“Wha- Ren? Wha… what are… y… you doing here?”
I was currently standing on the subway platform when Bailey suddenly appeared next to me and grabbed my arm. She seemed to be out of breath.
“Hello Bailey, I am currently going home.”
She took a bottle from her bag and drank from it for a few seconds.
“Gah, that’s good. Oh, wait, home!?”
When she said this, she seemed a bit surprised.
“Yeah… but you don’t usually go home at quitting time, right? I mean, you usually go home after about two hours — usually around… 5:00… What’s up?”
“That is true… However, I have plans this time.”
It is true that usually, I stay at work for about two hours after work ends. But since I made plans to go to the Beattie’s Heart Shopping Centre with Camryn, I decided to leave at the official end of the workday. Speaking of the end of the workday, it would usually be at 5:00, right? Well, Comeffecient actually gives different options for shifts — 9:00 to 5:00, 8:00 to 4:00, 7:00 to 3:00, and so on and so forth. I chose to work 7:00 to 3:00 shifts. It requires that I wake up early, but I am okay with it — I wake up early anyway. Bailey chose the same hours that I chose.
And what do I do at work for two additional hours? Nothing unusual — just additional work. My boss offered that I will be paid overtime because of this, but I declined — it’s not a hardship to me. And… I think there is another reason... But it did not make any sense to me. It was… a reason relating to that feeling — the feeling that made me decide to eat alone outside — the feeling that I was a burden to someone… Because of that feeling, I decided to leave when workdays usually end, a time where I blend in with the large crowd of strangers.
As I waited, Bailey was slouching as she was taking deep breaths and breathing heavily. Did she run? Why is she out of breath?
“A-Are you okay, Bailey? You’re out of breath.”
She suddenly stood up straight and turned her body towards me. Her disbelief was greater than it was when she first saw me.
“Are you o-”
“Shush! Yeah, I heard what you said!” I mean… um… w-why… um… Gah, never mind!”
She smacked me on the back of my head and crossed her arms.
“Those damn deadbeats at work were giving me a hard time and were making me late for my train! I had to run all the way here… and in high heels!”
She sighed angrily.
She seems distressed. Hm… What should I say in this situation?
I was interrupted when a huge gust of wind hit us. It was another subway.
“Gah! Sorry, Ren, this train’s mine. Blame those idiots for the short time we had together!”
Bailey drank some more water and readied herself as the train came to a stop.
“K, see ya, Ren!”
Ren came home earlier than usual. He came home at 3:00, but he usually returns at around 5:00. Did he come back early? Wait no, he said that we’d go shopping after his work ends. Hm… I guess he came back early — aw, how sweet!
Right now, I was wearing my usual black hoodie and pants, Ren was wearing a business suit, and we were leaving a subway platform. Shortly after passing the ticket gates, a set of doors led to an underground-looking area with stairs going down.
“Is this the mall?”
“Yeah. But we aren’t in the main area yet. We should go there first.”
A mall with a connected subway station? That’s handy.
We didn’t go down the stairs, but instead, we went down a corridor on our right. This corridor led to a couple of more stores that looked good, but we didn’t visit any of them.
“Oh my gosh!”
After passing through some different stores — including one that sold electronics and a huge two-story store that sold clothes — ascending one escalator and passing through a luxurious-looking department store, we finally arrived at the main area.
The trek to this area… was worth it! I ran up to some glass railings next to a set of escalators to truly awe at the sight.
I let out a small laugh in delight.
“Ren, what is this place!?”
“This is the Beattie’s Heart Shopping Centre.”
From what I saw, this mall… was huge. This was just from my initial view, but this place seemed huge. Looking down, there seemed to be two floors under us. But that wasn’t all. Raising my head, there seemed to be some floors above us. They weren’t directly above us, but on the sides above us were windows with more rooms on the other sides. Why are they on the side? I don’t know, but it made this central hub area seem open. I mean, the ceiling was way above us. The ceiling was also made of glass, so it added to the openness effect of this place.
“Woah… This place must be huge!”
Ren walked beside me and I looked at him in excitement.
“I mean, there are two floors below us and a couple more above!”
But Ren shook his head.
“Yeah, it’s impressive. But only those lower floors are a part of this mall.”
“Well, this place functions both as a mall and a complex of offices. Those additional rooms you see above us are offices.”
I was a little bummed, but there’s no doubt that this place is still huge.
“Office… You work in an office, right? Do you work in this awesome place?”
I got excited.
“Oh, s-sorry but no. B-But, I have been here for work a couple of times before.”
I continued to look around — this mall was big, but that wasn’t the only thing that amazed me. There weren’t many people, but I guess that makes sense considering that it was a weekday. This mall had a sleek and cool grey and white aesthetic. There were also occasional spiral patterns on the floors that I thought looked cool. The levels each had different shops with glass walls displaying what they were selling; I mostly saw clothing shops, but I’m sure there’s more variety. This area had many stairs, escalators, and bridges that led to other parts of this area. There were also elevators that brought people to different levels, and I thought it was cool that the pulley system was visible. On the blank walls next to the offices were gigantic posters advertising different things — most notably, one that advertised a smartphone and one for a hospital. Fountains, comfy-looking seats, decorative plants… amazing!
That was mostly the extent of my vocabulary at the moment.
“Beattie’s Heart… Hey Ren, why’s it called Beattie’s Heart?”
“Well, long ago, a man founded a chain of department stores and named them after his wife whose surname was Beattie. This mall was named after that department store chain.
Then these department stores must have been really significant to have a super-mega-mall named after them.
“Hey Ren, this mall is huge!”
“Y-Yeah. I believe it is the second-largest in the province.”
“Eh, really? I’d love to visit the largest someday!”
“Really? T-Then, I will, um, take you someday.”
Ren nodded hesitantly. He then cast his eyes downwards — are you ashamed of something?
“Perhaps I should not have taken you to this mall. I mean, we came here for you, right? Sorry, with the large array of available shops, you are probably overwhelmed. A-And you probably do not have a preferred store, right?”
I turned to Ren and shook my head in reassurance.
“Eh? N-No, please stop apologizing. I mean, you’re probably right since this mall is huge. B-But don’t worry. It’ll be tough, but I’ll decide on things to buy!”
“I see… Okay then.”
“Yeah… I’m in no way a savvy shopper, but I’ll find something I like! Oh yeah, you probably have knowledge about the stores here, right? Please assist me!”
I put my hands on Ren’s shoulders and showed a determined face.
“Yeah, I do not really shop here often, but I have some knowledge of the stores here…”
Mr Smartypants coming in clutch!
We walked away from the railings and towards an electronic screen.
What he said early is probably right. “You probably do not have a preferred store, right?” Yeah, I don’t really go clothes shopping — actually, I don’t remember the last time when I did. And because of that, I don’t think I have a type of clothing that I want over another, but we’ll see. Having preferences isn’t really good, right? For example, one time I found a plain tee-shirt with dirt stains on it. I think that if I listened to my preferences, I probably wouldn’t have taken this tee-shirt. Well, I’m glad I didn’t listen — any piece of clothing is valuable when you’re homeless…