Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Panties Half Off
One afternoon at the Julia shop Maddie kept me busy out on the sales floor searching for any loose or frayed threads in the rug so I could trim them with a pair of scissors. I was too happy to be annoyed, my car was finally fixed and as a plus it even had a working cassette deck. The repairs would have been done about two weeks ago but an argument between my brother and stepfather had escalated into wrench throwing and they ended up shattering the windshield of my Monte Carlo. I demanded they pay for it but my stepfather explained that it was my own fault for parking it in the driveway.
You have to admit there’s just no way to argue with logic like that.
So there I was clipping away, excited at the prospect of just driving the long way home. My transportation was back, I was free, I was on my own, I was independent again.
Of course I’d had to beg my grandmother for gas money but after the whole windshield thing I’m sure you understand.
So there I was trimming away at stray fibers when a pair of open toed shoes appeared before me, “I heard you were working here.”
“Lilly?” I spoke slowly and softly, not just out of shock but also because the sight of her tended to throw my salivary glands into overdrive.
She smiled down at me, “You look good.”
Since I was down on my knees anyway the thought of proposing marriage right then and there occurred to me but then I realized that might be moving too fast. “You look great,” I stood up and set the scissors down on a shelf. “You always look great.”
“You’re always too nice.”
“That’s me,” I nodded. “Mr. Nice Guy.”
“Yeah, its kinda funny. One of my friends was shopping here and she almost didn’t recognize you until she heard your manager call you a complete idiot.”
I fought to keep my smile even, “Yeah we’re always kidding each other here. One big family. Just like home really.”
“So how are things with you?”
“Couldn’t be better. I’m keeping busy. I’ve got a full plate. How are you? Going to college?”
“Oh yeah. I’m going to get a teaching degree,” she looked away for a moment. “I’m living with Jessie now.”
“Well that’s…” I tried to think of something that would sound positive. “…that’s very cost effective.”
She nodded, “Yeah, its pretty great. What time do you get done with work? I’d love to talk to you for a while.”
“Two hours,” my pulse quickened.
“Well my friend Adrian wanted to run a Dungeons & Dragons game about Vikings fighting giant spiders but I really wasn’t too hot on the idea. How about we get a bite to eat?”
“I’d love to,” she said. “It’s a date.”
And then the drooling kicked in.
The rest of my day went by like a euphoric fugue the likes of which I would never feel again until the hospital gave me morphine to dull the pain of my kidney stones.
Am I comparing first love to kidney stones? Heavens no, you get over kidney stones…
We had dinner at an eatery in the mall that was too shabby to be a restaurant but too clean to be fast food. We talked about high school, about how she missed it and how I didn't. We caught each other up one our family and friends. I told her about the lie detector and Orville but I decided not to mention the more dramatic moments of the meeting.
I showed her my Monte Carlo, proud that the repairs were finally done. I was less proud when the damn thing wouldn't start. I opened the checked the engine but truth be told the only part of the car I really understood was the part that keeps the hood from smashing you in the skull. Lilly said it sounded like either the starter or the alternator and I took her word for it.
It had just started to rain. That meant I had to hurry to catch the bus otherwise I would end up waiting for almost and hour. Lilly told me he would give me a ride home and she wouldn't take no for an answer. She took me the long way back to my house and talked more, we talked so much the we ended up driving past my house and having to turn back.
Throwing caution to the wind I confessed that I knew where she and Jessie lived and sometimes I drove past for no Earthly good reason.
After we passed my house a second time and decided to park and talk some more. The spot she chose was secluded and rarely trafficked. Lilly kept the engine on so we could listen to the radio but I offered to play her one of my mix tapes instead; if she saw the one I slipped into the tape deck had her name on it she didn't say anything. The downpour increased in strength until it sounded like a roar against the body of her car.
“Oh no!” she laughed.
“I was waist deep in garbage before I got out,” I said, “The smell was just... ugh.”
“Well I worked at McDonalds for a summer, it was bad. Not as bad as what you went through but bad enough.”
I leaned back in my seat, “Where do you work now?”
“I work at a pet store, they're really good about scheduling around my college schedule.”
“College.” I shook my head, “I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.”
“Who says we have to grow up?”
“Everyone I think,” there was a flash followed by a distant rumble. “I really appreciate the ride home.”
“You're not home yet,” she grinned, but then her expression became serious. “Are you ever sorry you asked me out?”
“No.” I said, “Never. I do wish things had gone differently.”
“I wonder if maybe I asked you out too soon,” I stared at the glove compartment, my heart was doing a two-step in my chest, “And I didn't want you to just be my high school romance.”
“I wasn’t your only high school romance,” She had pulled her knees up under her and she had one arm resting on the steering wheel. “What about Lizzie, Agnes and Cath?”
“Those girls didn’t count,” I explained. “At least not past ten anyways. They were just so I could try and get over you. They were disasters.”
“What about now?”
“Now I’m on to fresh new disasters.”
“You don’t sound very happy,” A trio of cars whooshed past their headlights casting her in light and shadow, for a moment the image of her lingered in my eyes and then faded. “Are you?”
“I am right now,” I said, “Are you happy?”
That was the moment I chose to kiss her.
The smell of her perfume washed over, her lips were warm, when she exhaled a shuddering breath I breathed it in. My mixtape had reached Bonnie Tyler's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' a song I would from then on associate with her.
After that first, sweetest kiss of the night was over I whispered, “I love you.” What the Hell else could I say?
She drew me closer, “You better.”
At this point we will tastefully pan away from the scene and I will simply say that I have lots of memories good and bad but there are few memories that shine – the birth of my daughter, the afternoons my wife and I spent together in our apartment in Florida that resulted in that daughter, the first time I saw my name in print and that night. I could never do that night justice with mere words.
I should also stress that since I did not lose my virginity until I was 20 things did not go as far as you might have imagined. Why you might ask, well how shall I say this?
Well let’s just say that in Dungeons and Dragons terms I rolled a critical weapons fumble while my blade was still in its scabbard, before combat had even begun.
I don’t think Lilly never noticed and I never said a word, mostly because I was embarrassed. I’m pretty sure she thought I was being gentlemanly or timid, or both.
Regardless of that my spirits, unlike my shorts, were not dampened. I was in love and for once it wasn't the unrequited kind