A few days later, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things. It wasn't my usual day or time for shopping, but for some unknown reason I was craving good old-fashioned fried chicken with all the trimmings. Usually, I existed on frozen dinners and entrees. There didn't seem to be much reason to cooking meals for just me. With my new resolve, I decided to cave in to my cravings. I had to start somewhere, I knew.
Just as I was picking over the chickens in the meat case, I heard a familiar little voice screaming at the top of her lungs.
"Daddy, it's the potty lady!" tiny Stacey screamed, running down the aisle, her father following closely behind. He managed to catch her just as she reached me. I squatted down and smiled at her.
"You remembered me," I said, impressed
"Sure do. Lots of candy. Me like candy," she squealed. Then, she stood on tiptoes and peeked into my cart. "Got any candy?"
"Sorry, Stacey," I replied. "No candy today. Just some chicken and potatoes and some broccoli. Nothing very exciting, I'm afraid."
"Oh, I love chickie, Potty Lady," she smiled. "Will you fix me chickie?"
"Honey, the nice lady doesn't want to fix you supper," her father said, pulling her protectively back to him. "I'm sorry, she gets a bit carried away at times."
"Don't concern yourself," I laughed. I looked back at Stacey. "I don't think I ever introduced myself, Stacey. My name is Cathy. Why don't you call me that?"
"Cathy. Cathy. I like that name. Cathy, this is Daddy," Stacey said, gesturing up to her father
"Hi, Daddy," I chuckled, looking up into those deep brown eyes. "How do you do."
"Actually, Daddy is a special name that only Stacey gets to call me. How about you calling me Steve? That's what most grown-ups call me," he returned my laugh. The friendliest little crinkles formed around his eyes and his mouth when he smiled. Stripped of his vampire make-up, Steve was an attractive man about my age. He had blonde curly hair that framed his ruggedly handsome face nicely. He was well over six feet tall and very muscular.
"How do you do, Steve," I said rising. He stood nearly a foot taller than I did. We shook hands. He had a warm, gentle handshake. As I gazed into his eyes, I felt an insistent tug at my hem. I looked down into Stacey's inquisitive eyes.
"So are you going to make me chickie?" she asked.
"Well, I'd say that's up to your father," I said seriously. "I think we need his permission first."
"Daddy, please can Cathy make me some chickie?" she looked up at her father and whined. "Me tired of frozen stuff."
I glanced in their cart, recognizing the same frozen meals I usually bought for myself as well as some of the special ones designed for children. Steve looked at me apologetically. I nodded my agreement to her request.
"Well, we don't want to impose..." he began.
"Really, it's no imposition. But, don't expect too much. I think I'm a bit rusty cooking for more than just myself. I've pretty much been existing on 'frozen stuff,' too."
"It has been a long time since Stacey's had anything that didn't come from a microwave," he admitted. I decided that he, too, was more than a bit tempted by the idea of a home-cooked meal.
"Then, it's a deal," I said, grabbing another chicken from the counter. "And, I'll make enough so that you can take some chickie home with you. How about that, Stacey?"
"S-wonderful," Stacey beamed.
"At least let me pay for this," Steve said, motioning to my cart. "That's absolutely the least I can do."
"No, this is my treat. But, I don't have the time to make a dessert, so how about you guys picking out something for dessert. Would that be fair?"
"More than fair, Cathy. Thanks," Steve smiled again. My heart stirred a bit at his smile. So rarely seen, it seemed like a gift. Stacey took off running back toward the store's bakery.
"C'mon, Daddy. Let's get a big cake," she tossed back over her shoulder.