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At the grocery store the lines were full of women and children. She smiled at the hubbub as she let another woman take the cart they both had reached for at the same time. The woman’s little girl looked up at her with arms wrapped around a furry stuffed animal.

“Thank you,” the little girl said clutching tighter to her toy.

Without warning she found herself  doubled over with one hand gripping her stomach. The other clutching the handle bar of the shopping cart, a rush of wind taken out of her lungs. Then just as suddenly she blinked and she was in the sun and blocking the row of carts. The elderly woman standing behind her reached out a dark speckled hand on the top of her arm.

“Honey, are you okay?” the woman asked.

Still woozy with the spell, she tried to focus on the red polish across the woman’s nails and tried to say she was okay with a shake of the head.

“Is it the monthly pains?”

“I don’t think so,” she politely answered.

“You know those used to throw me for a loop when I was younger,” the woman said with a peering gaze. “They used to separate women long, long ago. Made them sit in huts so that the stick wouldn’t attract predators.” The old woman’s eyes bulged and stared. And a smile began to creep up.

“Thank you,” she replied and she moved away with her cart.

Throughout the store, she felt as if the woman followed her. Their carts colliding at the end of the frozen food aisle and their elbows bumped as they each reached for a loaf of bread. She became irritated. And her cart wheels wobbled with the frantic press forward as she careened into the checkout section. But then behind her again was the elderly woman, smiling patiently. She turned forward, refusing to speak with her again. She paid. Her hand shaking. Then she rushed out with her cart to the parking lot and threw bags into the trunk. For a second she thought to roll it back but then she saw the old woman exiting the store and she abandoned the cart, without regret.

Back home, as she began to prepare dinner, her heart sank. The corn she gotten was pock marked with mold. The mold grew like a game of five across. Throughout the ear of corn two or three golden kernels were interrupted by a black spot. So much for her dinner plans, she mused, dropping each ear into the trash.

Once done she looked around the kitchen for possible dinner ideas. And then the pain came again, shocking through her lower spine and humming unbearably between her legs. She hunched over the counter, panting and imagined the gentle touch of the old woman’s hand on hers and the bulging, knowing look watching her sweat through it.

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