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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The other woman : Short Story

The other woman Daily News


“The day began like any other with just a hint of excitement in the air. It was a few days after ‘pay day’ that I took leave from work to go shopping, a pastime enjoyed by most women.

This particular occasion was all the more enjoyable as I ventured out all by myself, unhampered by impatient kids or a bored husband.

“I set off early so that I could shop and browse at leisure. I strolled from shop to shop admiring the beautiful window displays and the multitude of exquisite goods on offer with no compulsion to purchase anything - just look and enjoy.

This was in strong contrast to my normal shopping which was a quick dash in and out of the shop with a hurried purchase of an essential item.

I was, therefore, determined to enjoy this glorious pleasure to the fullest which I felt was a deserving reward to a busy working mother.

“I ambled along and came to one of the large Department Stores.

I wafted towards the perfume counters, ‘tested’ a few very expensive perfumes I knew I couldn’t afford but appreciated the heavenly scents nevertheless, leisurely sauntered beyond the cosmetic counters and found myself on the first floor of the store. It was here that I suddenly spotted her, over at the far end of the room.

“It was a strange coincidence, I mused, that she too had decided to go shopping on this same day. What did she look like at close quarters? What was she selecting?

What else did she have in her shopping basket? These were some of the questions which sprang instantly to mind.

I have often stolen a glance at the shopping basket of the shopper standing in front or behind me at the check-out counter and either compared their selection with mine or had been encouraged to make a future purchase of something new that I had never tried before.

This same curiosity assailed me now together with my intense wish to see her at close quarters, but, I was determined not to give any indication of my interest in her.

Therefore, though pretending to ignore her all the time, I kept her very much within sight while gradually moving forward and inching my way closer to her. By now my own shopping had receded to the background and seemed like a million years ago that I rejoiced as a carefree shopper.

“She didn’t appear to be in any particular hurry but took her time looking and selecting whatever it was that she wanted.

Many times I wanted to look at her directly but did not dare look too closely in case she noticed my interest in her.

Although I was by now burning with curiosity to see her face our eyes never once met as I hastily looked away long before we reached the point of contact. “By now my stalking game had progressed considerably until there were only a few shelves and a mere ten to fifteen feet between us. Although we were closer to each other now than ever before, she still remained a mere blur on my horizon as I was doggedly determined not to look at her directly.

I stepped out onto the centre isle between the rows of shelves and realised with a start that I had reached the point of no return, so, with chin up I marched forward towards her and was shocked to see her striding towards me.

My eyes were a blur and my mind was in a whirl thinking she was going to accost me when with a gasp I froze in my tracks a few inches from ..... a wall to wall full length mirror!

“It took me more than a few minutes to recover from the near catastrophe of walking into a mirror which would have had disastrous consequences, the realisation of which sent loud metallic cymbals clashing in my brain deafening me to all other background sounds and temporarily blinding me to my surroundings leaving me alone in an indefinable emptiness.

Recovering from my humiliating experience I sheepishly looked around wondering if other shoppers in the store had noticed the duel I just had with my own reflection.

I was taken aback but nevertheless pleasantly surprised to note that the rest of the world seemed to be going about their own business with hardly a glance in my direction.”

My voice trailed off and I lapsed into silence as I re-lived yet again the shock of realisation, the relief of saving myself from injury and the surprise of isolation in the midst of so many people.

The deep stentorian voice of the Judge cut sharply into my reverie instantly transporting me to the present.

“You have now placed the facts of your case before this Court and before a verdict is given on the charges of ‘extreme conceit, inordinate curiosity and downright stupidity,’ have you anything more you would like to add in your defense?” inquired the Judge, with a kindly look in my direction which helped to mellow the severity of his voice.

“Yes, I do your Honour.

” I blurted out eagerly. “May I be excused for failing to recognize myself, because, my own face is the least familiar of faces I encounter in my daily life.

As I am not a hairdresser, a beautician or one who is overly attentive to my looks, the time I spend in front of a mirror could be whittled down to a few minutes in the morning and even less at night.

Besides, the face I would recognize as being my own usually is in the habit of coyly smiling back at me, seducing me with coquettish glances with half closed languid eyes whilst gently tossing the head from side to side against the back drop of my own familiar bedroom.

This other woman - my reflection I mean, with wind swept somewhat untidy hair, slightly dishevelled clothes and a near hostile expression on her face, who suddenly appeared from behind a crowd of strangers amidst rows of store shelves was not a familiar face to me at all.

This ‘other woman’ was a total stranger to me though I now believe a very familiar sight to others.

Your Honour, I therefore beg to plead guilty only to a lesser charge of genuine mistaken identity under justifiable conditions,” I beseeched hopefully.

The Judge turned to the Jury, peered over the rims of his crescent shaped reading glasses and with what I thought was a fleeting glint of amusement in his eyes, said, “Ladies of the Jury, you may now retire to consider your verdict.”

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