Robin grew up in Franklin County, Missouri, with four brothers and a family of pets named after the characters on the Andy Griffith show. She is mom to three children and grandma to three. She’s been married twice. The second is the better one.

Pursley’s U-Save Mart was the scene of my crime. The women who worked there knew me well – I lived just up the street and spent hours that summer wandering the store aisles to keep cool and dream of what I would buy.

The first aisle on the left was my favorite. The sign overhead read, “BEAUTY/PERSONAL CARE.” Shampoo, curlers, eye shadow, lipstick. Things a 14-year-old girl needed. Wanted.

The round surveillance mirrors were too far away to give a clear picture. And I was good. I’d close my hand over my selection, walk toward the back of the store, and casually stuff it into the pocket of my shorts. Keep my hands there a minute or two to look natural. Success.

I always stayed in the store a while longer, looking and debating over this hairbrush or that candy bar. The cashier would eventually go back to stocking or dusting. Then I could leave. All summer long, I stole from U-Save Mart. I smirked at the women who worked there when they weren’t looking. How easy they were to fool!

One rainy August afternoon I compiled a mental wish list as I sloshed to the U-Save Mart. School would be starting soon. I wanted some light blue eye shadow, just like my friend Pam Burrows had. I knew her mom brought her here a lot; this must be where she got it. I was gonna get some, too.

My fingers trailed across compacts, lipstick tubes and eyelash curlers. Then I saw it. A tiny square plastic box with shadow on one side and a fancy, Q-tip stick on the other. The card above it said, “ICY BLUE”. My eyes glowed with greed as I pulled it off the peg.

Wait till they see the first day of school! And blue was so “in.” That’s what I wanted to be. “IN” the popular crowd. “IN” vited to all the parties. This could only help. I wrapped my hand around the shadow and rammed my fist into my pocket. Then I sauntered down the aisle, trying to look bored and trustworthy.

The old woman walked toward me. She held a plastic, polka-dotted rain bonnet in her hand, drops still clinging to the folds. A shiny, black, patent-leather purse hung from her fleshy arm. The clasp was open; Kleenexes, pill bottles and bits of paper threatened to spill out. I looked into her eyes to see if she knew. She did. The look of shock and sad disappointment I saw there made my face burn. Her wrinkled hand reached into the messy maw of her purse and pulled out a white envelope. On the outside, I saw words scribbled in jittery handwriting: “Bobby pins. Powder. Bufferin”. Her list. She wiggled her fingers inside the tattered envelope and pulled out a dollar bill as worn and tired as her face. A shaky hand thrust the bill toward me.

“You’ll look prettier when you pay for that, honey.”

The dollar felt hot in my hand. I looked up to try and explain myself. The reason why I did what I did. The faded blue eyes looking back were kind, but I could see icy shards of disapproval there, too. It hurt to look in those eyes. I turned away and trudged to the checkout.

I didn’t wear the eyeshadow the first day of school. Or any other day. When I rubbed the fancy Q-tip across my eyelids and looked in the bathroom mirror, I didn’t see an “ICY BLUE”, in style color. All I could see was kindness covering shame. 

It was a reflection of myself that I never wanted to see again.

• • • 

Contact Robin at robinwrites@yahoo.com