Potter's Mercantile is a family owned and operated general store located in the heart of downtown Benton. According to local legend and lore the shop has stood at the corner of main and sixth street since the founding of the town way back when. The store has a little bit of everything and the owner Mr. Potter often extends credit to those who need it. Mom also likes it, because the owner's wife has a small selection of gently worn dresses, blouses, skirts and shoes she sales on the side. Most of my clothing came from Potter's. Mom by her very nature was thrifty and rarely brought anything new. Even the sheets and blankets on my bed came from one of the charity shops.
I can't say we were poor. Daddy kept food on the table, we never had to worry about our lights being cut off, or our water. There were always snacks in the house. We owned our own land and we even helped out the other families in the hollow. I guess as far as hollow families go, we were pretty well off. Mom was the head 'Priestess' if you can call her that of the group. She tended to the old, the young, the sick and the downtrodden as best as she could with what she could afford to spare. She offered advice to the young girls of courting age, advising them on what to look for in a future boyfriend, since she always said a future boyfriend could quickly turn into a future husband in just a season or two.
Anyway pushing all of that aside. Mom was, as of right this second standing at the counter waiting patiently as Mr. Potter keyed each item into the old fashioned cash register. A huge, gray, beast of a machine that looked like it belonged in a museum instead of a thriving downtown business. But then again, I guess the Potter's were thrifty too. And so, instead of hovering in the background while Mr. Potter carefully picked up each item, and tapped in the price before moving on to the other, I decided to do a little exploring.
Potter's Mercantile was more like a mini grocery store too. The main cash register was up front, beside it was a little deli area that fixed a plate lunch six days a week, beside that was a small dairy case that had milk, eggs, cheese and a limited selection of yogurts. After that you had the meat case. Mom loved the meats here, the prices were fair and the quality was top notch. She brought all her meats here and once a week she'll break down and buy three sixteen ounce porterhouses for daddy to cook out on the grill. Anyway pass the meat case you had the drink section that had all your chilled soft drinks and your fruit flavored beverages, you know those ones that had about ten percent fruit juice in them.
Then you had the frozen food section. The frozen food section was about eight stand up freezer doors that were all lined up beside the wall. The first door was stocked with frozen french fries, the second door was stocked with frozen pizzas, the third door was stocked with a wide variety of frozen bread, the fourth door was stocked with frozen dinners, the fifth door was stocked with frozen meats and a few selected frozen seafood items, the six door held frozen snacks, like pizza pockets, and such and the seventh door held frozen pies and desserts and finally the last door and my personal favorite was the eight one that held nothing but ice cream! I loved ice cream, chocolate being my all time favorite flavor.
Now to the left of the frozen food section was a wooden door. Nailed to the center of the wooden door were bubbly, cursive letters that spelled out the words "Potter's Second Hand Boutique" this door led to the used clothing section of the store. Taking a deep breath, I pushed upon the door handle and the sight that greeted me took my breath away.
Two racks, filled with dresses, blouses and skirts dotted the floor of the small square room. The wooden shelving built into the walls held dozens and dozens of pairs of shoes. Everything from leather boots, to nice dress shoes. Out of the corner of my eye I could spot a small area that had been closed off, no doubt a small changing area and finally at the far back of the room, a small counter with an oddly modern looking cash register. Sitting behind the cash register was a teenage girl with golden blonde hair and deep blue eyes. Her hair was pulled back in a high ponytail and she was casually flipping through the glossy pages of a magazine no doubt the newest edition of "Sweet sixteen" while idly chewing what appeared to be a wad of pink chewing gum. Every few seconds she would blow a small bubble, the bubble would pop and she resumed chewing. After a few seconds, she noticed me standing there, she blinked and quickly she swallowed her gum and took a deep breath as she fixed me with a big smile.
"Oh! Welcome to 'Potter's Second Hand Boutique' I'm.. wait I know you. Your Cerridwen right? Cerridwen Circle Whitethorn? The Pagan girl who helped us with the dunking booth a week or so go?" She said as she stepped out from behind the counter. "So, how can I help you? Looking for something special? Maybe a Halloween costume? I mean with Halloween only being like a day or so away, our costumes are pretty picked over. But we might have a few cute ones left." She then bit down upon her lip and looked away for a minute.
"Oh cool. I knew it was you. I mean, everybody in the club was impressed with you. I mean, like you were a really good sport in taking the last shift. And not to mention, you got dunked a ton." Lily stated as she reached down and tossed her magazine to the side. She quickly then cleared her throat and pointed with her hand toward a small collection of costumes and a cardboard bin.
"It's not much, but it's all we have. Like I said before, with Halloween only being a day or two away, they totally picked us over. I mean they ravaged that section. Anyway, why don't you take a look, and if you'll give me a few minutes. I'll finish up what I'm doing here and I'll come over there to help you. Maybe together we can find you something cute to wear. I mean, every girl needs something cute to wear on Halloween."
A small smile formed upon the bow of my lips as I nodded my head and started to move toward the corner where the scant few remaining Halloween costumes were being displayed. I quickly noticed, Lily had been dead on the money when she said the pickings would be slim. Only about a baker or so dozen costumes hung from iron coat hangers on the racks. A small, cardboard produce bin could be found next to the rack. Inside the bin, I could find a wide range of Halloween accessories and one off items.
I felt almost like an archaeologist as I started to peel and dig through the bin. The deeper I dug, the more I uncovered relics from long ago. Halloweens lay at my fingertips, an old witches hat that was covered in dust, a vampire's cape with a tear the size of Texas, a plastic mask, and a glow in the dark hockey mask. Being short, I had to stand almost on my heels as I started to shift around. Finally after a few minutes, I decided to call it quits.
"Having any luck?" A voice called out from behind me.
"No." I said sighing in defeat. "I guess, I'll be wearing that old cheerleading costume again." Last week, when I had volunteered for a charity stunt, mom had forced her old cheerleading uniform on me. Citing that we just did not have the money to throw away on a costume. That was a week ago, since then, I had worked my fingers to bone around the house, doing all the chores and the extra chores to scrape up enough of my own money to buy a nice costume, I mean this was my first Halloween as a girl, I felt it should be celebrated with something special.
"We'll if you'll turn around and stop digging like a mole through that bin girl. I found something that would fit you." The voice said. The tone of the voice was that teasing short of voice, I often heard older sisters use when addressing younger sisters. The voice that was half teasing, half love, love normally only reserved for family members.
I blinked and stopped my digging. I was totally covered in dust and grim. No doubt most of the costumes and accessories came from second hand shops or had been brought in bulk from some questionable source. As I refocused my eyes, I noticed the woman was holding up a cute red and white dress.
"You kind of strike me as the 'Little Red Riding Hood' type girl. And this is really the only costume that I think suits you. We have a witch costume, that kind of revealing. But with you being a an Wiccan and such, I thought that would kind of not cool to suggest that, you know, with you being a real witch and all." She said blushing as she held the dress up. "Plus, I'll even cut you a deal. Our complete costumes normally go for like twelve dollars. I'll let you have it for about six, since you kind of helped out with the fund raiser."
I took a deep breath as I reached up and took the costume in hand. I then took a deep breath as I looked it up and down at six dollars that was a steal. I almost felt like a thief, I mean while mom might be something of a penny pincher, but she did believe in paying me a fair wage for all the chores I did around the house. So, I had money. But still, something seemed fishy about the thing.
"Okay.. what the catch?" I said as I held the costume up.
"No catch, just trying to move it. Halloween is like a day or so, and we normally slash the prices of our Halloween goods the day before Halloween. You know, gotta make room for Christmas stuff. So I'm just giving you the normal discount.. but if you want.. we have some boots, new woolen skirts, heavy cotton blouses and a few cute purses that just arrived. If you buy something else, I'll call it an even trade." She said winking as she nodded toward the changing room.
"So, why don't you go ahead and change. And don't worry. I have a little sister who's just like you. I'm a friend okay. So go ahead and change and I'll keep watch." She said winking again as she shooed me toward the changing room.
I soon found myself stepping behind the old curtain. Quickly I removed the pink turtleneck sweater and then I bent down and unhooked the coal black woolen skirt that I had worn with it. Once I had completely undressed, I picked up the costume and took a deep breath as I slipped the outfit on. I felt my heart beat quicken. Gathering up my courage, I turned to face the floor length mirror that was tucked away in a corner of the already cramp changing room. And the minute I did was the minute a deep, deep blush bloomed on my cheek bones. I looked amazing! The outfit seemed to fit my body like a tailored glove.
"Hey everything alright in there girl?" I heard Lily call out.
"Yes, everything is fine!" I responded.
"Cool, we'll if you're ready, come on out. You're mom's out here waiting on you. She wants to see how the costume looks on you. Plus, she has a handful of skirts, blouses and a new formal for you to try on. Looks like somebody getting a whole new Autumn and Winter wardrobe." I blinked and slowly I started to panic a little. But then I reached down deep inside of me and pulled out a bit of courage. With trembling hands I reached up and pulled aside the old sheet that was acting curtain and with all the grace and charm I could muster I walked out face to face my mother. I was quickly greeted with
"OMG! HONEY! YOU LOOK ADORABLE!" Mommy yelled the minute I walked out. She then rushed up and threw her arms around me. "OH! I can get behind this costume." She said, smiling soft. "It's not one of those tacky revealing witches dresses, and you always loved the fable of 'Little Red Riding Hood' growing up. That was your favorite bedtime story. So it suits." She then stepped back and folded her arms across her chest. "But, could you give me a twirl hon?" She said as she swirling motion with her fingers.
Blushing, and a little flustered from the quick hug. I started to twirl around. Mom watched me like a hawk the whole time. Finally after twirling around at least three good times she nodded her head. "Okay, toss that in with the keepers pile. Now come on, you have at least four skirts, two pairs of jeans, three blouses, a few pairs of boots to try on. It's going to get cold soon, real cold. So off you go." She said as she handed me a bundle of clothing.
And We'll mom spoiled me a little. We spent more time shopping for clothing than she spent shopping for food items. Lily, who I later learned was covering for her mother because her mother needed to take her little sister to the Doctor's office in Jackson was wonderful and offered some much needed teenage advice and acted as my personal dressing coach. And true to her word, she not only gave us a good discount on the Halloween costume that made mom happy, but she also tossed in the 'Potter Family Discount' and 'Benton Academy Student Discount' I think she made the last two up. But it made mom really happy. All told we came out there with four pairs of boots, four skirts, four blouses, two pairs of jeans and one sparkling formal for around one hundred twenty dollars and sixteen cents. Mom was well pleased with herself. And I was pleased with the new clothes, I was really starting to feel like a girl. After we left the store, we dropped off the forum at the town's library. The girl at the front desk informed me I would be first in line. After that, mom decided to treat me to McDonalds. And that's how that day ends.