She watched, trembling, as he put his purchases on the counter and took his wallet from his trousers, gave the woman a crisp five pound note. He had green apples, a tin of ham, fresh milk, chocolate digestives, and a jar of something. The jar had a cream sticker on its front: a picture of bright waxy oranges and an old lady with a perm, stirring something in a silver pot and its lid had a quaint paper topper, covered in tiny peach flowers.
Gasping, she sprinted to the shelf, her trainers squeaking against the tiled floor. They were all gone. He had taken the last jar. He had the last jar. It was hard to breathe. She curled her fingers into tight fists, tried to get air into her tight, brittle lungs, her head spinning as her heart hammered in her chest. She felt sick. So, so sick.
Trying to fix a passive expression to her face, she crept back to the front of the shop and watched him place his things into a thick woven bag. He said good day in a cheery sort of way and smiled at the shopkeeper, who smiled back with affection, then started refilling a shelf behind her with packets of paracetamol. When he saw her standing by the newspapers, he smiled at her too.
He didn’t hear it coming. The rock smashed into the back of his head, and it felt to her, like the soft crack of an egg and then the predictable liquid wetting one’s fingers. The first impact forced him to his knees, and he held on to the fence, with surprised white knuckles. So she hit again and then again, until her clothes were soaked in blood: a riot of skin and grizzle hanging off the geometric patterns of her dress.
Once he was silent, she riffled through his bag and pulled out the jar.
No one came between her and marmalade.