Catch-22

She was blinded by the glitter of the chandeliers in the aisle.  As she walked along the freshly laid carpet, the scent of perfume from the multi-brand outlets seemed to pep up her mood on an otherwise gloomy day. She became oblivious to the surrounding sounds as she passed alongside the jewellery shop. The diamond solitaire ring on display reminded her the promise her husband made five years ago. He would have bought one for her today, on their tenth anniversary.

She couldn’t help but stand motionless and admire the beauty of the ring. Her eyebrows jumped as she gazed at the price tag through the glass window. Since his death two years ago, she had brushed her wish deep under the carpet.  At this juncture, if she had to, it would take her years to save $5k for that ring. Today, she could barely meet her ends with her income from welfare and part-time job as a librarian.

“Why don’t you come in?” asked the saleswoman. The shop was rather sparsely populated for a Saturday evening, and it seemed like they wanted to generate more footfall.

“Can I try this one please?” she asked in anticipation.

The Saleswoman scanned her from tip to toe. She became conscious of her loosely tied hair, he old spectacles, crow feet around her eyes, wrinkled face sans make-up. The tacky tunic and jeans gave an impression that she was wearing it for the third time in the week.

The saleswoman knew that she would never afford it, but still showed a keen interest in attending to her. It will make her supervisors feel that she is doing her job and not idling away.

“Sure.” Maybe the saleswoman was confident that she would be able to buy it one day. ‘ We make a customer not a sale.’ was their tagline which they proudly displayed outside the store.

The saleswoman herself looked like a model, dressed in a perfect figure-hugging clothes made from luxurious materials. She opened the glass cupboard with her key, and carefully took out the diamond solitaire ring with both hands.

“Here you go.”

The saleswoman went on to attend other prospective customers who looked more like buying their stuff. The shining brilliance of the ring intimidated her.  The grandiose beauty of the ring made her feel like a queen.

 

The ring hypnotised her into liberal fantasy. As she stood alone with the ring, the opulence of the ring overpowered her. Greed filled her heart, and she succumbed to her desires. She pulled and threw away the price tag. She slid the ring into her handbag and began walking away. She had done this before in grocery stores, but never for such an expensive article.

 

“BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.”

The gates outside the store blinked red and sounded off the alarm. The security guard was about to frisk her handbag. Sweat began to show on her forehead. Her legs trembled as she pretended to ignore the alarm.

The saleswoman came running from her position.

“No. Wait. I’ll handle.” The saleswoman grabbed her by her elbow and took her aside.

“Look ma’am. I know you’ve pinched it.” She dug into her handbag, located the ring and clenched it in her fists.

“I can call the police and get you arrested. But I have an offer for you. ”

“Anything to avoid a jail term.” She was the only support for her two school going kids. She was okay for a favour if that gave her money unless it was within legal boundaries.

“What is it?” she asked freeing up her elbow from her and adjusting her jacket.

“I have been married for seven years, without a child. I want you to be a surrogate mother for my kid. Let me know in 2 days. Else, we have your CCTV footage.”

“False alarm.” The saleswoman said to the security guard as she went inside to stealthily replace the diamond ring.

 

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