She knew a lot, a lot more than she could ever tell him before all of the secrets were burn her up from the inside. What could she do? She was happy. He was her entire world. Maybe he knew that. Maybe they all did, and that’s why she was the place where secrets went to die.
His birthday was coming. And while she knew a lot, she didn’t quite know what to get him. She thought about another sports collectable or tickets to a concert. But Lilith had already gotten those for him for the holidays. December and June were only six months apart. They hadn’t even gone to the concert yet, it was coming up next week. She would have to think of something else, something special.
Lilith was walking through the mall, unintentionally toward the food court. The smell of fast food and dessert hit her nose. Her stomach growled. Picking up her wrist, she checked the time. It was still 7:10. Up ahead there was a watch kiosk. Taking it as a sign Lilith walked over. After waiting for the attention of the employee, Lilith began looking at the other watches on display. From afar they all looked like hers. Fancy, luxurious watches. She almost couldn’t believe the likeness. The employee, a young man fully equipped with a pushy, salesman attitude came to assist her. At first he laughed at her astonishment over the imitation watches. She cringed a little. He was holding hers in his hand. Couldn’t he see what was there in front of him?
As the wool lifted from her eyes, tears began to fill them. “It was a gift,” Lilith said in a whisper. She hadn’t been the one to see. Looking at her the same way someone might look at their mother, the young salesman picked up a different one. Not as fancy, but also not as fake. Lilith worked on composing herself and the man handed her the other watch.
“I can’t,” Lilith said.
“Ten bucks lady,” the young man said pointing at a sign. It read, “TIME FOR A CHANGE? $10 – Battery Changes! Lowest Prices Around!”
“Thank you,” Lilith said, digging a ten dollar bill out from her puse.
Trying to keep her head up high, Lilith walked away from the kiosk. The smells from the food court wafted into her nose. While she didn’t feel quite like eating, she did feel hungry. As a distraction, she pulled her cell phone out from her purse. It was already 2:00 pm. She had been at the mall since 12:30 and all she had to show for it was an empty stomach and a broken watch. Rolling her eyes, Lilith made her way into the food court.
She had picked up a grilled chicken and berry salad, a four count of fried nuggets, a side of apples, and a chocolate milk. She had also walked across the way and grabbed a cookie and a hot coffee for dessert. More or less to soak up the lingering disappointment from earlier. Settling down at a table Lilith began organizing her tray table when she heard a familiar giggle up ahead. It was a giggle that couldn’t be missed.
Young, loud, genuine but overly done. It was the laugh of a girl in Lilith’s eighth period English class. Lilith was happy she had taken a table tucked away in the corner, generally obstructed and out of the way. While she loved teaching and liked most of her students, there were some she was more than happy to not see out of class. Especially not the ones whose high school lives made Lilith’s adult dating life seem boring and lame.
Peeking out from the corner wall that shielded her from sight Lilith saw her student. Samantha. The epitome of late night porn and all made for tv movies. Tall enough to not be “short,” a girl’s body with womanly developments. Samantha, who could have had all of the senior and junior boys and half of the sophomore class and teachers. Samantha, standing there with Peter. Peter, whose birthday was coming. Peter, who up until a few minutes ago had been Lilith’s boyfriend. Lilith quietly dropped her plastic fork into her salad.
A pull lurched down her throat bringing back a few bites of lettuce. She was not going to throw up. Her stomach reached up through her chest, and yanked down hard. She was not going to make any noise as she threw up the few bites of lettuce she had taken. There, in the corner of the mall’s food court with her heart heavy and her stomach empty, Lilith gagged and spit out her lunch.
Just another secret for her to keep, she thought as she cleaned her mouth with a napkin. Before she had fully thought out her actions, Lilith’s arm reached for her phone. Swiping left she opened her camera. Pressing record she lifted it over the edge. After what felt like an eternity she pulled her phone back. Stopping the recording she played back her own person b-roll. Like an earthquake ravaging the mall the food court shook. It straightened out. Eventually a group of people came into focus. As they walked by the camera refocused, the on and again off again blur of the signs started to make Lilith even more nauseous. With more clarity than she needed, there was Samantha with Peter wrapped around her finger and her waist.
Kisses were left on her shoulder and in her hair, as his hand made its home securely around her butt. As the video played in slow motion, the wheels in Lilith’s head begun to turn. As Samantha turned, running her arms over Peter’s shaved head and back, her tongue opening his lips and entwining with his, Lilith had an idea.
Waiting almost an entire hour, looking at food she wasn’t going to eat. Waiting for her boyfriend and his girlfriend to leave the mall food court. Lilith made a mental list. Finally she had figured out what to get Peter for his birthday.
Texting their group text Lilith wrote: Hi everyone! I think someone’s birthday is this weekend… made reservations at the ice cream place across the street before we all head out to Jumpin’ Jack’s. Presents & ice cream cake! See you all at 8:30 this Saturday!” Lilith pressed send, along with it went her reservations. She was going to give Peter, and all of her friends, the most memorable celebration there had ever been.