If your grandparents or great-grandparents or maybe even great-great-grandparents were growing up in the 1930’s, the conversation about menstruation in school might have started something like this:
‘Why is it that when we refer to nature, we always call her Mother Nature? Maybe it’s because Mother Nature manages so much of our living quietly that we never realize that there is a woman at work.’
The message here is, of course, to be a woman, make sure no one knows when you are having your period. Then girls would have to ask their mothers or sisters or friends what to do when their first periods arrived, but one dared not ask in public.
It had surprisingly been longer since Daisy had set foot in a supermarket. Between time-travelling to the future, traversing the depths of space, and time-travelling to the past, the closest thing she had done to grocery shopping in years was a supply run near the M-78 Nebula during their year-long search for Fitz. Daniel, on the other hand…
‘You sure know your way around this,’ Daisy mused as he put a box of breakfast cereals in the cart.
‘What, you think you guys invented supermarkets?’
‘No! I just-’ She shot back as she searched her brain for words. ‘It was the 50s. I- didn’t think you would go to the grocery store on your own. Thought you guys just left that all to the wives.’
‘You’re not miles off,’ said Daniel, looking up from the shopping list. ‘But I did have to do it myself. A cashier at my local Safeway recognized me, actually.’
‘Apparently I was “very on time” with my shopping trips. Her words.’
‘Always the square.’ Daisy smiled, turning into another aisle without thinking.
‘There’s nothing wrong with liking routine.’
She looked up at him for a second, and to her pleasant surprise, she found herself agreeing with the sentiment.
‘Nothing at all.’
As comfortable silence settled between them, Daniel finally looked up to locate their whereabouts. The shelves in this aisle were lined with more garish, multi-colored boxes, the bright blues and purples and magentas assaulting the eyes. Just then, a word on one of the boxes caught his eyes.
The font may have changed since his days, but it was a brand he recognized.
‘Daisy… should I be in here?’
Instead of replying out loud, Daniel pointed at the overhead sign. Daisy looked up.
‘You don’t have to,’ she replied on auto-pilot. ‘Most guys don’t really—if it makes you uncomfortable, but-’ Their eyes met, and Daisy’s words screeched to a halt. That was not a look of disgust or disinterest; and that was when she remembered.
In the past few months, as they adjusted to modern life away from the line of fire, she noticed something. When he said nothing fazed him, he really meant it. More often than not, she found that his hesitation came from uncertainty about the norms of her time, but rarely a place of disapproval. She cleared her throat.
‘It’s not…taboo for you to be here, if you’re wondering.’
‘If it’s okay for me to be here…then I’d like to.’
Once again, Daisy found herself at a loss for words. She nodded and flashed him an encouraging smile, before turning her attention back to the kaleidoscope of colors before her.
Daniel watched as Daisy continued down the aisle, slowly scanning the many options before her. His mind started to wander.
He is not completely ignorant when it comes to…these things. If he did not know anything about that before—and he did—then his brief time with Violet and later Peggy certainly taught him enough.
But that, after all, was seventy-three years ago.
Taking in the sea of blues and purples, Daniel huffed out a quiet sigh.
‘I have no idea what half of these are.’ Daisy turned around.
‘They didn’t really teach this at school, did they?’
‘You’d be surprised how little about these was covered in school.’
‘I can tell you about them, if you want to.’
‘Right here?’ Daniel asked, quickly glancing around.
‘We can talk about this later if you prefer-’
‘No, I- I want to learn about. This. If it’s okay with you…?’
A few steps behind Daniel, a fellow shopper clearly overheard their conversation. Their eyes met Daisy’s, and they pumped their fist in a silent cheer. She quickly flashed a small smile in return, plucking a small box from the shelf.
‘Of course. So these,’ Daisy punctuated with a small wave of the brightly colored box, ‘are tampons. You-’ She stepped closer, and lowered her voice. ‘They should be available in your time already?’
‘I think so—think I’ve seen this brand before.’ He frowned, staring down at the logo emblazoned across the glossy box.
‘Oh?’ Daisy inwardly heaved a sigh of relief. She was not sure how much—or perhaps more accurately, how little—Daniel knew. This was a good start. ‘These are the ones that go—inside.’
‘Right. Yea. I’ve…heard of that.’
His confirmation came out very strained, causing Daisy to finally look up from the box to him. He was turning bright red; if he wasn’t so visibly uneasy, she would have loved how endearing he looked.
‘You okay there?’ She asked.
‘Yea.’ The answer came way too quickly to be truthful. She frowned.
‘We can take this discussion home-’
‘That’s not what I mean.’ He hastily reassured. With a sigh, he shoved his hands into his pockets. ‘I just…old habits die hard, I guess.’
Daisy cocked her head to one side, and studied him for a second. Daniel looked…dare she use the word, bashful? He was staring down, as if his shoes were suddenly the most interesting thing in the world. She smiled.
‘Not used to discussing this?’
‘In public, anyway.’
‘That’s alright.’ She said with a shrug, and it was only then that Daniel looked back up at her again. ‘I can carry on, but if anything makes you uncomfortable-’
‘-I’ll let you know.’
Daisy replied with a nod. She tossed the box into the cart, and carried on down the aisle.
‘Do you have a preference?’
‘Hmm?’ Her head snapped up.
‘With…these, I mean.’
‘…I suppose?’ She blinked rapidly, trying to recall her routines. ‘I usually just take whatever’s available on base or Zephyr, but if it’s up to me…I’ll take these over pads.’ She nodded at the box that now sat innocently between the cereals and the dish soap in the cart.
To her surprise, Daniel nodded along knowingly.
‘Yea… those can’t be very comfortable under the Quake suit?’
If he was trying to get a reaction out of her, he was failing. Daisy simply responded with a half-hearted eye roll, before continuing,
‘You’re not wrong…wait, you know what I’m talking about?’
‘Probably? Violet hated them. They were an inch thick and had a whole contraption to go along. Said it was impossible to keep her nurse whites clean with these things.’
‘A whole contraption?’
‘There was a little belt that looked like a weird pair of suspenders. I once found it lying around when we were, you know, together. She was mortified,’ explained Daniel, smiling a little as he remembered the particular incident. As he caught sight of the confusion on Daisy’s face, though, that train of thought derailed. ‘Do you not have those now?’
‘No. They’re just, look-’ She casually pulled a packet off the shelf. ‘These are what I’m talking about.’
Daniel looked down at the box just handed to him. On it was an illustration of a white oblong, with patterns debossed into it and tabs jutting out from the sides. ‘These are pads?’
‘Yea. They didn’t look like this?’
‘They didn’t,’ he muttered, as if he was talking to himself. ‘I’m no expert, but in my time pads were just thick rectangles.’ Absentmindedly, he turned the box over in his hands, taking in the writing and illustrations covering the packaging.
Daisy could not take her eyes off him, the way he frowned and focused on the minuscule writing suddenly the most riveting sight in the whole universe. It all felt so…normal. Just two people, grocery shopping on a pleasant Friday afternoon. No time-travel, no galaxy-traversing trips, no aliens, no world in danger. Just him casually asking her in the middle of Target about a part of her life that is at best tedious and at worst downright horrifying to most men.
When was the last time someone just casually wanted to learn about her? It was not being logged for a personnel file; he just wanted to know her, simple as that. There were no details to hide, no secrets to keep so they could not be used against her. She took a deep breath, a smile unconsciously blooming on her face.
She could get used to that.
‘Sorry.’ Daniel’s voice jerked her out of her reverie. ‘Got lost in my thoughts for a minute.’
‘It’s fine.’ It came out almost as a whisper. He caught sight of her smile, and could not help but frown.
‘Nothing,’ said she, her smile widening. Daniel waited for an elaboration, but it never came. Her eyes seemed to sparkle in the fluorescent light; and in that moment, he understood.
‘Come on,’ he said, his voice soft, reaching for the cart. ‘We should get going if we want to make it in time to pick up Kora.’
Daisy was not even mad when a paparazzi photo of them in the supermarket turned up in the tabloids. If a man from the 50s was unfazed, they had no business acting all surprised.