Songs of the Soul
Brooklyn Gannon glanced at her watch as she idly pushed the shopping cart down the grocery store aisle. Only twenty minutes until she was due to pick up Jayden from school. So far, she’d managed to toss a head of lettuce and a loaf of bread into the cart, along with a handful of kiwi. Not exactly the makings of a substantial dinner. She’d better get her act together and get a move on if she planned to feed her son something besides the all-too-normal drive thru junk food. Because Jayden was sure to hit the car claiming starvation and being ready to devour a meal.
She did an about-face and pointed the cart toward frozen foods. Not the best choice, but certainly a step up from the greasy burgers down the road. Jayden loved pepperoni pizza, and if she paired a few slices with a salad, the meal wouldn’t be a total loss, right?
Brooklyn paused at the freezer door. As the chiller hummed, she studied her options through the foggy glass. The varieties seemed endless. Stuffed crust, thin crust, rectangular or round. She sighed and tapped her nails along the door trim. Even the simple task of making a selection overwhelmed. Since losing Joe, she couldn’t seem to pull the thoughts in her head together. The past year had flown by shrouded in mist, leaving her numb. Even the anger and bitterness that had been her best friends during those first few months following his death no longer came to visit. She’d flat-lined emotionally, and she couldn’t seem to find the jolt she needed to get back on track.
She pulled open the freezer case door. A rush of cold air slapped her face. Shivering, she performed a quick Eeeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe with a poke of her finger and then snatched the winning pizza box from the shelf. Relief flooded through. There was only a short window of time between the end of Jayden’s school day and the beginning of his youth group’s praise band practice for the upcoming revival at church.
Pizza, check. Salad, check. Onward, ho!
Brooklyn swung back toward the cart and dropped in the pizza box.
“Is that a done deal?” Asked a person behind her, clearly male. His deep voice resonated southern charm, and rang vaguely familiar. “Because I can say with complete confidence that the one in the red box on the top shelf is better.”
Brooklyn’s shoulders tensed. She didn’t bother to turn. If she kept their conversation short and not so sweet, maybe he’d take the hint and simply move on. “Excuse me?”
“Not trying to make your decision any harder, because you seemed to take a lot of time with that choice. Just pointing out a fact. I’ve tried them all, and the store brand is just as good—better, actually—and on sale this week.” He reached over her shoulder and rapped the glass. “See. Here’s the sticker that says so, plain and clear. Buy one get one free.”
The scent of spearmint and fresh mown grass mixed with a hint of sweat. Brooklyn’s belly tugged at the purely masculine aroma. She swallowed hard as she scooted aside to put a measure of distance between them. “I see. Thanks for the heads-up.”
“No problem. Just doing my civic duty.”
“Well that’s…very noble of you.” So much for the short and not so sweet angle. He had her on the hook, and was reeling her in. “My wallet thanks you.”
“My pleasure.” That voice…smooth as honey with a hint of gravel tossed in for good measure.
Something clicked in her brain, and Brooklyn swung around to face him. Her breath hitched. “Cade?”
“It is you.” He grinned at her. “I thought so. I spotted you back in produce, and I—”
“Wait.” She raised her hand, just as she’d done as a kid in school. “You’ve been watching me?”
“Not exactly. I was choosing apples, and there you were. Then you headed for the pizza and I thought, excellent idea. It looks good. You, too.” He jammed his hands into the pocket of his jeans and shrugged. “Is that a crime?”
“I suppose not.” Yet she felt out of sorts in the wake of his scrutiny. “I’m just a little…shocked to see you here. I never imagined…”
“God works in mysterious ways, right?”
“You can say that again.”
“It’s certainly worth repeating, especially in this situation. I’ve missed you.”
“Wish I could say the same.”
“Ouch. That stings.”
“Sorry, but I’m in a hurry, and you’re just a few years—make that a decade-and-a-half—too late.”
“Double ouch. You wound me, Brooke.” He raked a hand through his hair. “And for someone in a hurry, you sure took your sweet time with the pizza.”
“So now you’re timing me, too?”
“No.” His blue eyes narrowed. “I thought after all this time you might have mellowed a little bit…enough to quit hating me.”