Diane looked on as her husband admired his new toy. He’d arrived at the house with it that afternoon, the large, shiny grill expertly bungee-corded out the back of his truck. He’d seemed so delighted that she held her tongue when she watched him struggle to unload it, remained quiet still as he maneuvered it through their new hallways, and objected only with a purse of her lips when he deposited it with a huff of satisfaction right beside the perfectly fine grill that had been sitting, unused, out on the patio since they’d moved in three weeks prior.
“Isn’t it great?” He knelt down to fiddle with the gas tank.
Her husband continued to fiddle, the how-to manual having been long discarded with a wave of his hand and the insistence that grills are easy to put together.
“Dare I ask what we will be doing with this?”
Kurt frowned too, then, for she’d distracted him from his task. “It’s a grill. We’ll use it to grill.”
“Ah. And—” Diane paused for effect, then gestured abstractly toward the large appliance’s tiny predecessor, “—will we be grilling for the whole neighborhood as well?”
“I thought I’d bring that one to the farm.”
“You don’t have a grill there? Because I’m certain we already—”
He stood, wiping his hands against his faded jeans, and sighed.
“Do you want me to return it?”
The grill was comically large for their new patio. Although the space was bigger than her old apartment, this patio was still reasonably tight. She’d had fleeting thoughts of putting some raised garden beds out there, having always thought that gardening was the sort of relaxing hobby she should develop, but as she stood there taking in his disappointed expression, she held her tongue. It was, after all, the first big purchase he’d made for the house.
Yes, his clothes now hung in the closet, and the builder they’d hired to make some adjustments to the space was installing new cabinets for some of his guns, but the space was still arguably more hers than his. He’d said little when she’d flashed wallpaper samples at him, only humming in agreement when she pointed out ones she particularly liked, saying nothing about all the soft, muted colors and florals. He’d let her arrange and re-arrange the furniture five or six times, had even helped her lift the settee around the room half a dozen times, and had deposited his items in the bathroom and on the bedside table with little fanfare.
“I don’t have as much stuff as you,” he’d said with a shrug. “And I don’t care about all that decorating stuff.”
So, she’d taken the lead, still trying to find a balance between them, wanting desperately for this new home to be theirs, for it to feel, finally, like a home for them both.
“No, I don’t want you to return it,” she said finally.
Smirking, and pressing a kiss to his cheek, she merely shook her head. “Enjoy your new toy. I’ve got some paperwork to do inside.”
Kurt appeared in the doorway of her office some time later, a grin pulling at his features.
Pulling off her glasses, Diane smiled. “Me too. Just finished, actually.”
“I thought we could test it out, maybe grill a couple of steaks for dinner?”
Diane looked at her watch, and felt her stomach rumble in agreement. “That sounds great, but I don’t think there’s much in the fridge. Marlena was on vacation this week and I didn’t have time to go shopping.”
“You do know there’s one of those Whole Foods around the corner, right?”
“How on earth do know what a Whole Foods is, let alone where the closest one is?”
Kurt chuckled. “I may not be a city person, but I’m not a hermit. Plus, the realtor kept mentioning it as some kind of selling point when we toured this place. I Googled it. Did you know they sell water with asparagus in it for ten dollars?”
Laughing, Diane stood and shook her head. “Alright then. This should be interesting.”
True to his word, the Whole Foods loomed large just down the street. They’d walked there briskly, hand in hand, to ward off the late autumn chill. Diane held several reusable shopping bags under her free arm, and tried to listen with great interest as Kurt extolled the virtues of the new grill all along their route.
Finally, the green letters gleamed brightly, beckoning them inside. Kurt raised his eyebrows and halted, seemingly surprised by the sheer size of the store, and then fumbled around a woman with three toddler-aged children in a cart who was blocking the entrance.
“Sorry—sorry,” he muttered, grabbing at a small shopping basket and avoiding a near-collision with another shopper.
Diane only shook her head, grabbing for his hand again as she dropped the empty shopping bags in their newly-acquired tote. “Come on, I won’t let you get lost.”
Diane did a quick scan of the store to get the lay of the land before turning back to her husband. It was nearly 6 PM and the store was humming with activity. There was a long line of hungry looking people around the prepared food section, and each register was clogged with at least a few shoppers, most of them fiddling with their phones as they waited to check out.
“Ok, this will be faster if we make some tactical adjustments.”
“You go back there—” She pointed at the butcher’s counter lining the back wall of the store “—and grab the steak. I’ll run around the corner and grab some things to make a salad.”
Kurt looked dubious. “Maybe we should just stick together.”
The mother with the energetic toddlers from the entrance was maneuvering around them now to look at a display of organic fruit chews. One of the children started screeching just as a perky employee came over to offer them all a sample of vegan cheese.
“It’ll be faster this way,” Diane said, her voice growing louder as the toddler continued its tantrum. “Just grab the steak and wait back there. I’ll grab everything else and meet you in five.”
Diane watched for a moment as Kurt disappeared in the direction of the butcher, holding the little shopping basket tightly to weave carefully through the sea of people and cacophony of noise. Shaking off the crowd, Diane hung a left and found herself lost in the midst of the expansive fruit and vegetable section of the store. She spent what seemed like only a moment or two deliberating over bags of lettuce before another hoard of people started jostling her out of place.
By the time she’d grabbed everything, though, and finally fought her way back toward the butcher’s counter, Kurt was nowhere to be found. The crowd had begun to dissipate, so she peeked down the nearest aisle, hoping to spot his familiar silhouette. To be perfectly honest, she wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d simply abandoned the basket and ran home, having found the madness of a grocery store at dinner time simply too much for his constitution.
Shaking her head as she continued down the aisle and turned toward the next one, Diane couldn’t’ even remember the last time she had been in a grocery store. Usually their housekeeper, Marlena, would take care of all the shopping. Diane left a running list on the side of the fridge, and she and Kurt would add things on post-its as necessary. Guiltily, she wondered if he found the whole thing ridiculous, not even shopping for themselves, but if he did, he’d never commented on it.
The heels of her boots clicked down the long open pass way that ran perpendicular to the interior aisles. She peered down each one, hoping to find her husband among the other shoppers, but she made it to the other end of the store before finally spotting him near a large contraption used to grind organic peanuts into peanut butter.
She was surprised enough to find that he’d made it this far from their original meeting point, and so when she approached him to find him not only using the peanut butter machine, but also holding a basket that was entirely full of groceries, she was downright alarmed.
“Kurt—I’ve been looking all over the store for you.”
He had the good sense to look abashed, but grinned and pointed at the machine to his left.
“This thing makes fresh peanut butter,” he explained, holding up a large container that he’d apparently just filled.
Blinking, Diane looked from him, to the machine, and then back to the basket again.
“I thought you were getting steak.”
“This is steak?” Diane reached into the basket and extracted a box of Annie’s cheddar bunnies snack crackers.
Kurt snatched the box back, his cheeks warming. “No. But you said yourself we don’t have any food in the house.”
Vacillating between confusion and amusement, Diane cocked her head and laughed, finding more than a little humor in his attempt at grocery shopping.
“What else did you get, then?”
Kurt eyed her suspiciously, attempting to move the basket out of her reach. “Nothing.”
“Oh, come on, let me see.”
Before he could obscure the contents of the basket from view, Diane grabbed at the handle and pulled it away from him, wasting no time in rifling through the contents. She found three boxes of cookies, in various types, a bag of tortilla chips, a frozen pizza, a large bag of unshelled pistachios (the kind he was always accidentally dropping the shells of around the house), a wedge of parmesan cheese, a lavender candle—she paused then, and he explained, “that’s for you. I noticed the one in the bathroom was almost out.”—and, finally, hidden under all that, plus the package of steak, was a bottle of water with three sprigs of asparagus floating inside.
She laughed, then, loudly enough for his face to grow redder, and foisted the bottle out of the bag. “Caught!”
“Wanted to see what all the fuss was about,” he muttered, grabbing the water and attempting to secret it under the rest of his shopping haul.
“I’m fairly certain that buying that water will require you to hang up your cowboy boots,” Diane replied. Her expression was serious, but her voice danced with mirth as she finally began walking, nodding her head to indicate the direction of the registers.
“I’m putting it back—”
“No, no, don’t let me stop you from branching out,” she snickered.
Kurt rolled his eyes, then, and pulled the offending bottle from his basket. He deposited it on the nearest end cap and then turned to get into the shortest line. “Happy now?”
“I was just teasing, dear.”
“I was simply surprised to find out that you’re such an experienced shopper,” Diane considered, helping him unload the groceries onto the conveyer belt as more space became free.
He shot her a terse look and unloaded his multitude of cookies onto the belt in silence.
“And if Santa Claus decides to visit our house three months early, we’ll have more than enough supplies to offer him,” she mused, dropping the salad fixings behind all the rest of his snacks.
Kurt only shook his head and reached into his back pocket for his wallet.
“Oh, no, no no, let me,” Diane grinned, maneuvering herself ahead of him as the cashier greeted him. She pulled her credit card from the small holder attached to her phone, and handed it to the cashier before he managed to get at his own. “Your first trip to Whole Foods is a special occasion. I’ll pay.”
Kurt returned her smile, finally, accepting the proffered end to her teasing, and shuffled behind her to begin helping the other clerk bag up the items.
$84.72 later, the couple exited the store each holding a rather heavy bag. Diane shifted her tote to her left hand and took the opportunity to hook her free arm through her husband’s. He paused, waiting for her to adjust the bag and herself, before turning in the direction of their house.
They walked nearly all the way home before Diane finally broke the companionable silence.
“You know, if you enjoyed the shopping so much, we could make it a regular thing. Do Whole Foods every weekend. Like real married people,” she smirked.
Kurt snorted, rounding the corner as their apartment came into view. “Nah, I think the one time was enough.”
“Well, if you’re sure.”
He reached to hold her bag as they walked up their steps and she moved to unlock the door. Spilling into the foyer, Kurt closed and locked the door behind them and followed her toward the kitchen, looking forward to finally unpacking everything and getting a chance to test out the grill.
He grinned mischievously, then, still trailing behind her, and called ahead, “Might go back for that asparagus water, though.”