Hello, Internet! Laura Lascarso drops by for this edition of Flash Fiction Friday. She brings us a tale of that awkward moment of running into your ex at the grocery store. You’re buying condoms, and he’s buying diapers. As a special treat, Laura is also giving away a $10 Amazon Giftcard!
Target Confessions by Laura Lascarso
I never expected to run into him in the pharmacy aisle at Target.
He turns slightly and glances my way. I wasn’t sure at first it was him, but the blue eyes confirm it, startling bright against his dark hair and skin. His hair’s grown out since the last time I saw him at his sister’s wedding, and I wonder if it’s for a photo shoot. He’s been modeling men’s underwear—I’ve been keeping up with him on Instagram—and his hair definitely has that tousled, just-got-out-of-bed look.
“Chris,” he says with a wide smile, one that instantly lifts my spirits, as it did when we were kids. “I was just about to call you.”
“Oh yeah?” I’ve only seen him about a dozen times since he moved away from home, but we’ve kept in touch, and despite the distance, I’ll always consider him my best friend. I walk over and pull him into a big hug, noticing the definition in his chest and shoulders. “You been working out?”
He laughs. “Yeah, Vince has me doing cardio and lifting. Not all of us are blessed with abs like yours.”
I’m flattered he remembers my abs so well. “How is Vince?” I force myself to ask. Vince is the one who discovered him at a skate competition here in town, signed him as a pro skater with Plan Z when he was seventeen, then started dating him as soon as he was legal. I’ve never liked Vince—his vibe or his attitude. I especially don’t like the way he treats Theo like a commodity.
“Oh, well… we broke up, but he’s still my manager, so… he’s good.” Theo glances down at the package of condoms in my hand.
“Oh, this,” I bluster, not knowing what to say, still reeling from the knowledge that Theo and Vince broke up. I was planning to go downtown tonight in the hopes of getting lucky, which sounds completely sad and pathetic, but accurate.
“It’s cool,” he says with a laugh. “You should get the family pack, though. Cheaper by the dozen.”
It’s then that I notice what he’s holding in his hand—diapers.
“Who are those for?” I ask, almost hotly. If he’s already hooking up with a new guy—a single dad no less—that means I’ve missed my chance with him, again.
“Jack, Tabitha’s kid,” Theo says with a grin as he tosses the package of diapers into the air, catching it with his other hand deftly. I recall Tabitha’s wedding, how stunning Theo looked in a tuxedo. He’s always had that ability to astonish me, and not just with his looks. He’s even more amazing as a person.
“I was going to call you to see if you want to hang out with me while I babysit tonight,” he continues, “but it seems like you’ve got something more exciting planned already.” His eyebrows waggle lasciviously.
“No, I don’t.” I put the condoms behind my back as if that would make them magically disappear. “Besides, I’d much rather hang out with you.”
“Yeah?” he asks with a lift to his voice.
“Of course, T.” I slap his back. “I’ve missed the hell out of you.”
His smile widens. “Well, I’m on my way over to Tabs’ place now, if you want to follow me there. She’s got a frozen pizza waiting for us.”
“Yeah, um, let me just… put these back.”
“Your boyfriend might be disappointed,” he says slyly.
“I don’t…” I clear my throat, feeling my face heat up. I’m not usually this tongue tied around him. “I’m not seeing anyone.”
“No? Maybe you should hang onto them then.” He winks and my heart speeds up. When did he become such a flirt?
I follow him to the checkout, taking advantage of the opportunity to appraise his ass and the languid way he walks. Theo grabs my box of condoms and places them on the counter next to the diapers. To the cashier he says, “We weren’t careful last time and look what happened.”
The cashier smiles and shakes her head as she rings us up.
“I got it,” Theo says, touching my hand as I reach for my wallet. The chemistry is still there, like heat rising from the pavement. It envelops me in a dizzying haze. The cashier makes small talk, but all I see is Theo. His confidence has blossomed in the years we’ve been apart. He used to be such a shrinking violet, but it seems he’s grown accustomed to the limelight.
“So, I’ll see you in a few minutes?” he says when we’re outside, donning his sunglasses to shield his eyes from the blinding afternoon sun. I wonder if he gets recognized by strangers.
“Yeah,” I say with equal parts nervousness and enthusiasm.
“Awesome.” He points across the parking lot to where there’s a drainage ditch we once rode shopping carts down with some of the neighborhood kids. “Remember that day?”
“Of course I do. There’s a Youtube video of it, one of our many dumb ways to die.”
He chuckles. “It’s so weird being here…with you.” He glances over at me. “Feels just like old times. Huh, Boss?”
The nickname conjures up warm memories of the nights we spent together in my tent in Sebastian—all of our fumbling, awkward firsts. “You know it drives me crazy when you call me that?”
He dips his head so that he can look at me above his lenses. “Yeah, I know.”
He’s about to head for his car when I grab his hand and pull him back toward me. A sudden passion overtakes me, like this might be my last opportunity to get this off my chest before the fates tear us apart again. “Theo, there are some things I’d like to talk to you about.” Like the first time I broke up with him, because I didn’t think we’d survive a long-distance relationship. And the time he came out to visit me in California and instead of making room for him in my new life, I sent him packing with Vince. It took seven years of sporadic encounters and endless pining to discover something I knew back when we were seventeen. “I don’t know your plans or even where you’ll be tomorrow, but I’ve thought about you a lot over the years. I should have never let you go…” He even warned me, told me it’d be hard for him to maintain our friendship after being so close, and I abandoned him just like his father did. “I never meant to hurt you—”
“Chris.” He lays his hand on my shoulder and rubs it soothingly. “We were kids, and we were being pulled in different directions. Your life was in California and mine was on the road. Don’t stress, because we’re here now, finally in the same area code. I’ve got a few days with nothing to do and you…”
I finish the thought for him, “I’ve got nothing to do either.” Whatever’s on my schedule, it’s cancelled as of this moment.
“And you’ve got a box of condoms.”
I chuckle and blush and have to look away while a slow burn ignites deep inside me.
He always did know how to make me laugh.
Bio: Laura Lascarso lives in North Florida with her darling husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. Her latest novel, THE BRAVEST THING (Dreamspinner Press April 2017), tells the story of a tumultuous, burgeoning relationship between two teenage boys in rural Texas.
Laura aims to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of stories to heal and transform a society. For social critiques, writer puns, and Parks and Rec gifs, follow her on Twitter @lauralascarso