“Dave, I think we need to go get some groceries.” We’d been living together for three days when I finally told Dave we had no other choice. We had to brave the grocery store. It was apparent Dave had been telling the truth about never cooking. We didn’t have much at all for food in the house. I’d managed to scrounge a couple of meals out of the meager offerings, but that was about it.
It was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the man I’d given my heart to.
“What kind of vegetables do you like?” We were in the produce section and with the exception of corn, which I’d get frozen, I preferred fresh veggies. We’d already gotten a bag of red potatoes and one of white, as well as lettuce and tomatoes.
Dave wrinkled up his nose and barely glanced at anything. He pointed to the cart. “Can’t we just stick with potatoes and salads?”
I laughed until I realized he was serious. I shook my head. “Have you had squash before?”
He nodded. “I think so, once. It wasn’t very good.”
“I wish I knew how it had been cooked. Steamed, it’s great.” I picked up a couple zucchini squash and a couple of yellow squash. Dave looked at them doubtfully. “Just try them once, and if you don’t like them I won’t make them for you again.” That wasn’t to say I wouldn’t cook squash occasionally, I just wouldn’t try and get him to eat it.
“Sounds fair enough.”
“I guess I should have already asked, but are you allergic to anything?” It would make it easier to plan the meals if I knew what he couldn’t have.
“Nope, not that I’m aware of.”
I smiled, added a couple of sweet potatoes to the cart, a few different peppers, and moved on to fruits. Dave was much more helpful there. I added a mixed bag of apples and oranges. Dave added some bananas, strawberries, and peaches. I spied the raspberries and grabbed a thing of those. I probably went overboard on the fruit, but I loved fruit and my budget hadn’t allowed me to have it very often.
We went through the aisles one by one. I got everything I needed to make spaghetti again, since Dave had seemed to enjoy it. I got various types of noodles and rice. We made our way down the canned aisle and I added things to the cart as we passed them. Dave even added a few things. I cringed when he added canned pasta and took it back out of the cart.
“What? I like those.” He started to reach for them again and I shook my head.
“There’s some others we can get and add to a sauce. Trust me, you’ll like those better.” He nodded once and stepped away from the canned stuff. I would count that as a win.
I didn’t plan on doing a lot of baking, but I still needed to get flour and sugar. We grabbed those and moved on to grab eggs and milk.
“If you’ll get the eggs, I’ll get the milk.” I sighed when Dave grabbed the first carton of eggs he came across. He started to put them in the cart and I stopped him.
“What?” He held up the eggs. “I thought you wanted eggs.”
“We do need eggs, but you need to check them first.” I made a mental note to never have Dave stop at the store for something that I was missing. At least for a while. Hopefully after a few trips he’d know what I was looking for.
“Check them?” He raised an eyebrow and glanced at me like I was nuts. “What’s to check? They’re eggs.”
“Open the carton and look at them.” I tried to keep my tone as patient as I could.
“They look like eggs.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“Are any broke or cracked?”
“I don’t think so.” He peered down at the eggs. “Oh, wait, this one looks cracked.” He put that carton back and grabbed a different one. I smiled and grabbed a gallon of milk as he opened the new container and checked the eggs inside. “These look good.”
He put them in the cart and I moved them to the upper part where they couldn’t get crushed, but didn’t say anything.
“So, what’s next?”
“We still need meat, cheese, the ravioli, and bread.” I glanced at what we had in the cart. “Do we want cereal for when we need a quick breakfast?”
“Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. And lunch meat for when we’re home for lunch.” Dave looked around and pointed. “I think we passed the cereal aisle over there.”
I pushed the cart in the direction he indicated and looked through the various cereals. I grabbed a box that I liked and watched to see what Dave would pick. I wasn’t under any illusion that we’d always be able to go shopping together and so it was a good thing for me to know.
We left the cereal aisle and moved to the lunch meats.
“I used to like a couple of different kinds of meat on my sandwiches.” I grabbed a package of honey ham and hesitated before adding one of roast beef. It had been a while since I had been able to afford to get what I wanted and I knew I’d have to be careful or I’d go completely overboard. I glanced at the cart and cringed. Even more than I already had.
“So do I.” Dave tossed a package of turkey in the cart. “I usually do turkey and ham.”
“Roast beef and ham is good together too.” I reached for a package of cheese. Out of habit I picked up the most processed stuff and then put it back when I realized what I’d grabbed. It was cheaper per slice than the good cheese, but for once I was going to get the kind I actually liked. Besides, if my biggest part of the bills was groceries, then I wasn’t going to skimp and always buy the cheapest. I reached for a package of cheddar and one of swiss.
“What kinds of meat are we getting?” Dave led the way over to the meat section.
“What kind do you like?” I realized as soon as I said it what I had opened myself up for. Dave didn’t disappoint.
“Well”–his gaze roved over my body, and he leaned closer to whisper—“I’d say it’s about six and a half inches, hot, hard, and has a creamy sauce.”
I struggled not to laugh. “I mean to eat, smartass.” I held up my hand to stop the comment that I was sure was coming. “Beef, chicken, or pork?”
“Umm, all of the above?”
“Okay, that’s helpful.” I scanned the selection. I only planned to do a major shopping trip once per paycheck, so some things would have to be freezable. I picked up a large pack of chicken breasts and put it in the cart. Chicken was versatile and could be used for so many things. Plus, I could freeze it into smaller packages.
“Do we need hamburger?” Dave held up a one pound package.
“Yeah, but get one of the bigger sizes.” I pointed to the one I wanted.
“Isn’t that a little much for just us?” Despite the question, he put the ground beef in the cart.
“Yeah, but I’ll freeze some of it. Same with the chicken.” I picked up a package of boneless beef ribs and added it to the already heaping cart along with a package of cubed pork chops. A pork loin and a beef roast finished out the meat department and I headed for the bread aisle with Dave trailing behind.
I grabbed various bread items as we went down the aisle. If Dave disagreed with my choices, he didn’t say anything. And after the canned pasta debacle I had no doubt he would have. Which reminded me I needed to get the ravioli. It was over by the deli, so I could grab it on our way to the checkouts. I saw Becky as I reached for the packages of ravioli.
I smiled at Becky as she walked over to us. “Hey, Becky.” I motioned Dave closer. “Becky, this is Dave. Dave, this is one of my supervisors, Becky.” I mock frowned at her. “Aren’t you working today?”
“Nice to meet you.” Dave shook her hand.
“Same to you.” Becky turned her attention back to me. “Just grabbing something from the hot case for lunch. Did your Mom find you?”
“My mom?” I wasn’t sure I even wanted to know why Becky was asking about my mom.
“Yeah, she was in the store earlier today, asking if you were working. Said she’d been trying to get ahold of you.” Becky crossed her arms over her chest. “She got a little loud when I refused to give her your new address.”
I groaned. The last thing I needed was to have Mom cause problems for me at work. I knew I was being childish by refusing her phone calls, but it looked like I was going to have to talk to her sooner rather than later. I couldn’t believe she’d come to my work. No, scratch that, I could.
“I’ll get ahold of her later today and find out what’s going on.” Like I didn’t know what she wanted. “Thanks for letting me know.”
“No problem. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Becky waved and walked away.
I turned to Dave. “We ready?”
“Yeah.” Dave refused to look at me and instead headed for the checkouts.
Gone was the playful guy from the meat department. Dave was quiet as we loaded the groceries on the conveyor belt. Once we had everything unloaded from the cart, he turned to me.
“I’m going to go out and wait at the car.” Dave didn’t wait for a response. He simply walked away. I watched him go and tried to figure out what had caused the abrupt change in his demeanor.
I waited impatiently for the clerk to finish ringing up our purchases. Unlucky for me, I’d gotten one of the newer employees who was still rather slow. It seemed to take forever for him to finish and I barely even heard the total. My mind was too occupied with what was going on with Dave.
Despite my distraction regarding Dave, I winced when I heard the total. I’d definitely need to make a budget and stick to it. I finished paying and pushed the cart out to the car. Dave got out as I got near and—without a word–helped me load the groceries. The ride home was quiet, and the closer we got, the more worried I became. This wasn’t the Dave I knew and loved. I’d never seen this side of him and I never wanted to again.
Once we got home, he helped carry the bags into the kitchen, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and disappeared out the back door. I kept glancing at the back door, waiting for him to come back in while I put away all the food. I’d just stowed the last of the canned goods and was finally finished. I grabbed a beer and debated on whether or not to go look at him. He obviously needed some space, but I didn’t know what had happened to upset him. I took a single sip of my beer and couldn’t wait any longer.
I found him as soon as I walked out the back door. The yard wasn’t really all that big, but it had a small patio area with a small table and a couple of chairs. A barbecue grill sat to one side.
“Dave?” I took a tentative step closer when he didn’t answer. “You okay?”
I could tell he took a deep breath by the rise of his shoulders and he let it out with a sigh. “I really want this to work, but not like this.” He still hadn’t looked at me.
I moved so I was facing him. He sat twisting his beer bottle in his hands and finally he glanced up at me. The pain written across his face was my undoing and I moved to crouch in front of him.
“What did I do?” I’d never have done anything to intentionally hurt him. “Tell me so I can try and fix it.”
He looked back down at his hands. “It’s not even the same situation. You’re out to your family. Your cousins know about us moving in together. And I know you don’t have the greatest relationship with your parents, so I kind of understand. But in the end, you’re still hiding from them what we mean to each other.”
Fuck. I hadn’t even given a thought to how my avoidance of my mother might affect Dave. Especially after what he’d gone through in college. Our situation was different, but in some ways I was doing the exact same thing that asshole had done to him. There were tears in his eyes when he looked at me again.
“I can’t be anybody’s secret, Reece.” Dave pushed his chair back and stood. He started towards the door to the house, but stopped part way there and looked back at me. His voice dropped to a whisper. “Not even yours.”