Chapter 3. Charles

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There's that preconceived notion that kids of my generation loved the mall. I didn't. My friends didn't. If anything, we despised the mall. But in a time where going downtown in the light of day could have you killed, well, Washington Square Mall off in the Southwest Portland suburbs seemed like the most viable option.

I passed Nordstrom and Orange Julius, paving my way through the busy crowd made up of colorful bubble jackets and perms, men and women alike. Sunglass booths and free makeovers, the latest fashion fads in the Sears window, and a voice over the speaker announcing whose kid was lost in Meier & Frank this Saturday afternoon. All of it helped paint a very different atmosphere than the one surrounding me the night before.

As I waited to reach the top of the escalator to the food court, I dared ask myself what I had been suppressing all morning: what happened last night?

Sam Caruso left my house before I got to propose breakfast. The whole ordeal with him left a bad taste in my mouth, and I thought to myself it would be the last time we'd hang out, at least under those specific circumstances. Of course, I knew what Fay and Tavi were to say if I told them of my sleepover. Tavi would get more excited than called for, while Fay would yell at me for a good half hour to get it through my fat face that all men are terrible.

I spotted the girls in the remote corner of the food court between Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts. The red scrunchie in Fay's hair was always easy to spot, even when her face characterized more despair than standoffishness.

Tavi saw me, a little surprised I turned up, yet still frantically waving me over. 
She was quite a funky getup; a chunky denim skirt and an orange windbreaker to match her hair. She mastered the art of blending with the mall people.

Fay - who only three months ago declared herself a vegetarian, could now be spotted at the local food, court dipping chicken nuggets in hot sauce. I had the perfect opening statement for a callout, but Fay would just brush the whole thing off as a social experiment, she never admitted defeat.

I silently basked in Fay's apparent misery. She was supposed to be the one entertaining me last night, as we had planned a spectacular sleepover extravaganza the whole week. Then what do you know? Friday morning she told me she got an invite to a hip get together of all the local CPUSA members and canceled.

"So... the college party was a bust?" I asked as Fay stared down her plate, with Tavi on her side avoiding conversation by crushing the tip of her straw with her teeth. 

"You remember the guy with the Trotsky haircut she told us about? It turns out he's majoring in medieval studies," Tavi explained, "he also has a girlfriend who, against all odds, has the exact same Trotsky haircut."

Fay pulled the hood of her jacket over her head and let a disgruntled sigh escape her mouth, the only form of communication she had utilized since I came.

"We didn't think you'd show up," Tavi admitted, pointing her straw at me.

Admittedly, it was quite a surprise for me to keep our mall date. After all, I did get pretty fired up after a harsh comment from Fay that had me thinking I was done with her for good. In the end, I had to come to my senses and let go of it all, I mean, we were all friends.

"Oh, don't worry," I said, brushing it off, "I'm over it." 

Fay made a noise telling me Tavi just kicked her shin underneath the table. She proceeded to look up at me, eyes filled with little remorse, just a lot of injured pride.

"Even so... I'm sorry," she apologized, smiling in hopes that we could go back to when she could criticize and I wouldn't get worked up about it.

"Forget it, really," I insisted, stealing a few of her fries, "it slipped my mind past eighth period."

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