It’s a perfect match and, as odd as it seems to even think this way, it does fit the mother approved criteria. Oh sure, there’s a possibility she’ll wiggle out of the jacket at the dance, but my guess is that she wouldn’t even dream of it. It’s just too beautiful to leave over the back of a chair. I don’t even want to think about the schoolgirl popularity factor.
“Can we get it?” she asks excitedly, just two shakes away from popping out of her skin. Both Courtney and the woman look to me expectantly.
“I… I’m not sure,” I say. My lips are numb. God I hope I’m not stroking out.
Courtney’s face collapses.
“Tell you what,” the woman says abruptly. “I’ll go get a clerk to look up the jacket and get it tagged for you.”
Courtney looks to her as if she were her only ally in the world and would protect her from the wicked witch of a mother she has. I’m vexed. If this woman is my daughter’s ally, would that mean she’s no longer mine? A bitter taste tugs at the insides of my cheeks.
“Why?” Courtney looks at the woman.
“Because there isn’t a price tag and your mother is concerned about whether she can afford it,” she softly explains.
My shoulders twitch. Even my body doesn’t know how to respond! Should I tense up because she’s clearly mothering my daughter or should I relax, be thankful that someone with her endless patience has been sent to me?
I drag my fingers across the crown of my head, my nails parting my own two-day dirty hair that hangs limply and probably looks like crap because I haven’t colored it for some time. I look like she should look despite the smart tailored suit I have on, my knock-off designer outfit I picked up off the clearance rack six, maybe seven years ago. I know I look, altogether, a bit worn down.
“Mom?” Courtney asks, looking at me like I’m some weirdo starring as the main attraction at the freak show.
“I’m thinking,” I say a bit sharply.
“Go ahead and get dressed,” the woman nudges Courtney. It’s all I can do to keep from lunging at her to protect my baby girl from her.
The door closes and I hear Courtney working out of the ensemble. The woman glides past me and after she moves past my periphery, I turn and follow.
“I’m so sorry,” she says quietly. “I didn’t mean to overstep your boundaries. It’s just that…”
Oh dear Lord, what have I become? How could I be so mean to this woman? “No, you’ve done nothing wrong. It’s me who should be apologizing. Here I was about to reach the end of my rope and you come along as if sent in answer to my prayers. And then what do I do? Please accept my most humble apology for my inexcusable behavior.”
“You don’t need to apologize. I understand completely.” She smiles so graciously. Her eyes move down the row of dressing stalls. “I hope it all works out. I’m sorry to have interfered.”
She starts to move away. A vision of the “slow” girl comes into my head. What I am doing is just mean. I reach out after her. “Please don’t go.”
She stops and turns back but stays just beyond my reach. For a moment she looks at me, then back towards where Courtney is. I follow her gaze as my daughter, cheeks flushed, carefully carries the outfit over her arm.
“Here you go.” Courtney hands her the jacket. She looks to me and I nod, then accepts it.
“We’ll be over looking at shoes,” I say as I give her another nod.
“I’ll be there just as soon as I can,” she says.
“Who is that woman?” Courtney asks once we are out of earshot. “Does she work here?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I say as we cut through the sportswear department.
“Well, do you know her?”
“Strange,” Courtney says, identifying my most basic take on the whole situation.
Thankfully she ditches the interrogation as she starts picking up shoes. There’s a wide selection to chose from and my little shoe princess is itching to try them all on. As she begins, I mentally run through her shoe rack at home, certain she has a pair already that will go with the dress. The only problem I seem to be having is coming up with the most appropriate suggestion so that I can persuade her not to buy anything new.
She’s tried on at least five pairs and has two she’s considering when the woman returns.
To be continued…
By Kathie Leung
All Rights Reserved.