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The Jean Story
Jessie sat on the bench outside J Crew's fitting rooms. She stared at her watch. Seventeen minutes. That's how long she had been sitting on this hard bench. Seventeen minutes.
Her friend Cassie's head popped out behind the fitting room door.
“Hey, can you get this in a 0? Thanks.”
The door slammed shut before Jessie could reply.
Jessie willed herself to get up from the bench. She had been at the mall with Cassie, Marissa, and Elisabeth for three hours. She hated malls. The fluorescent lighting, the confined spaces, the blaring music, the overly perky salesgirls…she hated malls. Cassie Marissa and Elisabeth loved malls. Their motto was “So much stuff, so little time.” All four of the girls were searching for a new pair of jeans. So far, though countless pairs had been purchased by the shop-happy threesome of Cassie, Marissa, and Elisabeth, none had proved to be 'the pair'. Jessie was starting to have her doubts as to whether these 'perfect jeans' existed.
Jessie slowly walked into the adjoining shop. “Can I help you in any way?” the bubbly sales girl beamed. Jessie wanted to shake the annoyingly perky girl and scream, “No one is that happy! Can you just act like a normal human being?!” Instead Jessie smiled back and politely asked for the dark jeans in a zero. The girl nodded and told her energetically that her name was Paula and that if she “had any questions, just ask!” These days, Jessie realized, a lot of things ended up unsaid.
Turning away from 'Paula', Jessie's cell phone buzzed. Her cell phone was an embarrassment. It was only a year old, but it couldn't hold music, take photos or videos or go online. It could text however, and, checking the glowing screen, Jessie realized who it was. She grinned and pressed speed-dial 4. The phone was ringing when Cassie pulled her towards the cash register. “Don't worry about the dark-wash skinny jeans. We only have, like, an hour, and we still have to go to Victoria's Secret and Sephora.” Jessie hung up just as a disembodied voice spoke, “Hello?”
Walking through Montgomery Mall, all four girls sipped Diet Cokes. Marissa was telling a story from her date yesterday night. Though she was sure to nod and giggle in time with Cassie and Elisabeth, Jessie wasn't really paying attention.
Amazingly, the “incredible color of Christian's eyes” didn't fascinate her. As she blocked the conversation in front of her out, Jessie started to question why she counted these three girls as her friends. They couldn't care less about anything she was interested in. When they heard “Obama” they said, “He’s, like, some guy in politics, right?” Darfur incited blank stares. Spending time with them made Jessie feel worse, not better. She felt so out of it when they talked about their fellow prissy friends from other schools. Of course, Jessie knew nothing about these friends. When she asked questions about these unknown friends was more likely to get an eye roll than anything else. Every mocking stare they shared when Jessie commented on something felt like a slap in the face. "Why do I hang out with these girls?" Jessie asked herself. Why did she force herself to watch Gossip Girl? Why? Why? Why?
Emerging from her reverie, Jessie stopped. She needed to go to Old Navy.
"I need to go to Old Navy." she said blankly. Marissa shot an exasperated glance at Elisabeth. "Ew. Why? You might as well shop at a used clothing store!" Three of the four girls giggled. Jessie frowned. "I just need to go there, okay. I only have thirty bucks, and these stores," gesturing to the surrounding stores, "are a little out of my price range."
"Why not use your credit-oh right, you don't have one. Whatever. We'll be at Sephora."
As Jessie turned around to navigate to her desired store, she distinctly heard a whispered "Old Navy" and a cascade of giggles. She shook her head as if to clear it and pushed her way through the throngs of Saturday shoppers. She passed shops filled with mannequins robed in delicate lace and silk. Past a gaming store, to the very back of the mall. She doubted whether her fellow jeans-hunters had ever even been to this dilapidated corner of the mall. The fact it was even in close proximity to a Dollar Store was proof enough.
Jessie stood before the monumental Old Navy. She sighed. This was a shop she knew well.
She entered Old Navy. The crowds here were much smaller, much less intimidating. At the very back of the store, she reached the jean section. It was incredibly disorganized. At some point these jeans were probably folded neatly. Not now. In front of here was a pile. Jessie plunged her hands into the bulky pile. She grasped a jean leg and pulled. Several pairs fell to the floor as she withdrew. Size 14. She knew this would take a while.
As she stood in the dressing room, Jessie pondered how a pair of jeans could possibly fit better than these did now. She had always had a problem getting pants to fit. They were simple. They were medium wash with no embroidery or beading. They were straight leg. Slipping into them, she somehow knew that this pair was the one. They were far more comfortable than any other pair she had tried on this afternoon, and, according to the price tag, they were far less expensive. She decided to purchase them.
Standing in front of (yet another) salesgirl, she reached a decision. It was one she had been considering for quite some time, but now she was definite. Clutching her Old Navy bag with pride, she pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. She scrolled down her address book and pressed the tiny, glowing, green button.
“Hi, it's Cassie's phone! Leave a message and I'll call you back! 'Bye!”
Jessie hung up. She needed to do this in person.
The crowds throughout the mall had thinned in the past half-hour. Jessie ran to the closest map and searched for Sephora. She had been before but couldn't remember quite where…She spotted it on the map. It was near Gap. She clung to her new jeans and fled up the escalators.
“Hello. Welcome to Sephora.” A honeyed voice exclaimed as Jessie entered the store. She ignored the woman and approached Cassie and the crew near the register. Their arms were laden with boxes and bottles. The woman at the cash-register's glazed face lit up when she saw the considerable amount Cassie, Marissa, and Elisabeth were purchasing.
“Hey. You get your jeans at Old Navy?” 'Old Navy' came out sounding strangled as if the speaker was trying her hardest not to laugh.
“Why, yes, I did Elisabeth. I'm just curious, if you could choose the next president, who would it be?” Jessie inquired.
Silence. “Who cares? Uh, I think my dad wants…the old dude?” Marissa muttered.
“Oh, okay, McCain. Well, I've gotta run.”
"Sorry, you guys. Gossip Girl is stupid, as are your conversations. Sephora is ridiculously overpriced," the salesgirls shot scathing glances at Jessie. They weren't so perky now. "And, sorry, Christian's eyes aren't very interesting. I have nothing in common with you guys. Anyway. I've gotta go." She smiled at their shocked faces and walked with pride out of the store.
"Well, your clothes are tacky, and out of style!" called Cassie.
"Oh, well. 'Bye!" replied Jessie. Her cell phone vibrated. Upon seeing the name, she laughed and flipped the phone open. "Hi Ally. You'll never believe what I just did." As she walked to the front of the mall she talked with her real friend. She stepped outside. The sun shined down on her face. She felt better than she had in months.