Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.
The mall bookstore was stuffed with Saturday shoppers escaping the summer heat. In the self-help aisle, Sandra Jones stood uncomfortably between two other shoppers in a long row of people browsing the shelves, with her head tilted to examine the book covers in her line of vision. Behind her, a young clerk was arranging books from a cart onto the shelf. He had one of those giant round earrings in his earlobe. Sandra resented him for taking up valuable standing room, and she hoped his boss would soon call him to work the cash register.
She shuffled a step over as the person on her left moved his eyes to the books Sandra had been looking at. Suddenly, the shopper two people away from her looked up, and she saw Ellie Winters from church. She didn’t know Ellie very well yet, but she thought Ellie seemed very nice.
Ellie smiled and whispered, “Hey!” She stepped back from the row of shoppers and moved to where Sandra was standing, and Sandra moved back too. She saw Ellie slip the book she’d been holding behind her purse, where Sandra couldn’t see it.
“Hi, Ellie! How are you doing?” She spoke in a quiet voice, so as not to disturb the nearby shoppers.
“Oh, good, good! Out for a day of shopping?”
“Yeah.” Sandra looked down and shook her head slightly, adding, “There’s always lots to do, you know. I have several people to buy birthday gifts for.” This was not true—she had actually been bored and browsing for herself—but she wanted to impress Ellie, and she’d never seen a problem with little white lies.
“Oh, really? That’s neat. You’re always so thoughtful like that. I feel bad now; I was just browsing for myself.”
Sandra laughed. “No, no. Nothing wrong with that!”
Just then, the clerk with the earring started to push his cart out of the aisle, but then stopped and smiled at Sandra and Ellie. “Do you ladies need help finding anything?”
They looked at each other for a moment. Sandra hurriedly shook her head, but Ellie said, “I’m looking for a good read. What would you recommend?”
Sandra couldn’t help staring at the clerk’s horrible earring as he reached over to a stack of books he had just shelved. He held up a book titled Conquer the Insecurity Monster: How to Stop Caring about What Others Think of You and Start Living Confidently. He held up a copy. “This is popular. Insecurity is a really common problem, you know. This is supposed to be really helpful.”
Ellie smiled and took the book from him, and said, slightly louder than she had spoken before, “Thank you. I know a lot of people do struggle with that problem. I don’t, but still, reading this might give me information to help others.”
Sandra smiled at her. “That’s a good attitude. Maybe I should read it too, to be able to help others, even though I don’t have that problem myself.”
Sandra took a copy and told Ellie that she really should get going. She walked out of the aisle and realized the store had become even more crowded, somehow. She made her way out as fast as she could, tossing Conquer the Insecurity Monster on a display table, hoping no one noticed.