Willow pushed her shopping cart around the knot of people who surrounded the display of fruit. "FRESH LOCALLY-GROWN PRODUCE," a sign proclaimed, and the yuppies that frequented this grocery store couldn't seem to get enough of them.
"Look at the size of those blueberries!" one woman said. She held up the carton for her friend to see.
"They must be organic," her friend said. "No pesticides to stunt their growth."
Willow rolled her eyes. These people wouldn't know organic produce if it bit them on the nose. In her experience, organic fruits and vegetables were rarely uniformly plump and perfect. The very lack of pesticides meant that some of the fruit fell prey to bugs and competing weeds. Her sharp eyes noted that the sign didn't say "organic" anywhere; California laws were strict about what kind of produce could be labeled organic. Clearly whatever company was selling the berries was hoping that people would associate "locally grown" with the coveted "organic" label. From the looks of the crowd, it seemed to be working.
"Excuse me," she said, allowing her irritation to seep through. A man moved slightly to allow her by, and she pushed past.
Willow didn't like this particular grocery store - it was too often crowded with the kinds of yuppie posers that were now in her way, especially in the evenings. But its convenience could not be denied - it was right on her ten-minute drive home from work, and the other grocery store was fifteen minutes in the opposite direction, a drive she didn't feel like facing in rush-hour traffic. She blew her bangs upward in frustration as she finally moved past the throng of berry-pickers.
She selected a head of romaine lettuce, inspecting it critically for signs of wilt before putting it into a plastic bag. Pushing her cart to the left, she began to head down the apple aisle when she stopped in her tracks.
Before her stood a vision. A blonde girl was at the end of the aisle in front of the cantaloupe display testing the melons. As Willow watched, transfixed, she picked up a melon and held it to the side of her ear while she rapped on it gently with her knuckles. Apparently not liking what she heard, she selected another one and knocked on it. This melon apparently passed muster, and she brought the end of it to her nose. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply, and slowly let out her breath with a rapturous sigh. She placed the melon carefully in her shopping cart and moved away.
Willow watched her as she walked down the aisle. She was dressed in a pair of hip-hugging navy blue track pants with a white stripe down the sides, and a form-fitting gray shirt that outlined the swell of her breasts and hips. Her blonde hair was caught up in a ponytail, and on her feet were a pair of gray running shoes with red eyelets. Her gaze strayed to the girl's butt, which was toned and round while still conveying a sense of pliable softness.
But most compelling of all were her eyes and face. Her eyes were large and even at this distance Willow could tell that they were a striking blue. She had features that were at once delicate and warm - graceful cheekbones, a perfectly shaped chin, adorable ears. She wore no makeup, and for that Willow was grateful - her beauty needed no accent, and any embellishment would have only served to distract from her perfection. The combination of casual clothing with such beauty inflamed Willow's fantasies. There was just something about a gorgeous woman in sweat pants that brought up all sorts of fantasies about the gym...
Willow jerked out of her reverie and mumbled "Sorry," to the annoyed man behind her. In her stupor over seeing the blonde, she had blocked the entire apple aisle. She hurriedly pushed her cart to the end of the aisle. She cast a guilty glance around and picked up the cantaloupe that the blonde girl had discarded and put it in her cart.
Rounding the corner into the dairy aisle, she caught sight of the blonde up ahead. She was perusing the selection of gourmet cheese. Willow pushed her cart casually to the center display of yogurt that was on sale - two for one - and pretended to rummage around for different flavors as she watched the blonde out of the corner of her eye.
The girl took as much care in the selection of her cheeses as she had with the melons, inspecting the small wheels of brie and camembert, turning them this way and that, reading the expiration date, and holding them briefly to her nose before deciding they were okay. She put these into her cart also and moved on to the milk.
Willow absently put a few tubs of yogurt into her car as she watched the girl. The milk at the front of the dairy case usually had an expiration date that was sooner than the milk toward the back, and the blonde seemed to know this as well, bending over and rummaging until she selected a half-gallon of 2% milk. Willow's hand stilled in the yogurt bin as she was presented with this vision of the girl's round butt. Her gray shirt pulled up as she bent over, exposing a strip of creamy white skin. Willow thought her eyes would pop out of her head.
"Are you going to stand there with your hand in the yogurt all day, or can someone else have a turn?"
Willow started, coming to her senses. "Sorry," she muttered to the impatient woman behind her. She tossed one more yogurt into her cart and moved on, following the blonde girl who had disappeared from view into the next aisle.
She had a moment of panic when the girl wasn't in the fruit juice aisle, but relaxed when she saw her in the deli meat section. She was holding a kielbasa in her hands, reading the nutrition label.
Willow's mouth went dry at the sight. The kielbasa was almost the same shape and size as a vibrator she had at home, and once the association had sprung to mind, she couldn't shake it. In her mind's eye, she saw the girl standing naked in her bedroom holding the vibrator with one hand as she fastened the straps around her waist, looking up at Willow through lowered lashes, with dilated pupils and unmistakable intent.
Cut it out, Rosenberg. You're in public.
She shook her head and watched as the blonde placed the kielbasa in her shopping cart. With horror, she noticed that her momentary flight of fancy had apparently had some side effects, as she saw her nipples poking against her shirt.
This would be the day I wore a camisole and no bra. I should go to the freezer section and cool down. Wait, that would just make it worse.
"Do you mind, miss?" said an exasperated voice behind her.
Willow turned to see a backlog of three shoppers behind her - a woman with two children in her cart, and the two people she had already previously blocked. "Sorry," she mumbled, moving her cart to one side to let them pass.
"Honestly, I hate this grocery store," said one of the women to the others as they walked by. "There are all these spacey twentysomethings here who think it's their own personal playground. Some of us have to get home to make dinner."
Willow would normally have taken umbrage at such a statement, but right now she was too distracted by the blonde girl to notice. As soon as the people had turned down the aisle, she pushed her cart in hot pursuit.
She walked by the aisles, glancing down each one as she passed. Canned vegetables - no blonde. Coffee and tea - not there either. Condiments - devoid. Baking supplies - ahhhh, there she was, standing in front of the assortment of icing and frosting, hands on her hips as she surveyed the large selection.
Willow's mind again strayed as she thought about frosting. It wasn't unheard of for her to sit down on the couch to watch a movie on a Friday night and consume an entire can of frosting, much to her friends' disgust. She didn't know what it was, there was just something about frosting that she liked more than ice cream, or cookies, or even the cake that normally accompanied it. And with recent images fresh in her mind, her traitorous brain conjured up a picture of the blonde girl with frosting smeared all over her luscious boobs, a dollop on her nipples, a line of frosting descending from between her breasts down her belly to the top of her...
"What we need here is a good doily," the blonde said.
"What?" Willow blurted out, before she could stop herself.
The blonde glanced up. "Oh, sorry," she said with a little laugh. "I was talking to myself - I do that sometimes."
Willow's heart was hammering wildly in her chest. "Oh, no problem, I talk to myself all the time," she said, hoping that her elevated heartbeat didn't make her voice quaver. "Did you say a doily?"
The blonde nodded. "It's a brand of frosting that we have in my hometown," she said. "Doily Madison."
"I know," the girl said ruefully, nodding her head. "Awful name, isn't it? But their frosting is just heavenly. I've never tasted anything like it. And I'm not really sure what to buy now - I haven't made a cake in ages."
Willow cleared her throat. "Well, it just so happens that I'm a bit of an expert on frosting," she said. "I've tried most of these flavors at one time or another, and if you like chocolate, this is definitely the best." She reached down to the bottom of the shelf and picked up a can of Betty Crocker triple-fudge extra-chocolaty frosting.
The blonde accepted the can studied it. She pulled off the plastic top but stared in disappointment at the safety seal.
"Bummer," she said. "I was going to taste it to see if it's really as good as you say."
Willow smiled. "Well, trust me. It's really that good - and better. Tell you what - if you take it home and taste it and don't like it, then I'll buy it from you."
The blonde tilted her head to the side and gave Willow a half-smile. "Okay. I'll take you up on that."
"My name is Willow."
"Willow - that's a pretty name," she responded. "I'm Tara."
"Tara," Willow repeated with a smile, extending her hand, which Tara grasped and shook firmly. It may have been her imagination, but it seemed to Willow that Tara held her hand for slightly longer than was strictly necessary.
"Um, hey," Willow said as they dropped each others' hand. "I notice that you have some melons. I mean, one melon," she said hastily. "A cantaloupe. I was wondering, I don't know how to tell if they're ripe. Would you mind telling me if mine is?" She indicated the melon in her shopping cart.
"Oh, sure thing," Tara responded. She reached over and picked up the cantaloupe and held it up to her ear. Willow watched as she rapped on it with her knuckles.
"It's not ripe," she said.
"How can you tell?"
"Come on, I'll show you," Tara said, indicating with her head that Willow should follow her as she pushed her shopping cart down the aisle back to the produce stand.
Willow followed, trying desperately not to stare at Tara's butt the entire time. And not succeeding. Tara swung her hips slightly as she walked - it didn't seem to be an affectation; rather, it was simply her way. Willow let out a little sigh of pleasure.
Tara parked her cart near the pile of cantaloupes and put Willow's original melon to the side. "The thing about cantaloupes," she said, "is that there are two ways to tell if they're ripe. First, you thump it," she demonstrated, holding the melon near her ear.
"What is it supposed to sound like?"
"Well, it's supposed to sound kind of hollow..."
"Hollow?" Willow frowned in confusion, trying to work that out.
"Well, not hollow exactly," Tara said. "Resonant. Here, listen to this." She held the melon up near Willow's ear and rapped on it. "Hear that?"
"Now listen to this one," Tara said, picking up the melon she had declared as unripe. She thumped it near Willow's ear.
Comprehension dawned on Willow's face. "I get it," she said. "That one sounds kinda...more solid."
Tara nodded. "As the melon ripens, it gets a lot softer and juicier," she said. Willow unconsciously licked her lips as Tara said 'juicier.' "The fruit is a lot more pliable, and silky. If you cut it open, the juice will run all over the counter if you're not careful."
"Sounds dangerous," Willow offered weakly. She was having a hard time keeping control of herself, as images of Tara sprawled atop the mound of cantaloupes, all ripe and soft and juicy, kept intruding into her mind.
"Now the second thing is smell," Tara said, picking up the ripe melon and caressing it gently. She held the end up to her nose and inhaled. "Ahhhhhhh," she said, the same rapturous expression flitting across her face as before. "There's nothing like a ripe cantaloupe."
She proffered the melon to Willow, but didn't relinquish her grip when the redhead took hold of the globe. "Smell it," she urged.
With nary a thought to the spectacle the two of them must be creating in the produce section, both holding on to the same cantaloupe, Willow leaned forward to smell it.
The sweet, succulent scent of a ripe cantaloupe drifted up into her nostrils, and seemed to reach into the furthest recesses of her brain. A soft Oh escaped Willow's mouth and she closed her eyes. It seemed to her that she had never smelled a ripe cantaloupe in her life before this one. The heavenly scent seemed to reach out and caress her cheek.
Actually, something was caressing her cheek. She opened her eyes to see Tara looking at her with dilated pupils, her chest rising and falling with elevated breath, and Tara's hand cupping her cheek.
"I really like cantaloupes," Tara said, reaching around to the back of Willow's neck to run her fingers through the redhead's hair.
Willow let out a whimper. "I can see why," she whispered as Tara ran her nails along her neck and traced her jawline with a knuckle.
"I can't wait to take this ripe cantaloupe home and cut it open, all juicy and squishy on the counter, and drink the juice, and run my tongue all along the hollow where the seeds are, and sink my teeth into the succulent flesh."
Willow was speechless.
"Willow," Tara breathed.
"Would you like to come home with me and have some of this plump, ripe melon?"
Willow's eyes widened. She didn't know what goddess she had pleased to have this offering made to her, but she wasn't about to pass it up. "More than anything," she said, following Tara to the checkout line.
"Do you want to put that yogurt in my cart so we can check out faster?" Tara asked. The yogurt was the only thing in Willow's cart.
"Oh, um, not really. I don't really want it," Willow said.
"That's right, you were only pretending to shop for yogurt when you were watching me," Tara replied as she unloaded her groceries onto the belt.
"Wh-what?" Willow stammered, momentarily thrown for a loop.
"You were watching me, right?" Tara said. Beet red, Willow nodded. Tara laughed. "I thought so. Why do you think I bent over to get the milk on the bottom shelf? I had to pique your interest some way."
Willow blushed even further as she helped Tara remove the groceries from her cart. Her hand stilled on the can of frosting.
"I have a confession to make," Tara said as the cashier rang up her purchases.
"I'm not really baking a cake."
"Then why did you buy frosting?"
"I was hoping that you would talk to me," Tara said. "I've seen you here before, and I've noticed your frosting obsession."
Willow's eyebrows shot up. "You've noticed me before?"
Tara's eyes crinkled in a smile and she nodded. "Quite a few times, actually."
"Well, if you're not baking a cake, do you still want this frosting?"
Tara nodded again. "Oh, I think we'll find a use for it," she said as she swiped her credit card through the machine and picked up a bag. Willow stepped forward and picked up the other bag, allowing the cashier to place the receipt inside. She followed Tara out the door, eyes still fixed on Tara's bottom.
"Damn kids," said the cashier to his next customer as the redhead and the blonde left the store. "Why can't they just go to a singles bar like everyone else?"
"Tell me about it," replied the next customer. "They think this store is their own personal meat market."