“Hello Mall!” Abseil, Liv, Olly, Cassie, Sanders, and Tory stepped through the back-hall door into the Shifting Mall. “Are the other groups here yet?”
GREETINGS MALL SHOPPERS. TODAY YOU WILL FIND GOOD DEALS IN THE DINING COURT, AS WELL AS IN THE FUN HALL AND IN OUR NEWEST STORE, CLOSET COSPLAY. PLEASE VENTURE TO THE DINING COURT TO BEGIN YOUR SHOPPING ADVENTURE. YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN OUR NEW DISPLAY ALONG THE WAY, TITLED DO NOT MESS WITH THE MALLS.
It had been nearly a month before Abseil had been willing to go into a mall again, and two more weeks after that before she, Liv, and Olly had first ventured back into the Malls behind the Mall. Now, three months later, they’d sorted out all their extra visitors — residents, rather — and Abseil had found herself with two new “foster-sisters.”
(but no new “foster-brother” in Kevin; her mother had been willing to look the other way on that matter but her father had put his foot down and Kevin2 was now living with Greg’s family, and vice versa.)
“Do not mess with the malls? Mall, are you mad at us?”
IT IS ALWAYS GOOD TO SEE OUR FAVORITE GUESTS HERE AT THE ROUNDABOUT MALL. THE NEW DISPLAY, DO NOT MESS WITH THE MALLS, SHOWS OUR GRATITUDE HERE AT THE ROUNDABOUT MALL FOR ALL THAT OUR GUESTS HAVE DONE FOR US. PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO STOP AND VISIT.
“Okay, that sounds better.” Abseil didn’t try to hide her relief.
Abseil hadn’t been a nickname she’d expected to stick, but with all of her “new friends” calling her that, it had taken off surprisingly quickly. What was more, she had not one but two Kevins interested in her now, which was both flattering and a littler weird.
(Neither of them liked shopping all that much, and while their Kevin hadn’t been in The Mall, he had heard enough of the stories already. He’d offered to come – both of them had – if Abseil wanted the company, but some things were best done without a boy (or boys) you might want to be your boyfriend at some point, once you both stopped having nightmares about flaming ghosts.)
But anyway, she’d taken up rock climbing – it seemed appropriate – backpacking, and martial arts. You never knew, as she said sometimes when only certain people could hear her, when you’d find out your self was trying to kill you.
Even though they’d been to this mall — to several of the malls — a few times since they’d gotten free, she still found herself looking around from side to side, holding her breath. She knew — she knew — that nothing, nobody, was going to jump out at her, but she couldn’t help it.
She held close to Liv’s hand and Olly’s and pretended it was fine, that she wasn’t scared, just being friendly. They held hands at school now, too, out on the street, sometimes just sitting around the house. She squeezed a little bit, took a breath, and turned around a corner.
She did not scream. She would never admit it if she had, at least. She didn’t scream, she didn’t yelp, she didn’t jump, and she did not squeeze Liv and Olly’s hands way too hard.
But right in front of her was Abby. Herself — no. No, she was wearing what she’d been wearing when — uh. When her people had closed around her and Abseil had lost sight of her, and her expression was fury and she was just a couple inches away and—Want more?