Two girls murdered.
Miriam pulled the newspaper closer. Raped, then left for dead on the bank of the Thames, two blocks away. Young things, Miriam read, just out of school. She imagined their short skirts skimming firm thighs, the click-clack of three inch heels on the sidewalk, the wiggle of their arses. Not the quiet tread of her sensible flats, all leather with skid-proof soles.
Miriam shivered; she might have passed the girls on the pavement or the market, on the bus. Perhaps she passed the murderer.
She rinsed out her tea cup, brushed crumbs off her plate. Damned if she was going to let some thug prevent her from going to evening mass. She belted her coat, clutched her purse tight under her arm, and double-locked the door behind her. Down in the lobby, red-lettered signs plastered the entrance, alerting residents to the at-large murderer.
Miriam pushed on the revolving door, then paused; reflected in the glass, her once long neck gathered in folds, a turkey wattle. Lines trampled the sallow skin around her eyes. Her raincoat failed to hide the stubby thickness of her waist.
When had she grown so old? So frumpy looking? In her twenties, she’d felt beautiful—she was beautiful—eager to flaunt her body, her perfect skin, her golden hair. She remembered the feeling of weightlessness, of being lifted against gravity, the soft whoosh of tulle as her partner’s hands grasped the backs of her thighs and held her aloft. In the harsh spotlight the audience had glowed, as she must have shimmered to them, so full of grace.
“Ma’am.” The doorman called out to her. He cocked his head to the poster. “It’s not proper for women to travel alone at night.”
Not proper. She’d given up ballet at twenty-three; it was hard on her body, her toes fractured, her lower back in constant pain. But she didn’t give up dance because it made her ache night and day without end—she gave up dance because a man, her almost fiancé, had told her: dancing wasn’t a suitable way for women to make a living.
Maybe she should stay home tonight, stay inside until she had a chance to buy a small gun, at least some mace. Her hands patted down her unruly hair, peppered with silver, and she remembered how it once streamed down her back smooth as a waterfall. She thought of the young girls, of her own youth, and a sob caught in her throat—the unfairness of it all!—but she swallowed it before the doorman heard her cry.
Not proper. Her age would protect her against any rapist. Any murderer. Miriam shook her head and pushed against the door into the night.
published 16 March 2016