Z'bor, Echo, Baby Esmi (puppeted by Echo)


Shopping at a Mega Mall in winter can be chancy, as two parents find out when a blizzard causes a lockdown and they're trapped for the time being.


It is December 18, 2018, Modern Day America


Insert Generic MegaMall here

OOC Date 12 Dec 2018 07:00


z-bor_default.jpg echo_default.jpg

"Yes I have the credit card, how else was I going to pay for things? "


AU: Megamall, Present Day, Earth

Picture it: a busy megamall crammed with last minute holiday shoppers. People struggling against the crowds and time to find that one special gift that will make a loved one’s face light up with joy. A busy Santa’s village with a representative of the big guy there to take all the kiddies’ wish lists. Bustling food court with at least a dozen restaurants, covering a wide swath of international cuisine, over a hundred stores to pick and choose from, some of them top brand outlets.

Outside, the snow is coming down in a light whirl of flurries…until it isn’t. Gradually, the storm worsens. While all who are inside shop and socialize, outside becomes a snowglobe of furious, erratic snowfall. Eventually, not even the plows can get through and are unlikely to anytime soon. Foot after foot of snow falls and the moment everyone by the parking garage and parking lots feared would come, does.

An announcement rings out through the mall, cutting off the seasonal music and replacing it with the tinny, awkward voice of a mall Security officer.

“Attention Megamall shoppers! Attention ALL Megamall Shoppers! The mall has been locked down due to the extremely dangerous weather conditions outside. We apologize for the inconvenience, but no one will be allowed to leave. We will do everything within reason to accommodate our shoppers’ needs. Thank you, and have a nice evening.”

Wide thoroughfares paved in shining tile sprawl in each direction, spangled with the glitter of festive lights and ribbons and ornaments draped from second-floor railings and pillars, ceilings and facades. Stores of every stripe can be found along each stretch - toys, candy-makers, jewelers, makeup salons, department and sports outlets, international speciality shops, bookstores, and more. Restaurants are in abundance of course, from the lowly food court to bubble tea and cinnamon roll vendors to more high-end seated establishments. Holiday music blares above the mild roar of bustling shoppers, cycling through familiar tunes in styles ranging from classical to jazz to pop. Scents both sweet and savory waft through the boisterous air, though the aroma of holiday spices and all things baked seem to dominate.

In the main court at the convergence of corridors, a large swath of floor is cordoned off to contain a sliver of winter wonderland created with lights and scenery and costumed actors. Santa Claus (or one of his “helpers”, as some parents my call him) holds court here, waiting with jolly greetings for the little ones aching to tell him their dearest wishes and willing to sit for pictures…whether those on his lap be smiling or bawling. Crowds converge around an ovular enclosure with tall walls, transparent at the top four feet for ease of viewing the goings-on within. An ice-skating rink can be found here, with vendors selling hot chocolate, coffee, and cookies from wheeled stands at various points around it.

The snow has barely begun when one Air Force pilot walks into the mall, tucking the arm of his aviator glasses into the 'vee' of his leather jacket. Sharp hazel eyes take in the Christmas crowds with an air of excitement and jolly holiday spirit. H'ris and the kids had no idea Z'bor would be coming home today. Back from a six month tour overseas, the man kept his arrival home a secret, wanting to surprise his life partner and kids with his arrival. And he planned on coming home with more presents than just the souvenirs he's brought back from Germany. He's barely an hour into his shopping when the weather announcement is made over the mega-mall's PA system. He'll be fine, the hummer can get through anything. When less than an hour later, another announcement is made, he's regretting the decision to stay. Lock down. Today of all days? Can these people be serious? He's just outside a Starbucks stand when it happens. He sinks into a nearby chair, his mood plummeting.

On vacation with her small family, heading home to visit her family for the holidays, Echo begged Milosh to make a detour at the Mega-mall for some last minute shopping she still needed to do. So they got a hotel nearby and Echo took Esmi with her in their SUV, leaving Milosh to hit up the weight room at the hotel to work out the kinks of driving. She's hoping to hit the toddler play area first (she made sure to google it to make sure they had one!) and wear the year and a half old, and then put her in to her stroller for a nap while she shopped in peace. It was a good plan in theory. But the booming announcements woke the little girl just as she was starting to drift off and she wakes with a wail. Cursing silently under her breath, Echo rocks the stroller back and forth as she pulls out her cell phone with a heavy sigh, eyeing the Starbucks she stopped next to considerably. This was not going to be pleasant conversation. "Hey honey…no no…nothing's wrong. Well…not exactly. Have you been watching the weather? Well…seems it got really nasty out there, and I'm stuck here at the Mall. I would totally just pack up and come home but…" she winces and holds the phone away from her ear as her husband starts with the yelling. "Woah, hold up! You know I'm a hell of a good driver, and we have the winter tires on the truck, I could probably handle it. But as I was saying before you cut me off, I couldn't leave if I wanted to, they have locked down the Mall and no one's allowed to leave." She sighs as she continues to rock the upset Esmi back and forth. "Yes, she's cranky, she needs a nap but they keep blasting these announcements over the loud speakers."

Z'bor is rubbing his temples and trying to figure out if he can sneak out of the building without the cops or security seeing. He's got to get home, his leave isn't that long and he wants to spend every minute he can with his family. The arrival of a flustered mother and her fussing child has him looking up. Without meaning to, he sort of ends up listening in on her phone conversation, and feels sympathy for her. That's him and H'ris whenever there's an emergency too. Seeing the woman eye the Starbucks, he stands and moves to order his own coffee, and on a whim, gets one for the woman and a juice box for the kiddo. He pays, leaves a tip and walks around to the woman's center of vision and waves at her, carefully of course because his hands are full of coffee. He points to one and then to her, offering the hot beverage. If she takes it, he'll pull the juice box from his pocket and point at Esmi. He certainly doesn't want to interrupt, so remains as unobtrusive as possible.

Back and forth the conversation goes, Echo getting a little frustrated, "Yes I have the credit card, how else was I going to pay for things? No…..you cannot walk to the Mall in this weather Milosh, it's like five miles from the hotel!" She sighs heavily and shakes her head, finally catching Z'bor out of the corner of her eye, waving at her. She freezes for a moment, her hand tightening on the stroller's handle protectively, but she catches his Air Force jacket and relaxes visibly, but now she has Milosh yelling into her ear, asking if she can still hear him. "Sorry babe, just got distracted," she manages to apologize before she's treated to a worried tirade about this not being the time to get distracted, and see? There's no way she should be driving. While this is going on, she registers the waving coffees and looks as if Z'bor is a Christmas angel. Oh my god, THANK YOU she mouths as she steps forward to take the coffee and rest it in the cup holder to keep her hands free for the moment. She nods enthusiastically as he offers the juice box just in time to quickly retort into the phone, "Yes, The detour to the Mall was my idea, but I don't control the weather Milosh!" She hisses through pinched teeth as she tries everything to keep her cool for Esmi's sake.

Z'bor goes ahead and gives the kiddo the juice box, which he's hoping will calm her for her mother, also that he picked the right flavor. All kids like apple, right? The mother is given an understanding smile and Zeb flinches when the conversation on the phone seems to turn tense. Should he call H'ris and just let him know he's home, but stuck? Or should he hope for the best and hope the snowstorm lets up soon? He sits on the floor in front of the stroller and tries to entertain the kiddo with a generic stuffed animal he'd picked up from somewhere, a small patchwork green dragon with rainbow wings.

Little Esmi gets one look at that juice box and is reaching grasping hands towards it, straining against her straps. Her bright azure eyes blink, red around the edges and damp from frustrated tears when he hands it to her, and she babbles something back indistinctly, maybe an attempt at a thank you as she brings the straw to her cupid's bow lips and takes a long drink. When Z'bor takes out that little patchwork dragon, she giggles softly, lips curling into a smile around the straw as she shows off her few front teeth. Echo is caught up in her phone call, keeping an eye on the man as she lets out an exasperated sigh. "I know you're just trying to keep us safe, but give me a little credit here." She pauses and listens intently her shoulders slumping as she nods, "Yes, I will let you know as soon as we're free to leave. I have my phone charger, I won't let it die. You just stay safe there so I'm not worrying about you on top of everything else." Another pause as she smiles inwardly, "I love you too dearest, and I will definitely make sure to give her a cuddle from you. Stay safe husband." With another sigh, she ends the call and slips her phone into her purse before taking the cup of coffee and taking a long sip. "Thank you again, you really didn't have to do all that. I'm Echo by the way, and this is Esmi," she says as she reaches down to gently smooth her daughter's fine auburn hair on her head.

Z'bor looks up as the woman ends her phone call and begins thanking him. "No worries, been in that position a few times m'self, my husband is also a bit….protective." He chuckles and stands, handing little Esmi the patchwork dragon, he can go back and pick up another one. There had been plenty in the Timbuk Toys down the hall. He stretches hi hand out for a handshake. "Good to meet you Echo, Esmi, I'm Z'bor, you can call me Zeb or Zee for short. Guess we're stuck here awhile eh?" He sips at his Mocha and looks around. "I've been snowed in before, never at the mall though."

"Good to meet you Z'bor, and thank you for your service," Echo adds with a nod to his jacket as she leans forward to take his hand and shake it back. Chuckling a bit with a shake of her head, she brings her cup back up to her lips, "Husbands! Am I right?" She takes another long sip of the coffee with a little hum of pleasure. The half empty juice box is discarded unceremoniously as the little dragon is handed to her and she squees with glee before immediately starting to walk the toy along the stroller's tray and babbling to it as if carrying on a whole conversation. Retrieving that juice box before it spills, Echo puts it in one of the cup holders before motioning to a nearby table and slipping into a chair, tacitly inviting him to join her. "Guess we are, so we might as well get comfortable. You might not be able to get that back unfortunately without a major fuss," she says as about the toy dragon, "Here, let me give you some cash for it. Unless it's irreplaceable, then I will deal with the tantrum." She pulls her purse into her lap and starts to dig into it. "I know my wallet's in here somewhere…" she mumbles as she rummages.

Z'bor blushes a bit and scrubs the back of his head with a hand when Echo thanks him for his service. "Just doing my duty ma'am." He laughs heartily at her comment on husbands and nods. "Aye, but it's a good thing." Zee wouldn't know what to do if H'ris was any way other than he is. Slipping into a chair, Zee shakes his head. "Don't worry about it. She can have it, I got it at that Timbuk Toys place down the way there. Never thought I'd say I miss Toys'R'Us, but I do." He chuckles and takes a sip of his coffee before abandoning the cup on the table and holding up his hands. "Don't worry about it. Happy holidays." He smiles brightly and waves off Echo's offer of cash. "My daughter loves dragons."

"Oh, there's a reason we love em, that's for sure," Echo comments with another shy chuckle as she quirks a skeptical eyebrow in the man's direction as she finally pulls her wallet from the purse, "You sure? We're perfect strangers." She tries to protest briefly before shaking her head graciously, "Well ok then. Thank you very much and Happy Holidays to you too." Finally stuffing her wallet back into her bag, she drops it into the bottom of the stroller and finally relaxes back into her chair. "How old's your daughter? She your only one?" she inquires before sipping at her coffee once more.

Z'bor is sure, and says as much. "She's seven and a half, and no, My step-son is our eldest at eight and a half. He's my husband's biological son. Mom abandoned him with us when he was barely ten months old." Z'bor leans back in his chair and reclaims his mocha. He points at Esmi with his chin. "She your first?"

Nodding along as Z'bor describes his kid, Echo's smile deepens a little bit even as chocolate brown eyes widen a bit. "Wow. That's one way to become parents I suppose. That must have been a shock, but if you're still together and had another, I guess it all worked out." When he turns the question on her, she tips her gaze briefly in the direction of the toddler, who is kind of settled back in the seat of the stroller and is sucking her thumb quietly, with one arm curled tightly around the stuffed dragon, with the far off look of a babe soon off to dreamland, eyelids drooping every now and again in some long blinks. "How could you tell? Yes, she's our first. A bit of surprise…Let's just say we had to plan a wedding really quickly, and I had to make sure I got a dress with plenty of room for a 5 month belly. We're from VERY traditional families, so Milosh wouldn't hear of having a child out of wedlock." Suddenly a blush colors her cheeks and she looks down shyly, "Sorry, that was a little personal there."

Z'bor smiles the smile of a happy man. "Aye, it all worked out more than well, better than we could have hoped." As for the next, Z'bor shrugs. "I guessed, to be honest. And I didn't hear you mention another one when you were on the phone with your husband. Sorry, I wasn't trying to eavesdrop." Echo's story and subsequent apology get a shake of Z'bor's head. "No worries. Everyone has a story, that one is just yours. The only thing that matters is if you're happy." And despite the couple's sniping on the phone, Z'bor can guess they're a happy family unit.

"Oh I wasn't exactly trying to be quiet. Sometimes my husband needs me to be a little firm with him," Echo replies with a bit of a cryptic smile before she takes another swig of coffee, "But we are happy, ridiculously so…most of the time." And the smile that seems to light up her face as she turns it to peek at her daughter to find her finally succumbed to sleep, lips parted and thumb resting against her chin, but still with a tight grip on that little dragon. Reaching into her diaper bag, Echo pulls out a soft blanket and tucks it around the little girl before looking back up at her table mate. "Guess you have to be very observant in your line of work huh? You here shopping for your family?" She asks conversationally.

Z'bor nods. "Yeah, if you don't watch your ass it's grass out there, pardon my language." He nods again at Echo's second question. "Yeah. Just got back from Germany this morning, they don't even know it yet. I was gonna surprise them, but it seems Mother Nature has other plans." He waves towards the exits, looking more than mildly annoyed at being trapped here. "Still have some shopping to do yet still."

"I work with cowboys and ranchers, I bet I've heard worse," Echo replies with a chuckle before her lips form an O of surprise and she breaks out in a warm smile, "That's going to be the best Christmas present ever. I hope you still make it." Her warm, brown eyes roll up a little bit at the mention of still having to do shopping, "Ugh, tell me about it. We're on our way to visit my parents and all of my seven brothers and sisters are going to be there as well, with their spouses and broods. I am so behind on shopping, some of my youngest nieces and nephews I haven't even met yet. So I made us stop here on our way, cause I've always wanted to visit this place. Of course, now I'll never hear the end of it."

Z'bor chuckles. "Neither will I." Hear the end of it that is. "Ranch work huh? You're husband a cowboy?" Z'bor shivers at mention of such a large family. "I'm glad we're such a tiny family unit. Kudos to you for being able to handle such a large gathering. I'd have a panic attack." Z'bor laughs and finishes off his coffee. "Well… looks like we're both stuck, and still need to get things done. Mind a shopping partner?"

"No actually, he's…a teacher." Echo replies after a brief pause. "I'm a farrier by trade. My family is all horse mad and so I really had no chance at a normal job." She comments with another chuckle and shrug of her shoulders. "A big family has it's perks. I don't think I've bought a single stitch of clothes for this one yet and she's already a year and half, I got everyone's hand-me-downs. But I am NOT complaining. Having a kid is expensive nowadays!" His last garners a brightening grin, "Mind? I'd love one! Now that little miss here is all conked out, I can finally look around in peace." Getting to her feet, she double checks the stroller before releasing the breaks, "So where to first?"

Z'bor looks quite happy at being able to have some company, so when Echo gets to her feet and asks where to, Z'bor points in the direction of Timbuk Toys. "I need to pick up another one of those." He points at the dragon. "And then I'm good to go wherever, I'm still not sure on a couple of things so I was just going to explore and see what happened." Still chattering, Zee gathers his bags and things and leads Echo towards the toy store, continuing their conversation. At least the weather didn't ruin everything. The shopping is at least pleasant for the time being.

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