Most of the weekdays passed easily. I had not realized how much I needed to build up my reserve energy. After three days of doing nothing more than showing the two vacant apartments, I felt as good as I had in years. Not better, but I was back at my highest level of energy. In those three days I had also established a routine that I enjoyed.
Every one of those three mornings, I dressed like an Eskimo, started Gus’s bike, then rode to breakfast at the local Hardee’s. On the morning after Kate and Martin left my apartment I picked up aTryon paper there. In it I found a story about middle aged and older, men and women who walked at the two malls in Tryon. After that I began a new part of my morning routine. I rode the bike five miles out to the mall located between Aster and Tryon. It wasn’t a large mall, but it did have two enclosed stories which made it ideal for walking.
I wasn’t sure how far I wanted to walk, but I did my math calculations before I left the restaurant. If I walked 3 miles an hour, which Google informed me was the average idle walking speed for an adult woman my age, then every twenty minutes I walked one mile. That very morning I stopped by the Wa- Mart store which, wasn’t too far out of the way, there I bought a cheap digital watch.
Once I arrived at the lower level of the mall, I stripped off most of my clothes. It was not at all sexy I can assure you. Then I looked at my watch and began to walk. I tried to walk normally as I began the first lap of the bottom floor. I walked by stores mostly filled with boutique type businesses. I did find two large department store chains represented. I had no idea that they were in the mall. Obviously I am not much of a shopper.
There were also three empty stores on the bottom level of the mall. Christmas had come and gone with no more than a turkey dinner at Jen’s house for me. Followed by passing out of a few boxes of very expensive cookies. It looked as though for at least three retail shop it hadn’t had a better Christmas than it had for me. All the stores in the mall seemed to have suffered to some extent during the season of giving. In the present economy I was told that it was typical.
I walked steady for the complete lap and then checked the watch. I had walked eight minutes. I did a rough calculation and figured that I needed to do two and a half laps of the down stairs area for a mile. So five laps was two miles. That seemed about right, so off I went for four more laps. I rode the escalator up to the top floor after one more lap of the bottom floor. I timed upper floor lat as well and found that it was pretty close to the same.
Right or wrong, I set five laps as my baseline. I began to walk and my mind began to drift. As I walked I began to notice the people that I passed. I realized that I had instinctively turned right off the escalator which set me to walking clockwise while everyone else walked counter clockwise. There had to be something significant in it. The herd going in the same direction and me going backwards, I mean.
The direction I chose to walk had me confronting each of them every lap. I guess I might claim it kept people from walking up behind me, so maybe there was a reason after all. I mean other than me being out of step with everyone else in the whole world.
I was pleasantly surprised to find how friendly the mall walkers were. They were mostly older retired folks. Yes most even older than my forty something years. They seemed to be a reasonably fit bunch as well. Some were couples obviously husband and wife types, some were couples, like women who came to walked together regularly, and some couples looked to be mall pickup couples. Probably one walk stands, I thought.
There was also a very few singles like me walking as well. All that I noticed before I walked into the food court. In the food court I found another twenty or so people. Some looked as though they might be walkers on a scheduled break and some looked as though they might be mall employees waiting to start work. The workers being only marginally better dressed.
For the first time since I left the sandbox, I had a routine at least part of the day. For must of a week, I had walked at the mall after breakfast at Hardee’s. I knew that if I was in a high risk environment, any routine would have been totally stupid. Since I really wasn’t in an imminent threat situation, it was only mildly stupid. The morning walk gave me a little exercise, and it gave me a little structure. I decided that I needed both.
The final reinforcement for the continuation of the walk was at the food bar. No I would never eat there, but there was a cookie shop. I tried to avoid sugar like the plague, because for me it was. I would have tried to pretend that the cookie shop didn’t exit, except that all the people, waiting for the stores to open, had coffee cups with their logo. Since I love coffee, I bought a cup on my last lap. I was only half a lap from finishing, so I waited until I reached the bike to try it. The coffee was delicious. It was just a little stronger than what most restaurants served, and just a little weaker than my own. Not only that, the girl behind the counter was gorgeous and sweet as well. I was hooked.
Before I left for breakfast that morning, I realized that Friday had slipped up on me again. At the Hardee’s I realized that I had finally been around long enough to recognize the people there. I could wave at most of them, and they would wave back. Since over the years, I had learned the art of eavesdropping without being obvious about it, I knew enough about most of them to speak. It was a skill that came from working undercover investigating thefts from military installations.
I was into my socializing mode, when the phone rang. It was embarrassing to hear Mag7 come from my purse. I had to remember to stop by the phone store and have that changed, thought yet again.
“Hello Jen, what the hell are you doing awake this time of the morning”
“It almost 9AM of course I’m awake. Where the hell are you?”
“Hardee’s of course, so what’s the emergency this time?” I asked.
“I’m not real sure, guess who called me at home?” she demanded.
“If you want me to guess, I can and I can even get it right, but wouldn’t you rather just tell me what he said?” I asked.
“Okay wise ass, Marty wants a meeting again. But he insist you be patted down for weapons first.” Jen said with a chuckle.
“I don’t blame him, I might well want to pop his ass for the Mosby thing.” I said.
“He knows that, but he still has an offer to put on the table,” Jen replied.
“Actually, I know what his offer is already. I have been giving it some thought.” I admitted. “These bacon, egg and cheese biscuits aren’t free you know.”
“You are kidding me. They almost got you killed with that damn online shit. Surely you aren’t really considering a new gig?”
“I thought you wanted me to do it. To make your life a little more exciting?” I asked.
“I don’t want you to get yourself killed for my entertainment,” Jen said seriously.
“Don’t worry, neither do I,” I admitted. “But I’ll listen to the offer. When do they want to talk.”
“Monday morning at 10AM.”
“Okay Jen, Monday at 10 it is,” I agreed.
“Bye the way if you have an apartment left, save it till after the meeting.” she suggested.
“Fair enough,” I replied. I hadn’t rushed to rent the last two apartments because of Irish Martin’s visit. I had a feeling someone would want at least one of them. That is, if I decided to do it again. I still hadn’t made a final decision.
I left hardee’s with my delta coffee cup full. I had a lid for it, so that I could ride with it in the handlebar basket without sloshing it around. I took it into the mall with me. I began my walk at the downstairs entrance away from the food court. I walked two laps on the bottom floor and sipped my coffee as I went. It was actually quite pleasant. The coffee had cooled off significantly before I rode the escalator upstairs. I walked one more lap including in and out of the food court before I felt the coffee had cooled enough to need help.
I stopped at Cookie land for a cop of their coffee. I poured it from their cup into my cup, then tasted it. It was still a little cooler than I liked to start. I noticed that they had a microwave oven.
“Miss, could I get you to put this in the microwave for a minute. I would really appreciate it.” I said.
“Sure I have time. I don’t have any customers this early.” she said.
She stood in front of me while the coffee nuked. “So you come here often?” I asked.
“I work here,” she said seriously. “Oh, that was a joke?”
“I guess it wasn’t much of one. Just my poor attempt at humor and conversation.” I said. “Since I will probably be seeing you a lot, I thought I would try to make friends.”
“Oh do you work in the mall?” she asked.
“No, but I have started walking with the other old guys,” I said.
“Oh you aren’t near as old as the others,” she said it, not realizing how it sounded.
“Oh good,” I said as the buzzer on the microwave went off. It was a good thing, since I had decided that the chick was as dumb as a post. Too bad because she was young and gorgeous, just my type. Okay, I liked to pretend that her type, was my type.
I finished my walk then rode the bike home. I had nothing to do until Monday so I drove the cruiser out to buy enough comfort food to last until Monday morning. Then I settled in with it in front of the computer and the TV.
I had been settled in about two hours when the first interruption of my Veg out time came. “Hello,” the voice came after I answered my phone.” I was reminded by the music that I still hadn’t gotten around to fixing it.
“”Hello, what can I do for you?” I asked.
“It’s Johnathan Hunter, The movers should be there in a few minutes to move Cheryl’s things in.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “Will one of you be with them?”
“No, I was hoping you could let them do their job without us.” he said.
“Mr. Hunter this might come as a shock to you, but I’m not the door man. I am the owner/manager of the apartments. Once I delivered the keys, it became your responsibility from that point on. You are asking me to be responsible for people I know nothing about.”
“You are there, I don’t see the problem,” he said way too calm. The man had to be on mood altering drugs.”
“The problem is I’m getting ready to leave and that means they would be here alone. The other tenants expect security in this building, and this is a breach of it. So, no I will not let your movers in. You need to either meet them here, or reschedule the move for a time you can be here. I’m sorry, but that is the way it has to be.”
“Very well, I guess I should have arranged it with you earlier,” he admitted still way too calm.
“I guess so.” Alright I did enjoy telling him no Still, I would have done the same thing for anyone else. The tenant was responsible for the people they allowed into the common area. That was very clearly stated in the lease agreement. Johnathan Hunter was trying my patience and he wasn’t even the tenant.
After that episode things went smoothly the rest of the weekend. I stuck to my routine, otherwise I played absolutely dead until Monday morning.