The Perfect Price

“Like magic!” That’s what she thought, opening the package to find it was exactly what she’d thought about buying at the store two days before. Examining the postmark to make certain, she saw it had been mailed yesterday from Honolulu. Could it be? It had to be.

She’d been wandering through Ala Moana Shopping Center during her lunch hour. Worried about her weight, her New Year’s resolution had been to lose 10 pounds. Giving up lunch for a walk each day was helping; her goal was in sight.

Neiman Marcus had beckoned to her for some reason. Cruising the aisles, she’d found herself attracted to the handbag area. You never knew until something hit you and you knew you wanted it, called to you, a little voice saying, “I’m the one you want.”

“May I see that one?” she’d asked the woman behind the counter. I had been too much. For now. She’d added it to her mental list of things she must have, some time as soon as she could afford it.

The matching wallet. “How much is that?” This one she could just afford. She handed over her charge card.

“I’m sorry, Miz Morgado, but this card wasn’t accepted.”

Alicia crinkled her forehead. “Really? I’ve never missed a payment. Could you please try it again?”

The clerk tried. “I’m sorry, no, it won’t go through. Do you have another card?”

“No, unfortunately, that’s my only one. Ohh well, I’ll straighten it out with the company.”

She walked out into the mall and sat down on a bench. Taking out her phone, she called the number on the back of her card. The man who finally answered was very nice. He’d confirmed her account was up-to-date.

“If I go inside and try again, will it work this time?”

“It should, Miz Morgado. I’m not sure what the problem might be.”

Back into Neiman Marcus she’d trooped, back to the counter.

“Oh, hi,” said the clerk. “All straightened out?”

“Yes, I called. I was told there was no problem. Can we try it again, please?”

The clerk retrieved the purse.

“Oh, no, not the purse. I can’t afford that. It was the wallet I wanted.”

“Ah yes, sorry about that.”

The clerk brought out the wallet and ran the card.

“I’m terribly sorry, Miz Morgado, but it won’t go through.”

Alicia frowned. “Is it your system?” she asked, her frustration stepping up a notch.

“Ah, let me call my floor manager,” said the clerk.

She buzzed someone on the phone. A moment later a young man arrived.

“Stella,” he said to the clerk, “what can I help with here?”

The clerk explained the situation to him, that Alicia had wanted the purse, could not afford it, so had decided on the wallet. That her card had not been accepted even though she’d called the company, and they’d confirmed it should work.

“Ma’am,” the young man said, “I’m Stuart Shimodo, the floor manager.” He smiled at her in a way that made her blush. “Let me try this for you.”

Going around the counter, Stuart tried the card. “Well this is odd,” he said. “The card definitely will not go through.” He looked at Alicia. “And you say you talked to your card company?”

“Yes,” said Alicia, “just now. They assured me it was good, that my account was current.” Her frustration level kept rising.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Miz Morgado,” Stuart said. “Is it possible your card got damaged somehow?”

“Does it look damaged to you?” asked Alicia.

“Well no, not visibly. But I mean maybe the information on the chip got scrambled or even erased somehow?”

Alicia stared at him. She was at the level, under normal circumstances, where she might have raised her voice, but there was something about the young man’s face that made it impossible to do so. He was very good-looking.

“Oh well,” said Alicia, relaxing. “I guess I’ll just ask them to send me a new card.”

And with that, she’d returned to work.

Last night her sister, Allison, with whom she lived, laughed when she heard the story. “My first guess would’ve been that you were over your limit,” she’d said.

“Oh, right, you would,” said Alicia. “You’re always so supportive.”

“Well, aren’t I? I mean who’s bailed you out before when you spent too much money? You just always want the wrong thing. You were never good with money.”

“But I’m not over my limit,” Alicia said.

“Whatever, sis. Just wait until you can afford something before you go for it.”

Sometimes Alicia hated her sister. Sometimes she hated her most for being right.

And now this. The very next afternoon. And it was the purse, not the wallet, sent to her anonymously. Well, it just had to be him. Ah, Stuart Shimodo. He was so good-looking. It just had to be him.

Alicia could barely stand it. All morning she’d longed to get to Neiman Marcus, to speak to Stuart, to thank him for sending her the bag. Wow, maybe this was the way true love worked.

Dashing out the door at noon, Alicia arrived at Neiman Marcus in a flash. Heading over to the counter, she saw the same woman working the counter.

“Hi,” said Alicia, breathless. “Remember me?”

“Oh, yes, I definitely remember you, Miz Morgado. Ah, how are you today?”

“Good, Stella, great. I need to speak to Stuart. Can you buzz him?”

“Well, yes, I guess so, but what did you want to speak to him about?”

Alicia looked for the purse. Of course, it was gone. “That purse,” she said. “He bought it for me, sent it to me.”

Stella looked at her in a way that made Alicia blush.

“Actually, Miz, Morgado, ah, Alicia, I, ah, bought it for you, I’m the one who sent it to you.”

Alicia stared at her. “You sent to me? Why did you do that?”

Stella gave her a timid smile. “Well, I was wondering, I hope you won’t be offended, but I was wondering what I could do to get you, to maybe get you to want to have a cup of coffee with me.”

Alicia stared at Stella for a moment not comprehending. And then she did. “Of course, Stella,” she said, smiling. “I would love to have a cup of coffee with you.”

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