She stood there looking at the blackened pile of rubble that had once been her entire life for eleven out of twelve months every year. She knew that the others were all gone forever, nothing left of them but ashes. If not for a twist of fate, she would have come to the same end. But it had been her month to go out and live amongst the outsiders, and that fact had saved her. With a shudder, Marsha White turned from the ruins of the building she had known so well to face the bustle of a typical city in the United States of 1960.
Studebakers and other large automobiles zoomed past her, belching pollution from their exhaust pipes into the air. People rushed past her, the men in starched white shirts and smartly pressed slacks, the women in full-skirted dresses, their heels tapping lightly on the sidewalk. Marsha was just one more anonymous lonely person in the crowd.
The first order of business would be to find a place to live, she realized. She purchased a newspaper and, after pouring over the classifieds, found an ad from a single woman who was looking for a roommate. Marsha called the number and arranged to meet with the woman, who seemed very nice and eager for someone to share expenses with.
Next, of course, was the job search. Marsha had noticed a small clothing store with a 'help wanted' sign in the window. Returning to the store, Marsha saw that the sign was still there, so she entered and told the woman at the counter that she was interested in the position.
"Come with me," the woman said, leading Marsha toward a door in the back of the store.
Marsha opened her eyes and realized that she was in a tiny, cramped room that had no light at all. Except for several large, heavy objects, she was completely alone in the room. Feeling a stab of panic, she felt around for an opening in the wall and, to her trememdous relief, her searching hand pushed open an unlocked door.
Stepping outside into the sunlight, Marsha immediately noticed that the whole world seemed different somehow - faster, noisier, busier, more colorful. She noticed that the people bustling past her were dressed differently than what she was accustomed to. The men wore jeans and t-shirts, and many of them also wore jewelry and had long hair. Many of the women were dressed very similarly to the way the men were, and of the ones who did wear dresses, many wore skirts that seemed obscenely short. None of the women's faces were heavily made up, and many women wore no make-up at all. The passing cars were smaller than any Marsha had ever seen, and many looked foreign-made.
Heading in the general direction of the crowd, Marsha soon saw a large sign that read 'Wedgewood Mall Grand Opening November 26, 1972.' Consumed with curiosity, Marsha approached the largest building she had ever seen. It seemed to be several large buildings and many smaller ones all joined together. Marsha entered through a front door of one of the larger buildings and found to her surprise that the entire construction was actually a series of smaller stores all contained within one building. Each of the smaller stores seemed to specialize in just one item or group of items. One store sold only shoes, another sold only music albums and cassettes, another sold only books, and still another sold only toys. Bewildered, Marsha wandered from store to store, fascinated by the variety but shocked at the prices.
Marsha spied a professional-looking woman in a business suit. "You're just the person I've been looking for!" the woman exclaimed. Marsha was overwhelmed with relief. Finally, she thought, someone who can help me! Marsha followed the woman to one of the larger clothing stores.
"Put these on," the woman instructed, handing Marsha a pile of clothing and indicating a changing room. Startled, Marsha accepted the clothes and looked at them. They seemed to be identical to what seemed to be currently fashionable. Were they a gift? Had the woman seen how differently dressed she was from everyone else and taken pity on her?
Not knowing anything else to do, Marsha went to the changing room and changed into the new clothes. Marsha gasped at her image in the mirror wearing the much-too-short skirt. She felt ashamed that so much of her upper legs were visible, but after trying several poses in the mirror, she began to think that perhaps her new look wasn't so bad after all. In fact, she began to enjoy how much freer her legs felt, and how much more attractive they now appeared. Marsha was having so much fun that she nearly forgot about the woman in the business suit. Hurrying out of the changing room, she saw that the woman still stood in the same spot, waiting.
The woman carefully examined Marsha from head to toe and then nodded her approval. "Yes," she said. "You'll do very nicely."
Marsha's hopes for a new and different sort of life plummeted when she saw where the woman was leading her. It was right toward an empty pedestal in the middle of the women's clothing department.