Amy closed her book as soon as Silas was awake. He looked at her, blinking to clear the sleep from his eyes as he sat up straight and glanced at Adelaide who was sitting at Amy's feet and enjoying Amy's fingers rhythmically scratching her behind her ears.
"You were waiting for me to get up?" Silas asked, and Adelaide left Amy at the sound of his voice and walked over to put her front paws in his lap. "You're usually not up this early."
"Something you only know because you're always leaving the house before I get up," Amy said with a chuckle. "When I can't sleep I have a habit of reading, but I knew that Ian had a long day today and I didn't want to interfere with his sleep. I thought that using the light in the kitchen to read by wouldn't disturb you."
"It didn't. I've slept in my fair share of bus stations and under street lamps. A little bit of light doesn't bother me," Silas replied with a grin. He stretched and realized that he was shirtless. He looked around for his shirt and realized that it was missing along with his pants. He looked back at Amy in alarm and asked, "Did you move anything while I was sleeping?"
"If you're referring to your clothes, yes. I made sure that they're put away somewhere safe for now," Amy said with a mischievous smile.
"Why? What the hell is your game, woman?" Silas asked as he threw his blanket to the side and started looking around for his backpack. It too was missing. All he had left were his boxers and the package of extra boxers that still sat on the coffee table. "What did you do?"
Amy laughed wickedly and leaned forward before tossing him his shirt. He caught it and quickly slid into it before turning back to her expectantly. "Where is the rest of it? You can't just take my stuff like that."
"Who are you going to report it to? The police?" Amy asked. Her grin only strengthened as she continued, "I needed to have some leverage if I was going to convince you to listen."
"Oh, so now you're stealing my stuff to manipulate me?" Silas said, crossing his arms over his chest. "Believe me, I can get more clothes in a second. There are definitely men in this town who would pay me for these legs."
"You can't be implying that prostitution is a better alternative to listening to what I have to say," Amy asked incredulously. "That's insane."
Silas sighed and sat down, though he did not drop his defensive posture. "No. Fine, state your case."
"There's a large clothing sale at the mall in the next town over," Amy explained. "I would like you to go with me so that I can purchase you a few more things to wear. Even if you don't want to keep them all and decide to leave, I would like you to not have to wash your clothes so often."
"I don't need . . ."
"Gifts. You don't need gifts," Amy replied, rolling her eyes. "Then don't consider it one. Consider it a loan if you want to, I don't care. You're still growing and you'll probably outgrow them before they outlive their usefulness. I'm sure they can be a donation later. You're just the one using them temporarily."
"Wow. You like to stretch the truth to get what you want, don't ya?" Silas replied dryly. Amy shot him a dark look but then dropped it with a shrug.
"I suppose. But I'm not giving you your backpack back until you agree to go with me."
"What about my pants?" Silas scoffed.
"Oh, those you won't get back until we finish shopping," Amy giggled.
"They won't let me into the mall that way," Silas replied.
"Fine. Your pants are right behind the couch," Amy said with a dismissive wave. "But I was serious about the backpack. You won't find it."
Silas sighed as he moved behind the couch and reached down for his pants. As soon as he touched them he realized just how worn they were. Amy was right; it was about time for him to get a new outfit, as much as he hated accepting charity from them. He slid into his pants and looked at Amy and said, "Fine. I'll get some new clothing, but you'll have to give me a chance to pay for them."
"Deal," Amy said easily. "Gee, if I would have known that it was that easy to get you to accept my offer I would have had you working for me a long time ago. I don't mind that exchange at all."
Silas rolled his eyes and asked, "So when do we leave?"
"Well, the mall is about an hour and a half drive away, so I figured if you take Adelaide for her walk and then come back and shower, we can leave right after that," Amy replied. "That way we can show up right when the mall opens. I figured that since Chelsea and Tara are in school today you won't be able to hang out with them anyway."
"True," Silas said with a sigh. "Fine. But, now that I've agreed to come you have to tell me where my stuff is so that I know you aren't going to hold it for ransom until later."
"How about we make a compromise?" Amy suggested with a raised eyebrow.
"I'll tell you where it is, but I won't let you get it until after we've gone shopping."
Silas groaned and said, "Fine. Whatever."
"It's locked in my office," Amy said with a grin. "And that's where it's going to stay. Your socks and shoes are by the door. I'll have breakfast ready for you when you get back from your walk."
"Thanks," Silas said with a smirk. "I suppose you want me to say thank you for the whole thing?"
"Why would I care about that? Contrary to your wild beliefs, I'm doing this because I want to. I happen to be thoroughly enjoying myself," Amy replied smoothly.
"Sadist," Silas accused as he walked to the door and began pulling on his socks.
"You shouldn't mind, being a masochist like you are," Amy replied with a chuckle. Silas looked up and met her twinkling eyes and then shook his head before sliding into his shoes.
"I'll be back soon," Silas said as he reached for Adelaide's leash.
"I know. I'll be waiting," Amy replied. "Come home safely."
Silas paused as he placed his hand on the doorknob, looking back at Amy for a moment before turning back to the door without another word.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Newtown Mall was huge, and though he had spent his fair share of time in malls over his life Silas had mostly avoided them for the time he had been on his own. Most things in malls were more expensive than what he had money for, and he knew better than to try and steal from such places. Stealing wasn't something he was very good at, and when he had been forced to he made sure it was a lower risk area than a shopping mall.
Amy led him from store to store, and when he refused to try anything on she would remind him that she could leave him there without his stuff. Even though he knew he could survive without his gear if he had to he didn't want to take the risk, and he reluctantly began to follow Amy's instructions. When he found a pair of jeans he liked, Amy made sure to get two, and the same pattern was repeated every time he selected an article of clothing. By the end of the experience he was carrying four bulging shopping bags and Amy was carrying several smaller ones. They were lucky that the mall was one that allowed for Adelaide to be with them, provided she remained on her leash, but he began to struggle with keeping hold on the leash with the added bulk of the bags.
"How about we take a rest for a minute before we take the stuff out to the car?" Amy suggested when Silas dropped a bag and halted Adelaide before reaching down to pick it up again. Another bag fell as Silas stooped and he turned to her and nodded.
"What did you have in mind?" Silas asked.
"How about we check out the food court. Maybe grab lunch and a Cinnabon?" Amy asked, inclining her head to the other side of the mall and the busy crowds.
"Really? A Cinnabon?" Silas asked, looking at the bags and then rolling his eyes. "You just spent all of this money on clothes and now you want to get desert?"
"I'm not asking, Silas," Amy said with a grin. "I want to celebrate."
"What do you mean, celebrate?" Silas asked, scratching his head. "I don't see how spending this much money is a cause for celebration. I would think this would call for a budget meeting."
"Ha, ha," Amy replied sarcastically, "This is the first time that Ian has let me run to a mall with his credit card in a long time. If you think that there's no cause for celebration there than you don't understand women very well."
"What can I say?" Silas replied with a shrug, "I've never really had much interest in understanding women."
"Point well taken, but let me tell you, the way to this woman's heart is through delicious cinnamon buns," Amy replied with a giggle. "Come on, I promise that you won't regret this."
"I don't know about that." Silas sighed dramatically, "I already kind of regret this trip."
"You're full of shit," Amy said with a laugh. "You know you love spending this time with me."
They walked to the food court, pausing again when Silas nearly dropped the other set of bags, and then Amy had Silas watch their stuff at one of the tables while she went in line at Sbarro's Pizza to pick up a slice for both of them. Silas kept his eyes on the crowd more than on their purchases. He had always been intrigued by the way people interacted with each other, and the mall was the perfect place for people watching.
His eyes settled on a young family, a mother, father, and two little boys. The father was busy on his cell phone and ignoring the mother who was struggling with both of her boys' hands and two shopping bags. The mother wasn't yelling at the father for help, but was directing her attention at the older of the two boys who was screaming about how he wanted ice cream. She was telling him to quit whining as she dragged him out of the food court.
Silas kept his eyes on them until they disappeared into the crowd of people, and then his eyes caught a father and daughter walking through the store. The father was middle-aged and the girl couldn't have been much older than ten, but she was clinging to her father's hand as he pointed out all the different sights in the mall. Silas read the man's lips as he pointed to one of the stores and asked his daughter if she would like to go there next, and then the man grinned at his daughter's laughing face. They stepped into the store leaving Silas to find another target.
A couple walked around the corner and into the food court, pushing a stroller. The father was pushing the stroller while the woman was lost in her cell phone, texting as she absentmindedly nodded along to whatever her husband was saying. Her husband kept speaking without even noticing that his wife wasn't listening to him, and they stepped into line at the frozen yogurt stand when Silas lost interest.
Two men stepped into line behind them, holding hands and leaning into each other. Silas smiled fondly as he watched them, and then smiled wider as two teenagers walked up from the crowd to join them. The girl hugged both of her dads before showing off the new bracelet that she was wearing, while the boy hung back slightly, occupied with the video game in his hands. When one of the dads called his name the boy looked up and smiled at him and then put the game away as his gaze was directed up at the menu.
"What are you doing?" Amy asked as she rejoined Silas and sat down at the table, setting a slice of pepperoni pizza in front of him. Her eyes were drawn to the couple with their children and she turned back to Silas smiling, "I see. Eat your food, Silas. You're going to need your strength if you're going to get all those bags back to the car."
Silas rolled his eyes and took a bite of the pizza before returning to look for the couple, but they had disappeared behind another family that had stepped into line behind them. The mother and father were leaning into each other every bit as much as the couple before them had, and their two girls and one boy were waiting patiently in line beside them. When the girls turned their heads it was easy to tell that they were twins, though they wore their hair differently from each other. They were smiling as if sharing some joke that was innately understood between them, and then turned to torment their older brother, tickling him from both sides. The boy collapsed to the ground until the parents called for the girls to stop, though they found it difficult to repress their laughter.
"What are you thinking about?" Amy asked as she finished chewing her third bite of pizza. Silas turned to look at her and raised an eyebrow. She studied him as she leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest. "You've always struck me as a deep thinker, and I'd love to know what it is that has you so interested."
"I was just thinking about all the different kinds of families that are out there," Silas said as he returned his attention to the large slice of pizza in front of him, removing one of the pepperoni and dropping it on the floor in front of Adelaide who quickly gobbled it up. "It's amazing how some of them work and some don't, but they seem to always fall apart for the same reason."
"Oh? What is this wise conclusion you've come to?" Amy asked as she picked up her pizza and took a large bite as she waited for his response.
"Communication. It's always a lack of communication," Silas said, gesturing back to the family at the back of the line. "See, those parents and kids talk to each other. You can tell because they clearly understand each other well enough that they can tease each other and not get worked up about it."
"Is that not how it worked out for you and your family?" Amy asked.
"Are you fishing for information?" Silas accused defensively. "Shouldn't Ian have already told you all of this?"
"Nearly all of the information that Ian has on your family is eight years out of date," Amy said with a shrug. "I would love to have additional perspective on where he came from; the kind of environment that drove not just one but two children from the home who never wanted to go back."
"It was awful, really," Silas replied, surprising himself by opening up, but once the words started flowing he wasn't able to stop himself. "I didn't realize just how bad it was until I had been out on my own. I think that may be part of the reason why I don't like to stay in one place for long. As shitty as my life has been since I walked away, it was better than staying."
"I'd love to hear why if you're willing to tell me," Amy said with a patient smile.
"My whole life was about rules. It was about obeying the rules of my parents, the church, school; whatever authority figure they could think up they made sure that we knew that we had to obey them," Silas explained. "Obedience is the cornerstone of the Mormon religion, and with my dad being bishop . . ."
"Your dad was a bishop?" Amy asked. "Ian never told me that."
"Well, being bishop in the Mormon Church isn't the same as in other churches. Mormon leadership gets chosen from the congregation, and then they are supposed to figure out how to handle the position, supposedly off of receiving inspiration from God or something like that," Silas said with a roll of his eyes. "My dad never thought he was going to be bishop before Ian left, and certainly didn't think so afterward, but when I was eleven my dad was called to the position. In regards to the church he did great I suppose. In regards to his family . . ."
"He was a total asshole," Amy supplied.
"He was perfect, as far as what he thought the Church wanted him to be," Silas continued, though he smiled at Amy's comment. "He made sure we gathered together for family prayer and scripture study. He never worked a Sunday, and made sure we were always at church with him, sitting in the front row. Whenever one of us expressed an opinion that was contrary to the teachings of the church, he made sure to teach us the proper doctrine."
"Was he abusive?" Amy asked.
Silas shook his head and began, "No, he never hit us. He always . . ."
"That doesn't mean he wasn't abusive," Amy countered, and Silas met her eyes with a confused look. "There are many different kinds of abuse, Silas. They don't all have to be physical. Take Chelsea's life for example. She may have had her arm broken by her father, but I think she's been more damaged by the way her father has spoken to her than one broken bone. The bone will heal, but what about her spirit?"
Silas paused and mulled over the words as he took another bite of his pizza. When he swallowed he put the pizza down and looked at Amy, "I don't know what to call it. Maybe it was abuse? I'm not sure. The way I saw it, he was just letting his religion get between him and loving his family. He let his fear of what the community would think of him if he didn't follow the Church teachings get in the way of seeing his children for what they are."
"That makes sense. And maybe it wasn't abusive," Amy said with a shrug. "I mean, emotional abuse is probably the most difficult one to understand, but it's also probably the most common. There are ways we do it to each other without even trying. Most of us are guilty of abusing others emotionally."
"If it's all the same to you, I think I'd rather just eat for the moment," Silas said as he picked up his pizza again. Amy nodded and Silas returned his attention to the crowd as he mulled over what Amy had been saying. He started watching the families again, who all came in different shapes and sizes, but there was a common theme between those that seemed to be happy and those that seemed to be distant from each other, and it was more than their lack of communication.
When the unhappy ones did take the time to communicate it was short and abrasive, and there was no time spent to make connections. They may have been sharing the same physical space, but they weren't together. They couldn't have been any further apart.
Amy excused herself a minute later and Silas was left alone with his thoughts. He was surprised at how widespread the problem was, but also at how easily it seemed to be overcome. He saw Amy coming toward him when his attention was drawn to a little girl screaming behind him.
"I want ice cream!" the girl yelled at her father, who was talking on a cell phone. The man looked down at his daughter and said something into the phone before ending his call and sliding his phone back into his pocket.
"You do? Well I'm sorry, but we can't get ice cream today," the father explained. The girl pouted and started to scream again and the father patiently waited until she was done before wrapping her in a hug.
"I'm sorry, but daddy is out of money and I didn't bring my credit card," the father explained as he patted his daughter on the back. "I know you want ice cream but you'll have to wait until we get home, okay?"
"But I want it now!" the girl shouted, and the father pulled back and looked her in the eye as he smiled at her.
"Sometimes we can't get things at the time that we want them, but if we wait they're even better. If we bought ice cream here it wouldn't be as much as we can get at home," the father replied with a sly grin. "Wouldn't you rather have more ice cream when we get home?"
The girl seemed to think about it for a moment and then nodded sullenly. Her father wrapped her in a hug and then lifted her up onto his shoulders. "Then the faster we get home, the sooner we can have ice cream!" he said excitedly as he darted into the crowd and disappeared, his daughter giggling in delight.
"What a cute kid," Amy said and drew Silas back around to face her. The sweet cinnamon scent of the pastries on the tray in her hand tantalized his nostrils and he began to salivate. She set the tray down on the table and then set one of the buns in front of him before taking the other one for herself. "Make sure you eat it all. These make an awful mess when you try to take them home."
"I suppose a little more fat to make it through what's left of the winter couldn't hurt," Silas said with a shrug as he pulled a piece of the cinnamon bun off and stuck it into his mouth. The warm pastry melted on his tongue and his mouth was filled with the most delicious sweetness he had ever tasted. He had eaten cinnamon rolls before, but not like this. This was heaven on a Styrofoam plate.
"I can tell by the orgasmic sounds you're making that you're impressed," Amy said, and Silas nearly choked on his second bite. He hadn't realized that he had been moaning as he ate the roll, but now that he knew how closely Amy was paying attention to him he kept it under control.
"It's delicious," Silas said with reservation. "Thank you for getting me one."
"Of course, Silas. I told you, I have to justify me getting one," Amy replied with a roll of her eyes. It's the only way that your brother would ever let me get one for myself."
"I bet you sneak here all the time to pick these up," Silas countered.
"Well, if I knew how to make them at the restaurant then I wouldn't have to," Amy replied with a giggle. Silas giggled as well and then returned his full focus to the cinnamon roll until it was gone. He then looked up at Amy and grinned as she moaned over her last bite.
"Seems like I'm not the only one who thinks that was as good as sex," Silas said with a wide grin.
Amy shot him a scandalous look. "And you presume to know how I view sex, young one?" She shook her head as Silas' eyes widened and then she laughed loudly and added, "Sometimes, a cinnamon roll like that is better than sex." They shared another laugh and then cleaned up their trays before Adelaide led them on the long and awkward walk to the car.
Author's Note: So Silas and Amy are now friends and all it took was a little bit of blackmail.
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