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Flashback - Chapter 3
The car ride felt strange. I hated sitting there and watching my mother drive, knowing that because of my decisions I wasn’t allowed to do it myself anymore and possibly wouldn’t be able to for quite a while. I watched her as she gripped the steering wheel and pushed her feet down on the pedals, envying her.
I hadn’t had the urge to drive in a few weeks. It’s weird how watching someone do something that you can’t makes you want to do it, even if you had no desire to moments before witnessing them do it.
She saw me looking at her and looked back over at me briefly, smiling at and then turning back towards the road. I half smiled back at her, hoping she didn’t believe that this was going to become a ritual. I turned my face towards the window of the car, watching the trees rush past, hopping my eyes from one to the other and trying to count them but failing miserably.
I reached over to the radio, trying to break the awkward silence. I scanned the stations, searching for a decent song and stopped on the station that it seemed everyone was always listening too. The guy on the radio started going on and on about the latest Hollywood drama. I pretended to listen to him but, like always, my thoughts were somewhere else.
I was thinking about my mom and how happy she seemed. She seemed so oblivious to the fact that this wasn’t some huge turning point for me. I only wanted to go to the mall to get something for the party. I only wanted to wear something to the party so that I could fool people. I wanted everyone to think that I was okay, that I was better. I wanted to be able to look the part for the act I was going to be putting on.
After this outing, I wanted nothing more than to go straight home and sit in my room for hours on end just staring at the ceiling like I have been. But I know she hoped that weren’t the case, and I think she was beginning to hope it so much that she had let herself believe it. I felt bad, but I wasn’t ready.
I was brought back from my thoughts by her voice telling me that we were there. I looked around, noticing all the people walking towards the mall. Most of them were around my age and in groups, chatting away with those around them. More than likely they were discussing what they were about to buy and what they were going to do when they left.
I watched them, remembering how I used to be with Jayson, Scott, Janie, and Carter. The five of us used to be inseparable. I couldn’t help but see us in the group passing by, and my eyes followed them until they opened the door to the mall’s entrance and disappeared through the tainted windows.
I opened the car door and jumped out, my feet hitting the ground hard. A small pain traveled through my sandals and up to my feet and I regretted jumping out so fast. I made a mental note not to do that again and shut the door, walking around to the front of the car where my mother was waiting.
We walked towards the mall together, my mom with a huge smile on her face and me wanting nothing more than to just hurry up and get this over with. As we approached the big glass doors, I took a deep breath and pulled them towards me, then took my first step into real life, something I hadn’t wanted to be a part of in a long time.
I looked around, noticing that the mall hadn’t changed much at all. There were kids running around with each other, some of them running from their parents. All of them were laughing and seemed pretty cheerful. I wish I were that young again. That way I could be completely unaware of what life was like. I wish that I could be a little girl, still believing in things such as the tooth fairy and believing that I would one day meet my Prince Charming and live in a castle with him, far away from this place.
I would be that stubborn little girl I used to be, running around with the boy that would later become my ‘prince charming’. But I wouldn’t have known that. I would be hoping for it, of course. But I would have had no real idea that Jayson would eventually be mine, and most importantly I would have no knowledge that he would ever leave my side. I’d still be so young, so careless, and I’d still be under the illusion that he would stay with me forever, just as we had promised. I wish that I could go back; I wish that I could erase time.
My mom told me we were near Forever 21 just before I started tearing up, and I mentally thanked her for distracting me. I walked with her into the store, looking around me at all the bright colors as an upbeat song blasted throughout the store. This used to be mine and Janie’s favorite place. Jayson, Scott, and Carter would all rush off to Pac Sun, but Janie and I would stay in this store for hours just looking around, and sometimes trying things on just for the thrill of it. They did, after all, have some pretty wild articles of clothing.
My mom walked off to the right of the store, but I didn’t follow her. I walked straight forward towards the back, where they had all these bright and crazy shirts displayed on mannequins. I reached up and touched the fabric of the shirts, running my fingers along the nearest mannequin’s stomach and feeling the scratch of an occasional sequin against my fingertips.
I looked through the shirts stacked beside the mannequin. I picked up each design and stared at it, looking at how bright they were and how beautiful some of the colors were. I knew that if I came outside to the party in this, the sun would reflect off of the shirt and I’d make quite an entrance. Maybe at one point, that would have been something that I would have enjoyed, but thinking about it now made me put the shirt down and turn away from the table. I didn’t want any more attention on me than I would have to deal with, so an outfit screaming ‘look at me!’’ was not what I was looking for.
I walked over to the left of the store, where they had a lot of vintage looking shirts. Most of them were a faded version of a color, and covered with words and black images such as sunglasses and tubes of lipstick. Some of them had the fake necklace thing going on, where when you put it on you’d see the black beads of a necklace coming down from either side of your neck as if you were wearing one, but at the same time it would be obvious that you weren’t. None of these seemed appealing to me, so I moved on from that section as well.
I continued to look through many different spots in the store, looking through shredded tank tops, more sparkling shirts, a lot of really preppy baby doll tops, and some shirts that seemed to be a mixture of everything. The songs blasting through the store began to repeat, and I realized how long I had been in there. I looked over to where my mom was, and saw that she was holding up a simple black tank top with ruffles near the top examining it.
I squeezed through some teens crowded around the collection of baby doll shirts, the smell of perfume overwhelming my sense of smell and almost making me feel weak to my stomach. I shook it off and kept walking until I approached my mother, who turned and jumped a little, obviously being unaware that I had been approaching.
I looked up at the tank top, and it looked almost perfect. “What’cha got?” I asked, looking up at her.
She looked over at me and then back at the tank top. “I saw this and it seemed like something you would wear so I was just looking at it some more before I showed it to you.
I couldn’t help but allow a small bit of laughter to escape from my lips. “You’ve been staring at that shirt for about five minutes, mom. I may be picky but I’m not so picky that you’d have to spend so much time just looking at one shirt before even showing it to me.” I said, making sure that my tone made it obvious that I wasn’t upset, just messing with her.
She rolled her eyes and grinned, handing the shirt over to me and I took it. The fabric felt comfortable, and it didn’t seem too attention drawing. “I love it.” I said, holding the shirt against me to make sure it was the right size. It was. She had found the perfect shirt for me when it had been taking me forever to even begin looking in the right place.
“You really like it?” She asked, her eyes lighting up. “I thought it’d look adorable on you.”
I looked around us, smiling a soft smile but keeping it to myself as I scanned the surrounding for a pair of shorts. I found a pair of denim ones with a small hole on the left leg and picked out my size. I held the tank top above them and smiled. They were a perfect match.
I looked over at my mom and tilted my head to the left, motioning for us to move to the dressing rooms. She followed me back there and we waited in line in silence.
When it was my turn I went back into the dressing room and closed the curtain behind me. I gazed into the mirror at my face. It looked like I hadn’t slept in days, and I could hardly recognize myself anymore. I began to wonder what had happened to me, but with one simple thought of Jayson it all made sense and I didn’t question it any longer.
I tried on the clothes, double checking that they would look as nice together as I had predicted and I walked out satisfied, hugging my mother. We stood in line, she paid for the clothes, I grabbed the bag, and we exited the store.
We walked around for a while, looking through the windows of stores and at the booths people had set up around the mall trying to sell their products. One guy walked up to my mother and shoved a bar of soap in her face, promising that if she used it all of her troubles would melt away. My mom looked at him shocked, and I busted out laughing at her facial expression. The guy stood there with a huge smile across his face as if nothing negative in the world existed.
My mom heard me laugh and looked at me, and then back at the guy, agreeing that he could test the soap out on her. I watched as she grabbed her by the arm, rushing her over to this bowl of water and shoving her hands into it. I crossed my arms, leaning back against a nearby pole watching with a smile painted across my face.
He began scrubbing her hands and my mom pursed her lips and stared down at her soaking hands, obviously really uncomfortable with what was going on. I chuckled as I looked up at the guy while he bounced around the booth grabbing different kinds of soaps and tossing them towards my mother for her to try.
After several minutes of this going on, my mom finally pulled her hand out of the water and shook them off, telling the guy she had had enough. The guy proceeded to try and sell my mom one of the soaps and my mother gave in. From what I knew of my mom, it was more than likely just to get him to be quiet.
We walked a little further with my bag of clothing and my mom’s new soaps, bought some pretzels, and then headed towards the exit, both of us exhausted.
We were about five yards from the doors that lead to the parking lot, when I looked up to the right and saw the familiar neon yellow letters, reading ‘Pac Sun’.
My heart stopped and I stared up at it. I missed him, I missed him too much. I closed my eyes for a brief moment and shook my head a little, trying to force the feeling of grief out of it. My mom opened the door and the parking lot came into full view.
As we made our way to the car, she turned to me. “I had a good time.”
“Me too.” I said, searching through the endless rows of cars for the familiar black SUV.
“I hope we can do it again sometime.”
I could hear the hope in her voice, and so I didn’t answer. I wasn’t about to tell her the truth. I officially had made up my mind that I didn’t want to go out like this again. Not for a while.