late summer 2004
It was a simple trip. Blocks away, half a dozen of them or so, the sort of distance any normal person would end up walking everyday without issue or fear. Just a quick little wander to the bank and then back again. It should have been as simple for Ophelia as well. A woman grown and independent and she should have had simply slipped her wrist through the loop at the corner of the bag and tucked it under her arm and walked. Not a care, simply wandered with the flow of foot traffic down the sun covered sidewalk. It was a simple trip, it'd take her little time and she'd be tucked back to work by the time the dinner crowd all poured in and she found the busy hum of the place as comforting as it always was.
I should have been simple.
Her heart shouldn't have started its terrible riot between her ribs the second her foot stepped from the lounge and onto the sidewalk.
Ophelia had walked this route a thousand and one times and it always began the same. With terror. That deep welling feel of it in her throat, like a fist around it... like a collar. It'd subside, she knew it, even as she was swept up into the traffic at large, it'd begun its slow and steady decline. The gentled click of her heels against the pavement melding in with the chorus of them that surrounded her. The soft rush of them, like the tide of a river crashing itself against rocks. Her mind eased, began to anyway, as the world surrounded her and made her something small and insignificant. As the blind eyes were turned her way and she wasn't watched or followed or made into anything but another of the potential millions of spawning salmon.
Wrist weaved through her little leather bag, its contents holding money enough she should have been nervous over its carrying--
It was never the money she was nervous over.
Not a woman who'd spent so much time leashed to a heel cruel and kicking. There was nothing so cruel as man's need to own each other, not in her eyes. Money, a secondary and nothing she needed all the readily. Nothing she longed or hurt for, would have been given freely so long as hands didn't grasp and her freedom remained intact. Nothing so easily held onto as that little life raft that had sent her into the rushing tides of the frothy river. Stopping and starting, her feet would mingle. Ophelia's frame always tucked carefully into the others, always separated and distanced. Timid and shy. She looked like a child trying to edge ehr way into the round of a group already holding conversation. Odd and out of place perhaps.
But they'd not look at her for more than a glance before turning away.
If they did, if they happened to stare or look her over, her form would shrink and her feet would edge her gently away.
At a light, much like all the others, she'd turn, her feet canting her down a side street, it was here her throat tightened once more.
Here her steps quickened and the bag at her side hugged gently in the crook between elbow and ribs. It was also here, with the lacking of the crowd, that she'd note the other and distinct footsteps gliding along with her. Heavier then hers, her own gliding over the pavement almost without touch at all, for all the sound they made. The others were heavier and her heart beat wild as she walked. Passed on the right by a jogger she'd heard before he'd rushed by. His wake catching the hem of her dress and sending skittering about her ankles in a flurry.
The others would peel off and she'd be left alone once more.
She wasn't alone thought.
Felt it like you would the stare of eyes on your skin, that soft prickling at the back of your neck. The swallow she attempted failed, once.
A corner would present itself half a block up, an alleyway, it looked too narrow but the itch to claw at her throat and dislodge the boulder there was too pressing not to dip her into its softly shadowed recesses and let the fevered beating of her heart to settle and the danger, if it was at all, to pass her by.(Dress)