Janice looked in her closet on Friday night, trying to find something to wear to the small party her boss would be hosting on Saturday night. She hadn’t been out since her husband had passed away, before he became so ill.
Her boss, Willa Thomson tried several times to get her to become more sociable again during the past four years. Yet, Janice had always declined Willa’s invitations because she still felt so lost. Finally, just a couple of months ago, she had found the courage to go to a neighborhood gathering by herself. As it may be, it was an afternoon affair and all eight neighbors she knew so well had said they’d be attending. When Willa, once again, invited her to a party where there would be some other people from the office, she heard herself saying, “I think I’ll take you up on your offer.”
She rummaged around in her walk-in, turning several times trying to find something she could wear the next night, and finally made herself dizzy in the process. There just wasn’t anything suitable for a party like this. Willa had said that it was going be a casual affair with cocktails and party food trays. To Janice, this mean wearing slacks and a top of some sort, but the ensemble must be tastefully decorated for a grand evening. Maybe something like sequences. There was nothing like that in her closet.
The next morning she found herself at the open-air shopping mall, Yarborough Plaza, walking into Freddie’s Garbs. She went straight to the back left quarter of the store and started sifting through the outfits hanging on the five racks.
A young woman with a store tag clinging to the right side of her collar-bone came up and asked,”May I help you find something?”
With a sigh of relief, Janice said, “Yes. I need to find something casual but stunning for a party tonight.”
The woman slid past her and waved her hand forward as she moved to the back center of the shop. Janice followed her gesture to the back wall.
“Would any of these be suitable for your evening?”
“If one fits, yes, it will be exactly what I had in mind.”
Janice walked out with an ensemble done in a deep purple fabric that glittered ever so slightly. She also bought a silver pendent to complete the look.
She looked at herself in the mirror that was attached to the back of her bedroom door early in the evening. She had to admit the purple looked good with her medium-length dark brown hair. She had decided on black pumps so she could stand for longer periods of time during the party. The pendent, with its life symbol, hung down just right to accent the cleavage under the boat neck cut of the top she wore.
As Janice stepped up into the entry way of Willa’s home, the teenage son helped her off with her wrap and hung it in the adjacent closet. “Thank you, Scott.” He smiled sheepishly.
She found Willa first, thanking her for the invitation. Willa took her to the wet bar to help her with her drink. “What’s your pleasure?”
“Do you have cranberry juice?” Willa nodded. “Then I’ll have gin and cranberry juice, please.”
After mixing the drink, Willa left to replace some of the food trays. Janice stood there taking a few sips, hoping it would loosen her up a bit. She heard her name spoken and turned to see a face she hardly recognized. He sat in the farthest overstuffed chair in the group of furniture situated in the middle of the living room. His hair was darker than she remembered, and the gray at the temples brought to mind that she was in her forties like him.
He stood with drink in hand and walked toward her. Once within talking range, he smiled. “Hello Janice, how are you?”
“Fine, how are you, Neil?”
The conversation was awkward at first. It had been twenty odd years since they had both been in college. Nevertheless, as they talked about their unrelated pasts, they began to have that old feeling of being comfortable with each other.
When Janice glanced in Willa’s direction a little later in the evening, Willa had a knowing smile on her face.
Turns out that there is a part two to this story. You may read it here.