Midlife Crisis? Never Heard Of It! A short story.
A Short Story
The smell of fresh baked cookies came from the kitchen. She sighed wondering where her life would lead her now, pressing the enter button on the keyboard. She stared at the “Thanks for applying!” notice in response to her application. College, she cringed, at nearly 40 years old! Who would have thought it!
Jinny was in her late 30s, childless, manless, and even homeless, thanks to her cheating ex-husband whom she divorced last year. The initial hump was pretty rough. She hadn’t known she’d had so many tears in her, and all that chocolate she’d eaten to soothe her shattered soul. Well let’s just say her waist had seen better days! Thank God she’d had her parents willing to take her in. Who knows where she’d have ended up without them! They’d allowed her the time to wallow and grieve as she needed and finally as her divorce anniversary was catching up with her, they were the same ones to give her a swift kick in the rear to get a move on her life. After all, she wasn’t dead yet! (Or so they reminded her.)
Jinny’s mom, Lydia came walking out of the kitchen bringing a plate of her fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and set them on the coffee table. “Well, how does that feel? Taking your first step back into civilization?” Lydia inquired, reaching over and grabbing a cookie for herself.
“I think, I need a cookie,” I said still a bit in shock over the whole process, “how can you make these when you know I am trying to watch my weight now?” I tried changing the subject.
“Oh dear, everyone needs something sweet when making one of the biggest decisions of their lives! What did you end up choosing?” she asked with a hint of fear in her voice. Mom and I had been arguing while I went round and round about the career path I was going to choose for myself. She was all about the stability, while I was all about following my heart.
“Writing,” I said, and proceeded to give her all the stats on how many jobs there are out there in the field knowing that this is important to my mother’s piece of mind. She nodded listening attentively, knowing there was nothing she could do about my decision. After all, I’d decided to follow my heart and hoped she was able to picture the future I was able to see for myself.
Lydia waited for me to stop rambling before she said, “You know I just want you to be happy and be capable of taking care of yourself, don’t you?” She looked a little misty eyed, so I reached for her, giving her a hug, “I know, Mom, I know.” I replied.
“Well then,” she said, pulling back and breaking the melancholy moment by smoothing down the front of her shirt. “I better take some of these cookies to your father before we eat them all.” I smiled as she stood picking up the plate and carrying them to Dad’s office, where he was likely enjoying his retirement by playing his favorite computer game.
I pulled my laptop back onto my lap and settled back into the couch. I navigated to the University’s website and found the page describing the writing degree that had been causing such torment between me and my parents. Writing and telling stories sounds like a dream job to me. I may not be a traditional student, but I guarantee I will be a motivated one!
The start date was only a couple of days away and in the meantime I was going to have to get productive. Going back to school meant that I was going to have to go shopping, for school supplies of course! I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if I picked up an outfit or two? Right? A woman needs to look good to stay motivated!
I jumped up from the couch and shouted, “I’m going out!” Not caring if anyone actually heard me. I grabbed my purse and keys from off of the counter and gave myself a cursory glance in the mirror by the door. My golden brown hair was wavy and those waves were dangerously close to being called curly at this moment. I pushed back my bangs, and grunted. Passable, I thought, not amazing, but I was passable enough to go to the department store and pick up some supplies. I headed out closing the door behind me.
I always wanted to give a little squeal of delight when climbing into the bucket seats of my little VW Bug. I had worked hard for her, and she was the one thing I got to keep out of the divorce. Brad wouldn’t be caught dead in a little car like her, he was more inclined towards the Chevy Silverado we had shared. He was more than willing to part ways with my little bug when I expressed an interest in keeping her.
I turned the radio on and it was tuned into my favorite country station. I started listening to country after the divorce. You’d think with all that singing about love and loss, I’d hate country music, but instead it energized me. I mean really, some of those singers were amazing. It also helped to know that Brad hated country music. I mean really hated country music. I remember us driving in the car and I had accidently switched on the country station because I recognized the song playing from that TV show, the one with all the people trying to become singers. I had liked the song then and could never find it. He nearly drove us off the road in his rush to change the channel!
I pulled into the department store’s lot. It was pretty busy being a late Friday afternoon. All the kids out of school, and parents out of work, everyone heading to the stores to get their shopping done for the weekend. I parked in the back, not minding the walk it was pretty warm out still for August and I love warm summer days.
Jinny was a fast shopper, she rarely browsed and almost always knew exactly what she was looking for so she never needed to slow down. It was quick to the racks, and then a quick stop in the dressing room, and before she knew it she was in line at the checkout.
“Can I help you?” The young woman at the counter asked, her black her perfectly coifed, pooling down over her shoulders. Jinny tried not to think about the unruly hair of her own that she’d glimpsed just prior to leaving imagining the wreck it must be now after trying on clothing. She unconsciously tried smoothing her locks. After all, pretty soon she was going to be sitting in a roomful of perfectly coifed young female aspiring writer’s at the University. She’d best get used to being the old frumpy one. Or should she? Isn’t this why she was buying new clothing? To have a change in her life?
“Yes, I’m making a purchase.” She managed to say with more confidence than she expected. “I’m getting some new clothing for college.” She added, knowing she was certainly divulging way more than she needed, but hoping that this may spark an interesting conversation with the woman. She was going to have to learn to talk to this well coifed young types in class. Well a reaction from the young woman was what she was looking for, but getting one was a different story.
“Mmmph.” the woman said, her nametag read Kylie. I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or not, but it looked like Kylie rolled her eyes!
Behind me a small voice spoke up, “Excuse me, did you say that you were going to college?” A petite woman who looked to be in her 70’s interrupted us.
“Why yes, I did.” I nodded politely at her, surprised at her curiosity. “I am starting at University in a couple of days.”
“That is wonderful.” she said in her quiet voice, “I always wanted to go to school myself and never did. What are you studying?”
“Writing,” I said.
“Fantastic! Artists are a dying breed you know,” she explained.
Artist, I thought, I had never really thought about it that way, but writers are artists, not the paint and brush kind, but the pen and ink kind. They create with a different medium. I suppose if I am artist then I am allowed to be a bit eccentric.
I heard a throat clearing from behind me and turned back to notice that Kylie, who appeared to be chewing gum, had cleared her throat because she was finished ringing up my order.
“Don’t give up on your dreams, Dear!” the woman behind me said.
“Thank you, I whispered back, “And I won’t.” I said.
I paid Kylie and left the store, feeling silly over my insecurities. Perhaps I won’t be the frumpy old woman in the classroom, but the eccentric old woman who is following her dreams! I climbed into my car still smiling at the thought. Maybe I could make this school thing work, even if I couldn’t figure out how to talk to these young girls.
I drove to my next stop and got out of the car. The humidity in the air was rising and a quick glance in the mirror prior to exiting had me realizing it wasn’t doing my hair any favors. I was thankful this was my last stop.
My confidence was still on a bit of a high after making the decision that I was more inclined to be looked at as eccentric than frumpy. So I went into the store with high spirits, ready to pick out my few needed supplies.
Since I was going to be eccentric, I went towards where the book bags were and realize none of these were going to be a good fit. They were all too boring for a woman of my age, I needed one with a little more color, a little more pizazz. Something like, this, I thought as I spotted a bag over in the art supplies section. It was a blue and yellow tote, with a small red bird sitting on a twig right on the front of it. I loved it. I grabbed it cringing at the price tag, but you can’t put a price on good art (even if it’s on a bag.)
I took the tote, and carried it over towards the pens and pencils. I was debating between blue or black ink when a man came walking down the aisle towards me. He smiled at me, and I returned the smile, noticing the leather bag he was carrying in his hand. He must be getting a new laptop case for work, I thought. A small shadow passed over my good mood as I realized how silly I might look gathering my artist’s bag and supplies for attending college. I reached for the blue bag of pens lost in my own thoughts, not realizing that the man had stopped and was also reaching for the same bag of pens. Our hands brushed and I jolted back.
“I’m so sorry!” I exclaimed blushing crimson, “You go ahead!” for the first time I noticed how handsome the man was. He looked to be a few years my senior, with a few salt and pepper sparks of gray noticeable in his hair. Hey, who was I to judge, I had some gray showing as well! I self consciously brushed my bangs back, and ran my fingers through my hair, hoping to tame the curls that had progressed as the humidity grew throughout the day.
“Oh no,” he said adding with a twinge of humor, “ladies first.” He even gave a slight bow in my direction, causing my blush to spread.
“Thank you.” I said grabbing my bag of pens and tossing them into the tote. My eyes cast downward in shyness, I hurriedly rushed off. Oh my God, Jinny, I thought to myself, the man was nice and handsome, and here you go rushing away again! When are you going to get a clue. I chastised myself the man might have been flirting with you. Flirt back!
For as long as I can remember I’ve always been awkward around men, the more handsome, the more awkward I behaved. It’s silly really, a grown woman who can’t handle flirting without shying away.
I wandered around the store a bit more gathering the rest of my supplies and trying to regain my self confidence. I picked out a few more pens and pencils, all with some creative designs on them. No one said, I couldn’t have a little fun with going back to school! I also grabbed a stack of notebooks. The last thing I needed was a laptop, and as I headed to the electronics section of the store I noticed the handsome man from before inspecting the computers.
I tried to sneak past, but there was only two aisles of laptops and he happened to be in the aisle where the price tags were much more reasonable which is just what I was looking for. I tried to look nonchalent, as I walked down the aisle to make up for my hurrying off earlier. Instead I ended up masterfully tripping over the box on the floor that I didn’t notice thanks to being overly concerned with this man. I fumbled around, nearly falling on my face, only catching myself by grabbing the first thing that was in front of me. It turned out to be the man’s arm.
He helped me up with a look of serious concern on his face. Again, my face was quite red when we met again. “Are you okay?” He asked me seriously, worry etched all over his face.
“I’m fine.” I mumbled back. “Thanks.”
“Jay.” he said.
“Uh, what?” I asked.
“Jay,” he said again, “it’s my name. What’s your’s? I figure it’s time we introduced.”
“I’m Jinny.” I say, with just a little hesitation. Thankfully I could feel the redness in my face subsiding from my fall. I held his gaze briefly before looking away.
“Nice to meet you, Jinny, it seems we are looking for the same items today.” Jay observed. As I looked over the nearest laptop to avoid staring directly into his eyes. They were quite startling.
“So it seems,” I agreed. “And I think I may have found just what I am looking for.” I saw the price tag on a small lightweight laptop nearby and walked up to it.
“That’s a good one,” Jay said, “I’ll vouch for the quality. What do you primarily need it for?”
Jay sounded helpful enough, but Jinny wasn’t sure she wanted to divulge her plans to go to college just yet to the first man she met. After all, her confidence and eccentricity has barely had any practice yet. She fidgeted while thinking, reaching up to pull a pretend eyelash away from her eye. “Well, it’s really just to go online. Oh, and I need to have some software for writing.”
Jay nodded thoughtfully, he pointed back towards the model she had just looked at. “That one is your best bet. It’s easy to use and has all the writing software you could want. At least that’s what the salesman told me.” Jay patted the box that Jinny tripped over, realizing for the first time that the box belonged to Jay and also held the laptop she was looking at.
Jinny smirked. She couldn’t help it, it was a funny situation. Jay was teasing her. She giggled. “I guess I will have to take this one then,“ she said, feeling a little brave, and wondering if she sounded flirty to him. Maybe hoping she sounded flirty to him. “Thanks for your help.” She added.
“Anytime.” Jay smiled, making eye contact with her.
She blushed, and when she looked up again, he was gone.