The Essence of Sin

Chapter 5

I stepped out of the dressing room, my face twisted in horror. Rita had given me possibly the ugliest thing in the place. Or in the world. Universe. You got the picture. Wait, no you didn’t, because I hadn’t described it yet. Well, it was a hot pink tank top that was about five sizes too small. And the neck was low. Really low. Fucking V-necks. My cleavage was literally hanging out. Over that, I had a light pink, half-top jacket with glittery roses over the right shoulder. Silver butterfly wings were embroidered on the back. I wore a white chiffon miniskirt with frills that just barely covered my ass. Damn, it was itchy. To top it off—or bottom it off—silver pumps. Lord, take me now. Please? Pretty please?

Polo, Ryo, Caleb, and Gio were waiting outside, chatting with Rita when I stepped out of the dressing room stall. They all choked. Caleb looked ready to pass out.

“Wow! You look amazing, Ashley!” Rita exclaimed. I didn’t even bother looking at her. I found Polo, who had turned a bright shade of pink—almost like my tank—and shoved him against the wall.

“Look what you did to me. . . .” I said through clenched teeth. He strained a smile.

“I think you look . . . hot?” he said slowly. I slapped him. Coming up barely an inch from his face, I stared him in his blue-gray eyes.

“I. Want. To. Go. To. A. Different. Store.”

“R-Right. Let’s go!”

I released him and he started breathing again. I smiled at him sweetly. “I knew you’d see it my way!” I ran back into the stall and changed out of that horrible outfit and into my jeans and t-shirt as fast as humanly possible. You know, I thought I might have just bought this so I could have gone home and burned it. And went over it with a lawnmower. Maybe even covered it in steak sauce and thrown it at some starving dogs. But I also didn’t want to waste money on something so hideous. I sighed. Well, maybe next time.

We caught up with Jared, Shaun, and Marco in a different store—a normal store. Shaun and Marco were rummaging through the racks as our group walked up to them.

“Where’s Boss?” Polo asked, snatching a polo from his brother. He figured that since his name was Polo, he’d wear polos. Like I said, he was the childish one.

“In there,” Shaun pointed to the dressing rooms in the back. He was leaning against a wall, typing away on his handheld. No surprise there.

I turned my attention to Polo as he looked through the shirts and helped him. I pulled out a few I thought would look good, but he shook his head. Picky ass, wasn’t he? Just for the fun of it, I found a black button-up shirt and pulled it on over my red t-shirt. I tied the bottom up around my waist and rolled up the sleeves to my elbows. I supermodel-posed in front of Ryo, Caleb, and Gio.

“How do I look?” I asked mockingly. Caleb raised an eyebrow.

“Not bad actually,” he said. I found a mirror and looked in it. Hey, he was right. I didn’t look too bad. Not bad at all. Ryo came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my neck, resting his chin on my shoulder. He had to bend over slightly to get down that far, though.

“I like it. It suits you,” he commented.

“I like it, too!” I agreed, pushing him off me. When I turned, I saw that Jared was out of the dressing room and was surrounded by the rest of the gang. I couldn’t see anything except the bleached hair so I scurried over to see if they had given him a ridiculous outfit like that pink monster I'd had to wear. Gio was standing in the way, and unfortunately, he was the biggest of them all—well over six feet. His eyes were wide in an expression similar to what the other had given me. Even Shaun was standing in the circle, but he was smirking, ready to burst out laughing. Okay, I had to see this! I pushed my way past Gio, and my jaw dropped. Well, this wasn’t what I had been expecting.

Jared was wearing a tight shirt, and it was sleeveless. And black. Black automatically made people look hot. I mean, unless you were ugly. Then it just killed it and you looked emo. But Jared, as I had stated earlier, was not ugly, and in fact pretty easy on the eyes. It was amazing how much a new shirt could change the way you looked at someone, wasn’t it? His muscles were basically screaming to be noticed, and boy did I notice them. Complimentary to his muscle shirt, he sported chocolate-brown cargo pants with a chain hanging from his waist. Shit, he looked amazing in all that, I must say. He, like me, usually wore random shirts and a pair of jeans. I know, not the epitome of fashion, but we got by. Now he looked down at me and smiled. It was a mixture of embarrassment and holy-shit-what-the-fuck-was-I-wearing. I decided to voice my opinion to him.

“If you don’t get that, I’m going to jump you,” I declared. He peered down at me, running a hand through his hair self-consciously.

“Same goes for you,” he replied. Huh? Oh, yeah! That shirt I was wearing all messed up! I immediately took it off and slung it over my shoulder before grabbing Caleb’s arm and pulling him to the side. He blinked and looked at me.

“What?” he asked, sticking his hands in his pockets.

“Do you know where I can find more stuff like this?” I asked, shoving the black polo into his face.

“Why don’t you try looking for clothes in the girl’s section?”

You know, that was a good question. Maybe because all the clothes there were, well, girly. I mean I’d get jeans from there and maybe I’d find a hoodie, but something about the pink, frills, and glitter made me sick to my stomach. Usually if Caleb had an old shirt lying around, I’d just wear that so we could save money.

The boy's most prominent feature was his light brown eyes. They were flecked with light, making them stick out when hit with sunlight. I could stare at his eyes for minutes on end, which would result in him becoming very uncomfortable and giving me a taste of my own medicine, which would start a staring contest. His chestnut hair fell over his eyes and complimented his tanned skin well. He was only seventeen—one year older than I was—but his maturity level was rock bottom, and it seemed like every time he opened his mouth, something idiotic would come out that would make me want to smack him. He was very well built since he worked out as much as the rest of the guys, so I could say I liked walking around with him in public, as his childish personality didn't show on his physique. I had received a lot of envious stares from other girls, which I was wholly proud of. Take that, bitches!

Caleb sighed and walked off. Hey! Where the hell were you going? Get back here, idiot! I was talking to you— He came back in a light jog about a minute later and grinned at me.

“Come on. I have a surprise for you!”

Um. No thanks. The last surprise was that Rita freak and that gut wrenching shit she called clothes. I stood there stubbornly, my feet planted firmly on the ground and my arms crossed. I defiantly raised an eyebrow at him.

“Come on, Princess!” he cooed, taking my hand in his and pulling for all he was worth, which was a lot, so I ended up stumbling after him. I tossed my shirt at Ryo so he could pay for it. Thank you!

Caleb kept his hand in mine as we walked out of the store and into the mall. Well, I wasn’t about to complain. I flaunted past a group of high schoolers, swinging my arms to make our clasped hands obvious. I think even Caleb was trying to show me off a bit. I wasn't really sure why, though, considering I had mutilated hair, and I was wearing a solid red t-shirt over jeans and no other accessories. Nothing special. Nonetheless, I got envious stares from the girls and Caleb even got a few dirty looks from the guys. Well, hey now! Okay, maybe this haircut wasn’t so bad.

My friend led me into a classy looking store that I might actually approve of at first glance. Then I looked around and made a face when we headed for the woman’s section.

“Caleb,” I whined. “What are you doing?” He looked at me with a smile in his eyes and led me over to a girl putting clothes on a shelf. She had curly brown hair and a soft face. She wore a blue tank top and dark jeans. Ordinary. Best of all, she wasn’t dressed like a tramp, and I couldn’t see any pink in this place. Although the idea of another Rita kept floundering in my head.

“Hey, Julie,” Caleb called to her. After living with this boy for the majority of our lives, his switch to flirt mode was completely obvious. Julie turned around and faced us, smiling sweetly. Caleb flashed her a winning grin at which I silently threw up a bit. “This is my cousin, Stephanie.”

“Hi, Stephanie!” the girl named Julie greeted. “I hear you want a new look.”

“Uh, yeah. Sure,” I mumbled, looking down at my Vans. Seriously. Did all the guys in this gang flirt around with girls when I wasn't looking? I glanced up at Caleb who smirked wickedly at my glare.

“Nothing girly, Jules,” Caleb warned. “Or pink, frilly, slutty.” He counted off on his fingers. Julie giggled.

“Of course not!” She walked off for a moment and started picking dozens of clothes from the racks. Um . . . wait. How did she know my size? Creepy.

The rest of the gang had come into the store and walked over to us, shopping bags in hand.

“Did you find anything, Princess?” Ryo asked. I pointed over at Julie, who was getting clothes faster than I could blink. How did people do that?

“Yay!” Marco exclaimed in a mock little girl voice. “I missed your last encounter with the corner outfit!”

Shut the fuck up. I stuck my nose in the air and looked away, striding over to Gio who was leaning against the wall.

“I have to admit, that did made my skin crawl,” he commented. I twitched, making him laugh. I leaned up on his shoulder and closed my eyes. This shopping business was tiring.

“Are you going to get something?” I asked him. He shook his head.

“I’ve got all the clothes I need for now.” He looked out of the store at the Starbucks across from us. “I’m thirsty. Do you want to share an iced coffee?”

“Sure,” I shrugged. He told the others and ran off with their requests. I smiled to myself. Gio looked intimidating because of his colossal size, but he was actually a real sweetheart once you looked past the muscle.

Finally, Julie was done scouring the racks and walked over, handing me a two-foot pile of clothes ushering me to the dressing room. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of what was coming.

* * *

I cautiously peeked out of the door to the dressing room, seeing eight pairs of eyes snap to me, Julie included.

“Come on, Princess, let’s see!” Polo called out. I sighed and stepped out, staring at my feet self-consciously. Everyone had gone silent. Well, that wasn’t a good sign. I glanced up and saw a few of them with their mouths gaping. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Shaun and Jared with their eyes wide. Now, if they could be shocked by something, I had good reason to worry. Dammit. I turned to high-tail it back into the dressing room but Ryo grabbed my arm.

“Whoa, where do you think you’re going?” He looked me up and down with excruciating deliberateness. I shifted uncomfortably under his critical gaze. Why was everyone staring at me . . . ?

Jared walked over and grinned. “If you don’t get that, I’m definitely going to jump you.”

“Damn, you look like an actual girl now!” Polo exclaimed. Like that was supposed to be a good thing?

I looked at myself in the body length mirror they had sitting there. I was wearing a white halter-top underneath a very loose jade-green shirt that hung off my shoulders. The shirt was very short, only covering my chest, and the halter-top wasn’t very long either, revealing a two-inch band of skin around my waist. I had on a pair of baggy denim capri’s and white heels with ribbons that tied around my leg. And then there was the little fact that seven guys were openly staring at me. Embarrassing? I thought so.

“You like it?” I asked quietly, shuffling my feet.

“Yeah! What? You don’t?” Gio asked, handing me a cup with Starbucks written on it.

“I guess it’s okay. . . .” I mumbled, taking a sip.

Polo pushed me back into the dressing room. “You’re getting it,” he decided flatly. “Try on the rest of those now.”

I found it highly disturbing that I was able to keep six teenage and adult guys—with the exception of Shaun, who blatantly refused to take part in this horror movie—amused for over an hour of trying on clothes. Most boys should have been bored to death while waiting for girls in the dressing rooms. What scared me most was that they were the ones assaulting me with clothes, left and right. They were actually thoroughly enjoying themselves.

A headache, a pair of aching limbs, and a couple hundred dollars later, we finally left the mall. I felt increasingly guilty every time that Julie scanned another item and another whopping dollar amount popped onto the computer screen. Jared assured me it was fine and I should be enjoying my youth while I had it. It was all a bit poetic, but since he was the Boss, I had to go along with it.

When we got back to the hideout and I had shown Lenny all my new clothes, Jared made an announcement that made all my weariness from the day disappear.

“We’re all going to party tomorrow!”

Hell yeah!
♠ ♠ ♠
A huge thanks to Nami (the other half of NamiYuffie Productions--which seems to be failing at the moment...) for helping me out with this scene! If you can't already tell, me and Kara have the same personality, which means that I have zero experience in clothes. I seriously open my closet in the morning when it's dark and pull out the first hoodie and pair of jeans that comes into my hands. All the outfits seen in this chapter were designed exclusively by Nami, the girly one of our duo. =]