Priceless

“I just cannot believe that woman!” My eyes leering straight ahead, I take a stab at my chicken teriyaki but miss and impale the white Styrofoam container instead. I look down at the unexpected cthunk of the plastic fork. My co-worker and self-appointed shopping companion Sandra huffs out a short breath. Unsuccessfully, she tries to rearrange her pointy features into something resembling more of an interested friend and less like the exasperated and overworked secretary that she is. The poor girl gets her ear talked right off her dark head all day only to go on lunch break with me at the mall and have the other one follow suit.
“Really Jen, it’s not such a crime for the woman to go out and buy herself a new outfit once and a while. She’s entitled. As the boss, it’s practically her job to look good.” Sandra sips her smoothie and sneaks a glance at her cell phone.
“It’s a crime when she has enough extra cash lying around to just pick out a complete outfit, from La Perla pantyhose to the Chanel hairclip, while her cronies are forced to eat chicken teriyaki cooked by high school stoners in a mall food court!” In my frenzy I slam my fork onto the linoleum tabletop, and it skitters across to drop onto the floor. After a moment of looking at it, Sandra sighs again and begins to gather up her purse.
“Alright hun, break’s over. Back to Liseman’s for us. I hear they might cut down on the free samples in the bathroom and there’s a Shiseido I really need for my date tonight. That’s the problem of working at an all-woman’s company- we come to depend on these perks.”
“Maybe we wouldn’t need to rely on samples if Liseman herself wasn’t using company money to fund her little designer fetish”, I mutter, but obediently follow her through the doors to my 1986 Volvo station wagon. My father liked to joke that it resembled something a homeless man would live in, but I prefer the term “well-loved”. I almost feel guilty turning the key in the ignition; the horrendous spluttering noise never fails to remind me of one of those dramatic hacking coughs when the old man is on his deathbed. I can practically hear the death bell tolling.
On the way back to the office Sandra chatters on about her first date with Mr. Hot Restauranteur, and my thoughts stray back to the scene at the mall. I was standing in the clearance section of Dahlia’s, flipping through the racks and dismissing each item like a dissatisfied Queen. Frustrated, I nonchalantly strolled over to the more expensive section. My Payless flats and TJ Maxx outfit seemed as out of place as my Nana in a 50 Cent video, but my discomfort soon melted away (along with my heart) when I suddenly spied the most spectacular suit I had ever laid eyes on. Approaching it the way a nature show host approaches a family of wild antelopes, I crept closer to appreciate its beauty in closer detail. The more I looked, the more I marveled. The silk slate-gray pants were slim-cut and pleated, but in an elegant way as supposed to a lunch-with-the-girls-at-the-club way. The back pockets were embellished with abalone buttons. The matching suit jacket had a sharp cut, wearing the hanger as if it were modeling it. The black lining held the name of an intimidating designer’s name, but the exterior shone as if with an inner magic. When I lifted the price tag, I couldn’t help but drop it as if it had burned me. There is no way my salary as a beauty technician consultant could ever afford something so glorious! I chuckled to myself as I backed away- the way one backs away from a holy sight- but stopped cold when I spotted my boss advancing towards me.
“Jen! Whatever are you doing here?” I froze, thoughts racing around in my head. No, I hadn’t stolen anything. I had remembered to forward that ridiculous memo (after making some alterations of my own of course). This was my lunch break. Was she trying to restrict my areas of free time? Could that snake even do that?
“Jen? It’s Jen, right?” She looked worried for a moment, her thin mouth puckering.
“Yes, Ms. Liseman,” I rushed to say. “That’s…that’s a beautiful suit”, I stuttered stupidly, nodding at the gorgeous creation residing between us.
“Oh yes, I was just admiring it myself” the snake drawled, her greedy eyes savoring the garment. “Pity that you could never appreciate something so…refined.” With that, she snatched the size zero off the rack, spun on her Jimmy Choos, and strutted up to the cash register. I stood rooted to the spot, unsure whether I should beat her over the head with my purse or burst into tears. I eventually decided to do neither and rushed to drown my sorrows in a hot and greasy chicken teriyaki.
I’m suddenly jolted back to reality when Sandra snorts in laughter at a story I was supposed to be listening to and the light turns red. When she sees my bewildered expression, she sighs (once again) and playfully musses my light brown hair. I giggle and push her over in her seat, and soon we’re engaged in a full-fledged tickle war. Battling only the way girls can, we screech and tee-hee like hyenas until the car behind us honks, signaling the change in light. I attempt to stomp on the gas, but only succeed in upgrading that feeble old man cough into a truck driver with lung cancer’s thunder. As the Volvo zooms along in the warm spring air, I realize something important. No matter how supremely arrogant my boss may be, no matter how miniscule my paycheck is, the condition of my car, or even my hair, it’s not the end of the world. I have a patient and understanding friend, my health, a loving family, and a belly full of greasy Chinese food.





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