“Liv!” Abigail got both hands on Liv’s arm and pulled backwards with all her weight. They went sprawling as Liv suddenly stopped fighting her, landing almost at the railing. The old shop was quiet and empty again, the gate hung half-open.
Liv shook herself. “What…?”
“I don’t know, but don’t wander off without me, okay? And don’t let me wander off either.” Abigail wasn’t so certain she needed the minding, but it seemed only fair. “Look, Rue 21. We find that, you’re right, maybe we can find something safer.”
“Or maybe we find the nightmare version of the mall-behind-the-mall,” Liv pointed out, with far too much validity. “What if we leave the mall?”
“Thing is, if we leave the mall, we’re not going to find your mother waiting for us, and how do we get back to OUR mall?”
“Well,” Liv considered, “Maybe the outside is all the same? Maybe it’s all one mall and Mom will really be out there, waiting impatiently? Because I’ve got no cell service.”
“Maybe she is,” Abigail allowed, “but if she isn’t, what happens then? Let’s try Rue 21 first? And then if that doesn’t work, we try something else. But we stick together, okay?” She took Liv’s hand. There was nobody here to say that they were being weird, acting more like girlfriends or little kids than they were like teenage friends.
And if anyone was here to say that, well, Abigail lifted her chin, let them. There were more important things in life, after all. Like surviving the mall.
Something was laughing at them from behind another mostly-closed store grate. Abigail held Liv’s hand a little tighter as they moved towards where Rue 21 ought to be.
Where it wasn’t, of course, because this wasn’t even the closed-and-creepy version of their mall. There was a record store there, seriously, who sold records?
On the other hand, there was a nice big dead potted plant, and behind that there was one of those doors like the one they’d gone through. “Here’s hoping,” Abigail muttered, and swung the door open.
Grey, dark halls greeted them, dark hallways that seemed to echo with their steps. Abigail clung to Liv’s hand shamelessly as they made their way down the dismal back hall. She could hear laughing come from somewhere – she wasn’t sure where, but it might have been the carnival. Liv’s hand loosened in hers.
She grabbed Liv’s wrist with her other hand. “Stay close,” she murmured. “Stay close and don’t wander off, okay? I’ve got you, but you have to hold on.”
“I don’t want to,” Liv whispered. “I haven’t even seen a Beaver yet. The person in the herb shop, they said I could see a Beaver.”
“And they took us to a bookseller who sent us here, Liv, so hold on and we’ll find something good, okay? No carnivals, no scary clowns. I’m not letting you get eaten…”
Liv was fighting against her now. “I want to see a Beaver!”
“We’ll find something, okay? Just shhh, stay quiet.” The corners of the hall seemed to be moving and Liv was struggling against Abigail’s grip. She held on tightly with one hand and opened the first doorknob she could see. It glinted silver in the dim light and was warm under her hand. The minute she touched it, Liv calmed down.
It was probably an awful idea, but she was out of good ones.
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