2 years ago
Terri Adams stood scanning the newspaper headlines as she waited to be seated by the cafe's hostess. She shook her head at the stories on the front page - armed robberies, assaults, and murders. So much violence! A small article on the front page caught her eye and she read it with interest. It told of the robbery of a jewellery shop just the day before – it was at a store in her neighbourhood too! At least it hadn't been a violent crime, she thought. The article stated that no suspects had been found. Witnesses varied between saying it had been a tall man, to an elderly woman, to a teenager.
She felt the reassuring heaviness of the thick gold chain under her sweater and idly wondered where Michael had gotten it. Not from the store that had been robbed, she was sure, since he lived on the other side of town. He had given her the necklace yesterday, over a quiet, romantic dinner. When he had first pulled out the small box, she had been terrified it was an engagement ring. She didn't have anything against marriage, but it frightened her, as did many other things. So, she had been happy to see the pretty necklace - she loved pretty things as much as the next woman did. She just couldn't wear such flashy jewellery, so she kept it hidden under the sweater, enjoying the weight of it, the secretiveness of it all.
Terri's stomach rumbled. Busy waitresses entered and exited the swinging door of the kitchen, their trays loaded with bacon, eggs, and coffee. A noisy family of four came in behind her, and she smiled at the young brother and sister as they bickered playfully.
The hostess approached the family, menus in hand. "Right this way," she said to the harried father. Terri sighed and looked back down at the newspaper.
Ten minutes later, after two more families and a couple had been seated; Terri tentatively approached the hostess and cleared her throat. "Miss, do you have a table for one?"
The young woman popped her gum and looked startled. "Oh, when did you come in? Well, follow me." Terri weaved her way between the crowded tables and watched the hostess's hips sway in her tight uniform, intently aware of her own slender form. She pulled at the collar of her bulky, shapeless sweater. Her hand unconsciously patted her mousey brown hair as she admired the woman's thick, teased coif.
Terri ordered a plain bagel and ate it with prim bites while she finished the newspaper. She took a sip of coffee and grimaced. The waitress had not refilled her cup; in fact, she hadn't approached Elaine's table since dropping off the bagel twenty minutes before. Elaine sighed heavily and began to plan her day of window-shopping. And, she thought, maybe I'll do a little real shopping. That always makes me feel better.
She paid for her meal and declined to leave a tip. The waitress wouldn't even remember who had sat at that table, she was sure, and although she was used to it, she was irritated to be ignored so completely. She left the restaurant and walked idly down the crowded pavement, gazing into store windows. The crowd thronged around her, making her feel lost and alone.
After wandering for almost an hour, she stopped to look wistfully at the beaded and spangled party dresses in an exclusive dress shop. Her reflection in the glass caught her eye. She hated the woman that stared back at her - the muddy brown colour of her eyes, her lank hair, and her mousey clothes. She momentarily considered marching into that store and buying one of those dresses - or at least trying one on. But no, that just wasn't something she could do. She continued down the pavement, and then glanced into the next shop. Diamond jewellery sparkled through the polished glass window. How beautiful it was!
Tired of just looking through windows, Terri gathered her courage and walked through the door. The entrance bell jangled loudly, making her jump and almost head right back out again.
But the saleswoman hadn't even noticed her, as she was immediately drawn to the sparkling jewels. Her flat loafers whispered across the thick carpet as she walked toward the front of the store. Crystal chandeliers reflected in the glass cases of the jewels, sending fiery, coloured light beams throughout the store.
Terri glanced around at the almost empty store. She stood at the gleaming metal and glass counter, eyes downcast, fingers twining. A young, heavily made-up saleswoman shot a glance toward her, and then went back to her conversation with a couple who were peering into a case of rings. By the possessive arm the man placed around the woman's, back Terri guessed they were looking at engagement rings. In the rear of the store, a middle-aged man in a garish bow tie sat at a desk, pouring over a thick ledger. He had glanced up mechanically as Terri entered, then looked back down at his book.
She wandered down the aisle, entranced by the sparkling diamonds and shimmering green emeralds, all set in gleaming gold or silver. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the couple leave, and she heard them call out to the saleswoman that they would get back with her. An elegant, stressed-looking man entered, passing the couple in the doorway. Forgot his anniversary, Terri thought.
The saleswoman glanced up again and smiled. "Yes, sir?" The man spoke to the saleswoman in urgent tones and they huddled over the glass case farthest from the door.
"But I think diamonds feel best against a woman's skin," Terri heard the woman proclaim loudly. "Don't ask me how I know, but I can close my eyes and tell if it's a diamond or another jewel a man has just put around my neck." Her husky voice was rich with suggestion.
Inwardly, Terri rolled her eyes at the exchange. The man laughed and they continued to discuss the merits of various precious gems. Finally, after he had made his selection and the sale had been rung up with painstaking care, the woman turned again to Terri. "Yes, ma'am?"
She smiled timidly and said in almost a whisper, "I'd like to see some rings, please. Those there, and there." She pointed to the diamond and emerald rings in the display case. Her finger touched the glass, leaving a smudge, and she carefully polished it off with the sleeve of her sweater.
"Certainly." The woman removed the two trays of rings and turned to greet a new customer entering the store. "May I help you?" She went to a far display with the matronly woman, who said in a cultured voice that she wanted to look at gold necklaces.
Terri stared at the jewellery. She put the largest diamond solitaire on her finger, and held out her hand, admiring the ring. It wiggled loosely on her slender finger, but that didn't matter. She placed an emerald beside it, then a huge diamond cluster on her next finger. She glanced at the saleswoman, who was laying out shining herringbone chains for the woman.
Heart pounding, all ten fingers covered in rings, Terri turned and left the store. She was careful to let the long sleeve of her sweater cover her fingers as she opened the door. She walked briskly down the pavement toward the nearby underground station, slipping the rings quickly into her skirt pocket. It wouldn't do to have her treasure stolen from her! She stifled an elated giggle as she allowed the crowd to push her into the subway entrance.
At her apartment, Terri opened the door, her keys shaking in her fingers. She felt light-headed with the excitement of her escapade. She slammed the door behind her and leaned against it for a moment to catch her breath. Giggling to herself, she went to the dresser in her bedroom and emptied her skirt pocket of the stolen rings. She fingered the sparkling jewels for a moment, and then swept them into the drawer.
Michael was picking her up at seven - she had plenty of time to dress. She eyed her flushed cheeks in the mirror and shook her head. What would he say if he saw her like this? She kicked off her flat shoes and padded in bare feet to her wardrobe and considered the array of clothes. The black dress should do it she thought. She threw the dress on the bed on her way back to the dressing table mirror.
She stared into the excited brown eyes of the mousey woman in the mirror and sighed.
"You need a make-over," she said to her reflection. Leaning forward, she pulled on her eyelid and popped out first one contact lens, then the other. Her eyes burned with relief to have the tinted lenses removed. She pulled the heavy sweater carefully over her head, and then unzipped the itchy wool skirt, letting it fall in a puddle at her feet. She released the hooks on the tight corset and breathed deeply as her chest expanded to its normal firm shape.
Removing the mass of hairpins, she pulled the brown wig and small stocking cap off her head, and shook out her naturally blonde, thick shoulder-length curls. A long soak in the tub, a little make-up, and she'd slip into that black sequined dress and those spiked heels. She'd gotten a lot of admiring glances the last time she'd worn it, and after enduring the wool skirt all day, she longed for the silky feel against her skin.
Terri wished she could wear one of the rings she had acquired that afternoon - she knew the emerald would make her flashing green eyes look spectacular - but she thought better of it. Tomorrow, they would be in the capable hands of her fence, along with yesterday's take. She chuckled. She ought to lay off for a while, though. As tiresome as it was being invisible all day, she couldn't risk her perfect disguise by wearing the merchandise.
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