“Yes, Mrs. Peckbot, I’m sure he’s very nice. But I’m really not interested. Is there anything else you need?”
“Not interested? Don’t give me any of that nonsense Grace. A girl of your age must think of having a family, and you can’t wait too long, you’ll regret it. I’m sure Matt would be delighted to take you out to dinner one night.”
Grace was losing her patience. She’d been hearing old-women’s advice on her love life for the past year and it didn’t look as if they would give up soon. She did as usual, she smiled politely and nodded at the right times even if she was bursting to shout at them.
“Shall I tell him to come over then?” Mrs. Peckbot enquired.
“Who?” asked Grace coming back from her thoughts.
“Well, my nephew of course,” she said rolling her eyes at the other customers who’d been listening and giving their own opinions.
“Oh, no thanks Mrs. Peckbot. I’m fine as I am,” Grace said with the calmest smile she could muster whilst trying to ignore the rest of the stares. “Now, do you need any more apples or kiwis?”
“No, no, that will be all thanks,” she said. She paid for her fruit and vegetable and hurried off in a huff.
As the day went by, she listened to other offers to set her up on a blind date with sons, nephews, neighbour’s great-sons and even the milk-man. “Do I look this desperate to find a man?” she said to her sister over the phone while the shop was empty. “Yes, of course I feel lonely and I would like a man to share the evenings after work with, but one that I chose and certainly not a blind date. I don’t believe in blind dates set up by mothers or grandmothers. It’s the perfect way to put anyone off someone. Going out to dinner with a man who your mother deems suitable or appropriate is enough to kill the sparkle and attraction.”
She looked at her watch once the shop was empty and was relieved to see it was nearly time to close. She heard the bell above the door tinkle as the door opened. There was always someone who had to spoil her plans to close the shop early. However, a customer is a customer, she thought, and turned round with her usual smile.
The smile broadened heartily as she saw a tall man with dark wavy hair stride up to her.
“Hi,” he said with a lopsided grin which just opened enough to show white glimmering teeth. His hazel eyes were slightly turned down at the corners giving him an air of sadness despite the deep laugh lines at the corners.
Grace nodded, unable to answer. What was a man like this doing in a fruit shop? He was too beautiful to be doing ordinary chores. He belonged in a film set or an important business board, but not in a small village shop. She looked away to try to recover her breath and mind.
“I’d like some of those melons, they look firm and delicious,” he said with a husky voice. She looked up at him to follow his gaze, but his eyes weren’t targeting the Cantaloupe melons, they were pinned on her and he slowly lifted them to her face. “They look fresh and juicy.”
“The melons, yes, of course” she said in a mere whisper and started to move towards them. Through the corner of her eye she noticed his hand went to touch the peaches.
“They’ve such silky skin,” he said slowly. “I feel an urge to stroke them when I see them. I think I’ll take some too.” He took a step closer to her and picked up a papaya. “These have such a refreshing flesh and exotic taste. I want some too.”
The rumble of his voice made her blood race to her face and her fingers trembled as she chose a ripe melon and left it on the counter. She moved under his straightforward stare and once again, he slowly raised his gaze inch by inch to lock his eyes with hers. She rustled the paper bag to bring herself back from the intensity of the moment and, as she reached out for the peaches, he came closer.
She turned round to find herself face to face with him and took a small step back as she found the closeness too overwhelming to control her urge. He held her free hand and lifted his other hand to her hair and cupped her face. As she leaned her face in his hand she breathed in his smell and her eyes opened wide in surprise. Her nostrils filled with the smell of fish.