The doorbell rings, signaling the entrance or exit of another customer. “Mr. Elliot! What a pleasant surprise,” a female voice exclaims. “To what do we owe the honor of a visit from headquarters?”
A deep, soft male voice floats over the racks, though I can’t quite make out what he is saying. “Display. . . pieces. . .missingâ€ It can’t be, I wonder. That voice sounds like Jae. At least I think it sounds like him. What is an adventure tourism guide doing in a women’s clothing store? Cross-promoting their clothes with his services, or perhaps looking for females to do â€˜experimental recreational activitiesâ€™ with? But why does the clerk think he’s from headquarters?
I shake my head to clear it. The more important thing is that he is hereâ€”and that means I can get his number again.
“Are you going to try them all on?” the clerk asks as I take off the sandal. “I don’t think they’re going to fit.”
Something snaps inside me. I’d been treated rudely before by store clerks, but the combination of the horror of almost knocking my friend under a bus, the fear of facing Wesley again and the fact that Jae is standing just a few feet away reduces me to my basic core. Enough is enough. I will not be beaten down.
Slowly, deliberately, I pick up the next sandal and shove it on my foot, pulling the sling back around the back of my foot. It’s a tight squeeze and very uncomfortable. I stand up and walk a few paces away and back, hearing Jae chatting with the other store employee. “I really don’t care what you think,” I smile and sit down again. “Actually, I’d like to see your entire selection of pumps and flats. Can you remember what the number eleven looks like? And I have several outfits I need to buy, so can you be quick about it?”
My plan is to ditch this girl as soon as she returns to the storeroom and go talk to Jae. In my mind I picture her juggling several boxes of shoes and dropping them all, only to find her customer gone.
Instead of following my carefully planned fantasy, she places her hands on her hips. “Ma’am,” she says loudly, “We don’t carry clothes in your size. We only stock up to size 6 in dresses and trousers. What size do you wear?”
A couple of customers shopping nearby glance in our direction and hurriedly move off. Jae and the other woman lower their voices, as if they are listening. “I can’t imagineâ€”” the employee murmurs. Jae says something intelligible.
I’m not about to announce to the world and Jae what double digit size fits me, so I sit there, stunned.
The clerk continues. “And I know our largest blouses are way too small for you, as are all the shoes.”
“. . . the wrong store, it sounds like. . .” the woman with Jae stifles a giggle. A third clerk walks by carrying a stack of dresses. She smirks and gives my clerk a look as if to say, Glad it’s you and not me.