CHAPTER SEVEN - Bubble Butt
“That English final wasn’t so bad, did you think?” said Bernice as she walked with Luann and Delta toward the entrance of Squander Mall. It was Saturday morning and the parking lot was already full for the Mall-Wide Summer Sale-A-Thon.
“I felt pretty confident,” said Delta.
“I always have a problem with colons and semicolons,” said Luann. “Is the colon the one with the two --”
“Hey, ladies!” A voice rang out from behind the girls. They turned and saw Knute, grinning and waving. Next to him was Gunther, carrying two clipboards.
“Here comes your brainy honeybunch, Luann,” said Delta.
Bernice said, “Bet Gunther could straighten out your colon problem.”
The boys joined the girls and Gunther said, “Hi, Luann,” then looked quickly at his shoes. He always had trouble looking directly at Luann, as if she were the sun.
“Hi, Gunther,” said Luann to the top of his head.
“So what’re you all doin’ here?” said Knute.
“At the mall? We come here to study the architecture,” said Bernice.
“Really?” said Gunther, squinting up at the big box building.
“What are you two doing here?” asked Delta
Knute looked sideways at Gunther. “Uh...”
“It’s ok to tell them,” said Gunther.
Luann looked at Gunther. “What, is it a big secret? Do you go hang out in Ladies Underwear?”
“NO!” said Gunther, taking the clipboards from under his arm. “We’ve been conducting a scientific survey to determine exactly what physical qualities in a male attract a female. See?” Gunther held up a clipboard. The paper on it had columns with several headings: hair, face, physique, height, weight, coloring, clothes, piercings/tattoos. “We’ve been observing girls at school, now we need to monitor the dynamics in a public setting.”
Luann said, “And you’re doing this because....?”
“Obviously for a class,” said Bernice.
“Nope,” said Gunther. “It’s just a private polling.” He put the clipboards back under his arm. “Well, we have to get going. We need to make at least 50 studies today to ensure a feasible sample.”
Knute shrugged, smiled sheepishly and the boys hurried off into the mall.
“If they want to know what it is that attracts females,” said Bernice, “they can start by listing all their own qualities. Everything not on the list, is it.”
Inside the mall, the air was cool and filled with the noise of shoppers, kids, music and beeping video games. Every store had “PRICES SLASHED” for a “HUGE SALE” where “EVERYTHING MUST GO” because of a “GIANT INVENTORY REDUCTION” to make way for “NEW SALE ITEMS” that would go for “UP TO 70% OFF... AND MORE!” Luann wondered how a price could be “up to 70% off” and “more.” Didn’t “up to” mean it couldn’t go any more?
Oh, man, thought Luann. I’ve been studying too much English.
The three girls went into a GAP store and started flipping the clothes on the racks. A sales girl, who looked about 12, approached Bernice.
Bernice hated it when people asked how you were doing when they obviously had no interest in how you were doing. Bernice wanted to say, “Lousy. I’m all tired and headachy. I think I have mono.” Then she’d cough at the person. Instead, Bernice said, “Fine.”
“I’m Chayna. If you can’t find somethin’, lemme know, ‘k?”
Bernice thought, if I can’t find it, how will I know what it is?
But she fake smiled and said, “Thanks so much, Chayna.”
Luann chuckled at Bernice and stifled the urge to ask Chayna which rack the latest shipment of chutzpah was on.
Delta held up a silky sleeveless top. “This is you, Luann. A definite attitude-changer.”
Luann pulled a pair of bright red pants off a rack. “What do you think of these?”
“Good!” said Delta. “They’d look great with this.” She held up a baby tee with “Hottie” on it. “Or this!” A shimmery metallic tank top. “You should try ‘em all on.”
Luann grabbed several more pairs of pants, took the tops Delta had picked and headed to the dressing rooms.
Six minutes later, she was back.
“That was quick,” said Delta.
Luann growled. “The problem with finding new clothes to lift your attitude is that you get totally bummed trying to find new clothes to lift your attitude.”
“Luann, you’re talking like an amateur,” said Delta. “You never find anything the first try, you know that. We’ve only been in the mall for --” she checked her watch -- “14 minutes.”
“Yeah,” added Bernice. “You won’t find what you want until the last 14 minutes, which will be about 8 hours from now.”
The girls went to another store. Immediately, Delta found several outfits and piled them in Luann’s arms. Then she pointed at the dressing rooms and said, “Go. And return with chutzpah!”
In the dressing room, Luann looked at herself in outfit number one: a denim hip-hugging miniskirt and a blue sleeveless turtleneck crop top. In the fluorescent light of the little cubicle she looked pale and bloated. The mini and crop top looked ridiculous on her.
Luann felt defeated. What was she trying to achieve here, anyway? Was this outfit going to change her life? Would it give her the confidence and positive attitude that Delta had talked about?
Would ANY outfit? Luann decided not to try on the other clothes.
She sat on the little bench and began putting her own clothes back on.
Then she heard laughter. Familiar laughter. A tweety “HeeHeeHee.” Luann peered through the slit in the curtain and there, posing before a three-way mirror in the dressing room common area, was Tiffany Farrell.
She had on a tiny yellow bikini and was turning to admire her backside. Next to Tiffany was one of her cheer buds, a girl named Amber, who was also in a bikini. Tiffany pointed her rear at the mirror and wagged it, then briefly pulled the bottom down. “Yo, chump, check out the rump!’ she said, and the girls erupted in peals of laughter. Choking back giggles, Amber said in a husky male voice, “Hey, slut, nice butt!” More laughter.
Gross. Luann quickly finished putting her clothes on. The last thing she needed was to be caught trying on outlandish outfits. She realized that she felt more self-conscious around girls than around boys. Girls were much more judgmental. The thought of being judged by Tiffany was too much to bear.
Luann thought if she moved very smooth and fast, she might be able to breeze past Tiffany without being seen. Fortunately, Tiffany’s attention was being occupied by a major distraction: Tiffany.
Luann gathered up the try-on clothes, took a deep breath and walked out.
“Luann!” Tiffany chirped.
“Oh! Tiffany! Hi.”
“Doing some summer clothes shopping?”
“Huh? Oh, no. No, I just like to come to the mall and gather up the clothes in the various dressing rooms and hang them back up.”
Zip. Right over Tiffany’s blonde head.
“Do you know my friend Amber? Amber, this is Luann DeGrout.”
“DeGROOT,” said Luann.
“Hi, Luann,” said Amber, in a voice that was just as phony as Tiffany’s.
“Hi, Amber.” Pause. “Well, gotta run.”
Tiffany said, “Um, Luann? If you don’t mind my saying, that outfit you’re wearing? Very unflattering on you. I wouldn’t buy it.”
Luann looked down at her clothes. Then she looked at Tiffany, stunning in her bright yellow bikini, perfect figure, flawless skin, silky golden hair, elegantly painted fingers and toes.
“Thanks, Tiff,” said Luann. “And if you don’t mind my saying, that bikini you’re wearing? Kinda emphasizes your big bubble butt.”
Luann emerged from the dressing rooms and headed straight to the register.
“Well?” said Delta
“I’m getting the mini and the crop-top.”
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