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L. Davyd Pollack
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What would you do if you found a million dollars? Better yet, make it two million. It's a simple question to ask but more difficult than you might think to answer. After you get past the obvious, new house, new car, and no bills, then what?
And by the way, if you were lucky enough to find such a treasure, wouldn't you have the moral responsibility to find who lost it in the first place? It’s questions like these that complicate Helen Chaffin’s life, and two million isn’t even the half of it.
In the end, she risks it all on a wager that most people wouldn’t make and if she loses—it could cost her everything.
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My definition of a Novella: a quick and easy read designed to last two, maybe three days worth of fast food lunches or brown-bag conventions. Also, see definition of Short Story.
Read from In the Rough:
The Gap had a couple of outfits that Brit liked. They weren’t Ralph Lauren but they were expensive, for the Gap; she couldn’t decide on one so she took both. Helen was still agonizing over two tops that she picked out to go with yet another pair of very low rider jeans. The back and forth was relentless and Brit was clearly losing patience. She turned away from Helen before she spoke. “Both tops go with the jeans and they look great on you. Stop thinking about it so hard and take them. We’ve gotta get out of here soon. It’s getting late.”
Normally, this situation would be a no-brainer for Helen. She would do exactly what Brit suggested and buy both. Then later on, agonize over the purchase in the privacy of her apartment while trying to decide which top to return. But Brit was right, all three pieces looked great on her and Helen knew that if she bought them, this time, the stuff might not go back. From a financial point of view, she could rationalize one top and one pair of jeans. But two tops?
One was a flower print that looked sheer but wasn’t transparent. The other was a bustier with accents at critical locations making it sexy but not too trashy. The jeans were $70.00, the flower top was $55.00 and the bustier, which was a special purchase not available in all stores, was discounted at $149.00. She really wanted all three, but that wouldn’t be the end of it. On the way out of the mall, there would be another stop for a new pair of shoes at $169.00, and a double wide matching belt for $49.00. The belt was a must because it fit the loops on the new jeans. Helen knew that if she bought it all, she would be the one paying for it all. That was her dilemma.
Being the consummate pro that she was, Brit, the tigress of the shopping jungle sensed blood. “Helen. Talk to me. What’s the problem?”
“Give me a minute, would-juh.” Helen held out both tops with one hanger in each hand and continued going back and forth. “I’m trying to decide. Patience is a virtue you know.”
“Not when it comes to getting out of here so that we can get ready for tonight.” Britney’s arms were folded tight, a clear sign. “Oh for God’s sake, just take it all and let’s go already.”
Helen stayed focused on the tops. “What’s your rush? You look great as is. You could go just like you are—he probably wouldn’t even notice.”
Britney gave Helen the not on your life glare. “He might not, but I would and that’s unacceptable. Now what’s wrong with you? Just grab them—let’s go—it’s not like you’re going to keep everything anyway.” Brit turned to the rack of clothes on her left and pretended to browse while acting as if she hadn’t really said anything of consequence.
Helen was shocked, but she hid it well. In the past, Brit never mentioned the return policy even though in hindsight, there may have been a few subtle hints. Helen assumed that Brit never put two and two together because, well, Brit was Brit. But apparently, her assumption was wrong. It wasn’t that Brit was simply too aloof or self-absorbed to care. Brit’s reason for holding back was once again, timing.
Until now, Britney Parsons kept her mouth shut because she alone would decide when the time was right to let the cat out of the bag, and this was indeed the right time. She may lack the skills to function on her own in the real world, but in her world, she was Queen. I might be shallow, self-serving, and totally out of touch with the feelings of others, but I’m definitely not an airhead.
Helen’s shock passed quickly and she regained her composure. Then, she came to the conclusion that if Brit was capable of saying something insensitive and instantly moving on, so could she. “You know you’re right Brat—oh—I mean Brit. Let’s go to the register. I’ll return everything sometime next week after I get off work. You know, that weird thing I do to earn money—my own money.”
Helen checked out first knowing that Brit would have to wait her turn while watching the entire purchase. As for the future, the price of these shopping sprees just became too expensive. Helen wanted nothing more than to say goodbye, go home, and put an end to the whole charade, but there were two reasons why she couldn’t. First, Brit drove and second, Helen found herself in the unenviable situation of having to prove something to a twit.
As for Brit, she always made a point of inviting Helen over after their shopping sprees to try on the new clothes. There would always be one excuse or another, and Brit would chalk it up to the secret return policy. However this time, things were different, they both had dates to get ready for and with her new attitude, Helen might just accept. Brit thought better of extending the invitation and instead, decided to take the subject off the table by driving straight to Helen’s apartment. When they got there, she would simply smile, say good night, and effectively end the shopping spree on a positive note.
The drive back was filled with idle chitchat that for most friends would come naturally, but in this case, was forced. Time seemed to crawl but eventually, Brit stopped her Mercedes in front of Helen’s apartment and said, “I had a good time today. We have to do it again, maybe next month.” Brit smiled while waiting for her friend to say something equally as pretentious, and then get out of her car. It was true that Brit was more aware than people gave her credit for, but when it came to thinking on her feet, she couldn’t hold a candle to Helen.
Helen turned to Brit sporting a big smile of her own. “Sure enough girlfriend. It’s a date. But in the meantime, I’m going to leave these things right here. I can’t wait to go to your place and try everything on. We can get ready for tonight there. Give me a few minutes to get the rest of my stuff. I’ll be right back.” Helen got out of the car with a rhetorical, “This is going to be so much fun.” And before Britney could get a word in edgewise, she was off.
As strange as it may seem, Brit had no idea how to respond when faced with her own tactics. So, she did what she had always expected of others, she waited. However, after a few moments of waiting, she started to do something she never expected of others; she started to think. If Helen wants to wear one of her outfits out tonight, then she isn’t going to be returning it. Whatever she decides not to wear can’t go back either. I know that she doesn’t have the guts to wear and return. But how do I make sure that she keeps what she doesn’t wear? Brit paused and smiled to herself as she pondered her own question. Patience is a virtue. I’ll wait, something will come up—it always does. Wow, there’s nothing like a little peer pressure to put someone back in her place. Uh-huh, I’m still the Queen. Yep, I’m glad Helen decided to come over after all. This will be fun.
Then Brit’s smile began to fade as she thought through the consequences of her actions. Her goal was to embarrass Helen into spending more money than she could afford and it worked, but there was a flaw. Crap! Tonight, Helen will look awesome no matter which outfit she chooses and she’ll be doing it right next to me. I’ll have to do something about that too.