Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Anything For You

     I turned to Jacquie and tilted my head under the bright dressing room lights. “What do you think?” 
Her face fell. “Oh, honey. That colour is all wrong for you!”
My stomach sank. “What? No! I asked the woman at the counter! She did a skin test and everything!” I whirled back to the mirror and scrutinised my jawline. Sure enough, if I craned my neck up and tilted to the right, a line of orange traced my jaw from chin to earlobe. “What am I going to do?” I turned to Jacquie in a panic. “The formal’s in”—I checked the big old train station clock on the wall—“ three hours and I have a hair appointment and I have to get dressed and we have to drive there, and besides all that, I’m broke!” I buried my hands in my face and tried to pretend I wasn’t sobbing over makeup. After all, children in Africa were dying. Children in Africa weren’t preparing simultaneously for their senior formal and their first date with the love of their high school life, though, to be fair.
“Return it,” Jacquie said. “It’s the only thing you can do.”
“It’s opened!” I wailed. “They’ll never take it back! I’m broken! The whole evening ruined!”
Jacquie took me by the arm and marched me to the door as I waved the open tube of foundation vaguely. “You’ve clearly never seen me negotiate,” she promised as we climbed into the car. “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. You know I’ll do anything to make this date perfect for you. It’s going to be fine.”

We waited as the shop assistant served three other people ahead of us. Finally, it was our turn.
“How may I help you?” the perfectly-coiffed woman with blonde hair piled atop her head and flawless makeup smoothing her cheeks asked.
Jacquie pinned her with a steely stare. “We need to exchange some makeup,” she said firmly, placing the tube down on the table.
The woman gave it a cursory glance and plastered a false smile in place. “I’m sorry, this has been opened. No returns on opened items.”
Jacquie plunked our ace down on the table: the list on store letterhead detailing the makeup the previous assistant had recommended for me. “In this case,” she said, “I believe you should make an exception. As you can see, the colour”—she squinted at the list—“Sharryn recommended for my friend is all wrong.”
The store woman glanced at me and I tilted my head obligingly, clearly revealing the line of orange along my jaw that we’d left in place for evidence. She frowned. “Well. I am sorry about this, and you can be certain that Sharryn will be reprimanded. In cases such as this it is sometimes possible to make an exchange, but I’m afraid you’ve purchased Hellfire foundation. Did you read the fie print?”
Stomach fluttering with trepidation, I shook my head. She handed back the list and I skimmed to the bottom of the page. The usual disclaimers were there, indemnifying the store against skin damage, allergic reactions and so forth—and there, right at the end, in print so tiny I had to hold the paper an inch from my nose to read it, a final clause: Purchasers agree that along with any financial exchange the store sees fit to apply, all purchases of Hellfire products shall paid for with the irredeemable giving over of the purchaser’s soul. Purchases of Hellfire products are final, non-refundable, and non-exchangeable, except where a soul of greater value may be applied with the willing consent of the soul-owner.
Great. Where was I going to get a willing soul of greater value at such short notice? I pressed the list to my forehead and sighed. There was one option, of course… “Jacquie?”
“What is it? Why can’t you exchange it?” She peered worriedly at me, brown eyes wide.
My heart pounded. “You know how you owe me that favour?”
Her brow creased. “Well sure. But—”
“Would you be willing to do it for me now?” I said, cutting over her.
“Um, yes? I guess so. I don’t know how that will help, though.” She turned to the shop woman, puzzled.
The woman lifted a considering eyebrow at me.
“Well?” I said. “She’s willing. Hers is of greater value, isn’t it?” Of course it was; Jacquie was an angel. I, on the other hand, was self-evidently not.
The woman’s other eyebrow joined the first. “Yes.” She turned to Jacquie. “If you’ll just come with me, Miss, I’m sure we can get this all sorted out.”
“Um, okay?” Jacquie shot me a puzzled glance before following the shop assistant out the back.
I smiled and nodded encouragingly. “Thank you!” I called. “Thank you so much!” I couldn’t give up a date with Matt. He was the love of my high school life, after all. Jacquie would understand. Eventually.

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