"Yes, I missed him. I admit it," I wiped a tear from my cheek. Shelley was blubbering already, raining salty tears on a bunch of us. "But I adjusted the scope on my Glock, so that wouldn't happen again."
A chilling breeze wafted by, frightening the candle, causing it to sputter and hiss hot wax upon the concrete. We pulled our blankets closer around us to shut out the cold.
Some of the new ones were writing furiously. "Glock?" asked one. "Is a Smith & Wesson acceptable?"
"That was a joke," I continued, "Comic relief. Please don't try that at home. Especially if your carpeting isn't Scotchguarded." They scribbled out their notes.
"They're all going away and there's nothing we can do about that. Of course you miss your men, but you'll have them back soon enough. I miss mine, too," I sighed.
"It was as if Fate had brought us together," I replied solemnly, respectful and in proper awe of our surroundings. "A Fate, perhaps, with a bit too much time on her hands."
"Fate, my friends, has an evil sense of humor," I continued. "She had brought us together, yet every Sunday, she kept us apart. Why, I had no idea. But what I did have," I took a sip from the bottle and passed it on, "was a plan. And I'm here, again, to share it with you."
"We must look on the bright side," I exhorted, "We have been given this block of time for a reason. It is a gift, not a curse. And, as is our way, we will make the most of it. Because we are women, and women persevere."
Shelley perked up for a moment. She remembered last year's speech and knew what was coming. "You mean," she whispered, "the Mall?"
A murmur arose from some of the newer members. The reason for their blind exodus of faith, for leaving their safe havens and venturing out onto uncharted suburban cul-de-sacs, was revealing itself to them.
"Yes, ladies, Sundays are once again ours and ours alone. We will not whine about being football widows. Instead, we will act. We will seize the day. We will seize the credit cards. We. Will. SHOP!"
A cheer went up, then quickly died. Too much noise would invite unwanted attention and perhaps wake a child. Kids were notorious for listening in and then blabbing to daddies. We were meeting out on the chilly patio, disguising our meeting as an "Oprah Book Club," hoping to avoid suspicion, and to keep any non-slumbering rugrats from spilling the beans."It is important that we approach this smoothly. No sudden moves, no quirky comments. Just casual business-as-usual. You're not going to the mall, you're going to the store. To them, the word 'mall' is a red-flag." I glared at Shelley, who whimpered. Last year she had blown her entire fall shopping campaign by declaring to her husband, at halftime no less, that she was going to the mall. "Under no circumstances are you to ever use that term. Am I clear?"
"Secondly, it is imperative that you recognize the status of the game. Men equate winning with good fortune and prosperity. If your man's team is losing miserably, it is not a good time to announce that you're heading off to spend money."
"Third, take the time to buy something with his team's logo on it. A bean dip plate, a cooler, a bikini, whatever. Put it away. If you're ever confronted about your shopping time or your credit card balance, pull the thing out and weep that THIS is what you were buying for him, is he happy now for spoiling the surprise?...how could he be so mean, yadda yadda.... the main thing is to have a defense in place ahead of time."
"Remember, you must show enough interest in his team to reflect compassion, yet not too much to arouse suspicion. But be careful - show too much interest, and you'll be sucked into watching the games with him."
A few shuddered and pulled their blankets closer. We had seen that happen to some friends last year. They had wanted to spend more time with their guys so they learned about football. Big mistake. Now they were expected to sit on the couch and listen to why the quarterback should have known the blitz was coming, or why the coach was an idiot for not 'going for it' on fourth down. Our friends had been devoured by a huge gaping hole in the couch, never to shop again. It was still difficult to think about.
The box of wine was nearly empty. The candle sputtered.
"If we do this carefully, they won't bat an eye. Keep the chips and beer flowing, and nothing will be apparent until after the Super Bowl."
"And by mid-February, ladies, they will be disarmed," I held for impact, "by Valentine's Day."
"And I ask you, what is waiting for us that day? A dinner? A big chocolate kiss? A rose? After months of un-Sundays, that's what we get? I tell you here and now, if we want a future, if we want anything, we must buy it ourselves. And we must buy it now."