Jasmine sets my drink down and takes the seat next to me. Her hand caresses my arm. “How about I come by your house after I get off?”

It’s not even tempting to me. And plus, I never take women back to my house. I never want them to get the wrong idea.

“Sorry, not tonight.” I pull my arm back gently. I smile at her to try and ease the turn-down. It’s not her fault I’m not into it anymore- into her anymore.

I take a big swig of my drink and set it down with a loud clunk. Standing up, I throw a twenty on the table. “I’ll see you around.”

She stuffs the twenty into the apron at her waist and grabs my glass before walking away.

I walk away and go home – alone.

Carrie

“Remind me again why you can’t go?” I ask Charlie the next afternoon.

“Because this baby is doing a number on my stomach. I’m nauseated more often than not,” she tells me as she pulls clothes off the rack.

I take an opportunity and look at her, really look at her, but all I see is a woman that is pregnant and shining with radiance.

“Okay. But that doesn’t explain why Mike can’t just go to this fundraiser by himself.” I shake my head side to side at her when she pulls out a hot pink dress and holds it up to me.

She huffs, clearly over my efforts to get out of going tonight. “Look, Carrie, it was my idea for the company to donate to the women’s care center. I should be there tonight for the fundraiser to present the check with Mike. But there’s just no way I can do it. I can’t go there and barf all over everyone. All you have to do is show up with the check, give it to Mike and he will present it. You just stand next to him and look beautiful.”

Snorting, I cover my face to try and hide my giggles. Catching myself in the mirror, I look down at my black dress pants and a boxy jacket over a loose-fitting black shirt. Beautiful? I don’t think so. I’m curvier than most. I know I don’t dress right. My dad was a single father and I never had a mom or mother figure in my life. I never had clothes that fit me. All I ever had were hand-me-downs from my brother. I never wore makeup—hell, I’ve never even bought it. I was raised working on cars and as I look down at my chipped nails, I shrug my shoulders. I know I’m a lost cause.

Turning away from the mirror, I follow Charlie to the next clothes rack. “I can’t do this. All I’m going to do is embarrass him and in turn embarrass myself. I mean, look at me. He is not going to be happy that I’m just showing up like this.”

She hangs up the clothes, comes over to me and grabs both of my hands. “Do you trust me?”

“What – of course.” I shrug at her. If nothing else, Charlie has proven herself trustworthy. She’s always been pretty quiet around me, but ever since I talked to her one day when she was upset about Brody, she has really opened up to me.

“I would never put you in a situation that I think is going to be bad. Give me the next few hours and I will have you ready for tonight. No one, not even Mike, will be upset or embarrassed that you showed up.”

“I just don’t know – “ I start, until she swats at me.

“Trust me. I promise you it will work out. You are beautiful, honey. I’m just going to help you realize it.”

Looking into her eyes, I see the sincerity in them and I want so badly to trust her. Putting my complete faith in her, I nod my head. “Okay, make me beautiful then. Or as close to it as you can.”

We spend the next few hours shopping for a dress and shoes. She even convinces me to buy some new clothes for work that actually fit me. We went shoe shopping, bought makeup, and then she leads me into the salon.

“I’m not cutting my hair,” I tell her without hesitation.

Holding her hands up in front of her, she says, “I know that. First we are going to take it out of this bun. I swear I’ve never seen your hair down.” She unknots it from the top of my head and it falls down around my shoulders, reaching almost to my butt.

“Oh my God, it’s beautiful.” She stares at me, looking startled. “Why would you wear this up all the time?”

I shrug. “I don’t know how to fix it.”

She grasps my hand and pulls me toward her friend that is waiting on us. “Well, she is going to show you.”

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