Selena didn't know it yet, but this day was about to be a bitch.
She was walking out of the Save Mart by her house. She was carrying two paper bags, one in each hand, the weight in them keeping her forearms tense.
She did the grocery shopping in the middle of the day. She did that because the crowds were always thinner then.
It looked to be a nice day. Funny how looks could be deceiving. There were a few puffy cumulus clouds in the sky. Mostly sunny.
Her husband was a meteorologist who worked for a local TV station. He was always naming clouds when he was off-camera. She never thought of herself as interested, but she guessed that some of it had rubbed off on her. She knew cumulus and stratus and alto-something (not sax) and her favorite – cumulonimbus.
She was walking across the half empty parking lot to her light blue Jeep Cherokee. She'd gotten a good deal on it at Renny's Used Cars in Gray. It was only two years old, under 20,000 miles. A hell of a deal is what it was, but Renny and her husband were, if not friends, at least closer than complete strangers. In Renny's world, that was enough for him to make them a smoking deal on a car. Renny explained it like this: “People buy from people. And word of mouth is the best advertising.”
Selena got to her Jeep. She put the two grocery bags down by the back bumper, the weight of the groceries settling against the paper sides of the bags and threatening to topple one of them if she didn't load it into the back fast enough. It was the bag with the dozen eggs resting on top of the tomatoes in a slippery plastic shell.
She reached into her pocket for the plastic key fob, taking it out and simultaneously feeling for the button to unlock the doors. She pushed the button and heard the beep and the rapid mechanical click of the locks. She glanced across the parking lot and saw an old woman, a collection of loose skin and thin bones and wisps of white hair all wrapped in a coat that was too thick for the weather, an unseasonable coat. The old lady was trying to wrestle a walker out of a car trunk that, from a distance, looked like an open mouth disgorging undigested bones from its belly.
Selena could have gone to help the old woman, but it was all the way across the parking lot and it would take more effort than she was willing to give. That gave Selena a quick pang of guilt, until she remembered that she had steak in one of the bags and if she left it in a hot car it might spoil. It made not helping seem reasonable instead of cold.
She looked away from the old woman and reached for the latch to open the back of the Jeep.
That was when the man came up behind her.
That was when her day went to Hell.