Contributor: Vela Damon

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"Well, I guess you could get that one if you want…you know…the worst performance ever."
Kirsten let out a sigh. Why did Micha always have to be such a techno snob? So what if she was being a total girl, deciding on a laptop just because it came in hot pink and neon green? But of course Micha had to go on about megabytes this and RAM that and streaming video the other. The laptop she recommended: boring black and twice as much as the one in the cool colors. Kirsten automatically winced at the price tag, wondering for the thousandth time if she'd ever be rid of the habit.
Micha didn't bat an eyelash, but Micha hadn't grown up dirt poor; both of her parents were doctors.
Kirsten sighed again. “Are you sure this one's worth the extra money?"
She didn't hear half the response, tuning Micha out once she started back up with all the techo jargon, thinking instead about her new circle of friends, how they were all so quick to whip out their debit cards, I'll take it! forming on their lips before they'd hardly stepped foot in the store. It didn't matter which store or what they were taking—all about the conquest, snatching up the latest designer bag or smartphone to use as spackle, attempting to patch up the holes in their hungry little upper class hearts.
And now Kirsten was supposed to be one of them?
Micha prattled on, building up to her big and that's why this is the greatest computer ever! finale. Kirsten cut her off by waving the sales guy over to unlock the cabinet; maybe she'd get lucky and the boring laptop would be out of stock.
No. At least a dozen boring boxes were crammed into the skinny shelves, probably because everybody else didn't have a friend like Micha and just bought the cool-colored computer they actually wanted.
Note to self: never bring Micha shopping again.
The sales guy rang her up right there in the computer department, cutting off all routes of escape. Kirsten clung to her debit card a little too tightly; the poor guy had to pry it from her fingers.
Edwin, his name tag read above the store's not-so-catchy slogan. How may I HELP you today?
Kirsten assumed that the slogan would make more sense if she understood what HELP meant. Obviously some sort of acronym, but for what? Here Everybody Loves Profiteering?
Edwin attempted to sell her the extended warranty. Kirsten declined. He asked if she needed a USB cable, a laptop bag, a printer. No, thank you. After running the gauntlet of up-selling, she entered her pin number, hesitated over the Is This the Correct Amount? button.
Edwin made an eek! face, smiled. "I know it's a lot of money, but this is a really good laptop. It's gotten great reviews and we haven't had any in for repairs."
"It's just...I could pay all my bills for the month with this."
"This'll last way more than a month," Micha cut in. "And it's the best one for the money."
Edwin nodded. "It has almost all the same features as the pricier models. It really is the best deal."
Kirsten hit the YES button, felt as if the blood were draining from her veins as the money drained from her checking account. If only she could have a nice, thick, cheap chocolate shake from The Shake Shack to help wash down her buyer's remorse…but Micha wouldn't go for it. She'd rather have a $6.75 wheatgrass smoothie from Bountiful Beverage Barn.
A receipt as long as Kirsten’s arm spit out of the register.
Edwin studied it a moment before folding it up, handing it over. "Have a good day, Kirstin."
"Thanks. You, too. So, what does HELP stand for?"
He looked puzzled. Kirsten nodded toward his name tag.
"Oh. That. It doesn't really mean anything. Just that we're here to help."
Kirsten glanced over at Micha, lured away once again by the siren song of $pend, turned back to non-doctor, non-lawyer, non-upper class but damn cute Edwin. "So, do you like The Shake Shack?"

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Vela Damon lives in the Lone Star State and likes writing short stories, proving that everything is actually NOT bigger in Texas.
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