Mary was lost. She had walked around the mall now for over two hours, and was panicking. Her mom and dad told her to meet them at the food court and she just could not find her way back. Seeing a man standing by a water fountain in front of Sears, she approached him to ask for directions, and as she walked closer to him, he turned and she saw he had a phone up to his ear, listening. She turned to look for someone else to ask. She saw a lady with two crying children, and a man talking to his daughter. She just didn’t know who to ask. Needing to use the restroom, she looked up at the signs. Momma had taught her to look for the man or woman outline, that this is were you could find restrooms. She followed the arrow, and walked towards the other end of the mall.
Nearing the entrance to the restrooms, she couldn’t be sure, but the door seemed to undulate and shimmer. Was it her imagination? She rubbed her eyes, and when she looked at the entrance again, it still looked odd. Walking towards it, she felt a gentle, warm breeze wafting from the doorway. It felt delicious on her skin, as she was wearing a sleeveless, white dress. She had not wanted to wear it, her mother ha made her as they were on the way to her Aunt’s birthday. They had stopped to find her a birthday gift, and man, her parent’s would be mad that she got lost and was making them late.
Mary continued walking down the hall, and it seemed to go on forever. She could not see any door, and kept walking. She was feeling exhausted, her arms and legs suddenly felt heavy. Her eyelids drooped, and she just wanted to lie down. The cold, hard tile was not a deterrent. “I can lie here for just a minute,” she thought to herself. She pushed herself to keep walking, though, and right when she was about to give up on the hope of finding the restroom, she felt something under hand. A doorknob. But not just any doorknob. This was a soft, buttery gold, warm to the touch and ornately designed.
Turning the knob, the door silently opened and Mary entered. It was almost a sight too good to be true. And Momma had told her if something is too good to be true, it is. “Hello?” Mary said to the room, hoping someone else was here and could help her. She took in the beautiful scene around her.. All the toys she could ever imagine wanting, and even some she didn’t know she wanted, overflowed everywhere. Shelves, lined with the most exquisite, beautiful dolls she had ever seen, seemed to call her name to play with them. Their eyes stared at her as she passed, and she knew they were begging her to play with them. Other shelves held all of her favorite candies. Brightly colored wrappers caught her eye, and intoxicating scents were floating in the air. Cotton candy, chocolate, popcorn and pretzels had always smelled so good to her, and it tempted her to eat some. She knew her mother would scold her, at the birthday party they would serve dinner, cake and ice cream. So she should wait. “Where am I?" She thought to herself. She needed to find a bathroom soon, and get to the food court. Even though this was the most beautiful place she had ever been, she was a little scared and wanted to find her parents. “Hello?” She tried again, and no one answered.
Feeling drowsy again, Mary sat on one of the prettiest sofas she had ever seen. There were huge, soft pillows on it, and even though she had felt tired before sitting, as soon as she sat upon it, she felt totally invigorated. She explored the room more. As she walked, the room had no end. She saw the cutest little animals, and thought them stuffed, but they ran up to her to play. A chipmunk ran to her, chattering and rubbing itself between her ankles. It allowed her to pick it up and nuzzle its soft head, and kittens, puppies and other baby animals came out to play with her. Placing a soft, fluffy white kitten back down to be with her mom, Mary kept walking. She encountered room full of jewelry, makeup and clothes. These were all in her size, and she loved to play dress up. And the shoes. Her mom would die if she saw her 10 year old girl in high heels. Her mom did not allow her to wear them. There were high heels in so many different colors, her head swam. She just didn’t know what to do, and kept walking, and soon lost all sense of time. She was having the time of her life, and soon, her parent’s became a thing of the past, and she never thought of them again.
Mary’s parent’s, Melinda and Bill, had allowed their 10 yr old daughter to freely roam the mall. They had never let her do this before, and she had begged them to treat her like a big girl for once. Her dad gave her the strict instructions to be at the food court by 1, and she was running off before they could change their minds. They laughed, smiled at each other, and set of themselves to find a gift for bill’s sister.
As they passed the food court, they stopped to grab a pretzel. Melinda saw a headline flash on the overhead TV screen. BREAKING NEWS. She stopped to watch it, and waved bill over. After paying for the pretzel, he joined her. “Bill we have to get out of here, right now! CNN is reporting that the city is under attack. They don’t now who it is or why, but buildings all over down town are being bombed.” Bill grabbed his wife’s hand, and they made there way to the look for Mary in one of the many stores their daughter loved to visit.
It would either be one that sold dolls that were popular, or a store with little girl appropriate jewelry and accessories. As they ran, they heard sounds of explosions, and the mall shook under their feet. “At least they were on the third floor,” thought bill, as he kept running hand in hand with Melinda, searching for Mary. The roof suddenly imploded, and the air was heavy with dust. Cement lay cracked on the floor all around them, exposed rebar poking out from the cement piles. Screams died in mid-cry, and the silence that fell over the scene was deafening.
Two days later, Firefighters found Mary’s body. She died, but not a scratch was on her. Her white dress was still impeccable, wrinkle and dust free. Mary’s body was in a room that ran the entire length of the mall, above the food court. It was were all the mall’s occupants stored displays, extra merchandise and always kept under lock and key because of the jewelry stored there. It baffled Mall officials how the little girl had gotten in the reinforced room, and her parents were happy that she did not appear to have suffered.
Later that week, the medical examiner called Mary’s parent’s in to speak with them about the autopsy report. She introduced herself to them and shook their hands, then they sat and she got right down to business. “So, our finding are that Mary died from gas inhalation. There was a leak no one knew about in the mall, and it is what caused the explosion. Mary was in a hall where the gas must have been coming from the vents, and she got disoriented. She found her way to the storage area and died a peaceful death. She was in a coma or had already died well before the explosion. She must have had an adventure here in the mall with all she had bought, she said with a laugh. Mary parent’s looked confused.
“Well, I am referring to the empty cotton candy stick in her pocket, the tiara and high heels she was wearing and all the cat fur on her. I figured it had thrilled her that you’d bought her such beautiful shoes and tiara to wear. What 10 year old wouldn’t be? And the cotton candy and kitten hair, well she was a happy and lucky little girl to have such wonderful parents. Melinda and Bill sat dazed, looking at the medical examiner with open, confused faces. “We don’t understand. We don’t allow her to wear high heels, and we never got her a tiara, or a kitten Plus, the mall we go to doesn’t sell cotton candy. Where did those things come from?” Bill and Melinda talked with her a while longer, cried more, and left comforted knowing their daughter did not suffer as she died.
Mary was still walking the room, finding the most delightful things, rejoicing in each new discovery, lost to time, space, and worries. She never thought of eating, using the restroom, her parents, friends, and she spent forever in a place filled full of laughter, happiness and excitement.