MANA Short Story Series: "More Than She Bargained For" by Sumer Williams

Editor's Note: This 5-part installment is part of MANA's Short Story Series on the MANA Sunriser Blog. MANA's Short Story Series is a “throwback” to the days when print newspapers and magazines published short stories that appeared as a series. MANA has brought serials back to public life! We hope you enjoy this five-part series. 

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay 

Part 1 

Thrift shopping was Claire's favorite pastime.  She considered herself quite the fashionista and always loved to always search for statement pieces for her wardrobe.

On a cold, Sunday afternoon, she tried on her newest find, a lovely tweed jacket with glitter in the tweed. She only imagined the interesting life of the independent businesswomen who owned it before her. 

While she looked in the mirror, she slid her hand in the left pocket. Feeling paper in the pocket, her face turns to a look of disgust assuming someone left a Kleenex in the pocket.

She pulled out the paper and noticed it was a bright, yellow sticky note that said “Call me, 810-555-9823” This was the most interesting item she ever found in a thrift store purchase. 

Occasionally she would find kleenex, lint, or a bobby pin but never anything of any meaning. She walked over to the trash can to throw away the note, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. 

So many questions filled her head: who wrote the note; who was it for; and why was the note abandoned in such a cute jacket?

Part 2 

Claire picked up her phone and dialed the number. After several rings, an old woman answered the phone. The woman said, “Hello, this is Bette. Whom am I speaking with?” 

Claire replied softly, “Hello, this is Claire. Did you happen to donate a sparkly pink tweed jacket to the thrift shop recently?” 

The old woman laughed and said, “As a matter of factI did. I’m afraid the jacket is a bit too young for me now.” 

Claire smiled and said, “Well, I found a note inside that belongs to you. May we meet for coffee tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. so I can return it to you?” 

The old woman replied, “Thank you, sweetie, I must have forgotten to clean out the pockets! That sounds wonderful.” 

Claire couldn't wait to find out more about the previous owner of the jacket and the mysterious note.

Part 3

Claire walked by the shop window wearing her eye-catching new jacket. She walked into the shop and spotted a fashionable older woman chatting with a barista who was filing her coffee cup. 

Bette’s laugh filled the room. People around could not help but laugh with her. Claire had never heard such a laugh. Bette's laugh was so infectious, it made Claire smile from ear to ear.

Bette turned her head and waved to Claire. “I’d recognize my jacket anywhere. It looks as great on you as it used to on me! Come take a seat.” 

Claire took a closer look at the older woman. Claire could see the kindness in Bette's eyes, and her laugh liens signaled the joy she just witnessed. Whoever this note was for was certainly missing out, Claire thought.

Part 4 

Claire purchased her coffee and sat down with Bette. The two women exchanged pleasantries. Bette cautiously placed her cup down and focused on Claire with great curiosity. 

“What’s this you were telling me about a note in my jacket?” 

Claire reached in the pocket, pulled out the sticky note, and gently handed it to Bette. After grabbing the note, Bette's eyes started gleaming. Her face formed a slight smile, and her warm chuckle again added warmth to the shop.

Claire cautiously asked, “Who was the note for, if you don't mind me asking?"

Bette's smile widened. She turned her gaze to meet Claire's and said, "You know when you’re the boss, it isn’t so easy to be vulnerable.” 

Betted picked up her coffee cup, took a sip, and began telling about how she developed feelings for her assistant, Mark Mathews. “He would also drop little hints that he felt the same, but I just couldn’t tell him I had feelings. It was hard enough for people to take me seriously running the company. Back in those days, women were only secretaries and I had to prove my worth so to speak.” 

Bette seemed deep in her thoughts when Claire asked, “But you were planning to tell him. What stopped that?” 

Bette ran her fingers around the rim of her cup before speaking. “The day I was going to give him the note, I walked into my office and found his two-week notice. He was offered a better position at a company across town. I kept the note because I figured I’d see him again, but I didn’t.” 

The women sat in silence for a moment taking in Bette's story. Claire suddenly had an idea and pulled out her phone. “If I told you we could track down Mark Matthews, would you be a little vulnerable?” 

Bette lets out her signature laugh and said, “I’m old now, what else do I have to lose?” 

Her laughter makes Claire smile and the girls spend the rest of the morning tracking down Mark Matthews. After several hours, they find him. Bette crafted a message to send him through Claire’s FaceBook page. He replied almost instantly and agreed to meet Bette tomorrow at the coffee shop. 

The women left the coffee shop filled with excitement about what the next day would hold. 

Part 5 

The following morning, Claire picked up Bette from her house. Bette walked to the car dressed in a gorgeous dress and classic makeup. 

"You look amazing," Claire said, as Bette opened the door to get into the car. "Mark is really a lucky guy."

Bette laughed. “What can I say? I always dress to impress.” 

Once they arrived at the shop, Bette opened her compact and fixed her hair. She saw the woman from years ago, unstoppable, and ready for anything. Claire helped her into the shop and an older gentleman in a fedora stood up to greet them. He made his way over to them and embraced Bette. He whispered in her ear “You look as beautiful as always. I missed you all these years.” 

Bette gave another heartfelt laugh and slowly pulled the note from her pocket. "I meant to give this to you." She shook as she handed over the sticky note. "I wanted to tell you that I love you so that we could finally be together."

Bette and Mark embraced tightly. Tears streamed down their faces as they mourned the years they could have been together. They smiled and looked into each other's eyes as if a day had never passed. 

Mark wiped her tears away and said, "Love deferred is better than no love at all."

Bette's infectious laugh filled the shop and everyone's hearts. The powerful woman with the sparkling tweed jacket now has someone to share her sparkle with once again.  

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