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Sunday, February 17, 2019

13: Girls' Day Out

            When Jasmine enters the Mall, she catches deep brown, intense eyes looking straight at her.  They’re coming from a young man, about 28, with equally deep brown hair, wearing a tuxedo, and exuding GQ – a model, on a digital billboard standing at the front of the Mall entry.  His eyes draw her in and keep her fixated, mesmerized.  Creepy.  She wonders how the photographer achieves this effect, and how the Mall’s interior designer sets the photograph to have the model looking directly at Jasmine, where she happens to be walking.  She’s both drawn to him and disturbed by him; he’s almost, but not quite, stalking her.  He gazes her way interested, curious about her, confident he’s cool and that she must naturally take an interest to him. 
But the catch, the especially creepy part, is he’s not single.  He’s about as un-single as any man can be.  This almost stalker is a groom, standing with a lovely bride with long, curled blond hair, set under a tiara of blue and white flowers.  Oblivious to his attentions, she is looking upon him adoringly.  Wake up, Bride!  Is she not upset that her groom, the love of her life, the one she is about to marry, is not looking onto her, but onto another woman?  Why is this lovely bride in the photograph not bothered that her man is eyeing Jasmine?
            Beneath the photograph of Almost Stalker Groom and Adoring Bride are the words, “Bridal Show,” followed by the date, time, place, and the bribes: “No Entrance Fee,” “Free Gifts,” “Wedding and Reception Prizes,” and “Free Lunch Follows.”  How can Jasmine spare Mindy from seeing this intrusion to their Girls’ Day Out?  She imagines Mindy will probably enter from the same door and see it too.  Could she distract her before she sees it?  Perhaps she can pretend to be browsing toward the front of one of these shops and call to Mindy before she sees the billboard too.
            Jasmine scans the shops.  Directly in front of her is a jewelry store displaying its own standing ad board by its front entry.  The photo on this board portrays yet another thoroughly in-love young couple, though this couple is not dressed for a wedding, but more likely, a night out on the town.  The young woman is wearing a stunning red dress with a low-cut V-neck; she is sitting on a black suede  leather chair, and, this time, her man is doting upon her, while attaching a silver necklace with a bright ruby pendant around her neck.  This photograph is sweet, feel-good, not creepy.  But, still.  Next door is a cute clothing fashion store for teen girls; next to it is a make-up shop; and next to the make-up shop is another women’s fashion shop called, “The Roaring 20s.” Jasmine knows, of course, that 30-somethings and even 40-somethings shop there too, but would it remind Mindy she has only one year remaining of her own roaring 20s? Better skip that one too.  Next to The Roaring 20s is a shoe store.  Perfect.
            The front display, a pine wood table sporting multi-layered display risers, also in pine wood, that features its latest styles, mostly boots, block heels, and wedge heels on 2 ½ inch platforms.  Jasmine marvels those gaudy new fashions with more sole and heel than shoe and foot could possibly be trendy, but she reasons the fashion won’t last.  She’ll be sure to tease them with Mindy.  Mocking the latest shoe would make a fun start Girls’ Day Out.  Come quick, Mindy, we’re starting here. 
Just then, Jasmine spots an intruder.  To the right of the front display is the shoe store’s ad board.  A young woman with long, sexy legs is sitting in a chair a sporting a spaghetti strap burgundy top, a black mini-skirt, and the store’s latest block heels, also in burgundy.  Could the store not have stopped at that photo with the model wearing its latest release?  Apparently not.  On the floor, kneeling beneath the young woman, is a young man, looking upon her lovingly, lifting up a black, velvet case, shown just above the advertised shoes.  Atop the case is a glistening diamond ring.
            Et tu, Brute?  Jasmine sighs.  She knows her accusation of the shoe store exaggerates.  It’s hardly a co-conspirator out to murder her friend, but seeing the displays through the eyes of her heart-broken friend makes Jasmine resent the mall as an engulfing monster.   Jasmine and her friends have often mocked the multi-billion dollar industry of women and romance, but right now, it’s personal.  Can the mall host any safe place?
Jasmine checks her cell phone for any update from Mindy.  No text.  The phone reads, “10:04.”  Jasmine figures she’ll need to wander for about six more minutes, since Mindy is faithfully ten minutes late to everything.  The two friends have held a Girls’ Day Out together only a few times at random moments in the past few years.  Jasmine recalls her favorite.  It was just after Mindy had started dating Justin.  To Jasmine, the story of how Mindy met Justin belongs in a romantic comedy.  If Jasmine thought Tim’s proposal to a song with the lyric, “Baby I’m amazed by you” was romantic, she found Mindy’s song, and story behind it, with Justin even more romantic.  Still, she smiles, they’re remarkably similar.  Both songs were of men who were either “amazed” by their love or who found their love “amazing.”  Perhaps a girl wants to be more than just “completed” by her man; she wants her man to be “amazed” by her.
 At lunch that day, Mindy told the story: “I met Justin at a Bruno Mars concert.  A group of us friends were all going together and one of the other guys brought Justin.  Most of us were singing along to all the songs, too loudly of course, I’m sure to the annoyance of all the other concert-goers around us.  When Bruno began singing, ‘Just the Way you Are,’ Justin and I were the only two in our group who could hit the pitch on ‘face.’”
            “No one can hit that note,” exclaimed Jasmine.  “Let me hear you.”
            Mindy chuckles, ”I can’t do it as well when I’m singing it with Justin.”  She looks around, sheepishly, at the others in the restaurant.
            “You don’t know them,” urged Jasmine.  ”They don’t care.  Sing it!  You can do it!”
            Blushing, Mindy begins singing.
“When I see your face
There’s not a thing I’d change
Cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are”

Mindy’s blush turns bright.  “Thanks. But I didn’t hit that note like I can when I’m with Justin.  Even that first time at the concert, we hit that note perfectly, finished it precisely at the same moment, and our voices blended into a lovely duet, even if I am the one to say so.  Our group cheered, we high-fived, and then we stood together and sang together for the rest of the concert.  ‘I sing better when I’m with you,’ he said.  ‘No,’ I replied with a smile, ‘I sing better when I’m singing with you!’”
            Jasmine marvels such a perfect match could have broken up, and Mindy’s been silent about what happened.  Hopefully, she’ll open up today. 
There’s Mindy now.  All Jasmine needed to do was get lost in Mindy’s romance to call her up.   Thankfully, Mindy is not looking at the larger-than-life digital billboards, the standing ad boards, or any of the shops; instead, she’s waving at Jasmine, smiling.  As Mindy approaches, Jasmine spots their salvation starting point: a toy store!  Jasmine picks up her pace, greets her friend, hugs her, wishes her happy birthday, and points to the toy store. “Let’s start here!” 
Mindy looks puzzled.  “I’m turning twenty-nine, not nine!” 
“You want to stay young, right?” Jasmine counters. 
“And this is Girls’ Day Out, right?”  Jasmine keeps to herself her smug pride for thinking up such a great argument on the spot. 
“OK then, let’s start here!” 
Mindy smiles wide.  How did she ever manage to find a friend like Jasmine?
            Whew!  That was close.  Now how do we find something really special for Mindy in this toy store?

© 2019 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

12: The Ancient Obsession

            “You complete me” never came from Steven’s mouth.  Nor did any other words come from him to her, nor from her to him.  It took years, but the pining finally subsided. Then it occasionally burst up again unsummoned.  No matter the years, the relationships, even the marriages, one can never be cured of the loss of one’s first love.  Even now, nine years later, with a sweet husband and a whatever-you’d-like-to-call-it with a hot jock youth pastor, Jasmine feels the pierce in her heart for her first love.
            At least it was a momentary break from the never-ending images of those moments with Davie – their introduction, their one-two punch winning shots, their High 5 slaps, followed by their Low 5 shakes – held barely longer than what’s considered appropriate.
Set it aside.  Steven’s in the past and Davie never really was.  Think on your husband.  You know, that amazing man you fell in love with who is not forbidden?   Jasmine kept the vow she made with her friends after Jerry Maguire.  Mostly.  Her husband Tim might not have fully completed her, but he completed her in the way that mattered at that time: he was a stable force.  Jasmine was scattered, unsure of herself, and felt like she was living on a roller coaster.  But Tim is like a rock, stable, confident, and always certain.
Familiar music breaks her thoughts – the instrumental version of the chorus of Lonestar’s crossover 2000 hit, “Amazed.”  Tim had the song playing during a dinner he made for Jasmine, and he perfectly timed his kneeling presentation of an engagement ring to the lyric, “I wanna spend the rest of my life / with you by my side.”  Then her gorgeous stable rock timed his next move brilliantly.  Just after “Baby I’m amazed by you,” he asked, “Will you marry me?”  
Jasmine smiles.  Her trick seems to be working.  Last month, she found an instrumental version of the song and downloaded its chorus onto her cell phone to set as her ring tone.  Yes, even her phone is helping her rekindle that early, elated spark with her husband.  She almost doesn’t want to answer the phone so she can keep listening to the music.  Can she let this call go?
It’s Mindy.  Better not.  
“Hey Jazzie, are you free for shopping and lunching on Sunday?”
Sunday.  Perfect.  She can idle away her day with her best friend and forget where she isn’t. Sundays usually started at church and then continued with lunch out with her husband and their friends at Quail Canyon – until she not been cast out.  Tim has decided to take a break from church, but says he and Jasmine should think about checking out a new one.  For now, Jasmine wants to boycott church altogether.  But still, Sundays are hard – especially at lunch time. 
“What’s the occasion?”
“I’m turning 29 and freaking out.  Maybe you and Girls’ Day Out at the Mall can save me.” 
“You baby girl!”  Jasmine’s 32.  She can say that. 
Mindy chuckles, but says Jasmine doesn’t get it: “You were married by 30.” After a pause, she adds, “You were even married by 29!” 
At 25.  Jasmine wonders why she married so young. 
“Are you freaking out because it’s your birthday, or because your heart’s still crushed over Justin?”
All of it,” Mindy groans. I tell myself not to think about him, but I can’t stop, so I think around him.  And I think around the break-up.”  Jasmine can relate.  It’s how she was after her break-up with Steven, and it’s even how her mind is working now, thinking “around” Davie -- not that they “broke up” and not that they were ever “together” in the first place.
Mindy continues, “When I’m not thinking around the break-up, my mind returns to the ‘omen’ – that ancient obsession women should be married before 30.” 
Ancient obsession.  Like ‘you will desire your man’? 
“And that ancient obsession that we can’t stop thinking about our man,” Jasmine adds. 
“Yeah, that one.”
Do we women still have to live this way? 
“Haven’t we outgrown the archaic ‘married by 30’ madness?”
“Maybe the other seven billion people in the world have, but not my family,” Mindy groans.
            “Really?  Are you getting pressure from your family?”
            “Maybe it’s just Mom.  Married at 29, she often says she made it ‘just in time to beat the omen.’  She likes to brag about the next part too: she had all her kids by the time she was 40.  I’m the youngest of four, born when she was 39.”
            “Uh oh, you’ve got big shoes to fill!”
            “I do!  Mom reminds me of it too, saying, ‘29: great year to get married!’”
“Uh oh.  You’re deep in the mud.  Do you tell her things have changed?”
“Haven’t mustered up the courage yet.  How do I break it to her that life has changed since the days of eight track tapes, black-and-white TVs, and disco?  I think I need a cheerleader.  You.  So, Girls’ Day Out Sunday morning?”
“To cheer up my bestie?  Of course!  When do you want to start?”
“How about right when the Mall opens?  Ten, at the fountain, in front of Macy’s.”
“Perfect.  I won’t be missing church, since I’ve been ex-communicated.  Ten it is.” 
“Ex-communicated?!  Do Protestants do that?  What have you done, Girl?!” 
Uh oh, what have I just done?

© 2019 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.