Janie B didn’t know what hit her. Standing in one of the dressing rooms of a noble boutique, she turned to look in the mirror. Janie B assessed the form-fitting sheath dress. She shook her head in disapproval. The dress hugged her hips a little too tightly. Not that her big hips stirred up feelings of shame, deep within her heart, she liked her big hips. Wouldn’t slim them down for nothing in the world. They gave her character and an image of being a tough girl that took no shit. Very few people knew that inside she was like a frightened kitten who needed to be accepted for what she was and not for what others wanted her to be. She took her hands and rubbed them down her side, pulling on the material, trying to loosen the tightness of the dress. The cloth didn’t budge. Her hips got bigger, and the knees to her big legs seemed to peek out at her laughing. Not a dress for her. It was too short and too tight.
Country girl that she was, she didn’t understand why Paolo chose this boutique. It was way above her price range. Paolo had said he knew the owner. When they entered, a bell tingled, and from the back of the shop, a chic, plus-sized woman came out smiling. The woman hugged Paolo. She had also given Janie B a powerful embrace and kisses that shocked her. Janie B was a loner, stayed mostly to herself. She’d adjusted to living a life alone––that is until Paolo stormed into her life. That was her strength.
She looked in the mirror once again. Her nappy, coarse, hair had lost its shape. Pulling the dress over her head had taken care of her hair appearing orderly. She smirked. Putting it over her head was easy. Even getting her thick arms through the sleeves presented no problems, but the largeness of her breasts had caused her to take a deep breath and pulls in her lungs to get the upper bodice over them.
Red. Paolo chose the colour. Red appealed to her. It made a blatant statement about her self-confidence, a character trait that she struggled with. She grunted and caressed her face as she looked into the mirror. Red enhanced the colour of her shiny dark brown skin. She hadn’t noticed that before. Maybe it was because she had never worn the colour red since one of her colleagues told her that red didn’t become her. That had wounded her deeply. Up until that time, she’d thought red was her colour.
Behind her, the door to the dressing room opened. Not bothering to look into the mirror, her nose told her it was Paolo. She could identify him by his fragrance anywhere. He’d been waiting for her to reappear and model before him. She mumbled her exasperation about the dress.
“You look gorgeous,” he reiterated, and he turned her to face him.
“Paolo, what so gorgeous about big hips, big legs, and big breasts. I think you’ve gone and lost your sanity.”
“If I have,” Paolo said, “then I’m glad it’s with you. Tonight’s the night.”
“Maybe, we should reconsider our plans.”
“Why?” he said and kissed her cheeks before claiming her lips. “Have you changed your mind, JB?” he asked calling her by the pet name he’d given her.
She gazed up at his chin, avoiding his eyes.
“No,” Janie B said. “I just want to give you more time to consider what we’re about to do.”
“Oh, JB,” Paolo said, “Stop worrying about me. It’s not me you want to give more time but yourself. I know what I want to do. Do you?”
Janie B placed her hands on his chest and stretched them out. She stepped away from him putting distance between them. He’d crashed into her life out of nowhere. She’d been caught on her blindside. His friendly words, his checking up on her over the past year, and his taking care of the garden and showing her how to hang wallpaper and other small jobs that she lacked the know-how to do. He had grown in her mind over the months to be the almost perfect friendly man who just happened to be there for her. In her eyes, he’d become her hero.
When he had told her what he did for a living, she’d opened her heart even more. As an agent for Interpol, he travelled to many of the northern African countries. He didn’t often talk about his job. She talked; he listened. Six months ago, she’d asked him to talk about himself. He’d said later. He’d come to hear her talk. That was the night, he’d told her that he would be gone for six months. He requested that she write him long emails and share her days with him. She’d done that.
His return had brought back a man hungry for her total commitment to him.
“I asked you a question, and you didn’t answer,” Paolo said, breaking into her thoughts. “Do you know what you want to do?” he asked repeating his question.
She raised her head a little higher and look into his sea-green eyes. The scar on his neck palpitated quickly. Her intuitive insight into him had shown her he was dreading her answer. Yes, she loved him. Should she or should she not? She sighed, Shakespeare, hit the point correctly in his Hamlet soliloquy, ‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’
In her case, to commit or not to commit to a man younger than she; who hailed from a different culture; who counted his days like pebbles on a beach –– transient. Should her heart dominate?
“Yes. The path that we’re about to set out on has taken hold of my heart,” Janie B said. “I want to explore it and see the end.”
With her red dress hugging her body, she shortened the distance between them and embraced her future.