Rock Bottom

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Rock Bottom Page 5

by Josephine Traynor

  My head dips to stop my jaw from hitting my chest. “Pinterest? You’ve never seen it before?” I want to ask if he’s been on another planet? I can’t help but snicker when he doesn’t lift his gaze to answer. “It’s just an app that you put all the things you like to do on, it’s an electronic scrapbook. You’ve not seen it?”

  Finally, his eyes pull away from the screen to stare right into mine and from that second, I’m lost. Swimming without a life jacket in a sea of Reece Ashton, he’s gorgeous. The shake of the head says it all. “I haven’t had much use for the Internet. I come from a place where most things are done for me.” His expression is one of defeat. I don’t dare state the obvious or ask anything further. As much as I avoid mainstream media, I can see why he’s sought after. He’s the definition of delicious. Even for someone like me who has an allergy to celebrities, I can see his appeal. That little voice of reason is screaming at me to refocus. That voice that says he’s just a person – no different to you or I.

  “So it’s like a cookbook but on your phone?” he asks.

  “Yeah, the Internet can be used for more than just porn,” I can’t help but laugh this time and I replace the pea tins back on the shelf. I look at him again and rest my hand on my hip. “So, you see anything you like?” I realise when the question flies out of my mouth that I should have directed the question to my phone when his gaze drops to my chest. I bring my arms up and fold them in front of me before I narrow my gaze at him. He obviously thinks that giving me a smile is going to make me automatically drop to my knees. My own stupid fault for asking the question, it’s his reaction that makes me uneasy. His response confuses me as to why he’s looking at my chest when some of the reports have been due to his lover leaving him. Either way, anyone leering at my chest is something I’m not comfortable with, and he’s relegated himself to jerk level.

  I know enough jerks to last me a lifetime.

  Chapter Six


  Huh? Well, that’s never happened. Normally all it takes is a big smile to get the girls practically begging me to touch them. This one is playing hard to get. We were having a nice moment until I looked back up from her chest to see her scowl. Before I could do damage control, she turned on her heel and abruptly asked me who I’m cooking for. The moment I was working on, is lost.

  “Yourself? A party? I have to lock up soon, so you’ll have to start making some choices.”

  Her tone is cold, abrupt and clear. Damn. Gonna have to work the ol’ Ashton charm. I watch her denim-clad arse walk to the end of the aisle where she turns and waits for me. She holds out her hand in wait for me to give back her phone, but with picture after picture of tasty food in front of me instead of her arse, I hold onto it for a little longer. My mouth is watering just looking at it. The food that is. I glance up at the girl and shake my head. Pretty eyes I think to myself. Actually, she’s gorgeous in a natural way. Her dark hair pulled into a high ponytail strikes a contrast to her fair skin. A smattering of light freckles on her cheeks and nose and a slightly crooked front tooth makes her imperfectly perfect. She stands about chest height to me and for the first time all day, I’m thinking more with my other head. Normally I go for the triple B. Blonde, big boobs, and booty, but when times are picky, sometimes all I need is a hole. In fact, she’s the polar opposite to what I usually go for. Everything else looks in proportion and would certainly help me scratch my itch. I take one last sweep of her when my gaze stops at her shoes. They’ve seen a lot of miles, and by the looks of them, they are barely doing their job. She’s plain and looks a bit rough around the edges. No effort has been put into any makeup, and it looks like the brush barely passed through her hair, but she manages to pull it off.

  My stomach grumbles and brings me back to the here and now. The wheels on the trolley squeak as I manoeuvre it so it’s just behind her and I step in closer. The hitch in her breath doesn’t go unnoticed as she takes a step and backs into the trolley. I purposely lean in close to her and reach past her. My arm brushes against her body causing her to jump back a little while I take a bottle of olives off the shelf.

  I go to for the slam dunk and move closer to her ear. “Just need to make sure that I have some of these.” I’m pulling out the charm that hardly ever gets used. I normally never have to work this hard for attention of the sexual kind. I guess I’m in all sorts of foreign territory, but I’m pretty confident this will seal the deal.

  As much as I think she’s into it, she’s stiff, and within seconds, she’s pushed the trolley out of the way with a huff to gain some space. Well, that’s new. I need to up the ante on my approach.

  “Can I have my phone? Have you seen any recipes you like? Are you cooking for yourself or for others?”

  For a second, I feel like I’m being interviewed, she’s firing questions like a machine gun. Her abruptness helps clear my head and reminds me of what I’m here for. “Um, just myself. I’m in town for …” I shrug my shoulders and look back to the phone before handing it to her. “For I don’t know how long and the sandwiches that are my cooking level have run their course.”

  That cracks a smile on her face. “Ah, the life of a bachelor. Well, if you are looking to stay for a while you will need staples.” She sets off past me, pulling my trolley with her. I watch her as she moves a few things around to see what I’ve already started with. “Well, let’s get you some staples then. Rice, milk, butter. All good. But let’s start at aisle one, eh.”

  And then she’s gone. Trolley and all. Fuck. She’s going to set me up with stuff I have no idea how to cook.

  I get to the end of the aisle, and she’s already loading stuff in. “So what kind of cooking gear have you got? Thermi? Just pots and pans? Cooking abilities?”

  Thermi? Pots and pans? Abilities? What language is this chick speaking? “Um, beginner I guess.”

  She’s already further down the aisle when she turns abruptly to face me. “You have pots? Pans? All the bits and pieces to cook with yeah?”

  “Yeah, I think I have that.” I lessen the space between us and line up next to her.

  “Great. You don’t look like you eat too badly.”

  I tilt my head to the side and smirk as I enjoy seeing her cheeks go rosy. “What does that mean?”

  She takes a breath and brazenly checks me out. “Just that you look like you are in really good shape. So … you’re new in town?”

  Small talk. Hate it, but she’s helping me, so I divulge. “Yeah.” I look at the shelf behind me to avoid her eyes.

  “Okay then. So, any food allergies? Things you don’t like to eat?”

  I watch her loading things into the trolley. “No. Most things. I don’t like mushrooms. The texture grosses me out.” I can’t help the small shudder that runs down my body, causing my mind to wander to last night. “And I’m off bananas as of last night.”

  Nodding, she taps her finger to her lip. “Okay. Well, this shop is fine for your basics. If you want the fancy stuff, you’ll have to head into Dareton. They have the mega-store there. Let’s keep going.”

  I let her take the lead. At this point in time, I think I would sit down to just about anything. “Do you have a sweet tooth? Some candy bars for the road?” My eyes snap to hers at her throwaway comment. I can see she doesn’t mean anything by it, but it still stings. “No road for me. That’s why I’m here.”

  She gives me a simple hmm as she runs her hand over the boxes of chocolates on the shelf. “Pick your pleasure.” Now when it comes to chocolate, I’m not picky. The sugarier, the better. I grab handfuls of different ones 'til is see a Curly Wurly. Hard caramel in the centre covered in milk chocolate. “Holy shit, do they still make these? I thought you had different stuff to us … I mean. Where I grew up. Might be a different name over here in the UK.” My hands land on a white packet with bright purple writing and I can’t believe they are still being made. “These were my favourite as a kid.” Normally, I’m a personal space guy, I like mine, and I like you to stay out of mine
, but she comes up next to me and looks at the bar in my hands.

  She’s nodding and breaks into a smile. It’s only now that I notice the dimple on her right cheek. “Oh yeah, good choice. My favourites used to be Choo Choo bars. They were …”

  “Liquorice. Chewy toffee flavoured licorice. So good.” I finish for her, but I don’t miss where her hand is reaching. “No fucking way! Tell me you have Cobbers and I will take you out to dinner.” I stop for a second and give my head a little shake when I deduce that what I’m saying isn’t registering. “We called them Cobbers where I grew up. My friends in the southern state to me called them Mates. I’m not really sure what they are called here. Little cubes of chewy caramel covered in chocolate.” I look back to the display, and I see a bag of another favourite of mine. “Freckles!”

  She can’t help but laugh. “We call those Jazzies. My boss is a certified glucose crack head. He stocks all the oldies but goodies.” I grab a bag of Freckles off the shelf and open the bag.

  “Hope you’re going to pay for that,” she laughs.

  “Funny, that’s what the old man asked me the other day when I walked in,” I say quickly offering her the bag while willing her to hurry so I can tuck into them myself. The chocolate sparks off my tongue while the roughness of the hundreds and thousands hits the roof of my mouth. “Oh my God. How good are they?”

  “They are good.”

  I pop another two in my mouth and let the flavour coat my whole mouth. I offer the bag again, and I’m confused by her original refusal. Inching the bag in her direction, her original resolve cracks and she ends up taking another three. “Can I have a minute with the lollies. I want to make sure I pick the right ones.”

  “There’s a right and wrong?” she asks in all seriousness.

  “Hell yes there’s a right and a wrong. There’s even some chocolate that gets it way wrong. What’s your favourite?”

  “I like a good old plain milk chocolate. Nothing fancy added. It holds its own. No bells, no whistles, no bits to try and enhance or hide. Just, what you see is what you get.”

  “Kinda like you?” The words were out of my mouth before my brain had even registered them. She looks herself up and down before nodding and giving a little shrug.

  “I guess. I’ll leave you to have a minute.”

  She takes over managing the trolley as I load my arms with a bag of just about everything on display, but not without watching her arse walk away from me.

  I don’t care that I’ve put over a hundred pounds’ worth of sugar alone in the trolley, I was grabbing them by the handful and tossing them in. This shit has taken me back to my childhood. Back when it was safe and I didn’t have to worry about people stabbing me in the back. Back when it was good. Back when I wasn’t alone. We continue on to the end of the aisle, but as she turns the corner, I can’t help but be drawn to the magazines on a display rack. Even the motoring magazine has my fucking mug on it thanks to my collection of vintage cars being seized. In some form or another, the covers were all begging the question ‘where’s Reece?’.

  I give the display rack a spin and walk away. “So what else have you put in here? Do you have stationery supplies? Need a notepad and some pens or pencils.” I step up to take the reins of the trolley.

  “We have some notepads, I’ll get you there in a minute, you’ve got to have all your staples,” she says pointing at the almost full trolley. “What about cleaning stuff? Might I suggest some deodorant?” She waves a can in my direction.

  Her grin doesn’t go unnoticed. I stop the trolley and can’t help but lower my head to the left and sniff. Good God. Scotch smells like it’s seeping out my pores. “I swear I showered, I just … had a rough night last night.”

  “You don’t smoke do you? Those fumes are pretty brutal.”

  I can’t help to laugh despite my liking the honesty. “Do you not have a filter?”

  “What? To be honest, I thought you were homeless,” she said with a laugh while she heads to the front counter with my trolley. Little did she realise how on the mark she was. I snatch a can off the shelf and give it a shake. Two sprays later, the trolley and I are moving again.

  Chapter Seven


  As the chocolate melts on my tongue, I run the conversations and interactions Reece and I have had. Despite his early glimmers of tosserism, he doesn’t seem too bad of a guy. The sparkle of celebrity fades pretty quickly in my eyes and I see the slightly disheveled and dare I say it, the shy man before me. The sound of the trolley’s squeaking wheels fills the air as I rock it back and forth while he stands agog in front of the sweet aisle. They are human after all. Celebrities that is. It’s unfair to say that celebrities are one-sided. Of all the publicly known people that I’ve met, they usually have two sides. One that is true and the other that’s for show. I think I’m getting the showy one at the moment. He’s hasn’t come right out and said who he was, nor has he said anything about who I am either. Maybe I have spent enough time off the radar that I’m not even worth bothering about anymore. Here’s hoping. When he leaned in and across me to get the olives, I nearly gagged on his body odour. Lucky there’s no naked flames around or we’d both go up in smoke. I’m known for being too honest. If you’ve got stuff stuck in your teeth, I’m going to tell you. I try and think of the nicest way possible to suggest the deodorant. Thankfully he takes my cue and the can without complaint or offense.

  “What else do you think you need?” I ask as he dumps an arm full of sweets and chocolate in the trolley. “Maybe a toothbrush so you keep your teeth?”

  I can’t fight my own smile that forms looking at his, and he gives a throaty laugh. It’s not a fake laugh, and it’s refreshing to hear. Of all the things I was going to do tonight, shopping with the most wanted man on the planet was not one of them. He thinks I didn’t see him looking at the magazines. The second he caught me looking, his whole demeanour changed. In two seconds he went from casual talking about chocolate to pissed off and then almost defeated. That was pretty much all the confirmation I needed. He’s broken-hearted from his terrible breakup. Slumped shoulders, head down, sad, tired eyes. His body language screams volumes, and it shows he’s in pain. I can’t help but feel sorry for him. He must really want his peace and quiet if he’s come here. We are so small that we don’t even rate on Google Maps. Portmouthe consists of roughly eight blocks of housing, a pub and a small selection of shops that are all owned by my boss, Mr. Clementine. Most of the people that live here are relatives of his so he charges them double. The bonus is if Reece keeps his head down, he won’t be recognised here. Everyone loves the privacy of being in this small place, and they want to keep it that way. If anything, they might hunt him out of here if he’s going to disturb their off the radar lifestyle. I think about his first reaction at the store and how he treated me with trepidation. I don’t envy his life. I don’t want to imagine it. Always being cautious of people because they are after something from him as opposed to just … him. I know I’ve had to make some choices with my life, but seeing him, his reaction and his inability to cope with the real world, reaffirms that I made the right choice. My feet are starting to hurt, and my stomach gives a loud groan.

  “Was that your stomach? Mine sounded like that the other day,” he laughs as he comes to stand next to me. His warm hands gently touch on mine, and I let go of the handle. Before I thought his eyes were just green, but now that he’s in my space again, they are brilliantly clear. That short beard he’s got going on is doing wonders with my ovaries. I pull my gaze away and look down at my phone to check the time. “I’m not keeping you am I?” he asks as I put my phone back in my pocket.

  I give a quick shake of my head while I swallow my mouthful of apple, smile and look into his trolley. “What else did you need to get?” Luckily I haven’t rung up the till yet and had reached over and pinched one of his apples. “I’ll swing past and get you another one when we do one more lap.” I bring the apple to my mouth again and take another
bite. The juice pools off my bottom lip, and I’m scrambling to stop it from running down my chin. I take a couple of quick steps while I run the back of my hand over my chin, and I could have sworn I heard him say ‘lucky apple’, but when I glanced over my shoulder, he was looking at products on the shelves. I tell myself that I must have misheard him before I turn and grab another apple to replace the one I took, and I make my way back to his trolley.

  “So are there any dishes you think you might like to try? Anything from your childhood you are hankering for?”

  A quick list of the food I used to love and still do runs through my head, and I only wish I had the time and the money to afford the ingredients to make some of them. The trolley load he’s getting tonight is equivalent to what I can afford in a month. A pang of jealousy runs through me as I stare at his trolley. I could make the amount of food he has last me for a month. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gone to bed hungry so I can save a meal for breakfast. I find myself looking at all the chocolates and treats with longing. There was a time where money was no object. When my darling father would buy me whatever my heart or whims desired, but then I quickly learned that all those goodies came at a cost. They were bribes. I’ll never forget the day when I saw my father for what he really was. A megalomaniac. He was focused on his own ego that he didn’t have time for anyone else’s so he would pay us off to be quiet. I didn’t want gifts, I wanted my dad. So when I stopped buying things, he fell off the radar. We still speak, but usually only when he wants something. I refuse, I mean, flat out refuse to ask him to assist me in any way shape or form as he would hold it over me. I’ve seen him do it to my brother, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him hold it over me for the sake of some food or a pair of shoes. “I said, mac and cheese.” I blink and register what he’s saying. He’s obviously been talking, and I’d zoned out. “My mother’s mac and cheese was the bomb. I can’t eat too much of that these days,” he says as he grabs his shirt and pulls it up to expose his six pack. I can’t help by stare and appreciate the fine looking specimen before me. It’s like I’ve gone into another trance when I hear him speak again. “See something you like?”


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