Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chapter 5

Going to the mall was always an exciting experience for Jessie.  The moment she opened the doors and stepped inside, she felt the thrill of promise.  So many stores, so much merchandize; all beautifully presented, just waiting to be purchased and taken home by someone.  Most of the time Jessie had to be selective with her purchases, but not today.  Today, thanks to Mr. Muller, she could splash out. 

“What are we shopping for?” Betty asked as she hitched her bag further up her shoulder. 

“Clothes, shoes, accessories and some make-up” Jessie said, eyes twinkling with excitement.  “Today I’m reinventing myself.”

“Am I missing something?” Betty frowned, as shoppers pushed past them.  “Didn’t you just lose your job?  Shouldn’t you be counting pennies instead of spending them?”

“It’s okay Betty,” Jessie smiled, touched by her friend’s concern.  “I have plenty of money.”

Betty couldn’t be more surprised.  “You do?  What happened since yesterday?  Did you win the Lottery?  Have you come into your inheritance?  Did you find a sugar daddy?”

“Mr. Muller gave me five weeks pay and a three thousand dollar bonus,” Jessie explained.  “I’ve decided to invest the money.”

Betty’s mouth opened wide in stunned silence.  “Three thousand dollars!   You’re joking?”


“You’re not joking?”


“Why?  Why did he give you the money?”

“I guess he felt bad for letting me go.”

Betty made a face.  “I almost wish he’d let me go.”

Jessie shrugged.  “Like they say, every cloud has a silver lining.”

“And so you’re going to invest the money in clothes and shoes?”

“Yes, and one other thing,” Jessie said hesitantly; unsure how her friend would react to the next piece of information.  “I’m also investing in a secretarial course.  I saw an ad in the paper for a three month course and I’m calling them on Monday.  I’m going to this Betty; I’m going to change my life.”

Jessie waited, expecting some angry or at least sneering remark from her friend, but none came.  Instead she nodded and started walking.

“So where do you wanna go first? Clothes or shoes?”

“Clothes,” Jessie smiled, linking an arm with her friend.

They strode from one boutique to another, happily picking up outfits and putting them back. Jessie was shocked by the price tags.  Everything was so much more expensive than she’d expected.

“How do you like this hot red number?” Betty held up a red pleated skirt.

“I don’t think so girl,” Jessie shook her head.  “I think I’ll stick to dark colors.”

As Betty put the red skirt back on the rack, Jessie picked out a pair of black slacks, gray slacks and a navy blue pencil skirt.  She matched the three items with a white sweater and a pale blue shirt and a soft pink blouse.

“Wait here, okay?” she instructed Betty as she hauled her selections into the change room.

“Of course I’ll wait here,” Betty pulled up her shoulders.  “Where am I gonna go?  Will you come out and model the clothes for me? “

Jessie promised she would before she excitedly closed the door to the small room. .

In the cold light of the cubicle she looked at herself in the full length mirror.  A tall, slender girl, with mid length, wavy dark brown hair, big brown eyes, a long nose and wide mouth stared back at her.  She looked more critically.  She should have washed her hair.  It was slightly greasy and frizzy and it could do with a trim.  She should have worn make-up; at the very least some foundation and lipstick.  Without it she looked as pale as a ghost.  Her eyes traveled over her clothes.  The faded baggy jeans and washed out T-shirt did nothing for her.  Her size seven figure all but disappeared in the rumpled clothes.  And those old sneakers, what had she been thinking!

The ugly duckling Jessie thought concluding her assessment.

Resolutely turning away from the mirror Jessie pulled off her jeans and T-shirt and reached for the black slacks and pale blue shirt.  She loved the feel of soft linen against her legs and back.  Turning towards the mirror her brows went up appreciatively, this was definitively an improvement.  Opening the door of the cubicle she stuck her head outside.

“Psst … psst,” she tried to attract Betty’s attention, but her friend was checking out the accessories counter and apparently couldn’t hear her.  Jessie stepped out of the cubicle and strutted past the other stalls towards Betty.  

“Psst,” she tried again, this time adding a little wave to attract Betty’s attention.

Betty turned around, gave Jessie a blank look, and then turned back to the necklaces and bracelets.  Almost instantly she did an about spin that almost snapped her neck  

“Jessie?”  “Is that really you?  My God, you’re beautiful.”

Jessie blushed under such open admiration.  “No I’m not,” she said, plucking at an imaginary piece of fluff on the slacks, “the clothes are.  They’d look good on anyone.”

Betty didn’t agree.  Jessie was beautiful.  She had the figure of a model and a certain style and elegance Betty had never noticed before.  “You definitely have to buy that outfit,” she nodded so vigorously her head was in danger of falling off.  “Go put the other things on,” she waved her hands, “and make sure you come and show yourself.  Off you go.”

Jessie returned to the change room and appeared a few minutes later in the blue pencil skirt and white top.

“Gorgeous!” Betty clapped her hands.  “You’ll need shoes though.”

Giggling Jessie looked down on her bare feet. She did a little happy hop before she disappeared into her cubicle.  When next she emerged she was wearing the gray slacks with a pink top. 

“Oh my goodness,” Betty gasped, “you look like you stepped out of a fashion magazine.”

“Your friend is right you know,” a sales assistant joined Jessie and Betty. “Are you a model?”

“No,” Jessie smiled embarrassed.

“Perhaps you should be,” the sales assistant suggested.  “You are very beautiful and you obviously have excellent taste.  I’ve been watching you, you know how to mix and match.  The pink top you choose will go very well with the black slacks, the blue top will go with the gray slacks and blue skirt, and the white top, well white goes with everything.”

Jessie nodded.  She hadn’t even considered this, but the girl was right of course, the colors were ideal to mix and match.

“Will you need jackets too?” the sales assistant asked.  “I could give you a special price.”

Jessie was of two minds.  The jackets she had seen were beautiful but rather pricey.

“Go for it Jess,” Betty urged.  “If you’re gonna be an assistant, you’ll have to look the part.  You’ve seen how Jenny Sullivan dresses.”

Within minutes the matching jackets were selected.  At the cash register Jessie received a twenty percent discount and happily left the store.

“Didn’t you want to look at something?” she turned to Betty.

Her friend shook her head.  “When would I get the chance to wear these kinds of clothes?”

“You could come with me,” Jessie suggested.  “Take the course with me.  There’s evening and weekend classes and you could make a change too.”

Betty considered this for a moment but then shook her head.  “It wouldn’t work for me Jess.  You have the drive and the ambition and I can see it happening for you, but not for me.”

“Why not?”

Betty sighed.  “Working all day and then going to a course at night … I don’t think so.”

Jessie decided not to press her friend.  She would dearly love it if Betty took the secretarial course with her, but if Betty didn’t want to come, she couldn’t force her.  Perhaps she would suggest it again another time.

“What’s next?” Betty asked.

“Shoes,” Jessie said.  “I need some shoes to go with the clothes.”

They went to their favorite shoe store.  A place where the shoes didn’t carry a ridiculously high price tag but still, a place where Jessie and Betty could usually only window shop. Today they walked right in.

“Look at these,” Betty picked up a pair of black court shoes.  “Aren’t they just to die for?”

Jessie liked them, but she also liked the pair she was holding with a two inch heel.

“Very sexy,” Betty agreed.  “Get them both.”

“Both!” Jessie cried.

“Yes both.  You can’t wear the same shoes every day.”

Jessie pouted her lips and bobbed her head from side to side.  Her friend had a point.  “But I still need blue shoes to go with the blue outfit,” she said.

“At these prices you can afford it,” Betty waved in the air.

Together they strolled along the size seven racks, filled with black, brown, gray and cream colored shoes.  Jessie and Betty looked, picked up shoes and compared prices. 

“What about these?” Jessie held up a pair of gray shoes.

“We’re looking for blue ones,” Betty reminded her.

“I know we’re looking for blue ones,” Jessie said, “but tell me what you think of these.”

“Very elegant,” Betty nodded.  “But you don’t really need them.  You can wear black shoes under gray slacks.”

“Pfft,” Jessie blew her friend’s practicality away with a wave of her hand, “I like really, really like these so I’m going to get them.

They were already standing in line for the cash register when Betty noticed the woman in front of her clutching a pair of navy blue shoes. 

“Look,” she elbowed Jessie in the ribs.

“Oh, they’re absolutely divine,” Jessie purred.  “Why didn’t we see those?”

Before Jessie could stop her friend Betty had launched into action.

“Excuse ma’am,” she tapped the woman with the shoes on the shoulder, “may I ask were you found those?”

“On the sale rack back there,” the woman pointed.  “They’re half price.”

“Wait here,” Betty said.  “I’ll go see if I can find a size seven.”

Within minutes she was back, carrying two pairs of blue shoes.

“Two pairs?” Jessie questioned.

“One for you and one for me,” Betty explained.

“Why?” Jessie said.

“Why?” Betty was slightly puzzled by the question.

“Yes why?” Jessie repeated.  “You don’t need to buy those, you can borrow mine.”


“Of course,” Jessie shrugged; lifting the bags she was carrying.  “And any of this stuff.  We’re the same size.  If you want to borrow something just let me know.”

Betty smiled contentedly.  Whatever Jessie’s future held and whatever lay in store for her, she was sure they would always remain best friends.

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