I got to Nora’s house forty-five minutes later. The distance between it and that shack was just too far. From my former house, it was only four houses away. And it wouldn’t have taken up to ten minutes on foot or five minutes with the limo. My face fell when I remembered the limo. I’ve really missed it.
I rang the doorbell twice before it was opened by a guy. He must be her brother.
“Hello. I’m Michelle. I’m here to see Nora,” I introduced myself.
“Oh hi. Come on in. She’s upstairs in her room.”
“Alright. Thanks,” I said as I walked in as he closed the door behind me.
I took one look around the part of the house I could see and couldn’t help but sigh wistfully.
I should’ve still been living in somewhere like this—better than this—if not for that godforsaken bankruptcy.
On realizing that they must be waiting for me, I climbed up the stairs and met myself in a large hall.
Ugh. How do they expect me to find her room in this large place? And why the heck don’t they have maids to lead strangers.
After walking down the hall and taking two turns, I saw a door with ‘Nora’ written on it.
I knocked on the door and on hearing “Come in,” I opened the door and walked in.
“Hi,” I greeted. Four pairs of eyes turned to me.
But I received no reply. They were all too busy staring at my choice of clothes to notice that I’d greeted them.
“Uh…hi,” they finally greeted. They must’ve realized that the staring was getting rude.
Amy came to me and pulled me to a side of the room where we were out of earshot of the others.
“Umm…Michelle, isn’t your dressing a little bit umm…” she waved her hands to demonstrate what she meant, “you know, a little bit inappropriate for going out.”
I frowned. “Inappropriate? And what’s that got to do with you?” I asked with my voice slightly raised.
“I know it’s got nothing to do with me but you’re my bestie and I believe—”
“Believe whatever you want. I don’t care,” I said with a note of finality. Then, I turned to the others and said in a loud voice. “Whatever I want to put on, I’ll put on and it’s none of your business. So just face your business and leave your nose out of mine. Is that clear?”
They nodded.” We’re sorry for staring,” Nicole apologized for them all.
“Alright guys. Come on. We’ve got a gift to buy,” Nora said excitedly.
“Now, what exactly is good enough as a retirement gift for an elderly man?” Nora asked no one in particular.
“I’ve got no idea,” Nicola said.
“Me neither,” Amy put in.
“Can I help you?” a voice asked from behind.
We turned around and met a beautiful, well dressed woman. She must be a saleswoman.
“Umm… we want to get our principal a retirement gift but we don’t know what to get him. Can you please help us?” Nicola said.
“Retirement gifts? That’s not a problem. I’ve got the right thing for you. Follow me,” the woman said with a smile as she beckoned on us. We followed her and we walked until we got to a glass door where written at the top were the words ‘WONDERFUL RETIREMENT GIFTS.’
“Here we are. Go on in.”
“Don’t mention. I’m just doing my job,” she replied with a wink.
We pushed the door, entered and started browsing through the shop.
There were racks of umbrellas with the inscription ‘HAVE A HAPPY RETIREMENT.” Those cost ten dollars and I only have four. I need to get something around three dollars so that I’ll have a dollar for a smoothie at the cafe we would head to after buying the gifts.
Nearby, Nicole, Nicola and Nora were observing racks of shirts with words pertaining to retirement written on them. Their price tags varied from $15 to $30 and above depending on the beauty of the shirt.
That’s a no no for me.
Amy, being a foodie, was looking at cutleries with retirement words also inscribed on them too. Price tag—$5 and above. Also a nah nah.
I turned around and it seemed like my fairy godmother had just conjured the very thing I was looking for.
There it sat on the table with the price tag three dollars, twenty-five cents. Exactly what I needed. A cup of smoothie cost a quarter.
The item was a cup with the inscription ‘A HERO HAS RETIRED.’ I picked it up and inspected it.
It was a beautiful ceramic cup, painted blue, while the words were written in cursive with black marker. This kind of cup shouldn’t be sold for so low a price, I thought. Unless something is wrong with it. Then, on closer inspection, I found out the handle was a little bit chipped, though it wasn’t that noticeable.
On a normal basis, I wouldn’t have thought of buying it, but there was absolutely nothing else my money could buy.
So, slightly chipped cup it is.
Now, the next challenge, pay for it before the others sees it. I was thinking about how I’ll go about that when—
“Michelle, isn’t that cup too cheap to buy as a gift?” Nicola asked.
Uh-huh too late. Why won’t she just mind her business?
“I don’t think so. I think it’s the perfect gift.”
Nicola scoffed “Perfect? That ain’t perfect.” She held up a shirt. “This is.”
The shirt was black in colour. On the front the words ‘RETIRED BUT NOT TIRED’ were written beautifully with white marker. Underneath it, the words ‘GOODBYE TENSION, HELLO PENSION’ were also written in gray. On turning the back, I could see the words ‘RETIRED AND LOVING IT.’
Truth be told, the shirt was wonderful. But the price tag, $19.99, was exhortbitant.
“Now that’s a perfect gift,” Nicola said with a grin.
“Yeah. It’s good,” I admitted.
“Good?” Nicola said with a frown. “It’s not just good. It’s awesome,” she countered.
“Yeah, fine . It’s awesome,” I said as I rolled my eyes, “but I’m buying this.”
“What—?” Nicola started but the gaze I threw at her silenced her. “Alright. Have it your way,” she said in submission.
Better, I mouthed.
“I have an idea girls,” Nicola said. We all turned to her. “Why don’t we all buy a shirt with different words written on them, package them and write all our names on it. Then, we’ll buy other things of our choice and package it separately?”
“Whoa, that’s a good idea,” Amy said.
“Exactly. Why didn’t I think about it,” Nicole put in.
“Brilliant. You’re a genius Nicola.” Nora said.
What? Buy a $19.99 dollars shirt? With four dollars? I don’t think so.
“Um…Guys I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said tentatively.
They all turned to look at me quizzically.
“What do you mean? This idea is perfect,” Nora countered.
“Why isn’t it a good idea?” Amy asked, “give us a reason why it isn’t perfect. ”
“Yeah a reason.”
Oh my. This is bad. I can’t tell them the reason is because I don’t have enough money. What should I say? What should I say?
“Um…Mum only had four dollars so I don’t have enough money to buy it,” I said without thinking.
Then, I clamped my hands to my mouth when my brain realized what I’d just said.
I looked at them and they were looking at me in surprise.
Oh no. They’ll soon find out about my family’s shameful condition. I’d better correct my stupid mistake.
I gave a fake laugh. “Sorry I meant mum misplaced her purse and she had only four dollars in her pocket, so she’d begged me to take it. She also said I should borrow some money from you guys.”
Please buy the lie. Please, I pleaded in my head.
They all sighed in relief.
“Oh I thought it was something else,” Nicola said with a chuckle.
“Me too,” the others said.
“Nah,” I said with a wave of my hands. “That’s not possible. It’s just a case of misplaced purse, not lack of money.”
“Alright. But you should’ve informed us earlier. We are fine with lending you money.”
“Yeah I should’ve. Thanks a lot,” I said with a smile.
“That aside. Let’s finish up and go grab a sandwich and smoothie,” Nicole said.
“Yeah” We replied excitedly.
We ended the shopping with our bags filled with gifts. Nicole and Nicola got him a travellers’ bag and travel book respectedly.
Amy got a spatula with the words ‘RETIRED AND ENJOYING LIFE WITH MEAT’ inscribed on it.
Nora got him a camera in case he travelled and needed to take pictures. Written on it was the words ‘RETIRED AND CREATING MEMORIES.’ While I got him a cup similar to the other one but this one is much more beautiful and wasn’t chipped. It cost ten dollars. Amy lent me the balance.
I also got him a globe costing twelve dollars.
The remaining three contributed to pay for it.
I gave each of them a hug and smile of gratitude. Little did they know that that was their refund. Where would I get close to twenty dollars to pay back?
Evil of me right? But in this selfish world of ours, only the selfish survive.