Janet was named after her grand mama. Aida was named after the woman in the opera. They had been friends since high school. When she was forty, Janet’s husband left her for a slut named Helen just like Helen ran off with that slut, Paris. Her husband got the clap and murdered Helen. Janet got a divorce and went to work.
Aida lost her husband to cancer when she was sixty. She needed something to occupy her spirit. She could have taken up with the church. But she was not the praying kind. So she bought a clothing store on San Miguel Street and went equal partners with her friend. “Fifty-fifty,” she said when she made the suggestion to Janet.
Their families warned them. Anywhere else but San Miguel Street. San Miguel Street was a part of the worst part of town.
Janet and Aida had faith. They left the door open. If someone wanted to take their money, they would surrender the cash with a smile. They didn’t have much and it wasn’t worth losing their lives over. Besides they liked the people there.
They opened the shop at eight sharp. Not a minute earlier or a minute later. The neighborhood could set their clocks by it. Day in, day out, the two women sat in the doorway, waiting for someone to drop by. And people did.
One morning Senora Alicia came by. “I need a hat for my son’s wedding. Do you have a hat for me?”
“Of course,” Aida said. She went back into the store and over to the hat stand and pulled down a bonnet all decked out with flowers. “I think this one will do.”
Senora Alicia tried it on. She looked in the mirror. She smiled. “Oh, it’s beautiful.”
“And it fits snug,” Aida said.
“Yes, it does.” Then Senora Alicia laughed.
“You’re going to be the hit of the wedding,” Aida assured her customer.
Senora Alicia’s face went serious. “How much is it?” She was afraid she could not afford it.
“No charge. It’s a wedding present.”
“Oh, I have to give you something.”
“You already have. You came to our shop for a hat.”
Senora Alicia handed Janet the hat. Janet took it and sat it on the counter. She went in the back room and brought out a lovely box and gently sat the hat into the box. Then she tied the box up with a pink ribbon and handed the box to Senora Alicia.
“Would you like a cup of tea and a cookie?” Aida offered.
“I would love a cup of tea and a cookie.” Of course, she wanted a cup of tea and a cookie. The cookies were notorious in the neighborhood. Some of the kids thought they were magic cookies because people were always happy after they ate one.
The women sat in the chairs in front of the store. For several hours, they laughed and cried and had a good time. Aida told her stories. Senora Alicia shared her worries about her son. Janet listened. Aida’s stories and the love Senora Alicia had for her son filled her up to the brim with happiness.