Sometimes when I’m out with fellow single girl friends, we eventually get round to the topic of our love lives. Or to be more correct, the lack thereof. Now the thing is, you can make plans about almost all things in your life – career, purchases, travels – but the one thing you can’t make a “next-action-steps” goal to is the love life. Why couldn’t you just save up to buy that, too, right? But what if you could?
Back in 2011 when I challenged myself to write fiction, I followed a Tumblr blog that spewed out writing prompts to help me come up with ideas on what to write about. One such writing prompt was: “window shopping.”
As I stood under the shower pondering, what do I want to buy that’s worth writing about? – a brilliant idea hit me right then and there.
I was so excited about writing this story that I lost sleep over it and kept on thinking about it, like what would it be like to live in that world? The hardest part to write was the one that would get the leading lady to fall for the leading man. I suddenly have newfound respect for all the authors out there.
In the end, I didn’t just write a short story but a song as well. Wow, who would’ve thought I was capable of being a lyricist? My friends thought it was a real song but no, I made it up myself because the story needed it.
Here is an excerpt:
In Amazonia, a woman’s most important birthday was her 24th one – it was also her wedding day. The women were mandated by law to get hitched at that age so that they could get to work producing offspring when their eggs were at their prime. When this was first implemented, the women got married the traditional way – to their boyfriends. Those who didn’t have one then had to find someone suitable among their circle.
But the law of demand and supply eventually caught up and women were given the chance of paying for better options. When women knew that they could pay for specifics, they stopped going the traditional route. Why go on dates when purchasing was much more effective?
Alexe is turning 24 and ready to make the most important purchase of her life, and she has done her research and made the best choice based on her budget. But as she goes window shopping in Manhuttan and gets drawn to someone else, will she stick to practicality or follow her heart?
Here is the entire story. I hope you read it and let me know what you think in the comments.
I’D LIKE TO BUY A HUSBAND, PLEASE
“So have you decided on which one to buy?” Raven asked Piper, barely able to contain her excitement.
“No. It’s sooo hard!” Piper moaned in dismay. “I was up late last night leafing through the latest Manual and I only got more confused.”
“I know, right? I’m scared that I’ll put importance on the wrong attributes and buy the wrong one for me.” Raven sighed in exasperation.
“To hell with attributes, I’m just looking for someone drop-dead gorgeous!” Piper trilled.
“And drop dead pricey,” Alexe chimed in.
“Well well well… welcome back to Amazonia!” Piper said to her. “Where have you been? You’ve been so quiet the entire time you’ve been walking behind us, it’s like your mind went somewhere else. Aren’t you excited about finally getting your own man?”
“Of course I am. Who isn’t? It’s what we were raised to look forward to. I’ve just been thinking hard about what I really want, that’s all.” Alexe replied.
And she had been thinking. For days, weeks, months. She didn’t have rich parents like Piper and Raven and had only a reasonable budget, so she had to know how best to spend it on the most important purchase of her life – a husband.
In Amazonia, a woman’s most important birthday was her 24th one – it was also her wedding day. The women were mandated by law to get hitched at that age so that they could get to work producing offspring when their eggs were at their prime.
When this was first implemented, the women got married the traditional way – to their boyfriends. Those who didn’t have one then had to find someone suitable among their circle.
Alexe couldn’t remember from her history lessons how long ago it was that someone thought of giving these girls a chance to pay for better options. When women knew that they could pay for specifics, they stopped going the traditional route. Why go on dates when purchasing was much more effective?
The only negative thing mentioned by historians was that this eventually led to the disappearance of something called a “spark” which was supposedly a symptom of love, whatever love meant. But who needed an insignificant thing like that when you could get so much more – all the traits of the perfect husband – from the Manhuttan?
Just then, they stepped up to that store’s doors.
“Here we are! It’s time to go shopping!” Raven announced before pushing open the glass doors with much aplomb. The three girls were turning 24 in a month’s time and were getting ready to check out potential buys in person.
“Good luck, girls! See you much later, I have a dozen guys to go through,” Piper said, fluttering her fingers before heading towards the diamond section. Alexe was well aware how ridiculously good-looking and expensive all the men were over there.
“Wow, so many!” Raven said in awe. “I have like only six! How about you?” she asked Alexe.
“Just one,” Alexe replied.
“Seriously?” Raven said in amazement. “How?”
“Having a budget helped,” Alexe replied. “I listed down the attributes I needed in a husband and pared them down to the basics that I really needed so I could get more value for my money.”
“Wow. Practical much?” Raven replied. “Well anyway, I guess I don’t need to wish you good luck with your shopping then. I’ll save it for me. Ciao!” And she too was off.
Alexe followed the signs towards the mid-range sapphire section. She thumbed through her Manual to check her man’s – Cray’s – cubicle number. She saw him through the glass walls even before he opened the door and pulled out a chair for her to sit on. Gentleman – check. She supposed she would have to wait until later to see if he would take the danger side for her whenever they crossed the road.
She enjoyed their first date, or what should more appropriately have been called an interview. She had prepared a few questions, including a few trick ones, and he had answered them all quite well, though she had expected that. She had chosen very carefully after all.
Cray was actually a lot like her. They were both accountants and would therefore be able to provide well for themselves and their future kids. At his age, he had already risen through the ranks, so that meant he was responsible and career-oriented. He was five years older than her – a must, since her mother said that men were five years less mature than women. He didn’t smoke, rarely drank and his only “vice” was books – in that he claimed he read too much. He was not bad looking and cleaned up well in a suit. Check, check, check. He was certainly the most practical buy for his price range.
She was aware of a potential discount, but those were arbitrary and no one knew for sure how to predict how much discount one would get. She only knew that her own job, looks, etc in relation to the man she chose was supposed to factor into that mysterious discount. Being an accountant, though, she always expected the worst and assumed the discount to be nil. So her budget was the exact same price that Cray commanded.
“It was nice meeting you Cray,” she said in farewell, shaking the hand that he offered. “See you next month.” He smiled and said the same.
She walked down the hall and since she had nothing else to do while waiting for her friends, she decided to go window shopping by peering at the other men behind the glass walls of the other cubicles. They all smiled at her when they caught her looking but she just smiled back at them and did not heed their unspoken invitation to come check them out up close and personal. She had already made up her mind after all.
But then she saw Criss.
He had already caught her attention in the Manual because of his impish smile and neon green sunglasses. The latter would have looked ridiculous or even gay on other guys, but he managed to pull it off. But what really got her was his funny vlog which was nothing like Cray’s formal one.
“If you were a kind of food, what would you be? Aw shucks, that’s a toughie,” he had mused, rubbing his fingers over the 5 o’clock shadow on his chin and cocking his head sidewards. “Well they do say that you are what you eat. So I guess my favorite food should reflect who I am. Umm… chocolate fudge cake because I’m sweet and …err… fattening? Pair that with a glass of milk or no wait, scratch that and make it a scoop of vanilla ice cream and oh – warm the cake up a bit first… you know what, make it a lava cake instead of fudge and oh wow I wanna eat that right about now… I’m sorry, what was the question again?” She didn’t know why she had found that so cute. Maybe because he was.
The other question was the same one given to all the guys – why should someone pick you? At this point, other guys usually proceeded to list all their best attributes.
Criss had bit his lip and said, “I honestly don’t know why anyone in her right mind would want to choose me,” then he had acted startled, pretending that he’d only noticed that there was a camera trained on him. “Oh crap, did I say that out loud? I’ve just ruined all my chances, haven’t I?” He mouthed these words soundlessly: “Can we cut?”
That scene was then quickly replaced with one of him cradling a guitar. He flashed a quick grin at the camera and started to strum the guitar, his head bobbing up and down with the beat, causing the patch of curls on his head to bounce. Then he opened his mouth to start singing his answer to the question:
Why should you choose a guy like me
Am I even worth all your money
I don’t look like a god, I’m no millionaire
I don’t dress nice, I’ve got bad hair.
But I can make you laugh whenever you’re sad
Then whatever’s ailing you won’t feel so bad
We can talk our hearts out till the break of dawn
With me by your side, you’ll never ever feel alone.
I will take care of you whenever you’re sick
I will love you just as much as I love my music
Don’t choose me for my looks or money or art
If you should choose me, choose me for my heart…
Choose me for my heart
His vocals and the passion he had in singing his song had sent chills down her spine.
Unfortunately for her, he was beyond her budget. Still, that didn’t mean she couldn’t window shop, right? So she knocked on his door.
“Hi I’m Criss, but I guess you already know that because of the huge sign outside the door, so I’m being redundant,” he greeted, flashing that endearing grin of his.
“Alexe,” she laughed in reply.
“So pleased to meet you, Alexe,” he said, offering his hand for her to shake. When her fingers brushed against his, she felt an electric current. Wow. Nothing like this had happened with Cray. It was a pleasant sensation and she wondered what had caused it. She didn’t remember doing anything that might have caused static.
“So, can I interest you in cake?” he asked.
“That depends. Is it chocolate fudge or lava?” she replied teasingly. He laughed. Then they talked. And talked and laughed some more. When her cellphone pinged with a text message, she excused herself to read it. It was from Piper. “Raven and I are done and waiting in the lobby. Where are you? I thought you had only one guy to scope out?” She glanced at the time and couldn’t believe that five hours had passed by already.
“I really had a blast with you Criss, but I have to go,” she told him reluctantly.
“Will you look at the time? I haven’t had this much fun since… since ever,” he replied. “Thank you. I hope we can do this again sometime.”
“Yeah me too,” she said, torn between euphoria and anguish because she just had the happiest day of her life but knew that this moment would never be repeated.
“Au revoir,” he bid farewell, kissing her on the cheek. There was that electric current yet again.
Raven and Piper busily chattered about their shopping experiences while walking back home and finally noticed that their friend was as silent as she had been when they had been on the way to the store that morning. “Are you okay, Alexe? Didn’t you like the man you chose?” Raven asked in concern.
“Oh I did, I’m just thinking about something else,” Alexe replied absentmindedly, busily typing on her tablet.
Piper snuck a look at her screen. ”She’s crunching numbers. Work stuff, I guess,” she explained to Raven, who shrugged. They resumed their chatter and Alexe resumed her computing.
“Don’t forget to put your order in tonight!” Raven reminded them as they parted ways. As soon as they left, Alexe made a few calls on her phone. When each one ended satisfactorily, she reached for her Manual, flipped to a page, took a deep breath and made one final call.
“Hi, Manhuttan? I would like to put in an order please,” she said into her headset. After asking for her customer number details, she was asked for her order. “I’d like to order Criss.”
Earlier, she had made some computations and figured that if she took out a loan and made drastic changes in her spending for the next few years, she could afford him. Some people would probably say she was crazy but what was the use of money if it couldn’t buy you happiness? Why shouldn’t she be willing to make a few sacrifices for love?
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Miss Alexe,” the customer service girl said after she was asked to be put on hold. “Your order is still available. We are also pleased to inform you that we have computed a discount on his price based on an assessment of both your attributes and the biometric scan of your interaction this afternoon.”
“Great! How much is it?” Alexe replied, hoping that it was a substantial one somehow.
“100%!” The customer service girl screeched, losing her professionalism. “Do you know that’s the first time I’ve ever encountered this? You don’t have to pay for anything! Oh my God! I can’t believe this!”
“H-how did that happen?” Alexe asked dazedly.
“The two of you apparently have that elusive spark,” she replied. “And one hell of a connection. I am so jealous.”
So that electricity – that was apparently the spark she had only up until then read about in history books. Alexe felt weak-kneed as a scary thought crossed her mind. What if she hadn’t decided to go for him and settled for Cray instead? Then she would never have known happiness like this.
That night, she was on a three-way call with Raven and Piper “I already placed my order. After a lot of thinking I finally decided to get Bass,” Raven sighed. “It was sooo hard to make a choice though!”
“I definitely know what you mean,” Alexe agreed.
“Oh what do you know? You knew exactly who you wanted when you went into the store today!” Raven scoffed.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Alexe said, smiling. “I did know exactly who I wanted. And it’s definitely my best buy ever.”
This post is part of the A to Z Challenge, a blog hop that goes through the alphabet for all the days of April except Sundays.