Tonight was the last time they would see each other, though no one knew this. So, they existed as they always have. Anxiously taking glances at their telephone screens, waiting for the time to advance. Having quick conversations with individuals within their general area, not because they actually had something to discuss, but because they needed to quench their boredom somehow. So, their mouths moved, pouring with gossip and some of their deepest darkest secrets. Their hands moved also, tirelessly in fact, folding one cotton polo after the other. While their methods of dodging managers, customers, and focusing more on their conversations was a bit unorthodox for the workplace, today was different. Once the clock passed 7 nothing was the same.
The mall was empty. It would have felt untruthful to say that this once was a place that bustled. A place that never slept, and one would softly murmur prayers to their Savior hoping that it did. It was a bit odd for them to no longer hear footsteps and an endless echo of chatter, or to no longer hear languages that made their eyebrows raise. They were relieved that they no longer had to handle customers as if they were mothering children, finding themselves bent over plucking at a mountain of clothes, and forced to fold them back with a plastered smile. Grateful that they no longer had to stare into the eyes of overly-excited tourists that did everything with such intensity. For example, their words were straightforward, enunciated, and mixed with a bit of spit that you would have to inconspicuously wipe off your cheek, trying not to make them feel bad. Their flip flops would scream for help as they pounded the floors with every swift step. That was possibly the reason why they would breathe so hard because they acted as if they had 10 places to be and only made it to 5.
Besides the appreciated absence of tourists, there was another absence of presence that warmed the hearts of all within the store, the managers. With the lack of customers and already perfectly folded merchandise, there wasn’t anything for the managers to reprimand the teens for. So, no longer did the teens have to awkwardly make conversation after trying to avoid them, or want to die with each second that passed. This being because the managers were not making their rounds of walking down the store, attempting to find something wrong in what you were doing. Tonight, they just stayed in the office with the door closed and locked. Thank god, the mall was empty and dead.
So, with no critical task to complete and three hours left on the clock, the teens played. Roaming here and there with no purpose. Unraveling their work to do it over. Counting the numbers of circular lights on the ceiling. Crouching in the corner, no longer attempting to hide the fact that they were texting, rather trying to give their aching soles a break as they did. Making their way to take a “water break”, and when enough of them had this idea, they found themselves up against the walls of a spotless fitting room, talking. Not the kind of talk mentioned before, that only occurred to fill a void. No, this was genuine. A conversation that produced hearty laughs, not chuckles. Intense looks of annoyance, not plastered smiles. A shift from light and polite language to raw and vulgar. It was as if they could let their hair down, their guard down, in a place that was so snobby it once did not allow it. So again, today was different.
Thus, with a newfound sense of excitement from the ability to leave for the night, and earlier than what they expected, they all had ideas of what to do next, something careless, maybe even reckless. They hurried to the employee lockers, struggling to put in their codes because they were doing it too fast, like one more second in that store would kill them. Once they did complete the task of opening their lockers, they grabbed at their belongings and ran off, not even looking back. As they scurried to the front of the store it felt like forever, like cotton polos, denim, and windbreakers would be in their view for years. Every step was quicker than the one before and resulted in a rush of serotonin to the brain. They huddled at the front of the store until a manager appeared to release them, and they poured out.
The rest of the mall was empty and dead, but a different type of empty and dead than before. Before it felt deserted, lonely, but there was a small chance that a mob of people would appear and everyone prayed against it. Now, it was after hours. No one within view. Stores dim and lifeless. The faint smell of greasy junk foods gone. No other teens or adults rushing out of nearby stores to brightly lit exit signs, possibly going to their cars to get the hell out. It was just them.
Chantal and Alex were immersed in a conversation, eyes locked on one another’s and slightly nodding at whatever the other said, seemingly captivated. Jada and Ashley were immersed in a conversation also. A little more passionate than that of Chantal and Alex. This being because they scoffed, clapped their hands, glared into each other’s eyes, and their volume was high. One did not have to strain themselves to hear their conversation, to find out that it was revealed to Ashley that her boyfriend had been having sex with an old friend of hers. That she was ready to key his car and in her words,” fight that bitch”. The guys, Sean, Steve, and Vin were being dumb, as per usual. Sean and Steve were beating Vin up, playfully of course. Kicking at him, slapping him, not too hard to hurt him but enough to produce a sound. They shouted profanities at him and really felt like they were on high horses until Vin kicked at their legs and had them tumbling down on top of him. Rolling here and there as they tried to hit at each other, but it looked more like they were all in a big hug.
The others didn’t even blink at the display, rather stepped over them on their way out. It was at that moment that their adventures began, and when the guys decided to get up off the floor and leave, theirs would too.
Into the night they went.
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