by Amparo Bertram

Time: Morning through evening
Place: NatPack Hostel; shopping mall
Day: Saturday, 8/3/96

Jill gazed into a closet filled to bursting with elegant gowns and party dresses. She sighed forlornly. "I have nothing to wear!"

Amparo paused on her way to the kitchen. "What are you talking about? You've bought more clothes since last week than the rest of us combined--and we all had to replace our stolen luggage."

Jill eyed her pityingly. "My dear child, there are nuances to building a wardrobe you simply will never understand. Important matters of color, cut, degree of formality, availability of matching accoutrements, status of previous wear..." She shook her head. "Either one knows these things, or one does not." Her expression made it clear she felt the other NatPacker belonged firmly in the latter category.

"Let me guess," Pod speculated. "You need to go shopping again?"


"Do you mind if I come with you, then? You can teach me all about how to be stylish," she hastened to add. "I really want to learn. If I get to meet Nick, I want to dazzle him. Besides, I need to pick up some socks."

Jill needed little time to come to a decision. "Of course you may." Everyone had the inalienable right to shop, after all, and though the girl tended toward <shudder> jeans and T-shirts, at least she had gained a reputation for the few occasions she was willing to dress up. Anyone who could kill a washing machine with one dress might make a promising protege. "And since a certain person won't let our chauffeur out of her sight, you may drive the limo."

Just as they were about to leave, Jennie came rushing up to them, in all her brilliant orange glory. "Wait!" she called. "I want to come, too! I thought of a few more--"

"Yes, yes," Jill interrupted, to prevent the Pack's fearless leader from mentioning that color again. "Come along."


The three arrived at the mall without incident, happily enough. Jennie bounced ahead gleefully to take care of her own affairs, while Jill led Amparo to the first shop on their agenda, marching sedately.

"Let us get the practical items to start with," she said, not deigning to utter the word "socks." "Then we make an appointment at the beauty salon for later this afternoon--giving them adequate time to prepare for our arrival--and proceed to lunch. Serious shopping comes next, followed by our makeovers, and finally we treat ourselves to a nice meal at the best restaurant we can find. Oui?"

"Sounds great to me," Amparo agreed wholeheartedly.

They made quite a splash at the first clothing store, Jill strenuously objecting to the other NatPacker's choices. A salesperson hurried to assist them, pointing out the wide selection of designer items, whereupon Jill graciously admitted they were acceptable. Barely.

They attempted to make an appointment at the same salon to which they had taken Maureen, but oddly enough the place closed just as they approached. "Strange," Jill mused, "this is rather early...still, perhaps they have suffered an emergency." They easily located a similar shop and scheduled two complete makeovers for that evening.

Their morning business concluded, they went to a small--yet tasteful--Thai restaurant and chatted amiably about recent events and past Wars. "Remember when Vachon hypnotized Amy into thinking she was Janette?" Pod asked, using her chopsticks to push her vegetables aside so she could get to the tofu. "She fooled a lot of people, for a while, she looks so much like the vampire. I hear she even got to kiss Nick," the girl sighed.

"It's a shame her sense of style went back to normal when she recovered," Jill put in. "She dresses like..." she groped for a description, coming up only with, "...like a NatPacker."

Amparo giggled. "The look on her face a few weeks ago, when you critiqued her newest Janette costume--! That was priceless. Amy thought she had the corner on the NatPackers' Janette market, but lately you've got her beat hands down, though you don't look a thing like her."

Jill fluffed her hair. "Naturally," she replied. Then her gaze grew distant, her face draining of all expression. "A part of me wants to be more like Janette," she recited mechanically.

"Me, too," Pod said. "However, I'd much rather be comfortable. Unless I have a special reason."

They completed their lunch and resumed vital shopping activities. It didn't take long to discover that most of the shops were already low on Goth outfits. Fortunately, neither of them had tastes restricted to that one area of fashion, and so they had a splendid time going through what the various places had to offer.

Though Jill's arms filled with packages almost effortlessly, Amparo had a great deal of difficulty making up her mind. She searched for something perfect, something Nick would take one look at and melt, the way she melted whenever she thought of him.

After several hours she was about to give up, when she spotted a flash of deep russet fabric. She reached past a pink filmy gown to pull out the most gorgeous dress she had ever seen. The rich main color had accents threaded through it, gold and coppery red. It was cut to hug her anatomy in precisely the most strategic locations, yet flared just enough to sway with her hips when she walked or danced.

Speechless, she held it up for her companion's inspection. "Excellent, cherie!" Jill exclaimed with pride at her student's success. "Unmistakably shy and unquestionably retiring."

They paid for their selections and left the shop, spotting Jennie instantly. How could they not? The Leader of the Pack was bopping from one store to another, her clothes so bright she would have been visible even if the other two hadn't replaced their glasses.

"Hey, guys!" she called when she saw them. She waved her latest purchases, a stuffed tiger and an orange feather duster, over her head excitedly. "Look what I found!"

"Merde!" Jill muttered under her breath. "Let's get her out of here. Now."

The two non-orange NatPackers grabbed Jennie, one on each arm, and escorted her forcefully to the limo, to general applause from the innocent bystanders.

© 1996 Amparo Bertram. Previously published on FKFIC-L.