"Sticker Shock" by Leah Holbrook Sackett
On the first day in August, I wasn't looking for a table. I wasn't looking for anything. I was just window shopping at the resale shop while I waited for my friend, Lena to show up for Sunday brunch. It was her birthday, and she was turning 42. This was our girl's day out to celebrate. I was early, and she would be late, as usual. I kept watch out the window for her arrival. Then I saw the antique Chippendale style table done in the 18th century mode. Oh my God, it was gorgeous with cabriole legs executed in the Philadelphia Rococo School of design, which were carved with the Acanthus leaves motif coupled with the carved volutes and ruffles ending in the claw-and-ball feet. Plus a heavy and deep, reflective Mahogany table top set round with 8 chairs. It was outside my price range as well. The price tag read $11,787 including the chairs. The beautiful trapezoidal seats were upholstered in a buttery, soft yellow cotton twill with the cabriole legs and carved Acanthus leaf motif ending in the elegantly carved claw-and-ball feet, a perfect match with the table. Oh, it was lovely. In comparison, it felt so graceful, exotic and unlike anything I owned. My furniture was all straight lines, clean lines. I took a turn around the store to mull things over while looking at tarnished silverware, hurricane lamps, a section of old jazz on vinyl, a four-poster cherry wood bed with a chunk of wood missing from the bottom of one leg, old mink coats, a collection of Underwood typewriters, and in this ruminative manner I forgot about Lena. Once I remembered, I texted her that I was in Ye Old Shoppe across the street from the restaurant, "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
With that taken care of, I circled back to the table. I did not need a dining room table, per se. But I did not have one, either. Not that it even remotely matched any of my modern furniture in the house. But the dining room was empty. It even echoed. We ate all our meals in the living room, on the sofa, while watching TV. We were binge watchers, too. Right now we were working on Better Call Saul. I mean how often was I really going to use a dining room table. Michael and I were not going to give up our dinners with Saul Goodman. In fact, I didn't even use the small kitchen table I did have, not properly. That small drop-leaf table in the kitchen wasn't used for anything except to collect mail, umbrellas, my purse, and whatever else was in my hands on my way into the house. So really, I did not need this beautiful table that didn't match, but I wanted it. I really wanted it. Perhaps we could host Thanksgiving this year with a table like that. See what this table was doing to me, already roping me into hosting family dinners with both sides, oh, the nightmare. Was I crazy to be contemplating this at all? And there still wouldn't be enough chairs for everyone. I'd still have to set up card tables and folding chairs. How would I decide who was seated at the Chippendale table and who was seated at the card table. I could not even begin to address the family politics of such a situation. Still I wanted this table. I began thinking of the table runners, table cloths (although it would be a shame to ever cover that beautiful mahogany), vases, and flowers with which I could dress the table for the different seasons. Then I felt someone hovering close to me. I thought it was Lena, but it was a woman in a green cloche hat. And it looked good on her. Hats never looked good on me. She was eyeing the table. She even stooped down to examine the graceful legs. It felt like such a violation. It was as if I could feel her hand running up and down my own leg. When she stood up she placed her fingertips on the tabletop and pressed down firmly, claiming a tentative grasp on my table. I panicked. I yelled out to the store keeper, "I'll take this table."
"It's only part of a set," she said. "It comes with the sideboard and the hutch."
"That's wonderful," I blurted.
I had just committed to a table with 8 chairs, a sideboard, and a hutch. Each with their own price tag.
Well, hell, what was the package price going to be, I wondered. When the woman in the green cloche hat moved away I saw a supersized price tag that I had failed to notice before hanging from the hutch. It read Chippendale set $17,483.
My heart was pounding in my throat. How was I going to explain this to Michael. It was not like me to make impulsive purchases; that was more his thing. Crap. In fact, I was constantly dogging him about being mindful of spending. The sales woman came over and asked if that would be cash, check, or charge. I dug into my purse and reluctantly handed her my charge card. Just then I heard the tinkle of the bell over the front door, and I looked up to watch the women in the green cloche hat make her exit, that bitch. Just then Lena entered. Fantastic, all I had got her was a dainty, whimsical necklace that cost me $30 and now she was about to witness me spending $17,483 on myself. I felt like a fool and a heel. I felt like crying.
But Lena was super supportive about the table, and then about the rest of the sea of furniture I floundered in the midst of like a survivor of a sinking ship. With my receipt in hand, all I could think was how was I going to get this antique furniture home? I didn't even have a friend with a truck.
© 2017 Leah Holbrook Sackett
About Leah: Leah Holbrook Sackett is an adjunct lecturer in the English department at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. This is also where she earned her M.F.A. Additionally, she has published short stories in several journals such as, Connotation Press, Blacktop Passages, Crack the Spine, and Halfway Down the Stairs. Finally, Leah lives with her husband Jonathan and daughter Bella in Webster Groves, and she is a curious member of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. You can learn more about Leah's writing at www.leahholbrooksackett.com.