YA Fiction - Serial Novels - The Sunshine Time
The Sunshine Time Season 1 Episode 11
The atmosphere at the sprawling, five-storeyed Crossways Mall did nothing to alleviate our depressed spirits. I couldn’t believe I had once loved wandering about here. Now it was too artificial and cheesy and empty. That was the problem, I realized. Not enough people. That was why it felt like walking through an empty and desolate warehouse. Our footsteps echoed loudly on the polished granite floor, with a synthetic boy band crooning about the power of love in the background and a sparse, bored-looking crowd milling around window-shopping. There appeared to be few actual shoppers, and the shop displays reflected this in the general lack of effort in creating a more spruced-up and enticing effect. In a few years, I had read in the news recently, there would be no more malls. Most people did their shopping online these days and only went to the malls if they couldn’t think of anywhere else to be. Which was the boat we were in. We had come here only because it was something we had considered doing that morning and we hadn’t been able to think of another excuse to not go home just yet. Seeing the Flynn twins next was not even an option, we didn’t have the energy, had they even been available, which they were not. They had messaged Jopie that they had met some ‘hot guys’ and the ‘hot guys’ had invited them for lunch and, oh, it was so exciting, so ‘you hot chicks’ would have to take a rain check.
“We have to go the mall,” we had said to the girls then, by way of both refusing Arriana’s invitation to go to their place for ‘more hawing-jawing’ and her offer then to come with us to ours. She had offered to accompany us to the mall as well, she really was that perverse.
“Oh, yes, let’s go to the mall!” she had said. “I would love that! I haven’t been to a mall in ages. C’mon, guys, what do you say? We could do some mad shopping on Jopie’s credit card.”
Isolde had been game, but Jennifer had shown some sensitivity and reined them back. Arriana had waved us goodbye with a cheeky grin, very pleased with herself, and we had come away feeling like utter fools.
We were utter fools, I thought now. What was the matter with us? Why hadn’t we shown some spine and told them to pay their own goddamn bill? Why had we let ourselves be gulled and steamrolled like this?
Jopie fiddled with her phone and finally summoned up the courage to phone her mother and warn her in advance of the looming credit card bill.
“It’s better if I tell her now, before I get home,” she said, and I understood what she meant.
It was bad enough telling her on the phone. Even the loud music and the crowd around us couldn’t drown out Mrs. Ashton’s roar. Jopie had spent HOW MUCH and ON WHAT? Had she gone COMPLETELY INSANE? Was this why her poor father was working himself to the bone? Was this why they were sending her to such an expensive college? So she could go around SPLURGING like this? DEAR GOD! She could not BELIEVE this! Had it been that Lea’s idea to go to the Union Oyster?
I pretended I hadn’t heard that and Jopie was grateful. She didn’t like making excuses for her mother, but the woman was really beyond awful sometimes. She stopped hemorrhaging instantly once Jopie had managed to get a word in and tell her who we had been lunching with. She didn’t even vent at Arriana for playing such a shoddy trick and at Jennifer and Isolde for going along with it.
“Oh, I see,” she said. “Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? You should have told me when I phoned before. Anyway, alright, I can understand. Never mind. You can pay the bill with your pocket money, so it’s not such a big deal, and I’m sure she’ll be happy to stand you a treat the next time, like she said. Why don’t you bring her over sometime? Ask her, alright?”
Yes, do, I thought, she’ll get over her High Society fixation in a minute. Jopie, putting her phone away, reiterated her dislike of Arriana. She had already told me that she thought Arriana was rude, insolent, obnoxious, snobbish, mannerless, and, oh, quite, quite horrible, and now she found some more adjectives. She couldn’t speak out against her mother, so she had to have the relief of waxing indignant about Arriana.
“The absolute beast! She did it on purpose, of course. Asked us there with them in the first place, I mean. I’m sure she was planning all along to do something like this.”
“We shouldn’t have gone, that was our mistake.”
“Well, I didn’t want to. I only came because you wanted to go...”
“Alright! And I’ve said I’ll help with the payment...”
“I know you will. It’s not that. It’s just... Gawd, this makes me so angry! You do realize what this means, don’t you? It means we’re out of pocket for at least two or three months until we have cleared this stupid bill, and I’m sure she’ll find that funny. Horrible creature. I have never met anyone like that, and I don’t want to ever see her again. We’re not hanging out with them, alright? Their awful personalities aside, we don’t want to be made complete, total paupers! Gawd, why did we even come here? We couldn’t even afford a measly ice cream anymore!”
“An ice cream? How am I going to pay for my bloody website hosting?”
“What? Oh. I thought you paid for it already.”
“With my credit card. When I get the bill, how am I going to make the payment?”
You ate, you pay, Mum had said when I’d phoned her. She had been as annoyed as Mrs. Ashton, although she hadn’t shouted and she certainly hadn’t fallen victim to celebrity worship either.
“We have mortgage payments on the house, your and Tavi’s educations to complete, and another child to bring up,” she had said. “Why couldn’t you have used your brain and told those girls to bloody well pay for themselves? No, I’m not going to speak to Sarvani and make Isolde pay. This is entirely your affair, you got into it and now you handle it yourself. It’s time you understood how things are in the real world. All that talk of going into business, well, learn now, or you’ll have your customers stiffing you too left and right. And, no, don’t call Daddy, I’m not going to let him extricate you.”
I didn’t call Daddy, although I was sure he would get around her and extricate me anyway, and I wasn’t really worried about the website payment either, Daddy would just never let me down there. I was just wounded to the core by her talk of future customers stiffing me. Why did she have to make me feel more inadequate?
“The only thing to do,” I told Jopie, “is to find work immediately. Maybe something will have panned out with all those illustration work queries I’ve sent. There ought to be something today...”
“What happened with the possibility with Caraindon DesignWorks? You said you were going to ask Gerro Caraindon?”
“Tch, no, that’s scrapped. Billy’s right. He doesn’t help his own relatives, so why would he help me? But I did email Saban Harmon, the senior art director. Let’s see what happens. Why don’t you try for a writing job? There are always plenty on the job boards. Not to mention with magazines. I’ve been looking at those too. They pay so well. If Billy can do it, so can we.”
“Yes, but I don’t have any writing samples. Well, all the lame essays from school, I can hardly show those. I guess I’ll have to put something new together. Alright, as soon as I get home. I find writing incredibly difficult to do though.”
“So do I. Sometimes I find everything incredibly difficult.”
We paused to look at the dress displays in the Geraldine Katselas shop window. I wasn’t interested in designer clothes, but these caught my attention. They were of the type similar to what Dallas Caraindon had been wearing earlier. There were no price tags, which meant the cost had to be something exorbitant.
“I don’t know why these people can’t just display the prices,” I said to Jopie. “They always have to pretend they’re too highbrow to actively seek customers. It’s no way to do business.”
“Clearly, it’s working for them,” she said. “People always fall for exclusivity. But why do you want to know the price anyway? You couldn’t get these even if we weren’t so bankrupt.”
“Let my business get started, then I can get ten dozen of these,” I said, annoyed. “If I wanted, which I won’t, because I think it’s a waste to spend thousands of kronie on clothes. I would rather put my hard-earned money in the bank and get compound interest.”
I glared at the mannequins. I was going to have to struggle to build up my business before I was in the position to really turn up my nose at these clothes. Meanwhile, Dallas could just sweep in on family goodwill and buy a good ten dozen without even blinking. It was a completely unfair world. She had everything. He was involved with her...
I had had ample time to recover and absorb that news properly, but it still seemed too incredible. Dallas Caraindon and Arlen Shaughnessy? Gawd, it was a small world, wasn’t it?