Ned hadn’t talked to Sarah for a long time. When he saw her, pondering three brands of spaghetti, he stared for a long minute before he realized who she was. She looked up, with that crooked eyebrow he remembered, skeptical about the strange man eyeing her in the supermarket. When she saw him her face brightened and she smiled, until she seemed to remember and the gladness dampened a bit. He grinned, steeled himself, and lunged for a hug. She let him, though her arms were stiff and she pulled away too soon.
“Sarah, my God, I haven’t seen you for ages. How have you been?” His voice wavered with the question.
“Pretty good, all things considered. You know, working and things. I’m really busy lately, actually, which is nice. How are you?”
Ned nodded. “Pretty good too. I actually just moved back around here, I’m about half an hour away but I work near here. Never did go back to school.” Her wry grin crinkled at the corners just the way it used to.
“Well,’ she said, “you’re working, you’re doing okay, right? So I guess you never needed to.”
“Guess not. Sometimes I wish I had. What about you?”
“You mean, do I wish I had? I did. Or were you asking something else? I mean, that’s what I would have wished, if I hadn’t. Oh, that’s all confused. Do you know what I mean?”
“I think so,” he said. He didn’t, but he didn’t think it mattered.
Sarah snatched a box of pasta off the shelf and tucked it into her basket, starting off down the aisle. She said, “Listen, I actually have to run. Good talking to you.”
Ned wheeled. He called after her retreating back, “I’d love to catch up sometime, if you have a moment, you know.” He cursed his tongue-tied fumbling. That felt familiar. “I mean, we haven’t seen one another for a good while. It’s been too long.”
She looked at him. “Has it, though?”