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Authors: Jennifer Davis

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BOOK: For The Least Of These
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Our waitress walked by and offered us dessert
– freshly fried sopaipillas and honey – but we were both too full to indulge. We paid our bill and sort of sauntered to my car. When I sat down behind the steering wheel, I had to let my meal settle before I could drive.

“So, what time is this party?” I asked as I shifted Sam into reverse.

“I’m supposed to meet Skylar at seven in front of his room – number 917. Oh, I forgot to tell you, all of Rick’s crew – including Rick himself – is staying on the ninth floor of the Richland. Skylar wouldn’t say which room was Rick’s, but Rick might tell you himself – later. Anyway, Skylar is going to give me two personal invitations that will get us into the party. He has to ride with his gang, but he’ll see us there.”

This was starting to smell fishy again.
“Why does he have to ride with them? He sees them every day and travels with them all the time. I’d think he’d want to get away from them sometimes.”

“Apparently,
Rick has asked the band and the roadies to be there early. Skylar thinks he might be giving them something special since they are nearing the end of Rick’s farewell tour.”

I pulled to the exit, but the traffic was horrendous.
While we waited, I wondered if this party story was canned tuna or mackerel. Finally I said, “Are you sure this isn’t just a party for Rick’s crew? Is Skylar really allowed to invite friends – aka a girl he wants to impress and her friend that he hasn’t even met?”


Look, Skylar says it’s okay. Rick likes Skylar a lot. You see Rick went to high school with Skylar’s older brother who is also a member of the band. Rick told him he could invite whomever he pleased.”

I still didn’t fully buy the story, but I decided it couldn’t hurt to go along with it.
“Okay, Alicia. You can meet Skylar and get the invites. But what time should we show up? I don’t want to get there too early.”


Skylar is leaving as soon as I pick up the invitations. He said we shouldn’t arrive at the party before eight o’clock. But of course, we can go to the casino and play before that, if we want to.”

T
here was an opening in the right lane, but I wanted to turn left. The line of cars coming towards me looked unending, and I decided that if I took a right, I could take a couple more rights and be back to Beach Boulevard. Then I could turn right and be at the Richland in no time. I turned right. Alicia looked at me strangely, but then she said, “You must have read my mind. We have two hours before I meet Skylar, so we need to get us some party dresses! Now I know why we are friends – we always think alike.”

I couldn’t spoil Alicia’s bonding moment by telling her that party dresses were the last thing on my mind, so I pretended that she was right.

After driving only a few blocks, I pulled into the parking lot of a small shopping center.
Actually, “shopping center” was stretching it a bit. There was a souvenir shop – “Beach Sport, Surf, and Souvenirs”; a dress boutique – “Anne’s”; and another shop called “Madame Robichaux’s”. As we exited the car, Alicia sprinted towards Anne’s, but I was curious about Madame Robichaux’s. I had no idea what kind of shop it was, and only dim lights illuminated the windows – making it difficult to see inside. I reluctantly followed Alicia into Anne’s, but I promised myself I would check out the other shop before we went back to the hotel.

Anne’s was, as I had expected, rather pricey and formal.
Still, after a good bit of hunting, I found a standard black dress that was my size and – more importantly – on sale. I told myself that I would be able to wear a black dress to any of a number of places and events once I returned to my drab existence in Pensacola. After all, I’d been invited to a number of parties during my reign as Advertising Planner. So what if they were company sponsored holiday events? An invitation was an invitation. I plucked the dress off the rack and looked around for Alicia.

Before I found her, I found a display of shoes
– another sale! The first pair I found in my size was called “Energizers”, but they looked more like “Agonizers” – black leather strapped pumps with four-inch stiletto heels and a narrow, pointy toe. They were sexy, but I knew I’d fall on my butt if I tried to wear them. I picked up a pair of black patent leather flats. They were ugly, but they looked comfortable. The size and the price were right, so I headed towards the checkout register. I almost made it, too. But just before I got there, Alicia grabbed me by the arm.

“You aren’t going to buy those, are you?” she asked in a mildly disgusted tone of voice.

“I was planning on it. Why?”

“You already have a closet full of black dresses.
And those shoes are just plain ugly.”

“Thanks for your rousing endorsement.
I’ll wear them in pride tonight.”

“Okay, fine.
Whatever you want to do is fine with me. But don’t come crying to me when Rick Hartwood doesn’t even acknowledge your existence. He must meet – what - hundreds of women a week? I think I’d want to wear something to make him remember me. Not some plain little black dress and dog-ugly flats. Oh well, he’s your dreamboat. Maybe he likes ordinary, plain women…”

She really knew how to get to me.
I hung the dress back on the rack and tossed the shoes aside. “Okay, Miss Fashion Plate, what do you think I should get?”

Alicia pulled something from behind her back.
“This should do it,” she said with quite a bit of satisfaction.

To call what she was holding a dress would have been a huge exaggeration.
The piece of ivory lace in her hands looked like something I’d be embarrassed to wear on my honeymoon. Except for some well-positioned lace flowers in the bosom and crotch areas, the dress was completely see-through. While Lil’ Kim might have no problem wearing something like this to the MTV Awards show, it was definitely not me.

“I…um…I don’t think so, Alicia.”

“You have to admit, he’d notice you in this.”

“Yes, he’d notice me and laugh me right out of there.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a size 3.”

Alicia held up the size tag.
“It’s a size 5…I guess that’s not your size either. Okay, I’ve got a runner up.”

She held up a lovely, sexy dress.
It was fuchsia in color – short and flowing in the front, long and full in the back. It had one inch straps, a tailored waist, and – best of all – a built in bra. It was absolutely gorgeous, and everything I’d ever dreamed of in a dress. It couldn’t possibly be in my size – but it was! I never knew they made dresses like that for full-sized women like me.

I grabbed the dress from Alicia and held it up in front of me.
“You know I’ll have to try it on,” I said breathlessly.

“I know,” Alicia replied.
“And then you’ll buy it. Even if it is ninety dollars.”

Ninety dollars!
I’d never spent that much money on a dress before. I looked at it again and sighed. I knew it wasn’t meant to be so I started to hang it back on the rack. Alicia grabbed my arm. “You know you love this dress, and you know Rick Hartwood will notice you if you wear it. Brandy, this is not the time to start worrying about money. If you could pay a fortune to stay in a hotel with only the faintest hope of seeing Rick, you can certainly spend ninety more dollars when you know you are going to see him for sure.”

Alicia was right, as much as I hated to admit it.
“Well, are you coming into the dressing room with me or do I have to wear it out here for you to see?”

“I’ll come in there with you.
I have something to try on myself.” Then she added, “And if Rick doesn’t show up, you can return the dress tomorrow. Just don’t take off the tags.” I shot her a sarcastic look and then we stepped into a large dressing room.

I was chagrined when I found that
Alicia had chosen a black dress. It was attractive; it had an empire waist and a cowl neck. It was rather plain, but it looked like something Alicia would wear. Still, she’d chastised me about getting a black dress.


A black dress? What about all that stuff you said before?” I asked her.


What do you mean? I only meant that you shouldn’t wear a black dress. It doesn’t matter what I wear, because…”

“…
I’m so cute, I always get noticed,” we both said in unison.

Alicia giggled like a little girl.
“See, even you know it,” she said.

“After twenty
years of hearing you say that, what do you expect?” I asked.

Alicia and I had
actually known each other more than twenty years. We’d met in middle school. From the beginning, we were inseparable and so it had continued throughout our lives. We were almost unable to fully function without each other. Alicia was Lucy to my Ethel, Rhoda to my Mary, and Laverne to my Shirley.

“Actually, I’m amazed we can even stand each other after
twenty years,” Alicia suddenly added.

“I’m amazed that I can stand you after twenty minutes,” I kidded.

Inside the dressing room, I began to feel a tad bit insecure about my body in a fuchsia-colored slinky dress. Alicia looked pleasant in her subdued outfit. On her, it no longer looked plain – it just didn’t look flashy. At the same time, I began to imagine that I looked like a fading Las Vegas Showgirl who should have known it was time to quit. Alicia, as usual, brought me to my senses.

“You were right before.
Get the black dress…”

“I beg your pardon!
I look absolutely gorgeous in this dress. As soon as I pick up those Energizer shoes, I’ll be ready to checkout. Are you about ready?”

Alicia had a satisfied smirk on her face.
“Yes, I decided to get a pair of those flats you had earlier. I had already picked out a pair.”

“I thought you said those shoes were ugly…”

“Ugly for you don’t necessarily mean ugly for me. And boy, are they ever comfortable.”

“You are such a bitch,” I told her.

“Yeah, but you know you love it. You know you wanted those high-heeled back breakers even before I walked up. Brandy, you don’t fool me. You might act humble and insecure now that you’re all grown up, but it is just that – an act. Deep down, you are still the conceited little girl that I know and love. You are so confident that I bet you are mulling over whether or not to buy a negligee for later tonight. You are probably that certain that Rick will find his way to our suite or invite you to his.”

I rolled my eyes.
“Honey, I don’t need a negligee. Rick would just have to rip it off me anyway.”

Alicia faked a gag.
“I knew the serpent’s ugly head would rise up if I taunted it long enough.” She glanced at her wristwatch. “Come on, Brand. We’ve been in here almost an hour. I wanted to check out that shop next door before we went back to the hotel.”

So, Alicia had noticed that place, too.
Sometimes we were alike. Just not very often.

I picked up the black Energizer shoes and a pair of pantyhose and moved to the checkout.
Alicia was already paying for her purchases. She had the black dress, the flats, pantyhose, hair combs, lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, panties, and a bra. Her total came to $59.48. My three items were slightly higher. I unwillingly forked over $162.52.

After putting our things inside Sam, Alicia and I walked towards Madame Robichaux’s.
“What kind of shop do you think it is?” I asked Alicia.

“Obviously Madame Robichaux is a fortune teller.”

“How do you know?”

“Well, if you bothered to look up on top of the building, there’s a sign up there that says ‘Fortunes Told’.”

I looked up, and Alicia was right. The sign was big and in plain sight. I wondered how I’d missed it before.

As Alicia pushed the door to the shop open, a small bell jingled and a woman appeared from a back doorway.
“Hello,” she said in a high-pitched, sing-songy voice. “I am Madame Robichaux. You want your fortunes told, no?”

“Yes, we do,” Alicia said anxiously to the woman.
Then she whispered to me, “Oh my God, she read our minds!”

“Well, duh.
It isn’t hard to guess that people come into a fortune teller’s shop to get their fortunes told.”

“If you are going to be a skeptic, Brand, maybe you should wait outside.”

“I’ll play along,” I said.

“Please sit down,” the woman said as she pointed to two chairs in front of a table.
The table was covered with a red cloth and a deck of cards lay on the side of it. The woman sat down opposite us and picked up the cards. She was old and the wrinkles on her face were cut deep into her dark skin. Her eyes were like two tiny black coals hidden deep in the recess of a mine wall. I could see her white hair underneath the long dark blue scarf that covered her head, and her small body was dwarfed by a muumuu of the same dark color. She shuffled the cards once, and then placed them in front of me. She spoke: “Think of a question. Touch the cards and let them feel your energy. Let the cards identify with you.”

I hesitated.
Then I asked my burning question, “How much?”

BOOK: For The Least Of These
11.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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