Kya arrived at the Uptown Centre, the largest shopping mall in the city, and was surprised at the number of security guards hanging about. They were pacing back and forth at each of the doors. Despite not doing anything, Kya felt guilty, and she quickly made a bee-line to Noble Brew, the cafe where Amelia worked, and lined up in the queue. Decorated in royal blues and gold, the coffee shop had long earned its ostentatious brand.
“I’ll have a large black coffee.” The man in front of Kya said to Amelia.
“So a tall…” Amelia began, and then grinned. “or do you mean the extra tall?”
The man stood with his mouth agape. Kya could see that he was having a difficult time processing what was being said to him as his eyes scanned around, his gaze avoiding Amelia behind the counter.
“You see we don’t exactly have a ‘large’ coffee.” The corner of Amelia’s mouth was curled in a controlled smile as she talked.
Kya knew Amelia well enough to know what was coming next and she turned her attention to the man as Amelia kept talking. The man had closed his mouth and muscles tightened and twitched along his jaw. His dark and tired eyes now staring directly at Amelia.
With a chipper, presentation tone, Amelia continued, “If you’ll turn your attention to our wonderful menu boards, sir, you’ll see we have five sizes: extra short, short, regular, tall, and extra tall.”
“With all due respect, barista,” he spat the last word like it tasted horrible in his mouth. “It’s a quarter to nine in the morning. I have to be at work by nine. I have a headache and all I want is my damn coffee!” As he spoke his voice got louder until, by the end, he was yelling, and steam seemed to be rising from his clenched fists.
Amelia winked at Kya and picked up two cups. “With all due respect, sir, I simply want to assure you get the perfect beverage. We are known for our high end, quality beverages. Could you maybe point to which size you would like?” Amelia held up the cups to eye level.
The man pointed to the larger of the two cups.
“The extra tall.” Amelia grinned again. “I’m glad I asked.”
After she finished with that customer, it was Kya’s turn to order. “An extra tall coffee.” she said.
“So that’s an extra tall vanilla-hazelnut latte.” Amelia said, with a wink in a deadpanned voice. As she punched some buttons, the words extra short brewed, the least expensive thing on the menu, appeared on the Point of Sale display.
“Lia,” Kya whispered without the slightest hint of surprise, “you don’t have to.”
“I know.” Amelia whispered back, and rang through the extra short coffee.
A few moments later, Amelia handed Kya her drink. My break is at 11:15 was written on the side of the cup inside a heart.
Kya left the cafe with an extra tall vanilla-hazelnut latte in hand. She wasn’t too fussy for the fancy espresso drinks that Noble Brew sold, and she would never have ordered this drink for herself, but as she sipped it, she had to admit it was pretty good!
Kya walked around a bit and decided to sit by the marble water fountain in the middle of the mall. The mall was built with a hub and spoke system, and five hallways all lead straight to the fountain in the middle. From there, she could see all four levels of the shopping complex. The bottom level was where the pool of the fountain was and that floor contained all of the discount stores. It wasn’t lost on most people shopping there that the nicest thing in the mall, on that level, was the fountain. The next level was where the essentials, like groceries, could be found. The smell of fresh produce and bread wafted through the entire level, and it was rare Kya could escape without getting a pecan butter tart or freshly baked blueberry muffin. The third level was where Kya was sitting, it was the only level, to the best of Kya’s knowledge, that had seats near the fountain. The water from the fountain was blasted in the air past the third floor and arced up to the fourth before raining back down. It gave an interesting effect of seeming to rain both up and down from the perspective Kya now had. She could also see that there were lasers in the floor of the fourth floor that projected images into the water in all sorts of wonderful colours. The third floor had higher end stores and sold things that were nice, but not really essential, like the extra tall vanilla-hazelnut latte in Kya’s hand. Kya had no idea what kind of stores were contained within the walls of the fourth floor. Unlike between the other floors, there were no stairs, escalators or elevators leading up to it, and only the extremely privileged had access to it.
Kya had heard rumours that those that were able to shop up there, never had to pay for anything. One day, Kya imagined, she would have access to the fourth floor, and finally be part of the upper class elite.
Kya jumped and stifled a scream as alarms started ringing all around her. Her latte sloshed wildly around in its biodegradable and heavily branded cup as it nearly spilled over the rim. A young looking man ran by Kya carrying something black in his arms. Screaming as he passed, “For my family!” he bounded onto one of the seats near the fountain and stepped out onto the ledge. Huffing and puffing, he paused, looking back at the police offers following him. They slowed as they came closer to him.
Two officers were standing right next to Kya as they began to speak to the man. “Now son, you can’t escape.” The older of the two officers said with his hand open, palm facing out towards the shoplifter on the ledge.
The thief turned and aimed himself towards the stairs leading from the second to the third level and jumped. Falling over twenty feet, the smell of sweat and anxiety caught Kya off guard as it filled the air. Before the young man could make contact with the stairs below and escape, he was tackled by three police officers who seemed to appear out of nowhere. The black package opened, and an array of pastries flew out and scattered along the stairs. A fourth officer, a lady around the same age as Kya, took a running jump from the third floor and hit the platform of the stairs effortlessly.
Kya looked around to see a crowd forming on every level, interested to see the commotion. The police quickly subdued the man but he continued yelling as they dragged him away. Security guards from the mall quickly began to calm and disperse the crowds making a path for the police.
“What happened?” A middle aged man from the crowd asked Kya.
“Shoplifter.” Kya replied.
“Stupid kid.” The man sighed.
“I know,” Kya said, “Normals always get caught.”
Just as fast as they appeared, all the police officers had left, and the security guards instantly seemed to calm.