"If you're going to continue to be in my way then maybe," Zander declared.
Tara slapped him on the shoulder and continued walking around the racks. They were all circular racks in rows of three aligned in patterns. Some racks were separated by color, some by sales, and some by trends. The Rue in Texas looked just like this one. There were more clothes hanging the height of the short gray walls that were reminiscent of a warehouse. Despite the fact I that I felt gooey and reeked of caramel, I felt at home.
"I really am sorry about that," Zander whispered form behind me. Felicia, Shawna and Tara were off in a different section talking to boys that looked like Zander's friends. "I swear I'm really not that big of a jerk."
"Could've fooled me," I muttered, running my hand over the section of yellow shirts. Yellow paled me out.
"Are you always this rude?" He asked; I had frayed some nerves.
"Well that's p-g. And no, not usually, I just don't like being repeatedly shoved in one day." My voice shocked me with how calm I sounded. I couldn't hide anger very well, but frustration masking came easy to me.
"So you're used to people calling you worse things? Do you not know how to accept an apology?"
I rolled my eyes, "I grew up in the bluntest state in the union. Apology accepted, consider your self forgiven for all three incidents."
"All three were not my fault, if you do recall." Zander was starting to get agitated.
The clothes started to run together. My annoyance level skyrocketed. I don't know why it felt important to win this argument. I didn't care either way. I smelled of caramel and my fingers were sticking together.
"If that's what you want to think. Will you excuse me I have to go make sure this fits so I can change?"
The latest radio hits were blasting in the dressing rooms. I closed my eyes and laughed. I mingled with my age group for the first time since moving today and I managed to make an enemy. I pulled my sticky shirt over my head, trying my best not get more caramel sauce in my hair. My phone went off several times in my pocket.
I'd chosen a plaid tunic with a camisole undershirt. I left the top three buttons undone. I smirked a little; a new braveness was in me as I walked out of the dressing room holding the tags in my hand. I paid and walked back to where Tara, Felicia, and Shawna stood.
"Smokin'," Felicia stated as I approached. I wasn't expecting an opinion but I welcomed the nods of agreement from the other two.
We stayed in Rue the longest. Browsing and re-browsing the shelves of jewelry, the stands of clothes, the rows of hats and purses, the store was our playground, Zander and his boys disappearing only to come back a few minutes later.
"Getting off work in 20 mins, you still around?" Nathan sent as I approached the men's jewelry section. A leather band had caught my attention. My left hand reached up to snag it as my right began to text.
"Oh, sorry, Mica. Did you want that?" A guy asked me. I knew he was with Zander, I just didn't know his name.
I stood there staring at the blond-haired, blue-eyed, six-foot guy in front of me. I hoped that a name would come to me.
"Zander has been talking about you non-stop since earlier. It's almost been annoying. But he's my best friend and he listens to all my thoughts about his sister."
"You like Tara?" My voice carried off the wrong tone and he gave me a funny look. "I don't mean that rudely. Tara's awesome, even though I just met her. I just don't get why you don't tell her."
Blue Boy stared at me with one eyebrow raised. "You and I are going to be great friends."
"Tara said the exact same thing."
Blue Boy laughed. Then he stared at me. "You don't know my name do you?"
"I was hoping something would come to me, like Zander walk up and ask why in the hell you were talking to me." I chuckled for a second as he extended his hand.
"I'm Travis. I'm the best friend who's in love with the sister."
"Nice meeting you," I faded off as we both heard Tara's voice. I took the band off the shelf and shifted it next to the other products I was purchasing: a ring, jeans, another shirt, and a belt.
"The cardinal is expecting us home in thirty minutes. I don't know if I can drive that fast. And he expects both of us so don't try to weasel out of it. It's their anniversary. You know they want us there." Tara shouted at her brother. "I don't know why, they are probably the only parents on the earth that want their children at their anniversary celebration."
Tara had her brother's wrist dragging him forward toward me. I knew by the way Zander's friends and the girls grouped that Zander and Tara were clearly the leaders. If we were Native Americans they would share the chief's crown of feathers.
"Cardinal wants us home," Zander muttered.
"We heard," Travis acknowledged with a smirk.
"If we take Tara's car then you guys can take my vehicle and get home," Zander planned. He tossed the keys to Travis. He really was the best friend. My friends back home would never be allowed to drive my Jeep. No matter how much I loved them, that was my baby.
"How are we supposed to fit six people into your truck?" One of the other guys asked. He assumed Zander certifiably crazy.
I tilted my head pondering Nathan's text on my screen. "It'll only be five. I can get my mom to come get me." I looked at Tara. "Nathan gets off in a few minutes." I smiled.
Tara gave a knowing smirk that I'm sure stayed on her face ninety percent of the time. Zander had a questioning look on his face. I looked as nonchalant as manageable with a grin begging to break the seamless surface of my face.
"I'll see you guys later." I waved and walked to the register.
Walking back through the mall with headphones in is a completely different experience than walking through the mall with three people, plus other shoppers, gabbing like mockingbirds. Music blaring changes the mood. It's more serene despite the stares from passing customers. Nathan was at the fountain on the front lobby just like he said he would be.
He had black hair that looked almost blue. Judging by the way Nathan's legs were stretched out in front of him as he perched on the rim of the fountain, I guesstimated his height at six-five. The blue eyes I'd seen in the store were more a hazel color as he stood up and looked down at me.
"You made it," Nathan whispered.
I couldn't help but smile. Not growing up in a town, and moving there, is a wonderful practice. Being new gives you a mystique, a power. I felt ox strong as I stood in front of Nathan. He knew nothing about me. I could be whoever I felt like being.
"What are you listening to?"
"Safetysuit," I answered. I sat down on the fountain rim. With the slightest push, I'd be in the water. I was willing to take the chance. Nathan sat back down next to me. He was quiet for a moment as he just looked at me. I gazed back with the same intensity. Except Nathan winked and I laughed. Not one of those embarrassing, psycho-flirt laughs, but we had a private conversation for a few seconds.
"If you could be anywhere in the world with just one object where would you be and what would you take?"
"On an island with my guitar," Nathan spoke gently, as if he'd been asked the question a million times. "You?"
"On a Greek island with my iPod," I hadn't had people inquire to my solitude aspirations, but I gave the idea of running away after the wedding quite a bit of thought.
"If I came with you to your Greek island with my guitar would you still bring your iPod?" Nathan tilted his head; his eye caught the light and glittered. His smile made my heartbeat quicken. In that split second, I developed a deep respect for Tara making me speak to him.
"I would bring my camera. I actually snuck in my pocket because it's that tiny, but it's green so I don't care about the size of my camera." We both chuckled.
"You hungry, Mica?" Nathan questioned.
"A little," I conceded.
Nathan rose and offered me his hand. I slid my hand palm down into it. He laced our fingers. With that, I had my first boyfriend. I smiled in my head as I thought about all the times I mocked movies because their storyline was unreasonable. A boy and girl kiss, they are dating. A boy and girl hold hands, they are dating. A boy and girl pass each other in the hallway, they are dating.
We were steps away from the food court when we were ambushed. I could smell the oil from the McDonalds, the cheese from the pizza place, the chocolate from the fudge shop, and the bread from the Subway closest to us. I noticed someone running out of the corner of my eye. I ignored someone running assuming it to be a little kid trying to find its mother.
"Is there a reason you're not answering your phone?" Tara was shouting. There wasn't another word for it. "There's been an accident."
I wondered what this had to do with me. And why it gave Tara the urge to run and find me.
"There's been an accident on Lowell Street." She huffed out. "Mom just sent me a message that it might be hard for us to get home, three ambulances were called. She said it happened right on the corner," Tara's words lowered in volume at the end.
I stopped breathing and started running. I was amazed at my own ability to hold on to my items. I left Nathan in the dust behind me. I rationalized with myself that I was just being frenzied and once I got to the scene, I'd be perfectly calm and I would explain what happened to Nathan. We would set something up for another time when the hoopla and the panic had blown over. I rationalized that whatever God above knew I could only handle so many up rootings. I could only handle so many crises.
"Zander is parked out front," Tara yelled as we ran.
I felt as blurry as the people we passed. Their faces became simply color and streaks. They were several containers of play dough rolled into imaginary shapes and clumps. They stopped being people; they started being faceless witnesses to what I equate to a breakdown. Mine.
As soon as I was in the back seat, I started to yell for Zander to start driving. The ride to the mall from our neighborhood took forty-five minutes to an hour. The ride from the mall to our neighborhood transpired in twenty or thirty minutes. When I looked up all I could see was ambulances. A chorus of sirens, machines, and voices stood between me and what I believed was my mother.
"Oh, sweetie, thank heavens that wasn't you!" An oddly maternal voice gasped from my left side.
"Mom," I nearly shrieked. "Where is Aurthor?" With my mom safely placed in my line of sight, my stomach turned with the possibilities of what had been done to my stepfather.
"He's in the house. He was on the front lawn when the accident happened. I can't believe people are so reckless on this corner. It's so sharp!"
I couldn't help but giggle at my mother. Now that I knew everyone was in one piece and not being carted away to the hospital I could breathe again, and laugh. Tara stood off to the side not acknowledging the fact that I looked like an idiot running full open goal speed out of the mall. I'd only been here for a week!
I hugged my mother and then walked to Tara's location on my strip of sidewalk. Zander leaned against the car like he hadn't just driven like a maniac to get me to a corner where I thought one of parents was bleeding internally and dying by the second. I shook my head as I stood in front of Tara.
"Thanks for letting me be, you know, crazy," I smiled. "I feel like a dork."
"I was headed home anyways. Don't your hair is too cool for you to be a dork." Tara gave me a hug, squeezing my lungs. I didn't even hug friends I saw everyday back in Texas. "Ooh, don't forget to call Nathan. He might be a little worried about his relationship status." Tara laughed out loud.
I had to join her. This was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever done.
"I'll text you later, after dinner. We have a no cell phone policy when we eat dinner out." Tara started to walk backwards.
"Bye," I called out with a wave. Zander hadn't gotten in yet. His head was facing me, though I couldn't see his eyes beneath a pair of aviator shades. A pair right from the 1950s, if we were on better terms I would've stolen them as a joke. I felt red creep into my cheeks as Zander just cocked his head to the left for a brief second before raising the peace sign as a form of dismissal.
I waved for a heartbeat as they drove off before turning my back.
"Did you eat at the mall?" Mom asked as soon as her arm draped across my shoulders.
"Yes. You scared me today. I was worried it was you in that accident." I put my own arm around my mother's waist.
"Oh, pish-tiffle," Mom brushed off my comment. I smiled.