Vera is excited after buying her new bra and top. She tells Sam about her youth, as a beauty pageant participant.
"I don't mean as a beauty queen, I meant as a musician. You said we'd jam."
"Tonight," she promised. "Let's go get our food. We have hungry mouths to feed."
They put her clothing in the van and walked over to the grocery store. Sam was glad that they were in another town from where he'd grown up. He'd been afraid that they would see someone he knew. The last thing he needed right now was one of his old drug buddies to come up to him in the store. Instead, it was Vera who was approached by a Goth girl in black corset and leggings, a Smurf blue skirt covered with rhinestone skulls and matching blue shoes.
"Oh, my God. You're Vera Blue, aren't you?" The Goth girl could hardly contain her enthusiasm. Her voice rose rather more loudly than Sam liked.
"You have me confused with someone else," Vera replied.
"No, I'd totally know you anywhere. You are Vera Blue. Can I have an autograph? I am such a huge fan. I tried to pattern myself after you."
Sam took in details of the girl. She was average height, slender and wore exaggerated makeup, her eyes done with a lot of eyeliner and blue shadow. Her skin was unnaturally pale, her lips a dark, bloody red. She looked like she was high. He should know, he'd seen the look a million times in the mirror.
"If I am, and I'm not saying I am," Vera replied quietly. "I want you to do something for me. I want you to give up whatever shit you're on. Wash that crap off your face, eat a good meal and graduate. Because you don't wanna be me in five years, partying so hard, you wrap your car around a tree and end up bleeding in the emergency room." She held up her hair, showing part of the scalp where the hair wouldn't grow. "Because that's how you get one of these. Windshields aren't supposed to shatter, but mine did. I almost died. So please, for your sake, don't be like me." With tears in her eyes, she pushed past the girl and grabbed a shopping car.
The teenager watched her walk off. "Is that really Vera?" she whispered, her voice shy and small.
"Yeah. Do like she said," Sammy replied. "She's trying hard to put her life back together. Do her a solid, don't let yours fall apart." He walked away.
"Hey," the girl's voice called him back. "Are you like her boyfriend or something?"
Sammy smiled. "No. Just a friend." He gave a half salute and walked off after Vera.
The girl followed him with her eyes, then accessed her phone. She'd snapped a few pictures of the pair as they walked into the grocery store. Setting up a group message, she sent it to all her friends. "Vera Blue spotted in the Shop Right!" Satisfied, she put her phone in her pocket and waited for their arrival.
Sam and Vera made the rounds of the store, following the list to the letter. Molly was picky about impulse buying. If it wasn't on the list, they weren't to get it.
When they got to the frozen food aisle, Vera stopped. The length of the aisle seemed to mock her, elongating and contracting before her. From this end, they had to walk past the beer cooler. Her palms sweated and she licked her lips.
Sam could sense her disquiet. The encounter with the girl had really shaken her. Saying nothing, he put his arms on either side of hers, pushing the cart forward as he walked behind her.
"You can do this, Vera. You're strong. You've beaten this. It has no power over you."
Shivering, she eyed the beer, biting her lower lip the entire length of the display. Sam gently pointed her face straight ahead, talking quietly with his cheek by her ear, blocking her view. Vera continued to shiver, but he felt her stand more erect as they passed the last corner of the display. In front of the frozen pizza, they stopped. Vera cast one last, longing look at the beer, but turned immediately to the freezer case.
"We—uh—need some Tontino's."
"Okay, what kind and how many?" Sam walked to the freezer.
"Two dozen cheese."
"Doesn't anyone like the others?"
"Molly has this thing she does. We get the frozen Tontino's cause they're way cheap, then we do build your own pizza night. We have every kind of topping imaginable and we each get to customize a couple pizzas. Cheaper than ordering out and way better."
©2020 Dellani Oakes