Love, Save the Empty

chapter seven.

Huntington Beach Mall was bustling with afternoon traffic and crowds of teenagers skipping the last hour of class to come spend time with their friends. To some, a frantic looking parent was nothing particularly new. However, a frantic looking man by the name of Syn Gates, looking for a little nine year old girl, was definitely a new sight to those that were frequent to the mall. Brian ducked and looked in every possible nook and cranny of the mall. Audrey wasn't at the table that he had left her at, which made him have a heart attack almost instantly. Her cup of ice cream was still there - but no Audrey.

Brian didn't know what was going to be worse - the wrath of the girls or the wrath of Nina Pierce.

He stands in the middle of the mall, his hands pushing back his hair as he thought of every possible place Audrey would have went. And then he thinks of the only logical place that a lost child would go - the security booth.

Rushing past crowds and groups of teenagers that recognize him, Brian slams himself into the counter of the security booth near the front entrance of the mall. The mall cop behind the counter stares at him.

"You alright, son?" the older man asks, hiking up his belt.

"I can't find my daughter," he says in a breathy voice. "Audrey. Blonde hair. Nine years old. Carries a blonde doll with her. Please tell me she's okay."

The man raises a brow before picking up a phone and talking quietly on it with the person on the other side. After a minute, Brian still looking around frantically, the older man puts down the phone and turns to him. "Follow me, son," he says, waving a hand over his shoulder before walking out from behind the counter and going to a gray side door. Brian is right on his heels.


"What's your name sweetie?" the kind female officer asks, handing the young girl a box of apple juice.

"Audrey," she says softly over the straw in her mouth, looking around the large room of screens with wide eyes.

"That's a pretty name," she says, smiling at the little girl. "My name is Officer Taylor, but you can call me Deidra."

"Deidra..." Audrey repeats, her bright, bloodshot hazel eyes falling back on the redheaded woman. Deidra nods and seats back in the other computer chair opposite from Audrey.

"So, what happened? Did you run off from your parents?"

Audrey shakes her head, but does not voice a word as she sips the juice before the box becomes empty after a few more long swallows.

"He went and got me ice cream, then came back and said that he had to go to the bathroom. He told me he'd be right back..." Audrey whimpers softly as she trails off, clutching the broken doll to her chest. "And then this weird man started to stare at me, and then got up and was coming at me. I ran to look for him, because the guy was really creepy."

Deidra frowns, but does not say anything - just simply lets Audrey continue.

"And then someone pushed me down, and my wrist started to hurt really bad, and then people started to step on Bridgett and, and.." Audrey sniffles loudly, rubbing at her eyes as tears started to fall down her puffy cheeks. Deidra frowns more, wrinkles embedded in her forehead as she looks behind Audrey and at the screen that replays the video over and over again on a loop - Like hell he went to the bathroom.

Only a few minutes later, after Deidra has calmed down Audrey enough for her to stop crying, the phone rings a short loud tone. Picking it up, Deidra cradles the girl to her chest, the phone held by her shoulder to her ear.

"Security room, Officer Taylor speaking."

"Hey, Dei. Got a dad out here freaking out. There a girl named Audrey up there?"

"Blonde hair, about nine or ten, carries a doll?"

"Yeah, that's the one. I'll take him to you."

"Got it, Pete. See you in a few."

The phone is hung up and Deidra continues to hold the scared little girl. After a few minutes, the door to the security room opens and in walks Pete and a very frantic looking Brian Haner.

"Audrey!" he exclaims, diving down to his knees in front of the officer as Audrey perks up at her name, jumping into his outstretched arms as she cuddles into his warmth. "Oh Audrey, I was so scared. Why didn't you stay at the table like I told you to?" He doesn't mean to scold her, but it would have saved him the heart attack he got when he realized she wasn't there.

"There was this weird guy, and you were gone so long, and, and, and-" The girl starts to cry again, Brian cradling her in his arms tight, rocking her back and forth to stop the tears. He felt guilty, not only for forgetting her, but also making it seem like it was her fault.

"Well I'll be damned," Deidra says with a cold look going in the man's direction. "If it isn't Brian Haner."

Brian looks up from the girl in his arms, trying to get a good look at the redheaded officer before him.

"Deadweight Deidra?" he muses, before smirking. "Looks like you finally lost those doughnuts you were hoarding for the winter."

"The Marines does that to you, Haner," she growls, crossing her arms over her chest. "I have the right mind to call Child Services on you for leaving your daughter in a mall. And don't tell me different, I watched the tapes."

Brian gulps and steps back a little, Audrey lifting her head from his shoulder.

"You-you l-left me?" she asks in a small voice, suddenly pushing herself from his arms. "You left me!" Brian, not wanting to hurt her, gently puts her on the ground. She runs from him and hides behind Deidra's legs, not daring even a peek at him.

"Audrey, sweetie, you know I didn't mean to! I'm still trying to get used to this dad thing! Please, Audrey, I fucked up, I get that. I'm already beating myself up about it."

Audrey doesn't say a word - she doesn't even give a sniffle.

"Where's her mother?" Deidra asks, standing tall and with a stern look.

"Spain," he mumbles, rubbing a hand over his face. Deidra narrows her eyes.

"You want me to call someone else to come pick you up, sweetie?" she asks the little girl, and Audrey nods, still hiding behind her legs.

"Val," she mumbles. The woman has slowly grown on Audrey, and she reminds Audrey of her mother. Deidra looks over at Brian.

"Can I have Val's number?"

Brian sighs and nods, pulling out his phone before showing Deidra the number. After a few minutes of talking on the phone, Deidra hangs up and sits down, pulling Audrey into her lap. "Alright, Haner, you can leave. Val is coming to get her."

"I'm not leaving her," he growls, standing his ground.

"Well you obviously left her less than an hour ago, what's the difference?"

Brian visibly winces at the harsh words but doesn't move. Barely even fifteen minutes later, a very pissed off Val comes bursting into the security room, a smirking Pete behind her. Almost instantly, she's up in Brian's face, screaming at him.

"Hoe dare you leave a nine year old in the fucking mall! I am this close," she shows by pinching her pointer finger and thumb together, leaving a hairs width between them, "to calling Nina and screwing your ass over!" After her rant, Val calms down and takes Audrey into her arms. "It's okay, sweetie. Auntie Val is here. Let's go back to the house and get your all cleaned up, okay?"

Audrey does nothing but nod, wrapping her arms around Val's shoulders and hiding her face in Val's neck. Deidra and Val glare death looks at Brian, but his head is bowed in shame. This would not be the last of what he would receive from Val. Not to mention the shit that the guys would give him.


Brian watches as Val runs around the guest room of his beach home, Audrey down the hall in the bathroom sitting in a tub of water and bubbles. He stands in the doorway, head ducked in shame as he listens to Val continue to curse him.

"...and how can you be so fucking stupid that you leave your own daughter in a mall! For God's sakes, Brian, I should take you out back and shoot you in the head! She's nine! How do you leave a nine year old in a mall?!"

Brian takes the verbal beating before Val pushes him from the doorway, Audrey's things at hand, before going into the bathroom and slamming the door. Five minutes later, Val walks out with a freshly cleaned Audrey at hand, and her suitcase in the other.

Val stops in front of him, Audrey hiding behind her much like she had been doing with Officer Taylor.

"I'm taking her home with me. You get her in two days. By then, this house better be smoke-, alcohol-, and porn-free. I'm gonna do a full out inspection that puts Child Services to shame. And please, take this time to get your head out of your ass and grow the fuck up."

And with that, Val leaves with Audrey holding her hand. At the door, Audrey tugs away from Val and runs back to Brian, her arms wrapped tight around his waist. He hugs her back the best he can, stroking her hair.

"It's okay," she whispers before letting go and running back to Val.

With a slam of his front door, Brian is left alone in his home. And for once, he hates the loneliness.
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Kind of a little heartbreaking of a chapter to me. But here you go! As promised. If I get 10 more comments by this evening, I'll update again later on tonight!

Love you guys. You mean so much to me. Now I need to get back to work. Cya.

xoxo. aquarius.