Fiction Romance Coming of Age

January 12, 2012

My name is Emery Putnam and I am 25 years old. I live alone at 222 Carriage Way, Apartment 2B, and I work at Keefer’s pharmacy downtown. To clarify, I am a cashier, not a pharmacist, but it is still a fine job and I am comfortable enough. 

As you can see, this diary was meant for a young girl, not a young woman, but I haven’t had use for it until now. It was a Christmas gift from my father, and I received it when I was just 8 years old, hence the tiger stripes and rainbow clasp. I received the diary from Santa, or so I believed back then, because I’d asked him for it in person and in letter form. Earlier that year, my father read me “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and I loved the way Anne spoke to her diary as a friend — she even named her diary. “Kitty” was her most trusted confidante, and I wanted such a friend for myself. 

Yet when I finally obtained a diary of my own, the very diary in which I am writing now all these years later, I realized just how little I had to offer in the way of interesting thoughts and stories. A few of the front pages are ripped out, but if they were still in place I suspect they would contain such musings as “Today I ate egg salad for lunch” and “Why won’t anyone share a seat with me on the bus home from school?” These are trifling things, but then I suppose what I will offer to you now, Belinda (that is what I’ve decided to call you), is only the grown-up version of such childish worries. 

Dearest Belinda, today is the day I start living a life worth remembering.

Until tomorrow,


January 14, 2012

Dearest Belinda,

I’m terribly sorry I neglected to write yesterday. After a strong start on the 12th, I woke up on January 13 and thought to myself, “what’s the point?” I picked up my pen three or four times, but couldn’t think of anything worth writing down. I doubt that I will want to look back and remember the particularly dreadful smattering of customers who visited the pharmacy today, or the fact that it snowed 2 inches overnight — an insignificant event even in the world of weather, if you live in the Midwest, anyway.

But today I awoke with a fresh idea, a project worth commemorating in print. And here it is:

By this time next month, I will have a boyfriend. 



January 15, 2012

Dearest Belinda,

I decided on my goal for a very simple reason – I’d like to get married and have children. I’m still reasonably young, but not so young that I can afford to remain unserious. But a goal is nothing more than a line on a scrap of paper unless you have a plan to go along with it. How will you achieve your goal? What steps are necessary along the way to do what you’ve set out to do?

And so I would like to devote this entry to coming up with a list of to-dos that will guarantee that I achieve my goal. My first obstacle is perhaps my simplest: Addressing my looks. Fortunately, I am a slim person, the kind of person who can wear just about anything, or so my mother always grudged me, because most things look good on a skinny person, even if they’re two sizes too big. A too-large sweater becomes a chic mumu, for example. But thinness can only cover over a certain number of style sins, and at some point, if your clothing is too drab or too shabby, you end up looking more like a street urchin and less like a fit young woman. I’m more the former than the latter, at this point.

What I need to address is clear.

First: Invest in some smart clothes. I did not say “stylish” or “sexy.” I read once that “You attract the kind of man you dress for,” and I don’t want a banker or a brute, I want a sensible man who likes to read and cook and engage in intelligent conversation. I suppose I could also have said “staple pieces” or “classic” clothes, phrases that imply a one-time investment in items that will stand the test of time, because buying nice things is not something I can do regularly on a cashier’s salary. Though, as I said before, I am comfortable enough.  

Second, my hair. On the plus side, it’s healthy. I’ve never dyed it and I never style it, so I do not suffer from breakage and damage like so many of the women who come into the pharmacy in search of hair products promising to heal split ends and protect against hot styling tools like straighteners and curling irons. But if I’m honest, I can appreciate that perhaps a little bit of styling would do me some good, as well as a fresh haircut. My hair is long — Amish long, so long that it grazes the top of my buttocks, and it hangs lank and straight. The more I look at it, the more I realize it is the homeliest hairstyle a girl could have. Second on my list: Book a hair appointment. 

That’s a start. Perhaps while I’m at the salon I’ll have my eyebrows done, too. After all, “the eyebrows frame the entire face,” or so I’ve read in the women’s magazines next to the cash register. 

Until tomorrow,


January 18, 2012

Dearest Belinda,

What a whirlwind! The past few days have entailed the most personal grooming I’ve endured since the summer I got head lice. Here’s the summary: I am looking quite lovely. When I walked into the salon next to the pharmacy, the proprietor, a Mr. Tomas Ortega, gasped and ushered me to his open chair.

“Virgin hair!” he screamed, much to my embarrassment. Apparently, stylists take special pleasure in being the first to alter untouched hair such as mine, and though I had stepped in expecting to book an appointment in a few days’ time, he got to work immediately.

“No charge,” he said enthusiastically. “You’re that girl from the pharmacy, yes? Tell your customers Tomas did this.”

And I let him loose, watching in the mirror as his face changed with his mood, ranging from thoughtful (chin in left hand, eyebrows furrowed) to ecstatic (eyebrows raised, left hand across heart). 

Color? Yes. Cut? Yes. Style? Yes. 

“You will look so beautiful,” he cooed as he combed out my long hair, clipping it up so he could begin cutting. 

By the time I was done, Tomas had cut 8 inches off my length, added “face framing layers” and lightened my locks. My hair, previously a dull brown and extremely long, now falls just below my shoulders and shines with health thanks to subtle golden highlights. I had to admit, he was right that the cut and color suited my face shape and the warm complexion of my skin, two things my old style used to hide as the unruly tresses fell across my face no matter how many times I tucked it behind my ears.

When I left Tomas’ salon, my arms were weighed down by two heavy bags of styling products and some of the old styling tools Tomas had given me from the back room of the salon. If anyone asks, I will certainly tell them who is responsible for my new look. I’m feeling quite confident today, Belinda. 

Still no new clothes, I’ll tackle that tomorrow. 



20 January 2012

Dearest Belinda,

Another busy day! I visited several boutiques in town, and again the proprietors were most generous, though I know now why that has been the case so far. “You’re the girl from the pharmacy!” That’s what both of the women at the boutiques said when they saw me, the same thing Tomas said when I walked into the salon, and now I see that I am to become a living billboard of sorts. No matter, I am happy to accept gifts in exchange for a few positive reviews. I walked away from “Lila’s Closet” and “The Collective” with two new pairs of jeans, a pair of brown leather boots, three new blouses, a fitted blue blazer, a red cocktail dress, and a faux black leather jacket that looks quite nice with the pants and the dress alike. Very smart. 

Today’s entry will have to be short because I’m struggling to keep my eyes open even as I write. I squeezed in all of my shopping after work, and it turns out that it takes a long time to try on clothes. I do think my efforts are starting to pay off, though – a nice looking man did a double take when I walked past him on my way home.

Until the next time.


January 21, 2012

Dearest Belinda,

I feel now that I am fully used to my new appearance, after nearly an entire week in my new “skin,” so to speak. The new clothes haven’t been used much beyond the new jeans, as I wear a pharmacy-issued top and smock to work each day. Still, I’m on the lookout for an occasion to wear the blouses, the dress, and the boots. 

With that in mind, it’s time to get serious about my goal. The next step has got to be meeting a man somehow. This is the hard part. If you need new clothes, you step into a boutique. If you need new hair, you go to the salon. But there’s no equivalent for a romantic partner, and so now I have to wrack my brains for the right kinds of places to meet someone.

Places to try:

  • The library
  • The coffee shop 
  • Join a gym?
  • Church

I’ve never seen a man younger than 50 at mass unless he’s been dragged there by his parents for Christmas or Easter (my mother always called these people who show up twice a year “Chreasters”), so I’m going to scratch that off the list. I am not much of an athlete and wouldn’t know what to do with a dumbbell, so the gym will be a last resort. The coffee shop near work is lovely, but pricey. I think I can afford to go once or twice a week, perhaps I can stop by on one of my days off and make a coffee and a scone last an hour or two. I think the key with the coffee shop is to become a “regular,” so you have a chance of bumping into the same people more than once. The library is easy … and blessedly cost-free. But it’s quiet, too, and I suspect much of the traffic comes from people popping in to return books, meaning a quick in-and-out at the front desk. 

I’ll try the library tomorrow and the coffee shop on Tuesday. 



February 1, 2012

Dearest Belinda,

Something is weighing on my mind, and it feels dishonest not to share it with you. I don’t deserve a boyfriend. Nobody will love me, nobody can love me. I had a boyfriend once, five years ago. His name was Daniel, and I thought he was the handsomest boy I’d ever seen. In retrospect, I can recognize he was a fairly common looking person, but to me, back then, everything about him was new. He was from a town two hours north, and he wore his shirts tight around his chest and arms so you could see every sinewy muscle, which I liked, to my surprise. Normally I’d think something like that was just showing off, but I suppose my baser instincts guided my thinking at the time. They certainly guided my actions throughout the course of our relationship.

Daniel and I studied history together, and ended up in two courses back to back. From time to time, I’d catch his eye or he’d catch mine, but I never did anything about it and neither did he, not at first. In the second semester of my sophomore year, we studied Modern French History together, and by the time we’d gotten to the Vichy Regime, he spoke to me for the first time.

”The French really are cowards,” he said, leaning toward me and almost toppling out of his chair. 

“When you consider how many men they lost in the Great War, some of this is understandable, I suppose,” I said. 

And really, I still think I was right, but of course Daniel would think that the French could’ve resisted the Third Reich in their prime. At first, the comment made me roll my eyes, but inside I remember thinking, perhaps this boy is right, perhaps he’s brave and tough, unlike the French. We talked more and more, and I let him borrow my notes and eventually he started copying from my assignments, too, which made me uncomfortable, but he told me not to worry, that he’d change the wording enough so the professor would never notice. On that score, at least, he was true to his word.

I won’t go on much longer. Daniel was a person who knew how to get what he wanted out of people, and I was no different, except that he didn’t just take something, he also gave me something, too. At the end of the semester, I found myself at the campus clinic, because I hadn’t gotten my period in over two months and I wondered if I might be anemic — I’d heard sometimes thin girls like myself had iron deficiencies that could lead to menstrual issues, and I’d hoped to get some ferrous sulfate tablets. As you might imagine, I was not anemic – I was pregnant. I won’t bore you with the details, but this was not something Daniel cared to entertain. Not that it had mattered, in the end, because at 10 weeks I learned that my baby no longer had a heartbeat. There’s more after that, all of it bad, but again, it was five years ago, and I like to think I’m better now. I suppose the good news is I did not become a single mother, but I’m not really sure nowadays if that would’ve been such a bad thing, though it seemed like the end of the world back then. Still, I couldn’t go back to sitting in courses with Daniel again, so I came home without a degree, then moved into my little apartment downtown, and now I work at the pharmacy. I’m not sure what I would’ve done with a bachelor’s in history, anyway. 


P.S. I would’ve named the baby Stephen, after my father, who was named after the apostle. People forget Stephen, the first Christian martyr. But not me.

February 8, 2012


I’m sorry I’ve neglected you. It was easier to ignore the thoughts and memories jostling around in my head. I don’t like to bring up Stephen, and I most certainly consider Daniel a waste of good ink. I suppose my real problem is with myself, and the fear that I am not a very good judge of character. How is a person who can’t sift the good eggs from the bad eggs supposed to find a suitable husband? How does anyone do it? I wish I’d been born 200 years earlier and could just settle for an arranged marriage. I’m sure that’s an unpopular opinion, but the reality is it’s nice not to have to think about these things sometimes. What’s wrong with having the matter sorted for you? 

Anyway, today I actually have something worth reporting: I have a date! It’s coming up in two days, and I am so excited but I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much.



February 11, 2012


I had spaghetti with a man. In retrospect, spaghetti was a horrible order, especially since I’d worn my new dress, but thankfully marinara sauce is nearly the same shade as my red dress, so if I sloshed any sauce on myself, nobody would’ve noticed. Next time, I’ll order soup and salad. And the wonderful news is, there will be a next time, and soon – tomorrow. My date asked for another dinner, and I was happy to accept the invitation. I think I’ll wear my new jeans and my blue blouse. We’re having Thai. What does one order at a Thai restaurant? I’ll have to do some research. 

By the way, his name is Parker.


February 14, 2012

Dearest Belinda,

Today is my deadline. Have I succeeded? I’m not sure. Parker is a nice man, a few years older than me, and works as an engineer for the city, a perfectly good, stable job. He has glasses and thick black hair. He is a serious person, but seems kind, and I like his soft, sweet smile, which is good, because I don’t like the name Parker. He says it’s a family name, so I suppose that makes it alright. Also, he’s tall – 6 feet 4 inches, another point in his favor. It’s always surprising when a tall man is shy and kind, but Parker is both. 

I feel myself becoming reticent about you, Belinda, hesitant to record anything for fear that I’ll have to tear out the pages and throw them in the fire eventually. I don’t care to record my first drafts when it comes to dating, but if Parker is the man I marry, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to look back at our story later on? Probably, but I think I’m going to opt out of this diary in the superstitious belief that things will work out better if I keep things to myself. Wish me luck, Belinda.

Love always,


January 20, 2024 02:06

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