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.
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Contact Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org