Dirk tried to catching Liz at her Monday post, the cereal aisle. To his disappointment he found the shelves resupplied, but no Liz. So he wandered in search of her. Instead, Dirk found Maggie in the paper product aisle, reading the label on some plastic wrap.
Maggie didn’t bother looking up from her work. “Liz is at the register.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a chocolate wrapper. “I’d like one of these, please.”
At first, Dirk didn’t get it. Why was he buying Maggie chocolate? It was Liz he was trying to get to. Light bulbs rang off in his head. Maggie stacked the shelves, forcing Liz to be at the register.
He rested his elbow against the shelf that held the paper plates. “Is there anything else I should pick up?”
“A bag of Doritos and some chocolate-covered graham crackers.”
“Will do.” Dirk pushed off the shelf and pivoted to purchase the requested items.
He was at the end of the shelf when Maggie called to him. “Don’t let pride be your weakness.” Dirk froze and processed. Maggie blended so well with the Harper family he had forgotten her past. Like Dirk, Maggie came from a home where they lived day-to-day. She had a large family with parents who made up for not providing material means with love.
The difference between Dirk and Maggie was the chase. Tom pursued Maggie with a sweet tenacity that she couldn’t resist. She had married up by invitation.
Granted, Dirk had the approval from Tom and Liz. But he had more to prove. Not only, that he was worthy of Liz’s admiration, but that he could provide for her in the way that she was accustomed. Even if she didn’t need him to. Maggie was the only person who was qualified to point out his pride was the source of their fall. Dirk looked over his shoulder and nodded. “I’m trying.”
“I know.” Her smile was bittersweet. “Get it right. Soon. I’m getting tired of having to stock the cookie aisle because Liz is eating them.”
They both chuckled. With Maggie’s blessing, Dirk’s confidence bolstered. He strolled through the aisles to purchase the items on his mother’s list. He was at the kidney beans heading toward the register when he overheard John Jr. talking with Liz. “If you let me, I could bring back your smile.”
Dirk wanted to bean the man with the can of beans in his hand. Instead, he set it in the red plastic basket he was holding and let things play out.
“Thank you for your offer,” Liz spoke the words, but the sweetness that accompanied gratitude wasn’t there. Her tone was rich with salt.
The poor man tried to flirt with her when she was in a mood and had gone about it the wrong way. “I have two men in my life. Jesus and my son. I don’t think I could handle any more.”
“Okay, granny!” John jr. sputtered.
Dirk flinched. It was obvious to everyone but John Jr. why the man was thirty-five and single. Dirk waited a moment to allow the air to cool before approaching Liz with his purchases.
Liz scanned the ground beef over the scanner, then the beans. Her shoulders tensed, and her lips were stiff.
“When are you going to stop being mad at me,” Dirk taunted.
“I’m not mad.” Liz dropped the meat with a loud thud into the bag.
“How’s Cam?” Dirk forced himself to sound positive.
She ground out, “He’s fine, thanks for thinking of him.”
Dirk pitied the bag of Doritos as she gripped them and slid them over the scanner. He noticed she was more careful with the cookies.
“Eight dollars and fifty-two cents, please.”
Dirk slid the card through the reader, sensing the audience around them. People loved a spat. How he handled this would make or break his reputation. Well, they were about to see that he may not have the money, but he had the heart of the man destined to be Liz’s husband.
While scanning the contents, Dirk picked up his bags. One by one, he pulled out some items. First the cookies, then the chocolate bar, and lastly the smashed bag of Doritos. Dirk pushed them toward Liz with his fingertips. He imagined it was what a zookeeper was like in a lion’s den. Give them the food and run. “These are for you. You get cranky when you refuse to admit you miss me.”
Dirk didn’t stick around to see Liz’s reaction. He heard the snickers of the people in the line behind him. Liz’s anger 0, Dirk’s chance to get her back 1.
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