Casey wasn't sure where that size came from because when she first grabbed her size, there wasn't a 9 ½ but then when she went back there was. “Do you want a pair Angel?”
Angel, trying on a pair of flat white gladiator-style sandals glanced up and grinned. “Oh, totally! Those look adorable on you!”
Casey grabbed a second box one for her and one for her sister, “Angel, those sandals look like something mom would have worn.” she teased.
Angel laughed loudly. “You thought so too? I couldn’t resist trying them on, but I don’t think I want them. Makes me look too grown-up,” she answered, even as she pulled them off to return them to the shelf. ‘Besides, we’ve got tons of shoes already.”
Lacy giggled to herself as she watched the trio, nudging Jolien. “What do you think? Natural or what?”
“Oh my yes. That girl’s blessed to be starting at her age. I am a little jealous, but overshadowing that is my joy for her - and her sister. … Twins.”
Lacy giggled again. “We have got to work on your English sometime,” she teased, winking as the other three approached. Before the other girls got too close Lacy looked at Jolien quickly, “I think we should invite them to our coven with them when they learn how to control their powers.” and smiled when the other girls got closer, “Find all the shoes you wanted?”
Danielle squealed as she held up her shoe box. “I’ve been to this store hundreds of times and I’ve never seen these in my size! I’m going to wear them out of the store after I pay for them. Thank you so much Casey.”
Casey blushed a little as she shrugged. “It was nothing really I just happen to see a box in 9 ½ , but you’re welcome.”
Danielle giggled, “Well whatever, If you wouldn’t have seen it, I would have been pouty all day, I always am when I can’t find cute shoes.”
Jolien and Lacy exchanged a glance and giggled as well, the latter adding, “Well, once you guys ring up your purchases we’ve got lots more to show our new arrivals.”
Jolien grinned. “You know I think I’ll wear my new boots too. Give me one moment to change.”
“Maybe we can find you a nice dress to go with ‘em for your date tonight,” Lacy teased, getting a playful mock-glare from Jolien.
“Darling, you know every night is date night. Do not worry, we’ll find you a nice girlfriend too!”
“Oh, that’s okay. You know I’m not on the market right now.”
“So can I ask, are you …” Angel began, after paying for her shoes.
“Like Jolien?” Lacy finished for her, and shook her head. “No, I’m genetic. Pink house is for LGBT. I’m lesbian, and Jolien’s girl is bisexual. You met her back at the Starbucks kiosk. Don’t worry, nobody’s going to give you a hard time for staying with us if you get the hots for a cute boy though,” she added with a soft grin. “Students tend to be neutral about stuff like that - mostly because the last kid who got busted for bullying is enjoying Ms. Bethany’s unique sense of ironic punishments.”
Angel’s eyes widened for a moment. “What happened?”
Danielle answered, “The little punk harassed some girls his age, and now he’s spending the summer learning about life from their perspective. I heard it might even extend into the school year, but the shrinks are watching it closely to make sure he learns his lesson without any psychological damage... The kid’s pretty broken already, I heard. But it was this or expulsion, and explushion for wards of the state means...”
“Foster care,” Jolien finished with a frown. “So he chose to redeem himself. The rumors that I have heard are that the girls involved actually befriended him afterwards. So you see, no matter how strange the punishment, there is always a lesson, when Bethany Anderson is involved.”
“But this is getting depressing,” Danielle chimed, “Let’s go get some frozen yogurt and take these two to Claire’s. We need to teach our young padawans the fine art of accessorizing!”
Casey and Angel giggled, then Casey said, “I guess I need to get my ears pierced. Do you think that Stephanie would flip if I got more than one per ear?”
This time Angel smacked Casey’s arm lightly, “Now it’s your turn to get out of my head.” and she giggled.
Jolien and Lacy shared a brief glance, and Jolien carefully pushed back the hair that had been covering much of her ears. Up above her normal lower lobe piercing, she had two small stud upper piercings on each side. Lacy grinned.
“Honestly, they’ll let you staple your lips shut as long as you’re not causing trouble for other students or breaking any laws. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your schoolwork of course.”
“Wow!” both girls said at the same time and then continued in stereo, “Mom and Dad would kill us for that, but we so want to do it!”
“I know the girl who usually works on weekends,” Lacy continued. “You can totally trust her. I think you’d look cute with pink flower studs and maybe aquamarine and purple upper, or small hoops or something.”
Casey grinned. “I was thinking four in each ear, but only if Angel wants that many as well.”
Angel nodded. “Two upper and two lower? I might get a tongue ring when we’re older, but those look like they’d be more trouble than they’re really worth.”
“Oh what about our bellybuttons?” Casey hoped she didn’t go overboard with that.
“Well, if it’s what you REALLY want,” Danielle answered. “Personally I think you might be too young to even be showing off your belly buttons, but from a rules standpoint, you guys are almost teenagers so I’m pretty sure it’s allowed. Self-expression and stuff.” She paused to add, “Oh, and don’t take that as me telling you not to do it. It’s just I wouldn’t have at your age.”
She then paused again to lift her shirt enough to reveal a small stud. “Didn’t stop me from doing it when I was fourteen though.”
“Well we kinda lived in an oppressive household.” Both girls did the stereo thing again.
“Oh... Ohhh... Well, in that case you can totally ignore me,” she giggled. “My parents were pretty average. They took my ‘I’m a girl’ thing as a phase, until my seventh birthday when I started crying because I didn’t get any Barbies, but y’know, other than that they were... pretty dull growing up. So, um, yeah. I say go for it if that’s what you wanna do.”
The girls walked into Claire’s, and started to look around. A blonde-haired teen that looked about Jolien’s age, or a bit older standing by the cash register waved as the girls entered. She had on a black beret-type hat with bright pink t-shirt, the words ‘Cheer Power!’ spelled out in glittery lettering with a heart punctuating the exclamation point.
“Hi Lacy!” she called cheerfully.
“Heya Chels!” Lacy called back as she walked over. “Angel, Casey, this is Chelsea Gilbert. She’s one of the most popular girls at Alpine High,” she added with a wink, giggling.
Chelsea rolled her eyes, giving Lacy’s shoulder a mock swat. “Oh, shush you! Since you’re friends with Lacy though, I’ll go ahead and give you guys the 10% friends and fam discount. Just let me know if you need anything.”
Angel smiled, “Nice to meet you Chelsea. My sister and I would like to get our ears pierced. Well she needs to get hers done, she wants four in each ear, and I would like to get three more added.”
“Sure!” Chelsea answered. “Now, there’s going to be a lot of care involved, but I’m sure you’ve heard this speech before, right?” Chelsea grinned.
Angel nodded, “I can help my sister so she doesn’t need it either.” continuing to smile.
Casey piped in, “Oh do you know where we can get our belly buttons done too?”
“As a matter of fact, I have a cousin who’s a professional tattoo artist, and she also does piercings. She’s kind of the black sheep of the family, but I wouldn’t recommend her if I didn’t trust her. Umm...” She glanced around, grabbing a post-it pad and a pen, and scribbled down an address, handing it over. “If you want you can ask her to do your upper earrings as well.”
Both girls nodded and in stereo they replied, “Cool thank you.”
“No problem. Want me to do the lowers anyway? I’ll be gentle,” she added with a professional smile.
Angel nodded, “Please, I’ll take the new lowers and my sister will take two in hers, You are so cool by the way! I had to get mine done by my friends older sister because our mom would have never let us do this.”
“You’re kidding?” Chelsea asked, genuinely surprised as she stepped around the counter.
“No, our parents were a bit prudish.” Casey replied then thought for a split second, “A bit is an understatement; they were a lot prudish.”
“Sounds like my grandma. Mom got the ‘If God meant for you to have holes in your ears he would have put them there’ speech so many times growing up,” she answered, clearly trying not to laugh. “Anyway, come on back with me and I’ll show you your options for studs.”
Chelsea led the girls to another counter with an adjustable chair beside it. On the wall, several pairs of earrings in different styles, from sleek to gaudy, simple to stylish, studs, hoops, butterflies, crosses, yin yangs, and others in differing materials and colors. Another several sets, only slightly more expensive, were stored under the glass counter on display in semi-precious metal plating.
Casey and Angel both picked pairs of the more expensive earrings not because they could afford it but because they were very pretty. When Chelsea was done piercing their ears and the girls paid for their purchases they continued to look around Claire’s. Casey was admiring the selection of hair accessories she never dreamed, a day before, would ever be within her reach when Lacy tapped her on the shoulder.
“So I think this necklace would look so cute with your new earrings.” Lacy smiled, showing the girls a pair of silver necklaces with matching one inch butterfly pendants. The ‘outlines’ of the wings were done in silver, with either some kind of pink gem or glass for the wing portion.
Both girls stuck in stereo mode, “Oh that is soo pretty!”
“Butterflies represent rebirth and a new beginning as something brighter and more beautiful than what it was before. I thought it was kind of fitting given what you both just went through.”
Angel and Casey took the necklaces and approached the counter as the others joined them, carrying an armload each.
“Where to next?” Casey asked as they left..
Jolien smiled, “Food court then a short walk to get your tops and your bellies done” she giggled, “Then we come back here and get you some shirts to show it off and some skirts to go with it.”
“Cool!” Casey and Angel answered in unison.
Lacy and Jolien exchanged another glance and giggled. Jolien nodded. “The food court here has the BEST frozen yogurt I have had. It is only a shame they do not serve gelato as well.”
“What’s gelato?” Angel asked as they made their way through the mall.
“Gelato is... How to explain...”
Danielle spoke up, “Gelato is Italian ice cream. They make it a lot denser than American-style, so it’s a lot sweeter. A lot a lot.”
“Yes, exactly. Is very sweet and delicious, but for American style, I prefer yogurt to ice cream. Must watch my girlish figure, oui?” She teased.
Everyone giggled at that including Jolien, as the girls approached the food court Casey and Angel’s expression changed their eyes went wide, “There’s like every restaurant you could imagine in here!”
The other three girls giggled, and Danielle smiled, “I think I’m going to hit the pizza place and get a slice. Let's meet back here and find a table once we get our food ok?”
The girls all agreed and wandered off to get their food, Angel and Casey looked around the food court trying to figure out what to get and then spotted a small Greek/Italian combo restaurant that they could have sworn wasn't there before, “Let’s check that place out.”
Angel nodded, “Sure, I like those Gyro things, maybe they have that ice cream thingy that Jolien was talking about too?”
Casey nodded as they approached. “Two Gyros and do you have any Gelato?”
“As a matter of fact,” the man behind the counter replied with a grin. “We just joined a small focus testing program to see how gelato would sell here. It’s been popular in Europe for many years you know,” he added, pausing, “But I’m surprised you’ve heard of it.”
“Well a friend of mine mentioned it. Can I get five dishes of it then?” Casey smiled at the guy and paid for their order, not letting Angel argue.
“Absolutely. We only have one flavor today - vanilla, but check back next week and we’ll have a lot more to offer,” he answered, and after a moment, dished up five dishes full, setting them on a tray for the girls to more easily carry it, along with two sandwiches. “There you go - enjoy!” he added with a friendly smile.
Casey smiled as the man and wandered over to where they were supposed to meet everyone. “Wonder if they will take forever to meet us.” Casey giggled.
“I hope not,” Angel answered. “Or the ice cream’ll melt!”
Just then the girls started to file in, “So where do we um sit then?” Jolien looked at Angel and Casey’s tray, “and is that what I think it is?”
Angel grinned broadly. “Maaaay-be.”
Casey rolled her eyes and giggled. “The guy over there said they were just starting a focus testing for the stuff to see if it’d sell well, so we did our part and bought some for everyone.”
Jolien screeched, “Oh my gosh; they sell it here!” as they quickly found a table before drawing too much attention to themselves.
Lacy giggled to herself as she watched Jolien’s expression. “So how does it compare to the stuff you got back home?” she teased, taking a bite herself. “Ohhh... That is good.”
Jolien looked up with a huge grin on her face, “Much as you say the same. Thank you Casey and Angel.”
“You’re welcome,” the pair answered in unison and giggled, Angel adding, “... That time we did do that on purpose,” and grinned.
Everyone giggled at that, Danielle smiled as the girls finished their meal, “So you two ready to get your belly buttons pierced?”
“Sure!” they both announced.
The girls all filed out of the mall and walked down the road Lacy and Jolien fell back a bit and talked quietly between themselves as the other three chatted loudly as they walked to Chelsea’s cousin’s shop.
The address wasn’t at all what the girls were expecting. The outside of the shop was an old brick facade two story building that looked like it had been built at least fifty, if not a hundred years ago. Large brick columns separated plate glass windows displaying several styles of tattoos from tribal to stylized. A sign over the door declared the shop “Tats and Mats”
“Mats?” Angel and Casey asked, looking at each other.
Danielle shrugged, but Jolien and Lacy just smiled to themselves without saying anything. As they made their way inside, a bell over the door rang, and from the back room a young woman - perhaps 19 or 20, who looked as though she had just emerged from an Addams Family costume contest emerged. Between her flowing black dress, waist-length jet black hair, and plum lipstick, she looked more than a little intimidating.
It didn’t help that Lacy pushed past the girls, walked right up to the woman, and looked her right in the eye. The woman returned the stare with a dark scowl. A full ten seconds passed before both started laughing and embraced.
“Lacy! How the heck are you?”
“I’m fantastic. I see you’re still dressing like a bad vampire movie extra.”
“Hey, it’s good for business. Tats and Mats, remember? Who are the Barbies?” She grinned, nodding with a friendly, disarming smile toward the twins.
“Be nice! This is Angel and Casey. Chels sent them over for double-uppers plus a belly-button.”
“Is that so? Well you came to the right place girls. I promise you won’t feel a thing. Come on back and we’ll get started.”
Angel and Casey glanced at each other as they followed. Angel began, “If you don’t mind us asking,”
And Casey finished, “What’s the ‘Mats’ for exactly?”
The woman glanced over her shoulder at the pair with that same disarming smile. “Mats is short for materials.” She pointed with her left hand toward the corner of the shop, where a tall shelf sat practically overloaded with various herbs and bottles of other strange things.
“I have a lot of New Age clients looking for homeopathic remedies or,” she paused to make finger quotes, “‘Spells’, so I humor them. Most of this stuff I get wholesale, but a few of the rarer herbs I grow myself. But hey, if you ever need a love potion that tastes like turpentine and smells like Indian ink, but doesn’t really do anything, I’m your witch.” She giggled.
“You’re not … really a witch are you?” Casey asked. She shook her head.
“I’m a Pagan, dear. The only ‘spells’ I have are in the form of prayers, but I do have a recipe for a fantastic vegetable stew. Mix the right herbs together and it tastes like magic,” she teased, changing the subject as she led the girls to one of three chairs. Currently the other two were empty.
“Now, when you had your lowers done, that was with a gun right?” she asked. The girls nodded. “Well, I like to do things the old fashioned way, with a needle. Takes more precision, but it hurts a hell of a lot less when you know what you’re doing like I do. That also means I can do studs or hoops. Up to you. Studs would be easier until the holes heal, but that’s just my opinion.”
“Studs,” the girls answered in unison. As the woman worked, Lacy and Jolien continued to talk amongst themselves quietly. Danielle didn’t seem to notice, distracted by the artwork on the walls.
“Did you draw all these yourself?” she asked.
The woman nodded. “As a matter of fact I did. Deep breath,” she instructed Angel, continuing afterwards, “I find it easier to replicate in the final tattoo what I’ve already drawn on paper. It’s kind of a quirk of mine, but it makes the customers happy.”
She paused to glance back at Angel. “And before you ask, I’ll need a parent or guardian’s permission before I can ink you. I should probably be asking for their permission to do these piercings, but since you’re not getting anything drastic like tongue or,” she paused, “Ahem, anything else, I’ll let it slide since you’re friends of Lacy’s”
Angel giggled. “That’s okay. I don’t really want a tattoo.”
After the girls were finished, they went back up front to pay, but Jolien stopped them, giving her bank card instead. “This is on me my friends, for the best gelato I have had since my last vacation in Florence last summer.”
“Wow, thanks!” they chimed in unison, causing the woman to laugh quietly.
“Have a nice day. It was great seeing you again Lacy.”
“You too Dawn,” Lacy answered, waving as they left to return to the mall.
The girls entered the mall and passed a girl in a very beautiful gothic lolita dress carrying a tablet pc along with several other girls with her; only one of the other girls was wearing a gothic dress besides the one carrying the tablet. Casey looked at everyone else, “Did you see that pretty dress? I wonder where she got it...”
“Let’s go ask her?” Danielle shrugged thoughtfully.
Casey turned around and quickly approached the group of girls who found a table and were sitting down. The rest of her friends quickly joined, “Hey um, where did you get that pretty dress?”
The dark-haired girl grinned at the girl in the lolita dress, who stood and struck a pose. Her accent, at least to Casey and Angel, sounded positively upper class British. “You like it?” she asked cheerfully.
Casey and Angel both nodded and replied, “Yes we do; it’s very pretty.”
“Well, ladies,” she answered, “I’m happy to hear that. It gives me hope that my assistant manager’s sister isn’t the only one in your age group who’s interested.” She winked. “I own a small boutique here in Alpine Springs called Annabell’s Secrets. I’m Annabell, of course.”
Danielle looked at her, “The new shop across the pizza place? Cool, I like the dress but I don’t think it’s something I’d wear on an everyday basis.”
Annabell laughed. “Oh, I don’t just make elegant gothic lolita dresses. I also make and sell every kind of punk and goth from subdued to spiky, industrial to leather to victorian, and I’m considering a Steampunk sub-line if there’s enough interest.”
Lacy’s eyes got wide, “Oh God Steampunk! If you do a Steampunk line I’d buy everything in it!” she giggled.
Annabell gave Lacy an appraising look before grinning. “I’ll tell you what. If you’d be willing to model a few things for me in that area, I’ll let you keep the prototypes - which are usually one-of-a-kind Annabell MacAlister originals. Of course I’d also welcome any suggestions you might have to make the line more appealing - as you can see I’m partial to EGL myself, but I really want to reach as many of the less-mainstream genres of fashion as I can.”
Lacy nodded, “That would be awesome, I’ll have to drag the other girls down there so we can go shopping sometime, thanks for taking your time to talk to us.” she smiled.
“Hey, not a problem. And girls?” she added, turning back to Casey with a grin, “I’m in the process of acquiring a smaller dressmaking dummy. It’ll actually cost less to make these in your sizes due to less material needed, so don’t hesitate to look around and find what you like. I do take special orders.”
“Cool! We will have to keep that in mind next time we go downtown. Thank you, I’m Lacy, this is Danielle, Jolien, Casey and Angel are the twins.”
“Well, as I said, I’m Annabell MacAlister. This lovely thing,” she added, pointing to Trina, “is my protege and assistant manager Trina, her girlfriend and my new favorite hairstylist and window display designer Laura, and … Nikki.” She giggled. “Sorry, Nikki, but there’s just so much pomp I can come up with before I run out of ideas.”
The girl identified as Nikki, wearing a black Heedless Despair t-shirt and a lazy smile, shrugged as she laughed. “Eh, you’re forgiven. How’s it goin’ Lace?” she asked, nodding toward Lacy.
Lacy shrugged. “Same old same old. We’re showing Angel and Casey the town. You and Robin should stop by the Academy some time. We can hang out, and you can avoid weird stares for holding hands with a girl,” she teased.
Nikki laughed. “Why? That’s half the fun. Anyway it sounds great. See you tomorrow night?”
“See you later,” Lacy called cheerfully as they started to walk away again. Casey giggled.
“Is it me or does Lacy know everybody in this town?”
Lacy blushed slightly. “I used to go to school with Chelsea and Nikki. Chels and I are still BFFs though. Nikki’s cool too. We just were never that tight. And then after I get a scholarship to Sunshine I found out she’s into girls,” she added teasingly.
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