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Safer In The Shadows

It's that time folks - Story time! This week it's Safer In The Shadows where Em is on her way home from work. She's done the walk a thousand times before, but this time things are different. Will she make it home to Tristan or will he forever wonder what happened to her?




Safer In The Shadows


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A car rushed past, honked its horn, and two men hung out of the windows and whooped and waved as the car drove away. She’d heard it coming, it being the only car on the usually busy road, so didn’t pay any attention when the men waved. There was enough of that at work. Stood behind the bar with a forced smile while men chatted, and grew more incoherent with each drink.


Em took a deep breath as a fresh breeze blew past her face and whipped her hair off her shoulders. She powered along the pavement, under the bright white of the new LED streetlights. Stars sparkled in the sky and the waning crescent moon peeked from behind wispy clouds. It reminded her of the days she sat in the back garden with her father and learned about the expanse of the night sky. He’d taught her about the constellations, the moon phases, even where she could see the planets––Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn––masquerading as stars. They’d spent hours in the garden over the years, enjoyed summer nights laid on a blanket with drinks and snacks, winter nights they drank hot cocoa and wrapped themselves in fleeces as they discussed the vastness of space. For years it was how they’d spent their weekends. She smiled sadly.


Em turned off the main road and onto a winding country road where streetlights were spaced wide apart. Her shoulders relaxed as darkness closed in. The quieter streets still had older streetlights, an amber glow fading as it touched the opposite pavement. Em passed a closed newsagent, where she bought her morning paper every day, and the night swallowed her as she left the streetlight behind.


She hitched her handbag up her shoulder and strolled past the graveyard. The wrought-iron gate stood tall next to a cobbled waist-height wall and through gaps in the gate she saw silhouetted graves poking up from the ground. Shadowy mounds surrounded the graves, the beauty of flowers overshadowed by the night. 


A scuffle came from behind and she spun. A man, dressed in black, emerged from the dark. He headed straight for her.


Em turned and increased her pace. The graveyard faded into the dark as she hurried along the country road. Footsteps followed. Her boots pounded the concrete, but the man matched her pace. She slung her handbag strap over her other shoulder, crossing her body, and swung her arms as she stormed forward. Tall trees blocked what little light the moon emitted. Em glanced back. The silhouette was gaining on her. Her brows pulled together, and she almost tripped as she quickened her steps.


Cold air filled her lungs and her heart raced. Her boots pushed her forward but when she looked and saw the silhouette a few feet back her stomach did somersaults. She tried to move faster but found every uneven spot on the ground and stumbled again and again. 


She glanced at her watch. Tristan expected her home in 10 minutes. He’d have the bourbon ready and the TV paused, awaiting her arrival so they could settle down for an hour or two. She searched the shadows for the glow of streetlights that told her the alley was close. At the top of the bank she spotted it and ran for the light. When she reached the entrance to the alley, she peeked behind. Her heart jumped into her throat. He was little more than an arm’s length away. She hurried into the alley, scrunched her nose at the stench of pee, rushed past fast food packaging and cigarette butts scattered over the broken pavement, and ran.


Her handbag bounced against her thigh and wind rushed past her ears. She sped towards the light, safety a few feet ahead. Tears spilled onto her cheeks. She glanced back one last time. The man stood at the end of the alley and watched. Em burst into the light and sighed. She backed away from the alley but didn’t take her eyes off him. Her heartbeat thumped in her ears.


“Excuse me?”


Everything in Em’s body jerked at once. Eyes wide, she turned.


A brown-haired guy stood by his car with the driver’s door open, engine running. Dressed in blue jeans and a white shirt, he flashed bright white teeth in her direction.


“You don’t have a mobile I could borrow, do you?” he said.


Em glanced back into the alley where the man in black advanced. A slow smile spread across her face and she let out a heavy breath. She unzipped her handbag and pulled out her phone.


“Sure.” She passed her mobile to the man.


He grinned and looked down at it, but didn’t touch the screen. Instead, the passenger door opened, and another man got out of the car. He too wore a white shirt and blue jeans, but he had blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. His grin matched his friend’s. The men looked at each other and laughed. The brown-haired man threw Em’s phone to the blond, and Em’s brows knitted. She watched the second man slide her phone into his back pocket.


“What’re you doing?” she said.


They stared at her, and while their eyes were bright a darkness lurked beneath.


The brown-haired guy opened the passenger door and smiled. “Want a ride?”

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