Since the first humans capable of having feelings walked the earth, empaths have walked among them. Cynthia never knew that she was one…
For most of her painfully shy 29 years, Cynthia lived in an introspective house of mirrors in her mind. Maybe it was the mother who showed love through back-handed compliments, or the father who only showed emotion to a bottle of Ballentine scotch, but Cynthia always seemed to be looking into the mirrors that distorted her slender frame and middle class life. She never developed many social skills.
The cum laude graduate from a small state school found happiness and professional success in balance sheets and accounting formulas. Had Cynthia been more outgoing, friendlier with her colleagues, or in possession of the people skills necessary for management her accounting acumen might have moved her past the lowest associate level at her firm. In her seven years at the office, one of the administrative assistants was her only “work” friend.
When Katie got engaged to her attorney boyfriend, the invitation to the engagement cocktail party felt more like a burden to Cynthia than an opportunity to celebrate. It’s not that she wasn’t happy for Katie, or disliked her fiancée; rather, Cynthia disliked the social tumult of parties, the awkwardness she felt around strangers, and was terrified with the prospect of flirting with men. There was also the matter of finding a dress on her condo-poor budget.
Her discomfort and credit phobia aside, she was going to attend because despite not having many, Cynthia was a good friend. She went to a fancy department store in hopes of finding a dress, but the sales staff was off-putting in their over eagerness. A trip to their rivals on the other side of the mall didn’t bear fruit because they were too busy with customers who looked like they already shopped there.
Despite her increasingly lowered spirits, Cynthia went into a swanky couture shop on the way to her car. Once inside she was immediately comforted by a late 40s woman with a very soothing voice and incredible accessories. The sales woman offered champagne and a gentle ear. Cynthia took advice, tried on dresses but declined the champagne – she was a very light drinker.
After four dresses, Cynthia found a black A-line that flattered her shape and made her smile… until she looked at the price tag. It was four times what she had planned to put on her credit card. The sales woman seemed to be able to read Cynthia’s mind – not that she had much of a poker face – and struck a pitch perfect tone in saying “You know dear, you have one of those faces and frames that would look great in vintage. I’m going to give a call to a friend of mine who runs a vintage shop around the corner. Give her my card and tell her I sent you… I think that you find exactly what you need there.”
Cynthia thanked her for all of her courtesy and went back to her car. It only took a few minutes for her to arrive at the parking lot of Second Chance Vintage; a time spent dwelling on the words “I think you’ll find exactly what you need.” Why need; why not want she wondered. There was not much time for that question because as soon as she opened the door and before she could even introduce herself, a 50-something woman who could have been the sales woman’s cousin or aunt gave a cheery “You must be Cynthia; I’m Mini… it’s short for Minerva but nobody calls me that.”
Something about these two women placed Cynthia at ease despite their slightly outsized introductions.
“So we had a long discussion – well not really long because it only took you a few minutes to get here – about you, and I am pretty sure that I have two dresses that would look lovely on you. Would you like some champagne?”
Once again Cynthia declined the champagne but was really eager to try the dresses. She went into the dressing lounge and saw the first dress, a Navy Blue Halter dress just below the knee. She felt just a touch lightheaded as she stepped out to have Mini close the zipper.
Mini held a steadying hand as she brought the zipper to its close.
“You look stunning in that dress dear, are you sure you wouldn’t like a glass of champagne, that dress really deserves champagne” Mini encouraged.
For some reason and despite a strange feeling about her head, Cynthia suddenly heard herself saying “Looking in the mirror, it seems that a glass of champagne wouldn’t just be prudent, it’s downright required at the moment, thank you.”
Champagne in the afternoon was out of character for Cynthia, but so was the phrasing. This was a different Cynthia. As Cynthia removed her spectacles, Mini handed her a glass of champagne and said “Now let me tell you about the woman who once owned that dress…”
* This is the first part of a series of short fiction that may become my regular Monday posts.