"Are you sure you'll be ok?" Tori asks me as she gathers her stuff to leave. "I don't want to leave you here alone, especially with Christmas Eve only a few hours away."
"I'll be fine." I assure Tori. "I'll clean up and change the prices so we won't be completely busy on Sunday."
Tori hesitates but then sighs, reaching over and planting a kiss on my cheek. "You're welcome to spend Christmas at my house if you want, Payton. My door's always open."
I force her a smile as I lean against the counter. "Thank you, Tori."
"Anytime. Don't stay too late." She orders as she begins to make her way out the boutique.
"I won't." I promise her. "Merry Christmas, Tori."
"Merry Christmas, Payton." She waves, disappearing, the doors shutting behind her.
I move over to one of the racks and begin to fix the mess the consumers had made the minute a Christmas song begins to play up ahead.
"Oh the weather outside is frightful," I sing along. "But the fire is so delightful. And since we've got no place to go. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
I bob my head the music and find myself moving my hips as well.
"It doesn't show signs of stopping, And I've brought some corn for popping. The lights are turned way down low. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..."
• • •
Three hours later, the music stops playing and I'm consumed by silence. I finish up with the racks and prices and glance at the clock above the register. 11:42 pm. Eighteen minutes until Christmas Eve.
I should be heading home now. The mall's closed and completely empty except for me and maybe a few other lonely workers. I head over to the counter and grab my purse, swinging it on my shoulder and making my way out of the boutique, making sure to turn off the lights and lock the doors.
Sure enough, the mall was completely dark except for the light where the giant Christmas tree stood in the center of the mall.
I make my way towards it with a sigh, flopping down on one of the empty benches.
I feel something sharp bury itself into my ribcage and I realize it's the small box Justin had given me yesterday. I had left in my purse, waiting until Christmas to open it.
Something in my stomach churns. So much for a happy Christmas. Justin was probably somewhere off with Kinsley and his friends celebrating Christmas Eve. And here I was, on a bench, alone, in the center of an empty mall, without someone to share the holidays with. I should have just gone down to Texas for the holidays, spent them with my family.
Still clutching the small box in my hands, I stand up and saunter over to where the tree stood. It was big and lighted and beautiful, yet abandoned. Just like me, I think.
I look up to find myself standing beneath some metal arch. I guessed it was were people took pictures. Hanging on the arch was a beautiful, green mistletoe.
"It's beautiful, huh?" A familiar voice breaks the silence.
I jump, startled, and my heads snaps toward the source of the voice. Standing a few feet away was the boy I thought had completely forgotten about me. The boy that hadn't left my thoughts since the day I first met him. The boy that had somehow begun to mean something much more to me.
Justin walks towards me, his hands awkwardly shoved in his pockets as he came to a stop in front of me.
"How did you get in here?" I blurt.