I held my jacket together and threw my hood over my face, looking down. The rain was beginning to pour hard so I walked a little faster. My phone vibrated in my pocket but I couldn’t bother answering it. People were running past me on this busy street, trying to get out of the rain. It all kind of blurred.
The familiar voice made me look up. Miranda smiled with relief when she saw my face. I returned her smile, still hugging myself from the rain and the cold. She looked down and saw me tighten my grip on the jacket. Her smiled faded slightly as she looked around. She gestured to a café that was just down the path. I nodded and we both giggled as we jogged over to the door. Some guy was coming out when we got there and held the door open for us. Miranda said thank-you and began to take off her own jumper. I took off my jacket but kept it in my hands.
“Gosh, it’s pouring out there. What are you doing out in the rain this time at night?”
I frowned and checked my watch. Eight thirty. I had been walking around the streets for almost two hours. I smiled and dropped my hand.
“Just… thinking. What about you?”
She shrugged and pulled out a chair at a table near the window that a waitress had just finished cleaning. “Same really. I don’t really like staying at home while both my mum and dad are there. You know, with them… fighting all the time.”
She had never told me about her parent’s problems but I had heard them from Brody. Even he didn’t talk about it much but when I asked him if he had met her parents he said that they were having family problems and she didn’t think it was a good idea for him to meet them yet. He was down about the whole thing but he’ll meet them eventually. My brother has a way of getting around to things.
The silence wasn’t awkward. We both just stared outside at the people walking past until the waitress came over and asked us if we wanted anything. Miranda offered to pay for a cup of coffee and I agreed. After that the conversation came naturally, like it did the other day when I was at her house.
“So, have you heard from Oxford yet?”
She shook her head. “Why? Has Brody heard anything?”
“No. I was just wondering. How long does it usually take for them to reply to an application?”
“I don’t know. But it’s overseas so it might be awhile yet.” She looked down and it seemed like she wanted to say something but didn’t know how to start.
“What is it?” I asked.
She looked up at me and smiled a weak smile. “Well, you obviously heard about that poor girl’s murder.”
I nodded, not daring to smile. “Yeah, I heard. It’s scary. I mean, it happened right down the road from my house. Well, both of our houses.” I stopped. Come to think of it, the murder happened on the road exactly between Miranda’s house and mine.
“I know. I’ve been having nightmares. I might just be paranoid but… I feel like someone’s watching me.”
I didn’t question her last statement. I had been feeling that way too. “Did you know her?”
Sally may have lived near me, but she didn’t go to my school so I had never met her. Even though I hadn’t, I still felt strangely connected to her. Miranda shrugged.
“I didn’t really know her, but I had met her. When we first moved here, her parents came by to welcome us to the neighbourhood. And that wasn’t very long ago when you think of it. She was a nice girl too.” She looked down. “How can something so terrible happen to such a nice girl?”
I didn’t know the answer to that. I don’t think anyone knows the answer to a question like that. The waitress put our coffees on the table and we both sipped quietly. I didn’t like coffee all that much but it was warm and it smelled good so I tried to drink as much as I could. It was too hot to gulp though so I just sipped.
“Have you finished all your finals?” I asked.
She nodded, her lips still in the warm liquid. “And I am so happy that I have no more studying to do. Well, at least not in high school.”
I smiled and put my cup on the table.
“Brody tells me that you want to come with us to England.”
“He told you that?” I asked
She nodded. “You’re welcome to come you know?”
“I know. Brody is thinking about it.”
“He’ll say yes. You’re his sister and he doesn’t want to go to England without you.”
“Well, I don’t want to be a burden or anything. But I know I don’t want to stay here without him.”
We talked for a while, just girl stuff really. She is nice to talk to and we have a lot in common. Mostly we just talked about Brody. I shared some of his embarrassing stories that he would choke me for and she shared everything about how they met and their plans for the future. She was in the middle of a story when the waitress came over to take our cups.
“Sorry ladies, but we’re closing soon.”
We stood up and put on our coats. I hadn’t realized it had gotten so late. It was almost nine thirty. Brody was going to flip. Miranda saw my face and opened the door for me. “Just tell him you were with me, which you were. He’ll be fine about it.”
I wasn’t so sure considering the fight we had. And with the murder of Sally down the road, by this time Brody would be getting worried. When we stood outside on the path and we realized we were going in different directions we hugged. As we hugged I looked over to the other side of the street.
He stood there, pretending to look at a magazine rack, but I could tell that out of the corner of his eye, he was watching us. When Miranda let go, I still had my eyes on him. She looked in the direction of my eyes and her smile faded.
“Does he ever give up?” I asked.
She frowned. “What, you think he’s stalking me?”
I raised my eyebrow at her. “The guy walks his dog past your house every morning and every afternoon and he just happens to be here late at night looking for a nice magazine? Sorry, honey. But that is kind of creepy.”
She just shrugged. “He’s not a stalker. He’s a just a lonely man.”
“Yeah, looking for some company. You have to tell someone that he is following you.”
She smiled and me and shook her head. “I’d know if the guy was following me. He just walks a lot, that’s all.”
I glanced at him again. This time he was staring at us. And he wanted us to know it. Miranda didn’t pay any attention to him. I’d never seen him so close but now that I had something in me clicked. The news said that the neighbours had seen a man leaving Sally’s house the night she died and a sketch artist had drawn what the man looked like from the neighbour’s point of view.
And it looked a lot like him.
“Well, I have to get home. Be safe, Hannah.”
But when I tried to follow her the people pushed her out of my view. So I stood there, wondering what to do now. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him still standing there.
What are you doing there? She’s gone. Follow her. Isn’t that what you do?
But he didn’t move. He just stood there, in the rain, staring at something.
And I may not have known it when I turned around, pulled my hood up and walked out into the heavy rain, but in that moment…
In that one moment when he began walking down the left side of the street…
That moment when Miranda wasn’t in his view anymore…
That was the moment he changed his mind.
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