I Went to the Store One Day



Scene Title I Went to the Store One Day
Synopsis One choice can set the path for an entire lifetime.
Date January 5, 2020

Safe Zone

“Yeah, thanks. Have a good night, okay?” Rue smiles tiredly to the cashier as she slides her brown paper bag of provisions off the counter and heads for the exit. Once outside, she pauses in the parking lot, staring vacantly at a shopping cart illuminated by the jaundice glow of the street lamp above.

We met in a parking lot
I was buying coffee and cigarettes
Firewood and bad wine long since gone

She had pink hair, like candy floss. The first time Rue laid eyes on her, she wanted to introduce herself. She didn’t, of course.

The second time, though. The second time… No, she still didn’t get up her nerve.

They say the third time’s the charm, however.

“Not trying to be weird,” she begins, cautious and definitely weird, “but I’ve seen you around a couple times and, I just wanted to say… hi.” She smiles shyly. Bathed in the golden glow of the street lamp, the woman in front of her looks a vision. “So, hi.”

But I’m still drunk and hot
Wide awake and breathing hard

She doesn’t remember leaving the market, but her feet know which way to go, and they’ve carried her to the door of her tenement building. Keys jingle as she slides the right one into the lock on the security door and turns, pushing it open and making sure it latches behind her before heading up the stairs to the fifth floor.

Now, in just one year’s time
I’ve become jealous, rail-thin
Prone to paranoia when I’m stoned
If this isn’t true love, someone oughta put me in a home

The groceries are left out on the counter. Nothing perishable anyway. The important thing is the bottle of red wine. A twist-off top. The apartment smells of stale beer, cigarettes and marijuana. The latter is her fault. Shrugging off her coat and leaving it in a heap on the floor behind the couch, she drops down onto the cushions, grabbing a half-smoked jay out of an ashtray made of pink Depression glass.

The wine is opened and left to breathe, as if that makes any fucking difference when it cost just six dollars. She lights up the joint and takes a pull.

The paper crackles.

She’d seen her with… What was her name? Vicki? The brunette with the eyes like whiskey illuminated by rays of sunshine. She saw the way she looked at her. How badly Rue would love for her to regard her with that kind of adoration.

But the door opens, and there she is in all her glory. Rue smiles, her fears banished at the sight of her own personal angel. She holds up the roll between her fingers.

She shakes her head with a secret smile Rue knows only she sees. Rue takes a hit and holds it in her mouth until she leans over and their lips meet. They share breath, a high. Rue’s manicured nails slide easily into those soft waves of pink.

Say, do you wanna get married?
And put an end to our endless progressive tendency to scorn
Provincial concepts like your dowry and your daddy’s farm

Rue leaves the joint smoldering, pinched between her right thumb and forefinger. Her free hand grasps the wine bottle and brings it to her lips for a drink. The bottle is settled against her knee. Her gaze drifts to her fingers around the neck of the bottle. The tan line has almost faded away by now.

“You’re the brightest star in my sky,” Rue tells her, stepping around the analyst’s desk and coming to kneel on the floor next to her chair. She fishes the deep blue velvet box out of the pocket of her trenchcoat and holds it up, flipping open the top with her thumb.

For love to find us of all people
I never thought it’d be so simple

Stubbing out the remains of the spliff in the ashtray, Rue taps the screen of a tablet to life, punching in the four digit PIN when prompted. She frowns at a map of the Safe Zone. She can’t stay here forever. Or even for long. With her index finger, she draws Xs and Os at various points.

Let’s buy a plantation house
And let the yard grow wild
Until we don’t need the signs that say “Keep Out”
I’ve got some money left and it’s cheaper in the South

“I think we should get out of this city,” Rue says, uncertainty in her eyes.

There’s only a moment of hesitation before her lover smiles brightly, clearly not opposed to the idea of leaving New York City behind.

“Maybe somewhere nobody knows us?” The redhead looks sheepish at the suggestion. But she’s seen so much since taking this position. More of the inner workings than she ever expected. It scares her. If it were just her, she’d be fine staying, but it isn’t just about her anymore. Rue has to get her out of here.

Snow falls gently outside the window. Rue takes her hands as if to ward off the chill beyond the panes. “If I put in another year or two, I’ll have enough money for us to go somewhere warm.”

I need someone I can trust
To protect me from our seven daughters
When my body says “enough”

Snow falls gently outside the window. Rue takes another drink of the wine as if to ward off the chill beyond the panes. She tears her gaze away from the serenity enjoyed by others in the city. Leaning forward, she plucks an earpiece off the coffee table and fits it into her ear, her tongue between her lips as she gets it set just right.

“Yeah. I know,” she murmurs. “I just—” Rue presses her lips together and listens, staring hard at the mirror on the wall that might otherwise be adorned by a television. It isn’t her own reflection she watches. “Granted, but did you find anything? I’ve got two possibilities. I don’t like either of them. But it’s that or… I don’t know.”

Don’t let me die in a hospital
I’ll save the big one for the last time we make love

“No,” she dismisses with an unnecessary wave of her hand. “I’m not drunk. Not yet. If you need me to go somewhere, I can still—” She stares stubbornly ahead as she brings the wine back to her lips and takes a long, long drink. Rue doesn’t like what she’s hearing. “Well, if Miss Swift hadn’t flounced after I laid the foundations, we wouldn’t be in this mess. I never should have taken that last assignment. We could be retired on a beach, sipping margaritas by now.”

Insert here
A sentiment re: our golden years

It was on top when she opened her luggage. Pillowed by neatly folded dresses, blouses, and skirts, a silver flask and a note. Keep warm and think of me. Rue sighs and smiles as she lifts the ornately engraved vessel, pleasantly surprised to discover it’s already filled with liquid. Likely that expensive bourbon she bought for their anniversary.

The delicate and looping script reads EAM. Rue traces the letters with her finger, then slides the flask into the pocket of her trench coat, patting it once after it’s settled.

“No, I wasn’t listening,” Rue is forced to admit as she’s roused from her moment of reverie. “Can we just… Let’s talk about this tomorrow. I’m going to bed.” With the bottle of wine, without the earpiece.

All ‘cause I went to the store one day

Time seems to stand still in the parking lot until Rue’s greeting is returned in kind. The two share a moment of nervous giggles. She hazards a half step closer, tilting her head to one side. She’s delighted and terrified to see her posture mirrored back at her. There’s an entire colony of butterflies in her stomach. “I’m Rue.”

“Seen you around, what’s your name?”


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