Maiden’s Choosing: Missed Crossing.

By: Jen Shoop

Magpies — This has been an intense week. Like all of you, I have been distraught over news of events in the Middle East. I know that some Magpies are not only watching from afar, but have family and other personal connections in the affected areas. I have been straining to find a meaningful chord, something that goes beyond platitudes, but find I can only say what I say to my dearest friends in the face of trauma and loss: “I am so sorry, and I am here with you.”

I will continue to try to keep Magpie a place of reprieve and positivity as we process the striations of current events.


Another draft chapter from a fictional work of mine. You can read earlier segments of the book here, here, here, here, here.


I saw Violet with her family and I knew she saw me, too. I could tell from her overly-engaged performance with her father that she was conscious I was watching her. She threw her head back in a pantomime of laughter, her slender frame a black arc in its impeccably-cut dress, her energy outsizing the room.

I had just finished discreetly using a breast pump in the lobby restroom of Lele’s family’s country club and was stuffing the bag of pump parts underneath a table covered with a white tablecloth. Not the dignified path-crossing I had wished for.

Though I had been preparing for this moment for years, had imagined it countless times, I was struck by my lack of composure. For a second, I pretended not to see her, my face burning, my movements clipped. I thought reflexively of Buck in the hospital bed, the left half of his face a crater; of leaning against the stall of that O’Hare bathroom, contorted in pain; of the intensity of the c-section that had brought my eventual daughter into the world. I stood, smoothed down my dress. It was as though I needed to conjure that parade of nightmares in order to shore up against the relative mildness of the one in front of me. Alright, then. Violet.

Powell made eyes at me, and then nodded. I walked with carefully-marshaled confidence — or something that looked like it — directly over to Violet.

“Violet!” I said. She lingered for a callous minute in feigned preoccupation with her sister, each second longer and more lead-footed than the last, then turned, her doe-like eyes blinking at me.

“Oh! My gosh! Car-o-line!” She shrieked in a display of happiness, shimmied her shoulders, and wrapped me in a hug. “Now did you taste the tartare? It is so good! And wow — Mother, Caroline is here! Is Powell, too? Oh my gosh, this dress is unbelievable. Let me see.” She was turning me around to admire the back of my Zimmermann gown. I obliged. I let her wash over me.

“Thank you,” I said, my pace deliberately measured against her freneticism. “When did you get into town?”

“Oh yesterday,” she said. “From the south of France, we flew first class but oh God, the layover. The layover, Caroline! Never again — “

“I heard about Filippo,” I said, and I couldn’t be sure whether I meant to rile her or feign politesse. “I was so sorry to hear about the divorce.” I’d rehearsed that before, taking care not to tell her I was sorry for her, and my flintiness cut inward. I had pledged to myself at the age of 23 that I would never care about her feelings again — or at least never admit that I did. Though I had shed many of my immaturities in the intervening seven years, I had clung to this stubbornness: that I would not be made to feel anything for Violet Page except the kind of cool and polite acknowledgement befitting of a lady who had lived a life and was too well-formed to permit the indiscretions of youth to percolate her present-day thinking. And yet. I winced in my own performance, flinching at its edge.

“Oh yes, that’s all fine,” she said, and she blinked in a way that made me realize she intended me to understand the deep and trackless Sargasso Sea between us.

“Powell-y!” She yelled it, and Powell, who had been occupying himself with a martini and a plate of cocktail shrimp, looked up and smiled blankly, and I was grateful for his unflappability. He was the same man here, amidst the brocade and air kisses, as he was tying a dry fly in his faded ALBEMARLE ANGLER t-shirt on the muddy bank of Moorman River. He walked over.

“Violet,” was all he said, as she buzzed around him, talking nonsense both charming and strange, though I saw that the proportions skewed toward the latter, and took a small measure of relief in this imbalance. Powell locked eyes with me at some point in the uneasy string of minutes that followed and said, seemingly oblivious to Violet and her family, “Let’s get you a drink, Caroline.” And just like that, we dropped dead out of the conversation, no qualms or affordances, the drag on the vowels in the way he pronounced my name just as endearing as it had been when I was nineteen. I nodded, making a show of excusing ourselves —

“But so good to see you,” I said, nodding my head, peeling my hands out of hers, as we left their pod. If she was hurt by our self-extrication, she didn’t show it. I never could tell if her staggering nonchalance in moments like these was a result of a low EQ or a high threshold for pain. I had once overheard her father call her mother an unspeakable name, blind drunk one afternoon in his home, having driven his Mercedes Benz right onto the lawn of their house in McLean, VA leaving skid-marks on the sidewalk. This was just after he called me “Betsy” though I had been Violet’s best friend for the better part of a decade. We had braided each other’s hair, and worn friendship bracelets, and whispered everything and nothing into the flashlight-pierced darkness of her Laura Ashley bedroom, and he had driven me to dances, and dinners, and multiple weekend-long trips to the Homestead resort in Virginia — and yet, I was Betsy to him that night, some unrecognizable girl who wallflowered around the house now and then. I had a sense, even in the budding of my adolescence, that perhaps the callousness and self-involvement of her father did not bode well for Violet. But I dismissed that thought, dialing in instead on Violet’s reaction to the exchange–or lack thereof. Violet hadn’t flinched at him calling me Betsy, and she hadn’t flinched at the name-calling, either. She had laughed — actually laughed! — and said directly to her father, “Oh, come on, you old nut,” and then gotten a Coke out of the fridge, and we shared it while sitting on the kitchen island, our white Keds dangling over the edge.

“You OK?” asked Powell. I nodded, but it wasn’t true. It was then I realized that Violet had been my first true and permanent loss, and that I might never get over her. Like the midnight agonies over the miscarriage of my first baby, like the figure that Buck cut against the Canyon, TX plains. Maybe this was life. So deeply textured by loss that it formed a kind of emotional braille I was learning to live by, as the future — with all its “hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows,” in the words my father had said to me on the eve of my wedding day, remained still hidden from my eyes.


+On female friendships and the things that matter.

+Getting over a lost friendship.

+What do you talk about with your girlfriends?

Shopping Break.

+Everlane is offering 25% off sitewide through Sunday. I love their liner jackets, and this is a great time to stock up on basics like this ribbed polo sweater and solid-colored crewneck sweaters.

+For fall occasionwear, these black pumps are perfection, and under $150. I’m forever a pointed to girlie. If you’re looking for an on-trend platform, this pair is reasonably priced.

+My son has spent hours working on these sticker mosaics. They are GREAT for Church, weekend downtime, restaurants, etc. (More Halloween-themed activities for littles here.) My children also had a blast decorating cookies with these sprinkles.

+This fall, I’ve gotten a ton of use out of this Merit complexion stick. I’d kept it in my travel cosmetics bag for awhile and sort of forgotten about it between trips, but it is so handy for rushed weekday mornings, when I’m short on time. It’s not a concealer or a foundation but replaces both in your makeup bag, and I love just dotting it on where I need it, blending, and adding a little blush and mascara to jet out the door. I just finished my full stick and ordered another! Honestly, this trio — the brush, complexion stick, and blush — plus a good mascara are all you need for a quick but lovely morning makeup routine.

+I’d been in the market for a pair of dark wash everyday jeans. I ordered these and these (Brinton wash) to try/compare.

+My girlfriend came to dinner wearing this cashmere knit set, some ballet flats, and a big silk scarf. She looked so fabulous. She later texted and said: “After the success of my fancy sweats, I think I need to get them in more colors. Thanks for the support — this will now be my winter uniform.” The chicest!

+You can get my girlfriend’s vibe for less with Gap’s Cashsoft line, which people have raved about.

+Absolutely swooning over this cocktail dress.

+I love Maileg so much. My MIL and I have purchased my daughter pieces every year since she was born and they are beyond precious. The detail, the whimsicality! These make such beautiful gifts.

+For my Sunday Riley girlies: Dermstore is offering 25% off the entire line through tomorrow with code SUNDAY25. I know many of you love their Autocorrect eye cream and Vitamin C oil.

+Obsessed with this boucle cardigan with the gold buttons! Especially in the walnut color.

+If you’re taking your little one to Taylor in theaters, here’s what my girlie is wearing: these boots, one of these tees!

+A pretty plaid blouse for fall.

+Love these holiday tartan button-downs for little boys. Well-priced and great colors/plaids. Also eyeing these cute chunky cableknit sweaters for my son!

+All-black Sambas! More thoughts on styling/sizing these trendy sneaks here.

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4 thoughts on “Maiden’s Choosing: Missed Crossing.

  1. I love when you share your fiction pieces! Your writing is so descriptive and evocative. If you ever wrote a novel, I would buy it!

  2. what a perfect read with an afternoon cup of coffee. the way you capture the micro-emotions and performative reactions between each character feels so true to IRL encounters – i don’t know how you do it! really hoping these peeks into this longer narrative eventually form a novel… you have many magpies cheering you on!

    1. Thank you SO much for the encouragement. Means more to me than you know! I am hoping to one day publish something — a BHAG of mine.


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