31 March 2020

Guest Story: New Friend, New Trouble

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Part 4 of the Damien/Kiera series (previous parts can be found here).  Kiera is lonely without any friends around.  How far will she go to get a new companion?

New Friend, New Trouble
by Dee

-x-x-x-x-


I sighed as I plopped myself onto Damien’s bed while he sorted out our laundry. He had no class to teach today and he was a bit ahead with his weekly lectures so today was pretty much his day off meaning that it was also my day off. However, I was bored as heck. There was nothing to do here and no one to play with. I already helped with some chores and did my workbook. Damien said I was free to play and enjoy myself which is pretty cool, but after a while it feels kind of empty to play by yourself. I could ask my brother to play with me but he is usually busy and when he is free he is busy doing housework.  I wanted to see if I could call one of my friends from back home… but it was a school day so she wouldn’t be able to. 

I never thought I’d say this… but I wish I was at school. Or at least at Damien’s university. At least I had people I could talk to there. Even if sometimes I didn't always fully understood what they tell me, I still had someone to talk to. 

I wish I had someone my age to talk to.  Its pretty lonesome around here. I haven’t been able to meet anybody here and my brother isn’t the social type so it’s not like we can have gatherings or something where I can meet kids. If I was already going to school I probably would have made a lot of friends by now!

I sighed again.

“What is the matter, Kiera. You’ve been sighing all morning,” Damien asked.

“I’m bored. And I can’t call my friend because she is at school. I wish I had someone to play with,” I replied, not taking my eyes off at the ceiling.

“Then I can assume that you cannot wait to go back to school?” Damien asked with a smirk. I made a face.

“Well…… not so much of the school part but more about the possibility of making a new friend,” I answered. 

“I’m sure you will make a friend soon. I’m sorry I don’t know anyone with a kid your age whom you can associate with. For the time being, why don’t you and I do something once I’m done with the laundry?” Damien offered. I smiled at the thought of spending time with my brother. I love being with him but he was usually so busy with stuff that we barely just casually did something together.

“Yea! I’d love that!” I responded happily. Damien continued folding some of his clothes, as well as mine, while I reached over to grab my Garfield comic book I left on my brother’s nightstand.

“Kiera… why are there so many holes in your clothes?” Damien suddenly asked me while he held up one of my shirts that was falling apart. I looked up from my comic.

“I don’t know. I guess I played a lot in those clothes. To be honest, some of them don’t even fit me anymore.” I said.

“Apparently. Even the shirt you’re currently wearing seems a bit small on you…” Damien commented. He reached over to try to pull my shirt down since it was revealing my tummy a little but the shirt was no longer long enough.

"How long have you had these clothes? he asked me. I looked up as I thought about it.

“Not sure but it has been a long while. I’ve had them since second grade,” I answered.

“Hm… yet for the past couple of weeks, they fit you perfectly…” Damien muttered. My ears perked.

“Maybe I’ve finally grown!!” I exclaimed with hope, placing my comic book down and hopping off the bed, “do I look taller?” 

Damien chuckled, something he rarely does, “hm, you do look a bit taller. Why don’t we measure you?"

“Oh ya! We can go to that wall where my growth progress….. is….” I said as I trailed off, totally forgetting that my growth progress wall was obviously at my dad’s old house. A sudden sense of disappointment overcame me as I realized that my whole early childhood, along with memories of my dad, were all left behind in that town. 

Damien noticed my sadness because he approached me and placed his hands on my shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. 

“Looks like we’ll have to continue with the progress here,” Damien said.

"But how can we see that I’ve really grown if my previous progress is… back home? I asked sadly.

Damien placed a hand on his chin, thinking on how to answer me.  “I may have an idea,” he said before heading to his office. I followed, wondering what he was going to do. In his office, he went to a file cabinet where opened a drawer and pulled out a folder.

“Here are all of your records I managed to get when I was trying to get custody over you,” Damien explained, “some of them are old doctor notes and files about your illness and whatnot. Our father seemed to have kept copies of them for records. He used to have so many photocopied documents about me until I moved out."

"Whoa... I said, surprised at what Damien just told me. Dad had all these records of me… I never even knew, “All these papers are about me?!"

“Yes, and here is what I am looking for,” Damien said as he pulled out a stack of papers, "Your stats throughout the years."

We looked through the papers and the records went all the way back from when I was a baby. There some incidents recorded in there that I had no memory of, such as me falling down on the porch and needing a few stitches on the side of my forehead. Damien parted my bangs and we both saw the tiny, barely visible scar on my forehead, something I paid no attention to. 

My dad seemed to have collected a lot of my records, including my yearly check-up results which had everything such as my weight and height. Damien then went over his desk and got a measuring tape.

“Here’s what we’ll do,” Damien started as we walked out of his office and into my room," Starting from when you could walk, we will see how tall you were and we will mark it on the wall here. That way you will see all of your progress and can continue from there. 

My eyes sparkled as my heart skipped a beat. I watched Damien look at my previous heights and mark it on the wall along with my age and year. He is doing this just for my sake! He had managed to bring a piece of my childhood here! 

hmph. You were a tiny kid,” my brother commented. I blushed as I nodded.

I was pretty small for my age, even when I was a baby. I always looked a year or two younger than my actual age. When I was in grade 1, everyone thought I was in kindergarten. Sure, being small can have its perks (like I was queen of Hide ‘n Seek since I hid really well) but for the most part, it sucks. There’s a lot of things you can’t do because you’re so small.

Finally, when Damien finished putting all of my previous height markings on the wall, he gestured me to go over to him and placed me against the wall. I stood as straight as I could and shut my eyes tight, nervous about the result. If I remembered correctly, I was stuck at this height for two years.

“You ready?” Damien asked. I nodded. I felt Damien place his hand on my head and heard him slide the marker across as he measured me. He then leaned back as he looked at the result. I looked at him with anticipation, waiting to hear the results but was afraid to look for myself.

“Alright Kiera…last time you grew you were 3 ft and its been like that for two years. Now…it looks like you grew quite a bit. You are now 3”6," Damien announced, giving me a small smile. I turned around and certainly I saw the gap between my last checkpoint to my current one.

“I grew!! I finally grew!!” I beamed, hugging Damien. Damien chuckled again.

“You certainly did,” Damien answered, gently pushing me away, "Although you are still smaller than average, it’s still impressive how much you grew in a short amount of time. He then poked my exposed tummy, “and it looks like its time to get you some new clothes."

I looked down, suddenly feeling silly with my shrinking clothes and blushed as I giggled

After Damien finished folding the laundry, we both got dressed to go to the local mall. This will actually be my first time going to a mall here. I wonder if it’s as nice as the one back home. Once we were ready, we both went to his car and I stood by the passenger seat waiting for Damien to open it.

“Go sit in the back Kiera,” Damien instructed. I pouted.

“What? But why? I’m taller now!” I whined. I’ve always wanted to sit at the front for the longest time but never had the chance to. I was hoping today would be the day I finally did.

I’m sorry Kiera, but you are still not tall or even old enough to sit at the front. You have to be over 12 years old or at least 410” to be able to sit here," Damien explained. 

I should have known Damien would abide by the rules. I whined at the unfairness of the world. Nobody cares about the little people.

Damien patted my head as he felt bad for not being able to let me sit with him.

"You’ll be able to ride at the front soon enough, he promised. I pouted but got into the back seat.

On our way to the mall, Damien was typically going over some rules for me

"Now Kiera, I want you to remember that you must be with me at all times. That’s the most important rule I want you to follow today. Even though the mall won’t be as busy, it’s still pretty big and you can easily get lost since it’s your first time there. Even if you knew the mall by heart, I’d prefer if you were near me at all times."

I rolled my eyes, “But Damien, I’m not a baby anymore! I’m almost ten! Surely I can be on my own sometimes."

Damien gave me a stern look through the rear mirror, “I understand that Kiera, and I do allow you for some independence, but the mall is bigger with more people. Not a great place for kids to wander alone. Especially in this area, it is not necessarily a safe place."

I sighed as I slumped in my seat. It’s true that Damien does let me be a little independent such as letting me go to the local convenient store, but that’s pretty much it. The idea of him making me be with him the whole time made it sound like he was babying me and I didn’t like it. 

“Another rule is to not persist on something I decide. For example, if I say no to something, do not keep asking because I won’t change my mind. And remember to mind your surroundings, there are people there and we do not need you to be in anyone’s way. That also means no running around or being reckless, understand?" I begrudgingly nodded and sighed as Damien kept going on with the rules. Half of them are things I already knew with common sense. I wonder if Damien is aware that 9-year-olds do not behave as wild as 5-year-olds.

Finally, Damien stopped with the rules and we started talking about other things. He said that if we have time, then we can go to the Arcade at the mall where they hold retro games. I was looking forward to that. When we were arriving to the mall, I pressed my face against the car window as I saw how huge this mall looked. Compared to the one back home, this mall looked like it had two stories and it had a lot of fancy brand named stores. I stared at the entrances as the big name of the mall caught my attention:

Fairview Mall

“Wow! This is your local mall? It’s huge!” I exclaimed. Damien chuckled.

“I keep forgetting that you used to live in a quiet town. This mall is just average. You should see the one in Downtown.” 

My mouth dropped at the thought that there is a mall bigger than this. The mall where I used to live was tiny compared to this. It only had one floor, there were only 5 options at the food court and it was impossible to get lost. I can now see why Damien wants me to be close to him at all times. 

We found a parking spot easily since it was a weekday and we made our way to the mall. I was getting quite excited as we got closer and ran towards the entrance, eagerly holding onto the door as I waited for my brother. Upon entering, I looked around in wonder as I took in the new area. This mall was definitely bigger than the one back home. Should the one back home even be considered as a mall?

There were a lot of places I wanted to check out, do some window shopping. I guess I was too focused on all the options this mall had that I didn’t realize that I began walking the opposite direction as Damien until he called me out.

“Kiera! Where are you going?!” he asked firmly.

“Huh? Oh Uh. I don’t know. I just… wanted to explore,” I responded as I walked towards him. He shook his head.

“Remember what he discussed in the car. We can walk around together after. First, let’s get what we came here for done,” Damien said before he lead me towards a map. “Let’s see where the nearest kid stores are.” 

We made our way towards a store called Teens ‘n Tots where they sold clothes for babies, kids, and teenagers. The store had two floors and a lot of clothes. The upstairs was clothing for the much older kids while the main floor was for kids and babies. My eyes lit up as I saw the amount of clothing options they had for kids like me. I’m generally not into fashion nor did I care much about clothes shopping. But after wearing the same types of clothes for two years…yea I’m due for an upgrade.

I was giddy. I ran from one rack to the next, admiring every mannequin I saw that flaunted the current fashion. My favourite colour is orange so I was hoping I could find an orange hoodie. I also needed new pajamas and pants. I wonder how many clothes Damien was planning to buy for me. I turned to look at Damien and to my surprise didn’t find him standing behind me. After scanning around for a second, I saw that he was still standing by the store's entrance looking stiff and quite... uncomfortable  

It was actually an amusing sight. There you see a giant gruff looking man standing around in a store full of kids clothes that is surrounded by women, both employers and mothers. Not that its strange to see a man come into one of these stores it’s just that my brother has this certain vibe that makes him stand out… a lot. A good amount of mothers with their young kept glancing or staring at my brother. I guess I can now see why he feels uncomfortable.

I approached him and grabbed his hand, “Damien! I wanna see if they have an orange hoodie!” 

Damien looked at me and nodded as we went to check out the hoodies. I heard him sigh a breath of relief, as though he was relieved that I kind of knew what I wanted. Unfortunately, there weren’t any orange hoodies but I did find a nice green one. We then went on to look for some t-shirts and pants. Damien said we needed to buy a few of each since I pretty much outgrew most of my old clothes. 

“Hm…Kiera. What size are you?” Damien asked as he went through the racks. I looked at him with a dumbfounded look on my face. I never thought about my size nor did I even know how they work.

“Uhm…I don’t know.” I answered. For the first time, I saw Damien look a little bit flustered. Normally he is reliable and always has an answer to everything, but right now it looks like he has no idea what he is doing. He kept looking at the tags inside the shirts and pants and kept eyeing me to see if he can estimate my size. Eventually, an employer came over to help us out by measuring me and suggesting sets of clothes for me. She seemed more interested in talking to my brother rather than helping me find clothes, to be honest. She kept asking about his job and hobbies rather than asking about what clothes I want. It was really weird, especially at how red she was the whole time. But she was really nice and even helped out with getting me some new panties. Damien felt really embarrassed but was taking note on how to clothes shop for a young girl, probably so he can be more prepared next time.

We finally left the store with quite a few bags of clothes for me and we walked all the way to the parking lot to place the bags in his car because he didn’t want to keep on carrying them. Once we were back inside, we had a little lunch break and then started to walk around the mall. 

In the center of the mall was this big nice-looking fountain. I didn’t know malls had fountains! It made everything look super fancy. There were a lot of toddlers trying to touch and splash water around while the mothers rested.  

We walked some more until we came across a store called Flawless, a clothing store that sold nothing but formal attire for men and women. There was even a little section of suits and dresses for kids.

“Let’s go in here for a bit. I’m due for a new suit and shirt myself…” Damien said. I internally groaned because I was hoping we could go to the arcade already but I felt like I should be a little patient. He did, after all, just buy me a lot of clothes. The least I could do was wait.

And waiting I did.

….a lot.

Damien spent a good amount of time trying out suits and dress shirts, as well as pants, ties, and even belts! He was trying to see which colours went best with what and what materials worked well with what. My brother is very picky when it comes to being neat and presentable and it clearly causes him to take forever to be satisfied. He must have tried on about 100 suits by now!

I tried to entertain myself by checking out some dresses or playing by myself with the mirrors they have but I eventually got bored. I sighed as I looked over at Damien to see if he’s almost ready to leave….NOPE, he is still looking through the racks. I groaned.

Bored out of my mind, I began to wander around the clothing racks not too far my brother. I remember when I would used to hide within these racks every time I went clothes shopping with my Dad or friends and I would always try to scare them. It was a lot of fun.

I sighed. I wanted to play inside the racks but doing it alone doesn’t seem fun.  I could try to hide and scare Damien, but something told me that he wouldn’t find it amusing and might even get mad at me. I wish my friends were here now…or at least have someone to play with. 

“Kiera,” my brother suddenly called out, something he does once in a while to make sure I was still close to him. 

“I’m here,” I responded as I waved my hand. Assured that I was there, he went back to looking for clothes. 

I then heard some shuffling noises from the rack behind me. I turned to look and saw nothing. I looked away only to hear the shuffling noise again. I looked at the rack again confused because it was one of the few racks that had no customers looking through it. I then saw some clothes move around. Was there someone in there? Odd, it’s a school day and there haven’t been many kids at this mall so far, except for babies and toddlers. But I don’t see any mothers around, just men looking at some dress shirts and suits. 

I went in for a closer look and slowly tried to slide some pants away to see inside.

“BAH!!” a girl shouted as she popped out of the rack, nearly giving me a heart attack. I yelped in surprise and jumped back, losing my balance and falling right on my bum. I looked up at the girl with a shocked look on my face and she just stood there laughing as she pointed at me, her frizzy hair underneath her blue beanie bouncing along with the rhythm of her laughter.

“Haha! Oh man! You should have seen your face!” She mused as she placed her hands on her hips, clearly proud of herself. I got a little annoyed.

“That wasn’t funny!” I remarked, getting myself up and dusting my butt.

“Uh, yes it was! Come on, if you were the one who got me, you’d totally be laughing!" she stated with a smirk. I couldn’t help but agree with her because I totally would have laughed if I had been the one to have scared her.

"Alright, you got me good” I said with a giggle.

“Yea! Now that’s a good sport!” she said.

“So how long were you even there? Were you waiting for the perfect victim?” I asked. She just shrugged.

“Eh, not that long. I was wandering around, killing some time until I saw you staring at the rack over there and decided to mess with you,” the girl said with a mischievous smile. I snorted.

"Well thank you for that,” I said. I mean, it did help ease my boredom here.

“So…what’s your story?” she suddenly asked, confusing me.

“Wha?... what do you mean?” I asked.

“Well what brings you here at the mall on a school day? Doctor’s appointment, homeschooled, suspended…” 

“Oh! No, it’s… it’s nothing like that. I’m just doing some errands with my brother."

“…your parents allowed you to miss school just to do some errands with your brother? Doesn’t sound convincing...” the girl said as she crossed her arms, not really believing me.

"No… see… It’s a bit weird but I just moved in with my brother and I won’t start school until September since this school year is almost over. So in the meantime, I’m just here,” I explained.

“Ohoho, wow lucky!” the girl exclaimed, “So you spend your whole time just lazing around and goofing off?" The girl asked as she got closer to me, eyes filled with wonder. Who is this girl? She‘s really upfront.

“Not…exactly…” I said as I shyly put my hands in my pocket, “My brother is a professor at a university so I usually go to work with him and he still makes me study to prepare for 5th grade. Today is just his day off."

“Oh, booo,” the girl said as she made a face. She totally was disappointed with my answer…dang, I should have lied.

“What about you? What are you doing here?" I asked, trying to avert her attention from me.

“Me? Oh, you know…just killing time,” She said with a shrug, her tone all nonchalant.

“Is your mom or dad also clothes shopping?"

“Nah nothing like that. I just didn’t feel like going to school today and my sister is at home so I can’t stay there, so here I am just enjoying my day off."

My eyes widen as I took in what she just told me, “Y-you skipped school? And you’re here by yourself?"

“Shh! Hey man, not so loud! You wanna cause a fuss?” the girl hissed as she looked around, making sure no one heard me. I immediately covered my mouth realizing I had almost blown her cover.

“Oops! I’m sorry!! But…Won’t you get in trouble?" I whispered.

“Not if you blab it out. I should be ok. I called in this morning, pretending to be my sister and it wasn’t the first time I had to do it. So it should be good."

I didn’t know what to say to that. I’ve never heard or met anyone who would just skip school like that. It was so unbelievable how a kid, who looked about my age, was able to skip school, impersonate her sister and wander around a mall by herself. I can’t even go off more than 10 feet without having Damien call me out and lecture me about the dangers of running off. This girl looked tough, collected and unafraid. Something I wish I was. She suddenly looked so cool.

“So what’s your name?” she asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.

“Oh, its Kiera” I answered.

“Sounds exotic. I’m Willow and I’m 8 years old.”  Willow introduced herself with a smile. Dang, she is a year younger than me and so much bolder.

“Nice to meet you.” I said, “so do you do this a lot? Skip school?"

“Not as much as I would like. If I do it too often, teachers will get suspicious. Not that I’m afraid, I just don’t wanna deal with them barking at me and having them drag my sister into it."

“Is your sister strict?” I asked, hoping I’d find someone who I can relate with a strict sibling.

“My sis? Naw, she’s easy to break and her idea of me being in trouble is pretty lame. It’s just a waste of time to have her yell at me."

“What about your parents?” I asked.

“What is this? 20 questions? Enough about me. Want to go by the toy store? There’s a bakery across from there and they’re having a free sample of treats. I gotta say, it gets a bit boring to do things alone here after 4 hours."

“Oh…uh…” I stammered, really wanting to say yes but for obvious reasons couldn't.

"What’s wrong? Don’t want to?"

“Its not that, I do… it’s just… my brother..."

“Ah come on! It’ll be quick! The toy store and bakery are just a few stores down. We can just go get the free samples and come back. I’m sure your brother won’t even know we were gone!" Willow promised. I quickly thought about it and looked over to Damien who was trying on some suits. It does seem like we are going to be here a while and I am a little hungry. Besides, I didn’t want Willow to think I was a dork or something for being afraid.

“Alright, I’m in,” I said with a bit of uncertainty as I felt my heart become heavy. Something told me Damien will find out and I would have to deal with his disappointment. But at that moment, I was more afraid of disappointing Willow, for some reason.

Willow pumped her fist, pleased that I agreed to join her.

“Great! Come on! This way!” she said as she led the way. I followed with anticipation, glancing back every second waiting to see Damien come after me. But he looked so focused on the clothes he’s trying on that I began to calm down a bit.

Once we reached the store’s exit that leads to the mall, my anxiety was being replaced with excitement as I was beginning to feel all grown up. Walking around a mall with a newfound friend and no adults, it felt cool! I felt so liberated and independent!

I noticed that some people glanced at us with a confused expression but Willow told me not to pay attention to it because people will always be looking at you. There were so many stores I wanted to go in and buy, but I had no money. Willow used her money on lunch and barely had enough to spare.

“That’s why I suggested the free sample stand… it’s free!” she said. I laughed. We continued walking and I noticed that we were walking for quite a while. We had already passed by about 6 stores and every time I looked back, the clothing store Damien was in kept getting farther and farther.

“Uh… Willow… just how far is this bakery?” I asked as I was beginning to get nervous about the distance. 

“Right around this corner!” Willow answered.

“This is a lot farther than I thought…” 

“What do you mean?” Willow asked with a genuine confused look on her face, “we didn’t go that far, see look. The store we were at is right there.” 

I looked back to where she pointed and surely enough I was able to still see the store’s logo even though it was still quite a distance. I must have had been making a face because Willow stopped walking causing me to stop.

“Look dude, the more you keep worrying, the more time you waste. You can’t let fear stop you from having a little fun, I mean…doesn’t it feel good to walk around on your own for a bit without a guardian?” She asked in a semi-serious tone. I nodded in response. I did like walking around without an adult. Willow grabbed my arm and lightly tugged it, “The bakery stand is right there. Let’s just get the free sample and make our way back.”

We continued to make our way and when we arrived at the place, there were 3 girls near a stand wearing cute dresses and holding onto large circle trays. They were smiling at people and offering sweets. 

“Oh ooh boy, looks like they’re offering chocolate dipped croissants!” Willow beamed before running towards the girls. I quickly followed slowly getting excited again. One of the girls saw us and offered us a sample and laughed when we eagerly accepted it. The chocolate croissant was really good and the girl gave us a pretty big piece. Willow and I then started to make our way back to the store with croissants still in our hands, chatting with each other.

“Wow this so good! And that lady was really nice to give us an extra sample,” I said as I munched on my snack.

“Yea, I guess being a kid can have its perks,” Willow responded, “so you said you moved in with your big bro? Where are your mom and pops?”

“Oh… hum,” I said as I heavily swallowed my croissant, a little stunned by her sudden personal question “They’re uhm… I don’t have a mom… or dad.”

“Oh, bummer. Sorry dude, didn’t mean to latch one on ya.”

“It’s ok, you didn’t know.”

"Hey man, if it helps, I don’t have a dad."

"Really?"

We continued talking and began to know a little about each other. Though Willow didn’t get deep into it, she told me that she never knew her dad, he left the family while she was still inside her mom. Her mom was currently on a business trip leaving her in the care of her older sister who is a university student. Even though Willow said that she is doing fine without her mom and that she will be back in the summer, I noticed that Willow sounded a bit sad. I wonder if she misses her a lot. We then changed subjects and started talking about our hobbies and whatnot. Turns out she likes comic books, both superheroes and gag comics… just like me. We were getting along really well.

“Haha see, this little side trip wasn’t so bad. We’re already heading back and it wasn’t even a full ten minutes!” Willow said reassuringly.

I suddenly felt really dumb for worrying so much.  Maybe Willow was right about how worrying will just be a waste of time. I mean, if I hadn’t allowed Willow to talk me into going with her, then I wouldn’t have experienced walking in the mall without a chaperone, eat a yummy free snack and… I definitely wouldn’t have made a new friend. Something I was missing ever since I moved here. 

As we were getting closer to Flawless we passed by a stainless steel rail where we could look over and see the lower level of the mall and I noticed something that caught my eye.

“Whoaa!! Is that water spraying upwards?” I asked before running toward the rail and peering over to see where the water was coming from. I looked down to see a nice looking water fountain on the first floor with water sprinkling.

“Oh yea, that’s the mall’s water fountain,” Willow said as she approached me.

“I walked by it so many times today, I’ve never seen it do that!” I said, obviously too amused by it. 

“It’s scheduled. So it does its fancy water thingy every hour or so. You seem to enjoy it," Willow said.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, not taking my eyes off of it.

Willow looked at me a bit weird for being excited over a mall’s water fountain but to be fair, the town I grew up in didn’t have any fancy water fountain in their malls. So to me, this was pretty cool. 

“Yea, I guess this is pretty cool. But after a while it feels like its missing something…” Willow began. I looked at her wondering what she could have meant.

“What do you mean? I think this is cool enough," I said. Willow leaned against the rail and scratched her head.

“I don’t know. Sure, the water sprouting out like that is nice and all but it needs something else… something like more colours, more…shazaam…more…” Willow then turned her head as something had caught her eyes, "...bubbles!"

"Huh?"

“I think I found exactly what this fountain needs!” Willow said with a smirk, I was confused. She then pointed at a nearby cart full of cleaning products, the kind you see mall janitors use. Nobody seemed to be using it at the moment. Willow quickly went to it and began rummaging through it. I just stood in my spot, shocked at just how impulsive she is and worried that we would get in trouble. But before I knew it, she was right by my side with a bottle in her hand.

“Heh… I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, but I did find this bottle of dish soap there! I’m sure it will work just as well!” she said pretty excitedly.

“What would work as well? What are you planning to do?” I asked, both curious and nervous at her intentions.

“I’m gonna see if I can make this water fountain look cooler by making bubbles.” 

My eyes widened, “Uhm…I don’t think this is such a good idea…wouldn’t we get in trouble?” 

“Probably, if we’re not sneaky enough. Come on, it’ll be a fun experiment!” Willow insisted.

“Well… yea… I guess… but—” I couldn’t finish my sentence as Willow already began squeezing the bottle of dishwashing soap over the rail. I watched as I saw the gooey substance drizzle down into the fountain where the water was still sprouting.   

“Willow!” I whispered harshly. Willow didn’t respond but kept staring down the fountain with a huge grin on her face. I was pretty much doing the same thing but with a worried look on my face, waiting for something to happen. But after one minute, nothing did. I let out a huge sigh, realizing I was holding my breath.

“Hmm…nothing is happening,” Willow said.

“Guess it doesn’t work,” I said with a shrug.

“Or maybe it wasn’t enough soap since it’s a pretty big fountain,” Willow said as she began to unscrew the cap, “guess this will require the entire thing!"

She dunked out the whole soap from the bottle down to the fountain. We both watched it get in contact with the water and soon enough, we began seeing bubbles form.

“WHOA HO! It worked!” Willow beamed. I was surprised it did and was quite impressed. Seeing all those bubbles form was satisfying and fun to watch. I was giggling alongside Willow.

“You were right! It was missing something!” I said. Willow smiled back at me.

“Let’s see how much bubbles it can make!” she said. We both went back to the cleaning cart and grabbed 2 more dishwashing soaps. We both unscrewed the cap and held it against the rail.

“ready?” Willow asked. I nodded, "3...2...1...GO!"

We both dunked the bottle at the same time and giggled as we saw it land on the fountain. Because the sprinkler was still goIng on, the bubbles were getting more and more foamy. We watched as the bubbles were beginning to kind of overflow from the fountain base. As I was seeing all these bubbles form, I got a flashback from when I would use too much of the bubble soap for my bath that Damien forbade me from ever using it.

Oh no, Damien! I totally forgot that I had to go back to him before he realized I was gone! How long has it already been? He probably already noticed my absence. Oh I am so dead. Things cannot possibly get worse!

“Willow…” I began

“Yea?” Willow turned to look at me. I was about to tell her that we had to go back but before I could we heard a loud voice coming from the lower floor.

“WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FOUNTAIN?! WHO DID THIS?!” a man screamed. Both Willow and I glanced at the man yelling, he was wearing a mall uniform with a walky-talky hanging on his belt. I think he was the security guard.

“Did you see what happened?” He began asking the people sitting around the area, looking for witnesses. Willow and I both simultaneously crouched down from the rail, trying to hide ourselves which was actually really stupid because the rails were made of glass so we were totally in the open.

“I saw those kids up there drop some substance into the fountain but I didn’t know what it was,” a middle-aged woman shouted and she pointed at us, exposing our pathetic attempt to hide. 

“Oh that son of a SNITCH!!” Willow yelled. The majority of the people near the fountain were staring at us. I was at a loss for words, I felt like this whole incident was a bad dream. Nothing felt real and yet I was terrified, I was on the verge of tears.

“You kids stay there!” The man yelled before making his way to the escalator, saying something into his radio.

“Like hell we are! Come on Kiera!” Willow said as she jumped up and began to run. I stayed in place, too terrified to move. I saw the man run up the escalator before I felt Willow grab me and force me to run away with her.

“What’s wrong with you?! Do you want to get caught?” Willow asked in disbelief, panting as we ran with all our might.

“I…I’m sorry!! I just…I was just too scared to move,” I confessed, struggling to catch my breath. 

“Look, I doubt the guy got a clear view on what we look like. Let’s go hide in the bathroom for now and wait it out!!"

I simply nodded, too busy panting to even speak. If there’s any hope for us to get out of this mess, I’m willing to try anything. But just as we began to make our way to the bathroom, we both bumped into something hard, causing Willow to stumble back and me to fall down.

I slowly glanced up to see what or who we bumped into. I was expecting to see that security guard but instead, I saw Damien. He had a distressed look on his face, his hair was kind of messy and he also looked like he was panting.

“Kiera?!” Damien asked, as though he couldn’t believe it was me. My panting began to go away and I slowly got up.

“Uhm…hey Damien!” I said, giving him a sheepish smile. Damien immediately knelt down to my level and grabbed me, inspecting me everywhere as though he was looking for any sign of injury. When he saw that I was perfectly fine, Damien’s face went from distress to slight relief to quickly angry.

“Where on EARTH have you been?!” he roared as he rose up, causing me to flinch. Some of the people passing by looked at us.

“I uh…uh…” I said, not able to come up with anything good. Damien took a step closer to me, towering over me.

“Do you have ANY idea the distress you have caused?! One minute I look away and you decide to wander off after me constantly reminding you the dangers and consequence of doing such a thing! I thought something happened to you! I looked like a maniac looking for you! Words can not even describe how upset I am with you now!"

I shrunk back as I hung my head in shame and embarrassment. Damien was definitely pissed, way more than I expected him to be and I already knew where I was going to end up once we get home.

“Whoa, ok. I can see that you’re upset but you shouldn’t need to be worried. She was with me the whole time! I know this mall like the back of my hand so she was safe!” Willow intervened. I looked at her surprised at how she casually talked to my brother as though he was a kid himself. Damien however, was not impressed at all.

“And who might you be, kid?" He asked coldly, crossing his arms.

“I’m Kiera’s friend! Willow’s the name. And you gotta give her a break man! She was bored out of her mind in that store!” Willow explained with confidence. She was not helping. Damien seemed to be getting more and more upset. He glowered at Willow.

“I don’t care if she was bored. I wouldn’t have even cared if she was sick or had to use the washroom. Kiera knows that she must be with me at all times or at least inform me where she is at all times!” Damien scolded. He then looked at Willow from head to toe, "...Shouldn’t you be in school, young lady?“

“Yea I had a doctor’s appointment and am now just doing errands with my folks," Willow lied. She must have rehearsed this a lot of times since she was able to answer that confidently.

“Is that so? Where are your parents?” Damien asked suspiciously.

“That’s…not important right now, what’s important is-“

“Young lady, I have asked you a question and I expect you to answer,” Damien said cutting her off. I looked at Willow with a concerned look, wondering how she would answer.

“They’re at the food court.” She blatantly lied again. I was awed at just how natural she was at it.

“Eating without their child?” My brother asked suspiciously. Willow shrugged.

“I wasn’t hungry and wanted to roam around to kill time instead of just sitting down watching them eat.” 

“Well I am quite sure that they are expecting you back now, so why don’t I walk you there so you won’t have to go alone.”

For a split second, Willow’s eyes widened but she quickly regained her composure.

“Oh, haha no that won’t be necessary. I can go on my own seeing as how I’m old enough and…”

“No, I insist. I would feel a lot better if I see you to your parents. Besides, I’m sure your parents would appreciate that.  I wouldn’t want Kiera to go off on her own so no way your parents would be a hundred percent relaxed knowing their child is roaming around a big mall.” Damien said in a very serious tone, the kind of tone where he isn’t giving you much of a choice. For the first time since I’ve met her, Willow actually looked worried.

“But…you just...can’t!” Willow protested. Damien raised an eyebrow.

“Oh? And why not?”

Willow was about to come up with an excuse until we heard a man call out to us, telling us to wait. When we turned around, we saw that it was the security guard who was chasing us. He ran towards us when he caught Damien’s attention. 

“Oh crap,” I heard Willow whisper. I gasped as I felt my heart become heavier than before from the fear and anxiety I was getting. I subconsciously grabbed my brother’s shirt from behind and got closer to him as though that would magically hide me. I saw Willow try to subtly walk away from us but a glare from my brother made her stay in place.

“Yes, may I help you?” My brother asked when the security guard got to us. The security guard was a little out of breath from chasing us so it took him a few seconds to tell my brother what was up.

“Those… those kids…. are they yours?” he asked. My brother glanced at us, already knowing we did something we weren’t supposed to.

“This one here belongs to me.” Damien answered, placing a hand on my back and pushing me forward "and that one over there, I was just about to take her to her parents. Is there a problem?”

“Those brats threw a bunch of liquid soap into the Mall’s fountain and now there’s a mess of overflowing bubbles!” The man tattled. He wasn’t yelling, but his voice was loud and stern, obviously expressing his anger. 

“Excuse me? They did WHAT?” my brother asked, not believing what he had just heard.

“These girls, I don’t know how or where they even got the soaps, but they made a mess at the water fountain! Bubbles were overflowing, causing the floor to be dangerously slippery! Now the janitors are cleaning it up when they're supposed to be on break!!"

“Sir, you must be mistaken...” Damien began but the man cut him off.

“I have witnesses! A bunch of people saw these girls pouring all the soap content from the bottles!"

“Ugh, snitches…you can’t trust anyone,” I heard Willow mumble. She crossed her arms, not showing any fear or remorse. I, on the other hand, was petrified. Especially when I felt Damien squeeze my shoulder and lean over a bit towards me.

“…Kiera. Is this true?” He asked me quietly. Tears started spilling from my eyes as I felt trapped in a corner. There’s no way out of this. Not being able to look at my brother or even answer without crying, I just nodded. When I did, I heard Damien give out a slow, disappointed and angry sigh.

“I am… extremely sorry about this,“ I heard Damien say to the security guy. “I am actually at a loss for words but I can assure you that I will make her regret her actions. Is there’s anything I can do to compensate for this situation?”

“Well, I personally would have been satisfied if it were the girls who were cleaning up the mess rather than the janitors but they’re already halfway done. Seeing as how you’ll deal with her…I guess I’ll just have you pay half for the soaps they have wasted and I’ll let this go. But should this happen again, or if I catch these two causing a disturbance in the mall, I will have them banned!!” The man said, adjusting his belt.

“Of course, thank you,” Damien said. He took out his wallet and gave the man the amount of money he demanded. 

“I’ll take the other kid to her parents and have them pay for the other half of the compensation.” The security man said. Damien nodded and thanked the man one more time before grabbing my hand to leave. I looked back to see the security man talk to Willow and lead her away. Willow looked back at me and waved goodbye with a reassuring smile before allowing the security man to take her. I wonder what’s going to happen to her when they find out that her parents aren’t even here.

My thoughts on Willow got quickly replaced with thoughts about my impending doom when I felt Damien’s grip tighten around my hand. I glanced up at him and could tell he was really, really upset.

“…D-Damien…?” I called out quietly. 

“You are in so much trouble, young lady,” Damien growled, not making eye contact with me. I gulped, not liking how deep his voice sounded. We walked in silence as the atmosphere between us grew heavy. I knew I was in deep trouble and I totally saw this coming, but that doesn’t mean I wanted to accept it. I was thinking of what to say to Damien on our way home to calm him down enough to go easy on me. Maybe I can compliment him. Or maybe I can try to talk about my workbook and ask him to help me just to distract him. Or maybe I should try to be all cute and loving. I’ll try to ease his anger in the car. 

 I looked around as I realize that we weren’t heading towards the parking lot like I thought we were but rather towards where the washrooms were, and by the way Damien was leading me, I knew we weren’t heading there for a potty break.

No way.

Was he really going to…? He couldn’t…

“Damien…” I asked quietly, “aren’t…aren’t we going home?”

“Right after I deal with you,” Damien answered coldly. My eyes widened and I subconsciously began to pull away despite knowing I wasn’t making it any better for myself. 

“Damien… are you gonna...?"

“Keep walking, young lady!” Damien instructed sternly pulling my arm.

“Damien! Please, no! At least not here!” I whispered, afraid of having people hear me as though they will know that I was in for a spanking. Damien didn’t respond but just kept on walking, easily pulling me along.

“Damien pleeease. I’m really sorry… please… not here… .let’s go home… pleaaase,” I begged, trying really hard not to cry. Damien just ignored me. I kept glancing around to make sure no one was watching and even though they were not, I still felt like they were. We were getting closer to the restrooms and my vision was getting blurry from the tears forming in my eyes. I knew I was going to get a spanking, but I never expected Damien to even think about giving it to me here at a mall! I felt even more devastated than when I thought I was going to get it at home.

Desperate, I clung on to Damien’s arm and tugged on his sleeve to get his attention.

“Damien, please no! I promise to do anything! I won’t even struggle or beg you to stop if you do it at home… just not heeere…. everyone will hear…. please Damien…” 

“Enough!!” Damien barked, shooting me a glare that basically told me to shut up. Defeated and embarrassed, I lowered my head as I began to sniffle, still trying to not to cry out loud. We made it to the restroom area and Damien led us to the family washroom, locking the door behind him. The noise the lock made echoed throughout the washroom, making me feel like I was in prison.

Damien let out a frustrated sigh as he ran his hand through his hair. I remained in place, too frightened to even breathe.

“Alright…” Damien started, “before I do anything…would you care to explain to me…just what in the world were you thinking?!”

“I… uh… uhh…” I stammered, really not knowing what to say or where to even begin.

“It’s bad enough that you just deliberately wandered off after the many warnings I’ve given you! That itself was already enough to have you over my knee!” Damien scolded. “When I couldn’t see you at all and kept calling your name I thought something bad had happened to you! I never once thought you would have purposely run off like that. I was frantically looking all over for you, asking people around and shouting your name. I thought the worst when you were nowhere in sight!” 

I sunk back as guilt was beginning to form within me. I thought Damien was only going to get angry when he found out I was gone. I never thought he was actually going to be worried about me. He had a distressed look on his face again as though he was remembering the feeling he had the moment he realized I was gone. But then his face went back to serious as he continued with his scolding.

“I was about to report you as missing to the mall security cops until I bumped into you, finding that not only were you perfectly fine and that you did, indeed, run off on your own but that you were also causing disruption by vandalizing the mall’s water fountain… and not only that, but you ran away from a security guard when you got caught.”

I heard Damien place the toilet lid down and felt him pull me towards him as he sat down, looking me dead in the eye, “what do you have to say about that, Kiera Petra Bergmann?” 

I already had tears falling off my face and was already sniffing. Hearing Damien say all that made it sound worse than it was, making me feel worse.

“I… I don’t know… it’s just… I met that new girl and she said… she wanted to go to the bakery near the toy store that had free sampling… I was a little hungry so…” my voice trailed off as I was trying to compose myself.

“So why didn’t you ask me?” Damien asked.

“Because I knew you were going to say no!” I said. 

“You don’t know that. But even if my answer is a no, you should still ask me and obey. Not go behind my back and do the opposite!” Damien said sternly. I hung my head and nodded. Damien grabbed my chin and made me look at him, “now about the fountain…”

“Thatthat was an accident! W-we thought it was going to be funIt looked like a harmless idea…” I whimpered.

“Causing disruption and making a mess on a property that isn’t yours should not be considered as fun. And it was pretty dangerous too. A lot of people could have slipped and really injured themselves and the owner of the mall can get into a lot of trouble for something they didn’t do," Damien said.

I was about to defend myself by telling Damien that it wasn’t my idea and that I was even against doing it but got pressured by Willow. However, I stopped myself from doing that because I suddenly remembered the two times Willow showed extreme anger when people called out on us. She shouted snitches, and I knew that snitching among friends is one of the worst things you can do. 

“…I’m sorry…” I said softly, giving my brother puppy eyes, “I didn’t think it about that."

“What is it with you and bubbles anyways? It seems like you always get in trouble because of it,” Damien said. I shrugged, not really knowing how to answer that.

“Come here,” Damien said as he began to lead me over his knees. I subconsciously pulled back.

“Please Damien….nooo…” I whispered as I let out a soft cry.

“Do not make this any worse than it is Kiera,” Damien said as he pulled me over his knees. The tone of his voice made it clear that he was getting annoyed with my pleas.  “You very well know what happens when you make poor decisions."

I didn’t say anything as I gave up on trying to escape getting spanked here. I shut my eyes tight as I felt Damien’s fingers hook onto the waistband of my pants and lower them down to my knees. I was already sobbing softly and kept seeing tears drip off my face and land on the floor. 

Damien didn’t say anything or give me any warnings, he just began to rain down the smacks on my panty covered bottom. I immediately started to openly cry as the thunderous smacks stung my bottom. I had intended to keep quiet during this spanking but Damien was not holding back with this nor did he seem concerned about bringing attention to us from the noise we are making.

“I am not happy with the decisions you made. You are old enough to understand the dangers of the world. You know it is not safe for a kid like yourself to roam around a crowded place where anybody can harm you! I’ve explained it to you various times! For you to deliberately go against my wishes even with knowing the consequences, that is something I can not let go unpunished,“ Damien lectured as he kept spanking me not missing a beat. I was squirming around his lap and scrunching Damien’s jeans from gripping them so hard.

“I’m sorry! Ouch! I didn’t mean *sniff*  to leave!!” I explained.

“And how did you not mean to leave when you clearly knew what would happen if you did?” 

He had a good point, as much as I hate to admit it. I knew the risk I was taking by leaving, but at that moment the only thing I cared about was impressing Willow. 

“I’m sorry! I didn’t want to leave without asking you but I was afraid of Willow being mad at me for saying no!” I confessed.

Damien spanked my upper thighs and I shrieked. No way did nobody hear that.

“That is not a good reason to disobey me! Going against a rule just to impress somebody is not a good way to make friends Kiera!” Damien yelled, furiously smacking my sit spots. I cried louder and began to kick my legs wanting this nightmare to end. 

Damien stopped spanking, giving me a chance to breathe. My butt was throbbing and burning and I was sobbing.

“I understand you want friends, Kiera.” Damien said, fiddling with the back of my shirt, "But you must never do something you’re not supposed to just because they do it or because you think they won’t like you if you say no. Otherwise, you’ll get into trouble, just like today. If you two were meant to be friends, then she wouldn’t dislike you for saying no. What kind of friend would that be?"

I felt Damien hook his fingers onto the waistband of my panties and began to yank them down. I squirmed around.

“Damien?! Wha-?" 

“The last spanking was for you running off. This one is for messing around with the fountain and using items that weren’t yours!"

He yanked my panties down to my ankles where my pants now were due to the kicking. I whined as I tried to reach back as an attempt to retrieve my panties

“Damien! Noo!! please!! No moore!"

Damien just grabbed my hand and gently pinned it on my back. And without saying anything, he resumed spanking my already sore bottom. I started to cry harder and resumed my kicking. I tried to release my hand from my brother’s grip to protect my butt but didn’t have the strength to do so.

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” Damien scolded once again, "I couldn’t believe what the security man was telling me and I was positive that he was mistaken when he was accusing you for messing around the water fountain! You know better than to behave such a way! 

“I’m sorry!! Damien I really am!!” I cried out.

“I have a strong feeling that it was that girl’s idea to throw soap in the fountain and that you just went with her actions. Though it may not have been your idea, you’re just in the wrong as she is, possibly even worse. I am giving you a harsher punishment because you knew what you were doing and you knew it was wrong. Just like with the running off, doing something you know is wrong is unethical and I will not tolerate such behaviour!”

I sobbed my heart out as Damien kept spanking me. Through my cries, I was still able to process what Damien had said to me. I guess it’s one thing to do something naughty but to do it while already knowing the results… I guess I can’t really blame this on anyone. Not even Willow. If I hadn’t easily given in to her persuading me into leaving the place, none of this would have happened. I didn’t even try that hard to stop her from putting soap in the water fountain.  And Damien was right… if Willow really did intend to be my friend, she wouldn’t have been bothered if I had said no. I shouldn’t have been afraid.

Damien gave me two final smacks on my sit spots and lifted me up from his knees. I covered my face with my hands as I cried into them, overwhelmed from the feeling of guilt and sadness along with the pain on my butt. Not to mention the embarrassment of getting spanked in a public washroom where anyone could hear. I felt Damien pull up my pants and panties for me and I whimpered as he adjusted them due to the material rubbing against my tender bottom. 

Damien didn’t say anything while I cried, he just lead me back onto his lap and carefully sat me down. I leaned my head against him, muttering apologies as I continued to sob pretty hard. Damien just kept softly patting my back until my cries died down.

“Let this be a lesson.” Damien finally said when he heard me stop crying and only sniffling. "I really don’t want you to get hurt nor do I want you to develop bad habits. The last thing I need is to lose my sister, and I certainly wouldn’t want you to have a bad reputation. Understand? You’re already at the risk of getting banned here."

I was feeling a little shy to look at him so I played with the buttons on his shirt as I nodded. Damien gave me a soft kiss on my forehead. 

Go wash your face so it won’t be as puffy. Then we can go home,” Damien instructed as he patted my thighs. Needing just a little more comfort, I slightly turned to wrap my arms around my brother and bury my face into him. Although I did wanted to get out of here ASAP, I also wanted to take advantage of Damien giving me affection. 

Damien gave me a quick hug, squeezing me before gently pushing me away. I whined, really wanting to continue.

“We must go. Certainly there are people needing to use the restroom,” he said. I sighed in disappointment. So much for taking advantage. If we were at home he would’ve held me until I felt it was enough.

I went to the sink to wash my face and when I looked in the mirror, I saw how red and puffed up my face was from all the crying. It’s gonna take some time for it to go away and there’s no way I’m gonna walk out of here looking like this. I went up to Damien and tugged on his sleeve.

“Damien… can you carry me?” I asked. I just wanted to hide my face until we got to the car and the only way to do that is if Damien would carry me.

“No,” he responded bluntly. Darn. 

Damien unlocked the door and placed his hand on my back as he guided me out. When he opened the door, surely enough, we saw a mother with two young kids standing there waiting for their turn. I felt devastated. How long has she been waiting? Did she hear anything if not everything?

“Sorry if I kept you waiting for long,” my brother said politely.

Ah that’s ok. We pretty much just got here so we didn’t wait for long.” The lady smiled. She then glanced at me.

“Oh! You were one of the girls who put soap on the fountain!” she stated.  I didn’t say anything but kept looking at the ground, wishing I could just vanish into thin air. Damien placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Yes but she just learned a very good lesson. She now knows better," my brother said. The woman had a certain expression on her face telling me that she already figured out what my brother meant. I felt myself blush even though it probably didn’t make a difference in how red my face was already. 

Damien took my hand and excused himself before leading us back to our car. I struggled in getting comfortable in my seat and kept positioning myself to put less weight on my butt only to have Damien force me to sit properly for safety reasons. 

On our way home, Damien was telling me that I was grounded for the next two days. No tv, no phone calls or skyping and no video games. I whined internally since I knew better than to whine any more today. I looked out the window and started to think about Willow. Surprisingly… I wasn’t mad at her for getting us in trouble. In fact, I was feeling happy that I made a friend and I was beginning to admire her despite her being a year younger. She was so confident and collected and she didn’t even look afraid when we got caught. And even though I really did learn my lesson and will never do this again… I must admit that the mishap I did with her was… fun.

I wonder what happened to herI hope she is ok. I mean I’m sure she is. She told me her sister isn’t strict so she most likely won’t get spanked. That’s so lucky. I wish I was her. If only we could somehow see each other again...

I absent-mindedly put my hands in my pocket and felt something in there. Pulling my hands out, I saw that it was a piece of paper. Confused, I opened it only to see it was a phone number followed by a note:

Call me, loser
-Willow.  

I smiled. I have no idea how the heck she placed this in my pocket without me noticing but that just made her so much cooler! I couldn’t wait to call her…. two days from now that is.

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