DECEMBER 24, 9:03 PM (PH Supermall)

After I finished eating, I stood up from my chair and closed the lids of the pizza boxes before stacking them together. The next that I did was to cover the pasta pans with plates to secure them. I took portions of all the three pans, and I could say that while all their taste was satisfactory, it was the carbonara that I liked the most, with its creamy and umami taste giving delight to my taste buds. The arrabiata was tangy and sour with a pinch of spice while the bolognese was full of meat, its taste almost similar to the arrabiata without the spiciness, and its sauce was somewhat thick yet tasty. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my Christmas dinner and it relieved somehow my sorrowful feelings caused by my parents' absence this holidays. I am not much of a believer, but I still liked it when I celebrated holidays such as Christmas with my parents beside me. But I have to remind myself once more that the reason they are far away from me is also for my own sake as well as theirs. I am certain that they wouldn't have a selfish intention for leaving.

It was around 7:46 in the evening when I finished eating and the news was still on the television, even if there were only a few minutes away before 8 PM. I guess even at holidays the networks went on with their usual daily schedule. Nevertheless, I didn't really have any complaints and moved from the dining room to the sofa in the adjacent living room after I cleaned up the table and took care of the food. I sat down on the soft sofa which sometimes served as my bed whenever I get to sleep while watching tv. There were a few instances when this happened, usually when I was alone in the condominium. I put my back at rest and watched the news with my smartphone held in my right hand. I remembered my parents' promise to call this evening and I used the opportunity to watch television to wait. As the last minutes of the news. Even when the news program had concluded and changed to a soap opera, my body remained with the sofa and my eyes still glued at the television. I heard a few fireworks outside my home flying to the sky before ending with a deafening explosion. Even when I seemed unconscious, I was aware that my phone haven't rung or vibrated yet. When the commercial came, I had the chance to look at the time on the screen of my smartphone, and I saw that around thirty minutes had already passed. I still, however, kept my phone beside me and continued to wait as I stayed on the sofa, watching on the television. I didn't really like watching drama series at night because I saw them as exaggerated and unrealistic. Yet this Christmas Eve became the exception, as I managed to watch the drama series I have been watching that was shown after the news without feeling any disgust or boredom. I just laughed at their simple jokes and felt a slight discomfort inside when confrontational scenes came around. I would still take a peep at my smartphone when commercials were aired or when irrelevant scenes were shown, and no messages, no missed calls, no notifications even arrived. Twenty minutes had already passed at that moment. As I continued wasting minutes and hours with my eyes stuck on television, I gradually lost hope that my mom and dad would even give me a call this Christmas Eve. When the drama series was on its way to the ending for today, I took my phone and unlocked it before going to the chat application I used to communicate with my parents and then looking at our group chat. The last time we had communication with each other was a few nights before tonight, when they gave me a video call in order to tell me to buy food instead of cooking for the Christmas Eve. I saw that they weren't still online. I thought they could have been busy at this point and couldn't find the time to call or even text me. I typed in a few letters on the typing area before pressing the Send button. I only said around two sentences.

"Merry Christmas mom and dad! I miss you both!" My message said, now finally delivered a few seconds after I typed them.

More thoughts were circling into my brain and I was thinking of following the greetings I sent with more messages. However as my fingers wanted to subconsciously tap in more letters that would turn into words and then into phrases, my mind suddenly thought that the greeting would be sufficient, and it would be best if I kept the messages inside my mind until they reply. With that, I closed the application and checked again the time. It was already 8:40 in the evening. Boredom encircled the home and lurked around every corner, and when I looked at the television once more, it was another of those unoriginal drama series about adultery and mistresses. They kept me disgusted not due to moralism but because it has lacked the art everyone would want to see in a soap opera. It was exaggerated and overly dramatic like the rest, but compared to the other series I have known and I have watched, it went on with the usual yet brutal and cyclical plot of couples, usually married, breaking up due to the one having another man or woman and the other discovering the betrayal. It was nothing new, and yet these would the type of shows that would get the most hype on the internet. Maybe it could be relatable to many (which would therefore cause moralistic sentiments against such shows, often being accused of against family values). Or maybe they would just need to find something else to talk about. Nonetheless, lending more time for the television would be futile and would not totally exhaust my boredom. And hop from the sofa I went and grabbed the remote control before turning off the television and sitting on my bed also near the living room. I went on to think about other things to do this evening to extinguish my boredom. I suddenly remembered the mall almost two kilometres away from my condominium which I desired to visit since its opening a month ago and have never walked into yet. The mall, which had the name PH Supermall, was slightly larger than the one near the condominium, which had an eccentric name of Rochester Square Mall. I could have chosen to go to Rochester since it was nearer than PH, but I have grown bored of it due to frequent visits to it even during ordinary days and weekends. I also often did my groceries at Rochester, which would make my stroll inside somewhat normal and bland. I also realised at this point that time was around 8:43 and that almost all malls in the city would close down by around nine. Knowing this, I rushed to the bathroom to give myself a short shower, where in I poured water, which has been made cold by the season, to my body with the exception of my head and face. I quickly rubbed soap in my body before rinsing it also in a swift manner and then drying myself with towel and then getting a new set of clothes from my cabinet and then getting dressed. All I had to do was to grab my small body bag where in I would put my wallet and my smartphone before securing everything in my house, locking the door, and leaving the premises of the condominium all together.

As I left the building and the village, I made a fast sprint to the road, as if I was chasing someone. It took me only five minutes to reach the boulevards, but I noticed that there was a heavy traffic especially on the side going to the PH Supermall. Vehicles and public transportation were at a bumper to bumper level with each other, and the flow seemed stagnant, as if it wasn't even moving in the first place. I felt that it would be hopeless if I rode to the mall and wait for the traffic jam to dissipate, and so I turned around to my left and moved my legs to a brisk walk to PH Supermall. While my mind was curious as to why there was still traffic jams at this night, which was getting deeper as hours come and pass by, I was also relieved that the decorated street lamps standing beside the road on the pavements still gave their lights to passers-by. On my walk to the mall, I only saw fewer people than earlier when I was buying food for the Christmas Eve and almost none after I passed through the Rochester Square Mall. As I went further covering more meters with my pace, I can see the PH Supermall from the distance, with its logo installed on the upper side of the building radiating its shine even if the night was getting deeper. When the mall building was on sight, my pace became faster from a brisk walk to a full run similar to what I did when I exited the condominium. I continued on running until I finally reached the pedestrian lane leading to the right side of the mall before I stopped and stood opposite and in front of the mall. The PH Supermall was on the opposite side of the road, and yet from this view, I could see the grandiosity of the building the mall considered as home. Since there were barely any cars on the left boulevard, I quickly made a short yet speedy run to cross the street before I reached the island in the middle of the boulevards. Since the vehicles on the right side of the mall were packed together due to the traffic jam, I was able to cross on the right boulevard with little effort. I just simply had to walk on the pedestrian while evading the cars parked on or near the lane. After I walked through the crossing, I noticed that there were still some people walking outside the mall and there were others who were sitting on the benches near the mall's entrance and exit. I walked in a fast pace to the entrance, where in I still saw the lights inside the mall. The doors of both the entrance and exit were transparent as well as the glass walls that supported them, making me able to see what was occurring inside the building. However, as I was approaching the entrance to go inside, the security guard standing behind the door showed me the palm of his hand, signalling me to stop. I was confused by what the security guard said, yet it became clear when he finally went out of the entrance and talked to me.

"I'm sorry sir but the mall is already closing." The security guard regretfully informed seconds after going out.

"What?" I responded incredulously. "I didn't know. I thought you are still open since I still saw lights inside."

"Yes sir but we are already preparing for closing." He repeated.

"I wasn't informed that you were supposed to close already at this hour." I said, not knowing anything about the mall's schedule for today. "What's the time now?"

"It's already 9:03 PM, sir." The security guard answered. "Our schedule for today is only from 12:00 PM to 9:00 PM."

"Oh I see." I simply uttered. "I guess I have no choice then but to go."

"I'm very sorry sir." He kindly apologised. "You can come back tomorrow. We are open from 11:00 AM to 8:30 PM."

"Alright." was my short response. "Thank you, sir. I'll just come back tomorrow." I said as I was to turn my back and depart.

"Thank you for understanding sir!" The security guard said. "Have a Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas to you as well!" I greeted back.

After this conversation, the guard ran back inside the mall, possibly to assist the remaining customers and passers-by inside for exiting. As I looked back at the mall, the traffic still hasn't fully dissipated on the right side of the road, and the frustration has only been added by loud, startling car honks. I moved quick and walked through the pedestrian still occupied by the many vehicles in the road which were like walls on a maze. As I reached the middle, I saw how empty the other side of the road was, which made crossing the pedestrian lane easier. There were only a few vehicles passing by the road. The street lamps, while retaining their strong bright, was slowly dimming as the night raged on. Since public transportation would seem scant, I realised I had no choice but to walk back home. And that's what I did. I began lifting my legs up and walked on the same pavement that led me to the closing PH Supermall.

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