In only a few minutes, the snow fell harder and the manager of the store came up behind the glass doors. On his appearance, the crowd behind Beatrice’s family pushed forward, waiting for the slightest opening to squeeze through. To breach and cascade inside. The manager’s keys jingled as he unlocked and slid the doors open. As he did, the woman in the beret, who had wormed herself through her friends to be first in line, took a step inside. As she took another, Beatrice’s gloved hand reached between the heads of her friends and touched the tips of her blonde hair.
She put all her weight behind her as she fell backwards onto the ground, pulling the woman through her friends like a bowling ball through pins, the woman’s beret hitting the white-tiled floor a few feet inside the store.
“Run!” Beatrice yelled to her eldest, who, along with her other children and the crowd, stood motionless. “Run!” she yelled while the woman flailed on top of her.
Her eldest leaped over them. Running past the greeter, he disappeared around the tower of popcorn tins with butter, cheese, and caramel kernels. His sister took off after him, just like they had practiced. Just like they spent all that time planning.
“I don’t want to even deal with it,” the manager said, after they were all off the floor and Beatrice explained how she had lost her footing and was just trying to regain her balance when she accidentally grabbed the woman.
“Bullshit,” the woman said, her beret in her hands, the rest of her group next to her. Behind them, a herd of people came into the store like a long train. Beatrice’s youngest waved to everyone and yelled Happy Thanksgiving! and Merry Christmas!
“Listen,” the manager said. “You can call the police, but I doubt they’re going to do anything.” The woman squeezed her hat. “I didn’t see anything,” the manager said, “so I can’t do anything, so have a nice holiday.” He left them there and went back to pass out coupon booklets to everyone coming inside.
The woman and her friends turned from the departed manager to Beatrice. They stared her down, as if waiting for an apology. For her to spontaneously catch on fire, Beatrice thought.
Happy Thanksgiving! her youngest yelled. Merry Christmas!
“If you need me,” Beatrice finally said, taking the waving hand of her youngest into hers. “I will be in electronics.”
Without another word she left them and got a cart and went to find her other children. Her eldest had secured a television, her daughter, the Kinect. There weren’t any more Iron Man figures in Toys, but there were a few in an unwatched cart in Boy’s Clothing, so, Beatrice figured, disaster averted. In clothing, they gathered their outfits for the year and went to check out.
In line, her family laughed as they recounted their mother’s ‘fall.’ When they got to the cashier, Beatrice noticed the woman and her husband a few rows over, her beret back on her head, a few marked down sweaters over her forearm, a stinkface staring at the television in Beatrice’s cart. Beatrice paid most of that month’s check and pushed the cart out in front of her, the giant box nestled between blue plastic bags.
Not tonight, Beatrice thought, as they passed the woman and her spineless husband, who swiped his credit card though the machine. Tonight, Beatrice thought, her family wins. Tonight, she wins.
She pushed the cart through the security detectors and into the frozen outside. The lot was so crowded with cars and covered in snow she couldn’t find hers, yet her family’s feelings of triumph kept them warm as they paraded the lot like Caesar on that show her husband had liked, before he took the cable with him.
“Stay close,” Beatrice told her children, their breaths hallowing in the streetlights overhead, cars swerving by, honking as they did. “The parking lot’s filled with nuts this time of year.”
As they searched the lot, their eyes scanned each vehicle, as if any of the cars might actually be theirs, hidden from them under a layer of frost. Beatrice and her family walked the rows, up and down, one by one. Her eldest swore they had parked closer to the Carl’s Jr., but Beatrice was sure she had parked right at the edge of the lot, right here near the exit. Right by the street and the neighborhood across the way. When they couldn’t find it though, Beatrice relented that maybe her son was right, maybe they had parked closer to the restaurant, so they headed over, not realizing that the crunch under foot wasn’t only that of freshly fallen snow, but broken glass from a car no longer there. A last gift left long ago.
Not tonight, Beatrice told herself, looking over the cars, her hand on her family’s gifts, keeping them steady. Not tonight.