18. The mall, part three.
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This was it. Time alone, just the two of them, no middle schoolers. What they had both been waiting for.

So why was it so hard to think of something to do?

"Food court?" suggested Randy. He didn't know why, but that's what his mind always went to first.

Nikki shook her head. "Let's do that last."

They passed by dozens of stores, but nothing was piquing either of their interests. Honestly though, Randy was having a fun time just walking and talking with her. He thought back to how David thought the two were together... did everyone else here think that? He kinda hoped so...

"Do you wanna just sit down for a bit?" Nikki asked. They were in the middle of an area near a fountain with a lot of small benches and nooks with chairs.

Randy shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Yeah, my legs are feeling kind of tired I guess."

The two found an empty bench and took a seat. For a while they sat there, just kind of watching the countless people loaded up with shopping bags pass by. Every once in a while, Nikki would make some kind of mean comment about someone in the crowd - picking out a woman she thought was wearing a wig or had implants, a guy with a bad hairline, a couple being too lovey-dovey - and it would invariably make Randy laugh. The girl just had a knack for being rude and funny at the same time. Randy felt bad for enjoying it, but it was pretty entertaining when he wasn't the one she was mocking.

"Look at that guy." she snorted, not so subtly nudging Randy to look in the direction of this lanky goth dude lingering outside the vape shop. "What is he even wearing? He looks like he only shops at Hot Topic."

"You look like you only shop at Dick's Sporting Goods." Randy jabbed back. He was only trying to be funny, of course. Nikki realized that.

Thinking up a counter, she eyed the boy with a grin. With a stretch and a yawn, she rested back.

"Yeah, and you love it." she said. "So I must be doing something right."

Randy paused. Was that flirting? It sounded like flirting. He blew a little air out his mouth nervously, and Nikki giggled.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"Nothing." he said simply, letting embarrassment overtake him.

Thinking about it... Nikki really did flirt with him a lot. All those texts in the morning begging for nudes, all those times when she got up in his personal space, all those little compliments about him smelling nice or having nice hair. He still wasn't sure if that was just because it was in her personality to act a little flirty or if she was actually into him. Most of them could've been jokes too, or jabs that he just didn't understand. Hmm... maybe he could try flirting, too? That way, he could really get a pulse on the situation.

Just thinking about it made him dry swallow. How did people even flirt to begin with? He didn't know how to flirt... but damn it, he had to try.

He glanced to Nikki. She seemed to have moved on from the little interaction, eyes scanning the crowd for her next target. But instead, she found something else.

"Look." she poked him. "It's a Gucci store. I didn't realize they had one of those here."

Randy took a second to process what she had said. Oh, yeah. The mall was broken up into a bunch of sections, and they were sitting on the edge of the one with all the rich people stores.

"Let's go." she said, sitting up. "I think I'd look cute with some thousand dollar sunglasses."

This is my chance!

"I-I don't think you need any help with that." he said. Not the best line, but Nikki turned to him, surprise and a little bit of joy on her face. She opened her mouth for a witty response, but closed it just as fast, failing to put any words together.

A few seconds later, she gave him a playful shove. "Shut up!"

They both laughed. Randy had flutters inside.

I think she likes me!

I can't believe it. He really likes me, doesn't he?

The two had left their bench to check out the Gucci store itself, since Nikki was more than a little curious. Of course, everything inside was much too expensive... but it was fun to try things on in the mirror. She had quickly learned that there wasn't a whole lot separating a pair of Gucci sunglasses from a pair of regular sunglasses besides the little logo. The designs were also kind of ugly.

"What do you think?" Randy asked, lifting up a pair to his eyes - you weren't allowed to actually put them on your face, but you could hold them up. Nikki turned to check it out... surrounding the dark lenses was a plastic rectangle in neapolitan colors.

"Ugly!" she said. When a store attendant looked her way with an evil eye, she added on a bit more. "Oh, the glasses, not him."

They rolled their eyes.

Her and Randy walked over to check out the purses. She was never into purses, she didn't really get the point - all she ever carried around was her phone and earbuds, and she made sure all her leggings had pockets - but some of the ones they had here looked actually kinda cool. Not that she'd ever carry one. Or ever be able to afford dropping several grand on one.

As they walked, Nikki grew quieter than she had been before. Her mind was caught up thinking about that little compliment Randy gave her. That stupid little compliment. Not even a good one. But it made her heart race in her chest just thinking back to it. He was so nervous saying it too. God, he was cute! And he totally liked her. She had suspected it before... but now it was confirmed. No more doubt.

But then doubt decided to give her its two cents.

Stupid. He doesn't like you. After all you did? After the way you treated him? He'll never like you.

For a second, Nikki gave in to the insecurity. But then her heart got a second wind. He did like her, he might not have said the words, but he had forgiven her somehow, and he was into her.

She looked to Randy, who was going over to look at a case of watches on the opposite side of the store. The little voice in the far reaches of her mind chimed in again.

Don't get your hopes up, no-boobs. How could he ever forgive you for being such a cunt to him? Just forget it. He'll never like you, ever.

Nikki felt the cold grasp cover her again, but once again managed to push it away.

He does like me. I know he does. And I'm gonna know for sure, since I'm gonna ask him about it.

Determination swelled up in her chest as she crossed the store, confidently walking up to his side. She reached out and tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to face her. And, with all the courage she could summon, she was able to open her mouth.

"Randy. Can I ask you about something?" she said firmly.

"Sure." Randy replied, looking her in the eye. God... why'd he have to do that? It made this twenty times harder.

"Well, I-"

Suddenly, the worst thing that could've possibly happened at that moment happened.

Her phone rang.

It was like a scare from a horror movie. The abrupt noise made her jump in place, setting off every nerve. Immediately after, she struggled to straighten herself out as she grabbed her phone. Randy nodded to her understandingly as she lifted it up to her ear with eyes still focused on the boy.

Quinn's voice greeted her. "Hey, my mom called me. We should probably go now... or like, should've gone fifteen minutes ago. Meet you guys by the entrance to Primark?"

"Sure." Nikki sighed. Quinn was saying more, but she hung up and shoved her phone back in her pocket. "We gotta go now."

As they started out the entrance of the store, Randy looked over to her. When her eyes met his, he spoke up.

"Soo... what did you want to ask me?"

"I'll... I'll ask you later." she said.

While the unfortunate interruption would've crushed a normal person's spirit, Nikki found it re-energizing. She was just gonna ask him how he felt about in the middle of the Gucci store at the mall? That would've been so lame... no, she was going to use this opportunity to make it really special somehow. Maybe she could even have a date ready to ask him out on.

"Sucks we have to leave now." she said, trying to make small talk. "We didn't even get to hit the food court."

"Yeah." Randy shrugged his shoulders. "Honestly, it's not that great anyways. Except for that one Vietnamese place."

"I would've rather gotten fast food..."

On the drive home, it was hard for Nikki to keep her eyes on the road. She kept stealing looks at Randy... and she could've sworn he was doing the same with her.

Her heart swelled.





Up to third place! Thanks again everyone for the support. I want to take the time to point some of this attention towards another of my stories, Phoenix Empress Tournament. It's an interactive story where you can submit your own original character to compete in a fighting tournament, all the rules are in the first chapter. I've been on a bit of a hiatus with it recently, but I'm hoping to ramp up the schedule on both this story and that one when I'm all done with finals. There's only a few slots left, so if you want me to write a character of your own creation, move fast.

Oh yeah, next week is finals week for me. I also have to catch up on a bunch of homework I've put off. So there'll probably only be around one new chapter for this story next week. But again, after finals week I'm hoping to maybe do four or five a week.