Jane tugged a shopping cart out of the tucked line of netted steel in front of the grocery store. The wheels rattled and swayed as if trying to drive themselves.
“Is there any way I can help?” asked Angelica. She clutched her purse in both hands, holding the tiny bag like a chipmunk with a sunflower seed.
“No,” said Jane as she won the war with the cart’s stubborn personality. She fumbled the list out of her puffy sage coat and offered the crumpled paper with a mittened hand. “Why don’t you be in charge of this?”
Angelica plucked the scrap between her leather glove covered index and thumb. “Okay.”
“Great. Let’s get this done.” Jane gave a heave and headed toward the automatic doors.
“You mean inside?”
“Of course,” she said, stripping her mittens. “That’s where all the food is.” Jane cast a broad grin over her shoulder and then maneuvered through the rush of departing customers.
“Excuse me,” said Angelica, and then “Pardon,” as she scurried to catch up, battering into most of the carts and shoppers along the way.
Reaching the warmed entryway, Jane slowed. “What’s first?”
“Ah,” said Angelica. She took the list in both hands and scanned the pen and pencil scribble as if deciphering a code. “Apples?”
“Isn’t flour on there?”
Angelica scanned down the column. “Yes,” she said with a grin, “there,” she pointed halfway down the paper.
“It’s heavy, let’s start there.”
“So you don’t just go down the list?”
Jane barked a laugh and shook her head as she started toward the baking aisle. “No way. I’d be bouncing between aisles and half the produce would be crushed. Heavy. Cold. Delicate.”
“That makes sense.”
Jane wheeled through the growing lines at the checkout stands and turned left as if running an obstacle course. A wall of spices created a cloud muddied with cinnamon, basil and curry powder. The sweet clusters of chocolate morsels gave way to the stale packages of concrete-brick sized flour.
“Careful,” said Angelica as Jane bent to gather a ten pound sack. Jane dumped the load into the cart with a jangle.
By the time Angelica checked the list, Jane had a five pound bag in the cart.
“Why do you make the list if you already know what you need?”
Jane shrugged and headed toward the dairy section. “Just in case. It’s good to check.”
Angelica frowned as she paced beside the cart, the clack of her heels matching the casters.
From the cold chests, Jane plucked butter, orange juice and a gallon of milk, enough sandwich meats to feed an army and cheese to match. She set a dozen eggs into the cart’s child seat and then swung around toward the produce section.
“Clementines,” Jane muttered as she picked up a crate.
“Apples!” said Angelica.
“Over here,” said Jane, stopping at the tower of green and reds.
“There are so many kinds…”
“Six of those,” Jane said pointing at the Granny Smiths, “then half dozen Crisps and some Jonagold’s.”
Angelica stared at the slopes as if the apples might bite.
“Sorry,” said a plump woman working her way to the Red Delicious.
“Oh, pardon,” said Angelica. She stepped back and rammed into a tall man focused on the lines of vegetables.
“Watch it,” he growled and lumbered forward with his cart.
Angelica hurried back toward Jane’s side, one hand clutching the list, the other the edge of the cart. Jane laid the last handful of apples on top of the flour and sugar.
“Are you ok?”
Angelica swept a ringlet around her ear, causing the golden snowflake earring to jingle.
“I knew I would be in the way.”
“What are you talking about? You’re the list holder.”
“Jane-“. The bump of a cart against her long wool coat caused Angelica to jump.
The driver continued rolling forward while scolding the child trundling at her side.
“Everyone’s just in a rush,” explained Jane. She tugged on the cart to align with a cluster of untouched fruitcakes, making more room in the passageway through the section. “Are we missing anything?”
Angelica blinked her long lashes like a fluttering fan before checking the list. She flicked her gaze between the scrawl and the cart.
“The only item left appears to be bread.”
“Great, that’s on the way out.”
Whirling around the fruit stand, Jane surged toward the shelves of loaves and plopped a pair of whole wheat logs over the eggs. Reaching the end of the aisle she slowed as if at a stop sign and allowed the perpendicular flow to pass by before jumping into a checkout lane. She started taking out each item, clustering similar products together and then dumped a trio of cloth shopping bags on top.
“You are amazingly efficient at this,” said Angelica.
Jane shrugged and scanned over the titles of the tabloids. “This is just the regular routine.” She pointed at a doctored photograph on the cover. The elegant couple walked side by side beneath the fiery header “TOGETEHR AT LAST”. “Can you believe that?”
“Hum,” murmured Angelica as she followed Jane’s finger. “That’s not right. They haven’t been together in months.”
“You know them?”
Angelica tilted her head in assent. “A bit. We go to the same aerobics class.”
“Wow.” Jane flicked her gaze between Angelica and the magazine. “I didn’t realize. When Danny said LA…I guess he really meant LA.”
“It really isn’t a big deal.” Angelica scanned the other covers. “I’ve caught up with him at a shoot,” she said motioning to one photograph after the next. “She really does have the best salon and I met them at a holiday party last year. Terrific singer.” Angelica blushed as she found Jane staring at her. “Just the regular routine.”
Jane laughed and turned to the pockmarked faced cashier sliding the groceries across the scanner. The bagger divided up the items to properly weight each bag as Jane slipped on her mittens and dug out her wallet.
“Please,” said Angelica, deftly handing over a gleaming gold credit card.
“Are you sure?” asked Jane, her wallet open now in her yarn covered hands.
“You don’t know how educational this has been.”
“If you say so.” Jane stowed her fat bundle back into her coat. “When we visit you, maybe we can trade.”
“I’m afraid grocery stores are harder to come by,” said Angelica as she flowed her signature across the waiting display. “But I can take you to some wonderful parties.”