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“I’m thinking of taking an art class at the community center,” Ginny said to Stan as she poured a glass of orange juice and set it next to his uneaten breakfast.
Or rather, she said it to the newspaper in front of his face.
Ginny had been thinking about what Sarah had said about her needing a new hobby when she’d hung a flyer on the announcement board the day before.
Sketching class. All ages. $35 for three classes, $15 per class afterwards. Wednesdays 7-9. Spencer Valley Community Hall.
Sarah was right. She did need a hobby. Something for herself. She’d attended a couple of the general art classes, but this was a class specifically about sketching. A more focused medium that she could focus on instead of focusing on how drab her life had become.
The art teacher, Alexandra Dupre, a name Ginny was convinced was fake, had handed the flyer to Ginny as she left the sewing class, asking if she would hang it in the library.
Ginny had taken a few art classes in college, but of course that had been decades ago now. It would be nice to try something new, get out of the house on those days when Stan was working late, which was almost every day lately. It would also be nice to have a normal conversation with other adults – adults that listened, unlike Stan.
She set a glass of juice next to her own plate and sat down. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s silly but I think I should pick up a new hobby, meet some new people.”
Stan reached around the paper, picked up his glass of orange juice and slurped it.
He slurped orange juice. He slurped soup. He slurped any liquid and sometimes he even slurped ice cream. Why did he do that? It drove Ginny crazy.
“Umm…yeah,” Stan mumbled. “Nice. Did you know that they are predicting a rise in prices for homes in this area in the next year thanks to the natural gas industry?”
“I used to paint in college,” Ginny said, spreading grape jam on her toast.” Do you remember that?”
“Of course, the hard thing right now is trying to find a way to sell all that land the farmers are leaving behind,” Stan said. “The local farms are dropping like flies anymore. It’s sad.”
Ginny added creamer to her coffee and stirred it slowly, looking out the kitchen window at the neighbor’s bird feeder. “I think it will be good for me to try something different so I’m asking Sarah to close that night. She is the one who suggested it anyhow.”
“I got a call about another farm up on Henderson Road. About 250 acres. Pretty sure we’ll have to break those acres up to sell them off.”
Ginny leaned against the counter. A blue jay landed on the bird feeder and flapped its wings at a chickadee. “I wonder if I’ll need to buy some extra supplies.”
Stan folded the paper, laid it down, and buttered his already cold toast. He crunched into it as he stirred creamer into his coffee. “I might can market it commercial, but that’s going to be a really hard sale. It isn’t on a major highway like the Drake’s farm out on 220 was. Still can’t believe they’re going to put another Dollar General there. Those things are popping up everywhere. They multiply like baby rabbits.”
Ginny dropped three drops of liquid Stevia into her coffee. “I think I might have some old paint brushes in the closet. Or maybe it’s the shed. Oh wait, I think I put them in the attic.”
Stan slurped his coffee again. “The farmhouse won’t be hard to sell at least. It’s beautiful. Who knows, maybe someone will have an idea how to farm the property again and it will sell as is. Maybe they could put some organic stuff out there. Organic food is popular with the younger generation these days.”
“I bet there are some canvases up there too,” Ginny said, sipping her coffee.
Stan took another bite of toast and made a face. “Welp, off to show that property out on 187.”
He snatched a piece of bacon off his plate, stuffed it in his mouth, and grabbed his briefcase from the chair next to the back door. “See you later tonight.”
He brushed his lips against Ginny’s cheek in a quick movement on his way toward the back door.
Ginny rolled her eyes as the door closed behind him. “So glad we had this talk.”
She had the morning off of work, but sadly she couldn’t enjoy a nice day of sitting on the back porch reading a book this time.
She made a face as she reached for the grocery list she’d tacked to the fridge. Grocery shopping. The activity she hated almost as much as washing dishes. She looked down at her stained shirt, realizing she’d dripped strawberry jam on it, and decided she’d better change.
Ten minutes later she looked at herself in the full-length mirror on the back of her bedroom door ten minutes later and winced. She was getting quite a belly. She turned to the side and grimaced. Her pants were hugging that belly like cellophane over a watermelon. She turned again, groaning. Just look at that. Her butt was the other side of the watermelon.
Maybe that’s why Stanley was so busy these days. Who would want to look at this all day if he didn’t have to? She couldn’t say she blamed him. Straightening her shoulders, she tried to suck in her belly and push out her chest.
Her chest was rushing toward her knees. Getting old was not for the faint of heart. Maybe she should take Hannah McGee up on that spinning class she’d invited her to. Ginny wasn’t exactly sure what spinning really meant but she hoped it was the spinning of stationary bike pedals and not some New Age activity involving spinning in place in the middle of the room. She hadn’t been able to spin in place for years; it always made her dizzy.
Of course, everything made her dizzy anymore.
Down in the kitchen Ginny reached for the grocery list she’d made after reading about a new diet in the Good Housekeeping. Surely eating more fruits and vegetables and less bread would help her lose some of those pounds she’d put on over the years. She touched the skin under her chin and sighed. Maybe it would also help her get rid of the gooseflesh she’d developed in various areas of her body as well.
Ginny couldn’t remember worrying about her weight much over the years, except after the birth of her children and once in college when she had gained the so-called “freshman ten,” which had been more like the freshman “twenty”. Before she hit middle-age she had lost the weight quickly, simply by walking more laps around the track at the high school and cutting out sweets. Now none of those tricks were working. She knew she’d have to step up her game if she wanted to see results.
Fat free milk
Green leaf lettuce
Lean, organic chicken breasts
She looked at the start of her shopping list and sighed. It looked like eating healthy was going to be an expensive endeavor, but if Stanley could spend money on golf outings and an extra sports channel to watch the Cubs then she could spend money on getting healthy.
She finished the list and snatched up her purse, deciding now was a good of a time as any to do the shopping. Stanley was at work, and this was her one morning a week off from the library. She chose the larger, chain supermarket in town for her shopping, hoping they’d have some of the more eclectic items on her list. Inside the store she squinted in the bright fluorescent light, silently lamenting her ever-changing eyesight, including developing light sensitivity.
“Excuse me,” she said to the bored looking, 20-something year old blonde girl stacking apples in bins. “Can you tell me if this store carries —” she looked at her list, adjusted her glasses to the tip of her nose, and squinted again. “Organic cassava flour?”
The girl turned, an apple in her hand, and wrinkled her nose. “Sounds foreign to me. Is it foreign? Because we have a foreign food section. Aisle 10.”
“I don’t know.” Ginny looked at her list again. “I suppose it could be foreign. I’ll look in that aisle.”
The girl turned back to filling the bin of apples, tossing them with a swift flick of the hand like she was in some kind of competition to see which move could bruise the fruit faster.
In aisle ten Ginny looked for the cassava flour but only found coconut milk from Thailand, which she decided to try, and corn tortillas that were supposed to be from Mexico but were actually made in Cleveland. She dropped both in her cart and when she looked up Liz was walking towards her, pushing a cart with a baby seat sitting snug on top.
“Escaped the library again, huh?”
Ginny smiled as Liz’s cart stopped next to hers. She leaned over to get a closer look at Isabella. “Only for a little while. It’s my morning off.” She kept her eyes on the soft features of the sleeping newborn for a few moments longer before looking at Liz. “You look a little more rested since I last saw you. Are you?”
Liz pushed a straight strand of dark hair behind her ear. “A little more yes. We managed to catch a couple three hour stretches last night. She woke up once to nurse and then we were both back to sleep. We didn’t even wake Molly this time. It was heavenly.”
Ginny remembered well the euphoria of experiencing long stretches of sleep after weeks of waking up once an hour, even though it had been 22 years since she’d last cared for a newborn full time.
“It must be nice to get out a little bit, even if it’s just to the store.”
Liz agreed and for a few minutes the women compared items in their cart, with Liz making a face at a few of the items, most of which she’d been exposed to at her job at the local health store.
“Linda carries the cassava flour in three-pound bags,” Liz said, tilting her head to look at Ginny’s list. “She also has coconut flour but that is much more fine and has a sweeter flavor.”
Linda was Liz’s boss at the health food store, which Ginny had stopped visiting the year before when Linda had suggested she purchase a pack of tarot cards along with her apple cider vinegar and gluten free bread.
Ginny slid her bifocals to the tip of her nose again to see the list better and was about to ask which flour Liz thought might spur on some weight loss, when a man’s voice filled the brief silence.
“Ginny? Is that you?”
Ginny looked up in surprise, her glasses still on the tip of her nose, and found herself starring into a pair of intensely green eyes. Her gaze drifted from the eyes to a charming smile and back to the eyes again. Was she supposed to know this good-looking man? More importantly, how did he know her?
“Um . . .yes?”
The man ran a hand across his rugged jawline and a dimple appeared at the corner of his mouth as he smiled.
“Ginny, it’s me,” he said with a small laugh. “Keith.” He raised a hand in Liz’s direction. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny caught a small smile from Liz.
“No problem,” Liz responded. “We were just discussing the price of tea in China.”
Keith grinned. “It depends on what kind of tea you want. Right now, it’s about $40 American for 500 grams of oolong. It’s a little less for black tea.”
Liz snorted a laugh, but Ginny simply stared. Her mind raced, trying to figure out how this attractive man knew her. He turned his attention back to her and an anxious buzz skittered across the skin along her arms as it hit her.
Keith? No. It couldn’t be. This couldn’t be Keith Sta —
“Stafford,” he said as if reading her mind. “Tell me I haven’t gotten so old you didn’t even recognize me, Ginny.”
It wasn’t age that had left her in the dark. It was placement. She’d never expected to run into Keith in a supermarket some 35 years after she’d last seen him. She knew exactly where she’d last seen him too. Standing on her parents’ front porch, his hands in his pockets, speaking to her through the screen door, begging her to come outside and speak to him.
“Keith. I’m so sorry. It’s just, it’s —”
“Been such a long time. I know.” Keith laughed and her heart lurched at the familiar throaty timbre. “About 30 years since we last saw each other, isn’t it? And I’m sure I don’t look the same.” He shrugged a shoulder, grinning. “I’ve changed and probably not for the better.”
Ginny disagreed but felt it would be inappropriate to remark that his looks had only improved with age. “Now, Keith. That’s not true.”
He grinned and when he folded his arms across his chest Ginny noticed muscles rippling along his forearms. Apparently, he’d been working out. “You haven’t changed at all, Ginny Lynn.” Her face flushed warm as his gaze traveled the length of her, all the way down to her simple black flats, and back to her face again. “You are as beautiful as ever.”
She laughed softly and shook her head, pulling her gaze from his and focusing on the handle of the cart instead. His appearance might have changed, but his ability to flirt certainly hadn’t. “Well, I don’t know about that, but it’s nice of you to say.”
“I mean it. You look amazing. Truly.”
Ginny smiled. “Thank you, Keith.” She reached for another can of coconut milk to avoid making eye contact, completely forgetting Liz was still there until she heard the younger woman cough softly and say, her voice dripping with amusement, “Well, I should probably finish my shopping and let you two catch up.”
Ginny glanced at Liz, trying to catch her eye. Don’t you dare leave me, Liz. Not now.
“Oh, no need to leave on my account,” Keith said with a furrowed brow.
Yes, see, Liz, no need to leave on his —
“Actually, it’s almost feeding time for the little one so I really should finish up and head home before I have a screaming newborn, but thank you. It was nice to meet you.”
Keith flashed one of his charming smiles at Liz and held his hand out.
Liz took it, smiling away, clearly not sensing Ginny’s inner panic. “You too, Keith.”
Keith stepped aside as Liz pushed her cart past him and glanced into the car seat. “Oh my. Beautiful baby you have there.”
Liz threw a smile over her shoulder and thanked him while Ginny frantically searched her brain for a way to convince Liz to stay. When no ideas came, she turned her attention to Keith who was obviously interested in small talk by how he said, “So, how’s life been treating you all these years?”
Ginny loaded two more cans of coconut milk into her cart. “Good. It’s been good.” She wished she’d had a more exciting life story to share with him. “Taught middle school for 20 years and now I’m the town librarian.”
“That’s great.” His eyes were intently focused on her, sending warmth spreading up the back of her neck. “Married, I’m guessing?”
“Of course.” Ginny raised her left hand to show her wedding ring, then remembered she’d removed it the other day because it was digging into her swollen finger. “Oh. Well, the ring is usually there, but . . .well, I had to take it off to — uh —”
Keith grinned. “It’s okay, I believe you. So, who’s the lucky guy?”
Keith’s eyebrows raised. “Ah, so you two did end up together after all.”
“Yes.” She nervously fingered her necklace.
“Glad to hear you two made it,” Keith said. “I married a woman I met in college, but, well, as things go sometimes, we divorced last year.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I’m not.” Keith laughed, shifting his basket from one hand to the other. “Divorcing her was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never felt so free. I decided to move back here to my hometown, buy a cabin, and run my business from there.”
“Oh, what business are you in?”
“Software development. My partner and I started it about ten years ago. Before that I worked for Microsoft. I fly out to L.A. once a month to touch base, more if I’m needed.”
Ginny tightened her grip on the shopping cart, feeling suddenly even more fat, old, and boring next to Keith, who was as handsome and charming as he’d always been, definitely led a more successful life, and had obviously been keeping in better shape than her. His T-shirt pulled against a firm, flat stomach, short sleeves revealing well-formed upper arms as he reached up on a shelf for a carton of organic chicken broth.
“You ever use this? It’s great for flavoring chicken dishes.”
“Oh yes. I have.” Had she? She really couldn’t remember. Why had she said she had? She looked away, cleared her throat. “Well, I should get going. I’m buying so-called healthy food so I should probably head home and figure out how to cook it.”
Keith nodded, flashing that captivating smile again. My goodness his teeth were straight.
“I understand that. I’m trying to eat healthier too.” He patted his stomach, as if there was something there to pat other than a clear six pack. “Let me know if you need help on figuring out some recipes. I’d be glad to help. My ex was a horrible cook, so I did most of the cooking. Hey, here.” He reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out his cellphone. “Give me your number. I’ll text you so you’ll have my number if you need it.”
Ginny felt uneasy, yet flattered, that Keith was asking for her number. She gave it to him and watched as he typed it in his phone then sent her a quick text. “There. Now you have my number too. I hope to hear from you sometime. It would be great to get together with you and Stan for dinner one night. I’d be glad to do the cooking.”
Ginny moved a strand of hair that had fallen from her ponytail from her forehead to behind her ear. “Sounds good.”
After they’d said a goodbye and Keith left, she mentally chided herself for being so awkward.
Sounds like a plan? What sounds like a plan? Does anyone even say that anymore? Oh, my word I’m such a loser.
She tried to finish the rest of her shopping trip without remembering how Keith’s muscles had rippled under his shirt or how confident and laid back he’d looked when he’d pushed his hand back through silver flecked brown hair, laughing easily as they talked.
Keith Stafford. The boy who stole her heart in the tenth grade and broke it in eleventh grade. She’d never forget how he’d made her feel, first elation with a pounding heart, then hurt with crushing rejection. It had been Stan who had rescued her the last half of her junior year, mainly by being her friend and simply asking her to walk with him, go to the movies, or visit the arcade.
She let out a quiet breath as she walked briskly toward the checkout line. Stan was different now, of course, but they all were. People change, including her. Changes were what life was all about, whether she liked it or not.
Her phone dinged as she waited in line. Sliding it out of her purse she smiled at Liz’s text.
Do I need to come rescue you? I just finished loading my groceries, but I can rush back in and chase that man away from you if you need me to.
Ginny laughed softly and quickly responded. Already rescued myself, but thanks anyhow.
Liz texted again. Not that you looked like you really wanted to be rescued . . .
Oh, yes, Liz. Yes, I did want to be rescued, she thought, but didn’t text it back. Instead, she told Liz to have a good day and she’d stop by soon with an extra baby carrier she’d found in the garage.