“That’ll be 53.75.” The cashier said to the old lady.
I sighed impatiently and tried not to tap my foot as the old woman rummaged through her bag and pulled out a handful of coupons.
“Here, sort through these, there should be something in there to bring that price down.” The old lady said as she thrust the coupons at the cashier.
I tamped down the urge to roll my eyes. I really did not have time for this.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see a friendly looking blonde. “Hey. I’m sorry. I spotted you when I walked in and there’s something familiar about you. Do I know you from somewhere?”
My mouth suddenly went dry. I had naively thought that everyone would have forgotten about me. “No, I don’t think so. Sorry. I just have one of those faces.” I said as neutrally as possible. I shrugged and turned around.
But now the old lady was peering at me, having overheard our conversation. I suddenly felt claustrophobic and my legs shook with the urge to run. I silently implored the cashier to hurry up.
“You do look kind of familiar.” The old lady said. Her finger now on her chin as she studied my face.
“She does, doesn’t she? Are you famous?” The blonde asked. She sounded more excited now that someone else had backed her up about my familiar face. “Where you in a movie or something? Oh gosh, this is exciting, the only celebrity I’ve ever met was Fabio and he didn’t even stop to take pictures with fans.”
“She looks like that lady from that romantic movie that just came out. My granddaughter made me watch the preview. I don’t mean to be rude but your acting really isn’t great. Your generation really doesn’t understand the finer points of acting.” The old woman said to me in a sage tone as though she was imparting words of wisdom.
Now a little crowd of about six people had gathered, all blatantly staring at me. The only one who didn’t seem to give a shit was the cashier, a sullen looking teenager.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you all but I’m not famous.” I said. I attempted a breezy laugh but it came out sounding like hoarse.
“Your total is $34.23, ma’am.” The cashier said. Finally done sorting through the coupons.
The old lady turned her attention back to the register, “Are you sure? I had a lot of coupons. I feel the total should be lower than that.”
“I used all the valid ones ma’am. Some of them had expired.” The cashier responded patiently.
The old lady muttered something under her breath as she pulled out her credit card.
I heaved a sigh of relief as she paid and it was finally my turn. I was literally itching to get out of there.
“Good morning, miss. Do you have a loyalty card.” The cashier asked as she rung up my item. A pack of TUMS for my heartburn.
“No, I don’t.”
“Okay. That’ll be $3.50.”
I pulled out a $5 bill and handed it to her. Just as I was putting the change she gave me into my purse, I heard a gasp.
“I know you!” The cashier said, her eyes wide as she finally got a good look at my face. The polite look of indifference on her face was gone, replaced by wide-eyed excitement.
“You’re Noelle Keller, the girl who was accused of killing her ex! We are talking about your case in my Intro to Law freshman class. Oh my God! Can I get a picture? Do you think you could come into my class to talk about your experience? My professor would definitely give me extra credit for bringing you in.”
“Oh Gosh! I remember that case! I knew I recognized you from somewhere. By the way, I always thought you were innocent!” The blonde behind me shrieked. “You don’t look the type to kill. It’s in the eyes you know. You don’t have killer eyes. My landlord, she has killer eyes. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she has dead babies in her fridge.”
I laughed nervously, “I really don’t know what you are talking about. I’m in a rush and I have to leave. Bye.” I practically sprinted out of there. My breathing didn’t return to normal until I was safely in my rental car, driving away from the grocery store.
I should have known better than to think, people would have forgotten about me. I escaped this small Massachusetts town to Australia five years ago to get away from the whispers and the gossip. I had only been back in town for an hour for it to start up again.
At a stop light. I unsealed the Tums I just bought and popped three into my mouth. I should have worn a wig, I thought solemnly as I waited for the light to turn green.
Before I left for Australia I had drastically changed my looks because the stares and finger-pointing had gotten to hard to endure. I died my hair light blond cut it into a bob and started wearing green contacts. I hated being recognized. People liked to stop me wherever I went, to chat about the trial. How was jail? Do you hate Cara for not coming out with the truth sooner? I knew you were innocent. Why did you got to his house that night? Do you still speak to your ex fiance?
I couldn’t take it anymore. I packed my bags and headed to Australia where no one knew me. I legally changed my name to Nelly and one day a cute guy who came in every morning for coffee at the cafe I worked at, finally got the courage to ask me out. I fell in love with Hugo so fast but I was terrified that he’ll leave me the way Fehi left but no matter how hard I pushed him away, Hugo stayed and I knew that his love for me was solid. I finally agreed to marry him the fourth time he proposed.
My Aussie life was simple and boring and I absolutely loved it. No one knew me there. I didn’t have to try to hide. I didn’t wear colored contacts. I dyed my hair back to brown and let it grow out. I felt like a newer version of myself. I wasn’t Noelle Keller anymore, I was Mrs. Nelly Pearson.
I never intended to come back to the US, until I got a phone call from my dad. My mum had stage four cancer and had been given only a few months to live. My mum stood by me throughout the trial and I’ll never forgive myself if I didn’t spend time with her before she passed away.
I don’t know how long I sat in my car, gathering the courage to walk into the hospital. The thought of seeing my mother, frail and helpless made my stomach churn. She was a good woman and she didn’t deserve this. I’d been face timing here and it made me sick to see my mother get weaker each day. Her hair had fallen out and her face was gaunt. Seeing her look so sick through a screen was horrible, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to see her in person.
I probably spent about thirty minutes crying in my car. I needed to get rid of all the tears because I had to be strong for my mum when I saw her.
I eventually got out of the car, my heart pounding with each step I took. After asking for directions, I took the elevator to the fourth floor. As I stepped out I was hit with such force, my purse slipped out of my hands as I tried to steady myself.
I looked down and saw the little tornado that nearly knocked me over. It was a cute little girl with green eyes and dark hair.
“Well hello there.” I said as I bent down to pick up the items that spilled out of my bag.
A male voice walking towards me said sternly, “Ry, what have I told you about running in the halls. Say sorry to the nice lady.”
“Sorry.” The little girl said shyly and ran over to the man.
“No running!” he said but his voice sounded amused. He came to stand near me, his shiny expensive looking leather shoes coming into my vision. “I’m sorry. She likes to sprint everywhere. I would help you pick your stuff but it’s kind of hard to bend over with this coconut strapped to me.”
“That’s okay,” I said as I stuffed my belongings back into my purse. I stood up and nearly got knocked back to my knees when I realized the expensive leather shoes were attached to Sawyer.
His eyes widened in shock as he stared right back at me. We said nothing for a few seconds, just stood there looking at each other. I broke our staring contest when I heard a gurgling sound came from his chest. I looked down to see the coconut he was talking about. Strapped to his chest was bald brown-eyed baby boy.
I heard the click clacking sound of heels on tiles coming towards us.
“Sawyer! Great you’re still here! I thought you would have left. You forgot Cooper’s diaper bag.”
He turned around and his height and broad shoulders blocked my view of her.
That voice was unmistakable. She walked up to him and placed the strap of a diaper bag over his shoulder. “Are you going to be a good boy for daddy?” She cooed at the baby strapped to Sawyer’s chest, who I assumed was Cooper. The baby giggled. The little girl obviously wanting her mother’s attention spoke up, “Mama, I’m going to be a good girl for daddy too.”
Jackie laughed. “I know you are.” She said bending down and placing a kiss on the little girls head.
I refused to acknowledge the burn in my chest as what it was. I wasn’t jealous. Really I wasn’t. It was just my heartburn acting up again. Yes. That’s all it was.
I cleared my throat, seeing as it was clear Sawyer hadn’t found the words to say yet. The noise I made seemed to pull Sawyer out of his trance. “Babe, see who I just ran into.”
He stepped aside and for the first time in five years I came face to face with Jackie.
I decided to break it into two posts. Next post will be up sometime net week. Aiming for Wednesday.