The bananas were not on sale. The catalogue said they were on sale. Sure, the catalogue ended the previous day, but wasn’t that unfair to people who couldn’t shop that day? Some people had to work.
Karen made her points very clear to a pimply-faced teenage boy trying to stack shelves. She was calm and classy and-
‘Let me speak to the manager! Clearly, you can’t help me!’
Admittedly, a hair in Karen’s asymmetrical blonde bob may have fallen out of place. She pushed it back into place and glared daggers at the boy, who spoke into his headset while Karen rapidly tapped her feet.
‘I see the manager’s taking his sweet time. Honestly, the customer service here is-’
‘What appears to be the problem?’
Karen turned towards the deep but feminine voice. When she saw the manager, she instinctively held her breath.
The manager stood tall and slim. Her black wavy hair fell to her shoulders, just short enough to not require being pulled back in a ponytail. Her amber skin was smooth and soft. Her large bronze eyes carried years of experience looking friendly to customers- even customers like Karen.
‘Excuse me, ma’am? Are you okay?’
Karen finally gathered enough concentration to see the manager’s name badge. Frema Nazarian.
Karen delivered the same speech she had previously given to the boy with at least 70% more stuttering.
‘With all due respect, ma’am, you could have enjoyed this sale this day last week.’
‘B-but, I received my catalogue in the mail a day later.’
Frema took a gentle step forward. ‘I’m sorry to hear that. How about I give you a copy of this week’s catalogue? There are plenty of items for sale.’
Karen tried to glare at her, but her gaze quickly softened. ‘But not bananas.’
Frema gave her a sympathetic smile. ‘But not bananas.’
Behind her, Karen could hear a distant yet familiar set of voices, her son Kyle and her daughters Sharon and Carol.
She got in Frema’s face and yelled, ‘Do you expect me to pay full price for these bananas? I’m a single mother!’
Frema’s smile slipped as a fire lit up in her eyes. ‘I am too, ma’am.’ She tapped the boy’s shoulder to get him to return to work.
‘Well, what, ma’am?’
‘You’re a disgrace! This supermarket is a disgrace! Your motto is ‘Low Prices for Everyone’, and yet you can’t offer a single mother a discount for fucking bananas?’
‘I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You’re disturbing the customers.’
‘I am a customer! You’re not taking me away. I have a right to be here just like everyone else!’
Right on time, Sharon and Kyle grabbed Karen and pulled her back. Carol apologised to Frema in her trademark monotone voice.
‘Hey, let go of me!’ Karen shouted. Kyle and Sharon only did so once she was a good metre away from Frema. Karen pointed at Frema. ‘I don’t care if you’re…’ She gulped. ‘I’m never going to this place again!’
She stormed out of the supermarket, though not without first kicking the shopping baskets on the floor. Frema sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose.
Karen’s children followed her out into the car park. 17-year-old Kyle picked his nose and scratched his butt under his baggy jeans. His Monster logo cap was thirty degrees off-centre. 16-year-olds Sharon and Carol were identical in appearance but wore very different clothing. Sharon was clad in short shorts and a rather age-inappropriate tube top, while Carol wore a long, loose top with the Collingwood Football Club logo and a pair of tracksuit pants.
Sharon placed her hand on Karen’s shoulder. ‘What the hell was that, Mum? Mum?’
Karen paid no attention to her daughter, focusing all her attention on the burning sensation in her cheeks. She was silent the entire car trip to the next nearest supermarket. And when she shopped. And when she drove her family home. Her cheeks were still warm.
Karen’s home was a modest one-story brick building. As she stepped into the house, she was greeted by paintings with motivational sayings such as ‘Live, laugh, Love’ and ‘Dance like no one is watching’. She continued to frown as she passed them.
Kyle’s room was covered in posters of motorbikes, one of which hid a hole in the wall from an angry punch a few months ago. Half-empty cans of energy drinks littered the floor.
Sharon and Carol shared the biggest bedroom, with Sharon’s side covered in boy band posters and Carol’s side covered in footy posters. Towards the line between their sides was a small, empty birdhouse they had built together. Underneath the birdhouse was two toolboxes, one pastel blue and the other black.
After passing these bedrooms, Karen finally arrived at her own. The plain beige walls were adorned with little photo frames of her family, from her children to her mother and father. One side of the queen-sized bed was made up, as always. She dropped her leather bag by the bedpost and collapsed onto the untidy side of the bed. Her eye caught a glimpse of a photograph on the bedside table. The photo contained a man around her age kissing her cheek.
As sighs took out her energy, she reached for the sheets and pulled them over her, shivering a little at the coldness. She let the empty silence lull her to sleep.
‘Hey mum, when’s dinner?’
One eye opened. ‘Get it yourself.’
‘But you always-’
‘Well, maybe, Kyle, it’s time for you to do it for a change. I’m not your personal chef.’
Kyle shuffled out of the room. ‘Nevermind. I’ll wait.’
The damage had been done- Karen could not get back to sleep. She rolled over to face the made-up side of the bed. She started tripping through her memories of the man in the photo until she stumbled upon a more recent memory- a certain manager’s glossy hair.
The flushing face returned. Karen started wondering if she had finally reached The Change. Then again, The Change wasn’t known for making someone tongue-tied or causing them to focus on the little details of another woman’s appearance.
Or cause them to throw a tantrum in a supermarket. Not that Karen was in the wrong. Those banana prices? Insulting!
Karen groaned and stood up, mentally preparing herself to cook dinner. Under her breath, she muttered, ‘Who does that woman think she is?’