A trail of clothes led from the front door, down a long hallway, and ended with a small pile of socks and underwear at a bedroom at the back of the house.
“Andrea?” Belinda made her way slowly toward her daughter’s room, picking up articles of clothing as she went. “Are you okay?’
The teenager had changed into a pair of well-worn, blue sweatpants and a shapeless, long-sleeved tee, and was lying prone on her bed.
Andrea’s response was muffled by her pillow.
Belinda sat on the bed beside her, gently rubbing Andrea’s back.
“Sweetie, you want to talk about it?”
The girl flipped over, huffing with genuine exasperation.
“I almost got fired today,” she wailed, then pulled her pillow over her head and covered her face.
“Mr. Shanders called me into his office this afternoon,” Andrea rolled over onto her side, her back toward her mother. “He told me… (hiccup)… he told me…”
“It’s okay, take your time,” Belinda spoke softly. “Did he get surly with you?”
“He told me I can’t wear shorts to work anymore, and that I have to start wearing khakis pants,” Andrea blurted out the reproach in one breath, only to bury her face in her pillow again.
Belinda kept patting her daughter’s back but was grateful Andrea couldn’t see her and the smile she was trying to stifle.
“Was he inappropriate in how he explain the dress code?” Belinda tried to sound soothing.
“If you think it’s ‘appropriate’ to say my ‘attire’ was not ‘in keeping with the image the company wants to project’.”
Belinda bit her tongue.
“My friends come into the store,” Andrea moaned into her pillow. “They’ll see me in… khakis.”
That last word she said with as much contempt as a teenaged girl could convey.
“Now, sweetie,” Belinda began. “Khakis aren’t so bad.”
“Dad wears khakis!” Andrea sat up so fast she startled her mom, then flopped back onto her bed.
“I’ll tell you what,” Belinda said. “We’ll go to the mall. I bet we can find a pair of pants that are a suitable color, and that you’ll be willing to wear.”
Andrea perked up at the mention of the mall. Still pouting, she swung her legs around to put her feet on the floor.
“I can’t make any promises,” Andrea said, getting up to change her clothes. “Khaki is just not my color.”
“Other than the insult to your sartorial sensibilities, did Mr. Shanders say anything else?” Belinda followed her out of the room.
“Oh, yeah,” Andrea called over her shoulder, “he said I was doing a good job and he was just following corporate rules.”
Belinda stopped abruptly behind Andrea and bit a knuckle to keep herself from saying anything.
Andrea changed directions suddenly.
“Can I call Tiffani to come with us?”
“Uhm… sure,” Belinda shook her head while still agreeing to her daughter’s request with a shrug. “Tell her we can pick her up in about 15 minutes.”
“Maybe I can find a cute little belt too,” Andrea said as she left the house. “Even a pair of shoes.”
Belinda grabbed her keys and purse from the hall table and followed her daughter out, wondering if she would ever understand how teenagers go from zero to sixty in 10.2 seconds.