Gift with Purchase

by Melissa Royce

Scrolling through Instagram’s #BeautyJunkieWeek® posts, I came across Drew Barrymore touting the wonders of Drunk Elephant’s BabyFacial®. I watched the video three times and decided it would be the first component to the new skin regime I was building. I did some research on Drunk Elephant’s Marula Antioxidant Face Oil® and discovered its necessity following BabyFacial usage. Maybe that Marula oil would help the dryness that appeared once we moved to the outskirts of Asheville where well water, and all its minerals, had wreaked havoc on the pH balance of my skin.

As I looked into other products, I learned the legend behind the line’s name: Supposedly elephants loved to eat fruit from the Marula tree, which fermented in their stomachs and made them drunk. Then and there I called Sephora® and placed my $150.00 bet on those Marula fruit lovin’ drunk elephants.

As I proceeded through the on-line checkout, I noticed they had my old Asheville address. I hadn’t lived there in over two years. As I entered my current information in the billing address section, I checked the box for the mailing address so the two would match up. At the conclusion of my order, I felt confident that my Drunk Elephants were in motion and on their way to my current abode.

As a teenager, I broke out regularly. Both of my grandmothers had beautiful skin and, when asked, they advised me to always remove my makeup before bed and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Especially my neck. From my late twenties through my early forties I was fortunate enough to not worry about my complexion. I listened to my elders. Yea for grandmas. But now, dry, flaky skin. Smile lines. Pimples. Freckles. It had to be the well water. That, and maybe aging.

Six days later I received an email informing me that my package had arrived. Excitedly, I checked the porch. Nothing. I searched around and under the porch. Nothing. I went down to the mailbox. Nothing. I asked my husband. Nothing. I texted neighbors. Nothing. This never happened to us. No porch pirates. We lived on a safe little private road. I waited a day, until I heard from all of my neighbors. Then I contacted Sephora.

A delightful woman who sounded as if she was smiling answered the phone. You know how you can tell when someone’s smiling, when their voice gets all sing song in a kind of high-pitched way. We chatted, and I brought up my account on my computer. And there it was. The mailing address came up as my previous address. It didn’t change when I clicked the button.

“Don’t worry. We’ll credit you the full amount and you can go back online and redo your order,” the customer service representative informed me.

Ah, so nice, Cheryl, from Customer Service with the sing song voice. This was truly the smoothest complaint call I’d ever made. No hassle from my new friend Cheryl. “Thank you. That’s so generous. Whoever lives at my old house is enjoying those products.”

Before I got off the phone Cheryl added, “Oh. We sent out your free gift with purchase. Unfortunately, it will be delivered to that first address.”

Days passed. I hesitated about reordering. Is this the universe’s way of telling me these products weren’t for me? Was I to live forever with this dry skin? I had to stop reading too much into this. I reordered my products but decided to stop by my old house and see who lived there now. Maybe they hadn’t opened the box and wondered how to find me. After my morning three-mile walk around Beaver Lake, which was just down the road from the house, I drove over.

Hold up. I was sweaty. I stank like Fritos®. Though I hadn’t eaten them in over thirty years, that’s what my sweat smelled like. Fritos. No one would be home, I reasoned. I’d leave a note that I stopped by, with my contact information on it.

After parking in the driveway, I walked up to the side entrance, which we had used as our main entry. There was a six-foot planter built into the covered porch. I had planted tulips there, but, sadly, they were gone. I peeked in the glass door and knocked once. In less than a minute, a copper-coated golden retriever lumbered to the door. Bent over, making goofy noises to the dog, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and stood up. It was Jaime.

About fifteen years ago a friend, and fellow teacher, recommended a book series to me written by Diana Gabaldon entitled Outlander. By the end of the summer, my group of teacher friends had read at least the first, if not the first three (that would be me) in the series, each book approximately one thousand pages each. We all fell in love with Jaime, the gorgeous Scot who wore a kilt and, in many scenes, not much else. Of course, he was the hero who saved Claire and married her. They went on to have amazing, fantasy sex in scene after scene in book after book. My teacher friends and I often joked about how many ways Jaime’s red hair was described in the novels. His burnished fiery red locks. His cascading crimson curls. His auburn mane touched by the setting sun.

Jaime and his kilt were often on my mind, and one day while shopping at an estate sale, I came across a series of beverage glasses with the image of men dressed in full Scottish regalia representing different clans. Every one of my Outlander-loving-girlfriends received one. When the Outlander books became a series on the Starz® channel, I added it to our cable package. I had become obsessed with Jaime, and here he was answering the door. This gorgeous man. Simply gorgeous. And his hair. Oh, his hair. Long and wavy with subtle shades of red, like maple leaves as they changed in fall. And it looked so soft. I wanted to reach out, run my fingers through it, touch his cheek, pull him to me and kiss him.

The man at the door looked at me inquisitively as I stared at him with my mouth agape and eyes heavy with desire. “Uhhhmm. Uhhhmm,” I stammered. Get it together or he’ll never talk to you again, I thought. “Hi,” I managed to say, “I think there may be a package that was delivered here for me. I used to live here. My name is Melissa.”

As I said my name a huge smile came across his face, which made me smile. “There is something here.” He turned his six-foot-something-just-right-body around to reach for the box.

“I’d been wondering what to do with it,” he said as he handed me the box. “I’m glad you came by.”

“Thanks. I’m glad I came by too.” I stood, stared, and smiled before catching myself gazing. I attempted to recover. “TheyalreadysentanotheritembeforeIcouldchange myaddress.” I took a deep breath. Again. Slower. “They already sent another item before I could change my address. I’ll get an email when it’s delivered, so I’ll come by after it arrives.”

“Why don’t you leave your number.”

AHHH, I squealed inside.

“Well, I have this,” I said as I handed him the note I was going to leave with my name, phone number and current address.

“Great. We’ll connect.”

“Yeah,” I said through my smile.

I strutted back to my car thinking, hoping, wishing he was watching me walk away. I got in my car, tossed the no-longer-important-box aside, backed out of the driveway, drove out of sight around the corner and pulled over. I had to call the one person who would understand how much this meant, my fellow Jaime devotee, Kammie. I pulled her up on speed dial. “UGH! Why must you be working!” I said to her voicemail. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.” Deep breath deep breath. “You will not believe who I just met. Jaime.” I continued to make gasping noises and at some point, I began to drive because, well, Asheville Jaime might decide to walk his adorable golden retriever right this minute. Then he’d see me or hear me and might think I was crazy or something.

“Oh, Kammie. His hair. His hair is beautiful. It’s red – of course – and long and wavy, not as fiery red as the real Jaime, but this guy. He’s Jaime. I don’t know what to do. I needed to tell you because I knew you would understand. Ahhhhh. This man. Kammie. I just. Don’t. Know.”

In our group of teacher friends, I felt an extra friendship with Kammie. We tended to wear faux Diane Von Furstenberg® wrap dresses—no Catholic school teacher could ever afford a real one—paired with heels or fabulous knee-high boots. Our fingernails shimmered with polish and our faces were perfectly done up every day. In our single days, we were flirty and forward with loud, let-loose laughs. Eventually, we both married good, kind men who happened to hail from Wisconsin.

I burst in the door at home and shouted to my husband, Scott. “There’s an Asheville Jaime and he’s going to be mine.” Scott leisurely made his way down from his office, sat on a step, and tried to make sense of what I was saying. He knew about my Jaime obsession, so no surprise there, but he looked stunned when I told him I had met my own Jaime who lived in our old house on Lakeshore Drive. I slowed down, took a breath, and told Scott the story, with less desire for Asheville Jaime of course, but still clear about my yearning. Scott nodded his head in understanding as I kissed him and practically floated to the shower, where I could dream in private.

As I washed my auburn curls, I pictured Asheville Jaime in front of me. He reached out his hand, caressed my neck, as his thumb traced my chin, then my lips. His other hand ran his fingers through my hair before he reached behind my head, and gently, but forcefully, pulled me to him and…boom. Reggie, my golden doodle, burst in. Damn rascal. Wandered in to just turn around and leave.
Back to my fantasy. I felt the coarseness of Jaime’s stubble and the strength in his arms, chest, legs and wondered how could I see him again. Seriously. Just one kiss with my body pressed against his; his wide shoulders and muscled arms enveloping me. This was not some fantasy about the actor, Sam Heughan, who played Jaime. Asheville Jaime existed. I knew where he lived. He just needed to see me cleaned up, smelling fresh; then he’d be mine.

When the next shipment arrived, I’d doll myself up before I drove there. Then chat him up about the house in order to get inside. I could take it from there.

I heard back from Kammie and learned she played my voicemail for another member of our Jaime devotee group, Patty. The two of them laughed so hard they nearly fell out of their students’ desks. Kammie added that she was going to save the message, so she could replay it on days when she was being pulled in a million directions and needed a good laugh.

Ting, tinka, ting. An email announced the delivery of my package; it was only one day since Asheville Jaime entered my life. I saw the email as I parked at Beaver Lake for my daily walk. Deep breath. OK. Tomorrow would be the day. I’d wear the navy sleeveless dress. Its cut looked really good on me and my wedge heels, the matte red lipstick, that hardly ever came off while kissing, and lots of mascara. Classic. Asheville Jaime would not be able to resist. As I walked, images of Asheville Jaime kept bubbling up inside. I couldn’t stop smiling and giggles escaped before I realized it.

I arrived home starving, sweaty and smelling like Fritos yet again. Approaching my hangry stage, I made myself a giant bowl of berries, Greek yogurt and Honey Bunches of Oats™, sat on my screened in porch, and flipped through InStyle® magazine. I pictured Asheville Jaime and me dressed like the models in the ads and imagined my plans for the next day.

Arf, Urf, Arf, Urf, Arf, Urf, Arf, Urf. My reverie was shattered by Reggie’s bark as he leapt off the couch. He ran and slid into the front door. He continued to bark while his backside wiggled freely in anticipation of a visitor. “Get your bone. Where’s your bone?” I said employing a trick that prevented him from jumping on people. He raced and returned with it as I opened the door to a clean-cut preppy man who held out a box.

“Hhhello …”

“I was passing this way so I thought I’d stop by,” an unfamiliar man said.

No way! This cannot be my Asheville Jaime? “Oh. Huh. What happened to your hair?”

“What? My hair?” he said.

This wasn’t my Jaime, I thought as I slipped out the door without letting Reggie out.

“I got it cut.”

“Yeah. I can see. Huge change. Ha. You barely look like you.”

“Well. I guess.” The new man glanced around, looked uncomfortable, and pushed the package into my hands.

“Oh, yeah. Thanks. Your clothes. Something’s different.” Something? Everything! Where did Jaime go?

“Yeah. Started a new job. Needed to clean up a bit.”

“A bit?! Well, congratulations on the job and the cleaning up.” You killed Asheville Jaime.

“OK. I’m gonna go now.”

“OK. Thanks. Hopefully no more packages.’

“No problem. Bye.”

I shut the door. I didn’t even watch him as he drove away, because who the hell was that? Not Asheville Jaime. That was some guy who belonged in a Dockers® commercial with his khakis, and button down, and that ridiculous haircut.

“Scott. Scott. If you want to see the guy who was once Asheville Jaime he’s pulling out of our driveway now.”

“What?” Scott said as he came down the stairs.

“If you want to see the guy who lives at our old house, he’s pulling out of our driveway now.”

“Why’d he stop over?”

“He dropped off another box from Sephora.”

“Hmm. OK. You good?” he asked, as he took me in his arms.

“Yep. I’m gonna put my dishes away. Gonna take a shower.”

“Sounds good.”

Scott pushed my stray hairs aside, and gave me a lingering kiss before he walked upstairs to work. I grabbed the Sephora box, which contained my free gift-with-purchase, went back to the porch and flopped onto the couch. I opened the carton and discovered a mini mascara. It was only enough to last a couple of weeks.

Reggie jumped up beside me and let out a noisy sigh, followed by my own deep exhale. I allowed my free gift to fall to the floor.

Melissa Royce is a writer living in Asheville, North Carolina. She recently moved and finally has a room of her own. When she’s not secluded in her room, finishing her first book, a memoir, she can be found sewing, painting, or tending to her plants.