They opened the door.
The world got cold again.
They stepped into the parking lot. The first step, second step, seemed like walking through molasses.
But there was Liv’s mom’s big SUV, and there was Liv’s mom, poking at her phone. She looked up.
If possible, the world got even colder. Abseil held very still and tried not to panic. They were leaving the mall.
“Abby! Olivia! You… found friends.” Liv’s mom seemed to struggle with this a little more than Vic had. “You went exploring, didn’t you?” She shook her head. “Like that one time when we were camping-“
“-and I ended up on the other side of the island up a tower,” Olly whispered.
Liv stepped forward. “Mom, this is Olly, and she’d like to stay with us. This is ‘Via, and she’s just visiting. You know Abs – Abseil. New nickname. It was, ah, a sort of soul-searching shopping trip.”
“I’ll say.” Liv’s mom looked at the bags they were all carrying. “I hope you didn’t max out that credit card. You’re supposed to pay that off with your babysitting money, you know.”
“I think we’ll be okay,” Liv told her sincerely. “I found some really good deals. Ah, I don’t think the rest have sorted out nicknames. Sand-“
“-Drea, if she’s ‘Via.”
“Drea isn’t staying, either. This is Vic, Kevin, , Sandy-” She went through the whole list. “We haven’t figured out the details yet, of course…”
“Of course not, dear.” Liv’s mother patted her shoulder. “We’ll work it out, though. Tonight, let’s call it a slumber party. I think we can all fit if you’re willing to fudge a few traffic laws… come on, then, scoot in. I’ve gotten more than this in a smaller car when I was your age.”
Abseil, squished in a back seat, shared a look between Olly and Liv. “Did the mall-?” she whispered.
Not quietly enough. Liv’s mother turned to look at her. “There’s a certain understanding that comes the first time your child wanders off and you have to find them. And, beyond that – even your parents were young once. Once you’ve anchored yourself, once you’ve put your name in the book – it never really leaves you.
“Besides.” She buckled her seat belt and started the SUV. “Remember Martha and Marty at church? Did you really think they were twins with the same name?”Want more?