Jake had reached 87th and Stony Island and had the notion of making a right at the light in the direction of home but decided to keep heading south toward I-94 en route to the River Oaks Mall in Calumet City. He didn’t want to waste any time taking Leah’s ring back to the jeweler and felt he’d wasted too much time already searching the aisles for items that he needed at Jewels. The expressway was jammed-packed with motorists, and he cruised in the right-hand lane to avoid reckless drivers who frequented the Interstate. He decided to crank up his radio, and the vibration of the bass rattled the entire frame of his sports car. The melodic sound of the new rap joint by Ice Cube and the newly unreleased bars by Tupac had temporarily entranced him to the point that he nearly rear ended the driver in front of him. He quickly slammed on the brakes and turned the music down before he belted out a sigh of relief.
“Shit, that was close,” he said to himself.
He safely reached the mall ten minutes later and parked nearby the entrance to JCPenney. There was a moderate crowd as he strolled out of the store into the indoor mall area. He observed a group of teenagers standing by the walkway leading to the side exit as he walked by Auntie Anne’s pretzel store. A sexy young woman walking in the opposite direction smiled at him, and he turned around to get a quick glimpse after he walked past her, and she simultaneously stopped and turned around to look at him. He then smiled and walked toward her.
“I’m Jake,” he said, extending his hand to her.
“Rachel,” she said, shaking his hand.
“Pleasure to meet you,” he said.
“I don’t usually do this because I’m somewhat shy when it comes to women, but you’re breathtaking, Rachel.”
“I doubt that you’re shy, Jake, but thank you for the compliment.”
“You’re very welcome.”
He sighed and asked, “Can we sit down on the open bench over there and talk for a minute?”
They sat on the bench opposite of the teens who were idly standing by, and Rachel asked, “Why did you stop?”
“What do you mean?”
“You said that you’re shy when it comes to women and don’t usually do something like this.”
“Oh,” he stammered. “It was your smile…your smile is so beautiful.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Why did you stop?”
“Because you’re cute.”
“You’re very welcome.”
He paused and observed her bag from Macy’s before he asked, “Are you on your way out?”
“Yes, I got what I came here for.”
“What did you buy?”
“Just a couple of outfits for tonight…I’m hanging out for drinks with the girls on the North Wells strip.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“So, what did you come to the mall to buy?”
“I’m not buying anything…I’m actually returning something.”
“What are you returning, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“An engagement ring.”
“Oh…you got the wrong size?”
“No, I had the right size…I just picked the wrong girl.”
“I’m sorry, Jake…”
“Do you want to go somewhere private and talk about it?”
“Nah, I’m good. Thanks though.”
“Lemme give you my number,” she said, extending her hand for his phone.
He reached in his pocket and unlocked his phone before he handed it to her, and she quickly programmed her number in his contact list.
“Call me anytime, Jake,” she said earnestly. “It doesn’t matter the time.”
“Thank you, Rachel, I most certainly will.”
“Talk to you later.”
They embraced for a brief moment before he sat back down on the bench and watched her sexy gait until she disappeared inside of JCPenney. He sighed and slowly rose up before he sauntered in the direction of the jewelry store in the middle of the mall.