Like I Would


I wandered through the small grocery store, wishing it was more like the corner store by my flat. Things there were more portioned for a single person – here it was nearly impossible to find anything that I wouldn’t end up with leftovers for a week from.

“Carly? Carly Sanders?” I turned at my name, seeing a tall man with dark hair and blue eyes making his way over, his smile wavering ever so slightly at what I knew was a look of confusion on my face.

“Um, hello?”

“I thought I recognized you! I don’t know if you remember me or not… Patrick? Patrick Sharp? I mean, you were probably in junior high when I was graduating…” he seemed slightly embarrassed to have this knowledge of me when I was still racking my brain for something to remind me of him.

Finally it hit me. When I’d been helping out with senior prom when in ninth grade he’d volunteered to help out, and if memory served me right he’d been voted Prom King. No doubt, judging from his looks.

“You won Prom King… right? I helped out with Sr. Prom that year,”

“Yeah, sorry it’s kind of awkward and all, but I couldn’t believe it was you for a second – you probably remember my wife, Abby?”

She did ring a bell – Abby was closer to Eric’s age, and had been knockout beautiful, the kind of girl that turned every boy’s head in school. Also the kind of girl I’d always wished I could have been like and looked like in high school.

“Yeah, I kind of remember her. How are you guys?”

“Good, good. I play in Chicago now, and we’ve got a little girl,” he answered, and I nearly gushed. I loved kids, always had, which was nice when they usually liked me back.

“Oh wow! What’s her name?”

“Madison, and she looks just like her mama. Speaking of, she should be toddling around here somewhere – grocery shopping has become a family affair,” he chuckled, and I couldn’t help but join in. He was drop-dead handsome, the kind that graced magazine covers; it was no wonder the two had ended up together. Add in the fact that he was obviously a nice all-around guy, and you had to wonder if fairy tales didn’t come true in the real world, just in a less spectacular way.

“Daddy!” a little girl no older than two came barreling around the corner seconds later, as if summoned, and with a bright smile all but crashed into his arm as he swung her up onto his hip.

“This little angel is Madison,” he couldn’t contain the proud smile on his face.

“Hi Madison, I’m Carly,” she waved shyly, before gripping her father tightly again.

“Abby can’t be far behind. So how long have you been back? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you around during the summer for what… eight years?”

“Seven, yeah. I’m actually living in England now,” I answered, and his blue eyes widened.

“Wow – what’s got you all the way over there?”

“Modeling, actually,” I always felt my cheeks heat up explaining to someone what I did, even though I knew it was kind of ridiculous to.

“Modeling? That’s awesome; Abby was going on about you a while ago, that must be why,” he chuckled, and I couldn’t help but join in. “Do you and Staal still hang around? If I remember right you two were attached at the hip,” he grinned, and I tried to return it, as if nothing was wrong.

“Not really – I’ve been all over the place and he’s been in New York,” I answered, hoping it sounded nonchalant.

“Well odds are you two will run into each other again – he’s back every summer. We usually get in some road hockey or something like that. It’s kind of funny; we always thought you two would end up a thing together you know? Just the way you two were whenever I saw you. But, life is life, right? We all end up where we’re supposed to be,” I nodded, hoping to keep myself together. As if on cue we heard his name being called, and his little girls’ head whipped around, which let me know it would be his wife trying to find the pair.

“Well, I better let you go – it was nice talking with you,” I immediately took the exit, and he nodded.

“Yeah it was – maybe we’ll catch you around sometime,” I couldn’t help but return his smile as I nodded, letting him wander down the aisle and around the corner, looking for his wife. I let out a long breath, and continued trying to find some groceries that wouldn’t make me cook enough for a small army.

“Carly?” I closed my eyes, trying to get my composure again. How was it that people recognized me when I hadn’t been here for seven years? I knew I didn’t look shit-all like I had in high school.

“Hi…” my smile and words both disappeared when I found myself face to face with another Staal. Jordan I knew quite well back in high school – him being only a year younger than me.

“Wow… I almost didn’t recognize you,” and before I could respond I was in a soft hug, realizing I was only about four or five inches shorter than the boy who used to tower over me. Marc had sprouted up a little bit later, he and Jordan nearly the same size for most of their teenage years, whereas I’d hit my full five foot ten height in ninth grade. Marc and I had been nearly the same height for a year or two before he began inching up and over six feet.

“Haha, well there’s no mistaking you for anyone,” I managed to reply, trying to inconspicuously look around for any other Staals.

“So, I uh… heard about your dad… Carly I’m so sorry,” his deep voice wavered slightly, causing me to sharply take in a breath and bite my lip to keep the tears at bay.

“Th-thanks Jordan. I… it’s…”

“You don’t have to explain,” he told me, pushing some hair off of my face, giving me a small smile. “Are you doing okay? I mean…”

“As okay as I think I can be for now,” I allowed, taking a half step back from the towering blonde.

“If you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to ask. I mean, you know where we live. Oh, I’ll give you my number – if you need anything call me, okay? Even if it’s just to distract you for a while if things are too overwhelming,” I couldn’t turn down his mega watt smile, as much as I knew I should, and soon surrendered over my phone for him to put his number in. I wasn’t sure why, but in the last three days I’d ran into half the Staal clan, and it seemed just a matter of time before I ran into the one that made my heart flutter and hands clammy all at once.

“You should come over to the house sometime – I mean, mom would love to have you over, and you’re all Nat’s been able to talk about,” he grinned, and I felt some of the fear ease in my stomach.

“I’ll think about it,” was as certain as I would allow my answer to be, and he seemed to accept it before pulling me into another quick hug and continuing on his way.

“What a weird day…” I sighed, deciding to give up on the rest of my grocery shopping and making my way to the till.