The Bad Project

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Chapter 14. A Dress for Drinking/Marianne

Nordstrom’s welcomed Marianne and Crystal with bright lights, strong perfume aromas, and an aggressive makeup artist dressed in matte black jersey, looking for attractive women to make up as a demonstration. Marianne told her, “No, thanks,” the third time and they pushed through the perfume area to the escalator and went up to the Juniors’ section, Brass Plum.

“I don’t shop department stores, but they have nice-looking clothes,” Crystal said, checking out a display of Asian-themed crop pants and tunics. She had told Marianne she wanted to go with her to the dance where she’d try drinking, and Marianne had talked her into going along when she shopped for a dress to wear.

“Let’s go on an expedition to Rodeo Drive next month. For this dance, I need to charge it since I’ve run out of cash, and I have a Nordstrom’s card,” Marianne said.

“I’ve never been to Rodeo Drive, that’ll be interesting,” Crystal said. “I usually shop online catalogs.” She looked nervous to Marianne, as if she felt the class difference between them more than usual. Marianne had been talking knowledgeably about the brands and styles she was looking over but she stopped and talked about colors and styles instead. It was so hard not to add to Crystal’s discomfort by accident, but she was determined that they would both have fun shopping.

“Where are the kind of dresses I need?” Marianne walked up to a saleswoman and described what she was looking for.

She said, “Follow me.”

Marianne whispered to Crystal “Nordstrom’s is famous for its service. It’s kinda too much, but you’ll get used to it.” She wanted Crystal to be comfortable so they could shop together again.

“I can see why they’re famous for it,” Crystal whispered back. Marianne thought she looked calm, not stressed.

The saleswoman took them to a section of juniors’ dresses including both long and short chiffon and brocade ones. “Which do you want, long or short?” Crystal asked her, thumbing through a rack. The saleswoman stood by to hold Marianne’s selections.

“What’re you gonna wear?”

Crystal said, ’A silver dress, sort of A-line, pretty short.”

“I think short too. And I like red,” Marianne said. They chose five red, short dresses and the saleswoman took them back to a changing room. There was a chair for Crystal and enough space for Marianne to really see herself in the mirror.

“Nice dressing room,” Crystal said. “It’s really big enough. Wonder if they have a video camera somewhere?”

“Yeah, they always do. It’s low key, but they do worry about shoplifting,” Marianne said.

“Somewhere, a bored detective is watching you change,” Crystal said, as Marianne took off her black pants and red and black striped shirt.

“Hey, why is he bored? I bet I’m a thrill, a bright spot in his day,” Marianne whirled around with arms out as if she were on a runway.

The first dress was a shiny satin with a big bow at the waist. “I don’t like this bow, now that I have it on,” Marianne said. She quickly changed. The next two dresses were cut high in front. They got rejected fast.

The fourth one was covered with fringe. Crystal liked it but Marianne said, “It makes me look like a hooker from the Tenderloin in SF. Oh, yeah, I got the tramp stamp to prove it. Well, I can’t wear this in public, but it’s fun to try it on.” She dropped it on the floor and Crystal grabbed it and put it on a hanger.

Marianne said, “That one is cut okay, at least it shows some cleavage. But that fringe! Not too many people have anything to show off, and I do, even though I’m a little skinny.” She took the last dress off its hanger. She was starting to worry that she couldn’t find anything she’d like.

“You’re not! You are slim, but not skinny!” Crystal smiled and helped Marianne zip up the back of an organza dress with fitted top, a deep V neck and a full skirt. The color was more maroon than red. “OOOoo. I like this one,” Crystal said.

Marianne frowned as she turned this way and that. “It’s a little bit too long, but I like it too.” The saleswoman had popped in just then and told Marianne that the hem could be taken up by the alterations service overnight. Marianne agreed. She dressed and they went out to the counter and paid. Then the saleswoman took the dress and said she’d hand deliver it to alterations.

“Wow, they really do give you great service here,” Crystal said.

“Yeah, it’s their thing,” Marianne agreed. She said, “How about we go by Rhino Records and then have a soda? Or I mean a diet soda, now that I’ve seen how tight the waist of that dress is!”

Crystal agreed and they walked down to the music store and looked through the CDs. “I hate to buy CDs now when I can get individual tunes for my IPod. It’s always a waste with the whole CD, you get all this stuff you don’t want.”

Marianne agreed. But then she said, “Haven’t you ever fallen in love with a song on a CD months after you got it? That happens to me a lot.” She decided to get a new CD by Weezer, and took it up to the cash register.

“Oh, yeah, sometimes,” Crystal said. “But not a lot. I don’t think it’s worth it.”

They took the packages and walked down to Bilbao Sidewalk Café. “Let’s get something to drink here,” Marianne said. “They have Italian sodas, and I love them.” They sat down and ordered.

Crystal said, ’Wow, this place is much more reasonable than I thought it would be. It looks kind of snooty.”

“Shit, it’s just trying to look cool, like we are,” Marianne joked making a fake graceful gesture, similar to the one Lindsay had made at the literary magazine meeting. She sipped her soda and started thinking about what she’d wear with the new dress. “I think my black heels will go with this dress. I might need new earrings, though.”

“Where can we get some?”

Marianne said, “The Hollywood Bazaar is on the way to where Zoombah will pick us up, we can stop there, okay?”

Crystal agreed and they got up and walked along. Crystal talked about her gold locket that she’d wear with her dancing dress “Actually, I’d like some new dangly earrings to go with it,” she said.

“Great, Hollywood Bazaar’s got what we need,” Marianne said. They mooned over the incredibly large collection of earrings that the store had for sale. Finally, Marianne picked out some with red crescent moons dangling from silver wires and Crystal found some with a cascade of tiny black, blue, and green beads attached to gold hoops. They bought them quickly, since the van would meet them soon, and rushed down to the pickup point for the Glendale Galeria mall.

“Of course, fucking Zoombah is running late, just ’cause we rushed,” Crystal said, panting from the sprint.“Of course. I’m excited, Crystal.” Marianne struck a pose like a model. “We got some great things for the dance. Now, it’s drinking time, almost. A big Bad for me. Hope it goes well.”

“What do you mean, goes well? Don’t you need to have problems so you can write about them later?”

“Not too many. I’m starting to feel like I’m walking across a fucking bog. Don’t want to fall in and drown.” They climbed aboard the van and sat down next to each other, stuffing the bags under the seat in front of them. The van driver made one more stop to pick up two women at a nail salon.

Marianne said, “Oh, yes, we should do each others’ nails! I have a great collection of nail polish and even nail decals and fake jewels and …”

Crystal broke in, “Great for you, but I like to keep it simple.”

Marianne pouted. She suggested, “How about plain red?”

“Maybe. Let me think about it,” Crystal said. Marianne suspected she wanted to be nice but would try to weasel out of the nail polish later if she could. But, she was determined to take Crystal to the party as decked out as she could manage. She wanted to write something about the two of them in Nordstrom’s. Perhaps it would be okay if she made it fiction, changed their appearance and backgrounds, but kept the tension of one person with comfort in Nordstrom;s and one who had never been there and thought it too expensive and perhaps over-the-top. Might be a good story, Marianne thought.

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