It was pathetic, she thought. Some women ate for comfort, others shopped. She, of course, had to combine the two. It was something she’d noticed about herself; anytime she was depressed, confused, insert-troubling-emotion-here, she found herself at the grocery store, spending money on things she really didn’t need. She’d be cooking and baking for a month, non-stop, with all the things in her cart, and she wouldn’t eat half of it.
She felt it was safe to say that the teacher’s lounge would have no shortage of homemade treats for awhile.
She whirled toward the familiar voice, irrational fear springing up in her abdomen. The only time she’d ever been around Trunny was when she was with Wace, and for a split second, she’d been terrified that he’d have her ex-lover in tow. Her heart clenched as that particular phrase -- ex-lover -- slithered through her mind, and she felt a little sick.
“Hey, Trunny,” she managed to say through a tight throat, forcing a smile. “How are ya?”
“I’m okay,” he said cautiously as he approached her, his eyes scanning her face with something like concern. “How are you?”
“I’m... not so good,” she admitted tiredly. “Haven’t been sleepin’ well lately.”
“Uh-huh,” he muttered noncommittally. “Been beatin’ yourself up too?”
“Huh?” she asked, honestly not understanding.
He reached out and lightly touched the awful bruise underneath her eye and she flinched automatically, the skin -- and the memory -- still deeply raw and tender.
“Oh, that. I, uh, left one o’ the cupboards open in the kitchen, walked right into it.”
“Was he drunk?” Trunny asked quietly, too soft to be overheard by the other shoppers, and she trembled involuntarily, her eyes skittering away from his to land awkwardly by the bags of brown sugar on the metal shelf.
“I - he - Trun...” she whispered, her voice sounding choked even to her own ears.
She shook her head, willing the tears away. There was a place in her that throbbed with hurt and anger, and she reached for the emotion. She was sick and tired of crying, and she wouldn’t shed one more tear over that man if she could help it. She didn’t know why she’d been too stupid, too blind, to accept the truth before now. She’d known it for a long time, had seen the signs, she just hadn’t wanted to believe. And there had been so many excuses, so many reasons why it wasn’t her.
It was his father. It was Barky. It was stress. It was exhaustion. It was alcohol. But never, ever her. She knew better now.
Trunny frowned fiercely, tilting her chin up to meet his eyes, but she moved her face away from his hand, unwilling to meet his gaze. He was angry; she read it all over his expression, and knew he was angry at Wace. Well, so was she, but something in her still hated being the reason that Wace’s friends were angry at him.
No, she thought firmly at herself. That, at least, isn’t your fault.
“‘E’s a fuckin’ bastard,” Trunny whispered, and Jen shook her head despite herself.
“Trun, no,” she protested weakly, and hated herself for it.
Damn it, girl, get over it. Stop bein’ in love with him.
Her heart twisted with fear at the thought that she wasn’t sure that was actually possible.
“‘E is,” Trunny insisted, nodding with conviction.
She shrugged half-heartedly, not really wanting to continue the conversation in the direction it was going. It was getting her all worked up, and she could feel her stomach cramping with the stress of the emotions she’d been wallowing in. “Yeah, well…”
Sensing her need to not continue the conversation, Trunny cleared his throat and nodded toward her cart. “Looks like you’re gettin’ ready to do some bakin’.”
“Yeah,” she smiled, grateful for the return to neutral ground. “I like to... cook, and bake... it’s, um, compulsive.”
Trunny chuckled, then waggled his eyebrows at her. “Well, should ya find you’ve got any extra, say, cookies lyin’ around... you jus’ let me know, an’ I’ll dispose of ‘em for ya.”
“Will you now?” she laughed. “All right, then. I’ll keep that in mind. White chocolate?”
He clasped a hand over his chest in mock distress, letting his head loll back dramatically. “Ye gods!” he exclaimed. “The lassie’s stolen me ‘eart!”
Giggling despite herself, she shook her head at him. “All right, all right,” she chuckled, casting a glance around the store to see if anyone else had been watching his display of theatrics. “I’ll, uh... well,” she halted, uncertainty suddenly returning with a vengeance.
She’d started to say she’d bring over the cookies, but Wace lived with Coppa and Trunny now, and she didn’t want to run the risk of seeing him. Then she was going to say she’d call, but Wace might be the one to answer the phone, and she knew she couldn’t handle that. Wouldn’t be able to hear his voice without simply unraveling.
Trunny lowered his face, studying her with seriousness, seeming to read what was going on in her head. Of course, it was probably written all over her expression, she reflected bitterly.
“’S’okay,” Trunny said quietly. “I understand.”
She shrugged, looking away from him as a memory assaulted her: standing in the parking lot of the hospital, wrapped in Wace’s arms, telling him those very words -- I understand -- and the tender way he’d kissed her head, the softness in his voice when he’d whispered thank you.
Pain raged through her and she shook her head, deliberately shattering the image against a hard mental wall. “Yeah,” she frowned. “Well. Come over anytime, Trun. I’m sure I’ll have somethin’ you can snack on.”
Trunny nodded, then chucked her gently underneath her chin. “Hang in there, kiddo,” he said quietly. “We’re all gonna make it through this, one way or another.”
She blinked rapidly, looking up to meet his eyes with a watery smile. “Thanks,” she said sincerely, and he gave her a chin-up gesture as he walked backwards away from her.
“Anytime,” he called as he turned and left the store, and she rested both her hands on the grocery cart, leaning against it heavily. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and held it for a moment, letting it out in a slow exhale. Time to get back to the rest of her life... what was left of it, anyhow.
Shaking her head, she pushed the heavy cart down the aisle, scooping up a bag of white chocolate chips and tossing them into the cart as she went.
She hoped Trunny was right -- for her, right then, it seemed as if time was stuck in an endless morass of confusion and heartache. ‘Getting through this’ was a foreign concept, but she hung on to it with all her strength. Eventually, it had to get better, right? One way or another.
- Razor's Edge - 28