At the end of August, the staff at The Gap shrank by three-quarters, seventy-five percent, a whole lot. For nearly all the kids it was back to school time, either high school or college. If you weren’t paying attention, which Erika wasn’t, it seemed to happen all at once. One day she was hanging out with the kid with the tattooed ring in front of the fitting room, the best place to park yourself on a rainy weekend afternoon. He told good jokes and time passed quickly. And then, like that, he was gone, as were most of the other cool kids.
Trudy was sorry to see the other kids go, but it meant that college was starting up, the first step in her real life. She had her eye on one of the boys from back in her library days who was attending a local school. He grew up to be cute and clueless, a tough combination.
Trudy wanted to clearly signal that she too had grown up and so purchased a pair of bright red thigh high stockings that she wore to work before heading out on their date. He was a big walker. She could tell that despite the stockings she wore, he still saw her as a chum, a buddy. She was stuck in friend jail. Period. It was a depressing truth which made Trudy feel like more of an adult.
It was now fall. At work, Trudy and Erika started hanging out near the fitting room. And while Trudy wasn’t as much fun as the guy with the tattooed ring threaded round his index finger like a salamander, she did have her fun side. Trudy didn’t mind when Erika wandered away to sketch this or that idea.
One night after work the two new friends made plans to catch a movie, but Erika canceled at the last minute explaining she had to finish a dress. Trudy, curious, visited Erika for the first time and saw a studio apartment crowded with glittery night dresses — the kind you wear when you want to make an entrance.
Trudy, expecting nothing at all, was blown away. They started talking.
Erika half listened but Trudy, for the first time, felt like a switch had been thrown inside her. Click. It all made sense. Since she was a toddler varooming through the living room, Trudy had been exposed to the ins and outs, the nuances of building of a business. She knew that this was something that people did and that it was no big deal.
The two friends went for a hike one day in October. The leaves were turning. It seemed a shame to miss it. On the hike, Trudy tried to keep a lid on her bubbling enthusiasm. Erika weighed her options. No one had ever approached Erika before about her building a business based on her designs. But still she listened, all the while noticing the way Trudy’s hair caught the sunlight, the sway of her back as she struggled up the steep slope.
On the way down, Trudy slid and hurt her ankle. Certain it was broken, Trudy waved her phone in the air searching for a signal and found none. Now it was officially a tragedy. But Erika said nothing. No words of comfort. Instead, she scanned the landscape until she found two sturdy tree limbs. She laced them around Trudy’s ankle using the oversized scarf that she had compulsively knit last winter. Before they stood up, Erika leaned in and kissed Trudy. Caught unaware, Trudy pulled away.
It took them a few months before they talked about the kiss. By then, Trudy and Erika were incorporated and running a small apparel business with start up funds from Trudy’s 529.