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BENEATH A MIDNIGHT SEA
This had to be the stupidest thing she'd done so far. If she could strangle Jill, she would. But no, Jill had called on her cell phone at the last minute to cancel. Wonderful. The whole stupid class had been Jill's idea to begin with, but, as usual, she was the one who got stuck on the follow through.
She could be home watching her favorite TV show, comfortable in her fuzzy slippers. Instead, she and ten other rejects were standing in the produce aisle at the supermarket, learning how to fondle cucumbers and snag their Mr. Right among the vegetables.
When had she become desperate? She knew how to flirt, how to meet men…just not how to keep one.
"Terri? Terri Fletcher?"
She glanced to her left, then her right–nowhere to hide! No. Oh, dear God, no. Maybe she imagined the spandex covered horror? She closed her eyes, willed herself far, far away. Then opened them. Her mother's best friend dropped her grapefruits and waved. She was coming over!
Terri clutched the cucumber tighter, inadvertently pushing on a soft spot. The vegetable squirted pulpy seeds all over her fingers. Great!
The instructor leaned over to pass her a napkin. "I think you just went to the head of the class, Ms. Fletcher!"
The rest of the group giggled. She threw the abused cuke onto the pile and wiped the mess off her hands. While she looked around for somewhere to pitch the piece of paper towel, bony arms drenched in cloying perfume, enveloped her.
"I thought that was you! What are you doing shopping way out here? I thought you moved to the beach or somewhere on the coast, out near the jetties?
"Mrs. Larimore. Isn't tonight bunco night for you and the other ladies in Mom's group?"
"That's on Thursdays. Friday is shakin' your groove thing night." The older woman winked. Then she happened to look over her shoulder at the other group participants, all of them standing near the pile of long, green veggies, each holding a cucumber.
Her own Mr. Cucumber chose that second to roll down the precarious pile. She reached out to grab it before it fell to the ground. Oh, I didn't realize…" She looked back at Terri. "Are these your friends?" The older woman leaned forward, whispered in her ear. "Why are they all fondling vegetables, dear?"
Floor, swallow me. Swallow me whole. "Um, it's a workshop–you remember my friend Jill–she signed us up for it, but she couldn't make it."
"But a workshop on…what?"
The instructor stepped forward. "Hello. The class is for single women on how to flirt with men in a non-threatening, equal environment."
"Ah, well at least her mother will be happy to know she's decided to get professional help." She turned back to Terri and hugged her. "She'll be thrilled you haven't given up. Now you go on back to your class. And pay attention. You have a lot to learn about men, and you're not getting any younger!"
A cloud of perfume trailed in her wake as Mrs. Larimore returned to her cart, wheeling away from the produce section. Before midnight, everyone in her mother's circle would know. Could a woman die of embarrassment? She might be the first to find out.
She stayed for the entire hour and a half workshop, not because she thought she'd actually learn something, but more due to the fact that her check had already been cashed.
Her cell phone rang for the ninth time since she'd left the parking lot. Deep breaths, she told herself. She dug around in her purse one-handed and came up with the tiny flip phone. She glanced from the road to the caller ID. It was her mother. Again.
Ignore it. Go ahead. You're a grown woman. You've ignored it so far. Just because she keeps calling doesn't mean you have to– "Hi, Mom."
"Is something wrong with your phone?"
"No, Mom. I'm in the SUV, on my way home. You know how I don't like to talk on the cell and drive at the same time."
"So, you're done with your class."
Mrs. Larimore of the spandex groove thing hadn't wasted any time. "Can I call you tomorrow, Mom? I'm just pulling into the driveway."
"I wish you'd moved somewhere closer. Especially if you still plan to grocery shop all the way over here. That's a lot of gas. You really should get rid of that thing you drive–get something more economical. Especially since you insist on living on your own income."
Next she'd suggest moving back home. "Mom… you're breaking…up…call you…tomorrow." She pressed the end call button with a guilty smile and shoved the cell phone in her jeans pocket. Sometimes a little distance was healthy.
Copyright © 2007 Cassandra Curtis.