And so we end up bugging Beth once more. I feel like I've actually spent more time off this bus than I have on it. I probably have. Either way, we're getting off again, in a bigger town. This one has a shopping centre and a cinema complex and all the things that country lanes seem to lack. As we get off the bus, I pause and delve into my bag again.
‘One sec,' I mutter, rummaging for a little plastic case I haven't felt the need to look for in a while. No point wearing coloured contacts when everyone knows what you are, right? I don't wanna freak everyone out, so when I get hungry, no one will know. Hopefully. I glance at Gabby's shirt, stained dark browning red with the blood of the junkies. I sigh and take my hoodie off, handing it to her. ‘Cover up your shirt; I don't wanna get pulled over for suspected murder today.'
She smiles and puts the hoodie on, snuggling into the over sized garment. I watch as she lifts her hands up, the sleeves covering them by quite a way, to her face. She uses her teeth to pull the sleeves back and smiles once her hands are free. I could swear I saw her inhale as she tugged at the material, smelling my jumper. I arch an eyebrow and shake my head, shouldering my bag. Together we set off to the shopping centre, and I head straight for an opening shop that looks like it sells girls clothes.
‘I'll pay. Birthday treat, right?' I say trying to smile as we walk into the huge shop. I look around, a little bit bewildered. I hate clothes shopping at the best of times, but I've never liked big shops much. I inevitably get lost in the confusing layout that takes you around the whole shop to make you look at things you didn't go there for, and persuade you to buy them rather than what you wanted in the first place. In short: small shops are okay and big shops are just scary.
Gabby seems to know what she's looking for though, so I just follow her. She picks up a shirt and holds it over her front, gazing into a mirror at herself to see if it suits her. She looks up a little at my reflection and smiles.
‘I knew that was just a myth,' she says softly as she regards me standing a metre or so behind her. ‘What do you think? It has vampire fangs,' she giggles a little and twists so she can look at me, not just a reflection of me. I look at the design printed in white on the black material, the skull formed out of bats and butterflies, wearing a top hat and sunglasses.
‘Very fitting,' I mutter. She grins and goes back to the clothes. I wonder vaguely if I am going to regret not giving her a budget. She picks out a pair of jeans and turns to me.
‘Not gonna get a change of clothes?' I ask as she looks around for the check out. She shakes her head.
‘No. I like your hoodie.' She says this with a perfectly serious look in her eyes.
‘It's too big for you,' I say, a little taken aback.
‘I like guy hoodies,' her voice is deadpan and it kinda looks like I will get mauled if I ask for it back. I look at her in it and it completely swamps her. I mean, it was pretty loose on me, even as a medium, and on her, it comes down to her thighs. I shake my head exasperated.
‘Keep it, then. I'll get another one.' I look around. ‘Where's the men's stuff?' Told you I was a clueless shopper. She hides a smile - or tried to and fails, but doesn't answer my question immediately. ‘I get lost easy, Gabby, help me out here.' I say, getting a little exasperated.
‘I don't know. Ask a shop assistant or something. There's probably a sign if you look hard enough.' She replies. I slap a hand to my forehead and resist head butting the nearest hard surface. I hate shopping!
‘Helpful,' I grumble. I look around and try to find a logical way around the shop, getting lost several times and somehow ending up in the lingerie. I curse and blush, trying to find my way out of the shop altogether, but Gabby drags me over to the till instead.
‘Still need to pay, Alex.' She reminds me. I nod and watch dumbly as the woman behind the till scans, folds and bags the clothes for Gabby. I hand her my credit card and wait for her to pass it back with the receipt. She forces a bored smile and wishes us a good day in a strong American accent. I stop off in a small all guy's clothing shop and buy myself a new hoodie, this one black - it's easier to hide dirt and stains on black than light grey (good luck to Gabby keeping that clean) - and then we find a public toilet for Gabby to go get changed.
‘I'll wait out here.' I tell her and stand next to a vending machine that buzzes slightly worryingly.