created by Miranda Thompson

“...stubby fingers on my legs, hot breath on my neck, a sour smell a thousand showers won’t wash away..”

I can see him watching me. His black shark eyes cut through the rain, laser-like along the dark window, dripping down my back. The bus lurches but his gaze remains steady. I don’t want to see to him nor him see me. Three stops to go.

He got on six, maybe seven stops before this one. Grey anorak, muddy beige sports top zipped halfway, black trackies with a rip at the knee, cap pulled low. His nose takes up half his face. His five o’clock shadow is ticking towards ten. He clocked me as he walked up the stairs: step slowing infinitesimally, eyes travelling across my face, exhaling heavily through his mouth. Two stops to go.

If I keep still, I think, he won’t notice me. My phone is tight in my hand and my keys are tangled in my fingers, Eiffel Tower keyring cutting at my knuckles. The girl next to me sways and drops her phone. “Faaaaack”, she slurs, bending over, hands tearing at thin air. I drop lower in my seat. One stop to go.

My phone blinks: 10 percent battery remaining. Fuck. Ignore it. Focus. How can I press the stop button without him noticing? I slide my arm along the back of the seat, hair in my face and chin buried in my jacket.

The girl’s trapped my backpack with her leg. “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, please.” I whisper, tearing it from under her Doc Martens. “S’alright, s’no worry, sorry.” She mutters, as I clamber over her.

He’s definitely seen me, hasn’t he? Shit. I clatter down the stairs. I don’t look back.

Off the bus, legs pounding, I scrabble for my earphones.  It’s a cold night, but my keys are slick with sweat. My stomach is tense, coiled like a ball of elastic bands. The amber lamppost lights cast shadows against the dark houses. In the corner of my eye I see the slow expansion of a black outline. My gut jerks. I walk faster.

I can feel him behind me. Ahead, my street lies empty.  Will I be able to scream? Can I? If I scream, how long will it take for someone to notice?

What will he do? Does he want my bag? My phone? Me? Oh God, not me. Stubby fingers on my legs, hot breath on my neck, a sour smell a thousand showers won’t wash away.

He’ll get me round the corner, won’t he? Round the corner, by the bins, in the walkway between the road and the house. He’ll get me there.

Something touches my face. Bile creeps into my throat and I swat my fingers at my head. My shoulders shudder. It’s happening now, isn’t it? Right now. My voice has shrunk, trapped behind my tonsils. My chest is about to explode.

Nothing. My hair whips into my face. Whips my face again, I realise, as strands bat my cheeks. I drop my hands; swivel my head to the right. There’s nothing behind me. There’s no one there.

Miranda Thompson is a senior features writer at Woman’s Weekly.

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