They entered West Towne Mall and Mrs. Goodman gave great thanks for the warmth.  It was officially the coldest winter on record in Madison.  She’d noted that the cover of the latest Time magazine showed a lone cross-country skier trekking along a deserted freeway in Seattle.
            The little boy, Chris, was anxious for his mother to let him go.  A big boy now, he didn’t need to be anchored to her.  Mrs. Goodman fought against the little boy pulling at her hand, his strength nearly a match for her maternal grip nowadays.  As they passed the Sizzler Steak House, Chris asked if he could have a cheeseburger for lunch.
            “We’ll see,” said Mrs. Goodman.  The only thing she had to accomplish was buying the new Eagles album for her daughter Pam.  It was only part of her birthday present, but it was certainly the most important part.
            They turned into the record store, Galaxy of Sound, and walked up to the counter.
            “I’m looking for that new Eagles album,” Mrs. Goodman said to the young woman behind the cash register.
            “Oh, yes,” said the young woman, stepping around the counter to the wall of racks displaying the week’s top twenty albums.  She pointed to it.  It stood at number one.
            “Thank you very much,” said Mrs. Goodman, looking at the young woman’s name tag.  “Pam, why that’s my daughter’s name too.  I’m buying this for her.  It’s a birthday present.”
            “Oh that’s great,” said Pam, “I’m sure she’ll enjoy this. We play it all the time in the store.  It’s really popular.”
            They returned to the cash register.  “That will be five nineteen with tax,” Pam said.
            Mrs. Goodman fished in her purse.  “Oh no,” she said, laying it on the counter and pulling out a brush, a comb, a compact, a packet of tissues, a package of cough drops, a scarf, and a notepad.  “I think I must have left my wallet at home.  Oh no.  This is the last part of her gift and we’re having the surprise party this evening.  I have to go home and get everything ready.  I’ll never be able to get back here in this weather.”
            Pam said, “I tell you what, ma‘am.  I’ll let you take the album with you.  You can pay for it the next time you come to the mall.”
            “Really?” the woman looked at her incredulously.  “You’d let me do that?”
            “Yes, sure,” said Pam.  “It’s not a problem.
            “Oh thank you so much, Pam.  I’ll come back tomorrow and give you the money, I promise,” said Mrs. Goodman, shoveling everything back into her purse.
            Pam put the album in a bag.  “Whenever you can’s okay.  Here you go,” she said, handing it to Chris.
            Chris stared at her, wide-eyed.  “Wow,” he said, “you must be the nicest girl ever.”
            Pam laughed.  “Well thank you very much for saying that.”
            “No, really,” said Mrs. Goodman, “I wholeheartedly agree.  You are the nicest young woman ever.”
            “And the prettiest, too,” added Chris.
             Pam blushed.  “Hey,” she said, “are you flirting with me?”
            Chris looked at her wide-eyed.  “Flirting?”  He was fairly sure he knew what it meant.  “Yeah, I guess I am.  Yes, I’m flirting with you.”
            Mrs. Goodman and Pam both laughed.  Mrs. Goodman thanked Pam again for her kindness.
            Chris had forgotten about the cheeseburger so didn’t mention it on the way out of the mall.
            “She’s so pretty,” he said to his mother, “huh?”
            “Yes, Chris, she is very, very beautiful,” said Mrs. Goodman.  “Inside and out.”
            Chris lay in bed that night trying to sleep, but he couldn’t get the image of Pam’s face out of his mind.  Even years later, many, many years later, her face would come to mind in odd moments.  Sometimes the vision was so vivid it was as if he’d never left the record store, was still standing there with the most beautiful woman he’d ever met, inside and out.

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