Chapter 2: Cucumber Advice

1214 Words
How do you tell if a cucumber is good? Should it be firm or have a slight give to it when squeezed? My whole eating healthier plan is harder than I thought it would be. There are so many mysteries to fruits and veggies. I put down my first cucumber and select another one from the bin. This one is larger and a bit firmer when I squeeze. Is firmer a good quality? "Depending on what you're going to do with that, it should be mostly hard." A short, white-haired elderly woman stands to my side and I almost fumble my vegetable when she speaks. Her eyes fall to my hands as they tighten around the green phallic object. Oh my god. I've been caught feeling up vegetables by a grandmother. "Sandwiches!" I shout in her direction. "Just sandwiches." I put the cucumber back in the bin and wipe my hands on my pants. As if the action will somehow remove my embarrassment over what this little old lady thought I planned to do with the thick veggie. Unfazed she reaches in and grabs my original cucumber. "Here, sweetie. This is a good one for sandwiches." She emphasizes the word sandwiches a little more than needed. "It's a good size and should give you at least two uses." She places the cucumber in a small, clear plastic bag and hands it my way. I drop the bag in the basket hanging from my arm. "Thanks." "You're welcome. I take care in selecting my fruits and veggies as well." She ends with a wink. A wink! ... I'm still horrified by the vegetable exchange as I reach my apartment building twenty minutes later. Not used to city living where I have to carry all my purchases with me, I bought too many groceries at the street store. I struggle with the door and my two full bags of food and have to use my butt to keep the door open. I'm one step inside the building as the bag on my left arm starts to slip. In some ill-fated attempt to stop the inevitable, I try to realign it by leaning forward. Physics never was my strong subject in school. The side of the brown paper bag folds over. All my carefully selected fruits and vegetables roll through the lobby as I stand by and watch. Well, at least my Wednesday at work was better. This is my first spill of the day. I set both bags down and begin the hunt for all my missing produce. Arms loaded with oranges, apples, and that damn cucumber, I try to place them all back in my paper sack, but notice the rip too late. They tumble right back out again through the tear. "It looks like you could use some help." Finn's deep voice settles around me before he closes the distance across the tiled lobby floor. I don't want Finn to think I'm incapable of simple tasks such as crossing the road or carrying groceries upstairs. So I lie. "No, I'm fine. Really." "I hate to break it to you, but you don't look fine. You appear to have a fruit situation going on here. Let me help." He bends over and starts collecting the errant items. "Thanks. Another day, another chance to save me." "Nonsense. I enjoy playing the white knight. This is much easier than slaying a dragon." Finn spots the bag tear and turns it to his chest blocking off the hole. Smart man. He takes care in placing each small bagged fruit in the paper bag so they don't spill out again. "Cucumber? What do people use these for?" Not the cucumber again. I swear, I'll never purchase a green vegetable as long as I live. "Sandwiches. Cucumber sandwiches. You know with mayo?" My voice raises as I continue, "Has no one in Northern California heard of them before?" "Sorry, I didn't mean to insult your cucumber. He looks hearty, a fine specimen." He hurries to load all my produce in the sack and stands. "No, I'm sorry. It's... well, it's a rather long story." I can't explain my cucumber mishap to Finn and retain any of my dignity. "Okay. Come on. I'll help you carry these up." "You don't have to. I'll be okay, I promise." It's four floors up, and it's clear he was on his way out. I don't want to be a damsel that needs to be saved. I'm a strong, independent woman living in the city. At least I want to be. Finn heads toward the stairs. "I think I do. Besides, I'm just on my way to meet some friends. They can wait." The building we live in is an old warehouse, recently converted to be luxury condos and business space. The ground level is a series of store fronts — a clothing store, coffee shop, and small used book store. Our small lobby is carved out in the middle, and the staircase rounds itself through the central part of the building. The second and third floors house standard condos. The penthouse uses the entire fourth floor with a small area cut out for my apartment. "Too bad we don't have an elevator, huh?" I joke as a way to distract me from Finn's musky cologne. I trail behind him as close as possible to catch as much of the delicious smell as I can. Turning back to look at me, Finn's face constricts and his lips tighten, like he has a secret. "We actually do. I'm sorry. I should have let you use it yesterday. The penthouse has a private elevator at the back of the building. It opens up in the living room so you'd have to walk through the condo to get to your place, but you could use it. I don't care." Of course the penthouse would have their own private elevator leaving us little people to hoof it up the stairs. Even so, it's incredibly nice of him to offer it to me. A part of me wants to accept, but there is no way the offer would be extended when the penthouse's true owner returns. I'd rather not get used to the privilege. "Thanks, but I'll keep walking. It's good for me and besides, I have a feeling using the elevator is not on the list of acceptable rules, per my lease. Why are you taking the steps if you have technology at your fingertips?" "Stairs are technology. Old technology, but still a marvel in their time." He has a point, but doesn't wait for me to acknowledge it, "but I need the exercise. Plus, I wouldn't want to miss the chance to see you again." His words give me a thrill and a grin slides onto my face. Seriously, this guy is either the biggest undercover player or the nicest guy on the planet. He doesn't have a clue how sweet he is. "Okay, I agree. Stairs were a great invention." I decide to ignore his "chance to see you again" part. I have no idea what to say back to that. My flirting skills have abandoned me. Not that I've ever had any. Cute guys have always had a way of making me lose twenty IQ points.
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