Job Details: Mall Mayhem
Sign-up: page 40, Post n°984
Job Details: Mall Mayhem
Sign-up: page 40, Post n°984
Tim woke up in a cold sweat.
The rope braided hammock swayed as Hargeon’s cold air crawled over his unkempt hair. Tim sat up, letting his feet step over his undone shoes. The young man ran his hand over his face, a long sigh leaving his mouth exhaling mist. He looked at his hands and, sure enough, his actual skin was barely visible from the amount of inklike substance pouring out like sweat. He could even see from the corners of his eyes the drippings of his curse over his head. Tim sighed and coated his body with a purple layer of light and, instantly, his body felt like it was burning.
He bit his lip as his skin singed from his magic burning his curse off. Finally, after a minute or so, his hands finally looked like his own. With another sigh, the young man tried to shake his head awake. Still groggy, Tim scratched his bare chest and frowned. Where was it? Peering his head underneath the hammock, the young man hoped he wouldn’t find it there. He never had good betting odds.
“Great…” Tim grabbed his sleeved shirt sprawled over the grass, dusting it off with a flick as he raised it up. It must’ve been blown slightly by the wind, because it completely avoided the small puddle of Tim’s inklike curse pooling right under the hammock.
After three flicks he pulled it close. The grassy smell meant the thing was crawling over the dirt for the better part of the evening. “Hmm…I’ve worn worse.”
He draped the sleeves over his shoulder to his back, the shirt’s body hanging lazily over his front. Tim pinched between his eyes, blinking until he could make out how early he woke up. The sun’s crown hasn’t even peered out, only its faint light barely illuminating the dark blue sky as a soft mist crawled on top of the open sea. It was different than Desierto’s arid nights, different than Minstrel’s starry skies. He was home.
Tim immediately kicked his feet up and lazed back into the hammock.
Tim sniffled, then shortly snorted.
“Can’t you get a better place to light that?”
“Sorry.” The red light emanating over the tip of Full-Beard’s cigar was all he could see, but then it went out with nothing but a faint ‘hiss’. “Nerves got me.”
Tim sat over the hammock’s edge. “You know your own house, Thatch. You could’ve gone for a smoke anywhere you want…”
Full-Beard stashed his cigar away.
“Talk to me.” Tim heard a sigh and finally the older man stepped into the twilight, his beard gruffer than usual, his hair even more messy than Tim’s. Thatch looked like he aged half a lifetime since Tim last saw him.
“Shift ended a few minutes ago.” He said. “I didn’t know he was back home till I found you sleeping over there.”
The two heard the distinct sound of metal hitting cement echo over the street, the sounds of the docks were beginning to reach them. For such a loud racket not a single resident opened their houses to take a look. The two didn’t even bother to turn. They knew how far that was from them. “I didn’t know you worked late.”
“I asked Edna.” He scratched his chin. “…was a good distraction. The missus kept the diner open too.”
Full-Beard grunted. The two were both looking over his balcony. The house had two stories: the bottom had an SE-plug repair garage and a small diner separated only by a haplessly nailed down partition. The upper floors were kept for the residents.
“Couldn’t do anything about the shop though…”
“Half a month, no—three weeks now.”
“Have I been gone that long?”
He let out a breath. “…yeah.”
Tim looked down.
“We thought we sent you a suicide mission—” Full-Beard wasn’t looking at Tim. The young man took stole a glance as saw the older man’s eyes pace around the grass. “I’ve heard the things wizard go through. Hell, you’ve been telling the crew a whole lot of stories! But… it’s different when the one you’re sending out is a friend.”
Thatch shook his head, pulled out the same cigar earlier and sat on the grass. Tim watched him light it, snorting when the first batch of smoke left the man’s lips. “Sorry.” Full-Beard scooted aside, letting the smoke blow past without hitting Tim.
“Anyone but me would’ve done that way faster,” Tim shrugged. “I should’ve asked for proper help back in the Guild—”
“What?! No! I… should’ve put more faith in you, Tim.”
Another batch of smoke blew beside him.
“Junior was asleep when I came home, but the Missus… she told me.” Full-Beard shook his head. “Minstrel’s countryside in the middle of the war, then doing a one-man bust in Desierto? I would’ve broken down the moment I heard he had been taken off country!”
Tim stole a glance over the balcony. Full-Beard froze and steered his head overhead. “Shit, sorry.”
“We’re fine.” Tim didn’t see anyone wake up from inside.
“Right… right.” Full-Beard sniffled. “It’s just…”
Tim lightly punched his arm. “You’re welcome.”
Thatch sniffled again, nodding hard. “My family is in your debt, Tim.” He said between sobs.
“No.” Tim looked at the sunless horizon. “I’m still in yours. I haven’t paid mine in full yet…”
The young man knew Thatch was looking at him now, but he didn’t turn away, hoping the sun would peer out faster.
“…not even close.”
Before being a wizard for Silver Wolf, Tim already had sleepless nights. Since his time in the workhouses up until the time he worked for Edna, work was there to tire him out. And Tim made sure he tired himself so much he couldn’t even dream. Those nights were the best. This time, he was left to deal with the rest of the morning with nothing to do. Junior and the other townspeople were debriefed by the town guards, and were being cared for before making sure they were fit to go home. His rescue mission was done. He joined a military alliance that was completely against Fiore and busted a foreign crime group to get there, but the results spoke for themselves. In fact, he was listening to his results right now. The clacking of a wok and the sizzling of whatever Thatch’s missus was cooking. There were three voices clattering from below. Thatch, his wife and their son. As it should be.
“Oh no you don’t, little lady!” Tim overheard a shout from one of them.
“Why not let her have a bash at it?” The second voice sounded like Full-Beard.
“I’m having none of it!” The missus paused. “I will not have our guests have any trouble in this household. Sit there, okay? Let ol’ gran cook for you.”
Tim huffed out a laugh.
“Alright, alright! Sheesh, I’m just letting the lass have her fun.”
“You go on and watch the telly, okay? She got this in the bag.” Junior sounded a little fatigued, but Tim already made sure no curse was plastered over him or any of the kidnapped townspeople.
The young man stood over the roof of Full-Beard’s house. Huh. The tile roofing was carrying his weight as well as it had even after all these years. But there was one glaring difference between then and now. Tim looked at the grassy ground below, and didn’t find it a little intimidating what he’s about to do. The young man took a step away from the roof and dropped down, sticking his landing with both of his feet as if he just jumped off the last two steps of stairs.
“It really does feel different now…”
When you do the things Tim had done, taking wizard jobs, noticing any difference while living in the moment doesn’t come to him. It always feels… fantastical, like a long vacation that’ll eventually last. But jumping off the roof of a house you broke a leg to when you were younger and said injury lasted for more than a month? It just hits you instantly.
“I am different now.”
Tim suddenly felt a presence.
The young man turned towards the source and found Heba staring at him, stiff as a board. She looked like she was watching the television. Tim realized what he just did and waved apologetically at her. He scaled over the window frame and jumped inside. She was still looking at him, mouth agape. The two of them still have a language problem, but Tim was getting there.
“Ana Asif, Heba.” Tim articulated as best he could.
Now her mouth was agape for an entirely different reason! Heba waved her hands in front of him, shaking her head, and spoke quickly in desiertan. She then caught herself, suddenly remembering Tim wouldn’t be able to understand her either. But it looked like his message came across well. He smiled. She then jumped into the couch and patted the space beside her.
Tim sat beside Heba and watched her cycle through the channels until they were called for breakfast.
“Have you planned where little Heba’s going to stay?”
Mrs. Thatch’s casual question left Tim frozen, his spoon stuck halfway between his open mouth and the soup bowl. In that instant he recalled all of the places he counted as his home in his life: The guild house? Just thinking of the staff and his guildmates seeing him bring a kid over after three weeks out on a job; it’ll raise more questions than he would care to answer. The living quarters over at Dr. Schwartz’s labs? No chance in hell. Edna’s house? She might not mind the company, she definitely invited Tim to visit more than a few times since he left the company. He could ask her to have Heba as a ward!
“You really just picked her off the street and didn’t plan ahead, huh.” Junior was smiling his way.
Thatch snickered while his wife smacked him on the arm. “Ow!”
“Of course, I did.” Tim gently blew the already cold enough soup. “I’ll have Edna take her in as a hired help.”
“You thought of it just now, didn’t you?”
Tim took the soup in.
“Did you even call her?” Thatch asked.
Tim took another spoonful of soup.
“Why not buy a house here? Wizards get paid a lot, right?” Mrs. Thatch raised a finger. “I heard the Brimsbys were going to move out soon!”
“I won’t leave an entire house for one kid while I go out weeks on end.” Tim frowned.
“Then why not leave her here with us?”
“I couldn’t possibly—”
“Tim, you’re family.” Mrs. Thatch said with a tap on the table.
The young man froze again and raised his arms placatingly, but his smile at her was anything but a protest. The older woman huffed with a strong nod.
Tim pushed his chair and walked away from the kitchen, but not before turning and giving an apologetic gesture to Thatch and his family. He pulled out his iLac and waited for the other line to talk.
“Thank heavens! I just arrived in the office and heard from the others, are you—”
“I’m at Thatch’s.” Tim could hear a sigh over the other line. “They let junior sleep here last night. But he’s going to the debrief later today.”
“Give me a few minutes here, I’m come by and visit.”
“It’s alright, Ed—”
“No time to talk, dear. See you very soon!”
With a final click, Tim was left to walk back into the dining table. All four of them were looking at him expectantly. Tim scratched his chin and looked at his soup.
“Edna said she’s coming by later.”
Edna Faulkner-Rollins was a woman who, in everything she does, raised a family. This was how her shipping business flourished into a multi-town operation. This was also how the only times her employees would leave were when they’d either die, or get personally encouraged by her to set out and try to chase greater heights. This was also the reason why Junior was squirming, trying to let go of her hug, and failing.
“I was so worried!”
Thatch frowned at his son, ‘let Edna have her moment’ was plastered over his face. Junior had an expression of embarrassment that never reached his eyes, he was tearing up as well. Mrs. Thatch was patting Edna’s shoulder, ‘it’s okay’ ‘you were a big help to us’ were the words to finally calm her down.
Heba was clinging Tim’s side the entire time, looking at Edna with a curious look, and a hint of longing. Tim caressed her head. While she still was jumpy from having new people interact with her, she doesn’t flinch when Tim pats her head anymore.
“You must be Heba.” Edna looked at the child, slowly making her way to her with a smile.
Heba hid behind Tim. But Edna suddenly spoke in a foreign language; Tim smiled as he saw Heba stare at her bug-eyed. She then replied softly in desiertan, Edna quickly responded and knelt down. Heba was slowly stepping out of her hiding spot the more they talked.
“Has Edna always been able to speak—?” Junior trailed off.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her fail to impress any of our foreign clients.” Thatch smirked.
They then left the two in the dining room table, letting them have their time.
Heba saw everyone, including the kind God-kissed, leave her with the woman who could understand her. The older lady felt like an elder.
“Yes.” Heba looked over the empty doorway between the dinner table and the living room. “Who is he?”
“Oh, you mean Tim?” Her face softened; she had the same expression the clothing shop lady showed when she told Heba to take care of herself. “Tim is… Tim.”
“I don’t understand.”
The elder hummed. “How can I explain this… Ah!”
“You are Heba.” She suddenly said.
“If someone asked you ‘Who is Heba?’, what will you say?”
“I am Heba…”
“I was born in Qafas… I like koshari…”
“Okay!” She clapped her hands. “Tim was born in the Neutral Grounds, here in Fiore… He likes coffee…”
“No!” Heba frowned at the lady. “That’s not what I mean!”
The lady laughed. “I know. But that’s not what you should be asking, dear.”
Heba tilted her head.
“Wizards, God-kissed… should it matter how he became one?” She looked at the table, looking past the bare wooden surface and into her memories. “Even if you are a mortal and he is, as you say, a God-kissed. The ones you call the chosen people… You want to know if you can be friends, don’t you?”
Heba looked at the empty doorway again, hoping something or someone would appear. But she was alone with this elder, and she was good at understanding Heba. She didn’t like that, but the elder was very kind too. Are the people the kind God-kissed know were also kind? Or did they become kind when the God-kissed met them? Or was it something Heba did not understand, like what the elder had explained to her…?
She did not know. She does not know many things.
She was not a God-kissed.
The elder smiled brighter than she had ever been since Heba first saw her. Until the kind God-kissed and the family returned, the elder taught her words. She was told they were magic words. These words had the power to tell him how she feels. But Heba knew it wasn’t magic, only God-kissed can ever learn magic. That is why only the chosen people are special. But she wanted to believe she can tell him.
Afterwards, Edna and Heba talked. They talked until a familiar tired voice echoed in the house. Heba walked up to him and stared. She felt her tummy churn, and her face was hot. But she had to say it…
His face relaxed! She had never seen him make this face before! He said some things she could not understand, but she knew he understand her.
“Freyn…” Heba paused, frowning. That wasn’t it. “Ah! Friend…mm…”
She took another breath and went for it. “Tim, friend?”
Heba couldn’t look at him properly.
A hand went over her head and patted it. It was rough, but Heba knew whose hand it was. Somehow, that pat told her it was okay to look. She met many people who rejected her, but this God-kissed… no, this person. He was not one of them.
She looked at him, and it was the first time he had ever seen him without that tired expression his face always carried. She made him smile. That made her smile too.
“This is a bad idea, Edna.”
“Nonsense, Tim!” Tim knew his old boss was the type to see her decisions through, but it was worth a shot. “I have this day all to myself, for once, and I am not going to waste it!”
She then spoke something in Desiertan to Heba and the girl promptly nodded Tim’s way expectantly. He immediately frowned at her. “You’re not even telling her what we’re saying…”
“And you can prove it how exactly?”
Tim shrugged. “Somehow I miss doing jobs for the guild again.”
“Compared to this?” She looked out the window of the car. “Even with the career change, you really haven’t changed at all, dear.”
“That wasn’t a compliment.”
“There!” Just as he was about to slide over to the parking spot, another car beat him to it. With a quarter of an hour already under their belt driving around the parking lot, Tim bit his lip. “Are…you…serious…”
Even Edna didn’t say anything edgewise.
“Is there an event or something?” He growled. “I swear it’s like this every time I’m here…”
“You know what—!” Tim stopped the car and jumped out, leaving the door wide open. He could hear Edna yell ‘where are you going?’ from her seat. Without skipping a beat Tim picked the most expensive looking car, a jet black one that looked like it was worth a pretty penny, and tapped his finger over it. When he closer the door beside him, Edna was looking disapprovingly.
Tim looked at her with a ‘what? What did I do?’. She frowned as he led the car into the new parking spot, finally letting the vehicle rest after all that time waiting. Heba and Tim both went out of Edna’s car, but the elder lady was having none of it.
“Edna, you wanted this. C’mon…” Heba even spoke in desiertan, Tim only hoping she was also convincing her.
With a huff, his old boss finally stepped out, but she still looked at Tim with a frown. “You are a terrible influence on her— come, dear.” She held Heba’s hand and went for the mall’s entrance.
Tim scratched his chin and looked back at the floating hunk of metal as if it was a big car-sized balloon. It was floating daintily as wind blew past the busy parking lot. “It’s not like that’ll just fall down whenever…” He went after them with a shrug.
For once, Tim preferred the company of the bandits and thugs of Desierto than this. In a span of a few seconds, he had been bumped and jabbed both accidentally and on purpose by a slew of people he hardly knew. But, checking them with his magic sensory, almost all of them had little to no magic signatures. By all accounts he could’ve broken their bones just from a slight punch or jab, so he opted to weave around them while trying to find the two he was supposed to keep an eye on.
It really shouldn’t be a problem for him, but he had to hang back a little while he waited for Asena. Behind him, a literal wave of people were being shoved aside by a seemingly invisible creature. Why she opted to keep her physical form, Tim couldn’t figure it out for the life of him. But he sure was glad Asena did, only half of Tim’s side were being pushed around.
“Can you smell them, Wolf?”
Even between the noisiest bunch of people Tim had the displeasure of encountering, he could hear his companion’s distinct indignant huff.
“SPRING FESTIVAL, YEAH!”
Tim actively cringed at that sudden sharp scream from a man half a head taller than him with twice the confidence as he raised his arms, both of which were powered bright pink along with his face. The crowd actually cheered along with him as he ran past, bumping Tim but was the one who bounced away.
Tim expected an rude and angry rebuke from him, but he just screamed a ‘yo, sorry!’ at him and continued to run through the crowd.
“Oh, he took off.” Tim scratched his chin. “That was on me, then…?”
He heard another reprimanding huff from thin air. It looked like she was getting annoyed.
“Yeah, let’s just find them, Wolf. Lead the way.”
His companion led him to a food court which was even more crowded than the mall’s concourse. Tim felt a headache pop off as he tried to look for them from outside the court. There was no way in hell’s frozen pits he was going to step in there.
“Finally…” Tim groaned as he waved at the two.
They were lining up for one of the many food kiosks. Edna was in-line for coffee while Heba was over the ice cream stand along with a sea of children her age. It looked like Tim would be sending himself to a suicide mission just trying to go through all those people, so he pulled out his iLac.
“Tim, dear?” It sounded like Edna completely forgot her little spat.
“I’m over by the escalator.” He waved.
She waved back. “I’m almost done here, need anything?”
“…for a change?”
“Since I’m already in this little vacation you seem to drag me into—”
She actually laughed at that. “Mind keeping an eye on little Heba?”
Tim pocketed his iLac after the click and the tone. Heba looked like she was finally handed her order, three, in fact! Tim huffed out a laugh at her doing everything just to hold the three cones, the double scoops on each at the mercy of her skill in keeping balance. She was biting her lip as she weaved through the crowd.
“SPRING FESTIVAL, YEAH!” A sudden loud blaring from the activity center suddenly startled everyone from every nook and cranny inside the mall. Tim noticed it sounded exactly like the man who he bumped into earlier. After his barely comprehensible speech, a loud beat along with a guitar riff blared along with his vocals. The lacrima screens all over the mall were evident it really was the same man. Oddly enough, the man sounded a lot better when singing. His look also went from outright idiotic to flair. Tim’s little critique was then interrupted by him noticing Edna, holding two plastic cups, were arguing with another woman.
Tim walked over them and overheard them when he was finally close enough.
“It’s not the girl’s fault that band was hell bent on killing us from fright!”
“And it’s MY shirt she smeared!” Tim didn’t expect someone to beat the band from being the loudest thing in the mall. “Do you even know how much these are?!”
Tim’s headache was slowly evolving into a full-blown migraine the more time he spent listening to this woman. Especially since a little boy no older than Heba had his arm helplessly yanked every time the woman gestured to berate Edna.
Suddenly something bounced off Tim’s head. With a practiced motion, Tim caught the thing… which turned out to be a sleek black baton.
“Hey!” Tim then heard a man’s voice as a security guard ran towards him. “Sir, are you alright?!”
Tim couldn’t even let a word out before he continued. “My baton just flew off! The damnedest thing, and it went straight to you. I’m really sorry.”
Tim looked at him funny.
“First that damn H-rank clothes poofing wizard, now invisible assailants?” He grumbled, but then he noticed the two women bicker. Or, rather, Edna was keeping Heba behind her as the very annoying sounding woman kept going, her son now wincing at his arm.
It looked like the guard noticed the boy, especially. Since he was already frowning at her. “Mind excusing me, sir.”
And then he took off.
“Thanks for the quick thinking, Wolf.”
Tim heard another huff.
Another few minutes of nonstop bickering later, Edna managed to slid past that little nightmare with Heba. The two finally reached Tim who hadn’t moved from his last spot. For the next few minutes, Edna was caressing the girl’s cheeks and speaking to her in desiertan. After a few exchanges, Tim noticed Heba was noticeably upset. She even darted her eyes away from Tim when he tried to talk to her.
Edna shook her head, smiling as she stood up. “What a sweet dearie…”
“She wanted to share the ice cream she bought.”
Tim huffed out a laugh, Heba was staring at him. He then picked up his cold cup of cocoa and gave it to the girl. Heba took the cup and sipped it aggressively, sniffling as she glared at the woman who now had a security guard as an opponent.
After Heba settled down, the four went into the mall’s fashion department. It was two floors away from the main activity center where the concert was in full blast. Tim let out a hard sigh as they stepped inside. While he was not the most fashion-conscious person, he appreciated the silence.
“I’ll be with Heba, dear. You find anything you want, bring it to me. It’ll be my little gift for indulging a dying old crone.”
All of a sudden, Tim was left with Asena.
He was completely alone. Tim hummed. “That loud woman must’ve had a hell of an impression to you…” She was probably keeping an eye to the two.
Which begs the question, what the heck was Tim supposed to do now?
Walking around the department, Tim noticed almost anything and everything was on sale. So much it looked like it was some big scam. The young man shrugged and took a gander at the selection any way. He stumbled on a few well-sewn and clean looking sleeved shirts, but looking at the size managed to make him frown. Was it just him, or it was actually a lot harder to find brand new clothes in his size? He wasn’t overly buff nor he was a donut away from a heart attack. His height, though, was beginning to feel like a bigger deal than he initially expected.
Lately, his clothes were either sewn per regulation from the company. Or were gifts from Edna, who somehow figured out his perfect size. Even his magic cat-person butler armor, Servant, was form fitted for him by one of his clients.
“It’s a problem for tall customers all around here, sir.” An attendant was holding a large batch of clothing she put on hangers and laid on display. “Our stocks usually last till the next season, but with this sudden Spring Festival event sprawled over the mall all week long? The stocks were drained not too long…”
“Must be a pain on your end, having people who’re interested in buying and storage having nothing but dust?” Tim hummed.
“If we win the customer roulette and end up dealing with a pain in the ass, that is.”
“How often does that…happen…?”
The woman suddenly screamed, then others all over the department followed suit.
“You good?” Tim tried to step closer, but the lady stood up straight, completely red and held her hand.
Tim looked over the whole area, he noticed other employees were standing straight and were holding their hands in the air as they slowly walked towards the employees only section of the store. A security guard was jogging past Tim when the young man patted his shoulder. “What happened?”
“Nothing to concern yourself over, sir.” He said sternly. “Now, if you would—”
Tim loosened his soggy jacket and well-worn sleeved shirt to reveal his guild mark at the guard. His eyes widened as Tim pulled his clothes back up. “A wizard?!”
“Let me help.”
It took the guard a moment to concisely explain to Tim the incidents happening weeks on end now. A wizard, who claimed to be an H-rank mage, had been taking female undergarments and end up getting away with it every single time.
Tim’s margarine finally reached its peak after he heard the whole thing.
Even with how usually stoic Tim usually is to situations, only ever breaking when lives were at stake.
“…holy hell…HA-HA-HA-HA—” Tim coughed, his laugh were equal parts groaning in pain and crying from the sheer pathetic display this guy had been doing.
From the way the guard had been clearing his throat aggressively, Tim knew he didn’t appreciate him making light of the situation. He finally was able to keep himself composed, and ended it with a last huff of a laugh. “No self-respecting H-rank would bother doing this, trust me.”
With a single word the guard fell down on his butt after a spectral wolf which stood taller than Tim materialized in the middle of the department. It glistened, tousles of fur wreathing like a subdued flame.
“If you can smell the biggest concentration of used clothing in this place, lead me to it.”
With nothing but a huff as an answer, she began to run! Tim easily caught up with his companion. They were running around the fashion department, sliding out into the concourse. For once, the mall’s busy atmosphere didn’t leave Tim frowning. These were civilians in their own world. For once, Tim’s headache went away. Why should he feel anything other than the drive to finish the job? For once, Tim felt relaxed.
Even as his astral wolf companion jumped over the mall’s mezzanine two floors down into the concert, Tim simply stepped off the railing and jumped along, his soggy jacket and jeans flapped as he came down landing with complete flair. The band was completely oblivious to a shaggy looking man and a wolf taller than him standing over the concert light’s scaffolding.
The audience, however, screamed. Asena slammed her paw over thin air causing a bunch of people to freak out, but Tim knew this was a necessary chaos. All the while, the band took it as a cheer and continued to the final chorus of the song.
“Get over here!”
Tim summoned his glass chains and scattered it over the scaffolding till they wrapped around an invisible object. With a single motion Tim let the chains wrap around the culprit even tighter!
“Okay, okay!” A man younger than Tim finally showed himself. “I give! I give!”
Tim shrugged and threw him off the scaffolding an into the stage where security was waiting for him. The man’s thud as he landed synced with the song’s final note. Tim looked over the audience who were now cheering at him and Asena.
Later, Tim managed to meet back up with Edna and Heba.
“And I thought I had convinced you to take a vacation.”
Tim huffed out a laugh. “I couldn’t help myself.”
Edna smiled at that. “We saw you from the lacrima screens. I’ve never seen you looking so dashing, dear.”
“Heba said you were like that when you helped her back in Desierto.” Edna shook her head, but her smile didn’t falter. "You've changed a lot, Tim."
Tim huffed another laugh at them.
The girl, Tim noticed, was holding bags of branded items. So many her arms were practically hangers for them. Edna wasn’t doing any better, the only reason she only lifted on one arm was because she was holding her purse on the other arm.
“Why so many?”
“Working for me won’t be a carefree job, you know? I bought her a set of work clothes.”
“She agreed, of course. On the condition that she could loan out her first pay and buy a gift.”
Heba then handed Tim one of the bags. Inside were a set of clean dress shirts of assorted colors.
Tim didn’t even notice himself smile again.