Late

I did a collaborative project recently over on the 2xCreative community on LiveJournal (incidentally, if you use LJ and we aren’t friends there… you know how this ends right? –> Moi On LJ). I was paired up with Dragon-Gypsy who is an artist. She and I had one month to come up with a creative project to do together and both of us were pretty short on time, but not enthusiasm. In the end I wrote a story and she illustrated it. It turned out great, and I enjoyed the collaboration. It was good to have deadlines and work with someone with the common goal of creating something creative and cool. Thank you Mab! You rock.

Click on the image to see go to her Deviant Art page and see the image in a larger size along with all of her other great artwork. 🙂

Late

I’m running down the stairs to the subway, the echo of my heels on stone sounds in my ears like gongs as I descend into the bowels of the city. I hold my dress above the filth I’m walking on like a heroine in some Victorian novel. It’s white; the kind of bright white that exists only for overexposed pictures and weddings. Marc always teased me that I’d be late for my own funeral, but I’d promised to be on time today.

A scarlet sash, with embroidery the same shade of black as my hair, provides a splash of color around my waist. It was my only concession to tradition, “See Mom, I am wearing red for my wedding.” My shoes are dyed to match, making the color slightly less shocking than it might be on its own. Wait, I pause on a landing and press a hand to the stitch in my side, I’d decided against the red shoes, hadn’t I?

This morning had been such a frantic blur I can’t even trust my memory about my shoe color. I peer down. White. They are white. I sigh, and continue down the stairs, replaying the morning in my mind. First I’d slept through my alarm which made me miss my makeup appointment and caused me to be late for the hairdresser. Then I’d sat on my veil, bending one of the clips and rendering it useless. Finally the cab had broken down just outside the subway station. My choices were trying to hail another, or taking the subway. As abhorrent as the second choice was, it beat trying to do the impossible and get a cab on the street in this neighborhood. So here I am—

I trip over a votive candle at the base of the stairs and grab onto the steel railing to catch myself. My hand comes away sticky. I resist the urge to gag and force my thoughts away from what I may have stuck my hand in. I scrape it on the concrete wall and it comes away, not clean, but better.

I glance down at the candle, so out-of-place in a subway station. It was white once, but now it’s dirty and has bits of gravel embedded in its wax. I shrug and hurry on. I promised to be on time today, I need to hurry.

I arrived at the ticket machines and reach for my purse, but it’s not there. Why don’t I have my purse? I had it when I left hom. I have a clear memory of dropping my keys into it as I rushed out the door. Even now I can feel the memory of its seed pearls beneath my hand. White pearls on white satin – the perfect match for my shoes.

I haven’t time to retrace my steps back toward home to look for it. I need to go, now, or I’ll be late. I swallow my pride and turn to the man at the ticket machine next to me. I open my mouth to speak, but lose my voice at the sight of him. A sudden awareness of the people surrounding me slams into me like a fist. I feel as though I’ve just stepped into the writhing throng rather than having been submerged in them. My hesitation costs me and the man in the suit moves on, and a woman with a two year old pulling on her dress replaces him.

“Please,” I say, “I’ve lost my purse, could you—” She moves on without looking at me before I’ve even finished.

I look to my left, at a twenty-something guy with a skateboard under one arm. “Please, could you—” He turns away as though I’ve not spoken as well.

So that’s how it’s going to be, is it? I’ve certainly said ‘No, sorry’ to plenty of panhandlers in the past, but I’m in a freaking wedding dress here, can’t these people see that this situation is something other than the ordinary?

I turn away, my eye catching a glimpse of an ‘Out of Order’ sign on the machine I’d been standing at as I do. Figures, I think, as I make my way toward a different ticket line.

I close my eyes and count to ten slowly, breathing deeply the way my mother always told me to. I’d never found it very useful in the past, and today isn’t much of an exception. When I open my eyes again they still sting with the tears I am holding back, and my fingers still shake. I look around.

The station is empty. It’s eerie. Logically I know a train must have just come and everyone got on it, or it’s one of those odd aberrations of crowds, the kind you see in traffic. Where it’s crazy-busy for a long time and then suddenly, nothing. Yes, of course, that must be it. Except, my eyes fall on the turnstiles, where are all the people who work here?

Shift change? A small voice in the back of my head whispers, and though mostly I’m dubious, I accept that because I don’t know what the alternative is.

I’m freezing, it’s like a wind is pressing against me, but my hair isn’t stirred by it. Suddenly I want to be out of the station even more than I want to be at City Hall. More than I want anything. My steps echo against the stone as I rush toward the turnstiles, I’ll squeeze through them.

Once I get there, however, I discover there is no way I’m squeezing through with my bustle. I back up a few steps, then pick up my skirt and run, as fast as I can manage in my high heels, toward the turnstiles. Placing one hand on either side I lift my legs, and swing them over. My skirts follow in a less orderly fashion, and I catch a glimpse of my toes peeking out as I land. The white of my shoes turning grey from all the dust.

I scurry toward the platform. Just, get to the train, I tell myself, you need to get to the train.

Tearing around the corner I skid to a stop. A man stands directly in my path. His hair is greasy, his skin is bad and he’s skinny. Too skinny. He turns at the sound of my approach and my stomach lurches. I want to turn away, go another direction, but there is no other direction. This is the way to the trains. The only way to the trains.

“Spare some change, lady?” he asks and even through the distance that separates us I can smell putrid scent of his breath.

“No,” I shake my head. “Sorry.”

As I pass him, he grabs my upper arm. “Gimme yer purse!”

“I don’t have my—” I stop. There it is. In my left hand, I can feel it.

I feel something else too. Something cold and hard pressing against my side. I don’t need to look to guess it’s a gun, but I do anyway. From this angle all I can see is a flash of dark metal but that’s more than enough.

“Here,” I drop my purse. It makes a skittering sound as it hits the stone and slides a little way before stopping.

A loud bang sounds in the empty chamber as he lets go of my arm. My sense of sound is distorted, like I’m underwater, and I fall backward. Backward and to the side. At first I think it’s because he’s thrown me that way, and then I feel the burning in my side and realize I’ve been shot.

I land on my elbow, sending a jarring new pain through my body, but it can’t compete with the searing in my belly. I collapse on my back and people crowd around, a sea of concerned faces that blur and meld together.

I’m bleeding.

I grasp at the wound on my side, and try to get up but fail and slump back down in a slightly different position. I can see one of my shoes over by one of the concrete pillars, blood spattered.

In an instant, the pain is gone. So are the people. I stand and look down at my dress, immaculately white but for the scarlet sash and stain around my middle. The side of one shoe is bloodstained, and the other sports spatters of the same red-brown color. I stare down at a little shrine against the pillar; votive candles, dried flowers and a framed photograph of me.

“No,” I moan. “No, I promised—”

I’m running down the stairs to the subway, the echo of my heels on stone sounds in my ears like gongs as I descend into the bowels of the city. I hold my dress above the filth I’m walking on like a heroine in some Victorian novel. It’s white; the kind of bright white that exists only for overexposed pictures and weddings. Marc always teased me that I’d be late for my own funeral, but I’d promised to be on time today…

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