Steve stood five feet from her, dumbly holding his bag. She was oblivious to him. She took out a compact and leaned over the jewelry counter, touching up lips that were one shade away from what his mother liked to call “red-as-a-whore.”
But she didn’t look like a whore. She looked like Grace Kelly, albeit with a scrunched brow and nervous hands that kept tapping the glass of the jewelry case. Steve looked like a Steve, just Steve. As if his parents had known he would grow into one of those nametag jobs. He edged closer to her and fake-coughed into his sleeve. She must have noticed him by now. Her spine stiffened, her eyes turned imperceptibly towards him. The corners of her mouth twitched in what might have been a smile, or a smirk, and she lowered her face to the counter again.
“Having trouble?” he asked, his voice cracking oddly, like he’d just hit puberty. He blushed. She noticed.
“Oh, you have no idea. I want to buy something for my mom, for her birthday. I just can’t decide between these two rings.” She motioned vaguely at some thirty different pieces of jewelry sitting on the top shelf.
“You have good taste,” he said. There it was again. That smile/smirk.
“Why don’t you try them on?” Steve asked.
A minute later, she was holding out her hand at arm’s length and wiggling her fingers.
“What do you think?” she asked.
“I think they both look great on you,” he said. “Can’t say about your mom.” She noticed he’d been shuffling closer to her under the pretense of examining the rings. He hoped he didn’t smell like the tuna salad he’d eaten earlier.
“I still can’t decide. Maybe I’ll just buy one for her and keep the other,” she said half-jokingly.
“Nothing wrong with that, if you have the money.”
“Oh, it’d be credit,” she laughed. “But I’m tempted.”
“You only live once.”
She groaned — almost sex-moaned, Steve thought — trying to decide. She leaned over the counter, trying to get the salesman’s attention.
“I think I’ll take both.”
The salesman moved to take the rings over to the cash register. She interrupted him.
“Sorry, would you mind just boxing them for me? I’m going to help my friend here look for what he needs before I check out,” she said, eyeing Steve, who smiled and stared at his shoes.
The salesman hesitated, raised his eyebrows at her, looked at Steve, honed in on her breasts, decided there wasn’t much harm in her request, and graciously acquiesced.
She walked away from the jewelry counter, a white box in each hand.
“Thank you so much for your help,” she said, her voice only slightly exaggerated. Before Steve knew it, her arms were slipping around his scrawny torso. It was one of those surprise hugs, the kind 8-year-old girls give their parents. Momentarily stunned by the attack, he held his arms in the air. He felt her hold on longer than she needed to, her breasts pressed against his chest. He unintentionally brushed her ass with his hand.
She pulled away, smiling. “Now, what can I help you with?”
“Oh, I already bought what I came for…” he said, lifting up his bag. He regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. God damn it.
She frowned, then fake-laughed. “I wish you’d said something earlier. I would have paid then. I hope you like what you bought.”
He felt like an idiot.
“I do, thanks.”
She gave him an “oh, well” smile and started to walk toward the cash register. He stared at her backside for a moment, willing himself to follow her. Instead, he turned around and shuffled toward the exit, silently cursing his cowardice. As he neared the door, he heard an impatient, quick rustling and the click-clack of high heels on tile floors. He began to turn around, his heart surging. Maybe she’d followed him, wanted to write her phone number on his hand. The security alarms went off before he even finished this thought. He felt the rough hand of a guard on his sleeve.
Then there she was. She breezed past him while the alarms kept blaring, ignoring him completely. All he saw was a blur of blonde hair and red lipstick. The hem of her jersey dress grazed his hand. Too bewildered to say anything, he could only watch her. The guard asked him to turn out his pockets. He reached inside his coat and drew out a white, felt ring-box. As the doors swung shut, she turned around briefly, took its twin out of her pocket and mouthed “thank you” to him. A sympathetic smile played on her lips. Or maybe a smirk. Then she was around the corner, out of sight. That whore.