I forgot how big malls are. Also? That there are security officers.
I walked through the garden of artificial plants and saw two of them, one talking into a walkie-talkie thing and looking suspiciously around. I turned fast into the first store I saw, my heart pounding. It was a clothes store, one of those for girls my age where the air smells like candy and everything has sparkles on it. Terrible music was playing, fake Justin Beiber or something, and I slipped in among the racks of clothing and got down on my knees and pretended to look at the shoes on the bottom shelf. Anyway, new shoes seemed like a really good idea. There were tons of them, and they were all really, really ugly.
Not that I was one to make judgments, really, because I smelled nasty. I would have to take care of that. Staying out of sight, I crawled around through the store until I found this turning display that said “Make her SPARKLE!” It showed a kid my age skipping around in a mini skirt, looking happier than any sane person could be. Still, it would have to do. I grabbed a bottle of something called Happy Wash that had yellow glitter in it and smelled like melons, and I wiped it all over my feet and as much on my leg as I could. I put on the closest pair of shoes. Silver sneakers, not normally my style but hey—not covered with poop. Then a girl said, “Excuse me, can I help you?” She was standing there at the end of the aisle squinting at me, her phone in her hand. I realized she’d been talking on it the whole time, that had been the low buzz of noise in the background underneath the truly terrible music they were playing over the sound system.
“Oh hi!” I said. “Um….”
She held the phone to her chest and said, “Well?” Like I’d just done something gross on her floor. Which I had, but she didn’t know that.
I sat there, smelling like melons with an undertone of poop. I didn’t want her to come any closer. “I’m just looking.”
“OK, fine,” and she went back to her phone conversation and muttered, “God, I can’t tell you how much I hate this job….” I breathed again.
I skipped to the next rack. A t-shirt, pants, everything I needed. I lay on the floor so no one could see me and wiggled into the clothes. They were…not clothes I would normally wear. Let’s just say glitter and butterflies. But I didn’t want to look like myself, so that was good. I crammed my old clothes in a ball, and shoved it under the earrings rack. I looked different enough now—almost. The next rack was hats, and that would do it. They were weird hats though. Big droopy rasta hats, little beanies with propellers on top, visors like my grandmother wore. Then I saw it, the weirdest hat I’ve ever encountered: a baseball hat with hair attached. Really. A blonde pony tail poked out the back, and thick blonde bangs hung under the bill. Like a hat wig. A hig. Or a wat. Jacob and Pinky would die laughing if they ever saw it. I put it on and tried to shove my hair underneath. No dice. I had to look around a bit before I found the answer, a fancy little manicure kit in a pink case. Emery board—useless. Cuticle clipper? Um, no. But behind them, a tiny little scissors. I grabbed my hair and started to snip, snip, snip away, until I made it through a handful of hair. It was short and springy, weirdly light. I grabbed another handful and snipped through it, then another. The girl shrieked, “Oh my God!” and I froze and squeezed my eyes shut, but then she squealed, “He. Did. NOT!” and I started cutting even faster. It took me another minute and it was done. There was hair all over the floor. My head felt light and free. I wadded the hair up and shoved it under some sock packages. I put on the cap and checked myself in the mirror: a stranger, wearing silver shoes, sparkly clothes, and a baseball hat with a long blonde ponytail and bangs. Perfect.
But how to get out of there without registering any more fully on the mind—if she had one—of the girl on the phone? I checked the price tags. The stuff added up to about $93. I silently promised Phoebe that I would pay her back. Then I slipped five of the twenty dollar bills out of the duct tape wallet, and folded them neatly into “Make her SPARKLE!” display. Then as casually as I could, me and my whole new look got up and walked out the door.