Oh.

My.

God.

It was him. He was here of all places.

Slowly, carefully, quietly, I make my way to another aisle.

Crap.

I had thought, no reasoned, that the Fates would've cut me some slack. After all, it was my birthday. The big Two-One. Finally legal enough to consume that oh-so-coveted fermented beverage. Ah, legality, how I do adore thee…

Him, I do not. Adore, that is. Everyone else seems to. Even my parents somehow fell prey to his charms. Not me. Nope.

Never.

With any luck, he'll suddenly disappear. Better yet, spontaneously combust. Yes. Quite pleasant.

A quick peek around the soup cans (two, two, two for the price of one!)…alas. Still there.

Curses.

Well, buck up, old girl. Finish that shopping list and maybe he'll disappear. Then you can buy that last item undisturbed and fancy-free.

Wonderful idea.

However. Apparently a grocery store of this size and magnitude is not big enough for the both of us. While eying the questionably edible greenery (oh look! zucchini!) I felt him eyeing me.

Bugger.

"Evening, miss. What brings you to this fine shopping establishment?"

Is he serious? Eyebrows up, hand out, grocery list in his face, hold for two…retrieve hand with list, eyebrows drop by half.

"Ah. Me too." Silly man-boy grin as he shows me his own (ah! so scandalous sounding…) shopping list.

"Almost done?"

That little…! Distracting me with conversation. He's moving in on the zucchini! No! It is mine!

Aha. Safe.

"Well, sir." Tucked away safely in a plastic bag, in my cart you go, zucchini. "One more item and then yes. I'll be done."

End conversation time, no? Yes. Goodbye, walk away, adios, hope to not see you soon…

What's this? Footsteps behind me? Is he following me? Daft man. But no matter. Ignorance is bliss. Ignoring him is ignorance of his presence is bliss.

Is it still there? That wonderful, last bottle, last liquid dream of hope? Step, step, step.

No. No? No.

No merlot?!

Treason! Vile fiend! Fate, thou has wrought me a bitter one.

Time to whirl on the suspect. Teeeeeen-hut. Aboooooooooooout-face!

"You."

"Yes?"

"First, why are you following me? Second, why are you laughing? Third, what are you doing with my merlot?!"

Oh, sweet bliss! Enslaved in the arms of evil. Tragedy for the both of us.

"You seemed quite interested in some item so I waited until you were gone to see what had you so enraptured. Your facial expression changed from ecstatic to doomed in 1.8 seconds – I timed. I picked it up when you left earlier because I wanted it for my own."

Efficient one, isn't he.

"Oh, and it's the last bottle. Just in case you cared to know."

Did I? Did I?!

I, who had just returned from returning most of the items in my cart to their proper places on the shelves. I, who was going to sacrifice most all of the next two weeks groceries for one sweet, 75-dollar bottle of liquid heaven. I, who was going to be living off of ramen – and zucchini – for said two weeks for one single bottle of happiness.

Damn straight I cared.

"Give it."

"No."

"Yes."

Smirk. He smirked. At me. Holding onto my merlot.

Hell no.

Lunged, but he dodged. Swiped, but he side-stepped. Growled, but he laughed. No use, his eyes say, no use, his smile taunts. A last grab and he's gone. Gone far, far away. Taking my love from me. The wine, not him.

Oh well. A last check of the shelf (still empty) and a sigh.

I suppose proper nutrition should be some consolation. Replay of all the aisles, re-pick up all my needs. Minus one. Another look down the alkie-aisle but my heart is captured by no other label. What's the use? Just wait it out, old girl. Restocks will happen.

Eventually.

It won't be the same. Buying three weeks after rather than the first day, first opportunity available. No fun in that.

Him: 1. Me: 0.

Sigh.

Check out, bag up, load in, drive home. Six bags per arm, trudge up the stairs. How am I going to get my keys out? Oh, right.

Set down three, fumble around in purse, cough. Wait. A cough? But I didn't.

Turn around. Blink.

Sweet mother of fathers.

It's here! Oh, wondrous miracle of miracles. My merlot! But wait. Bottles don't cough. Not until you've finished off most of one at least. Oh no. It's attached to a hand. His hand.

"July 10th."

Beg pardon?

"So he knows what day of the year it is. Give the boy a cookie."

Is that a smile I see? No. Now a smirk.

"July 10th." Is there an echo in here? "It's the day you were born. 21 years ago."

So the parrot pays attention! Now he deserves a cracker. Maybe two.

"Happy birthday."

Serious? Is he? Reach up to take the wine, but he pulls back.

Not serious, then.

"Fine. Play all you like. But not with me. My fingers are numb."

Fumble around some more…aha! Keys.

Open the door. The merlot is following me. Sweetness!

But if the merlot followed, so must the hand that it is attached to.

Decision.

"Alright. I accept. But all you get is ramen."

Smirk? No. A smile this time.

"Deal."

And the door is closed.