A Walk in the Dusk
You’re walking back from school. You had an hour’s detention with Mr Smith for not handing your English homework in on time – great; Mum’s going to be pleased with this. It’s dark. The lampposts are now on and you’re surprised that it’s only half four. You remember that we’re in December and shuffle on.
You pass the crimson red post-box. You pass your old junior school. You even pass your ex’s house and the once Mother-in-law’s in: time to speed up.
You break away to the right and follow the loop round to a side road. You have cut five minutes off your journey – splendid you think. Wrong.
A beam of light from a string of little house glares out in front of you. A young girl runs out into the street. The door lays ajar. She’s an adolescent – strange for her to be in a hurry you think. She’s wearing loose tracksuit bottoms. Her hair is tied back and her Ugg boots aren’t on properly. Why is she running? You think. Why’s she in such a rush? Has she forgotten something? You wonder. Is she running from someone?
You glance back over your shoulder. Nobody is running in your direction.
She’s picking up speed down the hill. You can see her silhouette illuminated by the rundown parade of shops. The only place open is the off-licence. Ah. You think you’ve sussed it all out. She’s buying booze. Maybe cigarettes. Hell – possibly a packet of crisps. Who knows? You think. She could be buying anything.
A car accelerates past you spitting fumes. You cough vehemently and try to clear your chest.
The lamppost up ahead flickers and your pulse raises. Shit. You should have caught the bus. You stuff your hands into your blazer pockets. You breathe. You hear something behind you and turn. There is nothing there. It was only your imagination. You’ve left a paper trail of smoke behind you. The steam of your breath has betrayed you. You close your mouth and stop dragging your feet. You’re determined not to be scared but you are and you know it.
You look on for the girl. There is an abrupt movement as she disappears into the off-licence. Your eyes widen. You can smell the lingering rain in the air. Then it comes crashing down. You rip open your bag and tear the umbrella from it. You pop it and protect your hair. Now you’re squinting. Your eyes are straining and you’re trying to figure how long it had been since the girl went into the shop. Two? Maybe three minutes? You’re nearing the shops and you start to wonder again. Has somebody kidnapped her? There was a programme about kidnappers on the news. What if they’ve taken her? You realise you’re being melodramatic and stop yourself. But you can’t help it.
A quick movement above seizes your attention by the throat and chokes you with fear.
A curtain has been torn open from above the shop.
There is somebody there.
You are being watched and you feel uncomfortable.
Even worse. You feel endangered.
There is a loud noise and you wince. The girl has come out of the off-licence swearing and shouting. You notice something peculiar about her countenance. Now she’s walking back up and towards you.
Five meters. Four meters. Three meters and approaching.
She has a line of red all up her face. It’s dark and you find that your breath has slowed to a nauseating crawl.
Oh. She’s smudged her lipstick.
No need to panic. You suppose that you’ve learnt your lesson. Don’t try and be nosy.