I was sitting in my car, waiting for the mall to open, when a woman I no longer wanted to be friends with knocked on my window. It was a hundred degrees out already, though it wasn’t quite ten in the morning. My car’s air conditioning was set to maximum. Plus, there was the matter of my no longer liking her. I was reluctant to put the window down.
“What took you so long?” she said when I finally pressed the button.
“I didn’t want to let the cool air out,” I said. “Also, I don’t want to be friends with you anymore, as you know.”
She blinked at me. “We’ve been friends for twelve years. I took you to the hospital when you fell and hit your head. I picked your children up from school that time when you couldn’t. I was there for you when you divorced your husband.” She said all this matter-of-factly, as though these actions disputed any claim I could possibly make against her.
Then she eyed the shopping bag on my passenger seat. “You have a return?”
“That’s right,” I said.
“I’ll go with you,” she said. “I was heading to that store myself.”
When one of the saleswomen unlocked the doors to the store, I went straight to the customer service desk. The woman I no longer wanted to be friends with followed.
The saleswoman behind the counter said, “You have a return?”
“I do,” I said, and I removed the duvet and pillow shams from the shopping bag and placed them on the counter.
The saleswoman said, “Anything wrong with them?”
“I just changed my mind,” I said. And then because I have a habit of justifying returns, as though the saleswoman will judge me, think that I damaged the item or that I bought something I cannot afford, I added, “I thought they would look good in my bedroom, but they don’t. The colors do not complement the paint on my walls.”
The saleswoman said, “Sure. No problem.” She scanned my receipt and refunded the sum back to my credit card. The entire process took less than two minutes.
I said to the woman I no longer wanted to be friends with, “See how easy it was to return something simply because I didn’t want it anymore?”
She said, “Had you slept on that bedding?”
“No,” I said.
“Had you run it through the washing machine?”
“Had you spilled wine or coffee on it?”
“Your cat barf on it?”
“How long had you had it?” she asked.
“One week,” I said.
“Well, there you go.”
Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award (MCP 2017). Her fiction has recently appeared in Cream City Review, Hobart, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, Threadcount, TriQuarterly, and other venues. She is Fiction Editor of Atticus Review. She lives in Tucson, Arizona. michellenross.com
Cover Photo by Roland Tanglao