A short story for the contest Shopping For Love...
|Aubrey Marx flicked randomly through the racks of evening gowns in the little boutique store called Greta’s Gowns. Aubrey wondered if there really was someone named Greta who owned the store. She wasn’t really sure what she was doing here. She’d gone to the mall, a rare occurrence for her, and something about the little store full of glamorous evening gowns had drawn her eye. God knows she wasn’t going to actually buy one. But then, she wasn’t planning on buying anything. She’d only walked in because she was tired of walking aimlessly through the mall. She wasn’t really sure why she’d come. She’d finally let herself take a day off and had decided going to the mall was something one of her friends would have done. She’d realized her mistake almost as soon as she’d gotten there, malls weren’t something that interested her. But she’d walked around anyways, just for the heck of it. And because she had nothing else to do. She glanced around the store, idly pairing customers off with gowns of specific colors and styles. It was an innate talent she had-for pairing people off with clothes that flattered them. But as her friends often pointed out, it wasn’t something she used on herself, or really even took any interest in. She had a mental chuckle when she passed her eye over the only man in the store, wondering what dress would look best on him. The tiny smile this thought put on her mouth transformed her face remarkably. But that didn’t mean she would smile more. She didn’t care about looking pretty. As she’d often pointed out to her friends, what she cared about was looking professional. Her attention was caught by a woman walking out of the dressing room in a dark colored dress that made her face look almost yellowish-green. She hesitantly asked a saleslady for an opinion, and was enthusiastically told that the dress looked great on her, especially the color. Aubrey didn’t bother to restrain a sigh. She really didn’t understand why clothing stores seemed to inevitably employ people who had no fashion sense. Not that she cared. She plucked a turquoise dress off the rack in front of her. She stalked over to the woman and handed her the dress.
“This will bring out the turquoise in your eyes and brighten your face, try it. It should be the right size.” Not that she cared, of course. At least, she told herself that. The woman walked out of the dressing room minutes later and stood in front of the mirror. Aubrey had already walked over to another rack but she glanced over at the woman.
“Wow!” The woman turned back to Aubrey. “Gee, thanks. You were right. I’ve got a wedding to go to this weekend and I’d have never been able to pick out anything that looked good on me. Thanks.” Aubrey merely nodded and turned back to flipping aimlessly through the rack. She heard someone clear their throat beside her and looked over. Oh my. Devastatingly handsome, was Aubrey’s immediate conclusion. There really wasn’t any one thing you could pinpoint that made the man so, he simply was. His light brown hair was tousled and messy as if exasperated hands had swiped through it many times today.
“I um, couldn’t help overhearing.” he said sheepishly. “I hate to bother you, but I was wondering if you could help me pick out a dress, for someone else.” His eyes were blue, was all Aubrey could think. She cleared her brain quickly. Wait a minute, he was asking her to help him pick out a dress for another woman? Of course. Aubrey nearly sighed. She wondered how long it had been since she had been on a date. Her friends said she was too intimidating to men, that she let the accountant in her take over her looks. It was true that the way she pulled her blond hair fiercely back from her face and into a tidy bun before going to work might make her look a bit…severe. And the crisp suits she wore might seem very…accountant-like. But really, she wanted to be taken seriously, not look pretty. Since she’d finally taken a day off she had also taken her friends advice and put on a pair of jeans and a blue, sleeveless top. She’d left her hair down to float in soft waves around her face, softening it. And now a gorgeous man was asking her for help. To find a dress for another woman. Aubrey sighed aloud.
“What does she look like?” she asked. “Or better yet, do you have a picture of her?”
“Yeah, actually, I do.” The man dug into his pocket for his wallet. “I’m Ethan, by the way.”
“Aubrey.” she said shortly. Finally he pulled a picture out of the wallet and handed it to her. The woman was gorgeous. She had brown hair that curled beautifully and bright, sparkling blue eyes that seemed to laugh at the camera from the porch swing their owner sat in. Aubrey pushed aside her dismay and quickly surveyed the woman’s features. She looked around the store, waiting for something right to catch her eye.
“What are you looking for?” she asked Ethan while she scanned.
“Something for her to wear to a ball sort of thing. I’m not really sure what it is. She works a lot with the hospital, volunteering and stuff, and they’re having a charity ball and she’s hosting it. She never would have entrusted me to buy her a dress, but it’s tonight and she’s got absolutely no time.” Aubrey nodded absently, not wanting to listen to the virtues of his girlfriend. It was bad enough picking out a dress for her without picking out one that would make her look awful. Chiding herself for immaturity Aubrey set her mind to the task. She saw what she wanted one the other side of the little store and walked to it. She picked it up, guessing what she thought would most likely be the correct size, from what she could tell in the picture. She surveyed the dress to be sure.
“Perfect.” she said aloud. It was an incredibly simply strapless white sheath dress, that would just skim the floor in heels if Aubrey had guess the woman’s height right. “With those dramatic features she doesn’t need anything loud or flashy. The white will look good against that hair and those eyes. Her feature will provide all the flash she’d need.” she told Ethan. He studied the dress then nodded.
“Wow. I never would have come up with that on my own, but now that you’ve said it I actually understand and agree. Mercy would be amazed.” Mercy. The woman’s name was Mercy.
“Not much for clothes, are you?” Aubrey asked with a smile. Ethan blinked. That smile completely changed her whole face.
“I can’t stand malls.” Ethan said with force. Aubrey laughed. That too changed her face, giving her brown eyes a light that hadn’t been there before.
“Me too.” she admitted.
“Well, Mercy said she’d murder me if I didn’t go for her, brother or no.”
“Brother? Oh! Mercy’s your sister?” Ethan frowned.
“Yeah, didn’t I…Oh God. That was smooth. I forgot to mention that. Well, that must have been insulting, a man asking you to help him find a gown for another woman.” Aubrey was surprised he got that. She liked him better for it, and for the fact that he loved his sister enough to risk the mall for her. So she laughed and let it go.
“No big deal.” she said, with a wave of her hand.
“Hey,” Ethan said. “Do you want to walk over to the food court with me after I pay for this? I bet if we look we can find some crappy coffee.” Aubrey laughed, for the third time. She was pretty sure that was a new record.
“Sure, that’d be nice. Better then roaming the mall, at least.”
“Great. At least Mercy’s paying for the dress, not me. That would be one thing I wouldn’t tolerate. Her making me go to the mall and then not giving me her charge to pay for the dress.”
“Don’t worry,” Aubrey said, “It’s expensive.” Ethan laughed.
A week later Aubrey drove straight from work to meet her two best friends for drinks. They stared at her when she walked in.
“Who on earth are you and what have you done to Aubrey Marx?” Bonnie asked. Aubrey frowned and sat down.
“What do you mean?” she asked, confused. Bonnie and Juliana surveyed her. She was wearing a halter summer dress that was white with blue flowers. Her hair was down and framed her face, the waves coaxed into slight curls by the brief use of a curling iron before she’d left for work that morning.
“You look…amazing! Did you go to work in that?” Juliana asked her.
“How come you’ve been incognito all week?” Bonnie asked.
“I met a guy.” Aubrey started.
“Ah!” Bonnie nodded.
“Of course.” Juliana chimed in. “We should have guessed.”
“We’ve been out every night this week.” Aubrey admitted.
“Amazing, where’d you meet him?” Juliana asked.
“I met him at the mall.” Aubrey looked at her watch. “Actually, I have to go. I’m supposed to meet him there in twenty minutes. We’re gonna drink some crappy coffee from the food court and then go get dinner.” Aubrey chuckled at herself. “See you later.”
She left in a cloud of happiness, her incredulous friends staring after her.