Lilian pushed her trolley through the aisle filled with children’s toys on one side and sweets and chocolates on the other side. Her trolley was almost filled to the brim. At first, she just wanted to stroll through the huge mall and get maybe one or two things like the cold-pressed coconut oil that she had spent hours on before she had settled on one of the three different brands that had been arranged together on the shelf, but somehow, her trolley was now filled with things ranging from a packet of Oreos biscuits and three cans of Pringles to a blow-dryer for her hair and a packet of hair relaxer. They all seemed cheaper in the mall than in the market where she had priced the last two items. For the coconut oil, she never trusted the brown oil that Mama Tobi sold in front of the hospital. Moreover, the recipe for the aloe vera oil that she had found online required cold-pressed virgin coconut oil and she was certain that the brown oil that always had the scent of burnt coconut was no virgin at all.
She paused at the sight of the Snickers chocolate brand. They were her weakness. She let go of her trolley and started looking through the different sizes and colors of chocolate. She picked two packets and started comparing them. It was always hard to make a choice when faced with different products from the same company. When she finally made her decision, returning one of the packets to its position and turned to place the other in her trolley. Surprise racked through her head when she saw the place where she left her trolley empty. She looked around with growing apprehension. It was nowhere around. She rushed to a woman who was selecting toys with her son.
“Excuse me, ma.” She tapped the woman lightly. “Please did you see any trolley around? It’s filled with-”
The woman looked around too, pulling her trolley closer to her. “No, I didn’t.” She added in a pitiful tone, “Last week they stole someone’s cart, but that was outside after she had paid for the goods. You should ask the security men, they could check the CCTV for you.”
“Thank you ma,” she said wringing her hands. She left the aisle checking different trolleys for anyone with her brown purse. That was her worry, her purse. With all her money, identity cards, and debit cards. Had it been stolen? She looked through the mall for a while before she finally walked to the Customer service center.
“Hello.” She poked her head in through the small square that had been made through the glass that shielded the young lady inside from the noisy dealings inside the mall.
“Good afternoon ma. How may I help you?” The girl smiled at her, straightening up at her desk.
“My purse was stolen. It was inside my trolley and someone took the trolley away.” It was uncomfortable talking with her neck lying on the blunt square line.
“Ma,” the lady said with a polite smile. “You can take your head away from the glass. I can hear you normally without you put your head through it.”
Lilian frowned but pulled her head out of the square. She rubbed her neck softly, feeling the mark of the blunt glass on her neck.
“I will inform the security guards to check the people leaving, as well as the cashiers at the payment counter. Hopefully, we would find your purse for you in a short while.”
“And the trolley as well,” she added. She hadn’t spent an hour plus running around the mall just having to go through the same stress again.
“Yes, ma.” The lady behind the glass nodded. “Can you sit over there for a minute while I put a message across.”
“No, don’t worry.” Lilian shook her head. “I’m okay here. How long will it take? I have important documents in my purse.”
“If you would give me a moment ma, I will get to it now.” The lady’s voice was firm but polite.
“Oh, okay.” Lilian moved away from the window but her eyes remained locked on the lady behind the glass. She watched as she punched in something on the system and almost immediately, the speaker behind her boomed to life.
“Customer announcement. If you see any trolley lying around, please inform the nearest mall attendant. Thank you.” The message was repeated three times before the speaker finally returned to its original hiatus.
“Why didn’t you talk of the purse? There may be other trolleys lying around the mall?” Lilian asked. Her trolley was definitely not lying around, it had been stolen.
“Yes ma, with my understanding of the situation, it’s best not to call attention to a particular trolley. It may increase the chances of it not being found,” she explained patiently.
“Who knows how many trolleys are lying around?” she murmured quietly. “Are the security guards still checking?” She was only trying to comport herself, but it was hard to, especially when she thought of the contents of her purse.
“Yes, ma. I assure you, all hands are on deck about this ma-” The phone in the office rang. “Excuse me.” She picked up the phone. Lilian eyed the landline telephone and looked away, she was now considering the offer the lady had made before about sitting down. After hours of walking through the mall, her legs were now beginning to protest.
“Ma,” the lady called out with a wide smile. “Your trolley and the purse has been found. It was a child that moved it and his parent called our attention to-”
“Where is it?” she asked, the pain in her legs momentarily forgotten.
“Just wait for a moment, one of the attendants is bringing it here.” She smiled apologetically.
Lilian sighed and moved nearer to the entrance of the customer service area. Two men were pushing two trolleys, a small child walked beside them with his head bowed. She could tell that he had just received an earful from the man beside the shop attendant.
“Thank you so much,” Lilian gushed as she rushed to them. She peeped into the two trolleys before deciding which was hers, then dug inside it to reach for her purse. The familiar feel of rough leather against her hand filled her with relief. She pulled it out and checked to make sure that the contents were still intact.
“I’m very sorry ma,” the other man said. He was the taller of the two. The other man was already returning to his position of work.
Lilian looked at him with a small smile. “It’s okay. He is just a child. At least it was found.” She eyed the contents of her trolley. After the whole drama, she wasn’t certain she wanted to buy everything in it. She would have to give up some of the contents.
“I have paid for them.” The man followed her look.
“Excuse me,” Lilian blinked at him.
“I said I paid for everything.” He handed her the receipt. “As an apology. I’m really sorry. I’m sure it caused you a lot of inconvenience.”
Lilian took the receipt from his hands, her eyes bulged at the total amount of everything. “Sir, you didn’t have to.”
But the man ignored her and turned to his son. “KC, apologize to her now,” he said sternly.
“I’m sowwy auntie,” the boy said tearfully, his head still bowed low.
“Aww,” Lilian beamed at the boy. She squatted until she was at eye level with the boy. “It’s okay. Next time don’t move anything that is not yours, alright?” He nodded. She rubbed his head then looked at his father.
“Thank you for returning it. I’m really grateful.”
The man nodded and took his son’s hand. “Lets go.”
Tucking her purse tightly under her armpit, she pushed her trolley and walked out of the mall, grateful that she had a driver to cater to her transportation needs. What she wanted now was to return to the house and have a long, refreshing bath. Ijeoma hadn’t called her yet, so she had to make do with the hotel room.