Jess led her sister into her bedroom. The walls were lined with overloaded Barnes & Noble folding birch bookcases. Piles of sweaters and Save the Trees leaflets filled a papasan chair. A battered wood table from the street served as desk for an ancient IBM desktop computer. On the wall hung a framed Ansel Adams poster, the black-and- white image of a glistening oak coated and crackling with ice. On her bulletin board, Jess had pinned photos of their father, Richard, and his wife Heidi and their little girls, Lily and Maya.
"Maybe you should dry off before you try on the . . ." Emily was rummaging in her shopping bag as Jess peeled off her socks and her damp sweater. "I have something else in here for you." She produced a thick prospectus.
"Initial Public Offering for Veritech Corporation, Sunnyvale," Jess read off the cover.
"Right. You should read all of that. And also these." Emily handed Jess a wad of papers. "This is our Friends and Family offering. You fill this out and send a check here." She pointed to an address.
"You're eligible to buy one hundred shares at eighteen dollars a share. So you need to mail in a check for eighteen hundred dollars."
Jess grinned in disbelief. "Eighteen hundred dollars?"
"No, no, no, you have to do this," Emily said. "After the IPO, the price will go through the roof. Daddy's buying. Aunt Joan is buying. . . ."
"Maybe they can buy some for me too."
"No, this is important. Stop thinking like a student."
"I am a student."
"Just leave that aside for the moment, okay? Follow the directions. You'll do really, really well."
"How do you know?"
"Have you heard of Priceline?"
Jess shook her head as Emily rattled off the names of companies that had gone public in 1999. The start-ups had opened at sixteen dollars, thirty-eight dollars, and were now selling for hundreds of dollars a share. "Just read the material, and mail the check. . . ."
"But I don't have eighteen hundred dollars," Jess reminded her sister.
"All right, will you lend me eighteen hundred dollars?"
Emily lost patience. "If you'd just temporarily give up your aversion to money . . ."
"I don't have an aversion to money," Jess said. "I don't have any. There's a big difference."
"I don't think you understand what I'm giving you," said Emily. "I get only ten on my Friends and Family list."
"So it's sort of an honor," said Jess.
"It's sort of an opportunity. Please don't lose this stuff. You have ten days to take care of this. Just follow through, okay?"
"If you insist." Emily's bossiness brought out the diva in Jess.
"Promise," Jess said. After which she couldn't help asking, "Do I still have to try on the clothes?"
"Here's the blouse, and the jacket. Here's the skirt." Emily straightened the blanket on Jess's unmade bed and sat on top.
The skirt was short, the jacket snug, and they were woven in a rust and orange tweed. The blouse was caramel silk with a strange lacquered finish, not just caramel but caramelized. Jess gazed for a moment at the three pieces. Then she stripped off the rest of her clothes and plunged in.
"Oh, they're perfect," said Emily. "They fit perfectly. Do you have a mirror?"
"Just in the bathroom."
"Here, brush your hair and tie it back. Or put it up. Go take a look."
Jess padded off to the bathroom and peeked at herself in the mirror, where she saw her own bemused face, more freckled than she remembered. The tweed jacket and the silk blouse reminded her of a game she and Emily had played when they were little. They called themselves Dress- Up Ladies and teetered through the house on high heels. Sometimes Emily would wear a satin evening gown, and pretend she was a bride. Then Jess would be the flower girl, with scarves tied around her waist. That was before their father gave away their mother's clothes.
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