He smiles, the world becomes brighter, and I melt.Â Of course, my hair isn’t done, I wear no makeup and my t-shirt and sweat pants are wrinkled.Â We were destined to meet because I look my worst.
“No, I’m sorry.Â I wasn’t paying attention either.”Â He chuckles.Â “Which can be potentially bad for both of us if we accidentally grab something other than oranges or someone’s hand.”Â Now I really laugh.Â “Or it could lead to a first date.Â You never know about these things.”
Did he really just say ‘first date’? I wonder.Â “When the cops come to arrest you for groping store patrons, I’ll be your character witness.Â Maybe you’ll only get probation and a fine,” I joke.
He shakes his head.Â “I don’t know.Â You’re just as guilty of groping as I am.Â Perhaps we’ll be cellmates once we’re thrown in jail.”Â My laughter echoes through the produce section.Â “Here, you take it,” he hands me the orange.
“No, you had it first,” I object and hand it back.
“Too late,” he says, grabs three small oranges and juggles them.Â “I already have what I need.”
I applaud.Â “Bravo, bravo.”
The man tosses each one high into the air and catches them behind his back, ending his performance with a bow. Â “Thank you, thank you.Â I’ll be performing on the street corner for the rest of the week and signing autographs.”Â He bags the oranges and hold out hand.Â “By the way, I’m Jae.Â With an E.”
I’m stunned and delighted he is continuing the conversation.Â I take his hand.Â “I’m Bella.Â With a B.”
Jae shakes my hand, a warm, firm grip.Â “Bellaâ€”short for?”
“A lovely name for a lovely lady,” he says, his handshake lingering.
I’m astonished to be standing in the grocery store, making small talk with a cute stranger after an embarrassing encounter.Â I look like crap but don’t care.Â He’s smiling; I’m laughing.Â Life is good for once.
“And when you’re not juggling on the street and groping people in stores, what do you do?” I ask as we finally disengage.
He fiddles with his watch, a very expensive-looking sports watch.Â “I just opened an adventure tourism company to take people white water rafting, kayaking, hiking, biking, skydivingâ€”you name it.”
“Skydiving?” I exclaim.
Jae shrugs.Â “Yeah, well, it keeps me out of stores and out of trouble for the most part.”
I laugh again, my loud boisterous, hear-me-coming-from-a-mile-away laugh. Â “You are adventurous.”
“And how do you keep out of trouble?” Jae asks.
“Who says I do?” I tease and Jae laughs.Â “Seriously, I’m a stay-at-home mum.”Â The words fly out of my mouth.Â I normally hide the fact I am unemployed, but what do I have to hide from Jae?Â What do I have to lose?Â Nothing, so I might as well enjoy myself while I can.
“Now THAT sounds adventurous,” Jae comments.Â “Motherhood has got to be the most courageous job on the planet.”Â He sounds sincere.