THE SHOPLIFTERS • by Nicole Sellew

I wonder if having a guy cum in you once — just a little bit — really makes a baby. I would never get an abortion either way, since I was raised Catholic, but Plan B is kind of a moral grey area. Which leads me to the immediate reality of my situation: parked outside the downtown CVS on the hottest Sunday morning of the summer (so far). It’s so hot that we drove here with the AC on and the windows down, something I normally protest on the grounds of extreme opulence.

“I’ll go in and get it for you, if you’re embarrassed,” Annie says. She’s the type of person who’s very invested in women’s rights, so I know she means it. One of the buttons on her canvas backpack is the little symbol for woman, the one with the arrow jutting out of the circle. “It’s really not a big deal.”

Ivy is crawling its way up the brick of the CVS, and out in front of the sliding doors is a stretch of landscaped mulch. Hydrangeas are blooming and some guy on a scooter is speaking softly into the phone. Two girls glide out from the slowly parting doors and scooter guy’s head turns as they walk by. I see him breathe in, inhaling their scent, or maybe just inhaling the gush of cold air coming out of the air-conditioned store. The girls are laughing and whispering; the sound of it carries on the still air. They’re clutching lip balms that they probably stole and a plastic bag straining with what looks like red Pedialyte. They look like the kind of girls who shoplift and get abortions.

“We should forget about it, Annie,” I say. “Let’s get a burrito.” I’m not really hungry, but I know Annie loves the Mexican place down the street. Really, I just want her to stop looking at me with pity eyes. Because she shouldn’t feel bad for me.

One of the shoplifters is wearing overalls and the other one is wearing an argyle sweater vest with nothing underneath it. They’re beautiful. I bet the people at CVS who work the register notice them shoplifting and just let it slide.

“Better safe than sorry,” Annie says. I can feel her eyes boring into the back of my neck, which is slimed with sweat and baby hairs.

“I’d feel it,” I finally say. “Wouldn’t I?”

“Definitely not.” Annie sounds so sure of herself, like she’s an authority on the subject. She places her hand on my lower thigh. Her hands are meaty and damp with sweat.

The girl in the argyle sweater whispers something to the one in overalls and they collapse onto each other in giggles. The tinkling sound of their laughter is drowned out by engines now; they’re approaching the street. They look a little bit like me and Annie if Annie was thinner and I was prettier and had better posture.

Annie kneads my shoulder for a second before she finally decides to take her hand away. “It’s going to be okay,” she says. I don’t believe her. “I’ll just go in and buy it.”

I’m watching the two girls, so I don’t say anything about paying her back. I just wave my hand. I’m not going to stop her. She gets out of the van and waddles into the CVS. She looks fat in the jeans she’s wearing, but I’d never tell her that.

It’s so still and hot and everything looks hazy. The little lines of white cement that glue the bricks together shimmer with soft edges. My hair is sticking to the back of my neck and I can’t believe that pretty girl is wearing a sweater vest. She must be roasting.

Over on the road some frat-type guys wearing pastel shorts in an open Jeep drive by, fast, Travis Scott blaring from the speakers. I can see their sneakers dangling out of the sides of the car. I recognize the one sitting in the back — the guy from last night. He looks the same in the daylight, maybe a little meaner. Usually people look completely different, so I’m surprised. The guy driving (tiny goatee, ovular Ray-Bans) is glancing in the backseat at some girl (blonde, impossibly thin) and he doesn’t see that argyle sweater and overalls are in the crosswalk. I let out a tiny cry, but by then it’s too late. He doesn’t even have time to honk or press on the brakes.

I wonder if there was anything I could’ve done. Probably not. I can see the guy from last night is so shocked that he takes his hand off the impossibly thin blonde’s thigh.

Annie gets back in the car. People are yelling. Someone screams. I’ve looked away, but I’m sure there’s blood, and maybe bone. The guy with the scooter whizzes by my minivan, yelling a strangled offer of help. I wonder if he saw it all happening, too.

I take the Plan B from Annie’s outstretched hand even though I know I’m never going to end up swallowing it. She didn’t even bother to conceal it in a plastic bag. When I touch the inflexible plastic shell, I feel something in my lower abdomen, a swooping feeling that normally means I’m happy about something.

“It’s not a big deal,” Annie says again. I wish she would think of something else to say.

It is, of course, a big deal, I think to myself. Annie finally notices the commotion on the street, just fifteen or so feet away from us, and her piggy eyes widen.

“What’s going on out there?” she asks. “Everyone’s shouting.” There’s a ringing in my ears and for a while I don’t answer her, I just look at the blurred ivy creeping its way up the side of the building.

“Nothing,” I say. “It’s not a big deal.”


Nicole Sellew is a writer and student currently based in the UK. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and is currently a Master of Letters candidate in creative writing at the University of St. Andrews.


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