Grabbing her purse, she decided to run her last errand before the sky turned dark. It was clearly bright and beautiful outside; instead of taking her car, she decided on walking to her destination. After all, where she was headed was close enough to walk and far enough to call the walk a good exercise. What she didn’t notice, however, were the looming, dark clouds that were a good distance behind her.
Walking about outside of the house alone consisted of her ritualistic and precautionary mental checklist: Keys in hand (in the event she needed to poke someone’s eye out from an attack), keep hip-movement at a minimum so as not to attract men as she walked, and have eyes on all sides of the head, as well as ears.
Some may have called her paranoid or extreme…she simply called it awareness…
Sixty minutes came and went. Her destination was still another fifteen away. She was about to admit to herself how much she was enjoying this stroll of hers when she caught sight of something.
Judging by how low and dark the clouds suddenly were, she knew she had to find somewhere to take shelter. She was about to get drenched in rainwater.
Her first thought was to begin powerwalking, but not ten seconds went by when she felt the first droplets of cold on her skin. She’d never make it without catching pneumonia first.
Luckily, the street she was on was made up of petite, old-fashioned shops that stretched for a good two blocks. The drops came heavier, and heavier. It was lightly raining by now; her intentions were to walk as much as she possibly could before there was no question of her getting sick later, but she didn’t anticipate a downpour would come and jinx her plans. It appeared out of nowhere.
“Great,” she mumbled.
After quickly stepping inside the next shop on her left, she realized just how much she was shivering. Not knowing how long the downpour would last, she gave in to looking around the small antique store she was in.
The lights were dim, and the place might have looked run-down, but she found it to be a surprisingly cozy environment. In fact, she stumbled upon a treasure trove.
Just about everything that made her eyes light up was in that shop; from classic books to exotic-looking home décor, it was enticing! She couldn’t help smiling to herself.
A few minutes went by before she noticed no one was at the register. No one else was even in the shop, and yet a light was on exposing a room in the far back. Not thinking much of it, she turned her head away to continue looking around; at that moment, she heard a faint rustle coming from the back room. To her surprise, a sweet-looking elderly man appeared out of the room and was walking slowly toward the register. He wore a white-collared button up shirt with brown suspenders; his almost-white hair fell just past his shoulders, and his beard reached the very top of his chest. He made eye contact with her and gave her a small grin.
“Why hello there,” he greeted, “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Oh, no thank you,” she replied as she walked to the front of the register to talk to him, “I was just admiring the shop. I can’t believe I’ve never been in here before!”
The old man smiled, “I’m glad you like it.” The man’s voice was raspy and deep, almost as if he’d been smoking a pack a day since his adolescence. “I try my best to keep it tidy, and my sons help run the place too, but they’re off today.”
It was her turn to smile.
“Well, it’s probably one of the cutest shops I’ve ever seen. I was going to wait til the rain died down but I might just spend some more time here.”
“Go right ahead, Honey,” he said.
Books, books, and more books. From classic to relatively modern, these books had her enchanted. She could spend hours simply looking, reading, and looking again at the vastness of it.
She barely noticed when the old man soundlessly appeared next to her, handing her a white towel.
“I figured you could use this,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. She heartily gave her thanks and proceeded to dry herself off, relieved at the generosity of the man.
As he was repositioning a rather large book next to her, her eyes got hooked on something he was wearing. She had to double-take, for she didn’t believe what she saw at first…
…and on that second look, she froze.
Her blood went cold.
It can’t be.
Her face must have lost all color because she distantly heard the man’s scratchy voice fill with concern for her.
It can’t be.
But she couldn’t find her voice. In those long seconds, all she could do was gaze in utter terror at the single item of jewelry that hugged his fragile, bony index finger.
Oh God no…, she thought. I need to get out of here.
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