Jordan’s taking me to the mall in the city after work. He wants to have dinner and go see a movie, he’s also offered to buy me a dress for Friday.
“I don’t really want to give them reason to think I’m a gold digger, I’ll figure something out. Maybe I’ll find one of my mom’s dresses that could fit,” I shut the register.
“And if they don’t? No one has to know I bought it for you. I know how badly you want to make a good first impression, and I just want to help if I can. Besides how many of your mom’s clothes have fit you right?”
I shrug, “A few things here and there.”
“Can we maybe go to a store, I promise we won’t get anything if you don’t want to, but I want to let you at least have fun trying stuff on. I want to spoil you and treat you like the princess you are to me,” He wraps his arms around my waist.
I gently push away, “Jordan...”
He sighs, “Is it the Dominic thing?” He pulls away, “Is it still getting to you?”
I bite my tongue. I haven’t let Jordan touch me today, he hasn’t held my hand or kissed me or put his arm around me. Everything is tense.
My dad was passed out when I got home, and I didn’t stay up long enough for that to change. Jordan had tried to call me after I took a shower but I let it go to voicemail as I climbed into bed. I fell asleep staring at the shirt he gave me. I woke up a few times in the night, thinking I heard Dominic laughing. But no one was ever there.
Jordan has spent the whole day by my side, hyper aware of everything that happens. When he walked me to English class I was worried he would stay there the whole class.
“It’s almost time to go,” Jordan says with a smile, pointing at my apron, “Do you want me to go hang that for you?”
I push Dominic from my mind and take off the cloth. He takes it and walks towards the back door to hang it while I gather my stuff. I see his outstretched hand waiting for me, I take a deep breath and accept.
His fingers wrap around mine as I punch in my time card, “See you later, Mr. Marsh!” I call out as we leave.
“What do you want for dinner?” Jordan asks, a true smile showing as we walk to his car.
“I don’t really know, I’m kind of feeling blah about food in general the past couple days. Whatever you decide is alright with me,” I slide my hand away to climb in the car.
“Maybe Italian?” He climbs in next to me, “Do you have any homework left?”
“Math, but that’s it,” I sigh, “Italian sounds good.”
He nods as he pulls away from the hardware store. He taps the wheel the entire way into the desert, “If you want to pull out the math, we can work on it now, get a head start.”
I dig in my backpack for the worksheet and groan at all the numbers and fractions. Jordan and I talk about the problems, walking through them together. I balance my notebook on my knee as I write my answers. I understand this a little better than the last unit but it’s still difficult. The only thing that can ruin a peaceful, desert drive is math.
“Can we talk about what happened yesterday?” Jordan asks as we turn onto the highway.
“Do we have to?” I put the paper down for a minute.
“I’d like to... I don’t really know what happened, I don’t know how to make it better. And I can’t stand seeing you like this.”
He gives me a confused look, “You’ve barely said a word the past couple days. You shy away from any touch. You don’t look like you’ve slept.”
Biting the inside of my cheek, I look out the window, “There’s something off about him. His sister told me he talks about us, about you being in his way. He got in my face and grabbed my arm. He sat me next to him and talked while he played with my hair and got close to me. His parents came home and he acted like nothing happened, I got paid and left. At school he cornered me, he wouldn’t let me leave. I don’t know what you think talking will do about it, it won’t change anything.”
“It helps me understand what’s going on,” I hear a low growl escape him, “I swear if he comes near you again...”
“What? What are you going to do? I need that job Jordan, he got it for me he can take it away.”
“You got yourself that job! He got you an interview, but you were the one who earned it and showed them you’re capable. He played very little in that.”
I slouch in my seat and watch buildings start to pass. We are quiet until we reach the mall. He helps me from the car while putting a note in his phone to remind him where he parked his car. It’s packed for a Tuesday afternoon.
“Dinner first or movie?” He asks, tossing his keys up in the air.
“Dinner, I guess,” I shrug with a small smile.
“You guess? What, you just guess that buttery noodles and garlic bread and lasagna sound absolutely amazing?”
“It does,” I rush to catch up to him, “I’m... I’m sorry about how I’ve been acting.”
He stops to stare at me for a moment, “You didn’t do anything wrong, you don’t need to be sorry. You were scared, rightly so. How could I be mad at that?”
Hesitantly, I reach out my hand, and he’s more than happy to take it. Our footsteps echo in the parking garage as we make our way to the elevator and up to the actual mall. It’s bustling with people, and we have to push through the initial crowd.
“Good god, you’d think there was an apocalypse going on,” Jordan grumbles, “Come on, foot traffic won’t be as bad once we get away from the elevators.”
We make our way through the waves of people, reaching a clearing of sorts. People still are roaming about but not enough to cause a crowd. We slowly make our way past shops on our way to the restaurant. We pass comic book shops, toy stores, a large Target, some hair and nails salons, and a dress store. I pause for a moment when I see one of the dresses in the window. Jordan feels me stop and comes to look in the window with me.
“Which one are you looking at?” He leans in, whispering in my ear.
“Doesn’t matter,” I shake my head and look up at him, “I’m hungry.”
He grumbles to himself, “You are so stubborn, you know that? All I want to do is get you something nice that you’d like.”
“Oh like those jeans, the shirts, ice cream, those CD’s, and a new car battery?” I put my hands on my hips with a grin.
“Fine,” He pouts, “Let’s go eat. But I’m not letting this go yet.”
We start walking again, with one last glance behind me, I watch the dress fade behind me.
The hostess at the restaurant is quick to seat us when we arrive, giving us a seat near the kitchen. Jordan looks at movie times on his phone while we wait for a waiter. We look at the menu together, he picks lasagna and I pick carbonara. Our waiter doesn’t say much, he just scribbles our orders down and disappears without a second glance.
“So, what were you looking at in the shop window back there?” Jordan takes a sip of his soda, a devious grin on his face.
“Nothing, I was just looking around,” I shrug as I reach for a piece of garlic bread.
“Aw come on,” He whines, taking my hand and pouting, “After dinner lets go back to the store, I won’t buy anything unless its something you really love.”
I grumble, “Fine. But I’m going to stall with desert.”
He starts laughing, “Whatever you want, Rhea.”
The food is amazing, I finish mine in a heartbeat. I don’t know what the meat in it is so I ask Jordan, it makes me feel fancy when he has me say pancetta. His eyes light up when I laugh at myself. He orders us tiramisu for us to share, he says I’ll love it. And of course I do.
He pays the bill while I wait by the door. He loops his arm through mine and we walk back to the dress store. I look in the window again as we walk in, but I’m quickly blindsided by the sheer amount of dresses hanging on racks when we get inside.
“Oh dear god,” I mutter, my mouth hanging open.
All types of colors and fabrics hang around me, sequins and rhinestones and lace are everywhere. A woman in a tight, black dress comes up to us, smiling.
“Hello, welcome to Mauve, is there anything I can help you find today?” She looks me up and down, titling her head, “I’m guessing a size small. What’s the occasion?”
“Oh we’re just looking,” I start to say.
“Dinner this Friday, meeting my parents,” Jordan interjects, wrapping his arm around me.
The lady starts to giggle, “How exciting! Why don’t you look around, find some pieces you like and I’ll set them in the dressing room for you.”
I nod, in a daze as Jordan gives me a gentle shove further into the store. I start looking through the racks, occasionally finding one that I find interesting.
“How many are you expecting me to try on?” I call out to Jordan as I look at a price tag and cringe.
“Five or six, I don’t know,” He wraps his arms around me, “However many you want.”
“Jordan, one of these dresses costs more than I spend on food in a week,” I stare at him uncomfortably.
“Don’t look at the price tags,” He chuckles, “I told you I won’t buy anything unless you want me to or you love it. Don’t worry about the price when we might not even get anything. Ok?”
I nod and start looking again. Jordan finds a couple he wants me to try, and while they’re nice I can already tell they’ll end up staying here. I find one or two that I kind of like but I can’t find any like the one in the window. The consultant takes the dresses I give her, as well as a couple she recommends, back to the dressing room. I bite my lip as I lock myself in the small room with the dresses.
The first I put on is one Jordan picked, it’s very form fitting but not all that revealing. It’s got long sleeves and falls just above my knees, one of the sleeves and the bottom corner underneath are covered in black lace, while the rest of the dress is soft, red fabric that looks like it’s wrapping around me. I like it enough to go show Jordan who’s waiting on a couch just outside.
I step out, hesitantly. While I like the dress, I feel very odd in such a tight dress. His mouth hangs open as he leans forward.
“You look... Amazing...” He says, barely getting the words out.
“You think?” I spin a little, “I like the color and the style but it’s so... I don’t know, it doesn’t feel like me.”
He nods, “Good to know, but you do look beautiful. Alright, so that one is a ‘no’, what’s next?”
I smile gently as I back up into the room again. The next one I try was the consultants pick, very short, very sparkly; it’s an instant no from both of us. Then I try on a white one I pick, very flowy, no sleeves and a high neckline, the hem higher in the front than the back. Jordan likes it but I’m not sure. Dress after dress, nothing feeling right. I’m hanging up the last one, about to put on my clothes when Jordan knocks.
“I’ll be out in just a second,” I say quickly as I untangle my shirt.
“No, actually there’s just one more I want you to try,” His voice is fast and excited.
“Jordan...” I whine.
“Trust me, I think you’ll love it,” He says quietly, I see the dress come over the top of the door.
I’m speechless. It’s the one from the window. I pull it down and stare. It’s softer than I thought it would be, the dusty pink fabric under the black lace feels like feathers against my fingers. I giggle as I hold it close.
“You think I didn’t notice you looking at it?” Jordan chuckles, “It’s the last one, try it on.”
My cheeks hurt from smiling as I unzip the dress and pull it on. It hugs me in the torso before letting out at the belt of lace on my waist, giving the skirt some poof. The top hem forms an almost heart shape on my chest, emphasizing my small chest and making it seem bigger. I twirl around and look in the mirror. Giggling the whole time.
I step out to show Jordan, my huge grin still evident.
“You like it?” He asks, I nod furiously, “You look stunning. Do you love it?” I nod again, “Do you want it?”
I stop, debating if it’s worth it. I don’t know how much it costs, I didn’t check the tag. I take a deep breath before nodding slowly.
“Then it’s yours.”