While Walking Home At Midnight.
Miranda stepped out into the street, starting dejectedly for home. All Hallow's Eve. Happy anniversary, she thought wryly to herself. He left me a year ago today and has the nerve to call and tell me how happy he is. They have each other and I have my overtime and antidepressants.
Hairs at the nape of her neck raised as though electrically charged. The sensation of being followed seeped up her spine. A shadow passing overhead. Unseen. Watching. Following. Miranda slowed. Pause. Turn. Nothing there. Peering into the gloom around revealed nothing more than familiar shadows, usually comforting. Tonight they menaced her. Off in the distance, the University clock tower sang out 12:00, the resonant boom adding to the Gothic atmosphere.
Chiding herself, she continued walking. Get a grip, Miranda. Appropriate a night as it may be, there is nothing out there but the overworked imagination of a world-weary mind! It is time to get home. The tingly feeling that she was being followed refused to be shaken and left behind with the wind-whipped fall leaves. "What's wrong with you," she muttered. "I've walked this route a hundred times and I am completely safe." Just keep repeating that, she thought. Like a mantra of safety. I-am-completely-safe. Talk yourself home . The boogie man does not exist. You're just tired, exhausted, and more than a little depressed.
Ahead a shadow crossed her path, startling her. Probably just a stray cat, she argued. Yeah, a very large stray cat. Boy, you're jumpy tonight! It passed over again. My imagination may be putting in for overtime, but that was not a cat. Her walk increased its pace, just short of a trot. I shouldn't be this spooked! Just a trick of the lighting and the wind in the leaves. I am completely safe...
Miranda turned a corner, the street leading straight for home. And safety. Her walk now a jog. Just two more blocks and I can lock my imagination outside with the darkness and shadows. Nothing more for company than my cat, infomercials, and some microwaved food.
Again, that feeling of scrutiny. Someone was following her. Wheeling around, ready for confrontation, she saw no one. Nothing to confirm her fears. See, you ninny! The apartment's safety beckoned her. The security of a door between her and the darkness. The shadowy figure paused ahead. Still unseen. Waiting.
Miranda neared an alley entrance, feeling eyes upon her, sizing her up. She still saw no one there. Nothing. Alone. She was alone. Story of my life. She determined to walk the last stretch of street calmly, like a sane woman.
Before her. A man standing in the shadows. Unable to speak or move, breath caught, her eyes held by that appraising gaze. He reached out, with infinite gentleness, brushing the back of his hand against her cheek. The gesture intimate, yet innocent. An electric shock coursed through her body. He looked into her soul. Caressing it. Learning its secrets.
Suddenly alive, Miranda moved toward him, unbidden. He backed into the shadows, pulling her in after, using only that gaze. Without hesitation, Miranda followed, held prisoner by those penetrating grey eyes.
She walked forward into her salvation.