Lucie Yi Is Not a Romantic - Lauren Ho

Chapter 1

That Saturday, Lucie Yi headed to the pastel world of So Bébé, fully intending to purchase just a pair of lightweight summer booties and maybe a matching bobble hat for each of her best friend Weina Ling’s newly minted triplets. She was not extravagant.

Fall had arrived, bringing bone-stinging rain. Although it was still early, in this cobblestoned stretch of Tribeca the doors were already open, the shops warm with money. Lucie, wearing worn running sneakers, her hair in her usual low ponytail, swept past the cafés touting seasonal lattes and hot buttery things. She had a mission—So Bébé, which didn’t do anything as tacky as sales, ever, was having a special Fall-in-Love Fair. Fifteen percent off everything, no fine print. Hence the excitable queue even before the store had opened, and by the time Lucie hurried inside, So Bébé heaved with bargain hunters in designer dresses scything through packed aisles, elbows out like knives. The air stank of credit cards and cold ambition.

Lucie hugged the sides of her puffer jacket close. Truth be told, she had considered buying everything online, but the pull of a leisurely walk with a spiced latte after shopping proved too difficult to resist. So here she was in this foreign land, and here was the saleswoman, Erin, a ponytailed strawberry blonde, who had somehow steered her from a rack of baby wear to a display of high-tech fabric body cocoons that would “totally displace traditional swaddling blankets one day” and “would you believe how soft the de-stressed organic cotton fibers feel,” having never seen the inside of an office?

Lucie shook her head to clear her thoughts and regarded the MamaOneWrap, basically a Velcro-fastened straitjacket for babies. Had the saleswoman really said “de-stressed” or “distressed”? And where could you get an adult size? She could use a swaddle. Her last stretch of unbroken sleep was two nights ago. “I’m just here for booties,” she mumbled.

Erin leaned close, conspiratorial advice forthcoming. “But if you sign up as a So Bébé member today, everything is twenty percent off,” she said. “That means the MamaOneWrap, which never goes on sale, would be a steal.”

Lucie didn’t have the heart to tell Erin that she could probably buy something similar on Taobao at a quarter of the price. “But what does it do?”

“What does it do!” Erin exclaimed. “What doesn’t it do? Hold on.” Erin groped the arms of the cocoon, and alarmingly, the wrap started to vibrate, and a melancholic tune that Lucie would never have picked for a lullaby played. Erin smiled. “That’s Tchaikovsky.”

Lucie’s brow started to sweat. It didn’t happen often, but sometimes she got triggered by piano music and words that sounded like “Kumon.” “That’s . . . nice.”

“It’s revolutionary. Babies can’t resist dreamland. And—voilà!” Erin, sensing weakness, was now detailing the removable padding, the windproof, Oeko-Tex-certified stain-resistant outer fabric with sparkly eyed enthusiasm. Lucie rubbed her temples. She had a call in—she checked her watch—ninety-five minutes. “The contraption looks really uncomfortable. Too restrictive.”

Consternation at Lucie’s use of the word “contraption,” a hard, unlovely word for such a cuddly store. Erin blinked, recovered. “Oh, babies love it. It’s like being back inside the womb,” Erin said, with the privilege of one who had been loved without conditions.

Lucie—claustrophobic and seasonably matricidal—shuddered. They’d just escaped, after all.

Erin would not be dissuaded. “The MamaOneWrap is like a mother’s embrace, only better, because it will always be there, no matter what.”

Lucie peered at the price tag and was glad for her poker face. The RoboCop swaddle was close to $120 a pop. Didn’t cloth swaddles cost a tenth of that? But this one simulated a mother’s hug! And—Erin’s sales pitch was subtext heavy—if it would prevent the kids from needing therapy in the future . . . She sighed. Now that she’d seen the MamaOneWrap, heard the spiel, the booties and hats seemed so basic—even the oatmeal cashmere pixie hats by the window, which were from a “proudly child-labor-free co-op.” (As opposed to what?) “I’ll take six,” she said.

“Six!” Erin said, joyous. Her smile could have warmed the sun. “Oh, then you’ll have to get them in different colors. They have such a pretty selection. There’re even limited-edition prints! I’ll bring the swatches so you can see it on a doll.” She took out a large, startled doll with a headful of wheatish hair and blue eyes. “This is Ri, one of our gender-neutral, life-sized dolls approximating a three-month-old.” Gender-neutral, sure, but still very white. “We also have Avi, which is