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For The Record

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A failed record store owner gives up on her dreams, and looks foreword to a new life.

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Chapter 1

The first time she saw the technology of the modern day, Carol laughed it off, sure that it was nothing more than a fleeting fad. Like all toys of the new generation, it would fall by the wayside, fading out into obscurity and then silence, but Carol was wrong. It was here to stay. Things only got worse from then on. Her debts mounted, and the ability to pay them was snatched away by the dwindling sales of CDs and vinyl records.

In the past few weeks, she’s witnessed dust accumulation like never before. The checkerboard floors of For The Record had never known such a large amount of dust. Carol had always done her best to avoid this, but with the closure of the store, there was little she could do. The walls, which just days ago were lined with posters of album covers, had turned barren. The artisan light bulbs above flickered, having more moments of darkness than light.

When Carol first began packing, she had attempted organization. A wide range of options to complete her desired tasks was slowly diminishing. Her first instinct was to set her records in alphabetical order, then considered by year, then by genre. Soon after, she realized it didn’t matter, for they would all be given the home of a storage unit, making it acceptable to set Blink-182’s Dude Ranch next to Steve Martin’s “A Wild and Crazy Guy.”

Carol let out a sigh, ruminating over all that she could have done differently. Her awareness of her own flaws, which she had vowed to one day change, but never properly went through, was a never-ending torture to think of. She had always told herself that she would smile more at customers, that her tone would always have an aura of excitement behind it, and that her dabbling in online marketing should have been a full submersion.

For years, For The Record had been set up in the same way, with only minor changes as time passed. Her till had changed from automatic to electronic, the floors had gone through a single renovation, and the door to the bathroom struggled to properly close without a heave of effort. Hermind remained trapped by the looming concerns of debt. The shelves that had once been stacked with CDs and vinyl records had been cleared, turning into homes without residents. Lonely, their purpose taken, waiting to be fulfilled.

The ancient brass bell at the door rang, indicating an arrival. Its innards clanged loudly against the outer edge. A call that was loud enough that it could be heard from the far back of the store.

Carol looked up to see that it was Mel who had entered. Her hair was a light black, easily mistaken for brown in the summer months. A heavy outing of freckles bordered her nose, and her slender body was covered with a black jacket and a white undershirt buttoned to her collar. Her newly polished obsidian heels reverberated against the hardwood floor.

Carol looked at her clothing, a checkered flannel shirt and pants of black leather, grifting her worn tennis shoes. An outfit choice that she was sure Mel would not be allowed to wear to the office.

“Hey!” Mel said with a smile.

“Hi,” Carol replied hastily, attempting to exhibit perkiness, but killing her cheerful tone to fade as there was no reason for it. “How was Bali?”

“Nice... really nice. Next time, come.”

“Ya,” Carol answered with a short scoff. Her mind wandered as she came to think of how she could pay for it. She then realized she had had the same thought process when another friend invited her to spend time with her in Prague ten years ago, and another time when she had rejected a trip to New York. All of those times, she had a far higher income.

“And Ren?”

A wide smile crossed her lips, “We had fun.” He actually has a couple of cute friends who are interested in you.”

“William and Peter? They both said the same thing: that I’m too ambitious. I’ve dealt with men like that before. We both have. Eventually, they get scared that you are doing better than them. Time and time again, this happens,”

“The words they used were busy and, besides, William’s ex-wife. She was way richer than him. “The man is living off of her dime in alimony,” Mel said.

“Oh right, so you recommend I date men with allowances.”

“Does a Three Hundred Thousand a year allowance change your mind?

“Considering the average shit-bird I see out there, a guy with an allowance is a prospect.”

For a brief second, there was a crackle in the stereo. The song briefly skipped, backtracking for a brief moment, starting at a place where it had been before, and continuing forward.

“Need any help?” Mel asked, offering her willowy body, which is more suited for office work.

“Not really,” Carol claimed. Her voice began to break as she spoke, as internally, she was preoccupied with the depressing thought that all she had worked for was coming to an indefinite end. There would not be another day where she would wake up at 5:30 am to quickly consume a heated muffin. There will not be another day of her scanning the window, hopeful that it would be a customer that entered. The brass bell, which had rung thousands of times before, would cease movement, a cousin of the dwindling influx of cash in her bank account.

“Do you need storage? I have quite a bit of room in my unit,” Mel proposed. Her ivory teeth slightly punctured the soft pink flesh of her lip, a sight Carol has gotten all too familiar with. It’s a sign. A sign that Mel had something to say, but was hesitant to let it out. “Okay, not completely empty. There is a thing or two that I would rather not part with, but it’s negotiable.”

“You were smart not to join this. If you had, you would be right where I am standing now. Consider yourself lucky.”

Law school wasn’t luck,” Mel defended, “I tried really hard,”

“Everybody tries really hard, Mel.”

It took a great effort for Carol to be frugal with her words. Her sadness often tilted towards anger, as she thought of all those in the world who would be bailed out of the same position she’s found herself. Inheritors of companies, and trust funds. Their lives, an endless parade of decisions that would devastate people like her, but they were lifted from consequences by the claws of inborn wealth. People like Mel, who could practically fail freshman year, but a generous donation towards a university library transmutes bad grades into good ones.

“To be clear, I still wish I had joined you on this,”

“It would have been a great success,” Carol replied, a pinch of sarcasm entrenched within her comment.

Mel bit her lip again. Her teeth deepened into her lips. Her manicured nails turned inward, lightly grazing against the soft flesh of her palm, “I didn’t want to open the store with you.”

“I knew it.”

“It was risky and the guarantee that it would work out was low.”

“Thanks for the reminder.”

“I’m a risk-averse person. I don’t even have a single cent on the stock market. You may not believe it now, but I do wish I had the courage you have.”

“You went back on a promise.”

“We were drunk.”


“I was a lightweight.”

“Who was sober enough to go through the process of getting a loan.”

“It was to help you.”

“A month in is a little too late to pull out,”

“You’re right,” Mel admitted.

Her confession left Carol with a warmth of satisfaction. A sense which quickly simmered away, for she knew the last few years’ mistakes were not Mel’s fault at all.

“It was stupid of me to bring it up. I used to think that a day would come when everything would be fixed. I had so many dumb fantasies of what I would be,” Carol confessed, refusing to admit the contents of them. Each day she imagined that one day, For The Record would be a world-famous franchise, a legendary store highlighted by multiple publications as a beacon for all music heads. A ticket to a life where she owned multiple houses, worries about bills were banished from her existence, and the right partner would be by her side. Instead, For The Record was the fourth result on the search engine for music stores nearby, her previous condo had bled her finances, and nights were spent either wrapped by the cold touch of loneliness, or her bed had become home to men whom it was rare that she liked being around for more than a few hours.

Tears formed. She sniffed, attempting to hold them back, but failing to do so. Carol’s body shook as she cried. Her tears were not just from the closure of For The Record, but the death of her father, the breakup with her ex, and the eviction from her home. Burdens thrust upon her by the unstoppable force of fate.

“Hey,” Mel soothed. As she skirted around the counter, flinging her arms around Carol to distribute warmth.

“How could I have been so stupid?” Carol mumbled.

“You’re not a failure,” Mel stated.

“You don’t understand,” Carol responded.

“I do,” Mel countered.

“You’re not forty living in a basement suite. Things are going well for you, aren’t they? You’re a partner at the firm.” Carol goaded, “Name on the masthead. What do I have?”

Carol cast her blue eyes downward. Her neck followed the same motion. Showing a look of pity that Carol despised.

“What?” Carol Goaded.

“I’m not happy,” Mel admitted, “Even with the money. It’s...I’m not here to talk about my problems,”

As the speakers faded from one song to the next, the notes bouncing out of existence, Carol spotted the presence of dark circles underneath Mel’s eyes. Shades underneath her that had not existed before.

“No, it’s Okay.”

“I’m here to help you.”

“Like I said it’s okay,” Carol encouraged.

“Being a partner is not what I thought it would be. It’s just double the responsibility and half the sleep. Yesterday, I yelled at an intern. I also screamed at some kid over giving me the wrong tea.”

“I feel like we’re about to enter a body-switching movie.”

“You know my niece? She’s got a startup doing t-shirts. If you were to start again. What would you have asked your investors for?”

“Support,” Carol answered.

“I’ve given her my money,” Mel said.

“Emotional support.,” said Carol, clarifying the kind of support she meant.

The speaker cut, indicating the end of the playlist. Silence becoming the dominant soundtrack.

The next day would be the first time in years that constituted nothingness. Time spent away from For The Record, she remained entrenched in its reach, be it crunching taxes or dictating shipments.

“How much is a ticket to Bali?” Carol asked.


Thank you for reading my short story “For The Record”, for more stories including a free preview of my novel Hive check out my website https://www.jeremiahu.com/

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