Abigail pulled her feet back with a yelp. “Okay, okay we need higher ground. Come on, maybe this one has a food court on the second floor. We can climb on a table.”
She hadn’t even gotten the words out when the cleaner Liv was tugging her – not towards the food court but up onto a bench. “Here. This should get us out of the water for a minute. And we can see the map from here.” She pointed at the dim map, no longer lit-up from within but still showing proudly things like the food court. “I still feel like if we could just get into Rue 21, maybe we could find our way back to the first mall. And if we could find that, maybe they could help us find our way home. One home, all the homes. Anything.”
“The first mall?” asked dirty-Liv sharply. “You don’t mean the place with that awful store that bought regrets, do you? Urrgh. Something about that place was just creepy. Made my skin crawl. And then there was that bookstore…”
“The one where they made books?” asked cleaner-Liv. “I thought that – well. I thought it was nice, until she sent us into the dead mall.”
“No, the ‘Tome Home’.” Dirty-Liv dropped the quotes around the word in heavy disdain. “It was a bookshop, all right, if you don’t mind the books trying to eat you.”
“Ooh.” Cleaner-Liv shuddered. “No, we went into the herb and spice place. And then he sent us to the book place that had you make a book.” She wrinkled her nose. “People haven’t been as nice as they seemed. Everything’s been a little fuzzy since -”
“Since the Tome Home, for me. I picked up a book and then it was like I didn’t care about anything. Abigail had to pull me away. Oh…” She frowned. “Abby. I hope she’s okay. Something bit her, when we were in the place with the rusty metal. And I thought I had her hand, but it turned out to be – well, yours.” She gave Abigail a worried look. “So there’s more than one of us. I guess that makes sense. We’ve seen a couple doppelgangers. But… no.” She shook her head. “Let’s get out of here before we get eaten.”
“Got a plan?” Dirty-Liv was a little less cooperative than clean-Liv. On the other hand, Dirty-Liv wasn’t trying to pull away off towards the waterlogged WaldenBooks.
“Well, it looks like your twin here wants to go book shopping.”
“Back doors, Abby! Remember when we were in Walden Books and we accidentally wandered into their stockroom? It might lead to the back of the mall! We might get out of here!”
“Only if you only stop to pocket three or four books. All right. Ready, both Livs?” She didn’t dare let go of either of their hands, and it made Abby feel both trapped and helpless. What was she going to do if something attacked? What was she going to do if one of them tried to really pull her off in the wrong direction, or, God help her, if they both decided to together. “Liv-Two, why aren’t you… uh…”
“Acting like a child in a candy store?”
“Hey! Am not!” Clean-Liv stuck her tongue out.
“Like I said. I don’t know why she is. Do I always act like that? I mean, does she?”
“Well, a little, but not usually like – well, like this. Maybe it was the necklace. Or the candy. Or the book.”
“So what you’re saying is that this version of me – if you got the first version – is a series of bad decisions.”
“That…. easy, Liv… that’s not a bad way of putting it. I mean, the necklace, that didn’t have to be a bad decision, but I think the candy was. And then the books – well…” Abigail really couldn’t come up with a way to defend her Liv.
“If she’d already eaten the candy,” the dirty Live pointed out, “she might not have actually had a choice. Are we going for WaldenBooks?”
“We are. One, two, Go!”
They splashed through the water, each Liv grabbing a book or two as they passed the fantasy section, and there was a back door just waiting for them. Something chomped at Abigail’s ankle as Liv-Two grabbed the door, and they all fell through the door with a gasped scream.