Long Way Home (Chapter Six, page 2 of 7)

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"Galleon at six followed by Lottie's," it read. "You in?"

Well, he certainly was persistent. She glanced at her mother's pursed lips and rigid face, a face that seemed so resistant to change, so unwilling to forgive.

"See you there," she typed back, and then she dialed her sister's number.

Alexis stood in the middle of a mobbed JCPenney, wondering what possessed her to accompany Betsy to a mall on the mainland right before Christmas. Too much holiday cheer and sisterly guilt rolled into one, no doubt.

They tried in vain to carry on a conversation while walking through the endless throng of people. The regrettable underbelly of Christmas. Christmas songs hurt her ears as young and old alike rudely jostled one another. Although Alexis was used to the hustle and bustle of a big city, in a place like this it aggravated her more. Probably because she expected better of them. Or maybe because she'd already spent enough time on the island to forget the reality of crowds.

"Brian is definitely the competitive one," Betsy was telling her as Alexis strained to listen. "The kid used to victory spike his baby bottle when he finished it. I was glad I wasn't breastfeeding anymore."

Alexis glanced around them in annoyance. "You must be off the deep end wanting to come shopping this week."

She turned to look at her sister, but instead of annoyance, she saw a flicker of nostalgia in Betsy's brown eyes. "I don't get to the mainland for shopping very often. In case you haven't noticed, I'm a little booked up with three kids, a husband, and a salon." Her eyes turned toward two small children tugging on their mother's shirt. She was visibly relieved to be without children for the day. "Besides, this whole scene is sort of interesting."

Alexis bumped into a large man passing her in a hurry. Obstacles everywhere.

"Look, this might be some kind of sociological experiment to you, observing gorillas with credit cards in our midst, but it's giving me a migraine," Alexis huffed.

Betsy stopped walking and a woman stepped onto the backs of her shoes. The woman cast the sisters a dirty look before veering around them. "By all means, let's put our efficiency caps on. What is it you would like to accomplish here?"

"I'd like to find that scooter for Brian."

Betsy blanched. "The scooter? Why?"

"Oh, did you already buy it?" asked Alexis.

"No, it's expensive. And he's getting other presents."

"I don't mind buying it."

Alexis noticed Betsy's irritation but didn't understand it. Then Betsy shocked Alexis by dropping her bags right in the middle of the bustling crowd and pointing a finger at Alexis.

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