"Do you always wear your uniform?" I asked him in the cereal aisle. The cart we had chosen had a creaky wheel that liked to get stuck on turns. I'd handed Kale my grocery list in the parking lot, assigning him to hold onto it. He didn't say anything, so I took it as a yes.
I looked at him, pressing him to say more. "Seems like it." I attempted to soften my words by smiling at him, but he didn't look down at me.
"I don't have any of my clothes."
Shit. "Oh. Sorry. I didn't think about that. Where are they? Do you need a ride to get them?"
He grabbed a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. At least he had good taste in cereal. He was keeping his items in the basket in the front of the cart where kids usually sat while parents tried to keep them entertained and cooperative.
"I don't know where they are." He looked confused. I was getting better at reading him every day. Granted, it had only been two days, but still. I was cracking him open, slowly but surely. His face was actually pretty expressive.
"Was going to go to the mall later. Or Kohl's. Wherever."
We passed an older man who kept his eyes on Kale and me just a beat too long. I noticed his lingering stare, shifting back and forth between us, and the hairs on my neck prickled. The man disappeared around the corner. When I went to mention it to Kale, I started wondering if I was just paranoid and decided not to give the grumpy old man any more attention than I already had.
"I work until four, but I could run you to get clothes after?" I offered.
The Commissary was crowded as always. The low prices on groceries and the zero tax were barely worth bracing the crowd for. I would rather work an extra shift than wait behind shopping carts stuffed to their brim.
Kale pointed down the next aisle, the beginning of the freezer section. "You know there's Uber and cabs and stuff, right?"
I glared at him. "I was trying to be nice."
"I know. I'm just fucking with you." His voice was light, a different tone than I had ever heard come from his lips. It made my skin tingle. I looked away.
"Ha. Ha," I teased back.
My throat was aching. I would always remember that, the way he made parts of me ache that I had never felt before. I would always be thankful for that.
"So, should I take you or not? Can you grab those little pizzas? The red box." I pointed behind him.
"If you want? I mean, I'm already staying on your couch, imposing on your family dinners, eating your granola bars."
"You ate my granola bars?"
He laughed. If I hadn't turned around, I would have missed it. It was that quick.
"I'm buying you another box." He was definitely not into owing people things.
"I would normally say it's fine just to be polite, but my electric bill is high as hell this month, so go ahead." I nudged his shoulder. He tensed up beside me. It was a shift as small as a pinprick, but I felt it down my spine.
Kale took a step away from me as we continued to walk. The music overhead was louder, it had to be. I felt uncomfortable. Embarrassed. It was as if something had cracked open last night. I guess a three a.m. chat in your panties would do that. Kale was different today. More open. Almost talkative. Still, I wondered. Did I think he was flirting with me? I hadn't actually thought of it that way, but it felt something like it.