Photo by Ali Yahya

Her Blackest Friday — Flash Fiction

Kara hated Black Friday, but she still did it every year. The deals were too good to pass up and with a big family, a girl has to save money when she can.

Target had a few movies on her family’s Christmas lists that were on sale. The big one though was a new TV for her husband. He said it was for the family, but he’d been “hinting” that their current model was going bad for the last year. Something about the backlight or resolution or something. Kara figured it would be a great gift for him.

Kara always refused to do the whole Black Friday thing where people wait in line for hours in the cold. She arrived a little after they opened. The only open parking spot was near the far edge of the lot. She stepped out slow and careful onto the November ice and snow. She gave the car a chirp and headed in.

She noticed a few people milling around outside. They must be waiting for someone to shop with, she thought. Walking past them, she ran through her mental list. I have to get the tv, those movies and…oh. She noticed one of the women outside had a cute scarf on. I wonder if she got that inside?

She walked into the store and it was packed…as expected. She resolved to stay calm and relaxed. She didn’t typically get overwhelmed but the Black Friday rush could give her a full-blown panic attack if she allowed herself to get pulled into the craze.

She headed toward the tv section first and they had a few models left. Luckily, they still had the one she was looking for. Her husband was a planner and a researcher. He had a specific model that he always mentioned was the best option. After the 20th time, Kara had it memorized and was delighted when she saw it in the ad this week. For $500, it’d be a great surprise for him and a steal at $300 off.

She got it loaded in the cart, tilted at the only awkward angle that would fit and headed toward the movies.

As she was scrolling through the Christmas lists on her phone, she turned from her cart toward the movies and slammed into someone, nearly falling to the floor. She looked up and saw a younger woman, probably in her late twenties, laying on the ground.

“Damn lady! Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” The young woman glared daggers at her.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry. I was checking something on my phone. I didn’t see you there.”

Kara quickly reached to help her up, but the young woman slapped her hand away and stood up on her own. She shoved her hands in her pockets, glared at Kara again for a quick moment and stormed off toward the baby section.

She seemed vaguely familiar to Kara. Maybe she’d already noticed her in here this morning. Oh, her scarf! She was outside earlier.

“I’m sorry,” Kara yelled toward her. But the young woman didn’t turn. Damn it Kara. You’ve gotta pay more attention, she thought. She slid her phone into her purse and headed into the movie section.

She lucked out and all the movies she was hoping to get were still in stock, though the shelves were starting to look like the scene of a violent crime. She even got a couple of surprises for her husband.

The crowds were getting a little too big for Kara’s comfort . She knew it was time for her to leave. She turned the corner next to the greeting cards and was shocked by the checkout lines. Almost every line was open and had at least 5 people waiting in it. She picked one and waited.

He’s gonna love this tv. I’ve got all the movies I need for gifts. Hopefully, I can be done with shopping in the next couple of weeks and then relax.

As she finally got to the cashier, she saw a familiar face at the Starbucks in the front of the store. The young woman again, carrying a grande cup of something that Kara hoped would make her day better. The young woman glanced in Kara’s direction and they locked eyes. Kara tried to look apologetic to her, but the young woman’s glare was cold and hard. Kara looked away, uncomfortable.

“Ma’am? That will be $557.78,” the cashier said. Kara’s attention snapped back to him.

“I’m sorry,” she said and slid her red card into the card reader. When she glanced back toward the Starbucks, the young woman was gone.

Kara walked out of the store, receipt held obvious in her hand to avoid unnecessary questions from security and headed back toward her van at the edge of the parking lot.

By the time she pushed through all the slick slush and ice, she was a little out of breath from the effort and the cold.

She reached into her purse to grab the keys but they weren’t there. Hmm. I hope I didn’t lose them inside. She tried the rear hatch and it opened right up. Jesus, I didn’t even lock the car.

Frustrated and embarrassed at herself, she loaded everything up and pushed the cart into the space between her van and truck in front of it. There was no way she was pushing it through the slush again.

She got into the driver’s seat and the keys were still in the ignition. She was relieved, but still annoyed at herself.

I never lose my keys. I can’t believe I did that on the busiest shopping day of the year. She sighed, turned the key and resolved to be happy. She had survived Black Friday and got everything on her list.

Now I can go home and get breakfast going before, suddenly a hand covered her nose and mouth. She couldn’t breathe. She jerked and struggled instinctively but was held back hard from behind her seat. She tried with all she had but couldn’t pull free. The hand suddenly pulled back from her mouth and Kara gasped in air as something sprayed in her face. Everything lurched in her view. She looked in the mirror and saw the young woman with the scarf smiling as the world blurred. Black Friday had a higher cost than Kara anticipated.

A minute later, a silver Honda Odyssey backed slowly out of a parking space at the edge of the lot, carrying a new tv and several movies to enjoy. The young woman kept smiling as she removed her scarf and took a sip of coffee. She put the the van in drive and eased into the steady flow of Black Friday traffic.

Like what you read? Give Gerald Reid a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.