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Every weekday, after school, the elementary kids would come visit "The feathered Hat" to see Ms. Otoga. Actually, they really only came to play with the costumes, but Loraine didn't mind. she loved kids, and was loved by them so much she was officially dubbed "The Hat Lady". This had been the only thing that was routine in her store. Surprises were everything else.
"Michael," Loraine would call to her husband. "Where are the sock witht he red stripes?"
"Uh. Lori, you promise not to get mad?"
"No. Now tell me."
"They're in the oven."
"... Why?" These surprises were not always so ridiculous, but they were cute in their own way.
Except for some of the surprises at work.
Within the luscious colors of the store, the door chime could be heard from the back of the storage room, where Loraine currently stacked boxes of costumes. The customer said nothing, and waited patiently as she struggled to push a box into its correct position. Loraine still assumed the person waiting for her would be an elementary school child, since it was time for them to come around, asking for candy and such. What she found in front of her cashier desk, however, was none other than Wayne Kuntor. The last time she saw him, he was sleeping in his father's arms, worn out from a soccer game he had won for his team.
Michael had always been a Popular man, but he never really kept in touch with his old high school friends. The only real friend he did make the effort for was Adam Kuntor. He was special, a real man among men, yet a gentleman all the same. There was no doubt, Wayne was certainly Adam's son. They had the same blindingly pale skin and strong build, but Wayne had green eyes and black hair. This came from Marge, Adam's bluntly honest wife. She was gorgeously tan, compared to Loraine's regular skin tone. This did not pass to Wayne, but her eyes were there. Wayne looked up, annoyed, and said "I have a question, Ma'am."
He was all grown up, in high school, speaking in such a formal manner.
She politely replied. "Yes? What can I do for you?"
"I've been meaning to ask this for a long time, but just what the hell is this shop?"
A pause of silence passed by, the wind gently blowing the see-through curtains near the open door, making a very quiet sound breezes make. Loraine laughed at him.
You sure are Marge's kid, huh? Well, at least you said Ma'am, she said in her head, but out loud there was only "This is a costume shop. I sell mostly items for Halloween or masquerade balls, but there are tuxedos and gowns. Also jewelry." Flipping her brown hair, she spoke with her naturally friendly attitude that normally charmed all, including her husband.
Wayne responded with his innocent face staring up at her. He did not look like a child, and he wasn't mocking her. So how could he possibly pull off such a face?
"Jewelry is a superficial item used only for the buyers own selfish reasons."
He managed to retain his innocent look while saying this, and Loraine raised an eyebrow, surprised. Not much could catch her off guard, but this did. It amused her.
"Girls do buy jewelry for superficial reasons, but doesn't that have a positive effect on how they feel about themselves? it gives them confidence."
"What about guys who give girls jewelry?" He asked, also intrigued by the conversation.
To think, this was the same kid who believed the guy on the otmeal box was real.
"I think it's very sweet to buy jewelry for someone you care about."
"That is such a lie." He guffawed, picking up a mask and placing it on his face.
Without aggression, she took the mask from him and put it back. "How so?" It became obvious that Wayne did not remember her, based on how straightforward he confessed the truth.
"My dad buys jewelry fro mom, but he's cheating on her."
"-what?!" The word ran out of her mouth, and into the open air, with all it's shock. He was not wary of her outburst.
"It only happens once a month, but I heard him talk about it with his friends. Apparently, he's 'Stressed out' about it."
The only thing more strange than Wayne telling a so-called strange such an intimate secret would be Adam Kuntor cheating on his wife. Adam feels guilty over the tiniest thing, thought Loraine. How could he manage an affair?
"And.. how many times has he given your mom jewelry?" Trying to downplay her curiosity, she tried to casually ask.
His fingers traced over some fabric on display. "The whole thing started three months ago, but he's already given her two necklaces, three bracelets, and a ring."
"May I please ask why you are telling me this?" Loraine couldn't take it anymore, hearing such an unfortunate circumstance during such a beautiful Summer day, and from a boy who appeared emotionless on the subject. He was telling a stranger, and he didn't care!
But his eyes didn't look at her this time. He turned his back, only cheekbones could be seen of his face. He sniffed, the way guys do when they try to act cool and tough. It didn't fool her for one second.
"A kid shouldn't have to deal with so much."
"We kids shouldn't have to deal with adults that think we're stupid."
"I never said that."
"You implied it." No response.
Silence. She looked down, and behind the counter under the glass case lat a big white box. A forgotten box so mysterious, it lead Loraine away from the witty conversation. However, she did not intend on letting him leave with the last word.
Bent down on her knees, "People imply such things of others, yet the relevance is slim." She slid the box out, "For example, you came in here making me think you were a brat, but here you are now speaking as a concerned son." The case only shook slightly in the process.
"When did I say I was concerned?" He defensively asked.
"You implied it." Again, no response.
Silence. This time, they locked eyes, and did not look away. He leaned forward, his hands placed on the counter.
"Please," The eyes flashed a from of sadness breaking Loraine's heart. "Don't tell anyone."
With that, he left. He left! There were no other words expressed between the two. But it did not waver her, instead she only sighed and searched for a working pen. Memory served her well while conversing with him, and she remembered what was in the white box. The ink dried, and next she was on the phone, calling for an extra delivery to be made that day. Could the white box be so important that she would pay the extra cost to make the delivery? Loraine didn't care, and she took the white box into the dressing room.
If only he knew, she thought. There is no correct age for dealing with these tragedies. If only he knew nobody should go through things alone. I hope one day he learns that.
Out came a dress. A white box filled with a blue dress. But not just any dress. THE dress. But not THE dress for Loraine. She remembered, as she pulled the lace trim of the neckline over her head gently. Eyes closed, mind cleared, she turned to face the mirror.
It was beautiful. Slightly Victorian styled, the sleeves were a see-through fabric of creamy blue and glitter, revealing skin. The back was practically bare with nothing but lace from the built in corset both comfortable and shapely.
Instead of a princess fluffy bottom, the dress went from a silk belt wrapped gently around the waist to an extremely unique bottom. Lace covered the trim of the bottom, with a deep cut to the left thigh, revealing blue silk similar to the sleeves. It was beautiful. She opened her eyes.
It looked disgusting on Loraine. Its upper art emphasized her long neck too much, the silk showed her pasty skin to be nightmarish, and her chicken legs... will not be discussed.
She sighed. I knew it, she thought. The same as the last time I tried it on.
Loraine had spent months working on the dress, wanting to wear it for a masquerade ball she and Marge had been planning to attend. But when trying on the dress, she realized it was not meant for her. It was meant for someone shorter, with more curves. Someone tan, with green eyes that perfectly compliment the blue.
The dress was already back in the box, wrapped neatly and safe. It was ready for travel, and the plan was set. Loraine went back to the counter. She picked up the phone to make the final call.
"Hey Marge! Listen, about the masquerade, I can't go." They chatted a bit.
"I know, it's so late, but how about you just take Adam instead? He won't say no to you." There was a delighted sound from the other end of the phone.
"Alright, you two have fun. Talk to you soon. Bye."
She hung up, and waited for the package to be picked up. It was already five o'clock. Closing time. She locked the door, and went home.
Michael found Loraine reading another romance novel.
"Hey honey, how was your day?" He gave her a peck on the cheek and sat down on the sofa with her.
"I'm attempting to fix the Kuntor's marriage. And how was your day?"
"Apparently not as exciting as yours. What happened?"
"Well, Adam's been cheating on Marge."
"ok.." He sighed and snuggled in with her under the covers. "How exactly did you help their marriage?"
Loraine smiled and kissed Michael. Somehow, thinking of helping the Kuntor family, with a beautiful wife, wonderfully concerned son, and flawed yet gentle husband, made her beyond happy.
"I gave Marge a wish."
Another child rushed by with an over-sized shirt. Lorain laughed as she lifted it off him, and pit it back on display. The bell chimed as the door opened, and the customer waited patiently as she picked up another little girl from a box in storage.
"Ms. Otoga, aren't you getting too old for this?" The customer had become a regular, like the children, coming only to see Loraine.
She looked up, amused, and said "No, Wayne. I'm happy doing what I do best."