She quickened her pace, keys held tightly in her fist as she hurried through the dark streets towards home.
‘Excuse me,’ a voice from behind called.
Her heart jumped into her throat. This was it. She would be headline news tomorrow. Some poor passer-by would find her naked and twisted body in shrubbery. Tears flooded as she paused to turn. Wait! Why is she listening to his voice? She should just ignore him and go.
‘Miss! Excuse me,’ the voice called louder, more insistent.
She faced him. Her head held high, her jaw protruding in what she hoped was a sign of a fight, defiance.
‘What do you want?’ she asked. Her voice quivered and caught in her throat. So much for bravery and putting up a fight.
‘I’m sorry. I don’t mean to frighten you any more than you probably already feel.’ The man smiled at her. ‘I noticed we’re headed in the same direction and…’ His voice quivered this time. He cleared his throat. ‘…well, I guess I wanted to reassure you. There’s no need to be frightened of me. I’ve probably made you feel more uneasy. Sorry,’ he repeated.
‘Um, thanks,’ she said. She turned to commence walking again.
‘It’s just that my mother taught to watch for situations like this. She suggested that I make contact with a woman, if I’m ever walking behind her late at night. To let her know not to be scared.’
This guy was either for real or a weirdo psycho guy, a la Norman Bates. She couldn’t work out which. Best to keep walking and pretend it didn’t happen.
‘Thanks,’ she said again. She was at a loss for words. ‘I’m going to go now.’
She had taken maybe ten steps when he spoke. ‘Were you scared? Did talking to you help, or make it worse?’
‘Um, I really just want to get home.’
‘Oh, goodnight then.’
She paced to the end of the street and walked into the familiar front garden of her friend’s home. She knocked on Harry and Beck’s door. It was 2AM, but they wouldn’t care. She couldn’t go home, in case the lurker was a Norman Bates-type. He probably had his mother’s body in a rocking chair in the front room.
The door opened. Harry stood, bleary-eyed. ‘Mags, what is it? Do you know the time?’
‘Yeah, sorry. Got a Norman Bates following me home. Can I crash here tonight?’
‘Course! Come in.’ Harry walked to the front gate, and looked up and down the street. He stood out there for five minutes, while Beck got Mags set up in the spare room with a hot chocolate, fresh pyjamas and a BFF hug.
‘No one in sight Megs,’ Harry said once he finally came inside. ‘You’re safe.’
She lay awake all night, wondering if she’d dodged a grisly death. How would she ever even know?