Dirty Letters - Vi Keeland

CHAPTER 1

LUCA

Oh boy, here we go again.

I pushed my shopping cart forward rather than turning to walk down the aisle I’d originally planned. But after taking a step or two, I couldn’t help myself. I backed up enough to hide my body behind the endcap and peeked my head out to watch the action.

A woman with the frizziest, most unnatural color of red hair placed a deodorant back on the shelf and grabbed a new one. She opened the top of the stick and sniffed it, then proceeded to lift one side of her shirt and wipe the deodorant under her armpit, then moved on to the other. Replacing the cap, she examined the shelf for a moment before picking another brand. Again, she plucked the top off, sniffed, then swiped under each of her pits. I watched, fascinated by how serious she was, while she sampled six different deodorants before a store employee finally noticed what she was doing. When they both ran down the aisle yelling, I figured that was my cue to move my ass and finish up my shopping trip.

A few months back, I’d seen a man sample a dozen whole rotisserie chickens. He removed the plastic cover off each one, ripped off a leg, took a big bite, jammed the leg back inside the cavity of the chicken, and replaced the cover of each. When I’d told the manager, he’d sighed and yelled to a stock boy to go fetch Mr. Hammond. Food shopping at two in the morning in a twenty-four-hour supermarket tended to bring out a unique brand of shoppers. I fit right in.

“How are you doing today, Luca?” Doris, the cashier, asked as I loaded my groceries onto the conveyor belt. She’d been working at this supermarket since I started coming here about five years ago—really nice lady. I knew she was a grandmother of nine and number ten was on the way. She babysat a few of them during the day, which was why she worked the graveyard shift. Doris was also one of the few people who I ever told the truth about why I shopped forty miles away from my home in the middle of the night.

“I’m doing good.” She scanned a package of black licorice followed by two canisters of Pringles and two boxes of packaged brownies. Not my usual grocery items, so I explained. “I’m stocking up for a road trip, not pregnant.”

Doris’s brows rose. “A road trip? Must be something special if you’re boxing yourself into a little car for a long haul.”

“I have to clean out my dad’s apartment in Manhattan.”

“He passed away last year, right?”

I nodded. “I’ve been avoiding it. I’d rather be water-boarded than step foot onto a tiny island with a population of eight and a half million people. Not to mention hours stuck in a car with traffic jams to get there—pure torture.”

Doris frowned. “Can’t you hire someone to do it?”

I had hired someone. Then a combination of my own guilt and Dr. Maxwell, my therapist, made me decide to do it on my own. But eventually the stress of thinking about all those people in New York City gave me trouble sleeping, and I hired the company again. Then I canceled. Again. Then I’d hired a new company because I was too embarrassed to hire the same company a third time. And again I canceled. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Until I was out of time, and, well, now it’s tomorrow.

“It’s just something I need to do myself.”

Doris looked genuinely concerned. “You going to be okay? I’m a good copilot if you need