“Century Women” by Maura Lammers

The manager says, We have high expectations for our Century Women.

Serena nods her head yes.

The manager says, Our customers pay top-dollar not just for the clothes, but for the experience they have when they walk through the door. We need all our Century Women to uphold certain standards.

They sit in the break room at Century, the store where Serena works as of today. The fan in the corner is broken, and the air feels as stagnant as pond water. The manager is named Courtney, and as she flips to a new page of the employee training handbook, Serena notices that her nails are almond-colored. She never knew that nail polish came in shades of brown. Sweat seeps through the back of her linen dress. This job was a fluke, an off-chance application that led to an interview where she wore her best dress and hoped she looked like someone who could sell expensive clothes.

Courtney looks up and says, Imagine a woman you deeply admire for her persona and style. We all have women like that in our lives. A woman who inspires you in everything she says and does. She is good at her job, and looks good doing it. From head to toe she looks like herself. From her shoes to her perfume to her eye shadow. She is exactly what you hope to be. That’s the Century Woman. That is how we want you to look every time you show up for work.

In the first two weeks, she gathers that the Century Women on staff do other things besides work at a high-end clothing store. They are teachers, photographers, graphic designers, musicians, dancers, or stay-at-home moms. They are graduate students studying speech pathology, dental hygiene, physical therapy, nursing, or counseling. This is no one’s full-time job and no one’s first priority, but based on the enthusiasm and attention they bring when face to face with customers, no one would know otherwise. Serena hears about her coworkers’ lives during training sessions at the register and in the fitting room, shared thirty-minute breaks, and long opening and closing shifts. She doesn’t know what to say about her own life.

Her father is calling her current state a “sabbatical,” and her mother is calling it a “phase,” but Serena is calling it “imbazzarro,” an embarrassment, except she speaks Italian so poorly she can’t be confident in the translation or her pronunciation. Before Century, she was teaching English abroad and living in Rome, but three months in she quit and begged her parents to pay for a direct flight home. She felt swallowed-up there, spent more hours drinking wine, tripping on cobblestoned streets, and counting painted tiles than speaking, in either English or Italian. She has only been back home in St. Louis for a few weeks, where she returned to her lime green childhood bedroom and the closet with song lyrics scrawled in sharpie on the walls. She has a good tan, and supportive yet dubious parents who are willing to temporarily humor her after this failed jaunt abroad. But most of her old friends from high school and college live in bigger and better cities and have real careers, or at the very least starter jobs, and she is working retail part-time for $10 per hour.

Being at Century gives Serena a welcome distraction from thoughts of her future: tidying the tops discarded on fitting room floors, sizing tall racks of gowns and spacing hangers exactly one inch apart, turning the labels out on every candle, rearranging the pillows on the bed display, sweeping up fist-sized dust bunnies from underneath display tables. According to her managers, she is good at taking orders. Her coworkers seem indifferent to her until they decide to regale her with stories about their husbands or boyfriends. But Carey, who teaches her how to close the store, immediately wants to know more – where she grew up, if she has any pets, and when her birthday is. Their birthdays are two years and two days apart, and they bond over those seven hundred and thirty-two days.

Serena doesn’t know how to be a Century Woman, but Carey does. Carey has worked here part-time for three years and knows all the tricks: how to board-fold the silk shirts that slip out of your fingers like water, how to strategically swaddle candles in heavy cream-colored paper so they don’t break, how to add garments to a fitting room without the customer realizing you’re trying to up-charge her. Carey tells Serena that women with hair as long as hers usually look ratty but her hair looks healthy, and Serena decides this is a compliment. Serena thinks Carey has the broad, heavy-browed face of an eastern European milkmaid, except her dark hair is buzzed down to half an inch, and she’s from Cleveland. In a few months, Carey will be in her final semester at the art school and has created her own interdisciplinary, multimedia-influenced major. She wants to know what Serena studies in school, but Serena has already graduated. She is applying to law school and spending most of her free time eating microwaved ravioli in bed reading LSAT prep books. Carey says that sounds cool, though Serena knows it isn’t.

Serena thinks Carey looks good in everything. She loses count of the number of dresses Carey wears, in all variety of styles. One day she wears a high-low dress in a swirling floral print that catches the wind through Century’s open doors, and the next day she wears a high-necked, drab gray dress fit for a Pennsylvania Amish girl, and the day after that she wears a cherry red A-line dress with a swinging skirt, and the day after she wears a baby blue tulle skirt with a black t-shirt. Serena is convinced Carey does not own pants, and that the perfume she wears is made with something stronger than alcohol and oils. It’s one of Century’s signature scents, a formidable blend of gardenia and spices. Serena can always smell Carey coming before she turns a corner or appears in the break room downstairs.

Soon Serena runs out of clothes to wear to Century, and asks Carey for advice. Carey insists she should wear more prints, and picks out blouses with dramatic sleeves and strange cutouts that look stupid on the hangers but somehow sit on her body like birds on wires. She wants Serena to try wearing pencil skirts, but Serena says no, her hips are too wide, and Carey says, Exactly. They share a fitting room. Serena’s throat fills with the scent of Carey’s skin and perfume.

Serena starts worrying about the shape and color of her eyebrows. Stops tweezing them altogether, lets them grow out, pencils them in. She doesn’t usually wear makeup beyond Chapstick, mascara, and a little concealer, but the managers at Century tell her to gussy up. She tries blush. No. Then bronzer. No. Finally highlighter. Okay. Matte or dewy finishes on foundation? Black brown mascara or black noir mascara or fake eyelashes? In the drugstores there are the endless arrays of eye shadow pallets, walls of nail polish, and hundreds of shades of lip color. Somehow she ends up with four plum lipsticks. She debates whether to wear shoes that are more stylish than comfortable, even during a seven-hour shift. She buys heels of varying height and density, like climbing the rungs of different ladders. Her coworkers can put on lipstick and lip-gloss without looking in a mirror. They dab the wand on the center of their lips with an expression so bored, they might as well be taking a shit. She tries to do the same with the lipstick, and sticks an incisor into the plum wax. She spends less time with her LSAT books and more time looking at outfits on the Century website. She asks herself daily if she is pulling it off, no matter what it is. She knows she still needs to get into law school, knows she still needs to do something that will convince her parents she is not wasting time, but still, she finds herself worrying about whether her hair actually is too long, or whether she should try a balayage color. At Century, she samples every perfume as if she were reading poems, the mist a few lines of intrigue, searching for a perfume strong enough not to give anyone a headache, or weak enough to leave no impression.

* * *

A customer tells her she is shopping for a trip to Naples.

Serena says, I lived in Rome for three months. I’d love to help.

The customer says, You lived in Rome? And now you work here?

Serena says in a flimsy voice, I’m applying to law school.

How wonderful, the customer says, and wishes her luck before reminding her she is a size two petite. Serena brings her an armful of lightweight summer dresses for her to try on. She mumbles a few words of encouragement whenever the customer emerges to look at her reflection in the full-length mirror in the back of the fitting room. After showing only the mildest interest in what this woman is wearing, she goes home with $2,000 worth of product in less than an hour, and barely looks at Serena when she leaves.

This is not what all of the women who shop at Century are like. Some women come out of their dressing rooms, their faces withdrawn and pleading, desperate for a kind word or a compliment. Sometimes these women stand in front of the full-length mirror and say they can only buy the dress after they’ve lost ten pounds. Sometimes they say they will buy the dress because the investment will force them to commit to making their bodies smaller. Some women act as though they have walked past mirrors their entire lives, always afraid to look. Other women need no validation from people like Serena, already know what looks good on them and what does not. Or they bring their own army of affirmation in the form of friends, sisters and cousins, bachelorette party groupies. A woman’s actual appearance, Serena knows, will have no bearing on how she reacts once she steps in front of the fitting room mirror. She is always at the mercy of the last person who said she was beautiful or not. Serena tries to say the right thing at the right time, but sometimes just stands nearby, admiring customers as they admire themselves. She thinks this is why she makes so many sales. She never pushes, only looks on, and lets the customer lead.

Some repeat customers know her. Gloria walks her fat French bulldog Bologna through the outdoor shopping mall every week, and always brings him in so Serena can fawn while she tries on the newest shipment. Keisha shops on Friday afternoons while she waits for her husband to get off work and take her to the bar up the street, and she tells Serena she should marry a man who still wants to date her after fifteen years. Paulette travels to get chemo at the hospital a few miles away, appears every few weeks with her head wrapped in a scarf, and says shopping here beforehand takes her mind off the discomfort.

Then there are the regular problem customers. The store rule is, if Trish walks through the doors with her chin-high pile of returns, Carey is the one who handles her, because even though she’s thirty years younger she doesn’t scare easily, and she’s stubborn enough to check the contents of fifteen receipts against the store’s inventory. Then there are Pam and Oliver, the married couple who shop together and always end up fighting while Pam stands half-naked outside the fitting room and Oliver lazes on the designated Husband Couch in the center, as though they have no audience. The shoplifters are tougher to pin down, and after awhile Serena learns why: it’s always the kind-faced middle-aged moms who linger too long at the jewelry stand, the plain college girls who shop without parents and take thirty minutes to try on eight items, or the elderly women who gaze around while holding a large bag. Shoplifters are always the invisible women, the ones that Serena’s coworkers overlook because they don’t dress like they’re going to spend a lot of money. The ones who seem like they wandered in off the street to take in all the pretty things and leave with nothing rarely do.

She and Carey become management’s go-to closing team. They work with machine-like efficiency and can get the store straightened and put back together in an hour. Carey starts at the front of the store, while Serena starts at the back, and they slowly meet in the middle, their voices raised so they can maintain a conversation. They talk about whatever art project Carey is working on, like the new modern dance routine she intends to perform alongside a short silent film of mules chewing grass. Or they talk about whatever girl or boy Carey is currently seeing, or whatever she’s watching on Netflix, or whatever will help Serena avoid thinking about law school.

Courtney does not like Carey, and everyone knows it. Carey says it’s because, according to her last performance review, she doesn’t take direction well and is not always compliant with management’s orders. In her opinion that’s only because she has strong natural leadership skills. Plus, she once applied to be a manager-in-training, which was a mistake. Carey says management prefers to either hire outside or handpick staff to hire within. The application came on too strong, made her seem too eager.

While closing one night, Carey fluffs the comforter on the model bed and yells across the room, Century Women should be poised and cool. Century Women should not make sudden moves. Century Women should use the power of suggestion, not demonstration. Century Women should sell you a bag filled with twigs and cat shit for $150 without saying a word, but have never heard of capitalism.

Serena shushes her from the other side of the store and says, You’ll get fired if Courtney hears you.

They won’t fire me, Carey says. We’re the closing dream team, and they know that. You’re my golden ticket, Serena.

* * *

Carey buys Serena a mocha. Serena buys Carey an Americano. Carey buys Serena garlic bread from the Italian place across the street and gives her two sticks of gum to cover up her bad breath. Serena buys Carey a chunk of cheese from the phony French fromagerie two blocks down and they eat it without crackers, sitting on the dusty fitting room floor after closing. Carey buys Serena a small bowl of mac n cheese from Noodles & Company. Serena buys an extra burrito from Taco Bell for Carey, but Carey says she is a vegetarian as of two days ago and won’t eat it. Carey has to sit down on the rickety stool in fitting room number four because she feels like she’s going to faint. She says, I probably should have eaten more than a slice of pizza and diet Coke this morning. Serena goes to the coffee shop next door and brings her back a muffin and a coffee and a La Croix. Carey takes a few bites of the muffin and burps after every gulp of the La Croix. Soon, this is all Serena sees her eating on her breaks: La Croix and, sometimes, the wedding cake cookies from the coffee shop. She sees Carey walk with her arms full of La Croix, stocked up for the week to put in the break room mini fridge. Serena asks her when was the last time she ate a vegetable or took a vitamin and Carey laughs in her face.

Carey gets three impromptu tattoos, one right after the other, in the span of six weeks. The first one appears on her right inner arm, a mule with the haggard gaze of a sitting president. She says she’s been thinking about how mules are beasts of burden, but are also donkeys bred with horses that are totally infertile. It just makes sense to her. The second one is a thin line leading to an octagon on her left forearm, but the line is crooked. Days later, another tattoo covers the botched one, a portrait of a black cat with a forked tongue that Carey says is from an atheist manifesto she read recently. Serena gazes down at it. She can see the line that never healed properly, practically throbbing beneath the surface of fresh ink. Carey tries to pick at the flakes of skin, and Serena slaps her hand away.

Later, Carey says maybe she needs to see a hypnotherapist. Or a tarot card reader. Or maybe any old psychic will do. She says, maybe one of them will tell me what’s wrong with me. Serena does not see anything wrong with Carey. She can never tell if she’s joking or not. She asks if Carey wants to join her for coffee on their day off. Maybe, she thinks, if something is wrong, she will say so. But Carey is bright-eyed when they meet at a corner table, and she has brought her sketchbook and wants to draw. Serena has her LSAT questions to study, so they sit in silence with their mugs of coffee steaming between them, and Serena decides she will ask Carey if something is wrong on another day.

* * *

Serena does her makeup the morning that she takes the LSAT, sweeping on coat after coat of black mascara. She eats a big breakfast that isn’t microwaved ravioli. She drinks three glasses of water and saves a La Croix to have when she’s home later. When she shows up to work that night, Carey has baked her an upside-down peach and coconut cake and left it in the break room with a Post-It note attached that says FOR THE SMATERST CENTURY WOMAN scrawled in bold black letters. It makes Serena want to cry, but instead she cuts off a big chunk to eat on a paper towel before her shift begins.

On Monday morning, they both have the day off again, and Carey asks if she wants to get coffee.

Yes, Serena writes back, and suggests a time and place.

Okay, Carey writes, and sends a cactus emoji, a star emoji, and an emoji that could be a mule or a donkey or a horse.

A few hours later, she texts again, Can you come pick me up? It’s an emergency. I need to see my therapist. I don’t think I can drive myself there.

Okay, Serena writes and asks for her address. She will be there soon.

Carey lives in a brick apartment building, and she walks towards the car wearing a loose tunic dress that makes her body look shrunken. She sits beside Serena in the car. She isn’t wearing any makeup, but her cheeks are mottled pink from tears.

I’m really fucked up, Carey says with her legs stretched across the dashboard, her forehead resting against her knees. Serena thinks she looks like a diver frozen in mid-air, mid-tumble. She wants to cover the back of Carey’s neck with her hand, to keep her bones from snapping on impact.

You’re not fucked up, Serena says. Carey whimpers into her knees.

Her therapist works on the other side of town, and as Serena drives the sun beats down through the sunroof, and Carey keeps apologizing, and Serena keeps saying it’s fine, you have nothing to apologize for, it’s fine. She has Top 40 radio on, and thinks about changing the station, but she doesn’t know what kind of music Carey likes besides the songs from the Century playlist they dance to when customers aren’t around.

Inside the office building, Serena sits in a waiting room and flips through a magazine. Fall fashion trends are already on display in the pages, and soon Century will fill up with mountains of wool sweaters and candles that smell like apple cider and cinnamon. She will have to buy new clothes for the new season. She hopes Carey will be there to help her choose.

On the way home, Carey seems calmer, picks at her chipped nail polish.

You should call in sick tomorrow, Serena says.

Maybe going to work and pretending to be normal will help, Carey says.

I think you should take care of yourself, Serena insists.

But Serena has already seen that Carey doesn’t know how to take care of herself. She makes a detour to a grocery store, where she asks Carey to wait in the car. She finds soup, a bottle of wine, a bag of Almond Joys, a pack of La Croix, and makes a salad at the bar for good measure, because she isn’t sure what will help the most.

Back at the apartment, Carey asks, Can you be here with me a little longer? For the first time, Serena wonders why Carey has not called someone else, perhaps a boy or a girl she dated. They have spent so much time around each other, have seen each other five out of seven days for the last three months, and Serena does not know who else loves Carey, or why she was the first person Carey called.

They don’t touch any of the food she brought because Carey says she’s exhausted and just needs to sleep. She curls up on her side on her bed and says Serena can stay here, or sleep on the couch, whatever she wants. Serena stays, and in the morning she wakes to find Carey submerged beneath the sheets with her head burrowed against Serena’s stomach. Serena lifts one hand and rests it on the top of Carey’s head, feeling the half-inch-long down of hair beneath her fingers. Before she goes home to change for her shift, she writes a note that says, please eat the salad.

Carey comes to work later, her skin a little dull, wearing a magenta slip dress as though to compensate for the lack of color in her cheeks. She tells Serena she’s sorry, that she doesn’t usually feel that bad, but she got scared.

Don’t be sorry, Serena says. I just want you to be okay.

Carey looks at her as though she’s peering into a cave, like she’s about to step forward into darkness without a flashlight to guide her, and says, Thank you.

Before she can say anything else, Courtney arrives, and tells Carey to cut the heroin chic look and dab some extra cover-up on her under-eye circles. For a second, Serena thinks Carey will push Courtney into the artfully arranged tier of candles. But when Serena touches her arm, Carey looks at her instead and grins.

* * *

Serena hides her phone in the pocket of a dress at work, and keeps refreshing her email and waiting for her test scores to come through. She is assembling her list of schools, knows who to contact for her letters of recommendation. Her parents weigh in over dinner often, tell her which schools would be best. Every time Carey sees her she asks for news, but Serena has nothing to say.

Ten days after she stayed at Carey’s apartment, her scores come in: 143.

What does that mean? Carey asks when Serena tells her.

Serena says, It means I’ll be lucky to get into even one safety school.

They are standing by their lockers in the basement of the building with five minutes before their shifts begins, and the high heels Serena is wearing make her knees shake worse than usual. Carey pulls her into a tight hug and Serena feels as though she’s being folded into halves, then quarters, as she tries to steady her breath and keep tears from ruining the gauzy material of Carey’s dress. It’s another failure, further evidence that’s she doesn’t know how to do anything alone, that she probably isn’t qualified to do anything besides go upstairs, look pretty, and sell $200 dresses. She knows Carey probably knows this, too. She doesn’t need to say it out loud.

* * *

Carey misses her Wednesday night shift.

You okay? Serena texts.

I’m okay, Carey texts back. Just staying home for awhile.

Courtney is pissed, Serena says.

Carey sends her a devil emoji.

Carey misses her Thursday night shift, and doesn’t answer the phone when the manager calls on Friday.

Three strikes, you’re fired, and she’s gone.

You still okay? Serena texts.

Never been better, Carey texts back. Come over.

When Serena arrives, Carey answers the door holding the bottle of wine Serena bought for her and says, Welcome to the purge. In her room, all the clothes she doesn’t want are laid out on the bed. Carey tells her to try on and take whatever she wants. Serena asks why.

You think I need all this? Carey asks. I’m not a Century Woman anymore. I won’t wear half of it.

Serena spies the blue tulle skirt lying like a cake-topper on the pile. She tries this skirt on first, slipping out of her jeans and dropping them on the floor, pulling the skirt up over her hips. She stands in front of the full-length mirror in the corner. Over her shoulder, Carey sits at her desk chair, watching her with her chin resting on a folded elbow.

It doesn’t look like me, Serena says.

Yes it does, Carey says. It could be you.

But Carey is two sizes smaller than Serena, and she feels the slip beneath the tulle tugging upwards, insisting it does not fit. Serena takes off the skirt and stands in her underwear and tank top for a few minutes, sifting through the pile of clothes. All of Carey’s things are beautiful, and she tries to see herself wearing some of them, working and walking around town and going on with her life. But she feels weak, and can’t bring herself to try anything else on.

Why are you leaving? Serena asks.

It was taking over my life, Carey says. I just don’t care anymore.

Serena stands, waiting for more. Carey pauses to think, then adds, You were right when you said I needed to take care of myself. That’s what I’m doing. I’m going to focus on finishing school and making art. I’ll be okay if I do that.

It won’t be fun without you, Serena says.

Was it ever really fun? Carey asks, and Serena knows what she means, but can’t laugh. When she won’t reply, Carey goes on and says, It was always just about candles and dresses anyway.

Serena starts thinking about all the dresses that don’t fit that she wish would, and how she is going to have to pull through another weekend without Carey beside her.

Really, she says. Her voice is garbled, like she’s trying to yell underwater. Sometimes it was really fun.

She thinks Carey must know why she’s frozen, why she doesn’t want to try on more of the clothes. Maybe this is why Carey stands up from the chair and walks over to her, and that’s why Serena puts one hand behind her neck and rises up a little on her toes so she can kiss her. Carey keeps her hands below Serena’s jaw, a touch that feels light but purposeful, like catching a soap bubble on a fingertip without breaking. Serena only pulls away to lie down on the pile of clothes on the bed, and the different textures and fabrics on her skin jolt her, as though her senses were suddenly returned to her body. There is wine on Carey’s breath and gardenia down Serena’s throat and no lipstick on their mouths and no reason to doubt this might happen, that it was going to happen the whole time, from the first day they met at Century, but still Serena doubts all the same.

 * * *

Serena takes one dress from Carey: a bright floral patterned sundress she can wear now, at the tail end of summer, but must put away for the start of the new season. At the store the following morning, boxes filled with fall shipment arrive and she helps the shipping manager tear into them, pulling out the tangles of scarves and knit hats and flannel with absurd feminine decals. The occasional stray cigarette butt, tossed from a factory worker, falls out between folds. As she moves through the store, Serena is aware of Carey on her body now. This dress fits her differently. She has seen Carey wear this dress before. Surely, one of her coworkers will recognize it, who it once belonged to, and the thought makes her face turn bright red.

Her coworkers ask her about Carey, because they know, as one says, You girls were always such good friends. They ask Serena, Why did she stop coming to work? What happened? Serena keeps shrugging, avoiding eye contact. She says, Carey wanted to focus on her last semester of school.

Courtney pulls her aside just before the end of her shift. She says one of the managers is transferring to another store branch thirty miles away. They need someone to take her place, and the team agrees that Serena may be a good candidate to be a manager-in-training.

Why me? Serena asks.

You’re hardworking, Courtney says. You take direction well. You are put together every time you show up for work. You set good standards for the rest of the Century Women. And, she pauses, you don’t have another job. Right?

Serena is not sure where to look, but settles on the necklace circling Courtney’s throat. She nods to show she’s still listening. Courtney explains it will be a long training process, that it won’t be an immediate promotion, but that it will be a good goal for her to work towards. A good way to grow with Century.

Serena recognizes the necklace Courtney is wearing from a shipment from two months back. The necklace sold out over one weekend. It was $78 full-price. She can remember the exact dresses she recommended customers pair it with. She takes it as a sign, the fact she can still recall these details, as confirmation that she is where she should be.

Carey has sent her a couple of texts by now, but Serena does not reply. And rather than tell Carey about the job offer, she tells her parents. They say they are happy she has another opportunity, one that comes with a pay raise and full-time work in the future. Perhaps law school can wait another year, her mother says, not unkindly, and Serena nods in agreement.

Over the next few days, Carey sends more texts that are just emojis: palm trees, whales, snails. Then rats, snakes, and chickens. Enough days have passed that if she tries to respond now, Carey will yell at her, and she will deserve it, and she’s scared. She doesn’t know if Century Women can be with other women. She doesn’t know if dating a woman will seem like another wrong turn to her parents, another case of poor foresight that she won’t be able to explain. So instead, she makes an appointment for a haircut, and waits to get her set of manager’s keys.

A few nights later, after closing the store, she finds Carey waiting for her around the corner. What the fuck, Serena? she says as a greeting. The white neon light from the coffee shop sign illuminates her face, and Serena thinks that because Carey looks so angry, she should be wearing a leather jacket, but instead she’s wearing a loose green t-shirt dress and sandals.

Looks like you’re still having fun, Carey says.

Serena says, I’m not. I just needed a job.

Bullshit, Carey says.

I never said I was quitting, Serena says.

That’s not the problem, Carey says. The problem is that I quit, isn’t it? I was convenient to have around. But now I’m not there, and you’re doing fine.

Serena says, That’s not it, that’s not what – I’m just really confused.

Carey pauses, maybe to let both of them catch their breath.

I loved you, at least a little bit, Carey says. And I think you loved me a little bit too.

Serena tries to whisper yes, but then Carey yells, But you were never going to tell me. Were you?

Serena says no, because she knows it’s true, she would have tried to leave Carey behind if she hadn’t appeared tonight, if Carey didn’t still know her schedule, if Carey didn’t already know she would never lie to her face. Carey spits out her name one last time, like she’s cursing the moon, then turns around and walks away.

Serena stands in the neon light of the sign next door, and before the tears disrupt her vision, she can turn around and see through the windows and inside Century, all the mannequins and the meticulously folded stacks of shirts and jeans and candles, and she thinks she never wants to never put on another stitch of clothing, and never wants to smell another scented candle or drop of perfume, and she thinks about taking off her own shoe and throwing it and shattering the glass and listening to the alarm reverberate off the walls of the buildings around her, but she has an opening shift in the morning, and she has to be at work by seven a.m. sharp to wait for a manager to open the Century doors for her, and the whole of today will begin again tomorrow. But this time, Carey will be gone for good.

Maura Lammers earned an MFA in creative nonfiction at Eastern Washington University. Her essays have appeared in The Riveter and the Modern Love column in The New York Times. “Century Women” is her first published short story. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she currently lives in Spokane, where she is writing a novel about a dilapidated small town park, warring grocery stores, and marmots, among other things.


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