She stopped at the ladybug reflectors marking the end of her drive, and spun around to look behind her, panting. Had he followed? She couldn’t see him. But the walls of trees on either side, living privacy screens, seemed to lean closer. Bars awaiting the warden’s key.
“Ma’am, we have confirmed your location via the vehicle’s tracking system,” Annabelle said over the chatter of her keyboard. “We’ll dispatch a crew immediately, but it will take some time for them to reach you.”
“How long?” The wash of breeze through the leaves above and the crash of ocean beyond would mask the crunch of brush, the crack of twigs, of anyone approaching through the wood.
“It’s very hard to say, ma’am. I’m sorry. Your location is quite remote.”
“Right.” Lena looked at her house and then back toward the road. It was a mistake to come this way. If he had followed, she had led him straight to her safe place, directly to David, Barney, home. She should have turned to face him. She should have finished it, right there on the side of the road. There could be no hiding, anymore.
“Ma’am? Will that be all?”
“Um, yes. I’ll be nearby when the crew gets here. You have my number?” Don’t hang up. Please don’t hang up. In the ditch opposite, a shadow moved over the concrete culvert and settled below the verge.
“I do. Feel free to call back if you need further assistance. Have a nice day!” There was a click, then the rapid beep of a line disconnected.
Selena pressed ‘End’ and walked slowly forward, afraid to go back the way she’d come. The siding needed painting. The white-painted cedar showed scuffs and large chips, and the trim was now smoky with salt. She wondered how long that had sat on the to-do list before one of them threw it away. The coir mat across the low front step with its cheerful, welcoming flowers, was caked with grime and slick with last night’s rain. She stepped onto it and leaned her back against the door, watching the trees, clutching her phone, mind spinning with fear and uncertainty. If she opened the door, she could step inside, and lock it behind her and be safe. Until night masked her seeker and he came through the window with the shattering of glass and of worlds. If she could will herself to walk away from this, to kneel down at his feet with her neck exposed and pray that the knife fell with speed….
She closed her eyes, tapping the back of her head against the bronze door knocker. David had brought it home from a trip to Pottery Barn with his Mum and his sister last year. They wouldn’t let me leave until I bought something, he’d shrugged. There were botanical shapes like fleurs-de-lis anchoring its top and bottom. Lena had called him an insurgent from the FLQ and shipped a case of La Fin du Monde to his office. His response was a basket of sixty-three white lilies and a bottle of La Part des Anges. She could not lead the monster to him.
The shadow approached with scrambling feet, anxious and eager to meet her. She screamed when its nails raked her hands, and then opened her eyes in dumb shock.
“Oh, there you are!” Olga Peterson’s shrill voice piped up the drive, Louboutin Trotolita wedge heels sliding cautiously over the gravel.
Selena knelt down to scratch Everhardt, a joyously uncouth Jack Russell terrier, and slipped her fingers closed over his collar.
© Desi S. Valentine, 2012