Updated: Jan 13
Chapter 1: Click here.
Chapter 2: Still clad in her flirty dress and black heels, Sabrina clacked her way through the grocery store with one thing on her mind: junk food.
It was the only reasonable consolation to the painful dinner she’d just concluded. So she refused to feel guilty about grabbing a carton of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. The same held for the maraschino cherries, whipped cream, hot fudge and caramel sauce she added to her shopping basket.
It was just one of those nights.
And it wasn’t getting any easier, Sabrina realized as she neared the registers, both hands clutched around the handles of her purple basket filled with sugary support. She actually let out a little whimper when she took in the scene in front of her.
Not at all in the mood to meet any more new people that evening, she had counted on the self-checkout lines for a quick exit. But she must have done something very, very bad in a past life; there was no other explanation she could think of why the fates were aligned against her so severely.
None of the registers she’d planned to use were open. None of them, that was, except for the one tied up by a husky businessman in a full black suit and tie. Maybe it was the sunglasses he wore that obscured his ability to see the screen, but he obviously had no idea what he was doing. The flashing light above his head made that very well known.
Letting out a grudging breath, Sabrina walked to the closest cashier and forced herself to smile at the middle-aged clerk, whose hair was far too blond and whose face featured multiple stress lines. It was a set of decisions she instantly regretted.
“Do you know who you look like?” The woman asked before the ice cream could make it down the conveyor belt.
Sabrina fought the urge to turn around and bash her head into the candy display behind her. She already knew what the woman was going to say. It was a comment she’d heard no less than a million times before. In fact, Eugene had pointed out the resemblance just a few painful hours ago. Over and over again, and in great detail.
Trying to maintain what she hoped was a relatively pleasant face, Sabrina struggled to express politeness and distance at the same time. It would be just her luck if the cashier was in a chatty mood.
“I swear you look like Tinker Bell all grown up! You know, from Peter Pan?”
Sabrina could feel her smile stiffen further. It was just not meant to be her day.
The computer monitor above the register tallied up the whipped cream with the hot fudge as the cashier bent a little to bag them. Sabrina took a steadying breath and told herself to be nice. “Nice” was the keyword for the evening.
She’d managed to be nice so far. She could last a few more minutes.
“Technically, I think Tinker Bell was all grown up,” she laughed lightly, hoping it didn’t sound too forced. “And yeah, everyone tells me that. It’s because of the hair. And being short.”
At two and a half inches over five feet, with bright blond hair and a well-shaped set of hips, the impression was understandable. Even if it did get annoying.
As if she hadn’t heard Sabrina at all, the cashier shook her head in amazement. “No, you really do. You should try applying at Disney. Have you ever thought of doing that?”
These were the moments when Sabrina wished she was, in fact, the cartoon character everyone likened her to. There was no way the real pint-sized pixie would let herself be dragged into yet another conversation she had no interest in. She wouldn’t have tolerated the first one to begin with, possibly using her special dust to make Eugene fly away. Or she’d just flit off herself with a sniff of contempt.
But as much as she sometimes might wish otherwise, Sabrina wasn’t even close to being that rude, so she shook her head politely. “I’m not a big fan of Florida, so I don’t think that’s the job for me. The mosquitoes would eat me alive.”
“Well, you wouldn’t have to work there. I’m sure they need actresses in California as well,” the cashier pressed while she swiped the maraschino cherries over the scanner.
Sabrina studied her a little closer in an attempt to determine just how long the conversation was going to take. The woman was probably in her forties or early fifties, though the wear and tear of life made her blue eyes look much older. Her makeup had been applied way too heavily, and her overarching demeanor was haggard. She was an object to be pitied for some untold story.
All of that was compelling, but not enough to keep Sabrina from trying again to shorten their interlude. It wasn’t like she was having a great day either.
Handing over her credit card to pay for her purchases, she resorted to flat-out lies. “I’m not a big fan of California either.”
The truth was she’d choose the Golden State over Pennsylvania any day. But she wasn’t going to bring that up and prolong her grocery detour even longer.
Her efforts at escape didn’t seem to matter much. The woman only turned the conversation to how she knew someone whose pet was named Tinker Bell. And then she segued into her own animals back home: three cats.
Sabrina had little choice but to listen. It was either that or risk hurting the cashier’s feelings, which wasn’t her style. It was much more like her to play polite, feigning interest while really thinking about her ice cream sitting in its bag so close and yet so very far away. She was all but salivating by the time another late evening shopper showed up behind her with his half-dozen frozen meals.
Sabrina smiled at the woman, a much more sincere expression now than it had been a moment before. “Well, I don’t want to hold up the line or anything, but you have a great night.”
For her part, the cashier didn’t seem too fazed. A little sad maybe, but she took it in stride, responding in kind before focusing her attention on her next customer. There was no longer anything keeping Sabrina from her escape.
As she made for the exit, she couldn’t help but notice how Mr. Jacket-and-Sunglasses walked away without a bag, which was a little weird. It tugged on some part of her memory, and she kept a wary eye on him while they both exited the store. However, he set off for a different row than where she had parked.
Out of sight, out of mind, especially with the chilly evening air caressing her bare arms. The beginning of May, it hadn’t been cold at all when she left for her date. But with the sun long since gone, she found herself once again regretting her choice of dress, this time for the short walk to her beaten-up, blue car.
The heater went on as soon as the car started, and then she stepped on the gas. Sabrina knew she was going too fast as she headed home, but there was nothing in her that felt like easing off the pedal. The strip malls and restaurants gave way to more open spaces much faster than they should have. And she picked up a little more speed still when, for two crazy minutes, she was sure a swanky black car was following her. But the paranoia passed when it turned left while she continued straight into the residential area that led to where she lived.
The familiar, tidy brick of her apartment complex was a welcome sight. So was the close parking spot she managed to snag. Tromping up the stairs to her living room, the grocery bag weighing down her right arm, she inhaled deeply of the vanilla-spice air freshener her roommate must have just sprayed.
A bit of the evening’s tension eased off her shoulders, and she took in a deep breath that was almost a yawn.
“So how’d it go?” Deanda drawled, looking gorgeous as usual despite her indecorous sprawl on their navy blue couch.
She had donned an old pair of grey running pants and a baggy white t-shirt. Neither detracted from her long dark curls or her unusual, violet eyes. Without looking at the remote, she picked it up to mute the TV.
Sabrina didn’t even glance at whatever was on. She just grimaced in Deanda’s general direction and then dumped her grocery bags down on the small kitchen table neither of them ever used. Then she marched down their short hallway into her darkened bedroom. Not bothering to shut the door, Sabrina unzipped her dress and kicked off her heels, discarding them in a careless pile beside the closet. Right then, she just wanted to be comfortable, which was why she pulled on her favorite night shirt.
She had to force herself not to think about Alex when the soft cotton hem brushed against her mid-thighs. It was the last present he’d gotten her: an oversized monstrosity he had accidentally ordered and she had fallen in love with for some reason or another. There was nothing inherently special about the deep purple material with the words “Sweet Dreams” scrawled on it. But it was her go-to nonetheless.
Alex. Yet another reason to eat ice cream.
Whatever team of nutritionists had decided a serving was half a cup did not understand women. Or maybe they did and were all misogynists. Either way, Sabrina ignored the fine print, dishing a third of the container into her sizable bowl, followed by equally unhealthy amounts of toppings. Regarding the resulting creation with grim satisfaction, she trotted back into the white-walled living room, taking a second to glare at one of their wall hangings.
The elongated plaque featured seven different stripes of paint, each of which contained a letter to spell out “inspire.” The dark blue background the E rested on matched the apartment’s drawn curtains and hand-me-down couch set quite nicely, but it offended Sabrina nonetheless in that moment. There had been nothing inspiring about the night, and with tomorrow being Monday, she didn’t expect the morning to bring anything better.
To give Deanda credit, she didn’t so much as say, “That ice cream looks really good.” It was nonetheless obvious the amount of self-control she was using to not ask permission.
Sabrina gave her a single nod while she settled her petite frame into the loveseat, holding the heaping bowl carefully to squirm into a comfortable position. It didn’t even cross her mind to be polite and wait for her roommate to return before digging in. She knew Deanda wouldn’t have done anything different if positions were reversed. So she shoved a large spoonful into her mouth, closing her eyes in momentary contentment.
“Alright then, girl.” Her best friend reemerged with her own heaping dish. “Spill it. I want all the dirty details.”
Sabrina swallowed mournfully. “It is so difficult being me.”
“I know,” Deanda sympathized with a straight face. “But you bear the burden with such grace.”
“I really do, don’t I?” Getting caught up in the light moment, Sabrina couldn’t help but grin a little.
“Oh my word, yeah. You’re the essence of ladylike poise and presence.”
“Better recognize,” Sabrina pointed out.
“Oh, I’m recognizing alright.” With an amused snort, Deanda turned the word back on her.
“If I weren’t happily engaged with my ice cream right now, you’d be in trouble.”
“That’s what I’m counting on,” was the wicked reply.
Deanda obeyed, but they both knew it was because she was more interested in eating than coming up with amusing replies. Her lashes drooped dreamily at her first bite, and she made a little noise of happiness.
Sabrina’s eyes flickered to the TV, where some sappy film was playing. Most days, it wasn’t anything she’d have a problem with. But with the night she was having, she didn’t trust herself to stay dry-eyed throughout the whole unrealistic love story.
She sighed and redirected the conversation. “It was bad.”
“I kind-of figured,” Deanda remarked with raised eyebrows. “Do I get any specifics?”
Sabrina briefly considered which she wanted more: to vent or to continue demolishing her dessert. Making her decision, she set her bowl down on the rug in front of her, though not before taking one more substantial bite.
“He wasn’t as good-looking as his picture?” Deanda’s violet eyes narrowed in speculation.
Sabrina grimaced. “They never are. It wasn’t that though. He still wasn’t bad-looking. And even if he was, I can handle quirky looks if there’s some spark.” She trailed off.
“But there wasn’t,” Deanda finished.
“I’m cute. I’ve got a good personality. I’m fun, and I’m smart. So why in the world do I have to resort to internet dating sites anyway?” Sabrina threw her hands up in exaggeration.
“Because we live in Amish Country, and you don’t want to be Amish?”
“Oh yeah,” she replied glumly. “Thanks for reminding me.”
“Anytime,” Deanda replied, her heaping spoon poised close to her mouth. “You could never fit in with them anyway. I think most of them have brown or blue eyes, not green like yours. And they probably wouldn’t be too happy with your neon hair.”
“My hair is not neon. It’s just very yellowish.”
Regretting her previous decision, Sabrina reached for her bowl again. The combination of sugary sweet flavors helped soothe her irritation. Somewhat.
“It’s like you soaked it in a few gallons of lemonade,” Deanda pressed on. “You know that’s part of the reason why everyone says you look like Tinker Bell, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she conceded grudgingly before turning on some serious sarcasm. “That and my cute pixie face, and my pert little nose, and the fact that I go around wearing miniscule green dresses with jagged hems all the time.”
“Scoff all you want, babe, but you pretty much pegged it.” Deanda gave a casual little shrug. “And you do have a certain I-go-around-wearing-miniscule-green-dresses-with-jagged-hems look about you.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” was the cleverest retort Sabrina could think up, repetitive though it was. Worse yet, she had nothing else to add this time.
“You know what you should go as for Halloween this year?”
“Shut up.” Sabrina finally gave in to her friend’s teasing and laughed. “If you say it, I swear I will hit you.”
“No you won’t.” Her tone was far too smug. “That would mean stepping away from your trough.”
Sabrina snorted in easy acquiescence. It was a valid point, which wasn’t surprising since Deanda had made it. Her friend was very well put together, both in the brains and the looks departments, to the point where Sabrina sometimes wondered how much different life would be if she looked like Deanda instead of herself.
They had similar curvy figures and pale skin, but that’s where the parallels pretty much ended. If it came down to choosing a word or two to describe each of them, they would be drastically different.
While most people depicted her as adorable, the terms they used for Deanda were always along much more exotic lines. If Sabrina was Tinker Bell, her roommate was one of those untouchably beautiful faeries featured in gothic-themed storefronts.
If she looked like that, people would take her more seriously, Sabrina thought, not for the first time. She wouldn’t be stuck working as a temp with a claims agency that had her doing next to nothing all day. She wanted a real job. After all, she’d gone to college for that reason, writing paper after paper and slogging through one boring piece of literature after another to get her degree. And she certainly put out enough applications every week. So why she didn’t have something more fulfilling was beyond her.
Twenty-four, boyfriend-less, jobless per se, and stuck looking like a pixie instead of a goddess. Life just wasn’t fair sometimes.
“What are you moping about now?” Deanda broke into her thoughts.
“That I don’t have your life,” Sabrina sighed. “Mine bites.”
“Hey, all I’ve got on you is a job, so don’t get so down, Zazi.”
Even in her gloomy mood, Sabrina had to smile at the nickname. It had come about years ago, back in their first few days as freshmen in college. Deanda had easily accepted “Dee,” but attempts at simplifying “Sabrina” just made her sound like an abbreviated insult. So to rectify that dilemma, the ever-resourceful Deanda just added a posh accent to the pronunciation and threw away all but the first two letters. The title of Ms. Za still stuck sometimes, but typically it came out as plain Za, Zazi, Zaz or something else along those lines.
The nickname didn’t change Sabrina’s overall opinion though. She knew Deanda loved her job. It was therefore difficult for her not to be envious to a certain extent, especially on her down days, of which this was one. So she continued to concentrate on sulking, determined not to be brought out of her funk quite so fast.
Still clutching her big bowl of ice cream, she drew her knees up to her chest. “Yeah, but you really like what you do, and that makes a big difference. You went to school to get into politics, and now you’re working for a state representative. Sure, it’s an entry-level position, but you know there’s plenty of room to move up the ladder.”
“True,” Deanda admitted without even the slightest hint of gloating. “But just wait. Things will turn around soon enough. You’ll see.”
She looked so very confident that Sabrina found it difficult to continue arguing. Yes, it had been over a year since she graduated without so much as a prayer of a full-time position in her field. And yes, the near future didn’t seem any more hopeful. Even so, throwing those facts out in the face of Deanda’s seeming certainty looked like it would be a pointless exercise.
“I know,” she acquiesced. “It isn’t that I don’t think I’ll ever get anywhere. I’m just tired, I guess, so it’s hard to think too far beyond tomorrow.”
“I know, Zaz. Just give it a little more time.”
Despite how she knew Deanda was doubtlessly right, Sabrina still felt like jumping into her bed, crying herself to sleep and never getting up again. It seemed like an easier way of dealing with things than actually dealing with them.
Opting for something a bit more mature, she instead agreed to watch something light and fluffy. Laughing at someone else’s convoluted life was a lot less difficult than focusing on her own. But even though the evening ended a lot better than it had started, Sabrina couldn’t completely shrug off her general dissatisfaction with her present reality.
There had to be something else out there. It was too depressing to think otherwise.
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