By Adan Ramie
“Well, don’t you look pretty?”
Her words echoed in the dark, quiet room, bouncing off of decorated walls and high ceilings. She looked around her, suddenly spooked, as if some specter would jump out of the shadows at her at any moment. She shook her head, let out an uneasy laugh, and ran a hand through her damp hair.
“Jesus, Lee, you’ve got to pull yourself together,” she said aloud and tried to heed her own advice.
She glanced again at the young woman staring back at her from the full length mirror and grinned. She almost looked like a stranger after the much needed shower. Her skin still felt prickly and hot, scrubbed clean of all the filth of the world that poured over her on a daily basis, and she basked in the comfort of the apartment around her. The jeans she wore were already broken in, which was good because she always found it hard to run in stiff denim. The shirt was the closest she could find to a style that would suit her, but it fit, and the cold weather outside called for the long sleeves and the hood that she let hang down onto her back.
She walked across the room and pulled on a pair of socks that had individual pockets for each toe. She struggled to get each one in then laughed at herself as she wiggled her multicolored toes before sliding them into her old, dirty boots. They, along with her scarred leather jacket, were the only things she had on that spoke of her reality; for a moment, if she pretended, she almost felt like someone society would call normal.
Her belly full of cold pizza and questionable Chinese take-out and her body washed and dressed for the elements, she grabbed her bag and hefted it onto her shoulder. Her eyes slid over the apartment again, trying to be certain that everything was in its place. She glanced through the pictures on her flip phone, looking for anything out of place, but everything looked the same.
“You did it again,” she said to herself, more confident this time. “This one will probably never notice.”
She reached for the door just as a key slid into the door knob. For a split second, she froze, watching as the lock slid open, and listening as the young woman outside stopped her one-sided conversation to swear and drop something to the floor of the hallway. Then Lee was moving, ducking out of the hallway into the kitchen and behind the island counter top, her hand over her mouth to muffle her heavy breathing.
The door opened, and the apartment’s owner came in, dropping her keys into a decorative dish on an ornate, wooden stand in the little hallway before walking into the TV room and tossing what sounded to Lee like a suitcase and several shopping bags onto the plush couch. She was still babbling into the phone about something like a fantasy vacation with warm, white sand beaches and drinks with little umbrellas in them on standby. Lee peeked around the corner of the island, through the doorway, and into the living room in time to see the girl peel off her coat, kick off her shoes, and slip out of her tight sweater and denim leggings.
The young woman grabbed a controller off of an end table and flipped on the television, then raised her arms in a long, tired stretch. Lee bit her lip, her eyes sliding down the young woman’s arms to her back, down to her boy-cut panties and her muscular legs. They were about the same size and build, but this girl had a femininity that Lee never had, a grace that she had never wanted to develop in herself.
In another life, they might have met, and Lee could have convinced her that she was better than any guy this girl had dated. Maybe the girl would have accepted and invited her back here, to her cozy apartment, and offered her a glass of wine or one of the beers that Lee had already pilfered. Maybe she would have been invited to stay the night, and they would have spent all night and half the morning in bed together.
The girl said goodbye to the person on the other end of the phone, promising to call again soon, then dropped the phone and the controller onto the table and yawned loudly. She walked back through another doorway toward the bathroom or the bedroom, and Lee took the opportunity to ease herself back into a crouch and make her way to the door. She stopped there throwing one last glance over her shoulder, the breath still in her chest. A toilet flushed, and Lee slipped out, closing the door quietly behind her.
Adan Ramie is a horror and dark fiction author who lives in a small town in southeast Texas with her amazing wife-to-be, and rambunctious children. She has been published by MicroHorror. Her current work-in-progress is a novel featuring the character, Lee, in which she is set loose to do her worst – and best – all across America. She can be found on the web at adanramieblog.wordpress.com and on Twitter @AdanRamie.
Image Credit: “Young man demonstrating flip phone use,” Ananian (CC-BY-SA-3.0)