“Best spring break ever!” Lena cheered, collapsing on the mall bench, depositing her shopping bounty on the floor.
“I bet it has something to do with your birthday.” Stacy teased, joining her with a contented sigh.
“I’m just glad there is a spring break.” Joan shifted her armload of bags. “And for these awesome sales!” She gasped. “Look at that jacket!” Dumping the bags next to Stacy, she made beeline to the window.
Lena and Stacy exchanged a glance and giggled. “For a math geek-she loves to shop.”
Stacy grinned. “She finds the most amazing stuff in any sale. See that sweater?” Lena nodded. “Half-off, paired it with something she got for five dollars, cut in half and sewn together and voila! Instant cuteness. Robby even complimented her.”
“Really?” Lena’s eyebrows raised. “Math geek or not, great choice with her over that other girl.”
Lena glanced over her shoulder to see if Joan had gone after the jacket. “Oh great! Look in front.” She hissed, whipping around and looking straight ahead.
“It’s only eighteen dollars!” Joan chirped happily, trotting back to the bench and staring at them curiously. “What’s wrong with you guys?”
“Gina.” Stacy spoke through her teeth. “Don’t let her see you!”
Joan blinked. “Why not?” She looked over her shoulder for her classmate.
“Don’t!” Lena whispered fiercely. “She'll see you!”
Joan frowned. “Gina’s nice, I tutored her.”
“She’s crazy!” Stacey sniffed. “Marrying some idiot ten years older.”
“Twelve.” Joan corrected. “She’s twenty-four and he’s thirty-six. We’re hiding from her because she’s married?”
Lena’s eyes turned to mere slits. “Look, I don’t want to talk to her, okay? I’m fed up with her happy talk of being married, fulfilled in life and her dumb religion. I’ve got better things to waste my time with!”
Joan nodded slowly. “Right.” She shook her head quickly. “Wrong!” Before they could stop her, she turned around and headed to the window where she’d been admiring the jacket. “Gina?”
A dark head turned, delicate pixie features lighting up in delight. “Joan!” A happy embrace followed by a jumble of eager greetings. “I just saw this jacket and thought of you!” Gina exclaimed.
Joan grinned. “And I was looking at it a few minutes ago and thinking how wonderful it was!”
Gina laughed. “It’s really great to see you-or rather, to talk to you. I think I’m being boycotted, invisible one week and non-existent the next!” She shook her head.
“You’re just the first one to take the plunge.” Joan comforted. “Are you here by yourself?”
Gina shook her head. “No, Jared just went to get chocolate popcorn, Moose something or the other.” She brightened. “You can join us if you want. We’re just walking until we see something interesting.”
“Really? Thanks. Chocolate sounds good, but I’m with Stacy and Lena right now.” Joan waited for her reaction.
A faint smile trailed across Gina’s face. “Really? Tell them I said hello and I’m sorry they couldn’t make it to the wedding.”
“I’ll pass it on. Great to see you again!” Joan hugged her impulsively. “Share some of the popcorn with Jared.”
Gina winked. “I can try!”
Joan chuckled to herself, hurrying back to the bench. To her surprise, it was empty and only her shopping bags remained, a few knocked over on the floor.
The bustling busyness betrayed no hint of where the two had gone. Joan sighed softly, gathering her shopping bags. “Gina? Gina! Wait up…” Joan hurried after her. “I guess I’m coming with you after all.”
Gina waited patiently, reaching over to help with the bags. “They left you too, huh?” Joan gave a tiny nod as Gina linked her arm through hers. “Been there, done that, girlfriend. Don’t worry about it. How about a pound of that chocolate thing?”
Author's Note: There's a specialty gourmet popcorn with chocolate called Moose Trail or something. Can't remember the actual name.
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