Johnny loathed the mall. Even in that moment with his girlfriend, Lisette, especially in that moment, he wished he were anywhere else. They walked hand in hand down a wing of the Fox Hills Mall and he held a Victoria’s Secret bag filled with new underwear and soaps that he had bought for Lisette. He was looking at her while they walked. Her lips were moving as she talked, but he was distracted by his thoughts and was not listening to her current rant.
For the past few months, she’d been driving him crazy with her incessant complaining, and her constant need to buy stuff, at his expense no less. He watched her animated manner of speaking and they way she sassed her head with seemingly every word, and it was driving him insane. He had once thought it was cute, and that she was so sexy and different. He once actually loved her curly locks and vivid makeup, and he even thought that she was strong, vocal, opinionated, and smart. It was so clear though, that he’d been wrong about it all.
She complained about everything and everyone, including him. He never before had known anyone that could find something bad to say about everyone. Her makeup looked caked on, and it made her look cheap. He thought her hair was ridiculous, and he hated that she allowed her roots to grow so long, pushing out her highlights. She refused to get them done, even though he had offered to pay for it. “You know what I mean?” she asked, kissing her teeth slightly. “Are you listening to me?”
“Huh? Yeah, you’re mad at your cousin cause’ she’s stupid,” he replied, just catching the tail end of her rant.
“What did she do?”
“She…” he paused.
“See I knew it. You never listen to me anymore. What is your problem any….ooh! I wanna go to Bebe! You owe me for not listening to me!” She didn’t wait for him, and in an instant she was walking to the store. He rolled his eyes behind her back and followed.
The store was brightly lit, with cute young women walking about, ogling merchandise. Johnny glanced around and could see that there were other boyfriends or husbands reluctantly lurching about, hanging close to the walls. He saw a girl hold something up to show her guy, and his face changed from complete disinterest to a huge fake smile followed by an approving nod. “Saps” Johnny murmured, chuckling to himself.
Johnny saw Lisette by a rack of clothes, already pulling something down. He walked over in a stooper and hung a few feet back from her. She held onto a pair of black stretchy pants, and bounced away to another rack without saying a word to him. He followed, noting that all of the women were trapped in their own bubbles, staring at the racks of clothes in a trance-like state.
Johnny thought about Laurel, his soon to be ex-wife, wondering where she was. He had thought about her often, feeling guilty for what had transpired and his major part of their breakup. He never meant for things to go the way they did, but he thought that in the end, it had been for the best. Poor, frail, hopeless, clueless Laurel, he thought to himself. She must be at home, still crying, wondering what she had done wrong. She would be beating herself up for months over this one, he thought to himself. He figured that she would take him back the second he wanted to come back, and that, he thought, might just be his next move.
He followed Lisette to another rack, keeping his distance, still entranced in his thoughts about Laurel. He worried though, about her. He always had. There was a time, when he loved her simplicity. Her stability, gentle demeanor, and pureness of heart was unbelievable to him, so much so that he actually thought it had been an act for so long. She proved to be for real though, a genuinely good woman, but alas she was boring. He couldn’t help take advantage of his freedom, and when another offer came, he slipped out the back door.
As weak as he was when it came to other women, he was not completely without a conscience, and the guilt had worsened over time. His made up image of her crying at home alone weighed on him. He had even tried calling her once, but her phone was off. Maybe he’d call her soon, he thought. Better yet, maybe he would swing by in person.
“What’s your problem?” Lisette asked. She stared directly at Johnny, catching him by surprise.
“What?” he asked, annoyed.
“Oh forget it. I was talking to you. I’m gonna go try this shit on,” she said, rolling her eyes. He sighed in annoyance and followed her to the fitting rooms. “I need to try these on,” she said with an attitude to the girl working the fitting rooms.
“How many items do you have?” the girl asked professionally, ignoring Lisette’s attitude.
“Uh, three.” The girl handed her a number with a three on it, and Lisette disappeared into a room. Awkward boring minutes passed, when Lisette finally bounced out of the dressing room, wearing the black stretch pants and a t-shirt. She was busting out of her pants that had to be at least two sizes too small, and that was without regard to her increasingly pregnant belly. “Don’t you have these in a bigger size?” Lisette asked the girl.
“Um, sorry, the biggest size we have left in those is an eight. They’re a hot seller,” the girl answered nicely, but with a straight face.
“Oh really? You didn’t even go check. And why are you giving me attitude?” Lisette asked, raising her voice. Oh shit, not again, Johnny thought.
“Miss, I did not give you attitude. I was just telling you…” Lisette cut her off.
“Oh you were. I am not stupid! Since you’re not going to bother checking for a customer, you need to just go back to doing your stupid little job! I don’t need to take this kind of shit from no little retail person!” Lisette snapped, making her way back into the fitting room. “This is bullshit!” she declared, slamming the fitting room door lightly. A few other gals, who had been standing near by, were watching in disgust. The young sales associate’s face was completely red.
“I didn’t give her any attitude, she just started snapping,” the girl said in a low voice, to nobody in particular. Johnny was red with shame and embarrassment, and he couldn’t bring himself to say a word.