"Mom, you've been reading the same label for ten minutes now. I have some work to do today." Chase Summers was exasperated. "Put on your glasses, then it won't take you ten minutes to read the can."
They'd been shopping for eight hours and Chase was more than ready to be done. "You know I don't like to be hurried when I'm shopping." She put the can of French cut green beans back onto the shelf and took another can and began to read the label. "I only ask you to take me grocery shopping one day a week and you complain. Other sons..."
Yeah, Mom, one day a week to the grocery store, one day to the hair and nail salon, two days to doctor's appointments; since she's moved from New York to the Ocean Township condo I haven't had any peace.
Chase ran his fingers through his short sandy blond hair in a gesture born of sheer frustration. "I have a deadline on my book that's approaching fast. I have to spend some time writing or I'll have to pay back my advance, then I won't have a car to drive you anywhere."
"All right, if you're going to be so crabby about it." His mother sniffed.
"I'm not being crabby. I've been out with you all morning and most of the afternoon. I took you to breakfast, to Macy's, the butcher, the farmer's market, lunch and now we're on our fourth grocery store. I'll push the cart, but we're done for the day."
"Well, I never...I still have to stop at the bakery for bread." Edith Summers stuttered as she put the can of cut green beans in her cart. "I have to read the labels. You know I can't have too much salt. If I do, I retain water and that isn't good for my blood pressure." Chase wondered how she always managed to make him feel guilty in their encounters.
She was on a roll. "You don't appreciate all that I went through to raise you. Your father died when you were eighteen and left me with very little."
"Sing that song to someone else. Dad left you with more than enough money to for me to go to the best schools and for you to live a good life." He truly lost it. Chase raised his voice. "Go out, make friends, learn to drive for Christ's sake. You have more than enough to buy a car. I can't do this forever. One day I'm going to find someone and then I'm not going to be spending every minute I get away from the computer chauffeuring you around." Good God, if someone else wanted guilt in New Jersey, they'd have to buy it from my mother. She has a corner on the market.
"Find a man, you mean." Her mouth shaped a moue of distaste.
"Get over it, Mom. I'm gay and that isn't going to change." Chase pushed the cart toward the checkout.
"I'll never have any grandchildren." She sniffed again. Edith was known for the power and range of her sniffs.
"Well if I spend my weekends with you, I'll never be able to find a man, settle down and maybe provide you with some of the grandchildren you keep haranguing me about." Chase pushed the cart toward the checkout. Edith sniffed again and took her handkerchief out of her purse to dab at her eyes.
At the checkout counter his mother stepped ahead of him as Chase began to unload the cart.
"Get me a copy of The Enquirer from the rack." Chase sighed and went to grab the magazine and knocked his head on something.
He looked up. Staring down at him were the most beautiful ice-blue eyes he had ever seen. The dark-haired man was rubbing his forearm. "Sorry," Chase said as he blushed furiously. "I should have paid more attention."
"Looks like you have your hands full." The stranger motioned his head toward Edith, who was auguring with the cashier about the price of the same can of green beans she'd spent ten minutes studying.
Chase rolled his eyes. The stranger laughed and stuck out his hand. "I'm Rowan Hart."
"Chase Summers," he said as he stuck out his hand. Rowan's handshake was firm.
The cashier got on the PA system, "Price check on lane six." Chase turned back to Rowan and said, "I'm sorry. You only have two items. You should probably get on another line. She's going to drive me and the cashier nuts before she's done."
Rowan gave a hearty laugh. "Got a Dad just like that in Albuquerque, besides I like the view right here."
Chase blushed and checked out Rowan's left hand for a wedding ring. Nope, not married, but he could be involved.
"What do you do when you're not taking your mom shopping?" Rowan asked him.
"I write gay romance novels," Chase told him. The beautiful eyes of ice blue framed by long black lashes opened wide in surprise. Chase blushed, again.
"I didn't even know there was such a thing as gay romance novels." Rowan left eyebrow moved up toward his forehead. Chase reached into the cart and put more of the groceries onto the conveyor. "Actually a lot of women read them along with gay men. But they are very popular, there are several e-publishers that are exclusively devoted to LGBT novels and most of the other online publishers carry a title or two a month. It's currently a lucrative market."
"Must be nice to be able to work from home," Rowan said.
"That is if I ever get to work." The manager came back and the can was priced correctly. His mother was about to argue when Chase said, "It was the French cut beans that were on sale. You put that can back on the shelf."
"Can you go and exchange..."
"No, Mom. The difference in price is five cents. If you put your glasses on, you would have seen that. I'll give you the nickel, let's get out of here." Chase put the last of the groceries on the belt.
"Before you leave, why don't you give me your number, maybe we can share a beer sometime?" Rowan handed Chase his phone.
"That's a good idea," Chase handed his phone to Rowan. The two men exchanged numbers.
"Chase...you were complaining that we took too long. Now, I'm waiting for you." She tapped her foot on the textured vinyl floor.
Rowan whispered, "That's why my dad's in Albuquerque and I'm here." He winked. "I'll call you."
Chase grabbed the waiting cart. His mother put the plastic bags in the cart without tying the tops. Groceries spilled out of the bags to rattle around the bottom of the cart. Chase pulled out of the checkout line annoyed at himself for not watching her. He stood in front of the cashier's station putting the groceries back into the bags and loosely tying the top.
"Don't tie them too tight, I reuse the bags." Chase's mother scolded.
"Mom, enough already, you want to go to the bakery, we'll go to the bakery. After that, I'm finished for the day. I'm arranging for driving lessons for you on Monday. I've had my fill." His voice was firm. His mother looked dismayed.
"You know I'm afraid to drive." Edith whined.
"That's why we're going to hire the best school in the area, they'll teach you so you won't have to be afraid." Chase steered the cart toward the exit. "And if you don't agree, we start looking at assisted living facilities which have the time and the means to chauffer you around." They got out of the store and Chase looked around for the car.
"I'm only fifty-five," she wailed.
"Then don't act as if you're eighty," Chase said harshly.
"All right," his mother said in a small voice. "I won't be such a bother to you." She sniffed a full-on sniff and her eyes got teary.
Chase sighed. He used the remote to open the hatchback of his silver Prius and started piling the bags inside. Chase had no idea what she did with all of the groceries she bought. She lived alone and he generally took her out to eat when he went over to her condo. He opened the passenger side of the car for her and she settled herself on the seat. Closing the door he circled the car, got in and started the engine. They hybrid engine started right up and Chase headed to the bakery, hopefully, the last stop of the day.