She smelled like roses and peppermint, despite the time of day. This particular time was around 7 at night and she was slowly walking home after an evening at the bar with her coworkers, her one night a week reprieve from the loneliness at home.
She was slightly light headed after her usual three glasses of red wine and was walking barefoot – bar nights were not friendly to heels – under the flickering street lamps of the bar district.
The bars weren't really active yet; it was still early, but their lights were all starting to come on and she felt fine walking alone down this road despite its reputation at almost any other hour.
She greeted a few of the bar workers as she walked past in that manner that you do when you see them often enough to greet them but not well enough to know their names.
She had flirted harmlessly with a few of them on the rare night she dipped into drinks stronger than wine, but nothing had ever happened from it.
In fact, ever since she moved here and started her new job, almost six months ago now, her male companionship had been exactly nil. It didn't seem to bother her outside of the general loneliness though, and she always kept a happy face around the other people she associated with.
Her house wasn't exactly walking distance from the bar, but walking home gave her some fresh air – except in the colder months – when there was a carpool or taxi arranged – and she enjoyed walking just for the sake of walking.
Ahead of her, roughly two blocks away, and what she considered half way home, even though it was slightly off in the direction of the bar, was a lush green park. It was one of a dozen or so around the city that a co-operative of local businesses had got together and bought a few years back and despite the cynicism of such a project, they had managed to turn what would have been abandoned lots into places where people enjoyed hanging out. This one was one of the greener ones with an abundance of oak trees right in the middle and smaller ones dotted all over to the edges. A fountain was in the middle and concrete paths wound circuitous routes through the whole thing.
She reached the park slower than she would have sober and slumped on a bench for five minutes, enjoying the last of the days birds coming to roost. She could hear an amorous couple in the oak shadows making out, or something that comes from making out and decided to move on before she disturbed them - she remembered what it was like to be a teenager, after all.
She took a few quick turns as she moved on and finally, it seemed, ended up on her street. Her house was still several blocks away, but she always felt safer when she made it to this corner. She whistled softly, as her bare feet padded down the street. Her purse swung by her side in time with her rhythmic motion and she could hear the keys jangle slightly inside.
It took another ten or so minutes but she finally made it to her door. She could hear her cat begging for food from behind it and told him off playfully, in that voice she only used for her cat.
She clumsily opened the door, moving quicker than expected to shuffle the cat back inside with her feet, even though the cat only wanted to greet her and not escape.
She threw her purse onto the sofa, only to rush over to it to fish her phone out before dumping it again. No messages, as normal. She sighed and grabbed some food for the cat, who was raising a loud racket about her absence and, more importantly, the absence of food. It started scoffing the food the instant it was put in the bowl and she went down the hall to have a shower and change into her evening wear, which in her case was a pair of sweat pants and an old t-shirt.
After her shower, she sighed happily and dropped into the couch next to her purse and switched on the TV. She knew the minute she sat down that she was going to need dinner and frowned deeply. Eventually, though, hunger won out and she grabbed some leftovers from the night before and returned to the couch to watch whatever was on.
Her phone beeped a message alert and she jumped. She tapped the screen a few times until the message, sent from an unfamiliar number, appeared on the screen.
>Hello, it said.
>hi, she replied, wondering who had gotten her number.
>Did you have fun tonight?
>who is this, clearly it was someone she worked with trying to mess with her, but she was going to nip that in the bud right now.
>The wine you were drinking is very cheap. You can do better, you know.
>wat I drink is none of ur buisness, she replied, getting slightly annoyed at the criticism.
>You should drink better drinks if you want to get Darren’s attention, you know.
She froze, not knowing how to react. She had told no one about her school-girl crush on Darren, one of the men she worked with and who had been the deciding factor in going along to these weekly drinks sessions.
>who r u? She eventually settled on.
>Someone who watches you.
>eddie? She took a stab in the dark. Eddie was a man she dated before she moved here. Their breakup was a large part of the reason for the move, and she wasn't entirely sure that he wouldn't stoop to this kind of level.
>I was curious as to why you decided to walk home, but it is a lovely walk this time of year, isn’t it?
A cold sweat broke out all over her body. Someone had followed her home.
>I admit I don’t usually go for girls like you, but the way you walked home. The way you do everything. I just couldn’t help myself, the next message said. The phone beeped in her hand as she read it.
>I’m sorry your cat was so friendly. I do dislike harming animals.