Published on 2012/08/05

A New Shop

Juliana Rew

Rosie loved to shop. She could spend hours online looking for bargains at The Find, Bluefly, or O. On Saturdays she rose early to pore through the garage sale ads in the paper. She had long ago resolved never to pay retail for anything, ever. Sure, bargain hunting was a lot of work, but she wasn't afraid of that. People usually came away feeling they got a really good deal from Rosie, especially when she turned her high-wattage smile on them. Rosie didn't have a real job, but she knew shopping was her calling.

Spring was finally here. Rosie put on her strawberry bike jersey and khaki bike skort that showed off her nice white legs and prepared to pedal her cruiser to the antique shops in Niwot and Lyons. She waited until the morning rush hour traffic subsided and timed her arrival to be first as the doors would open.

As she pulled into the sleepy hamlet of Niwot, she coasted past the Irish pub. A husky lad was rolling a keg of Guinness into the side door.

"Hey, Rosie! We're gonna have green beer tonight," he said.

"And a happy St. Patrick's to you too," she replied, wondering what would possess someone to adulterate good beer. She never liked St. Patrick. Just a dirtbag who went around stealing the thunder of the rightful gods. She sighed. The luck of the Irish indeed.

She dismounted on Main Street and walked her bike along the shady sidewalk to survey the funky stores and coffee shops. Amazingly, there appeared to be a new shop! She tried to peer into the window, but the reflection outside made the store's interior invisible. The temptation was irresistible, and, never one to put off gratification, she parked her bike and pulled the door open. A bell jangled, followed by a long, gonglike buzz.

Fatima and Aliyah were busy stocking in the back of the shop. Aliyah glanced nervously at the sound of the door. "Our first customer. Do you think we will be able to keep her, Fatima?" Aliyah asked.

Fatima replied, "Yes, of course. Just be sure to be very courteous and helpful. And patient. They aren't used to people like us." She continued tying some gold cord into a decorative noose knot for one of the ladies' outfits they sold.

Rosie didn't see anyone around in the front. It was an apparel shop of some sort. She spied a rack of shoes in the back. The music sounded like rock, but with an Eastern twang. Her eyes widened slightly as she saw a row of what looked like old-fashioned oil lamps like something out of Aladdin. So, exotic knick-knacks too. She grinned, thinking a genie's lamp would indeed be the ultimate shopper's find.

"May I help you?" a voice behind her asked.

Rosie jumped and said, "Oh, hi. I just noticed your new shop. Would it be okay if I brought my bike inside? It's got a lot of bells and whistles on it, and I try to keep an eye on it."

A small dark woman with long black hair pulled back the curtain. "Yes, you are very welcome," Fatima said.

Rosie turned to try the door and discovered it locked. She swallowed the beginning pangs of an irrational claustrophobia. "Can't get it open. Could you get the latch?"

The woman apologized, "Very sorry, the door often is sticky."

Rosie popped back out and got her bike. The door closed behind again, and the loud gong re-sounded. It was funny the first time you heard it, but it probably got quite annoying to the shopkeeper after a while, she thought.

Rosie leaned her bike against a wall and asked, "Have you been open long?"

"About a week," the woman responded. "We came from Egypt after the uprisings and brought a number of items that we thought would make a good shop here in America."

Looking more closely, Rosie noticed the shoe rack held silk shoes with curled toes. Her shopper's radar pinged rapidly. "These slippers are nice. Do they come in sizes?"

"They should fit you well, as they have been tailored for the discriminating shopper," said the woman.

A small titter seemed to come from behind the curtain. Soon another very pretty Middle Eastern girl appeared and introduced herself as Aliyah.

"Well, they certainly are pretty," Rosie said, possibly in regard to the shoes. "Do you ever take consignments or trades?"

"Oh, yes, that would be perfectly wonderful," Aliyah said. "Do you like anything you see?"

Rosie appreciatively sniffed the air. It smelled so good in here! Spices and stuff like that. Maybe Falafel? "What? Oh, maybe I could try on one of your belly-dancing outfits there." Though Halloween was a long way off, she thought that would be a slutty yet tasteful costume. She lifted the tag on a kelly green chiffon number that would set off her red hair nicely, seeing that it was $180.00. No way would she pay that. She didn't even have a Visa card anyway. She knew it was not wise to enable herself in impulse buying, and no one had ever actually seen her debit card in person.

"All our things are of the finest quality," the woman said. "However, we knew when we saw you that you are most deserving of our richest treasures."

Rosie was flattered, but she still didn't have any dinero. She thought about making a graceful exit, but when she looked back toward the door, her attention went into deficit caused by a fantastic display of hats and scarves. The door wasn't where she remembered it. She must have gotten turned around looking at all the great merch.

"Would you at least like to try the outfit, madam, just to see how it would look on you? I'm sure something can be worked out if you like it."

Her boyfriend Merc would never sit still while she tried on things, but luckily he wasn't here, and the emerald sequins were a sight to behold. Rosie demurred and stepped into a tiny dressing room to wiggle into the pantaloons and bra. Well, it did fit fine, and she did have a very fine white tummy, thanks to Joe Pilates. She pulled back the curtain and gazed out into what appeared to be a large bazaar. The excellent food and spice smells were mingling with what most decidedly were smoke and manure. As she stepped outside the cubby, she was surprised when her feet met with bare dirt. She hadn't noticed that before with her shoes on.

"Oh, it looks lovely, ma'am," Fatima murmured. She held a perfectly cute pair of gold and green slippers, which Rosie wasted no time in slipping on.

Rosie noticed she was having a little trouble breathing, probably due to the tight gold piping on the costume's neckline.

"Sorry, what?" she said. She hadn't understood what Fatima was saying. And this place looked totally different than when she came in. She heard more people calling out their wares. Odd. But sometimes she was subject to migraines, which affected her vision and intensified smells. Suddenly she wasn't feeling so hot.

This shop now seemed a little too Third World for her taste. Time to exit stage left. She reached behind the cubby to retrieve her clothes, but her hand met with only a wood bench. The clothes were missing.

"We only said you look fantastic in that green outfit, Miss Rosmerta," Aliyah repeated. "Truly a goddess."

Rosie belatedly realized that these people knew her real name. That was not good. She was a little shocked, because no one had called her by that name in literally ages. She began working a protection spell. You could usually get weak-minded people to go along with you by increasing their suggestibility.

"I think you will find that you have already gotten a good deal from me and return my clothes," she said. A little of the old abundance razzle-dazzle ought to do it.

"We're very sorry, Rosmerta, but we need you. We have a very nice job all worked out for you," Fatima said.

Well, that trick didn't work. She needed to get back to her bike. There it was, leaning against a flower stall. Merc had overhauled her bike and put on a special headlight-looking power gizmo that made her bike faster than a nitrous-equipped Suzuki. She grabbed the handlebars and groped for the switch on the light he had installed. Damn these migraine visuals. She didn't do well under stress.

"Get me out of here," Rosie commanded, accidentally grabbing one of the oil lamps. Cursing, she threatened to throw it at the girl, though she wasn't sure where she had gotten to.

She panicked as she felt her arm rapidly turn to smoke and begin pulling her into the lamp. She clawed at the golden noose that tightened around her neck.

She screamed.

The lamp dropped to the floor and sat there unassumingly. The little shop was as it was before. A small red light on the handle blinked slowly.

Fatima beamed at Aliyah and congratulated her on the success of capturing such a beautiful Djiin. "That was very clever of you to change her headlight for a lamp," Fatima said.

Aliyah batted her naturally lush lashes and smiled modestly.

"Those big Celtic goddesses are premium, aren't they," Fatima added. "Truly inspirational. And they are especially good at procuring whatever they want. She got that green outfit for practically nothing. Our customers will gladly pay for her talents as a personal shopper now that gold is in such short supply."

Aliyah agreed, and pulled a key from her bodice to lock up shop.

Juliana Rew was a science writer and editor at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, and she now works as a software engineer. She is now trying her hand at fiction, particularly in science fiction and fantasy.