Hey guys! Just a quick heads up that after this chapter, I am going on a brief, one week break until next Wednesday (the 30th)
This time, the reason is for 100% practical purposes — I simply was too busy between my best friend’s wedding and having an awesome, in-person visit with Julyvee, Trip, ra3rei, and JoieWilder (it was so fun!!!!) that I haven’t been able to write anything for the past week and a half… meaning I am out of chapters! 😮
So I’m taking a bit of a break so I can get a few chapters ahead again before I start publishing them. I promise to return next week!
And now without further ado… today’s chapter 🙂
Harper reached up for a moment, running her fingers through the new choppy layers of her hair. She stared at herself in the mirror for what felt like the hundredth time and marveled at how light and different her hair felt now. The slight dampness from the drizzle they’d caught themselves in had finally dried away, and her hair was back to looking like it had after Rylie finished styling it earlier.
“Jeez, will you stop messing with it?” Rylie cried, half annoyed and half amused. “You hate it, don’t you? You can tell me if you do, y’know.”
Harper shook her head. “I don’t hate it.” She replied seriously. “I love it! It’s just so different… I’m still getting used to it. But you did an amazing job.” She assured her friend.
It was everything Harper had hoped for. It was cute and edgy and fun and still managed to hide her hearing aid. And though she’d initially been unsure of Rylie’s plans to dye her hair as well, she was thrilled with the results.
“Thanks.” Rylie smiled for a moment. “But stop messing with it or you’ll fuck it up!” She added with a laugh.
“Yeah, stop worrying about it so much.” Devin stepped closer to the two girls as he spoke. “I know it’s different, but… You look hot!”
A pleasant warmth came to Harper’s cheeks at his words. “Oh my God, shut up!” She giggled almost nervously. Did he seriously just call her hot?
“Dev’s right,” Rylie agreed. “You totally do!”
The warmth in her cheeks grew more intense at Rylie’s words, and there was a slight tickling of butterflies in her stomach. They’re just being nice. Harper told herself, willing the feeling away.
“Alright, enough stroking my ego.” She laughed brightly, pulling away from the mirror at last. “Let’s go.”
Her friends nodded in agreement. “Yeah, this place is WAY too fancy for me.” Devin glanced around the clothing store for a moment before leading the way toward the door and back into the mall.
Though the store they’d just left was pretty deserted, the mall itself was much too busy for Harper’s liking. There was just too much noise. Babies screaming, kids giggling, and a seemingly endless stream of chatter from the other shoppers. It definitely wasn’t her first choice for a place to hang out, but until the rain passed and they could go outside again, they were pretty low on options.
She hung back a bit while Rylie and Devin walked ahead, chatting animatedly with one another. It was impossible for her to hear anything they said, but she didn’t mind. Sometimes it was nice to let the dull buzz drown everything out, and spend some time with her own thoughts. Harper hadn’t been doing that nearly as much for the past several weeks, ever since she started hanging out with Rylie and Devin. Not that she minded, of course. But part of her had started to miss it a little.
Harper spent the next few minutes mentally writing part of her next chapter, until she followed her friends into yet another store and the buzz of the mall shoppers died away at last. She shifted her attention back to her friends as they started looking around at some of the knick-knacks and electronics that filled the shelves.
It was an interesting little store that seemed to have everything from electronics to boxes of old records to collectors figurines and posters. It was definitely more up their alley than that fancy clothing boutique had been.
“Hey Dev, look at this weird action figure thing… He kinda looks like you!” Rylie teased playfully, pointing to one of the ugly alien figurines as they passed.
“Ha! Bitch…” Devin shook his head, but smiled. His eyes continued scanning the shelves as they moved onward. “Hey, isn’t this that crappy horror movie you said your Oma’s obsessed with?” He asked, turning to Harper as he spoke. Devin was pointing toward a collectors edition blu-ray of the entire Moonlight Massacre series.
She nodded, smiling. “Yeah, she loves it. So did her husband… And her brother too.”
It was always interesting talking about her grandfathers… both her biological one and her adopted one. She didn’t really feel anything when she thought about them. Or her biological grandmother either, for that matter. Mark, Lucas, Hazel… They were just names to her. Old pictures and stories shared with her by family members. But a small part of her would always wish they could be more.
“Anyway, maybe I’ll tell Papa about it.” She continued at last, shrugging. “Might be a good idea for a Christmas gift.”
“Hey, look!” Rylie’s voice called out to them before Devin had a chance to reply. She beckoned the others over to her. “Aren’t you like, obsessed with these guys, Harper?” Her voice was almost teasing.
When her eyes fell on what her friend was pointing at, it was all Harper could do not to squeal out loud. It was the new 12 Minutes to Jupiter album! One of those fancy deluxe editions you could only find in certain stores… She’d been waiting for this for months!
“No way! I didn’t think it came out til next week.” Her eyes widened. “Either I’m a week off or the store made a mistake or something…”
“Well either way, looks like there’s only one left.” Rylie smiled. “Guess it’s got your name on it!”
Harper’s face fell immediately at her friend’s words. God damn it. “Yeah… Just one problem.” She sighed softly. “I don’t have any money with me.” She’d spent the bit of cash she’d borrowed from her parents to buy lunch a little while ago. None of them had intended for this to turn into an actual shopping trip. Just something to do to get out of the rain for a while. “Shit… I’m guessing neither of you guys have any extra cash I could borrow?”
Both of her friends shook their heads, just as she’d feared. “I literally have like three coins in my pocket.” Rylie replied.
“Yeah, and I spent all my money on food.” Devin said sadly. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Harper shrugged slightly, trying to hide her disappointment. “I’ll get it later, I guess. Or download it on iTunes or something.” But it won’t be the special edition… Fuck. I should have brought more money!
None of them spoke for a few moments as Rylie and Devin exchanged an odd, knowing glance.
“Sure. You could do that…” Rylie smirked slightly as she finally broke the silence. “Or…” She looked at Harper almost expectantly.
The other girl furrowed her brow in confusion. “Or what?”
“Well, nobody’s looking.” Rylie gave her friend a small wink. “Just sayin’.”
Harper realized immediately what she was implying. “Oh my God, no way!” Her eyes went wide. “You’re crazy!”
“Aw, come on.” Devin finally chimed in, smiling. “It’s really not a big deal… We’ve both done it before.”
“Don’t pussy out on us!” Rylie teased. “Just do it… Dev’s right. It’s not a big deal.”
Harper continued to hesitate. It wasn’t right to take something without paying, was it? I mean… that’s STEALING, isn’t it? She asked herself. But Harper knew it was a silly question. Of course it was stealing.
But the more important question was, did it matter?
It’s not like it would hurt anybody to take it, would it? All the employees at the store would still get paid. The greedy corporate big-wigs would still make their millions. And she was sure the band could afford to miss out on one album sale.
Who’d miss a silly little CD anyway?
Harper took a quick glance up and down the aisle. There were no employees or other customers in sight.
She reached out, took the CD into one of her small hands, and quickly tucked it into her jacket. “Let’s go.” She muttered to the others as she headed for the exit.
She tried her best to walk quickly, but not too quickly. Not enough to raise suspicion. Her heart beat violently in her chest with each step she took toward the doors. Just play it cool. You’re almost there…
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
Harper nearly jumped as the store’s alarm sounded. Fuck… I bet there’s a security tag inside!
Much too late, she realized she should have just kept walking… But she’d already paused in the store’s doorway. And her friends had no choice but to follow suit. Rylie and Devin’s expressions stiffened slightly, but she saw them trying their best to keep their cool. She tried to follow their lead as one of the employees approached, smiling.
“Sorry!” Harper fought to keep her voice as steady and natural as possible. “I think it’s my hearing aid… It sets these things off sometimes.” She explained apologetically, briefly pushing back the hair above her left ear to flash the bright purple device.
The next two seconds felt like an eternity as she waited for the man to respond.
“Oh, that’s fine.” He replied at last, smiling warmly at her. “I understand. Have a good day!”
“Thanks!” Harper’s own lips stretched into a bright smile. “You too!”
A second round of beeping filled the air as the trio crossed the threshold once more. But this time, they continued walking. And Harper relished in the rush of adrenaline coursing through her veins as she and her friends made their escape.
It was thrilling and exciting. It made her feel so…brave. Powerful. Like nobody could stop her.
Like she could do anything!
Her high did not fade for the rest of the afternoon.