At the Mall. By Martin Green.
The well-dressed couple entered the mall. She was perhaps in her 60s; he was probably five or six years older. She was petite with a round face; he was tall, a little over six feet, and broad, with a white Van Dyke beard. He held the door open, then, after they were inside, held out his arm for her to take. She looked up at him and smiled. Several other people, observing them, also smiled; they were so obviously a devoted couple.
Are you sure youll be all right? she asked.
Ill be fine. Ill sit in one of these chairs here. They put them out for husbands to sit on while their wives go shopping.
I wont be long.
Take your time. Ill read the paper.
Ill be back in less than half an hour.
Good. Happy shopping.
He sat down in an armchair that wasnt quite as comfortable as it looked. Maybe the mall people didnt want people. to sit too long. He looked at the front page of his paper, then observed the people passing by. He noticed a high school girl with long brown hair walking across the lobby area. Why wasnt she in school? She was a good-looking girl, even in those ugly clothes she was wearing. And those ugly shoes. Why would anyone want to wear them?
Who did she remind him of? Betty Mazurky. Hed had a crush on her all through high school. Hed never once spoken to her. What would have happened if he did? Probably nothing. Then there was that German girl hed met when he was over there in the Army. What was her name? Greta, that was it. Hed thought he was in love with her, had even made plans to bring her back to the States. But her parents, not to mention his, had objected, luckily. How young hed been then.
What had started him thinking about this? The women in his life. Not many, but there was one. Carolyn Ross. Hed met her in his first job, at the advertising agency. She was a copywriter, could have been a model. She was smart, beautiful, unobtainable, out of his reach. But theyd been thrown together on a campaign and for some reason she seemed to like him. And he was in love with her, at least so hed thought at the time. When, as was inevitable, she told him, gently, she was involved, that was the word shed used, hed been crushed. Was that why hed gone out to California? Maybe, although hed never told that to anyone. Then hed met his wife, had children, grandchildren. Was it all because he hadnt been able to win Carolyn Ross?
Are you all right? His wife was standing in front of him, holding a shopping bag.
Yes. Im fine.
You had such a funny look. As if you were miles away.
No, Im right here. Did you find what you wanted?
Yes, and it was on sale.
Good. He rose and they left the mall, she holding his arm, a petite lady in her sixties, he a tall, broad gentleman with a white Van Dyke beard, a couple obviously meant to be together.
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