I will not buy this for Trent. I will not get him one more present. I won't. I mean it. I won't.
Lizzie Morgan heaved a sigh so deep it came up from her toes. She stood in the men's area of Patterson's Department Store, Christmas music played overhead, and last minute shoppers milled around as they searched for gifts they should have bought before the stock was so picked over. She didn't need to be here, but she had this bizarre addiction to Christmas shopping. She couldn't stop.
But you need to stop. Now. Forget these gloves. Just walk away.
She glanced at her best friend Suzy for support in her decision. "I shouldn't buy these. Right?"
Suzy shook her head, her chin-length blond hair shining under the fluorescent lighting. "Absolutely not. Trent warned you not to charge anything else. His stern command when we left your house is still ringing in my ears." Her forehead pinched and she sighed in resignation. "But you're going to buy those gloves anyway."
"They'll keep his hands nice and toasty this winter." Lizzie studied the fine leather gloves with rabbit fur lining. She reached onto the counter and ran her fingers over the inside of one glove. "It's so soft."
"They're not gloves for doing ranch work and that's all he does." She studied the gloves, frowned. "Trent won't appreciate this gift nearly as much as you do." Ever the logical, responsible one in their friendship, Suzy attempted to pull the gloves away.
Stubborn to the core especially about something she wanted to buy, Lizzie refused to let go of the gloves. "I'm getting them." A part of her knew Suzy was right, another part felt anxious at not making this purchase. It didn't matter that she liked the gloves far more than Trent probably ever would. She rubbed a finger along the inside again and almost purred. The lining was soooo soft. She'd like to have gloves like these.
"I can see how much they appeal to you," Suzy said and nodded toward the women's section of the department store. "Why don't you just buy some similar ones for yourself? Forget these."
Lizzie's chin jutted out at the challenge. "Maybe he'll get me some for Christmas. I've already hinted at least a hundred times about them." She knew he wouldn't remember the hints... about any of the things she'd mentioned in the last month. He could remember every teeny tiny item the ranch needed, but something she wanted. Nope. She'd probably get another scarf he found somewhere, something that didn't require knowing her size. And he'd give her a box with a couple of gift cards. He'd smile as he told her it was best this way.
Depression weighed her down. Just once she'd like to get something he took more than two seconds to pick out for her. She didn't care what color it was, what size it was. She just wanted to feel as important to him as his stupid ranch. She knew it was childish. She knew he loved her...but still..
"I'm getting these for Trent and that's final." She was buying the gloves for him because he wouldn't buy them for her. Twisted logic, maybe. If he would just buy gifts that she actually hinted about, actually wanted, maybe she wouldn't be this insistent. And if he didn't get her gloves for Christmas, she'd go buy them herself.
She picked the gloves up and marched with her other items toward the check-out counter. It was only a week before Christmas and the lines were long. Many of the women in line wore the harried look of holiday shoppers who wished they had started shopping months ago. One scratched things off a crumpled list in her hand. Another studied a paper, worrying her lip in distress, and then mumbled something very unholiday like.
Lizzie was thankful she didn't have their problems. She'd started buying gifts for her husband and his ranch hands during the summer. She was done with her Christmas shopping but she just couldn't seem to stop shopping. There were so many bargains, so many additional items that called to her. Like these gloves Trent didn't need.
Suzy walked up behind her and whispered grimly, "You are going to be in so much trouble when he sees all these gifts." She glanced at the knitted stocking cap, the Christmas boxers, and the shower radio Lizzie also carried. "Trent won't use any of these things. Set them aside." She sighed. "You really should take some of the other gifts you bought today back, too."
"No." She knew Suzy was right. She should return maybe a dozen of the extra shirts, belts, and socks she'd bought the men in the last week. What she'd bought two months ago would be more than enough. She didn't like to return anything. It was embarrassing, always made her feel like a fool.
"What did he tell you last month when the credit card statement came?" Suzy prodded. "He's a man of his word, Lizzie."
She was getting tired of Suzy trying to act as her conscience, forcing her to remember that Trent had little tolerance for her going against agreements they'd made with one another. In particular about keeping to a budget. Money is tight, Lizzie, we need to watch every cent we spend. His words played through her thoughts. She knew things had gotten tighter this last year, but she thought he was being overly cautious too much of the time. Why can't you understand how important it is to stick to the budget? Am I going to have to take away your credit card? Lately she'd even had nightmares about the budget, about the pressure of sticking to it.
Sometimes he could be such a Scrooge. Once she'd shouted it at Trent and then promptly gotten her bottom burned. Name calling was not tolerated. Scrooge. Scrooge. Scrooge!
The line moved slowly forward and she started sweating beneath her knee-length leather coat, and not from heat. No, she'd started thinking about Trent's warning before they'd left the ranch. About how angry he'd been last month when she'd reached the limit on their credit card. He'd nearly had a stroke, but he'd paid it off, taking money from their savings. He'd also lectured her royally about the problem of her being reckless with their money. Of course she'd snapped back at him that she didn't have a problem. He was just being a tightwad, Scrooge. The subject had remained a sore point between them ever since.
She glanced at the gloves, the boxers, the radio, the stocking cap, and the bottles of men's cologne for each of the six ranch hands. Okay, maybe Trent didn't need a few of those items. Maybe the men didn't normally wear cologne. But they could.
"Next in line," the sales clerk called out, pulling Lizzie from her anxious thoughts.
Suzy nudged her forward. "You can still change your mind." She planted her hand on the expensive gloves. "Save yourself some grief later." Pain too, was implied. One of the many things they had in common was being married to men who believed in and practiced domestic discipline.
Lizzie shoved her friend's hand away and glowered at her. "I'm buying these." Yet, even as she made the assertion, her stomach tightened. There was a very good chance she'd spend Christmas afternoon or the next day--maybe both--standing a lot. But such was her life with a husband who had an almost rigid set of rules and a hard hand to make her pay when she went against them. Good thing she loved the old poop head.