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Posts Tagged ‘Cora’

22. CORA: The Mall

hopping with Juliette was like shopping with a terrorist.

“How about this?” Cora asked, heart pounding, holding up what she thought was a sweet flowered shirt for inspection.

Juliette’s lip curled. “No.”

“Well, what are you looking for? Maybe we should start with that.”

In Paris, there had been stores everywhere, and Juliette shopped with her girlfriends all the time. Of course, in Paris, there had also been money. And somewhere to wear the stylish clothes you bought.

“What I’m looking for can’t be found at this disgusting mall.”

For once, Cora was relieved that Juliette was insisting on speaking French. At least the people all around them couldn’t understand the scathing things she was saying.

“Okay, suit yourself,” Cora said, heart sinking. “I’m not going to force you to buy new clothes for school. Just wear what you brought from France. Fine with me.”

She’d been trying to be nice, was all. She could remember coming to this mall with her mother when it was first built, picking out new jeans, new shirts, new boots before school started. Her mother had been generous, buying Cora whatever she wanted, telling her how pretty she looked in everything. And Cora….

Well, come to think of it, Cora hadn’t been very nice to her mother either. Or she’d been nice for as long as it took for her mom to put everything on the credit card, and then she’d turned sullen and critical again. What she wouldn’t give now to take one more shopping trip with her mother, to make up for all those nasty comments, those withering looks.

“I don’t even want to go to that stupid school,” said Juliette. “I told you, I don’t feel well. I want to go back to France.”

“Well, you’re not going back to France. This is your home now, you’re only 16 years old, and you are going to school.”

Cora started threading her way along the main passageway, back toward the car. She’d been feeling sorry for Juliette, having to deal with the fallout from her failed marriage and her even-more-failed family. And she’d wanted to at least enjoy this one simple please — shopping with her daughter, on a Saturday afternoon — to balance the disappointment of finding her father ill, the cafe shuttered, her brother disappeared, and even George Forrest, surely the most attractive man in Arkansas, turning up married. But she wasn’t going to beg.

“Do you really want me to go to school with these kids?” Juliette asked, close to her ear. “Look at them — they’re freaks!”

And Cora did have to admit, the youth of Hot Springs did not inspire faith in the future of America. Tattoos, piercings, huge baggy pants sagging down around the thighs, acne, baseball caps, chains, fuck this and motherfuckin’ that….. Cora felt her step quicken and her spirits fall even further.

Maybe there was something to what Juliette was saying. Maybe she shouldn’t go to school.

Could Cora home-school her? Without wanting to stick her own head in the oven?