much as he enjoyed her backside, he longed to see her face.

Grace knew that the man in the leather jacket was following her. She adjusted the sway in her hips and licked her lips. Even though he couldn’t see her tongue slip from corner to center, and corner to center across her lips, she did it anyway. Taking a deep breath, she raised her left arm and slowly ran her fingers through her hair, making sure that the man could see the absence of a ring on her finger.

Suddenly, she turned around and faced him, too anxious to not stare him down. It felt like a minute passed before either one of them spoke.
“May I help you?” Grace cooed.
“I’m sorry, but I noticed that you took the last bottle of Jameson’s, and well, I need that bottle.” Said Eddie.
“You need it? May I a–”
“I’m Eddie.” He interrupted, his business instincts kicking in.
“I’m Grace.”
Grace, god, she smiled when she said her name. She looked like a Grace. Her eyes were like sparkling blue crystals and her skin seemed so smooth. Why did I have to see her? Eddie thought.
“So, you need this bottle of Jameson’s, huh? The problem is that I really need a shot or two of this stuff right now,” she said as she picked up the dark green bottle and leaned against her cart.
“You can’t possibly mean that you want to share that bottle? I only drink alone.” Eddie’s indignation was rising.
Grace gazed at Eddie.
“Well, you can’t drink without this,” she said, tapping the Jameson’s, “so that would just put you at being alone. Would you rather have the whiskey and share it, or would you rather be alone, with nothing, because, personally, I’m comfortable with either plan?”
Grace didn’t know where this coy confidence was coming from. She had always pretended to be the person she was impersonating now when she was alone and staring into her mirror, but never had she imagined she could actually be this woman in real life. Maybe it was what had happened at Dr. Ayers’ or maybe it was the way Eddie’s eyes seemed to tell her that he wasn’t really a mean person. Maybe she was right, and he only looked tough at first glance.
She knew that she would regret it if she didn’t take a chance with Eddie. For Christ’s sake, she was 28! What the hell did she have to lose? She had planned to have a husband and kids by the time she was 26. Her rush to be an adult hadn’t gotten her anywhere. She was just as unhappy now as she’d always been. She was still waiting for that perfect Christmas and that perfect life. She got her hopes up every year, and every year she was let down.
Well, fuck that, she thought.
“I live about five minutes away from here,” she said.
“I’ll follow you.”
Maybe I’ll get laid, he thought. It’s just a slight change of plans…

The Truth About Liars

So, he cared about breasts, Grace’s breasts. But why had he agreed to follow her?
He figured he’d go to her place, have a drink with her, possibly screw her, and swipe the bottle. She would never miss it.
But as he stepped across the threshold of her second-story apartment, he didn’t want to leave. Her home really looked like a home; it was warm and he felt like the actual building was inviting him to visit awhile. He felt compelled to stay.
“How long have you lived here?” he asked.
“About four years. I wanted to go out and buy my own furniture, so I moved out of the place I shared with my friends,” she replied.
Putting her keys and purse down on a small wooden table in the hall, she turned around, and he could see her eyes dancing. Shit, she had a sense of humor! He’d thought that she was serious when she said she’d moved out just so she could buy furniture. But what kind of person was it that would do such a thing? It was almost endearing.
“Why don’t you sit down,” she said.
As Eddie positioned himself in a large, squishy chair Grace walked into the kitchen and pulled out two Waterford crystal glasses. They were a bit dusty from neglect, so she ran some hot water into them.
“On the rocks?” she asked.
“Sure.” Anything to get my two glasses for the night.
Grace placed the bottle of Jameson’s in the center of her coffee table and set down the glasses. As she sat down, she picked up the green bottle and undid the maroon wrapping. She could see Eddie staring at her as she poured the brown liquid into the crystal. She nudged a glass toward Eddie, and picked up the other one.
Making direct eye contact, she raised her glass to toast.
“Slainte!” she said.
“To your health,” said Eddie.

Regular Smalltalk Aside…

“So, you’re a teacher?” What an awful job. “Why would you ever want to do something like that?”
“Well, I like it actually. I teach history, mostly to seniors, though I have been stuck teaching Freshman Government,” responded Grace. “Do you need more ice?”
“Yes, sure,” Eddie said.
Eddie stared at the books in Grace’s big, cherry bookcase. Everything was categorized, fiction here, reference there, it was like she was a librarian or something. She must be crazy, Eddie thought, though he believed in organizing work documents, what is the point of that much order in a bookcase? The precision took away from the beauty of just knowing where something was, or browsing the shelves and making a great discovery. Books were to be enjoyed, not restrained. He’d definitely change that bookcase if he got the chance.
“May I ask you something?” Grace said. “Why were you so intent on getting the Jameson’s?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?” said Eddie. “I know what I like, I know what I want. What else matters? I shouldn’t have to deviate.”
“But don’t you believe in compromise?”
“Should I?” he asked
“I don’t know. I just thought that everyone compromised in life. You can’t always have things the way you want them. Sometimes the restaurant doesn’t have chives for your baked potato, sometimes you have to cover for friends, sometimes you just can’t have what you want. But that is what makes you appreciate getting what you want when you actually get it.” Grace was afraid that she was about to go from stating her opinion to riding a soapbox.
“Well, demand chives, and make your friends be accountable for themselves,” said Eddie.
“You don’t really believe that do you?” Grace was baffled.
“Of course I do. Now let me ask you a question. If you believe in all that compromise stuff, why didn’t you just give me that bottle of Jameson’s?”
“I don’t know. If you had any idea what kind of day I’d had, you would have never asked me to give it to you,” she replied.
“How do you know that? I’ve been drinking Jameson’s every night for the past eight years. I wouldn’t miss one night because someone had a bad day.”
“ I don’t understand. Even if the other person really needed it you wouldn’t let them have it?”
“I doubt that someone who needed a drink that badly would be that particular about what they drank, just as long as they actually got a drink. Whereas, I’ve been drinking the same thing, in the same amount every night for eight years. I can’t substitute something else.” Eddie’s response was very matter-of-fact.
Grace thought that Eddie sounded very calm when he dismissed her for a bottle of whiskey. Of course, he’d known Jameson’s longer than he’d known her. His loyalty to the whiskey was both intriguing and disgusting.
Both of them were silent as Grace tried to figure out how she’d ended up sitting in her apartment drinking with an alcoholic she’d just met. Something had drawn her to him, but it certainly wasn’t his concern for her well-being or his compulsive drinking habit. But he wasn’t mean! She just knew that he wasn’t. He couldn’t be; he was just someone that needed the right person to open him up.
There went another night.

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