Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Coupon for Love

The lovely blonde and I had crossed paths many times in the Save More grocery store: the produce and meat sections, the bread and cereal aisles.
Everywhere. She always smiled brightly—as if we weren't strangers at all—and nodded hello. Of course, I followed with a smile of my own and a friendly, "Hi. How are you today?"
"Great, thank you. Really great."
I loved her perky smile, one that suggested everyday in her life was a blue-sky day.
She apparently liked to shop when I did: 6:00 A.M., when the store was practically empty of other shoppers. Since only one checkout lane was available so early in the day, we frequently met at the register.
She always carried a compartmentalized billfold stuffed with coupons. As the checkout lady rang up her purchases, she forked over the appropriate coupon. One morning, she purchased a small bottle of wine, and the checkout lady asked her for an ID. The lady peered at the driver's license, scanned it, handed it back and said, "Have a great day, Sue."
"Thanks," she said. "I plan on it."
That's how I learned her name was Sue. I guessed her to be between twenty-five and thirty. Right at my age, thirty.
The next time we met—I was inspecting the apples—she said to me, "Hi, how are you today?"
At that moment I decided I definitely wanted to know her better. She had to be single—I'd never seen a ring on her wedding finger. If she were going with someone, she'd surely tell me. I dropped an apple into my plastic bag with the other five. "I'm doing great, Sue. How about you?"
Her head tilted, a question mark on her face.
I tried for my best smile. "I heard the checkout lady call you Sue last week." Gathering my courage, I added, "I'm Max Peterson. Assistant lawyer for the school district." I swallowed. "Single."
She looked at me, a bit wary, I thought, as if "lawyer" or "single" were bad words, but she said, "Sue Sullivan. Single. Home Economics teacher at the high school."
"Whoa! No kidding? You mean we work for the same employer?"
I felt overjoyed. We had something in common. And we were both single. But a frown skated across Sue's face as she said, "You'll have to excuse me—I'm in a hurry this morning."
With that she pushed her cart down the detergent aisle, took a hard right, and headed for checkout. My shoulders slumped. Obviously one of two things had happened: I'd come on too strong too fast. Or she distrusted lawyers.
I'd never clipped a coupon before, but that night I clipped a Save More meat coupon from the newspaper. When I saw Sue again, I intended to impress her with the coupon—something to talk about. And I had a plan. But I didn't see her the next week or the next. I heaved a sigh. I'd frightened her away.
But maybe not!
On the third week I spotted her again—by the canned soups, a smile back on her face. After I greeted her, she said, "I'd like to talk to you after we check out."
She ended up behind me in checkout. When I placed a package of two New York strip steaks on the belt, I happily whipped out my meat coupon, but to my dismay, the checkout lady informed me my coupon had expired. Obviously, I felt totally embarrassed. And deflated, my plan shot down.
Sue cocked her head. "Not to worry," she said flashing a smile and handing the checkout lady an up-to-date coupon.
When we met in the parking lot by her car, I said, "Thanks for the coupon. I thought maybe you'd given up shopping here."
Her blue eyes dipped, then met mine. "I knew what was happening between us, Max. I saw it coming. But before I could let it happen, I had to settle another matter."
"It's settled?"
She nodded. "He left long ago, but I had to make sure he was out of my head. Forever."
I looked at her, a bit sheepish.
"I'd hoped to impress you enough with my first ever coupon that you'd say yes to dinner at my place. Steaks, obviously.  Wine."
Her chin lifted, her smile the brightest ever. "I can't say no. My coupon gives me an investment in those steaks, too."
"That it does," I said happily.
"I'll bring the wine."
My heart hammering, I helped unload Sue's groceries into her minivan. We set up a time on Saturday evening for my place, and when she drove away, I thought, Maybe I found a coupon for love. One that doesn’t expire.
The End

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