I don't know if I'm keen to do this a second time (at least not soon), but I am anxious to share more of my work, if I can. I need to train myself to follow David Allan Grier's advice (okay, I know it's Dean Wesley Smith, I just have a mental block with his name) and publish every one of my stories myself, so that people can buy them if they want to. So far, I still approach it kicking and screaming.
They were dropped off right in front of the galleria, which was apparently another mall. It was very nice, half indoor and half outdoor, with several boutiques selling clothing, jewelry, windchimes, and one weird store that only sold colored contact lenses (and vampire teeth, but that didn’t really count). Things were, like the day before, way too expensive, even though they looked nicer than what you’d find at Target or a cheaper mall. But there were a few people in every store, all of them clean and made-up, and dressed as though they might run into somebody important there. It made Tanissa feel insecure, as if people would see her and realize she had no money, and had never been there before. She didn’t know the word “pretentious,” but she didn’t like that the stores were called boutiques, or that their names were either in French, Italian, or deliberately misspelled English words (for some reason).
Tanissa did know the word “snob,” however, which was the word to describe the employees of these boutiques, who assessed each customer with arrogant bored eyes, and squinted at Tanissa like she was a well-known shoplifter.
“Do you come here a lot?” she muttered to Brekkyn.
“Every week,” the girl boasted. “It’s like my church.”
Right. Tanissa had been to church with her parents, and it was nothing . . . well, in some ways, it was a lot like this. Even so, she could see how proud the girl was of this place, pointing out cute shops and trendy wares, happy to have a friend to take on the tour.
“That would look so sweet on you!” Brekkyn remarked, and then pretty much forced Tanissa to try the top on.
It wasn’t her, but she looked at herself in the fitting room mirror and realized it was the same color as Brekkyn’s hair. She came out to explain, and the younger girl had “a sick hat” to show her, rudely reminding her that the girl was originally from Los Angeles.
They went into a music shop, where a hit song from a boy band (which sounded identical to the last hit song by that boy band) was playing, manic LED lights blinking in time with it. The store’s name was Pet Soundz, but Tanissa saw no birds or dogs or cats. A young hipster with grey hair stepped in front of them as soon as they were in the door. “Anything I can assist you with?” he offered, but his tone said, “Show me your money.”
“Um, where are your iPods?” Brekkyn asked, just a little intimidated, at least.
The clerk took them over to a display case where the fancy music players were imprisoned, each one more expensive than anything Tanissa owned, including her straightened teeth.
“How much is a 6th Generation iPod Touch??”
“What size?” he asked.
“48?” Brekkyn said, which meant nothing to Tanissa.
“They’re on special for three-hundred.”
“Great. I’ll take two. Do they come in pink?”
“Certainly,” the clerk said, and typed a little code on the case, unlocking it.
Tanissa made the connection and her ears began to burn. “No, no, Brekkyn, it’s too much.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Really. I don’t need an iPod.”
‘Sure you do. They play movies, record and play sound, surf, take pictures. You can download a million games, I’ll show you.”
“I can’t afford it, and I can’t let you buy it for me.” She was trying to be discreet, but it was hard to sound serious without raising her voice.
“Hey, we both need one,” Brekkyn smiled, and there was something so ugly in it that she wanted to take a step back. No, she didn’t need one. Maybe a librarian or a cyclist or a toll booth operator needed one, and even then, a cheap radio or mp3 player would do just as well. The only reason to buy a brand new top-of-the-line name brand electronic--in pink, no less--was to show it off to those around you.
The grey haired clerk held one in each hand. “Only two we have left,” he commented, but again, there was something so judgey about him that Tanissa was tempted to just leave and go home, leaving Brekkyn with her new friend to talk about earbuds.
And then, the girl began to sing. It was the same tune as before, and a couple of the lyrics were familiar to Tanissa by now, though it still sounded like no language spoken by man.
The clerk’s eyes brightened, a jolt of caffeine after not enough sleep. “What a darling song,” he exclaimed, and Tanissa realized this guy was genuinely like that.
Brekkyn sang another line or two, and the clerk looked from girl to girl, giving them a wink. “What are you telling him?” she asked, but Brekkyn didn’t stop, singing one more breathful of syllables, before snapping, “Don’t interrupt.”
“Oh, girls,” the clerk said, handing each of them a music player. “I’m simply mortified we sold them all. I’d be happy to call you when the next shipment comes in.”
“Uh--” Tanissa began, and the clerk turned. “Do you want bags? We have these little orange bags with cords, if you’re going to be around the galleria for long.” He didn’t wait for an answer, just scampered off to fetch them.
“Brekkyn, I don’t need an iPod. I can’t take this.”
“You were fine with everything else,” Brekkyn said, essentially calling her a hypocrite.
“But this is stealing.”
“You were fine with everything else,” the girl said again, only slower and more deliberate, addressing a disabled child.
“The bus was going anyway, the movie was playing anyway. I--”
And again, Brekkyn began her song.