Samara ducked into the corner grocery store and swiped rain-drenched hair out of her eyes as she looked out at the street. The water poured down the front window of the store and blurred the sharp headlights of the passing cars into fuzzy, undulating splotches of yellow that danced before her eyes. She smiled. They reminded her of Shabbat candles. She closed her eyes for a moment and time slipped away. In an instant, she was in her grandmother’s warm, dry kitchen. Her face was pressed against her wide bosom; the hug promised safety, security and unconditional love. Her grandmother’s heartbeat thumped against her ear and infused her with calm and confidence. Her cousins chattered and the grownups laughed. China and utensils clinked. It was Friday night; the smell of brisket and challah filled the small, noisy apartment with mouth-watering scents of carrots, onions, garlic and yeast. Her stomach growled and the sound yanked Samara back to the present. She was hungry. With a shake of her head, she reached for a shopping cart and headed down the aisle.
Mounds of bright colored produce lured her—oranges, broccoli, bananas, kale. Her goal—the potatoes; the multitude of delicious sights and smells distracted her and she squeezed and smelled her way through the narrow aisles toward the back of the store.
Samara whipped her head up as a deep voice interrupted her thoughts of baked potatoes au gratin. A tanned hand reached for her arm, its fingers long and square with clean nails. They pressed against her arm, just firm enough for her to feel their warmth. Her gaze traveled up his arm, from the wrist. A light dusting of dark hair peeked from beneath the cuff of a starched, white shirt. Her eyes continued their way up to the biceps that filled out the sleeve. She continued across the broad expanse of chest, up a tanned throat, over a chiseled chin darkened by five o’clock shadow, past soft lips, around flared nostrils and into blue eyes. Slate-blue eyes twinkled at her. She yanked her arm out of his grasp.
“Let go of me, please!”
“Sorry. Didn’t want you to run me over.”
She tilted her head. Did his eyes always twinkle this much? She’d never seen him before; while his eyes alone would have been enough to spark a glimmer of recognition if they’d ever crossed paths, his voice was unforgettable. A trace of a rasp, like a callused finger catching on a silk blouse; a hint of a Southern drawl stuck out even in the melting pot of New York accents; a satirical lilt, a promise of laughter to brighten the darkest days. No, she would never forget his voice. She could get lost in it for days. Goosebumps ran down her back and she shivered. The sudden, uncontrollable movement jerked her out of her reverie and brought her back to the present. The glint in his eye told her he’d noticed her distraction and her cheeks warmed. When he stared at her, without saying a word, she jerked her cart out of his way and ploughed into the display of russet potatoes. The table screeched against the linoleum floor and mounds of brown spuds wobbled at the impact. Samara closed her eyes in horror and yanked her cart out of the way. She watched as one potato toppled onto the floor. Like a scout on a mission, it paved the way for the rest of the potatoes, because the pile collapsed and poured around her feet.