This scene was originally part of Chapter 2 and is an extended version of Addy’s birthday evening in San Francisco. Removing this section, and rewriting most of that chapter, was particularly brutal for me but the consensus among my trusted reviewers who read the very first draft was that the first couple of chapters were too long. In retrospect I think they were right and I made the right decision in cutting this part out. But being a girl, I love a good shopping scene so I thought I’d share it with you here.
This scene also contains a few characters that didn’t make it into the final version of the book – Olivia’s sister, Clara, and her husband, Liam. (Again, in retrospect, what was I thinking? Clara Barton? Creator of the American Red Cross?) I like this scene for personal reasons because Clara’s apartment is really my friend Tara’s old apartment in San Francisco.
We made the turn onto Union Street, where Clara’s store was. As we pulled into a parking garage, I realized with a slight shock that I was feeling pretty great. I had almost entirely forgotten about my crappy morning, and I was beginning to feel very birthday-y.
Olivia’s sister, Clara, and her husband, Liam, have an apartment directly behind Jest Jewels, overlooking a tiny courtyard which is surprisingly quiet and tranquil, given that it is in the middle of San Francisco. Their three Doberman pinchers loudly protested our arrival until Olivia bent and gave them each a loving scratch behind the ears.
“My nieces,” she said fondly, letting us into her sister’s apartment.
“Oh good, you’re early!” Clara met us in the hall. She and Olivia are often mistaken for twins, despite the fact that Olivia is my age and Clara is six years older. They both have slightly curvy figures, beautiful Italian olive-skin, dimples, and lots of lots of curly black hair.
Clara hugged us each in turn, and led us into the living room where Liam was sitting cross-legged on a popazon chair, holding a complicated-looking video game controller in each hand.
“Esteemed sister-in-law; Birthday Girl,” he nodded to Olivia and me. When he saw Nate, he brightened and held out the spare controller. “My man! Let’s go.”
“No Liam, we’re taking Addy to the store for her birthday,” Olivia explained.
Liam’s face fell. So did Nate’s.
“Addy, you don’t actually need me to go, do you?” Nate asked sheepishly, shooting a covetous look at the TV screen. “I mean, Olivia has my present and all –”
I grinned and punched him in the arm.
“Stay here and be boys. The girls and I will be fine without you.”
“Better without you, actually,” Olivia said huffily.
Nate kissed me on the cheek and dove onto the sofa next to Liam’s chair, snatching one of the controllers from his hand while still in midair.
Clara led Olivia and me downstairs and through the back door of her store. The inside was literally an explosion of color; even the giant Halloween display in the front window was colorful. Jest Jewels is actually much more than just a jewelry store; besides jewelry, it also carries every possible thing you can wear that isn’t actually considered clothing: hats, scarves, gloves, hair clips, pashminas, bags, you name it. Everything is funky, vaguely girl-powerish, and interspersed with cool knick-knacks like make-up bags, jewelry boxes, mirrors, and candles.
“I’m going to tell Rachel she can leave early,” Clara said, indicating an antsy-looking clerk who was sitting behind the cash register. “We’ve been so busy, what with Halloween next week and all, that I don’t think she’s had a break all day.” She made her way over to the front of the store.
Olivia pulled an envelope out of her purse.
“Let’s see,” she said, sifting through its contents. “Nate and I each kicked in forty bucks. Clara and Liam put in another twenty, and Clara’s giving you a fifty percent discount tonight. So – go for it!”
“Thanks!” I exclaimed, self consciously tucking the wad of money into my back pocket. I was going to have to have a talk with Nate – Olivia could easily spare the money, but forty-dollars was definitely too much for Nate to be spending on me – it represented at least five hours of work at Skully’s.
Jest Jewels is the kind of place you can browse in forever and never get bored. Only Clara could possibly tell you everything the store has for sale, and I think even she would have trouble coming up with an exhaustive list. Every single surface is covered in shiny, sparkly, girly stuff, the walls have display cases up the ceiling, and there’s even stuff hanging from the rafters. And it’s all the kinds of things you can easily talk yourself into buying – I mean, who doesn’t need scented soap in the shape of a monkey? You could easily spend a fortune here.
“Ohhhh, look Addy!”
I turned around to find Olivia in the back of the store, holding a pair of pink lace panties over her jeans and posing.
“I bet Lucas would like these,” she teased, then exchanged the panties for a white thong that said “Bachellorette” on it, and started dancing around an invisible pole.
“On Emily, yeah, I bet he would,” I said, trying to absorb myself in the careful study of a nearby table full of scented candles. For a moment, I considered telling Olivia about Lucas’s new staring problem, not to mention the fact that he had actually spoken to me today, but then I thought better of it. It was too connected to the weirdness that had gone down in Precalc, and I really didn’t want to bring that up again. I was having too good of a time.
Olivia eventually tired of the novelty underwear, and we stopped to ponder a wall full of purses before wandering over to the jewelry display cases. After she sent Rachel home for the night, Clara joined us. She had a story for every item we looked at – from how she had found it, to which celebrity was recently been sighted wearing it, to how many units of the item she had sold in the last month.
It took us twenty minutes to work our way through just two cases, and it was then that I found something that caught my eye.
In the upper right hand corner of the third display case was an assortment of silver horseshoe charms, in various sizes from as big as my palm to as tiny as the nail on my little finger.
“These are hot,” Clara announced, as she followed my gaze to them. “A girl came in here yesterday and bought one just so a tattoo artist could trace it onto her.”
“Seriously?” Olivia asked, repulsed. “Ugg! I would never get a tattoo.”
I didn’t have any plans to use the charm as a tattoo stencil either, but the thought of wearing it had crossed my mind.
Clara opened the back door of the case and drew out the trays of horseshoes.
“What size do you like?”
I wavered between several of the middle-size ones, and eventually settled on one that was about an inch high. Clara put it in my hand, and I examined the small, exquisitely formed silver shape. Something about the curves of the metal, the tiny little flares at the bottom of each side, and the shininess struck me as just perfect.
“How much is it?” I asked.
Clara turned the price tag over.
“With your birthday discount, I can give it to you for seventy-five. And I’ll throw in a silver chain to put it on.”
“Perfect,” I said. “Thanks!”
I still had a little bit of money left, so we kept shopping for a while, even after Clara officially closed the store at 7:00. Olivia found and fell in love with a beaded necklace, and she also picked up a faux-antique pendant, with an ivory profile of a woman surrounded by pearls.
“This is perfect for Victoria Goodrich,” she said, meaning the character she had written for herself in The Last Will and Testament of Mrs. Harriet J. Goodrich.
“Will the audience even be able to see that?” Clara asked, as she rung up her sister’s purchases.
Olivia shrugged. “I’ll know I’m wearing it. It’s all about getting into character, darling,”
“It’s all about eighty bucks, sweet ‘ums,”
“Eighty! That’s only like – ” Olivia paused, rapidly doing the math in her head “a thirty-percent discount!”
“You can wait and buy them on your birthday,” Cara suggested. “I’m running a business here, Olivia.”
Olivia pouted, but forked over the cash.
I rounded out my birthday presents with a cool-looking leather journal that I found next to a giant display of feather pens. I have about a dozen journals at home, which I have been systematically filling since the age of nine, and I was about to run out of space in my latest one.
I decided to wear the necklace out of the store; the horseshoe charm felt cool, hanging just beneath my throat.
Nate and Liam were both wearing headsets when we returned. They were yelling furiously into the mouthpieces, either at each other or their invisible teammates, I couldn’t really tell.
Nate removed his the moment we reentered the apartment, set his controller aside, and got up off of the couch.
“Thanks Liam,” he said.
Liam nodded, still absorbed in the game. Nate turned to us.
“Success?” he asked.
I brushed my hair aside so he could see my new necklace; he whistled approvingly.
“Pretty. So, are we ready to move on to Phase 2?”
Olivia nodded eagerly. “Oh yes, let Phase 2 begin.”
After waving goodbye to Liam and thanking Clara repeatedly, we returned to the Union Street Garage to fetch Olivia’s car.
“You drive, Nate,” Olivia tossed him the keys. “Addy and I want to look at the stuff we bought. It’s a girl thing; we’re legally required to do it after we shop.”
Nate tossed the keys back to her.
“Can’t. I had a beer with Liam.”
Olivia rolled her eyes.
“Liam’s just trying to make you think he’s cool,” she told him. “He’s a child.”
“He is cool. Did you see that TV? That was a 42 inch plasma!”
“I’ll drive,” I said, taking the keys from Olivia’s hand. “But someone has to tell me where we’re going.”