The Woman©

2014-08-23 13.40.44

The woman walked into the store alone.  The department store had just opened for their weekend Christmas sale.  The woman walked up the escalators to the third floor and headed toward the ladies room.  A cashier watched her as the woman walked toward her, the cashier asked her if she needed any assistance, the woman nodded her head “no” and continued walking.  The cashier looked at the woman, she decided the woman was safe since she was well dressed although the cuffs of her jacket were frayed, and wearing a smart looking brown suit with short heels.  The woman’s silk scarf, the cashier recognized, was a style they sold a long time ago.  The woman was tall, with strong facial features, especially her lips, they were small, but full.  Her eyes were blue, but the whites of her eyes were murky in color.  Her hair was styled in a short cropped style; something the cashier also recognized was a hair style popular several years back.  The woman has strong bones, making the woman look athletic in a way.  The cashier watched the woman’s light but sure-footed footsteps lead her to the ladies room. 

The woman turned on the light since the employees had not yet entered the ladies room for themselves.  Once she entered, she quickly used the toilet and relieved herself.  When she finished, she emerged and went to the basin to wash herself.  The woman took her large handbag and started to empty it onto the wide basin counter that held five basins for the store’s customers.  The woman removed a brush, hairspray, makeup, eye makeup, soap and a small towel.  She proceeded to wash her face when the cashier walked in. 

“Good morning, Ma’am.” the cashier said when she saw the woman at the basin.

“Oh, good morning.  Well, it seems you caught me, haven’t you?” The woman replied as she spilled some of  her foundation into the basin.  “Oh, damn.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.  Uhmm, you know, this is not the place to be putting on your makeup and washing yourself, Ma’am.”

The woman looked at the cashier, “I know, but I’m on my way to work and well, between you and me, I didn’t go home last night.  I had a date.”

“Oh.” The cashier replied, walking into one of the stalls.

“I’ll be finished real soon and I’ll be out of your way.”

“Take your time.”

“Thanks.”

When the cashier finished, she flushed the toilet and walked to the basin to wash her hands when she noticed the woman’s open bag.  Inside,  the cashier noticed, an additional blouse, stockings, a first–aid kit, more make up accessories, amid the clutter of other household items.  The woman noticed the cashier looking into her bag, “God, I hope she doesn’t notice.  That’s all I need, to be thrown out and not allowed back in.  If she only knew.”

            “Ma’am?”

            “Yes?”

            “May I suggest something?”

            “Here we go.”

            “There’s a woman’s halfway house that I know of that may be able to help you.  I can give you the number, my sister works there and I can recommend you.  She can be very helpful.”

            “What are you implying?”

            “Nothing. I thought that if you need help, I know where you can get some.”

            “What makes you think I need help?  Do I look like I need help?”

            “Ma’am, I thought, maybe, that, you know . . .  you kinda look homeless.”

            “You stupid bitch!  I look homeless!  Homeless!”  “What the hell . . .”  “Don’t say it, she can have you kicked out.”  “I’m sorry.  You’re only trying to help.  I know I look, a bit, uhmmm, messy?, but I’m fine, really.  Like I said, I slept over a friend’s house and I’m rushing to go to work.”

            “I thought you said you went out on a date.”

            “Damn you, bitch, stay out of my life.  What the hell’s going on here?!  Who the hell are you to interrogate me?!”  “You’re right, date.  That’s why I’m in a rush.  And actually, if I continue having this conversation, I’m going to be really late for work.  Do you mind if I just finish so I won’t be late?”

            “I’m sorry, Ma’am.  Of course, I didn’t mean to be rude or anything.  I thought . . . never mind.  Have a good day, Ma’am.”  The cashier nodded good-bye and walked out of the ladies room.

            “Finally. My God! You’d think someone assigned her to be my guardian angel.  House shelter.  Like I’ll ever subject myself to a shelter. As long as I can walk and look decent, I’ll never live in a shelter. Beverly Hills is my home, I was born here, I grew up here and I lived here. Damn, if I’m moving out because my ex–husband dumped me. I’m not leaving.”

            The woman finished putting on her mascara and lipstick, and then she packed up all her belongings.  She cleaned the basin and counter.  She walked toward the door, opened it, and turned off the light.  She walked past the cashier who was busy helping a customer, the cashier looked up and watched the woman walk down the escalator and nodded her head.

            The woman, once she reached the third floor, she went to the fragrance department and sprayed Chanel No.5 on her neck and shoulders.  Then, the woman took a deep breath and walked out of the store into the bright sunlight with a wide smile on her face.

 Written by Jo Ann Rodriquez

All rights reserved. No part of the short stories may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author, “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” and email to storeetalks@outlook.com

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