Since her clothes finally fit, Zoë needed makeup to complete her put-together feeling. Because Sephora hadn't been invented yet, she suggested Target for their next stop.
The red and white motif inside the big box store was the same as a modern Target, if a little hard around the edges. The only real difference was the lack of a grocery section and no Starbucks.
"Do you even have Starbucks yet?" she asked.
"What's that?" He grazed her hand accidentally as they walked to the beauty section. His cheeks were perpetually flushed since they'd left the mall. Once she'd mentioned his bruise on the mall bench, he'd zipped his jacket to his chin.
"It's a coffee shop back where I'm from. I couldn't remember when it started."
"Like a diner?"
"Not really. They don't sell food. Well, except for muffins and sweets. Sometimes breakfast sandwiches." Okay, they actually sold a lot of food.
"Like a donut shop?"
The question unearthed the memory of her grandpa taking her and her sister to his favorite donut shop whenever they visited. He'd always run into a friend, and spend way more time than Zoë or Tiffany wanted.
"Yeah," she said.
"Did you want coffee? We can go—"
"I was just trying to piece things together."
A big COSMETICS sign hung over the aisle. Zoë's makeup routine didn't consist of much, which was why she hadn't visited the department stores in the mall; when she wasn't going to work or an interview, she went bare-faced. With Adam there, however ...
She tested a few foundations and a muted pink lipstick. There weren't many neutral options.
Adam's shoulder bumped hers as he picked out a compact of eyeshadows: electric blue, fuchsia, and yellow. "This would look so good on you."
Probably all three at once. She took the box, trying not to laugh. "Yeah, this'll do."
A tube of mascara later, she was done, but Adam was gone.
Zoë half expected the sketchy lines to dissolve and find herself shuffling through a modern Target in her pajamas, humming an 80s song. Though she tried to blink the ink away, it stayed as it had the day before.
She checked at the end of the aisle, peered down the next. Just a few shoppers with carts and toddlers, but no young men.
The next department brought the same results.
With a pang of embarrassment and hurt, she shoved her makeup selection on an endcap shelf and stormed toward the exit. The tiny purse bounced against her leg, reminding her that the change he'd insisted she keep was all she had in the world. The eighties might have been cheap, but not enough for seven bucks to keep her afloat.
Before she made it to the cashier bank, Adam grabbed her hand.
"You're not leaving without me, are you?"
"I don't know," she said, trying to keep the angry tremor from her voice. "I couldn't find you, so I thought maybe..."
He was still holding her hand.
"... maybe you wanted to get rid of me," she finished.
He smiled all the way up to his eyes and put his arm around her shoulder for a squeeze. "Don't be silly. I went for a basket. Where's your stuff?"
They retrieved Zoë's misplaced merchandise and walked in silence to pick out shampoo. She found the Prell her dad used to use, Pert Plus her mom liked. She put a bottle of Salon Selectives in the basket. The commercials always made the shampoo seem glamorous and grown up, and it was time to test the hype.
At the end of the shampoos were the styling products: Dep and Aquanet and —
"Rave hairspray," she said, laughing at the baby blue bottle with its magenta swish. "I had a bottle of this for probably fifteen years. I threw it out when I moved out of my parents' house. It was gummy by then." She glanced at Adam's long, nearly feathered hair. "You don't use hairspray, do you?"
He shrugged. "Sometimes."
"Have you always kept your hair long?"
"What do you mean?"
"Like, did you grow it out when you were a teenager to impress girls, or were your parents hippies and never took you to a barber?"
"Well, I don't know about all that. But on a special occasion I'll use a little Aquanet."
They continued to the main aisle.
"Did you not have a good childhood or something?"
"Why would you assume that?"
"I asked if your parents were hippies and you brushed it off."
"I guess it doesn't matter to me."
"I feel that way about a lot of my life. No point talking about the past, right? You reminded me of one thing, though."
"My sister and I used to play hide and seek at Target when we were little," Zoë said. "Drove my mom nuts. She got mad at us like I got mad at you. Never to the point of walking out, but she had the manager make an announcement to try and find us. Tiffany and I always knew when we heard that, she'd be steaming. Guess we act the way we were taught."
"It'd be irresponsible if we did that as adults," Adam said, slyly slipping down the aisle and around the corner, his tennis shoes squeaking on the tile floor.
This time his disappearance made her laugh.
"Ready or not, here I come," she said, and took stock of the department down the main thoroughfare.
Without overhead music, tracking his footsteps should have been easier; only a squeaky shopping cart wheel a few aisles over caught her attention. Shoppers quietly talked. Scanners beeped at checkout.
Zoë peered down each aisle up to kitchenware. A woman looking at dish towels eyed Zoë, tossed the pick in her cart and left the row.
Zoë continued. Pet supplies. Electronics. Rows of cassettes stacked on the shelves all wore long, plastic, anti-theft sleeves. She perused the titles, grinned and pulled one out. The track listing on the back was tiny, but legible.
"Give up?" Adam was standing at the end pretending to be a customer in full view.
Zoë laughed and put the tape back. "I haven't seen these in so long."
He joined her. "I like vinyl better, but you gotta admit, tapes are great for on the go. Can't put a record player in your car."
"Yeah." Because she wasn't sure how to explain an MP3, she said, "my turn to hide?"
I almost forgot I was writing this book.
Thank you for your patience -- I hope you're still interested in where this thing is going. I have two more parts coming up right away.
YOU ARE READING
Recent expat Zoë Benton stumbles upon a manuscript that takes her to a whole new world. Literally. After a marathon reading session and a wave of dizziness, she finds herself under a pile of boxes in a record store basement in 1986 - 30 years in the...