They had dinner; they slept. The mall didn’t have enough beds in the relaxation center for all of them, but it did have a Bedding and More store, and they laid out row after row of blankets and comforters and pillows and sleeping bags until the whole hallway was a giant featherbed. They showered and they changed and, when they were done, they looked more like a group of themselves than they had since Abseil and Liv had first stepped into the mall.
And then, after cleaning up all that mess and having breakfast, Abseil asked the mall: “Will you tell us how to get home?”
There was silence, all of them holding their breaths. And then, finally: “THE ANSWER IS IN THE DOORWAY WHICH HAS NO STORE TO THE LEFT OF IT. FROM THERE, YOU MAY FIND YOUR WAY HOME.”
“And,” Abseil asked as gently as she could, “when we want to visit you, we’d take the back-mall door to the left of Bed Bath and Beyond?”
Again, there was a long silence.
“YES. YES, I WILL ALWAYS BE THROUGH THE DOORS TO THE LEFT OF BED BATH AND BEYOND, ALTHOUGH YOU MAY NEED TO GO THROUGH THE BAZAAR AGAIN TO ACCESS THOSE DOORS.”
“Then we will come visit.” She patted the table as if it could somehow pass the sensation along to the mall. Maybe it could. “You’ve been – I can’t even express how helpful you’ve been. You’ve been amazing.”
The pauses were getting longer. Abseil was beginning to worry about the mall.
“YOU HAVE BEEN. YOU HAVE BEEN. YOU HAVE BEEN COMPANY. YOU HAVE BEEN GOOD COMPANY. KIND COMPANY. IT WAS A PLEASURE TO HELP YOU. IT WAS A PLEASURE… IT WAS PLEASING TO HELP YOU STOP THE. THE BADNESS.”
“I think you made the mall cry,” ‘Via murmured.
“Thank you, mall.” Abseil patted the table again. “We will visit again. You have my word on it. And if I can work it out, I’ll bring friends. Plenty of friends to come and shop here. The good sort of friends,” she added ruefully.
“YOU ARE. YOU ARE THE GOOD ABBY. THIS HAS BEEN MADE VERY CLEAR. I DO NOT THINK YOU WOULD BRING BAD FRIENDS.”
“Even good people can make bad choices in friends, sadly. But I’ll ask at least one, preferably two or three, Livs what they think about my friends before I bring them, how’s that? And, ah, maybe a Kevin or two.”
“PERHAPS THE KEVIN WOULD LIKE TO CHECK OUT OUR FLORIST’S SHOP.”
Abseil stifled a giggle as the Kevin – he’d stuck near to her ever since Burlington – turned purpley red.
“Ah. I think – I think that maybe, that is, I think-”
“PERHAPS YOU NEED SOME TIME TO … THINK?”
“Yeah – yeah. You know, uh, you know I’m not from the same world as this Abby – Abseil – right?”
“IT IS THIS OPINION OF THIS MALL AND MANY OTHER MALLS-“
“Wait,” Olly hissed, “they talk? They gossip?”
“-THAT WHICH WORLD YOU CAME FROM WILL BE FAR LESS IMPORTANT THAN YOU WOULD THINK. YOU WILL LIKELY NOT ALL GO HOME TO THE WORLDS YOU CAME FROM. SOME OF YOU WILL NOT BE THE ONLY ONE OF YOUR NAME AND SELF IN A WORLD. THIS IS A GOOD THING.”