I’ve decided to participate in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), since I don’t quite feel up to trying NaNoWriMo this year. Today I’m sharing a story that I just wrote in my prompt journal. Each day in the journal has a central idea and words to be worked into the story. These were always fun when I did them as a kid. I remember losing myself in these assignments, so I wanted to see if it would be the same as an adult. (It is.) The prompt for today was:
Please forgive my shoddy research and how hastily this was thrown together. I was a little off rhythm today from the time change and working an evening shift at the bookstore.
The steady clicking of the typewriter, steam rising from fresh coffee cups (there had been three), and the occasional honking horn of a car in the distance were Jen’s main sensory companions on the last Friday before Christmas. Then the phone rang.
The clicking stopped, and Jen ripped the phone from the receiver, prepared to give a snarky answer to the persistent telemarketer on the other end. But she instantly grew lenient when she recognized the voice of her little sister.
“Jenny! Can you please, please do me a huge favor?”
Jen glanced back at the page she had been working on, repressing a sigh. “What is it, Anna? Where is Richard?”
“Away on a business trip.”
“This close to the holiday?”
“What can I say? He’s a workaholic. I mean… he’s dedicated.”
Jen rolled her eyes, glad that Anna couldn’t see her. She was well aware that Jen was not a fan of her husband, a fact that seemed to deeply upset her when it came up in conversation.
“I need you to go to Barneys for me and pick up a pair of silver Manolo Blahniks. I need them for the Christmas Eve shindig that Richard’s parents are throwing. Please, Jenny. It’s important. I have a stomach virus, so I can’t be far from the bathroom right now.”
“Thank you for that info. How do you know you’ll be better in time for the party?” Jen hated the word shindig. It just sounded like something for rich people, the pompous kind that were Richard’s family. “I don’t even know your size or what these shoes look like. How will I know I’m getting the right kind? And there’s one more thing we’re forgetting…”
“I’m a size seven and a half. They only had one pair of the silver left in that size. Fingers crossed that they haven’t been sold yet. I will sign a check and send it with the chauffeur.”
“Anna! I don’t want–”
“It’s too cold for you to take the buses or the waterways today, Jenny. Please. I need you to do this for me. I can’t miss this party, even if I’m not better. And I can’t show up in just anything. Kerry already has it in for me…”
“It’s just a pair of shoes.” Jen picked up the water bottle on her desk and took a very long swig, wishing it were something stronger.
“The heel on my only other pair of designer pumps broke while I was in the city yesterday. After I left Barneys.”
“How convenient. With a husband like Richard, I would think you would have dozens upon dozens of designer pumps by now. I guess non-designer pumps are out of the question, then?” Jen sighed, and Anna was silent, so she gave in. “Fine. I’ll go. If you weren’t my baby sister…”
Anna gushed and gave her the instructions regarding the chauffeur before hanging up.
Jen dragged her feet as she got dressed to go out into the city. She didn’t have anything suitable to wear at the high-end stores that Anna frequented. A plain old shirt and jeans would have to do.
Anna had married rich, and she had never been the same since. Kerry, Anna’s mother-in-law, was one of the most judgmental and miserable people that Jen had ever met. Her first encounter with Kerry had been at the wedding, where Kerry was fussing over the tackiness of the snowflake-shaped doilies they planned to use at the reception. Jen wasn’t sure who had picked out the doilies, but Kerry had interrogated her about it for what felt like hours. She supposed Anna had a point. If the woman made a fuss about something as small as doilies, then it was no doubt that even the smallest fashion blunder (such as a non-designer shoe, how ghastly!) would register on Kerry’s radar.
Jen poured her coffee in a to-go cup and went to stand on the curb to wait for the chauffeur, who, by Anna’s timing, was to arrive in three minutes. Jen was startled by a runner coming her direction as soon as she exited the front door of her building and accidentally sloshed coffee on her coat.
“Watch where you’re going!” the runner snapped at her. She stood still and watched him until he was well out of her path.
“Welcome to New York City,” Jen mumbled. The chauffeur arrived exactly on time, and she climbed into the back of the Town Car.
The driver passed her a napkin, she presumed for her soiled coat. It was beige with patches of her favorite bands’ logos sewn onto the chest, shoulders, and elbows. It was nothing fancy, but it was her favorite. She’d had it for almost a decade now. “Thanks,” she said, taking the envelope that he passed her as well. She opened it up to find the blank, signed check inside it.
Must be nice, she thought.
The drive to Madison Avenue from Brooklyn took about fifty minutes and was complete with honking, swearing cabbies and stubborn pedestrians carrying heavy bags (probably all last-minute Christmas shoppers) who lost them many chances at green lights. Jen hated venturing far from her apartment for this very reason – not just at Christmas, but any time of year. It was always crazy. At least it was better than trekking through public transportation, but she was never going to admit that in front of Anna or her driver.
A store clerk was there to greet Jen as soon as she walked into the massive flagship store. She was grateful, because she was not about to go search for the shoes by herself. She knew nothing of designer brands and didn’t care to. Jen felt self-conscious as she walked further inside the store, seeing how dressed up the other customers were. They must have all been Barneys regulars; she didn’t recognize the gold-plated logos on many of the handbags the women were carrying. Jen had thought Tommy Hilfiger was supposed to be a big deal, but she didn’t see any of the classic red, white, and navy blue colors here.
“I’m looking for a pair of women’s silver Manolo Blahniks. Pumps,” she clarified, feeling increasingly self-conscious as she said the name. Did she pronounce it right? But the sales associate seemed to understand her and asked the size.
“I think we just sold that pair,” the clerk informed her. “But let’s go take a look. I’m sure we will have something else that your sister would like.”
Her heart sinking, Jen followed her. They had a lot of other Manolo Blahniks for sale, just none in silver. The check in Jen’s coat pocket felt heavy with the weight of responsibility. But it was Richard’s money, and his accounts did not seem to be in any danger of drying out. Finally, the clerk talked her into a pair of white ones with silver flower petals near the toe. “Those are totally her,” Jen said, relieved to have made a decision, which meant she could leave soon. She felt like people were staring at her. It was warm inside the store, and she wanted to take off her coat, but she was worried about the looks she might get for the Nirvana t-shirt underneath it.
After paying and feeling the relief of having the check out of her pocket, Jen made her way back to the Town Car. As she slid into the back seat, the driver handed her his Nokia phone. “It’s your sister. She wants to talk to you.”
Jen took the slightly heavy black phone, mentally preparing to be the bearer of bad news. “Anna? Listen, I’m sorry they didn’t have the shoes you wanted, but I got you some in white that I think–”
“Never mind about that.” Anna sounded like she had been crying. “I just need you to get here, quick. Remember how I told you I have a stomach virus?”
“Yeah. Can we make it a quick delivery, then? I don’t want whatever you’ve got.”
“It’s not a virus. I’ve only been throwing up, not the other thing… well, I had a pregnancy test in my purse that I got a while ago, and I took it, and… and… Jenny, I’m so scared.”
“All right. I’ll be there soon,” Jen finally answered.
“It’s not Richard’s…”
Jen was rendered speechless. Of all the ways she thought this day might turn out, this wasn’t one of them.
The check had an amount on it now and was safely underneath the till at the register at Barneys, but now she had a new weight to carry.