It was odd. The way this particular section of the mall was designed, as though it was meant to be off putting to the rest of the shops and those who couldn't afford to browse through it's own select choice of stores. The decor changed as well. Whereas anywhere else there would be those hard plastic benches that are bolted to the floor that are sometimes place next to fountains that seemed to have been forgotten since they're never turned on, the closer to the Winster department store the more appealing the furniture looked. Cushioned, unbolted, and made of wood next to fountains that were not only shooting running water, but actually painted, molded into intricate statues, and even at some points sequined. Sequined!
Yet with the major evident differences that would have put anyone in an uncomfortable position, there were three persons that were either aware of the feeling and ignored it, or were just completely oblivious to it and made no motion of actually noticing it.
"Yup!" Sakura exclaimed while lifting her arms in the air and stretched her entire body. "This is exactly what I want to do on my day off. Be at the mall..."
As she stood off to the side of one of the many kiosk's in a pair of homemade skinny jeans, Black Stones t-shirt with a green plaid flannel over it; earning many disapproving glances from many of society's upper crust, Ino was busy surveying the area dressed a bit more fashionably formal.
"For the future fashoin designer, you couldn't have worn something a little more eloquent?" Ino turned to ask her.
"For the future make-up artist, you couldn't have stopped putting it on after the first three coats?" Sakura threw back at her.
"Say what you want," Ino told her whilst turning her back to her, "but I get up at dawn to look this good."
Sakura rolled her eyes. "I always wondered what scared the moon away."
"Don't start with me," Ino said through gritted teeth.
Meanwhile, positioned on one of the wooden and cushioned benches, Hinata sat in a semi-slump, questioning if this whole ordeal was actually a good idea. Noticing this, Sakura went over to sit next to her.
"Is this a good idea?" Hinata finally asked.
Sakura shrugged. "Ino thinks it's a good idea. Then again, any idea she comes up with she thinks is a good idea."
"That doesn't reassure me in any way," Hinata told her.
"It wasn't meant to."
"Okay," Ino announced and plopped herself in one of the cushioned chairs made out of wood across from the bench that Hinata and Sakura were sitting in (because the area where the benches are need to be complete with opposing chairs, end tables, and a rug) . "I have come to a conclusion that will help us out here."
"What's that?" Sakura dared to question.
"He wears a suit to work," the blonde stated.
"Um.. we kind of knew that already," Hinata reminded her.
"No," Ino continued. "I mean we'll search the stores where they have to wear suits, not a uniform."
"Ino," Sakura called out.
"That.. was the most brilliant thing you've ever said."
"Thank you," the blonde replied with a smile. "Right? She wasn't insulting me, was she?"
Hinata shook her head and let Ino keep the smile on her face. Even if she wasn't really sure about it herself either.
"Okay," Sakura began, clearly on board with the adventure now that it was actually going somewhere. "We can cross off the restaurant, the café, the candy stores, the antique stores, and pretty much all of these kiosks."
"The clothing stores too," Hinata put in. "Since they want you to dress casually."
"Or at least what they consider to be casual," piped in Ino. "But anyway, that leaves the jewelry stores, the shoe stores, the perfume place, the miniature place, and the department store."
Sakura took another look around. "What about the swimsuit place?"
"I've only seen women work there," Ino told her.
"That was how long ago?" the pinkette asked her.
Both Hinata and Sakura looked at her oddly.
"I like to look at the things I can't afford," Ino confessed.
"How are we friends?" Sakura asked, rhetorically.
"Does that mean that you might have seen him somewhere around here, Ino?" Hinata asked her. "Do you remember?"
Ino shook her head. "I do like to walk down here every now and then, but it's not like I'm here all the time. I was able to come by last week but that was the first time in a few months that I have. And I only went there."
"The one time one of your random wandering could've helped us and it still doesn't work out," Sakura sighed. "Well, whatever. Shall we get cracking?"
Ino took the initiative to stand from her seat first, Sakura and Hinata stood up afterwards. After a quick debate on where to begin, the trio of girls went into the miniature store first. None of the employees recognized anyone that Ino described to them, which was sort of a relief to them as they discussed that perhaps working with miniatures voluntarily would say about the young man. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge.
The perfumery was a quick one as well since the store wasn't really a store, but more of just a counter that had the appearance of being it's own sort of shop seeing as how it was kind of built into the wall. With only one employee at the counter they were able to find out that there was only a total of five employees that would switch shifts every other day and that none of them were blonde.
After questioning there, they crossed towards one of the jewlery stores. The one they entered was fairly large, enough room for a good number customers to pass through and browse through the cases of gems. The lighting reflected off the stones in a flattering way, enticing bedazzled shoppers into purchasing them on a frivoulous whim.
Near the back were three male employees, each with a tray of jewelry out, doing some sort of inventory. The girls approached them without a second thought, Ino leading the way with Sakura next to her and Hinata taking up the rear.
"Excuse us," Ino proclaimed whilst they made their positions in front of the counting men.
"May I help you, miss?" the one in dark blue asked.
"Yes, you may," Ino replied. "We're actually looking for someone, maybe you can help us in locating him."
"Does he work for the store?"
"We're not exactly sure," Sakura put in. "We know he works in this general area, but not which store."
"I'd be more than willing to check out employee records if you would give his name."
"We actually don't know his name," Ino told him. "But we can describe him."
"Well, what does he look like."
"He kind of looks like a cat," Sakura said right away before Ino shushed her.
"Fairly tall, a bit tanned, blonde hair, blue eyes," Ino described while Sakura muttered something about leaving whiskers out. "Do you know anyone like that?"
"I can check the employee log and see if anyone's photo is similar to that description," he offered.
"Would you please?" the blonde girl asked politely.
"Of course," the other replied. "If you would wait just a moment, I'll be right back. Please, browse around while I do that."
Ino thanked him with a smile and turned to the other two girls with complete confidence that they're search would be coming to an end soon, unaware of the dire plot being planned out that would lead to a rather unsavory accusation on the three of them.
"Get them to try on some of the stuff," the blue-suited male whispered to his cohorts. "I'll get security to pin the missing stuff on them."
As he walked into the back of the store, the other two males called for the girls' attention.
"Excuse me, misses," the one dressed in black called out for their attention. "Would you like to try on some of these pieces, maybe purchase some?"
"Thank you," Ino told them. "But we're not here to buy anything."
"And if we were, we couldn't afford any of it," Sakura added.
"Nonsense," he persisted. "Every lovely young lady needs something to accent her."
Ino, who was already eager to browse through the rings and other pretty trinkets, gave in and approached the open cases of gems, followed by the other two who weren't going to be left behind for any reason.
"Maybe just a look around," Ino said and began to lightly run her fingers over the jewels. "Sooo pretty."
"I like that one," Hinata commented pointing at one of the sapphire rings.
"Try it on," the one in pinstripes told her.
"Can I?" she asked, picking the small object up once he gave her a nod of approval. She placed the ring on her right middle finger and smiled. "I wish I could afford it."
"And you miss?" the one in black asked Sakura.
"I'm fine," she told him.
"Are you sure? We have some marked down prices here." He gestured towards the case in front of him.
That perked her ears up. "Well, it won't hurt to look..."
"Sakura! Look at this one!"
"Hinata, that's a good color for you."
"I like this bracelet."
"I think gold looks a lot better for me."
"Because you're tacky."
"At least anything I pick would match my hair."
"I think platinum is better for you anyway, Sakura. Don't worry."
"Hinata's lucky, she could wear any band."
"I don't know about that..."
"Sakura! Try this one on!"
While they fiddled around with the stones, the two employees that were up front with them creeped for the back room, ready to watch events fold out so they would be able to get away with their report on the missing items. They didn't have to wait long.
"Excuse me, ladies."
The three girls placed the pieces they were admiring and turned to face four mall cops. No, not security who have very limited power, but actual cops that are stationed mostly in the rich area, because just like the benches, the upper class always gets one up on the little guy. Which isn't always that great, because while it's pretty bad getting in trouble by security, the mall cops they have, can actually arrest you and take you in. Yeah, it's not good...
But back to the story.
"Is there a problem?" Ino asked.
"Yeah," the first said. "We got a report in about some suspicious persons that have been going around the area for the past few days, taking anything that was left out. If you'd come with us, we'd be glad to have your help."
"Oh, hell no," Sakura piped in. "You think it's us, am I right."
"We're not saying that."
"Yeah, you are. And don't try to deny it, so let me tell you something, Mr. Man, those employee guys asked us to look at the jewlery."
"They were the ones that called us out," a second told them.
The same thought of them being set up went through their minds, it didn't really help that Sakura was still wearing one of the rings and went noticed by a third member of the police quartet.
"That ring there still has a tag on it."
"I was trying it on," Sakura told him. "Like I said, they asked us to look at them, hoping we would buy something.
"Really? What else have you been trying on?"
"I didn't take anything!" Sakura pressed on. "None of us did, and I bet that if it wasn't for the way I look right now, I'm pretty damn sure that you wouldn't be saying any of this crap!"
"Miss," the first officer began while reaching out for her, "we can settle all of this is you three would come with us-"
"Don't touch me, you bourgeois pig!" Sakura slapped his hand away and almost accidently, spat at him.
Time seemed to have stood still for just a moment. Ino and Hinata went wide eyed immediately after Sakura had done the action and as for the pinkette, it took her awhile before she realized that she had actually done what she had secretly wanted to do from the very beginning. Once she had however, she didn't stay and go wide eyed like her companions had. Instead, she turned tail, grabbed each one of their hands, and all three ended up breaking into a run just as time seemed to have gone back to it's original motion.
The three girls ran from the jewelry store with the four mall cops behind them. Sakura let go of both Ino's and Hinata's hands and the two of them followed wherever she was heading. Though a bit distorted from the incredibly idiotic thing she had let happen, Sakura ended up leading them the wrong way and instead of going out of the rich area, took them further in, towards the Winster department store. Because it's just so difficult to decipher left or right, but in all fairness the other two didn't really do anything to help the situation. So in a way, it was everyone's fault.
"Run up ahead!" Sakura yelled at the other two. "Into the store, I'll do something to slow them down!"
"Are you crazy?!" Ino shouted back.
"No, I have an idea!"
Ino and Hinata ran ahead of their friend and into the department store. Sakura slowed down and threw some of the chairs from the café table that were in front of the store's front in the way of the approaching officers. Those mixed with the confused customers stumbling over the chaos slowed them down. Sakura skidded to a halt and instead of taking up another chair, took two entire tables and threw them down on their sides, careful to make sure they wouldn't roll away.
She waited for the officers to disentangle themselves and continue the chase and when she saw them near her, charged the table at them, not only throwing them back into the mob of people, but also semi-locking them in since there was already a huge mess of chairs and still standing tables surrounding them. Slightly pleased with her plan, she ran into the upscale store in search of her friends.
While Sakura was causing some sort of destruction outside, Ino and Hinata had ran into the store, searching for a way out. Ino was already heading towards one of the exits on the sides of the store, until Hinata called out to her.
"We can't leave Sakura behind," she told her, skidding to a stop herself.
"What d'you wanna do?!" Ino asked her, stopping as well and catching her breath.
Hinata shrugged, honestly now knowing what to do but not wanting to leave her friend behind. Ino started to look around for something that could help them in their predicament and lucky that she had otherwise she wouldn't have noticed the other two officers that were from the store speaking with one another glancing at them every now and then. Ino turned and grabbed Hinata's hand, leading her to the escalators the moment she saw the pair of uniforms start to make their way towards them.
"What are we doing now?" Hinata asked.
"There's some more cops in here," Ino explained. "I'm pretty sure they've gotten the word on us and we need to do something otherwise, we're gonna get caught."
"What are we gonna do?"
Ino looked around and spotted the make-up counters, crowded like always by women who just couldn't have enough of the stuff. Ino smiled.
"I have an idea," she said. "Go up the escalators, I'll meet you on the second floor."
"What are you gonna do?"
"Follow me," she continued, not bothering to recognize the question. "So that they won't split up and one'll follow you up. But the moment the stampede starts, run the hell up those things and wait for Sakura and me. I'm pretty sure no one'll notice you going up if you do it fast."
Ino let go of her hand and Hinata continued to follow her as she had been instructed to. Ino stopped in front of one of the display tables that are always put up to the side of everything, placing her hands on either side of the surface, and taking a deep breath. She started rolling it towards the most expensive brand of them all, gaining momentum on the way, and eventually breaking out into a run, crashing into the back of the counter and not only letting all of the cosmetics stacked up behind fly out onto the floor, but everything that was locked away behind glass cases were free from their holds.
And despite the shards of broken glass, the outcome was what Ino had predicted. Mobs of women hounded at the fallen products in a sad attempt to acquire them before being stopped. The blonde girl looked around to see if Hinata had already left, and after noting that she had, repeated her action with the counter on the opposite end.
Hinata had chose to run the moment she figured what Ino was about to do. She made it to the escalators quickly enough and started to run up, a little harder to do in her boots, but easier if they would have been stairs. She was near the top when she heard a shout.
She looked down and was very unhappy to see one of the two cops that Ino had described to her making his way up. Hinata made it up faster and sought something to help give her some time. She spotted a few standing manicans on wheels and raced to them, rolling as many as she could over to the escalator landing and pushing them down the stairs. She didn't even bother to see if it had worked or not, she was too busy cursing herself for running too early and for not knowing what to do next. She quickly surveyed the second floor and spotted the furniture section, deciding to duck in there for awhile.
Passing the arch, she turned left and apparently into the section for living room furniture, making her way behind a double bookcase and crouching behind it. She pulled out her phone from her bag and sent out a text message to the other two in order to let them know where she was, knowing full well that they wouldn't find her so easily. Hinata put her phone away and sighed in relief, thinking that she was safe.
That was until she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Kyaaa!" she cried, squeezing her eyes shut and swinging her bag behind her in a futile attempt to hit whoever it was that had a hold of her. It probably would've worked if it still wasn't around her neck...
"Hey, calm down," a familiar voice told her. "I'm not gonna hurt you."
Hinata eyes flashed open and locked on with a pair of blue. She instantly fell back and felt not only her face heat up, but her stutter come back.
"So it was you," the blonde boy said with a smile. "I wasn't really sure 'cause I've never seen you outside of work, but I was almost totally sure."
Hinata opened her mouth to speak but was a little tongue-tied at the beginning and couldn't make any noise come out. It only lasted for a short while, thankfully enough. "W-what are you doing here?"
"I kinda work here," he answered. "What are you doing here?"
"It's um, it-it's kind of a, um, a long story."
He looked at her as if he was about to ask her something else, but was interrupted by a fellow co-worker.
"Naruto! Is everything okay over there?!"
Naruto turned his head back and shouted, "Yeah! I got it, alright?!" He turned back to Hinata and was going to continue speaking but was a bit taken aback by the small smile she was trying to hide. "What is it?"
Hinata shook her head and spoke softly. "You're name's Naruto. I-I mean.. it's kind of, I guess.. kind of cute."
"Is that a good thing?" he asked her, not really sure. She nodded enthusiastically, which made him break out into another smile.
"So what-" he began to speak again, but was interrupted, again.
The girl looked beyond her blonde crush and saw her rapidly approaching friends. She quickly noticed that Sakura's overshirt no longer had a sleeve and Ino wasn't wearing her heels anymore.
"We need to get out of here!" Sakura exclaimed, pushing Naruto away forcefully and dragging her up. "Now!"
"Sakura," Ino began, "you just pushed-"
"Not important," Sakura said. "Let's go."
The pinkette dragged Hinata and Ino back towards the arch so they could get the hell out of there, only to be stopped in her tracks at the sight of every mall cop they distracted somehow make it up the down escalator at last and start a search of the floor. They quickly backed up to where they had been.
"How the hell are we gonna get out?!" she cried.
"What's going on?" Naruto asked again.
Sakura finally took the time to notice him. "Oh my God, you're that guy."
"We got into some trouble and now we're being chased by cops and with everything that we've done, I'm pretty sure we just added more onto whatever the hell they were gonna accuse us with to begin with," Ino said in a hurry. "Sonuva- I don't know what to do."
"This is bad," Hinata muttered. "It's over, we're done."
"There's another way out."
The three girls turned to the blonde boy.
"Come on, follow me," he called out to them and lead them even further back into the store.
"There's a back entrance here?" Ino asked. "I didn't know that."
"Why would you need to?" Sakura asked. "We don't work on this side of the mall."
"It's for the furniture," Naruto explained. "So we can get it out to the parking lot easier. I'll take you through it."
"Thank you," Hinata said to him, forgetting her nervousness with the overhanging threat of incarceration. "Really."
"It's not a problem," he told her, pushing the door open and holding it for the three of them. "Do you need me to lead you out?"
"Nah, I think we got it from here," Sakura answered for them. "Come on, let's get the hell out of here."
Her and Ino rushed forward, Hinata lingered behind a second to thank him one more time. She was about to catch up to her friends when her hand was caught on by something. She turned her head to see that his hand had reached to grab hers.
Before she was able to ask for the reason why, he asked, "So when's the next day you work?"
"Uh.. T-Tomorrow. U-until five."
"Awesome," he grinned. "I'll stop by for lunch then. So, I dunno, pre-order?"
"Oh.. O-okay," Hinata replied. "I'll.. I'll be ready then."
"Alright," Naruto said, letting her hand go. "I'll see you at the food court tomorrow."
Hinata brought her hand up to her chest and gave him a small wave and smile. "Bye."
She then ran to catch up with Ino and Sakura who were waiting at the end of the hall, knowing full well that they were ready to pounce her with questions and statements of "He likes you!" which she was gladly looking forward to. Naruto watched the trio exit out into the parking lot. Once they were out of his sight, he closed the back door and was prepared to get back to work.
"You like her."
His head turned in the direction of the voice. Seeing that it was one of his work friends that was also in the furniture department, apparently interested in what was going on and decided to follow and try to hear the whole story.
"Wha?" the blonde asked dumbly.
"You like her," the other man repeated.
"No I don't."
"Yeah, you do."
"How do you know?" Naruto asked, walking back to the front.
"Easy," his friend replied, turning to walk alongside him. "You don't work tomorrow."
"Shut up!" he laughed and pushed the other into one of the sofas lining the wall.
A/N: Okay so yeah, I ended this one like this, and because it's really open ended (more so than intended) there's a second part ot the whole thing entitled Dancing Through Sunday, so if care to know what happens next in this particular story, go check it. If not, thanks for reading and see ya later, I guess.