Every lady can be driven into madness if she is put on the crossroads of love and shopping. If not every single one, then at least most of them. Jenny was no exception. She loved her husband, but she was also in love with his credit card. Jealous people even whispered behind her back that she was actually in love with the card rather than Josh. She didn’t mind about it. After all, love is love. And if you truly love something, she often used to say, you will love everything that comes with it. That morning, and it was the day after Thanksgiving, the Black Friday, she woke up early. Full of energy, Jenny took a shower, grabbed the credit card that Josh had left on the table and flew out. She met with Laura, Josh’s mistress, at the entrance of the mall. They kissed and giggled a little bit. Soon after, holding hands, they went forward, into the crowd. And the crowd was enormous. All those people looked like ants around an anthill. Jenny and Laura wore modest clothes. No one could suspect that they are rich, let alone that they share the same rich man. They merged perfectly. The reason for their presence was giving thanks. They had their special way of expressing gratitude towards the kindness that life had shown them. Once a year, on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, they would put themselves in the position of an average American citizen. That would mean waiting in line, sweating and checking the price of things they liked instead of just buying them. The inventor of this ritual was their mutual psychiatrist and Josh’s life coach Linda. Since both of her patients, Laura and Jenny, had similar problems, chronic lack of satisfaction, she proposed a so-called “skin exchange” therapy. “Since you ladies are never satisfied with anything. And since all dresses, jewelry, shoes, and travels that Josh provides are not enough, maybe you should inhale air from a different perspective”, Linda said on their secret ladies group therapy and explained her idea. It was the sixth year in a row since then.
“Can you imagine yourself like this?”, Laura spoke quietly: “Every day, until the rest of your life.”
“I think I would rather kill myself”, Jenny replied.
“They truly have no dignity.”
“Thank god for Linda”, Laura added.
“Yes. She is an absolute genius. I don’t know where would we be without her.”
“Yup. And god knows what would a Josh do without us.”
“Yes”, Laura giggled while heading t the mall entrance: “A Josh”.
The density of the crowd had risen to the level that made ladies feel like wearing undersized dresses with tight elastic suites below. A mal security worker, the small tiny guy in a white shirt, was standing behind the wide automatic doors that were soon to be opened. He was waiting for an order to press the button and unleash hell.
“We should run for the dresses first”, said Laura. Jenny almost replayed but no words came out. Her mouth just stood wide open while she was staring over her shoulder. “Jenny… Sweaty… Is everything ok?”
“Oh my god!!! Is that?”, Jenny was shocked. “Is that josh?”
“Where!?”, Laura shouted. Jenny: “Over there!”
“Oh my god!!! I am not sure, he sure looks like… Yes! It is Josh!”
Jenny: “What’s he doing here?!”
Laura: “Maybe that Linda told him to come and do the same thing we are doing.”
Jenny: “No… Linda wouldn’t do that.”
Laura: “Yes, she would. She would see no harm in it. I mean, what are the chances that we would go to the same mall!”
Jeny: “What if he sees us?!What if he sees us together?!”
Laura: “Oh my god! I don’t know. We could lose…”
Jenny: “Wait a minute. Why is he unhappy?” Their mouths momentarily shut. They were silent almost for a full minute. “I mean”, Jenny continued: “Aren’t the two of us making him happy?”
Laura: “Yes. What more could he possibly want? Money, wife, and mistress. What else there is?” Bell exclaimed, the mall door opened and the stampede started. The crowd carried them like feathers towards the entrance. Both of them were trying to push back so they don’t lose Josh out of their sight. But they couldn’t. In a blink of an eye, they were inside the mall. All around them, people were pushing one another and grabbing things from shells as their lives depend on it.
“Where is he”, Jenny shouted.
Laura: “I don’t know… There!” Josh, little skinny man in a blue tracksuit was making his way through the crowd towards the eastern wing of the mall.
“Good”, Jenny whispered with relief.
“What!? Jenny! Stay with me! Where are you going?!”
Jenny: “Well we aren’t just gonna leave him be. I wanna see what’s he doing here!”
Laura:” But if he catches us together it could.”
“Shush!”, Jenny exclaimed pulling Laura’s arm: “Just follow me. He is not gonna see us. Not in this crowd. Not in these clothes.” They started to drill through the mass. In a crowd that large, it was hard to keep track of little skinny male. But at the and, Jenny managed to do it. She was, after all, almost six feet tall, and in addition to that, very agile and jumpy. As it turned out, Josh was heading for some Jewellery store. And not just any jewelry store. But the fake jewelry! Cheap fake jewelry! Both ladies instantly felt sick. They camouflaged themselves with some circular spinning shell full of glasses. Through it, they could see everything in the Jewelry store because it was all made up of glass. It was crowdy in there and their little man got swallowed by the mob. But soon he reappeared. Jenny and Laura didn’t believe their own eyes. He was fighting. Josh. Their little sweet Josh, a general director of a bank, was exchanging fists with some crazy looking Chinese guy. They were similar height and weight but Josh… He was absolutely mad. And all that kung-fu gibberish Chinese guy was attempting could do nothing to a raging husband. Josh grabbed his opponent for a neck and just didn’t want to let go. His face was malformed into the expression that nor Laura nor Jenny had seen ever before. People made a circle around the fighters. They were watching and shouting. “Do you believe this”, Jeny asked.
Laura: “No. Do you?”
“Is this really Josh. I mean, I am with him all the time. He had never even raised his voice. He always apologizes for everything and… Oh my god! Look at this!” Josh threw down the Chinese guy and mounted him. Seconds later a few security guys rushed in and pushed Josh of his victim. The fight was broken but two men that behaved hostile like their families held vendetta for centuries, started shouting and threating one another.It seemed they had picked a fight about some necklace and earrings. They were immediately thrown out of the mall where the police took them. Jenny and Laura, fearing the worst, went into the jewelry shop. And their fears turned out to be truthful in a measure more then they could have ever imagined. Yesterday during the Thanksgiving lunch Josh postponed giving present to Jenny. Later that evening he did the same thing to Laura. The excuse was the same.
Josh: “I hope you will forgive me, but I have forgotten my gift for you at the office. I will pick it up tomorrow.” But, it wasn’t the only reason that made two ladies feel terror inside their hearts. There was yet another. Looking over the chip fake jewelry they noticed similarities between the pieces in the shop and those that they were given last year. And the year before. Actually, Laura could have sworn that the earings in the window are the ones she got two years earlier.
“That cheap squirrel”, Jenny grunted: “I can’t believe he was buying us fake jewelry all this time. Grhhh! I gonna kill that tiny little money hoarding opossum.” The wife continued to nag heading out of the mall while Laura silently followed.
“What if he is not cheap!?”, Laura suddenly exclaimed: “What if he is broke?!” Jenny froze instantly. “Think about it”, Laura continued while the crowd movement pushed them like they were on a small boat in the middle of the storm. “He nagged about business problems. And that started around two years ago. Two years in the row Josh postpones thanksgiving jewelry for Friday night.”
“It doesn’t mean that he is out of money. He just might be…”, Jenny tried to find excuses but being broke suddenly sounded a perfectly logical explanation. When she thought a little better, they didn’t go anywhere that summer. Josh promised that he will make it up explaining that he had to finish some jobs of extreme importance. What if there were no jobs?! What if he got fired and all that time they were living on his not so great savings that were coming to an end. “God!”, Jenny shouted: “Are we poor! No… It can’t be. We must see Linda right away.” Laura took the cellphone out of her purse and called their psychiatrist. When she answered both Laura and Jenny, ripping the cellphone out of each other’s arms, unleashed downfall of questions and screams. Linda agreed to meet them at her office at noon saying that everything will be explained to them there. She was short on words. Before hanging up she had assured them that there are no reasons for such emotional reactions and worries.
“Everything will bi fine ladies. Just remember what I have taught you. Think bright and shine might”, the psychiatrist concluded.
“It’s only 10 o’clock. We can have breakfast at Jimmy’s. I hear he has some special diet omelet with cheese on his new menu”, Jenny said.
“Yes. Whatever! I had enough time of this stupid mall anyway”, Laura replied. They went out of the mall to find a cab.
Jenny: “She says all is ok. We should not worry.”
“She always says that”, Laura replied. From the moment they entered the cab until they were standing in front of Linda’s office waiting for the door to be opened, their mouth didn’t close. Not even for a second. And all they did was repeating that there must be some logical explanation that could eliminate bankruptcy. But after dozens and dozens of spoken words they would always come out to the same question: “If Josh was in the mall for the same reason we are – therapy – then why did he buy cheap presents for us?” At some point, they even agreed on a possibility that Linda conspired against them and is working on destroying their relationship with Josh. Answer on the question why would she do that seemed obvious. She wanted him all for herself. That’s why she gave him the mall therapy. She wanted to set them up to be caught together. But resolving the secrets would, at some point, undoubtedly include the exposing of her actions. And Linda was the one that set them together in the first place. When Josh was at the beginning of his financial success she was the one to introduce him with Jenny. Back then, now rich spoiled wife was not so successful model who wanted to live life of luxury but couldn’t push herself through. Josh was a tiny unnoticeable male from a poor family that had spent his life over the book. He was 28, and had never felt a woman before. Lacking self-confidence, he turned for help to Linda. And just a few months later, Josh was happily married. Poor guy thought that getting stuck in an elevator with a sensational looking lady while heading for therapy, was destiny. If he only knew that his life coach tipped a guy to tie the wires so her high-school friend could do what she did best. Seduce. Later, when, after a few years, the marriage got its first crisis Linda was the one to add Laura into the happiness equation. Josh started realizing what are the possibilities of wealthy people. For a few hundred bucks he could have an equally sensational lady as his wife for a whole night. Without any kind of nagging or wishes. Just pure pleasure. No obligations. Since there was no way to strip that acknowledgment from Josh or keep him only to his wife, it was better to get him a mistress. Linda and Jenny agreed that having an affair would give Jenny leverage over Josh. He would have to feel guilty for cheating his loyal wife. Plus, creating an affair meant being able to observe and control the direction in which it was going to develop. That was way better than just standing aside and watching pleasure hungry “rich from yesterday” male feeding his curiosity and ego with random ladies who could put god knows what ideas into his head. Jenny told Linda that she knew a pretty stripper from Ukraine who would literally kill for being able to step on the US grounds. She met her during one of the travels across Asia and was sure that she was the perfect fit for the job. Linda coached guy that worked with passports and identity cards. So, in a blink of an eye, Lana from Ukraine was Laura in the USA. There is no need to mention the leverage that high-school friends held over the young stripper from the other side of the ocean. And there they were, standing and waiting for the big red leather door to be opened. Precisely at noon, Linda called them in.