Jessica Franklin, a 38-year-old brunette, whose youthful beauty had somewhat faded, walked into Harvest Foods one evening in late Fall. As was her custom, she got a basket, and headed toward the produce section. After getting the fruit that she needed, she strolled the aisles, procuring the various items on her shopping list.
When she reached aisle 12, she saw someone from her past—someone whom she had not expected to see. It was Rick, her high-school sweetheart. She had broken up with him near the end of their senior year, just before graduation. At the time he was crushed. She was rather cold and callous about it, saying all manner of cruel things to him. She immediately began dating his best friend after the break-up. Rick had been so wounded that he didn’t even bother showing up to the graduation ceremony because he couldn’t bear to see the two of them together. Jessica then left for college and never saw Rick again, until now—20 years later.
“Rick! Hey, how are you?” Jessica called out as she approached her former beau.
He looked at her puzzlingly and replied, “Do I know you?”
“It’s me, Jessica. Now, I haven’t changed that much. Listen, I, uh, I just want to apologize for how things ended. You’re probably upset with me,” she stammered.
The man interrupted her, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You must have the wrong person,” he protested.
“From high school! We dated each other. Remember?! We were sweethearts,” Jessica pleaded rather desperately.
“Look, lady. I don’t know who you are. I didn’t date any Jessica. I’ve got to go,” said the man abruptly.
“Rick, wait!” Jessica yelled as the man walked away. She felt humiliated and rejected. She couldn’t understand why he had acted like he didn’t remember her.
The cold shoulder Rick had just given Jessica reminded her of another time that he was upset with her. Back in high-school, she used to steal beauty products from the local grocery store—things like make-up, shampoo, and hair spray. She would stick them in her purse. Rick was with her one of those times, and he got extremely upset. He had made a scene, and she was afraid that she was going to get caught. She had never seen him so irate.
Her mind also flashed back to her pregnancy in high-school. It was Rick’s child. He wanted to have the baby, but Jessica got cold feet, and went to the clinic to have an abortion. Rick was devastated when he found out.
Jessica tried to get those horrible memories out of her head, and she continued her shopping. She looked down at her list and saw that she still needed to get some shampoo. The personal hygiene and beauty products were on the next aisle over. As she rounded the corner to the beauty aisle, she immediately noticed something strange. They were out of all the products that she had on her list. No shampoo. No make-up. No hair spray. They had everything else like toothpaste and deodorant. But there were empty spots on the shelves where the things that she needed usually were.
“Very strange,” she thought to herself. Jessica saw an employee stocking the razors, so she went over to him. “Are you all out of shampoo? And hair-spray?” she asked the stocker.
The man replied, “Yes, it’s rather strange. Earlier this afternoon we had a woman come in. She took all those items off the shelf and threw them in her basket and raced out the door without paying for any of it. She got away before we could catch her. We get another shipment in a couple of days. You might check back then.”
This was quickly becoming a frustrating excursion to the supermarket for Jessica. She just had a few more items on her list and then she was ready to go home. She headed toward the frozen and refrigerated sections. She needed some frozen dinners, milk and eggs.
Once she got the remaining items on her list, she headed to the checkout lanes. She found one without a long line. The conveyor belt in front of her opened up as the lady ahead of her prepared to pay. Jessica began to unload the items in her cart onto the belt. She hoped nothing else would happen out of the ordinary, but she had an uneasy feeling.
Once the cashier had rang it all up, she paid for her groceries. The sacker loaded them back into the basket. Then she headed toward the door to escape the weird place.
Just before she was about to exit the sliding doors to go outside, a toddler walked up to her and grabbed her hand and said, “Mommy, why don’t you want me?”
It startled her deeply. “Little guy, I’m sorry, but I’m not your mommy.” But the child just kept repeating the question, “Mommy, why don’t you want me?” It grieved her, and she wanted to run out as fast as she could, but she stuck around to look for the child’s parent.
When Jessica turned around to see if any adult was looking for the child, her eyes met Rick’s again. He was walking toward her. “I’m sorry, ma’am. He’s mine. He got away from me,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Rick, you still don’t remember me?” Jessica asked in an exasperated tone.
“No, ma’am. I’m sorry,” the man responded. Then he turned to the child and said, “C’mon, let’s go, Ricky.”
Jessica could take no more, and pushed the cart out the door, except that the sliding doors had closed, and there was only a loud bang of the cart against the metal frame. She kept pushing the basket against the doors, but they wouldn’t open. By now, she had attracted the attention of those around her. As she felt their stares, her face became flushed and she felt like she was going to faint. She was trapped!
“Let me out!” she screamed. She kept forcing the cart against the closed doors to no effect. Eventually, the stress of the situation overwhelmed her, and she fainted and fell to the floor.
When she awoke, Rick was leaning over her. “Jessica, are you okay?” he asked tenderly.
“What happened? You remember me, Rick? You know my name?” Jessica asked in a surprised tone. Everything was strange to her, though. Rick looked years younger, like he did when he was in high school. The child was gone, and both she and Rick were wearing different clothes. And her surroundings looked different. This was a different supermarket.
“Of course I know who you are,” Rick said incredulously. “You weren’t paying attention, and you walked into somebody and bumped heads. It knocked you unconscious,” he explained.
Just then an employee who had been attending to Jessica in order to make sure that she was okay, spotted some items which had fallen out of her purse. They were the items that she had stolen years earlier. The employee looked at Jessica and then looked back at the items. He thought for a moment. “Ma’am, I’ll just pretend I didn’t see this fall out of your purse, and I’ll go put them back on the shelf. I just wanted to make sure that you were okay.”
Jessica nodded her head. Rick was embarrassed and relieved at the same time. Jessica still had no idea what had happened. “Rick, what is going on?” she asked.
“C’mon, Jessica. Let’s go,” Rick said. He helped her up, and they walked out the door. Jessica looked up at the sign in the parking lot. It read Springtime Groceries.
“Rick, I thought we were in Harvest Foods. How did we get back to this place?” she asked.
“Harvest Foods? I’ve never heard of it,” Rick replied. “I guess you hit your head pretty hard. Let’s find the car, and I’ll take you home.”