In that maze of trolleys, Sarah finally managed to make her way back to her father carrying a small piece of cardboard wrapped in a hard plastic cover. The package held a little pink lip balm stick with, obviously, one of those Frozen characters printed on it. ‘I only pray bloody Disney don’t make another singing movie’, sounded the grumpy voice in his head. ‘As if it’s not enough to make us play the CD on repeat, they bombard us with merchandise! I’ll go crazy and bankrupt if another of those movies is released!‘.
‘Can I have it, daddy?’ Sarah asked, with a charming smile.
‘Hmmm… I don’t know honey. Do you really need it?’ he replied, even though he knew a 4-year-old wouldn’t know what she needs.
‘I do, daddy, pleeease’ begged the girl.
He stood there, thinking about what to say. In these situations, he would always tell the girl to ‘Go ask her mum’. He knew his wife would never take Sarah to the supermarket and if so, she would terribly avoid the cosmetics and pharmacy section. She would always convince the girl to choose a healthy snack or an educational colouring book – preferably without any Frozen characters in it, which meant that this was his chance to make his daughter happy and piss his wife off at the same time! What a great opportunity!
They were already angry at each other anyway, after that breakfast table argument on the Lactose-free milk, which resulted in him having to do the groceries; ‘So he could pick the damned milk he wanted’. They have been fighting since day one, obviously. Every couple does. However, now it just seemed as if any tiny thing could become a reason for a matrimonial Armageddon. From the laundry powder brand to the colour of her toothbrush. They were both so defensive these days, so suspicious…as if they were only waiting for the other one to pounce.
He hated to think that they were becoming ‘those’ couples. ‘Those’, who sit in a restaurant for hours, without exchanging a word, like complete strangers. ‘Those’, whom the only thing they have in common is their children. However, at the same time, he couldn’t remember how he felt before it all turned into this cold war. His good memories were all vanished and exchanged for angry and tedious ones. Anger was still pumping in his veins.
‘How much is it?’ Jack asked.
‘It’s only $2 dollars…’ said the girl.
‘$2 dollars?! I wish your mother had such cheap taste for makeup…’ mumbled the man, as he agreed to attend to his daughter’s wish.
Sarah held that precious little piece of pink plastic all the way to the car with both hands, amazed with her new acquisition. Jack was wondering what the joy in it was. How could she be so happy because of a lipstick? ‘Women! Complicated since they’re born…‘ he thought, rolling his eyes to the scene.
As they drove back home, Jack could hear the noises of Sarah trying to open the plastic package. He watched her from the mirror, as she forced her tiny hands against the hard plastic cover. She had this habit of sticking her tongue out when she was using all her strength, just like her mother. The thought of his wife brought back the tension of getting back home, to another possible conflict. He could drive in circles all day long if needed, just to avoid that.
‘If I arrive by the time she’s at the gym, I won’t have to even see her. And, by the time she’ll be back, I’ll probably be having a nap on the sofa…‘ Jack’s mind was working full steam ahead ‘Or, maybe, I could just make up a business trip next week and lock myself in a hotel room…Or…wait a minute! What’s that smell?!’.
He got the goosebumps all over his arms and neck, the same way he did when he first felt that scent. It was strawberry. Glittery-pink-sticky-strawberry, to be more precise. The tension, the excitement, the heartbeat raising, the hands sweating. It was as if he had been transported back to that night and was watching it all in slow motion, as he stood at her doorstep to say goodbye. Their eyes met and she shot him a smile. He stepped forward and she didn’t move an inch away. He held her by her waist and ran his fingers through her hair. As their lips touched, they felt as if the ground had disappeared. Driving back home that night, still feeling leftovers of that sticky and glittery lipstick on his beard, he was sure he would marry that strawberry-lips girl one day.
Then, he remembered. The thrill, the excitement, the uncertainties of falling in love. The vision of a brand new future with that person, full of opportunities and new experiences. As he parked in front of the house, he kept asking himself ‘What could be better than that?’. Still trying to find an equivalent moment in his memory’s ‘archived files’, he opened the back door to help Sarah out, as she turned to him, with lipstick all over her face.
‘Do I look pretty, daddy?’ she asked with a smile
He looked at her tenderly, unable to refrain from smiling. ‘You do, honey. Just like Elsa’.
Her face instantly lightened up. She threw her little arms around his neck, gave him a kiss on the cheek and rested her head on his shoulder.
‘I love you, daddy’.
And there it was. Nothing could be better than that. Better than being kissed by the girl you love the most, who is the ‘product’ of the love between you and the woman you love the most. Yes, the lipstick made him realise that he still loved her after all. He walked into the house with anticipation, searching for her. She could sense something unusual when their eyes met. He stepped forward and she didn’t move an inch away. He held her by her waist and ran his fingers through her hair. As their lips touched, they felt as if the ground had disappeared. Jack was, then, sure about one thing: He could drink all the Lactose-free milk in the world if needed, in order to keep those strawberry kisses.