FRIDAY FICTION with RONOVAN WRITES Prompt Challenge #23-Surprise.

So many cars!  

I parked at the edge and looked up at the sky, a childhood memory plaguing my mind as I walked toward the most expensive store in a two-story mall.

Spinning, pillow soft clouds wandering by, a cushion of grass at my feet, I loved the light dizzy flowing past me, limberly falling on grass next to a pile of black ants.  A foreign culture gathering small bits of leaves and foraging for food, my presence quickening their march into a mysterious tunnel of sand. 

Searching for the meaning of it, my mind asked “why?”  I became the black ant, scurrying down the tunnel to escape the giant eyes as I carried that boulder of bread crumb toward the tunnel. 

The color of happy faded the year that twinge hit my stomach and all I wanted was the best gymnast in school to love me.  So did every other girl, but I was fortunate.  He became a fast food manager. I found a man who loved me more than his own life. My husband taught me to enjoy the moment, to embrace the color of happy…to understand that adult responsibility didn’t have to come at the cost of your soul.   

I wandered over freshly polished tiles, into a store offering nothing I needed.

“Oh, God!” A child no older than 16 screamed out.  The clerk at the cosmetics counter turned away to stifle a laugh while her two friends comforted her.  “Why did this have to happen now?”

“Should I call an ambulance?”  I asked.

“My life is over,” She wailed, holding the remains of a perfect inch-long nail in her hand.  “I can’t go to prom like this!”

“It’s not a perfect solution, but if you can afford to buy anything in this part of the mall, you can find a salon that will apply a perfect replacement to match your other nails. You’re so beautiful, no one will notice anything but your radiant smile.”

“Really?”  She asked, her face glowing with the compliment.

I remembered those years, the beauty of youth marred by magazines insisting that perfection is derived from just the right product.  I remembered the words I wanted to hear, and they didn’t include “grow up,” followed quickly by, “enjoy your youth while you have it.”

“Really,” I replied with a gentle smile.

Giggling, three girls rushed away in search of a salon, while I continued toward my destination. 

I pushed through a thickening crowd to find the little store my husband and I visited last month, after his mother’s pronouncement that I needed “proper attire” for his sister’s wedding.

“Why don’t you get this one?”  He’d asked, holding up a plain dress with a matching bolero top embroidered with his favorite color, royal blue.

“I’m much too happy to wear that,” I’d protested, giggling at him.

His smile haunted me as I stood in front of the rack, too absorbed in my search to notice the sales lady standing next to me.  “May I help you find something?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m looking for that black dress with the bolero top.”

“It’s in clearance,” She said, eagerly fetching it.

The purchase, the trite thank you, passing through a crowd back to my car, all blurred together like a spinning child’s view of the clouds.  My purpose for the day completed, I carried in my hand the dress I’d wear one time, to my husband’s funeral.