The mall was swarming with shoppers, all eager to grab a bargain in the mid-season sales. Marie bustled from store to store, credit card flashing and bags accumulating. Cotton sheets were fondled, the scent of expensive candles inhaled, chocolates sampled, all in the pursuit of something new, something different.
Marie’s neophilia knew no bounds. Her house was filled with novelty candies and toys, kitchen implements from the mundane to the unnecessary, cushions in every fashionable colour from the last ten years and every appliance known to man. She couldn’t help it; they were all just so beautiful and new, full of potential and promising a better, easier, tastier product.
The latest arboreal arrangements sat amongst a riot of flowers and gift balloons in the florist, the tankini was back in fashion in the swimwear store, and Marie paused at each before moving on, fresh flowers and new bathing suit added to her purchases.
‘UP TO 70% OFF!’ screamed a sign in her favourite shoe store. Oooh, I could use a new pair of sandals! And oh, look at those heels – I have to try them on! Swinging into the brightly lit store, Marie made a beeline for the mint platform heels, admiring her foot in the mirror as she tried the sample size on.
Ten minutes and a positive steal later, Marie left the store with three pairs of brand new shoes, the mint heels among them. Blissfully happy and thinking of all the money she’d saved, she waltzed down to the supermarket, trying not to crush the fresh flowers nestled in the crook of her arm.
Okay; milk, bread, tampons…don’t think I need anything else. Oh! They have a new flavour of chocolate! I’ll just buy a little bar…
Dumping her last few purchases on the counter in the express lane, Marie fumbled for her purse as the cashier scanned them, pulling out the credit card one final time.
“I’m sorry, but your card’s been declined,” the cashier said apologetically.
“What? That can’t be right; let me try it again.”
The card declined again. And again. She’d emptied her credit account. And her savings account was empty until pay day; three days away. The line behind her was building up, fellow customers frowning and tapping their feet impatiently as she grew more and more flustered.
“I’m sorry ma’am. Perhaps if you contact your bank and come back later?” The cashier ushered her on, and Marie could see judgment in every expression on her professional, smiling face.
Mortified, she took her bags and her flowers and left, leaving behind the groceries she needed. Suddenly the lustre of her beautiful shoes, stylish bathers and crisp new sheets wore off, the adrenaline of a good bargain dissipating.
Sale items were non-returnable. The kids wouldn’t have any milk for cereal tomorrow. Or bread for school lunches.
But the shoes are so pretty. And I did need new sheets. Maybe I can borrow a few dollars from the kids for groceries. Marie scrunched her nose, disgusted at herself. I’m going to hell.
Cheeks still burning, Marie set her jaw determinedly as she left the mall. She was freezing her credit card when she got home. Once it was paid off, she was getting rid of it.
Shoes can wait. The kids can’t.
Words taken from Merriam Webster’s October ‘Word of the Day’ archive: