* It’s my duty to put out a warning that the following story does not once mention cats or sharks or ass-hats or made up words of any kind. This story is pretty sad and somewhat depressing. Maybe it’s the constant rainy weather that compelled me to write something so blue? Anyhoo, this is a short story that I just whipped up this afternoon. It’s totally fictional, but I based it on this lady that I always see at the mall where I work. She is so intriguing to me. She is literally at the mall EVERY DAY! Why is she there? Doesn’t she have other things to do? She looks so crushingly lonely to me, it’s almost palpable. Now I shall stop my italic ramble and let you read this sad, pathetic piece of fiction. Enjoy?*
A mall is an odd place to find solace.
The air is recirculated.
There is no natural light.
The bathrooms often smell.
Crystal doesn’t notice any of the mall’s unpleasantries. To her, the mall is a place of freedom, a place of comfort and a place where she belongs.
The mall opens every morning at nine-thirty. This gives Crystal just enough time to put her children on the school bus and herself on the city bus. It’s a forty-five minute bus ride to the mall, but Crystal doesn’t mind. She’s gotten friendly with some of the other commuters. She considers them friends.
The first thing she does when she arrives at the mall is head upstairs to the food court. Once there, she goes straight to Tim Horton’s and orders herself an orange juice and a chocolate dipped donut. Denise works the weekday morning shifts. She always saves a copy of the morning newspaper especially for Crystal.
Following her breakfast and hour long perusing of the paper, Crystal is ready to begin her day. Reusable shopping bag in hand, she makes a mental list of all the stores she needs to visit.
She spends her morning roaming the halls and purchasing things she doesn’t need. They include;
-New pillow cases for the kids, on sale.
-Gum, lollipops, stickers, markers, Pepsi, nail polish and a chocolate bar at the Dollar Store.
-An Ottawa Senators t-shirt for her husband, who wears something from his favourite hockey team every day. This was also on sale.
-New sundresses for her girls, on sale.
-Two pairs of sunglasses from the new kiosk. Only ten dollars each!
Delighted with her haul, she breaks for lunch. An extra-large Booster Juice and her chocolate bar hit the spot. Just as she takes her final sip of smoothie, her cell phone rings. It’s her husband. He’s just woken up at one fifteen in the afternoon.
“Where are you?”, he asks rudely. He never says “hello”.
“At the mall”, she says knowing what’s about to happen.
“Of course you are. How much?”, he demands.
“Just twenty. I needed some stuff for the girls”, she says knowing that’s she’s spent at least three times that amount.
“Jesus Crystal. We needed that money for supper”, he says in an infuriated tone.
“There’s some bacon in the freezer and we have some eggs left. We’ll have that”.
“I wanted steak. You said it was on sale this week. I don’t want no eggs for supper”, he yells into the phone.
“Fine. I’ll go get you a steak. You need anything else”?
“I need batteries for my X-Box controller and a pack of smokes. And some more Pepsi. And don’t go buying nothing else for them kids”, he shouts as he hangs up the phone.
Crystal reaches into her pocket and pulls out her last crumpled twenty dollar bill. She was hoping to go and buy some shorts after lunch, but if she doesn’t come home with steak she’ll be in serious trouble.
She realizes that she won’t have any money until the following week and begins to panic. It’s almost the first of the month and she has rent to pay and groceries to buy and the collections agencies keep calling. If only her government cheque was bigger.
In the midst of her panic, she remembers that her child tax payment will be in at the end of the week. She lets out a huge sigh in relief and decides to go try on some shorts after all.
She puts three pairs on hold until Friday. And two tops. And a skirt. They’re all on sale. She’d be out of her mind not to buy them.
As she leaves the store, she remembers that she has some clothes at home that she bought last week. She’s been hiding them under her bed so her husband won’t yell at her for over spending. If she returns them tomorrow, then she’ll have more than enough money to fund her mall visits for the rest of the week. She’ll just have to go when the manager isn’t working. She’s such a bitch. Accuses her of wearing then returning the items she bought. Crystal’s only done that a couple of times. What’s the big deal?
Crystal looks at her watch and realizes that she has just over two hours until she has to pick up her kids at the bus stop. Luckily the grocery store is right beside the mall. She’ll have plenty of time to get the steak and the other items for her husband.
Crystal always feels a little sad when her day at the mall is done. She doesn’t like having to go home to her irate husband and ill behaved kids. She knows she should want to spend time with them, but she doesn’t.
She’d much rather spend her time at the mall.
Even with the crowds and the noise and the pushy salespeople, at least at the mall she blends in with everyone else.
She’s not labelled as that poor mom with all the kids and the deadbeat husband.
She’s not frowned upon for getting government cheques.
She doesn’t have teachers lecturing her about her kids failing grades and ambivalent attitudes.
At the mall, she is anonymous.
At the mall, no one knows what her life is like at home.
At the mall, she is a paying customer, with errands to run.
At the mall she blends in…
Just like everyone else.