Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Shopping (03/01/07)
TITLE: Swimming Against the Tide
By Marlene Bonney
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“May I be of assistance to you?” asked the perfectly and exquisitely dressed proprietor.
“Yes, I’m looking for a red suit to wear to my grandmother’s funeral,” Marilee replied.
“Oh, my dear, not RED to a FUNERAL! That would be VERY improper! You must wear black, or a dark, muted color. Come this way”, and without waiting for Marilee’s acquiescence, the lady primly walked in her pricey strapless heels across the carpeted aisle into the back section of the establishment. There, Marilee politely perused the choices before her, under the guidance of the experienced merchandiser.
“I’m sorry. These are all very nice. But, you see, my grandmother’s favorite color is--I mean was--red. She always liked to see me wear red. Thank you, anyway.”
Marilee sadly turned to leave, fighting back her tears of loss and present frustration. As she approached the door, an elderly woman approached her, whispering conspiratorially,
“Child, don’t you listen to Ms. Dautry. She may own the etiquette encyclopedia on funerals, but she has no right influencing you against your better judgment! I like red, too. Everyone wearing black and somberly whispering around my coffin like a bunch of black crows would give me the creeps!”
Marilee smiled as she tenderly responded,
“You sound just like my Grandma. She used to say that funerals were a bunch of expensive nonsense! And, she didn’t want to have a bunch of people from her past singing her praises after she was dead, when they paid no attention to her while she was living!” Marilee could hear her grandmother’s voice echoing those words in her heart as she spoke. The saleslady nodded her head in agreement.
“Look, child, just go down to Brook’s Department Store at the end of the block,” she pointed out the elegantly draperied window. “I don’t imagine your grandma would want you wasting your hard-earned money on these outlandishly-priced creations, anyway. Brook’s carries very nice, name-brand clothing for half the price of these, and I happen to know they stock lots of reds!”
The two women exchanged smiles and waves as Marilee departed for Brook’s, and she felt better with each step she took.
“That sweet, old lady must use the same ‘Stardust’ perfume as Grandma.” she mused as she entered the alternative department store, still savoring the scent behind her.
Marilee selected a perfect red suit after just a few minutes of searching and was able to purchase shoes and purse to match. Pleased with her success and encouraged by her chance encounter with the stranger earlier, Marilee was able to get through the rest of her day, uplifted.
The following morning, Marilee approached the church chapel donned in her cheery, bright ensemble. Of course, she was the only one not wearing the typical black, navy, or gray and even though she felt somewhat conspicuous, she refused to be shaken from her stand of what she knew her Grandma would have wanted.
“Let them stare,” she stubbornly thought, “and let them criticize me as disrespectful! Grandma and God both know my heart.”
She confidently walked over to the casket that held the body of her most precious friend and confidant.
“I’m glad you’re not really lying here, Grandma! I’m here decked out in red to celebrate with you in my heart, because I just know you’re dancing with Jesus! I’m going to miss you!”
And Marilee kissed her fingers and place them momentarily on the Bible arranged in her Grandma’s hands.
It was nice to hear all the compliments spoken at the funeral, but Marilee knew her Grandma would have preferred a little ceremony attended by a handful of close family members and friends without any of the “hoopla”—Grandma’s labeling of funeral dinners, wakes, or memorial services.
As time passed, Marilee occasionally thought of the mysterious stranger she had met the day before her grandmother’s funeral, especially when she passed by the boutique on the way to shop at Brook’s. She had only once returned to the exclusive shop, and that was just three days after her Grandma’s burial, to inquire about the helpful saleslady. Ms. Dautry haughtily assured her that no such person had ever--or would ever--work at her shop!
As Marilee left the boutique that final time, she distinctly caught a whiff of ’Stardust’ scent lingering next to the clothes rack by the door.
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