Chapter Four: Night Out
"I know what you need."
Harley looked at Pamela like she'd just had an epiphany.
"I know what you need." She repeated, pointing her partially chewed pencil in her friend's direction.
"You've been sort of down lately, I've noticed." Harley continued. "And I know why."
"Well, Doctor Quinzelle, what's your diagnosis?" Pam said sarcastically. She didn't look up from the book she was reading, but she could guess what Harley's expression would've looked like.
Harley 'hmm'ed thoughtfully and turned her head to one side.
"In my expert opinion, I think you have an acute case of what we experts like to call 'boredom'."
"Oh really?" Pam finally looked up. "Well, doctor, what do you prescribe?"
"We really need to get out of the college." Harley said. "It's starting to be like claustrophobia."
"I know, it's terrible." Pamela sighed and put her book away. It was a cold day and they were sitting in a small, cosy alcove of the library to escape the oncoming winter.
"How long has it been since we've actually gone out?" Harley asked. "2 weeks, Maybe 3?"
Pamela nodded. "It's this weather." She lied. She was actually quite comfortable with the cold, it didn't bother her. She wasn't the type who reacted to the weather, like the human equivalent of an evergreen…whatever that was.
"More like 'It's this city'." Harley corrected. There was no hope trying to lie to Harley, it was like she was psychic.
"2 months and you're still not used to it?"
She nodded again. "It's very different here."
Her comment went ignored. "We should go shopping." Harley said, standing up from the couch they were sitting on. "Y'know, I can't believe I haven't shown you the mall. Gotham's mall is fantastic. 10-screen cinema, games arcade and 600 specialty stores. You'll LOVE it."
Pam wasn't the mall-going type. Sometimes at home, she and a bunch of girl friends would drive into the city and go shopping, but she never really liked it. Shopping was a tedious exercise for Pam, she felt comfortable just wearing the same light brown tunic and patched blue jeans every day. Besides, shopping centres weren't sustainable developments, and people needed to learn they could get by just fine on what they needed alone. But Harley seemed interested, and at that point anywhere seemed more appealing than the Gotham University library- so Pam agreed to join her best friend for an afternoon on the town.
Pamela had been cooped up inside for so long, only leaving the college campus when she absolutely needed to, that she'd almost forgotten how big Gotham was. The streets wound around each other in an intricate labyrinth of tarmac, sandstone, glass and metal. The whole city buzzed with the sounds of cars, people, trains and all manner of things. The air was thick with a rainbow of different smells- cars and trucks burning petrol, hot dog kiosks, all amplified by the chilled climate. Pamela had made a point from her arrival to the city to limit her contact with the outside as much as possible, but now that she and Harley were out here, walking the busy streets of Gotham, surrounded by bright lights and hundreds- or thousands- of other people, she found that it had a rhythm and a strange beauty of its own.
"It's this way." Harley directed Pamela towards the large acropolis of Gotham Square, crowded with people despite the intense cold. They crossed the paved square towards the opening to Gotham Mall.
"C'mon, Red." Harley chirped, running up ahead of her friend like an over-exited child. "Let's go inside!"
Pamela smirked and ran up behind Harley. This was actually fun, despite how much she initially hated the idea. It wasn't so much the thrill of getting out of school campus for an afternoon, or the buzzing excitement of discovering something new, but it was Harley that made it fun. Harley was the closest friend Pamela had ever had, and her constant humour and optimism made even the darkest of skies seem blue.
For the rest of the afternoon, Harley dragged Pam into various stores, picked out things that she liked, found things for Pam to try on and took spontaneous mobile phone photos of the outfits they tried on.
"You look good in green." Harley would continually say, grabbing more and more clothes for Pamela to try on. "It goes with the orange of your hair."
They didn't end up buying anything much, as the budget of your average college freshman didn't easily accommodate for random shopping sprees. But that didn't stop Harley from examining every available product that caught her interest. Pamela found it amusing that the two of them were so different. Not allot of the stores caught Pam's eye- the clothes were too flashy for her taste.
But there was one place that did get her attention.
It was a small, unassuming little store, with no name printed on the sign, only the image of a large yellow sun that looked like an illuminated picture from an old bible. The door was held open by a large bucket full of oriental-style parasols, and statues of Hindu deities were displayed behind beaded curtains in the shop window.
"Funny." Harley said with a tone of curiosity. "I come down to this area all the time, but I never notice that place."
"Let's go in." Pamela said. "I think it looks interesting."
The first thing that Pamela noticed when she walked into the shop was the smell. The overwhelming scents of sandalwood, sage, and lavender hit her nose the second she walked in. It was hotter inside than out in the mall, and much darker, with almost no light save for a few scattered multicoloured candles casting an eerie glow over the shop merchandise. A CD in an unidentifiable eastern language played softly in the background. The shop was empty except for herself, Harley and the shopkeeper- a woman in a flowing red skirt with long, unkempt brown hair who was currently re-organising a bookcase on the other side of the room.
"Were you looking to buy something?" She asked.
"No, we were just browsing, thank you." Harley replied hastily.
The shopkeeper nodded and returned to her work.
The shop was some sort of a new-age curio store, something that belonged in a Harry Potter novel. It stocked things like lunar calenders, essential oils, incense burners and self-help books with bizarre titles like 'How to Find Inner Peace by Connecting with your Past Lives' and 'Spirit Guide to Familiars and Totem Animals'.
"Harley, check this out." Pamela called. Harley turned around, her arms and neck covered in gold and silver bangles.
"Look at this book: 'Connecting with Spirits for Novices'."
Harley snorted. "These all sound like 'For Dummies' books of the paranormal."
Pamela picked up another book to look at. It was an old-style leather-bound book, with no title and fancy illuminated designs down the sides of the cover. Pamela flipped through the pages.
"Looks like an old bible." Harley commented.
"I think it's a grimoire." Pamela said.
"It's like a big spell book." Pam turned the book over and checked the barcode.
"$25.50." She said. "Think I should buy it?"
"Thinking about making some magic?" Harley said with a laugh.