"Okay, I give up," Ethan Dace announced, as he, Fred, and Shaggy made their third unsuccessful trip through the misses section of the department store. With Mystery, Inc. visiting Cleveland over the weekend to hear Ethan play at a local night spot, the men had taken the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping for their girlfriends at a large mall.
"Ethan, these things take time," Fred asserted, shifting a heavy shopping bag into his other hand. "We’ve only been here an hour. Besides, how hard could it be to find clothes for Velma?"
"I know. Here I thought I was gonna get off easy!"
"I’m with you, man," Shaggy agreed. "Like, I can’t find anything that Mary Jane wears."
"Yeah, she’s not really into winter apparel is she?" put in Fred, thinking of Shaggy’s girlfriend’s impossibly small cut-off tops and shorts. "Well, there you go. She’s moving to Coolsville, right? She’s gonna need some warmer clothes."
Shaggy’s face lit up with a smile at the thought of Mary Jane’s impending move from California. After seeing her only periodically since their adventure at Spooky Island and the month he and Scooby had spent in California following it, he was thrilled that they would finally be able to date without countless states between them. During her last visit, she’d decided that she liked Coolsville and simply announced that she wanted to move there—it was just in her impulsive, hippie-drifter personality to do something just like that. In the meantime, they’d written to each other just about every week, and he’d savored reading her letters-- all in her flowery cursive and adorned with bevies of colorful happy-face and peace-sign stickers.
"She’s going to make it out here for Christmas, right?" Ethan asked, catching Shaggy’s look. He could relate very well to the beatnik’s situation, he and Velma having somewhat of a long-distance relationship as well. They saw each other just about every other weekend or so, but that wasn’t enough when he wanted to be with her every day. It couldn’t be helped, though—not with Velma out on mysteries and he on the brink of recording his debut album.
Shaggy was just giving an affirmative answer, his eyes practically glowing, when a saleswoman approached the group.
"Can I help you gentlemen find anything?" she asked pertly, smiling at the sight of the three handsome—but somewhat helpless-looking—young men. The one in the center, a broad-shouldered blond, seemed much more at ease than his two companions.
"Yes," Freddy answered immediately, always the leader. "We’re shopping for our girlfriends."
"Like, for Christmas," Shaggy put in helpfully. The saleswoman had guessed as much, though it seemed unusual that a group of three guys would be getting their shopping done so early. It was only the second week into December, and she was used to helping out panicked men doing last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve.
"I see... so what can I help you find?" she asked.
"Well, actually I’m okay." Fred continued. As his enormous load of clothing could attest to, he’d had no problem shopping for his girlfriend, Daphne. She loved just about anything he bought her, on top of the fact that she’d provided him with a fairly lengthy and detailed list. The hardest part of his job had been trying to figure out the difference between ‘thistle,’ ‘lavender,’ and ‘light orchid.’ "I think that my friend Ethan here was looking for..." he trailed off, letting Ethan take over.
"Umm, yeah," Ethan began. "I’m trying to find a couple of things but I’m not having much luck. She said she wanted some more knee socks—orange ones—and a red pleated skirt. Oh, she said if I couldn’t find pleated then a straight skirt would be okay."
The saleslady looked momentarily confused. "We have those things," she started slowly, "but you’d have to try the private-school collection. That’s in girls..."
"Girls?" Ethan repeated, looking even more confused than before. "Ah, no I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t work. She’s... well, she’s small but..." No, surely that couldn’t be right, he told himself. Where on earth did Velma get those clothes, anyway?
"Say," the salesgirl said, "you wouldn’t happen to want a turtleneck sweater to go with all that, would you?" She couldn’t resist teasing him a bit. "Kind of that Velma Dinkley look?"
Ethan grinned. "My girlfriend is Velma Dinkley."
The clerk’s mouth dropped open in delighted surprise. "Oh, my-- really?"
"And then... that would make you Ethan Dace!" Ethan was visibly surprised; he’d had no idea he was becoming a "household name!" The woman looked from him to the other two men. "And Fred Jones and Shaggy Rogers! I can’t believe it! I thought it looked like you but I had no idea you were ever up here in Cleveland."
Fred, who loved being recognized, took over. "Yeah, we came up to see Ethan play at one of the clubs."
"Oh, I remember all of you from the gala on television... this is so exciting!" The three men exchanged a smiling look as the saleswoman tried to regain a professional air through her flustered state. "Oh, but I’m sorry, I should be getting you started on your shopping."
"No problem," replied Fred easily.
"Here, I know..." She led her clients over a few racks, then pulled out a red garment. "For Miss Dinkley-- how about something like this?"
Ethan looked over the small, ribbed turtleneck sweater made of stretch material. "That’s nice..." he mused out loud. "She’d look great in that." Velma was starting to branch out into some other clothing avenues, though she still stuck primarily with her favorite turtleneck-and-skirt ensemble. The shirt that the saleswoman was showing him might be just about perfect—still a turtleneck, though a deep red instead of orange, and more form-fitting. Okay, so maybe it might be sort of a present for me, too, Ethan allowed with a tremendous mental grin.
"Do you know her size? This one is a... large," she informed him, checking the tag. Ethan stared at the tiny tube of material.
"That’s a large?" he asked incredulously.
The saleswoman smiled knowingly. "They’re supposed to look small like this. It’s the material. The sweater is very form-fitting."
"Great!" Ethan blurted, bringing a peal of laugher from Shaggy and Fred.
"Yup, I knew it—an Ethan-present!" Fred teased.
"Like, why don’t you just put ‘to Ethan’ on the tag, man," Shaggy added, cracking up.
"Hey," Fred laughed, nudging Shaggy "at least it’s not as obvious as that little present he tried to pick up upstairs."
"Hey, it was orange," Ethan defended himself, feeling his face grow warm, though he was also smiling. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d blushed. "She might have gone for it."
"Maybe... in about five years!" Fred burst out.
"Like, good one man!"
Ethan cleared his throat and tried to focus on the saleswoman’s earlier question, despite the very distracting laugher of his two friends. "Her size... um, I don’t know. A medium? Kinda like..." Trying to be helpful, he drew a feminine shape in the air—albeit a bit exaggerated.
The clerk, highly amused, held back a head-shake. Men really could be so funny sometimes, and this one was downright adorable. "Well, from what I remember from seeing her on television, and from your... gesture there, I would guess either a medium or a large. It’s very hard to tell with this type of sweater, since they run so small."
"I could call Daphne on her cell and ask her," Fred offered helpfully, having finally stopped laughing. "I bet she’d know."
"Yeah, I bet she would," Ethan agreed. "Could you do that?"
"Sure thing," Fred answered, pulling out his cell phone.
Ethan looked over his potential purchase again, approvingly. "There’s just nothing like a girl in a sweater," he smiled.
Meanwhile, in a nearby store...
"There’s just nothing like a guy in a sweater," Velma announced to her best friend Daphne, holding out a dark grey cable-knit sweater at arms length.
"Oooo, Velma, he’d look great in that," Daphne said in agreement. "You should get it."
"Do you think he’d wear it, though?" her ever-practical friend replied. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear one."
"I bet he does. And if not, well, he can try something new. Or make it a... Velma-present." The end of her sentence was punctuated by the sudden ring of her cell phone from her purse, and she began to fish it out.
Deciding positively, Velma draped the sweater over her arm. Ethan would look amazing in it, she was sure, and even thought it seemed silly, she really wanted to buy it for him. For years, when she and Daphne would go out Christmas shopping for the guys and for their families, Velma had wanted so much to have a boyfriend to buy things for—cologne, ties, sweaters... And now she did. Of course she’d already bought him some definite "Ethan items" earlier: heavy metal t-shirts, some CDs, some silver-and-black engraved rings-- things of that nature. He was probably going to be thoroughly spoiled with so many gifts, but she didn’t really care.
"Hello?" Daphne spoke into her phone. "Oh, hi Freddy," she smiled. "Me and Velma are doing some shopping... yes, for Christmas." She giggled. "Maybe for you and maybe not..." There was a bit of a pause, during which Velma went to investigate some other clothing racks. She generally didn’t enjoy shopping, but she was loving every minute of picking things out for Ethan—for her Ethan. "Her size?" Daphne confirmed into the phone. "In what?" Another pause. "Oh, for that I’d say probably a large, just to be on the safe side... uh-huh... yeah, and medium for just about anything else." Daphne watched while Velma pulled out another sweater, a black one this time. "Okay, I’ll see you later. I love you, too! Bye."
Just as Daphne was ending her brief conversation, a dark-haired saleswoman slowly approached Velma.
"Velma Dinkley?" she asked, no real question in her tone. The petite young woman immediately turned to face her, holding the second sweater in her arms. She knew the woman on sight—it was one of the two wardrobe women from Spooky Island—Melissa!
"Hi," Velma spoke in recognition, her tone friendly. Despite the fact that she had been fairly upset with Melissa after overhearing her conversation doubting she and Ethan’s then just-new relationship, those feelings had long since faded. Besides, Melissa had made up for it by doing a remarkably nice job adjusting one of the dresses for the gala just the way Velma wanted it.
"I don’t know if you remember me or not—I did wardrobe for you on Spooky Island. Melissa?"
"Of course," Velma replied. She would have offered her a hand to shake, were her arms not currently occupied by the heavy knit garments. "Have you retired from television work?" she asked, noting from the other woman’s badge that she was employed with the store.
"No, not exactly. I’m in between TV jobs and thought I’d make a little extra money over the holidays. I’ve visiting my parents here in Cleveland."
"I see. Small world, right?"
"And how are you," Melissa asked, feeling a little uncomfortable, which was not typical for the usually blunt, somewhat jaded woman. She’d said some things about Velma that she regretted back on the island, and though she didn’t think the young detective had heard any of them, she’d always wondered if she’d picked up on her feelings nonetheless. "I’ve seen a lot in the papers about you and Mystery, Inc. Still cracking cases, huh?"
"You bet," Velma smiled. "And we’re all fine."
Mel paused, hesitating before she asked her next question. A few months before she would have just blurted it out without a second thought... but, well, she’d gone through a few changes since her time on Spooky Island. Changes that were partly due to the woman standing in front of her...
"And how about you and Ethan? I hope this isn’t too personal, but are you two still together?" Velma held up the black sweater in reply. "Ah. Well, you know, that’s just great." Melissa knew that the other woman could never know just how great that was to hear. After seeing some of the positive changes that Velma made in her life during the time on Spooky Island, Mel herself had finally decided to make some as well. She’d spent years envying the "in crowd" that she was never a part of—at school, at work-- and even more years being bitter over it. She hated that she had to change who she was to even have a chance of garnering their attention, and then was even more disgusted with herself for trying it. Then she’d met Velma Dinkley, a woman who had refused to change for anyone but herself—and who was happy that way. They were actually similar people, she realized— both sarcastic, both a bit cynical-- only she had let bitterness keep her unhappy, while Velma had turned away from that. Inspired by seeing how Velma acted at the gala, she’d made a definite effort to start focusing on the friends that she had instead of the popularity she’d always secretly craved. Also, due to seeing Ethan and Velma’s relationship—one that she before would have found impossible—she’d finally come forward with her feelings for the guy she’d been in love with for years. She’d thought he wouldn’t be interested because she wasn’t the model-gorgeous type woman she was sure a guy like him would want—only to find out that he’d liked her all along.
The crowded department store really wasn’t the time or the place to be discussing such things, however. "That’s really great," she repeated.
"I think we’re making progress," Fred observed as his little gang moved into the center of the store, near the glass counters of the cosmetics department. Under the helpful ministrations of the saleslady, both Shaggy and Ethan had acquired several pieces of gift apparel. For Mary Jane, Shaggy had chosen some bell-bottom jeans, long-sleeved peasant blouses, and two or three belts, and now stood fingering some beaded hair accessories that hung on a circular display.
"You know, I bet I could make something like this for her," he pondered. Shaggy had always been one for homemade presents, and the recipients of his thoughtful gifts were always happy with his original creations.
"Oh, that reminds me..." Fred picked up, moving to a nearby display.
Ethan looked down at his soon-to-be purchases. He’d found a few different sweaters (one of which was orange) but the main garment was a black leather skirt that the saleswoman had assured him would look terrific with the red sweater. It was of real leather, and was both classy and modest. In fact, it was longer than Velma’s usual red miniskirts. He’d been contemplating buying a matching tailored jacket when the group diverted to the cosmetics and bath section.
"Okay, Shaggy I think this is gonna be it!" Freddy said, holding up what looked like... Ethan moved forward and took a closer look at the long strip of orange material. Could it really be...
"A glasses strap?" Ethan questioned the two men, who were starting up laughing again.
"Oh, man, it’s perfect!" Shaggy exclaimed. "It’s got bats on it!"
"I know, is that great or what?" Fred agreed. "Velma and those bats. This must have been left over from Halloween or something."
"Like, just our luck!"
"Am I missing something?" Ethan asked, shaking his head. As far as he knew, Velma didn’t like using glasses straps, which he’d always thought was a little odd, considering how she always seemed to lose her glasses at the most incredibly inopportune moments. She complained that they chafed at her neck, and she couldn’t stand them.
"We get one of these for Velma every year," Fred explained.
"The most wacky one can find," Shaggy piped in.
"It’s kind of a running joke, ‘cause we know she’ll never use them. Just gives us something else to tease her about when she loses her glasses during a case." He and Shaggy looked at each other and then chorused in unison, "A GLASSES STRAP, VELMA!" The two of them cracked up again, Ethan joining them. He himself had witnessed his near-sighted girlfriend do some pretty darned silly things when she was glasses-deprived.
"That’s great, guys," he said.
"We’ll let you in on it," Fred offered, moving over to a group of display shelves. "Oh, I’m gonna need some of this," he added, looking over large packages and baskets of bath-and-body products. "Daphne is crazy about this stuff. In fact..." he pulled out a piece of purple stationary from his pocket and consulted the list that was penned on it in Daphne’s graceful cursive.
As Fred scanned the shelves for the appropriate scent and Shaggy searched for some organic soaps, Ethan looked over the displays in half-interest. He’d bought similar items—along with standard perfume and jewelry—for some of his girlfriends in Christmases past, but Velma didn’t use anything like that so far as he knew. She pretty much just smelled clean— like baby powder, soap, and plain shampoo. The ribbon-bedecked baskets, full of pastel-colored lotions and sprays, just didn’t seem like something she would buy. At that thought, Ethan’s mouth curved. No, she probably wouldn’t buy such things—for herself. But she’d told him that one of the things that had really won her over, early on in their relationship, was how he was always doing things for her that went against her ultra-sensible image—an image that she admitted was partly due to her own actions. While other men had either been too intimidated to approach her or had "romanced" her with science lectures and polite dinner dates, he had flirted gently but openly with her, sent her flowers, played her songs, given her a picnic on the beach... grinning in remembrance, Ethan reached out and picked up a basket of items in ‘orange blossom and vanilla’ scent. She just might like it after all. She certainly liked it when he wore cologne...
"That one has the aftershave, right?" Velma asked as the clerk in men’s cologne reached into the glass display case. Having said goodbye to Melissa after accepting her offer of lunch the next day, she and Daphne had moved onto their next major stop in shopping for the guys.
"Umm hmmm," the clerk replied, drawing out a large package of Cool Water products and setting it in front of the young brunette to look over. "This is pretty much the entire spread," she explained, slipping off the outer sleeve so Velma could see all the contents. "You’ve got your cologne, aftershave, deodorant... everything."
"I’ll take it," she stated immediately, smiling. It might have been a bit of a splurge, but Cool Water was Ethan’s favorite scent.
"Could I look at that?" Daphne asked, pointing up to a shelf behind the clerk.
"Certainly," the woman obliged, turning to pull the desired box down. "This is a hot lather machine... very popular this year."
"Freddy would love this," Daphne said, turning the package around in her hands. "You know, he has to shave like, twice every day. Otherwise he gets all scratchy," she added, wrinkling up her nose a little. Evidently she wasn’t keen on being the recipient of his "scratchy" condition.
"Ethan has one of those—he really likes it," Velma informed her helpfully. In fact, her boyfriend had a literal plethora of shaving items—for such a casual guy, he really was downright finicky when it came to keeping up his carefully-trimmed goatee. That was part of the reason she’d been so surprised one morning, during the trip they’d taken with her parents, when he’d asked her if she’d help him shave. Of course, he didn’t need the help, and she’d known from his playful smile that he was pulling some of his more open flirting—but she liked it. Who could have ever pictured it— the ever-reserved Velma Dinkley—sitting on a guy’s lap and playing along with his flirting... Well, she reasoned, Ethan had certainly brought out some new facets to her personality! Once she’d actually had him lathered up and held the razor in her hand, though, she’d gotten incredibly nervous about cutting him, or worse-- accidentally taking off half his moustache, for instance, or something equally tragic. The look on her face as she started in became so intense with concentration that Ethan had laughed at her. Of course she’d had to get him back—resulting in some of the hot lather "accidentally" smearing on his shirt... Velma shook her head with the memory. They’d made quite the pair, turning up in the hallway at her parents’ knock, sheepish but giggling, covered with shaving cream. Her hair had been full of it, while Ethan had her soapy handprint emblazoned on the front of his shirt.
Daphne eyed Velma suspiciously, wondering what was behind the private little smile that was making its way across her friend’s face. "I’d like this, please," she told the clerk.
"Well, I think that about does it for me," Ethan said, passing by the jewelry and watch counter. Velma wasn’t much into jewelry, nor did she wear a watch with any kind of frequency. She was the only girl he’d ever met who could tell time by the position of the sun—something she’d probably picked up with all of her astrophysics study.
"Like, me too," Shaggy agreed. "I’m gonna make some bracelets and stuff for Mary Jane. She likes hemp jewelry."
"Cool," Ethan replied. "Hey, what about you, Fred? Something tells me that Daph would dig some of this stuff."
"Umm, yeah," Fred spoke up, his voice suddenly growing quiet. Uncharacteristically quiet... "About that... uh, I wanted to ask you guys if you’d maybe help me out with something." Freddy awkwardly ran a hand through his already perfectly-styled hair.
"Yeah?" Ethan prompted.
"Well, while I was here in Cleveland I thought... since there’s a better selection and everything... that I might look for—a ring." Ethan and Shaggy exchanged a look as Freddy plowed ahead. "I wanna ask Daph to marry me."On to Part 2 !
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