A sigh of annoyance escaped from Linda as she lazily read a magazine concerned with celebrity gossip. The old, leather couch she was planted to groaned under her meager weight as she dramatically shifted her position. Each slight, exaggerated movement forced the couch to vocalize its complaints. Legs crossed, her left foot rested against her opposite thigh and jiggled impatiently as she turned each page. She stared at the drivel that comprised the articles in the magazine with blank, glazed eyes and smacked a piece of chewing gum loudly in a final, desperate attempt to draw attention to herself.
“Stacy, are you ready YET?”
Stacy stomped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her body and a frustrated expression chiseled on her face.
“Do I look ready, Linda?” she snapped.
Linda snorted and turned another page.
“What’s the hold up, princess?”
Stacy held up two garments.
“I can’t decide for the life of me whether to wear the purple dress or the pink one. Pink is my favorite color but I think it’s fun to mix it up and throw some purple in once in a while.”
Linda smacked the palm of her hand to her face in disbelief.
“This is what is taking so long? You can’t decide between what colors to wear? The dresses are pretty much the same, Stacy. Just pick one.”
Tears welled up in Stacy’s eyes.
“They are NOT the same, Linda!”
Fearing one of Stacy’s regular meltdowns, Linda quickly dropped the magazine on the seat next to her and made her way over to comfort the sensitive young woman.
“Calm down, Stacy, I didn’t mean it. You’re right. It is fun to mix things up every now and then. Go with the purple one.”
Stacy wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes and quickly brightened up. A large smile revealed a set of perfect white teeth, confirming the success of the emotional turn-around.
“Yes, I think I will go with the purple one today.”
She returned to the bathroom and slammed the door excitedly behind her, leaving Linda alone once again.
With a heavy sigh, Linda shook her head in bewilderment as she returned to the couch.
After sitting for a few moments in silence, she decided to peruse through her cell phone’s contacts list. She quickly found the name she was seeking. Hesitantly, she stared at the screen and debated whether or not to call him. Knowing that Stacy would be distracted with her primping, Linda did not waffle any further. The “CALL” button was tapped, and the phone attempted to contact the other line. After three rings, Joe answered.
“Hey, beautiful,” a strong, male voice boomed out of the speaker.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t long before Stacy was ready. Prior to the dress debacle, she had painted on her makeup. Then again, Linda had never seen her without a flawless coat of cosmetics. She shrugged off the thought as they piled into Stacy’s hot pink convertible and took off down the road.
“Sooooo, where are we going for lunch?” Stacy asked in a bubbly voice.
“How about we just keep it simple. What about the new hamburger place around the corner?”
Stacy tapped a finger on the steering wheel. Linda immediately recognized this mannerism as one of disagreement. Instead of submitting to her immediately as she had become accustomed to doing, Linda decided to wait for Stacy to form a verbal response.
“Well, I was hoping we could do something a little more fun while we’re out. Like…maybe we could squeeze a little shopping in?”
Careful to keep her face out of view, Linda rolled her eyes.
“So…the mall food court?” the words came out deflated.
Stacy squealed, clearly missing the lack of enthusiasm from Linda.
“Oh, yes! That sounds fantastic! Linda, you have the BEST ideas.”
“Yeah…sure…my ideas. I don’t know, Stacy. Greasy mall food doesn’t really sound that appealing to me right now,” Linda said flatly.
Stacy swerved slightly into the right lane as the challenging words left Linda’s mouth. She quickly regained composure, but not without giving Linda a mild heart attack in the process. A car in the next lane passed by and blared their horn loudly in aggravation. Turning towards Stacy with wide eyes, Linda realized that the emotional driver’s bottom lip was trembling.
“Well, Linda, what…what do you propose we do instead?” Stacy was clearly trying to fight back another potential meltdown.
Linda quickly turned her full attention towards Stacy and attempted to divert the potential crisis. She was not in the mood to deal with the girl’s shenanigans today, nor was she willing to put herself in danger over it.
“Wait, you know what? I just realized they opened up a really great pita place in the mall. We should try that. What do you think?”
The trembling in Stacy’s lip subsided, and her frown smoothed over into a winning smile.
“Yes. That sounds lovely, Linda. See? You DO have the best ideas.”
When they arrived at the mall, Stacy sped past the food court and bee-lined for a large department store. Linda shrugged and went along with whatever Stacy wanted. She was too busy fiddling with her phone to give it much thought.
They made their way through three women’s clothing outlets. Stacy had to try on every new trending item for that fashion season- as long as it was pink, of course. Linda found herself sitting in a chair next to some dressing room mirrors, while Stacy chattered on aimlessly. She admired her reflection in each new garment as she gabbed.
“…Linda, are you listening to me?”
Linda looked up from her phone to see a disgruntled Stacy, holding up the straps to a pink polka-dotted gown she had just thrown on.
“Um…yeah, of course. What’s up?”
Stacy took a few steps towards Linda, and nodded to her back.
“I asked if you could help me zip up?”
Linda stood up and positioned herself behind Stacy’s back. Gently, she pushed the girl’s golden hair aside. The dress hung loosely off her body, but quickly tightened around her form as Linda dragged the zipper to the top of the garment.
“There you go, champ.”
Linda turned to make her way back towards the chair, but stopped abruptly when she noticed Stacy had grabbed her arm. Startled, she turned to face her.
Stacy lowered her face to the ground and trembled slightly.
“Hey…Lin…do you think I’m pretty?”
Linda swiftly plastered a smile on her face, knowing that she would have to be reassuring to Stacy in one of her moments of awkward self-assessment.
“Of course, sweetheart. You know that.”
Stacy nodded vigorously.
“Thank you…I know…it’s just…it’s just that I…well, Joe has been quite distant from me lately, and it worries me that he is acting unusual right before he goes off to fight again.”
Linda’s heart sank. Even though she knew she was discreetly hurting Stacy, she still cared for her deeply.
“Oh, Stacy. I wouldn’t worry about anything. Whatever is meant to be, will be.”
Tears trickled down Stacy’s face.
“Oh, how I hope you’re right, Lin.”
Stacy lunged in for a hug, and wrapped her arms tightly around a startled Linda.
“Thank you for being here for me, as always,” she choked out.
Linda stared ahead blankly as a sickness overtook her.
As difficult as she was, Linda loved Stacy with all of her heart. Regardless, she couldn’t keep herself from Joe. She knew it was wrong, as she felt a twinge of guilt whenever she was with him.
But something in her, something much stronger than her own will, told her that she wanted him. She had tried to override this desire, but to no avail. She was powerless, no matter how hard she fought. And it wasn’t any easier when Joe reciprocated this yearning.
As these thoughts bounced around in her head, the phone in her hand alerted her that another text had been received. Paralyzed, Linda waited for the young, golden-haired woman to step away first. It did not take long. Stacy released her, and quickly found herself back in front of the mirror. Once again, she was distracted by her vanity.
Linda held the phone in her hands and stared at the blank screen. She debated whether or not she should check the text, and wondered if she could muster up the will to resist and ignore it.
She failed. Giving in to temptation, she unlocked the screen on her phone and the message appeared.
“I’m here. Come find me.”
Linda quickly turned towards Stacy.
“Hey, hon, I’ll be right back, I have to go return an important phone call, okay?”
Once again, she found herself powerless.
Stacy nodded and waved her off, too captivated with her own reflection to pay much attention to what was just said.
As Linda exited the store, she received another text from Joe detailing his location. The food court was suddenly a place she wanted to be. She walked briskly in the right direction, trying her best to mask her excitement as she made her way through crowds of shoppers.
It wasn’t long before she reached the greasy haven. She stopped abruptly in her tracks when she spotted the man she was seeking.
Joe stood in the middle of the food court in his army uniform, taking the stance of a confident soldier. It successfully drew Linda in.
“Joe, what are you doing here?”
Before answering, he pulled Linda in closely and planted a hard, aggressive kiss on her lips.
“So I could do that,” he grinned.
“Yes, well, I mean, why are you here now? You know I’m with Stacy.”
Joe slackened his grip and his face became serious.
“I got called to duty earlier than expected. I’m leaving today.”
“To…today?” She stuttered.
He nodded solemnly.
“Yes…and I wanted to see you one last time before I left. I’ll be packing and spending time with Stacy later this afternoon, so I wanted to be sure we had at least one more kiss. Just in case.”
Linda turned hot with jealousy at the thought of his last moments being spent with Stacy, but after a moment of reflection she quickly cooled down. He was Stacy’s boyfriend, after all. And she was the other woman.
Knowing their time was short, Linda leaned in for another kiss. Their lips grazed each other when they were suddenly interrupted.
“What is THIS?!”
Stacy stood screeching at the other end of the food court.
Startled, Linda and Joe quickly separated as Stacy angrily strode up to them.
“WHAT….WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!”
More yelling ensued, only the voice did not belong to Stacy.
A young girl with tears streaming down her face hovered over Linda, Stacy, and Joe. The child was a giant in size compared to the love triangle squabbling in the make-shift food court. Angrily, the girl kicked Linda. The doll went flying along with some small, plastic food that had been placed in the setting.
“Hey! Calm down, Casey! We’re just having fun!” a teenaged girl yelled as she witnessed the temper tantrum.
Casey ignored the older girls complaints, and picked up the G.I. Joe action figure in a fury. Arm cocked, she was about to throw the little soldier when Melinda quickly caught her arm.
“Casey! You know better than that! Bobby was nice enough to lend you his toy to use during nap time. You know he’s going to want to play “war” with it when he wakes up! I know you’re mad at me, but don’t take it out on your little brother,” Melinda scolded.
Casey began to sob.
“How could you do that, Mel? You knew Stacy and Joe were together!”
“I’m sorry, little sis, I know it was a mean thing to do. But I thought you would like to have an interesting story to play out. You did give me control of both Joe and Linda, after all!”
Casey picked up Stacy lovingly and gently smoothed back her blonde hair. Carefully, she straightened out the infamous purple dress.
“Well, you hurt my feelings. I don’t like stories like that. Stacy and Joe are meant for each other.”
“Well, who is Linda supposed to be with?”
“I don’t know. She’s just supposed to be a good friend to Stacy, not steal her boyfriend! Linda can have a boyfriend as long as it’s not Stacy’s. And Stacy would have been happy for Linda.”
Melinda quickly pulled Casey in for a hug.
“Look, I’m sorry. I was just trying to make it fun. Let’s take a break for now, and have some lunch. Afterwards, we’ll smooth things over between the girls, okay? Joe will be gone, but it will be good for the girls to get some alone time, don’t you think?”
Casey wiped the remaining moisture from the corners of her eyes and nodded.
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
“Okay. Let’s clean up a little before we go eat.”
Casey retrieved the plastic hot pink convertible from the center of the room and placed it on a shelf. Melinda gathered some of the small doll clothing strewn about the floor, and shoved them into some nearby drawers.
“I think that’s good for now. We’ll finish up after we get back. Let’s go eat.”
Melinda grabbed Casey’s hand. As they were about to pass through the bedroom door, Casey suddenly stopped and pulled her arm away. She hesitated for a moment. Suddenly, with a newfound determination, she stepped away from the door and strode across the room.
“Are you okay…?” Melinda started to ask. Rendered speechless, a slow smile crossed her face as she watched her little sister in action.
The young girl found the doll known as Linda that she had previously kicked, and gently picked her up off the floor. She fixed her hair with delicate precision, and returned a plastic shoe to her foot. Gingerly, she placed her next to Stacy. With one final touch, she arranged the dolls to have one arm around each other’s shoulders. They looked like good friends.
“That looks nice,” Melinda said with a warm smile. Casey nodded in agreement as they exited the room, hand in hand.
The dolls sat motionless, their painted smiles never faltering.
“I’m sorry, Stacy, I don’t know what came over me.”
“It’s okay, Linda. I forgive you.”