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Prompts this week were A Fashionista, becomes an overnight success, and the prop was a guitar pick.

A photo of a guitar pick
Photo by ROMBO on Pexels.com

The Armani Jacket

According to the YouTube page in front of me, there were three minutes remaining on my video upload. This was probably the biggest Vlog of my life, the one where I was announcing that I was officially hired by none other than Kendra Bailey to be her stylist for her upcoming book tour. Me, Jasmine Lewis, not my rival, Stephanie Grayson. Kendra was not only the star of her own YouTube channel, “Get out of bed and work it, B&*ch!” but she had just finished writing a book giving advice to young women entrepreneurs — Like me! — and she was going on a nationwide tour and her regular stylist just had a baby and was not available to travel. Suddenly, my YouTube channel was getting more and more followers every day. As I waited for the video to process, my phone buzzed. Ugh. Mom. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, but she would drive anyone crazy, and she was still a bit upset with me for quitting my job to be a full time stylist/influencer. I thought the influencer part bothered her the most.

Oh, well, I decided to get this over with, “Good morning, Mom, how are you?”

“I have great news for you! I ran into Janice at the Nail Station. Funny, we both get our weekly mani-pedis on the the same day. Wednesday, when it’s slow and they aren’t rushed. I find the manicures last longer that way…”

My mom. The queen of TMI.

“Janice said that they still haven’t found anyone to take your place at the office, so if you wanted to come back, you were welcome to apply. Naturally, since you quit, there was the chance of a slight pay cut..”

“Mom, they paid me minimum wage. They cannot legally cut my pay.”

“Well, Jasmine, actions do have consequences. And wouldn’t you feel better having a regular paycheck again? Something steady instead of some website counting viewers? Who knows how long this UberTuber will last?”

“Mom, it’s YouTube. Uber is a ride app. And YouTube has been around 15 years. I think they will be here a bit longer.” I can’t help myself. I glance at the screen of my brand new iMac. Already there are twelve thousand views. This is insane! Comments are flowing in and I have to respond. That’s what you do as an influencer. You build a community. The bigger the community, the bigger the paycheck. “Mom, I have a steady paycheck, but I have to do the work to keep it steady. And this is a lot more interesting than answering the phones at your friend’s State Farm office.”

“But you are so smart! You could be an agent one day! And you can be a wife and a mother AND an agent.”

“Good bye, Mom, I’ll call you later.” And I would. Because that’s what daughters did.

I barely responded to one comment, “Love the ruffles! Does it come in plus sizes?” when my phone buzzed again. This time it was Markie, my best friend. 

“Fifteen thousand views in fifteen minutes! That’s insane! That’s got to be more that Stephanie,” Markie yelled as I answered.

“I know, right?” And it was. Two weeks ago, I would be good to have fifteen hundred views at the end of the day.

“I’m so glad I helped you out!”

Helped me? She helped me? Markie let me make a video as I made over her closet full of skanky club girl clothes and created a capsule wardrobe that wouldn’t get her fired from her new job as a court reporter. Now, she seemed to be angling for some of my rewards. It was my work, she only had a closet with fifty pairs of faux leather leggings. Really, who wears pleather in the Texas heat? Okay, so her lack of taste did help me. But she certainly didn’t intend that.  I feel like help should be intentional. 

“Have you met her yet?” Markie asked.

“Met who?” I tried to keep it cool.

“Don’t play around with me. I know that you wore Garanimals until fifth grade. Kendra! The Kendra Bailey!”

“This afternoon. I’m supposed to meet her in the lobby of the Hilton.” I was excited, but trying to play it down. Maybe by the afternoon, my hands would stop shaking every time I though about it. 

“Let me come, “ Markie pleaded. “I can be your assistant. I can take notes. I am pretty good at getting everything down, yanno.”

True, I guessed a court reporter wouldn’t miss anything. “Okay, I will pick you up at two thirty. At the courthouse?”

“Yes, we have nothing on the docket today.” 

Markie sounded weirds saying legal things like “the docket.” Before her training class, she thought a docket was a small dock, like the little wooden platform we used to jump into the stock tank at her grandparent’s ranch. 

We got to the lobby of the Hilton around 2:55, just in time. A guy came up and asked if I was Jasmine Lewis and then led Markie and I up to a suite near the top floor. 

Kendra was sitting on the sofa, scrolling on her phone. She didn’t look up when she said, “hey,” which was her standard greeting on her videos.  She was smaller than I was expecting. Maybe I thought anyone who was so motivating was larger than real life, but here she was, taking up just half the sofa cushion, curly blonde hair falling into her face, black lacquered nails running up and down her iPhone. It had to be the 12, I thought, she would need only the best. 

She finally finished her scroll and stood up. She was short, about 5 feet 2, from my guess, as she seemed to be about the same size and height as Markie. Even though I wore a size 4, I felt like a giant next to the two of them, my five foot nine frame just towering. Even the guy who brought us up, the assistant, I thought, was shorter than me. 

Kendra introduced Pablo, her assistant, and then started laying out what she was looking for, what kind of image she wanted for this book tour. She wanted to look like an expert, she said over and over. And she kept glancing at Markie, for some reason. Like Markie would understand style. Did she even realize that it was Markie’s pleather that got me my viewers?

Pablo asked if we needed anything to drink and Kendra told him to go get some water bottles and some champagne, to toast our new partnership. He left and Kendra walked over to Markie. She reached over and touched the sleeve of the black boucle jacket that Markie was wearing. 

“Is this Armani?” Kendra asked. 

“Yes,” Markie and I said simultaneously. I shot Markie my best death glare. I was the style expert here, not her.

Markie ignored me. “We thrifted it. When Jasmine made over my closet last month.”

Kendra had not let go of the sleeve. “I love it. I have to have this jacket for my tour. It looks, so, so , well it has gravitas.”

Markie looked confused. “It’s my best jacket. I need it for my job. We have a big trial next week, a capital murder.”

Kendra stepped back. “Are you a prosecutor?”

“No, a court reporter.” 

Kendra sighed. “Honey, no one looks at the court reporter. You can lend me the jacket. Or tell me how much you paid for it and I can pay you for it.”

Markie wrapped her arms around herself, as if hugging herself for encouragement. “I’m sorry, but this is the best thing I have ever owned. There is no way I can own an Armani brand new. And the odds of me ever finding this in our local Goodwill again are nil and none. Maybe Jasmine can find you something similar.”

I had to save this situation. “Kendra, Markie and I are going to go chat in the hallway.”  I took Markie by the Armani sleeve and led her to the door. As she went into the hall, I turned back to Kendra. “I will get you this jacket, promise.” Kendra smiled and I knew that if I could get this jacket for her, I was writing my own ticket. Maybe I could be her permanent stylist after this tour. That would make my YouTube channel grow even more. Who wouldn’t follow Kendra Bailey’s stylist?

Markie was in the hallway, and she looked pretty serious. “Hello there.” She said as I closed the door.

“Yeah, um Markie, Kendra is right, you don’t need the jacket for the trial next week. It’s probably too heavy for a day in the court room anyway, didn’t you say you thought that in the store when we bought it?”

“I thought we were friends.” Markie started crying.

“Of course we are friends,” I said, “but friends help each other. I need that jacket to make Kendra happy and then I can buy you a brand new Armani jacket, really.”

“But I don’t want a brand new Armani jacket, I want this one. This is the one we found together, when we were best friends and you weren’t trying to impress some self help guru that probably will be famous for fifteen minutes or less.”

“Markie, you have to understand, this is my big break. If I can get this right, I will be a huge YouTube stylist and I won’t ever have to answer phones for anyone else again. Shit, I’ll be able to hire people to answer my phone. I can hire you as my assistant…”

“I wouldn’t work for you if it was the last job on earth. Listen to yourself. This video stylist shit has made you selfish and greedy. I miss my friend.”

“I am right here,” I told her. She was the one being selfish, I thought. “If you aren’t going to help me and hand over that jacket for Kendra to try on, then we are done. I need friends that support me, not tear me down.” That was a mantra Kendra told her viewers to repeat several times a day.

Markie wiped her eyes with the sleeve of the jacket. Now I was going to have to get it cleaned, I thought. But she didn’t take it off. Instead, she turned on her kitten heel and rushed off to the elevator. I thought about chasing her, but no, I would not give her that satisfaction.  I went back to the room.

Kendra and Pablo had already cracked open the champagne.  As I walked in, I could hear them talking softly. The name Stephanie stood out to me. Surely they weren’t thinking of replacing me. Kendra saw me and smiled. “Where’s the jacket?” she asked. 

“Um, we need to get it cleaned for you. Markie is going to drop if off, and I will get it first thing in the morning.”

“Good, I can use it for the first interview. I’m on the MidDay Live with Rhonda show tomorrow. So we need to be at the studio at 11. Can you have it by then?”

“Oh, yes, of course,” I said. Somehow, I would pull this off.  I took a glass of champagne from Pablo and we went through the rest of Kendra’s closet. Most of her things were very nice and I could make some great looks with the pieces. All I needed was Markie’s Armani jacket. 

I left Kendra’s suite around 5:30 and as I walked through the lobby, I decided to stop at the hotel bar. Maybe some liquie courage would help me figure out how to get Markie to let me borrow that damn jacket.  I sat down at the bar, and told the bartender I would like a shot of tequila and a Corona. He brought the shot, the sweaty bottle of beer, and a small dish with salt and lime wedges. This was a true professional, I thought. 

“What could be so bad that you need tequila at 5:35?” 

I looked over at the guy who just sat to my left. No, I was not here to pick up anyone. “I’m sure you are very nice, but I just broke up with a guy and started a new career, so I don’t have time for men right now.”

The bartender put  a cup of ice in front of the guy and then poured some Diet Coke from a can into the class.  The guy thanked him and put a fiver on the bar. “No change.”

Hmm. Generous? Or trying to appear so. 

He held out his hand, “I’m Turk.” 

I shook his hand. He had blond hair to his shoulders, brown eyes and hadn’t shaven in a few days. Like he thought stubble was still cool. “I’m Jasmine. And as much as I would like to talk, I have a crisis to work through.”

“Maybe I can help.”

I laughed. He wasn’t Markie’s type any more than he was mine. Markie wanted to meet lawyers, that was the main reason to become a court reporter.  “Only if you are a lawyer.”

He smiled. “Legal trouble?”

I realized he may have gotten the wrong idea. “No, not that intense.” I sighed, then told him about Kendra and the Armani jacket. 

Turk nodded. He had heard of Kendra, he said, and she seemed to be the type who always got what she wanted. But, he had an idea.

“Really? I mean, I can’t steal it, if that is what you are thinking. Markie would know it was me immediately. Who else would take it?”

Turk had a twinkle in his eye. “What if she never really owned it?”

That was a bit much. I wondered if he had drank or snorted something before he got to the bar. “How could she have never really owned it?”

“You were with her when she bought it?”

“Yeah,” what did that have to do with it? I wondered. “What, are we going to travel back in time and stop her?”

“Hey, you’re pretty quick. That’s exactly what I am suggesting.”

The tequila and gone straight to my brain, that is what happened I thought. Because there was no way me and this Turk guy were going to travel back in time. “Oh, so you have a time machine hidden somewhere?”

He shook his head. “Time travel is complicated. No one can build a time machine. But there are wrinkles and buckles in time scattered throughout our dimension. We just need to go through a portal.” 

He sounded serious. Either he was serious or seriously insane. I decided to humor him until the bartender came back. “And you happen to know where there is a local portal?”

“I do indeed. Wallace’s Watch Repair.”

“The watch repair shop, doh, I should have known.”

“While it does seem obvious, not every watch or clock repair is build on a time portal. This one, however, happens to be.”

“That’s real convenient.”

“So, in order to get to the right date, you need something from the day, like a receipt for that famous jacket.”

I shook my head, “I didn’t buy it, my friend did. She would have the receipt.” Or would she? I seemed to remember that I had her wallet in my bag that day, I wanted her to not bring a bag so she could shop freely. I dug into my purse and there, crumbled beneath my make up bag, was a Goodwill receipt. I pulled it out and smoothed it on the bar top. “Wait, here it is.”

Turk picked it up. “Perfect,” he whispered.  He looked at me. “Well, let’s go!”

I took a deep breath. He didn’t seem like a crazy rapist or anything, but then again, what did a crazy rapist look like anyway? I needed the jacket, that was all I knew. I finished my beer and stood up. I didn’t feel drunk, just a bit relaxed. 

“Let’s take my bike,” he said, “we can come back for you car later.” 

That sounded like a good idea. As I followed him out, one of the guys playing in the acoustic trio handed me a napkin folded up. Not meaning to sound full of myself, but men did give me their numbers all the time. I tucked it into the pocket of my jeans and caught up to Turk. 

He had an older Yamaha, although the only reason I knew that is because it had the name Yamaha on the side, and the fenders were a bit rusty. He handed me a helmet and put one on himself. At least he was into safety, I thought as I climbed on behind him. 

“Hold on,” he said, and I wrapped my arms around his torso. 

It’s a weirdly intimate thing, riding as a passenger on someone’s motorcycle. All the body contact and no way to talk as the motor was so loud. I hung on as he sped to the Watch Repair shop and pulled to the back of the building. We were in an alley, poorly lit with a yellow anti-bug bulb over the door.

“Do you have a key?” I asked. Maybe he worked here?

“Nah, “ he said, holding up a plastic card. “Just a library card. We are, let’s say, just checking out the building.”

Damn, I could see the headlines now, YouTube star charged with breaking and entering. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” I said.

He already had the door open. “Common, Miss Fashion, we are going to solve your problem.” He walked over to an old, enormous grandfather clock. “Here are the rules. You have to leave here anything you didn’t have on that day.” He pointed to my purse. “Best if you just leave that and just bring some cash.”

“I don’t understand.” And that was totally true. This was insane.

“We are going to go into the clock. Before we go, we will stare at the date and time on the receipt. Let me carry it, so it doesn’t get lost. We will get to the same day, but here in the repair shop. My motorcycle may or may not be behind the shop, but we will somehow get to the Goodwill store and buy the jacket before your friend does. Then we come back here and travel back to tonight. And you have the jacket for Kendra.”

That sounded perfect. Too perfect. Surely there was a catch. “And that’s it? That easy?”

“Well, with time travel, there is always something. Like if you accidentally bring something from after the date on the receipt, and touch it, you could catapult back to tonight. And you could see yourself shopping. So while this version of you,” he touched my forehead,” can see the past you, if the past you sees you, then that’s a problem too.”

“I think I get it.”

“I’ll be with you, so you’ll be fine.” Turk smiled and took the receipt. “November 17, 2019. Ready?”

I nodded and followed him into the clock. You would think it would be a cramped space, but it was really roomy, and there was a faint breeze all around. The back of the clock opened and Turk stepped out, and took my hand and led me out. The store was bright and a man was at the counter.

“Really Turk?” he said, as he was wiping a watch with a piece of white silk. 

“Hey Mr. Wallace,” Turk said, “Just helping a friend with a problem.”

“It’s always that,” the man said, shaking his head.

“He knows?” I asked Turk, “that this clock is a portal thing?” How could he run a shop knowing that people were going all over time through his grandfather clock?

“He is the portal guardian.” Turk said. His bike wasn’t behind the shop, so we started walking to the Goodwill store. It was about a mile away, so I was hoping Turk would explain more about this time travel stuff. 

“The Guardian? Like we could get in trouble?”

Turk laughed, “Because you are such a rule follower? Mr. Wallace won’t do anything. Now if someone calls a Time Ranger, we could get in trouble, or at least I could, but no one has called one on me yet.”

I felt like I was usually pretty lucky, so I accepted that. We arrived at the Goodwill store and walked in.

“Stay behind me, until I make sure you and your friend aren’t here yet.”

I looked at the clock over the service counter. It was ten o’clock. “We didn’t come until the afternoon, about two.” 

Turk nodded. “Well, let’s find your jacket.” 

We looked for about  thirty minutes and couldn’t find it. Did the receipt have the wrong date? An employee walked up and asked if she could help. Turk nodded to me. I described the Armani jacket. 

The employee — Sara, according to her name tag — said, “Funny you should ask for that, we had something like that dropped off this morning. My coworker is pricing it right now. Let me go get it.”

I felt relief for the first time in a while. I would have the jacket, Turk and I would get back to the watch shop and I would be Kendra’s hero in the morning. The relief only grew when I saw Sara come from the back with the jacket. It was still priced at five dollars. Turk and I walked to the customer service desk and paid our dollar. I kind of wondered what would happen if the jacket wasn’t here for us at two, but pushed that thought out of my mind. Kendra, she was my client, she was my priority.

As we started to walk back to the watch shop, I heard voices, “Hey Turk, wait up a moment!” I looked at Turk and he pushed me away, “quick, get to the shop. I need to get away from these guys.”

I grabbed his arm. “Why? Who are they?”

Turk yanked his arm away, “Run, now! They are Time Rangers.” And Turk took off in the opposite direction of the watch shop. The two men who were yelling at him both ran after him, so I walked quickly toward the watch shop. I was not a runner, ever and wasn’t about to start now. I clutched the jacket to my chest. This was the piece that would make my career as a celebrity stylist.  I felt a bit hungry and was walking past a sandwich shop. Was it hunger or the aroma of their fresh baked bread? Didn’t matter, they had a tuna melt that was to die for. I went to the counter and sat down.  I didn’t even need the menu to order. As I sat there, I felt a lump in my pocket. I reached in, thinking it was what was left of my cash. No, it was a napkin. As I unwrapped the napkin, a guitar pick fell out. There was phone number on the napkin, but  there was a sudden light wind, the sandwich ship grew dar, and I felt a cold shiver. Then the shop was brightly lit again and the girl working the counter came over to me, “I’m sorry you must have snuck in without me seeing you. What can I get you?” I was about to say I just ordered when I noticed the TV displaying CNN’s headline news. The date on the corner was not November 17th, but January 8th.  On the floor, beneath my feet was the guitar pick that fell out of my pocket, next to the Armani jacket. “Actually, I’m not hungry after all.” I picked up the jacket and ran out the door. 

It took about twenty minutes to walk to the Hilton, but I got there and went right up to Kendra’s suite. I knocked on the door, and Pablo answered. 

“Hi Pablo, tell Kendra I ‘m here and I have the jacket.”

Pablo stared at me. “Who are you and what jacket?”

I smiled. Kendra probably had new people in her life all the time. Must be hard for Pablo to keep up with them all. “I”m Jasmine, the stylist.”

“Who?”

“The stylist. The one Kendra hired to help with the book tour.”

Pablo shook his head, “Kendra hired Stephanie Grayson, the YouTube stylist. Now, you’ll need to go or I will call security.”

It couldn’t be right. I was a bigger YouTube stylist than Stephanie Grayson. I went to pull out my phone to prove it, but I didn’t have my purse. Where was it? The watch shop. At least I had my car – no wait, my keys were in my purse. 

I got to the watch shop as soon as I could and went to the back. There, my purse was still where I left it, in a box next to the back door. I pulled out my phone and pulled up my YouTube channel. 1500 followers. What the hell happened? I looked at the Armani Jacket in my hand. It didn’t fit me. I called Markie. “Hey, I found the perfect jacket for you.”