Abseil turned to the nearest rack and stared at the clothes in front of her. They were men’s clothes, workout clothes. “Kevin. You’re not normally the gym type, are you? But maybe you’ve been thinking about, I dunno, getting a little more upper body strength and maybe a bit more endurance?”
“Well, uh, yeah. I mean a bit less credulity and maybe a little more self-preservation — what? I do know how to read,” he added defensively.
“Well, I’ve – okay, different world. I’ve never seen our version of you read,” she admitted.
“It’s not like, not like doing it at the lunch table or something, like you and Liv,” he admitted. “More like the sort of thing when you’re home at night and nobody else’s around.”
Abseil snorted. “Sounds like masturbation.” Shit, had she really just said that?
Kevin’s blush said that yes, yes she had.
She picked up the track pants and handed them to him. “I can tell you,” she informed him, “I’m going to suck up all the stupid comments, when we’re back, and spend a lot more time in our gym.”
“I’d say I’d join you, but–“
“Yeah. This is, uh, weird. Well, maybe we can –” Another scream echoed, this one sounding weaker and further away. “Hey, Mall? Mall, is there, ah, an obstruction? Some sort of problem?”
“Please excuse our noise and mess. Please excuse the noise and mess. There appears to be a dangerous flaw in our shifting mechanism. Please – ahem. Please enjoy your shopping in Burlington for a few more moments while we sort out the difficulty in the – Abby who is called Abseil, you have a call.”
“Please pick up the red courtesy phone.”
Abseil hurried to the nearest red phone, almost invisible on a pillar until she needed it. “This is Abseil.”
“This is -” her own voice echoed back at her. “Give me the – this is- Shit.”
“This is Vic.” Another voice echoed over the phone. It probably was a Vic; Abseil had never talked on the phone with her. “You win.”
“You-” Abseil picked her words very carefully, “You seem to believe there is a competition of some sort going on. So since you set the terms here – what do I win?”
She felt a little thrill down deep in her gut. Was she really…? Yes, yes she was.
“What do you win?” Vic scoffed. “Are you an idiot?”
“Clearly. You’ve known any number of Abbies, after all. And clearly you’ve always thought they were idiots.” Her hands were shaking. She squeezed the nearest Liv’s hand and was surprised to find sets of arms wrapping around her, holding her close. “And here you are. You found me. You got me trapped and running away.”
That wasn’t a Liv arm. She looked up to find Kevin was hugging her too.
“You have me trapped in the rafters, you moron. You win. I don’t want to die.”
Abseil clenched the hand holding the phone. “I’m willing to bet that all those Abbies didn’t want to die, either. The dead Livs, them either. Sandies. Kevins. Tommies. Gregs. Rick Fancies. Vics. Is there anyone you didn’t leave tortured and dead?”
“That – that wasn’t me. The Vics.” On the other end of the line, the girl’s voice cracked. “I never attacked another one of me! I mean – okay, the mall did, but I tried to talk them out of that. They weren’t supposed to hurt me. They weren’t really supposed to hurt anyone–“
“But me. But every variation of me except the one you were using.”
“That was her! Not all of that, but some of that – you think I was using her but it wasn’t – look, you win! You win!”
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