“Hey, do you wanna come to the mall with me?” Seth Grady casually texted me one evening after school.
Did I!? My heart skipped a beat and without hesitation, I texted back, “yeah, sure, absolutely!”
Something was up. This was it. Seth must have broken up with that little troll Lilith DeSales, finally! He was probably ready to profess his affections for me! We had been chatting and sitting in history class together for three whole months now. Things were definitely escalating. This would be our first time hanging out alone together. Our very first date, if you will. I always knew we were meant to be! My phone buzzed again.
“I need to buy a six-month anniversary gift for Lilith.”
Well, fuck. I watched my fairy tale ending float out my open bedroom window. Six months. They’d been dating for three months longer than we had been friends. That was double the amount of time. I didn’t stand a chance. I texted back dejectedly, “k, cool.”
When I got into his dad’s blue hatchback Toyota Matrix, I noted that it looked kind of like a spaceship. “Hey, cool car.”
“Hey, thanks.” He agreed. It was awkward. We were both so shy in person. In history class, we just took notes, or pictures with my digital camera in silence. There wasn’t much opportunity for talking. Online, we talked about anything and everything for hours on end. We poured our hearts out to each other, late into the night. In the car, it was so hard to find a balance. Finally, he spoke, “okay, where can we go to buy her a jewellery box?”
“A jewellery box?!” I squealed. That was so romantic.
Seth shrugged. “She asked me for one.”
Oh. That was much less romantic. Typical Lilith. “She told you what to get her for your 6 month anniversary?”
“Yeah, it’s easier that way.”
We parked the car and stopped at Starbucks for Frappucinos before we walked through the mall. Then I suggested we go to Homesense for the jewellery box.
“This one matches the furniture in her bedroom.” Seth said holding up a small wooden box. I tried not to gag at the thought of Seth and Lilith alone in her bedroom. Gross. He held it out to me. “Do you like it?”
I examined it carefully. It was painted white with a small glass door, with a rose on it. There were several small drawers for rings and earrings on one side and a long section with a spinning hook for necklaces on the other side. It looked like a mini dresser. It looked cute to me, but I didn’t really know anything about jewellery boxes. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like such an impersonal gift, like something my grandmother would give me. I wouldn’t even have anything to put in a jewellery box. A light bulb went off in my head.
“Seth! You need to buy her a necklace to put in it!” My eyes shone with pride at this idea. I would make such a good boyfriend. “That’s a perfect anniversary gift! It’s exactly what she wants, plus a little bit of romance too!”
Seth wasn’t as impressed as he should have been. He dithered. “I’m only allowed to spend a max of 100 dollars on my dad’s credit card.”
That’s when I realized Seth didn’t have any of his own money. He didn’t work. Those Frappuccinos he’d just bought us hadn’t been on him at all, they’d been on Rick Grady. He was so Bridgewood. I rolled my eyes. “You know, The Tap is always hiring. You can come bus tables with me!”
“Yeah, I don’t really think I want a job.” He shook his head. He checked the price on the jewellery box. “It’s only $40, so I guess if we find a nice necklace for $50-60, it would be okay.”
I beamed. It was such a good idea! We purchased the box and continued to walk through the mall. As we passed an edgy woman’s clothing store, a blue and orange pleated miniskirt on a silver mannequin caught my eye. She looked so sexy, so cool. “Hey Seth, do you like this skirt?”
Seth turned to examine the skirt in the display. “Yeah, I really like it. Go in. Try it on.”
I choked on my laughter. “Seth, I can’t wear something like that.”
He frowned, confused. “I think it would really suit you.”
Suit me? Maybe he didn’t know what that verb meant. I was a jeans and a t-shirt kind of girl. I loved having a high school uniform because the biggest concern for my wardrobe was what colour sleeves I should wear under my white golf shirt. I never tried to dress sexy. “I don’t think so.”
“Why not?” He asked innocently, boosting my confidence a bit. There were two big reasons why; my tummy and my thighs. I would look like a whale in that skirt. I just shook my head. He pressed. “If you try it on, I’ll buy it for you with my leftover $60.”
“No! You need to buy that necklace!” I argued. I would not let my brilliant gift concept go to waste.
“No! You need to buy that skirt!” He mimicked me teasingly. “Come on!”
“Fine, I’ll try it,” I caved. “But if it looks bad, I’m not showing you! And if it looks good, I’m buying it myself. With my Tap money.”
I anxiously tried the skirt on in the tiny change room with Seth Grady waiting outside. What had I gotten myself into? I didn’t try on clothes like this. I’d never even been in a store like this. The door to the change room was just a thin red curtain and there was no mirror inside! The only way to know if it looked good would inevitably be to step out of the dressing room and check myself out at the same time that Seth would. I was so nervous. I was so insecure. I didn’t want him to realize I was gross. I was just barely hiding it as it was.
The skirt fit, I think. It was actually a bit big. I wore it with the black tank top I’d been wearing under my hoodie. I slowly pulled back the curtain of the change room and stepped out, nervously. “So? What do you think?”
Seth’s eyes lit up, and he smirked at me looking quite pleased. “I told you it’d look good!”
I whirled around, my confidence at its full peak now. I examined myself in the mirror. He was right. I’d gone through a bit of a growth spurt in 11th grade, finally losing most of my baby fat. I’d dropped from a size 10 to a 5 seemingly over night. The skirt actually looked really good. It hid my tummy and was long enough to hide most of my thighs, but short enough to show them off at the same time. It was shorter than anything I owned. I had to go shopping more often.
I bought the skirt and Seth and I continued on our necklace hunt. I had a very particular vision in mind. It had to have a heart, obviously. And it had to be silver. Luckily we found it, at the third jewellery store we tried, for the bargain price of $59.99. It was perfect. A thick cut-out asymmetrical heart on a delicate silver chain. We bought a flowery gift bag with lilac tissue paper at the dollar store, and we were set.
In the car we carefully removed the jewellery box from its cardboard box, hung the necklace inside, and then put it back in, ensuring it didn’t look tampered with. We wrapped the cardboard box in tissue paper and put it in the bag. It was perfect. No one would ever suspect our little extra touch that was bound to put this six month anniversary over the top!
“Do you think she’ll like it?” Seth asked expectantly.
A pang of jealousy jutted through my heart right then. I had almost forgotten all this had been done for Lilith DeSales, my arch nemesis. I had almost convinced myself I was doing this as an act of pure altruism. I replied, earnestly, staring out the car window, “I think she’ll treasure it forever and ever.”
I would have treasured it forever and ever.