The breeze gently swayed the thin curtains, swaying them away from the door and revealing the outside world to me. I never wandered from the front desk, so I couldn’t actually tell you what the
store looked like from the outside. But women always tell me how that “Delicate lace” or “Intricate decoration of the veil” lured them into the shop, whisking them away into a paradise I’ve never
seen. Nor did I want to. “Why are you telling ME this?” I’ve wanted to shout countless of times, but of course never did. Instead, whenever someone just stopped by to compliment the window display,
I called mom. She never said it, but I knew the only reason why I was mounting the desk and not her was because she didn’t like criticism. If a person gave a disapproving look at one of the gowns,
I just knew my mom would die a little on the inside. So there I sat, reading a pocket-size book with my arm on the desk and my head slouching on my hand. All because I offered that one time. Who
knew one time would suddenly expand to three years? Certainly not me, who now knew there were many a way to propose other than getting down on one knee. But then again, I apparently knew less than
I thought. The door bell chimed as it opened, with the spring air touching the senses of my almost bare arms. A t-shirt was ok, it was the middle of April after all. But mom gave me a disapproving
look as she passed by with new boxes. It was a look saying two things: “You’re a man so help me with the new supply, oh, and don’t you dare wear such a casual shirt around my shop again.”
Yes, I am a mama’s boy, so of course I’ll do as her looks tell me. I changed right after I helped set up the new display, fixing every trinket on the mannequin’s arms and placing the veil just right on the nonexistent hair. I watched as other women asked my mom for assistant, and I chose to return to my post. Despite how large the place was, only my family managed it. Of course I was needed, so mom would know if there was a customer in need of her help. When there are two for dresses and the other two for the invitations and other needed preparations, you need someone to assist you. But mother’s gathering public was naturally intimate, so she personally takes on clients and the ones who just show up normally don’t get help unless they actually want me to. But most just take note how young I am, so they sign up for a session of their own and leave. Or just leave. Either way, I end up staying at the counter. Ringing up bills, asking them to please make it out to Lorraine’s Loving Bridal Paradise, and reminding them of a no cash policy. We are professional after all.
I do get left alone quite a bit, though it’s not so bothersome as one might expect. In fact, the quiet makes the place seem serene and peaceful. Tranquility was always my thing, as the overactive style of my high school was too erratic and wore me out. If I could sleep at that desk after school, I would, but it would be my head.
There, left with my thoughts, I was dumbfounded in finding a giant group of women walking down the road, giggling loudly and slapping each other wildly. Oh god please no. I looked away, pretending to be not noticing the march towards the shop.
Scratch my head, turn. Look the other way, imagine a peaceful afternoon. Even then, I knew this god of mine was not going to give me what I wanted. Gasps and laughter exploded through the door, and one young lady immediately ran to the bathroom to relieve a queasy look on her face. It took her about five minutes to comeback, meanwhile I was busy with the bride-to-be, leaning on my shoulder and asking if I was lost. The roses smelled of unwanted Vodka.
There was a sudden scream near the back door. “Nicholas, how many times must I tell you not to leave the windows open?! I can smell the trash from the bar miles away!!”
Someone please explain to me again why mom isn’t a military general.
The giant group of women almost lined up as mom Come out of the storage room. They were patting their hair and shuffling their feet, trying to look presentable and denying previous actions. Being the most organized wedding coordinator in the county, she guided them into the back dressing room, further in the depths of the store for privacy. The challenge would consume most of her attention, meaning I must ask other customers to go on their own for a bit. I wasn’t too worried. There weren’t many people randomly coming in on Tuesdays.
My purple chair behind the counter swiveled a bit as I picked up my cell phone from my pocket. 3:12. About two more hours to go. Normally I would have piles in the storage room to organize or dust the glass shelves, but I had done it all. An extra two hours under my belt, but limited options, the only thing possible at that moment was to read.
The book creaked open as I searched for the most recent dog-eared page, realizing the sun had across our display window, giving a great sense of lighting to the twelve point font. Engrossing myself with words of extravagant homes and lonely winter nights, I see barren tress crossing lines of snow, tracks of human footprints disappearing in front of a hot spring. Hazy giggles and quiet greetings come from girls with the same voice, but I can’t see any of them. The water splashes in powerful strokes, and the fog thickens to the point where I can’t see my own hands. The girls keep saying hello though, and it bother me more and more.
“Don’t talk to me” I wanted to say, but instead I simply woke up. I was staring at the cash drawer, with my head on my book and arms crossed together on the counter. The sun passed from the window display, but still was visible from behind buildings. Mixes of orange and yellow painted the sidewalks, but I could only notice the person blocking my view of the shadows within.
She stared with a blank face, eyes big in a kind of wonder my presence provided. Tilted head, her hair flowed from the top of her scrunchy to the space almost touching her shoulder. Red curling strands caught the light of the sun, and I was starting to regain consciousness.
“Hello” Resonated in my ear, and suddenly I knew where those voices came from. A smile came from that mouth as I rubbed my head and straightened up.
I closed my eyes, gathering my wits, and strongly said “What can I do for you?”
“I wouldn’t think much. You’re a high school boy in a bridal shop.” She laughed at her own talents of pointing out the obvious.
I couldn’t hold my tongue. “Thanks for telling me. I had no clue.”
She laughed again, lighthearted and elegant, but ecstatic none the less, for she always opened her mouth wide.
I wouldn’t call her chipper, so instead I’ll call her strange. Yes, that suits her just fine. Strange.
“I’m terribly sorry, but I’m afraid the manager has taken a busy schedule today. She will not be available to assist you. Please give a name and phone number, and we will be sure to get back to you.”
She didn’t move, or physically give me any reason to believe she was leaving.
“Thank you.” Was all, and then she started to wander a bit. Hidden in lace, I didn’t know where she was, and it made me sweat a little from behind my ears. No one so young had ever entered the store before, unless accompanied by a parent. Time passed, with barely any reading done, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else but the smooth humming coming from the fabrics area. It wasn’t a tune I knew. Somehow, I felt like that girl was looking for something and was probably confused about where to find it. Or maybe she was mentally. . . Distorted. There had to be a real explanation behind it. What was a young teenager doing in a bridal shop anyway?
“Why are you repeating what I just said in question form?” She called out from the bin of fabrics. I hadn’t realized I said it out loud.
They were unrolling gradually through her playful fingers, creating a mess I had to clean up. “I was talking about you.” I said, casually walking up to the bin.
“What makes you think I’m a teenager?”
“Because you’re very young. There’s no other way to put it.” Unraveling silk ribbon came next. The almost-silver strand overlapped the pure white lace she placed below. A dress designer she was not. I watched the combination, fascinated, without realizing her gaze landed on me once more.
Somewhat freckled cheeks sat daintily under dark eyes nearing black, and most eyelashes were hidden by red bangs split in the middle. Her gaze made me feel funny, as if it were a tinted window always looking out but never letting others look in.
She smiled again. “I have a friend who is so short she could pass as a middle schooler.”
My face must have asked the question on my tongue, for she answered before I spoke.
“She’s starting her first year in college. That school has taken quite a mouthful on their plate.” A giggle escaped, but her stare did not waver. Her composure felt so sure, like she wouldn’t dare think to second guess herself. What an odd girl. I she had left it quiet, I may have thought her entire presence was awkward for me, yet she never left me and my thoughts alone.
“Well?” She asked, after the pause.
“Well. . . What?”
“Well, aren’t you going to say something? Like, ‘oh she a midget of deformed in a medical term?’”
Eyebrows raised, I firmly asked “And why would I say something at all, let alone that?”
“Because you have been looking like you want to say something since I came in.. Or do you always hold your tongue ?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. She smiled again, that odd girl, and waved goodbye in this exciting manner. On the heels of her feet, she turned around and headed for the door. Just like that, the irregularity was disappearing so easily. Her mouth moved once more, and then what was left was a jingle from the bell at the top of the door. She was gone after that.
3:00. Wow. That had caused quite a kill on time. I barely had touched my novel, but that was ok since it wasn’t for school. I slipped it back to where I had it beforehand, and scratched my head again. Mom was bound to come out with her now headache sobering up clients. Perhaps the flowers that woman was carrying were fading in alcohol smell. I span my chair from side to side, turned a page and sure enough, out came the women, all groggy with dead eyes except for my mother. She looked at me, as if to say “Why didn’t you warn me?” and I replied with nonchalant eyes.
They all left, and I was closing down the store, when I noticed the sun leaving from the horizon. A shimmer of light made through to the fake ruby necklace on the window mannequin, and I unconsciously touched my tongue to see if it was exhausted. It felt funny. So I relaxed it.
“That feels better.” I said to no one but myself. Mom had already headed for the car, and I simply had to lock the doors on my way out to see her.
“What was her name again? Oh yeah. Hope. What an odd name, for an odd girl.”
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