Prompt: A conversation with a stranger.
“What if I told you I might be falling for you?” he asked as they walked toward the entrance to the subway.
Strolling near the park should have been romantic. The perfect ending to a day of adventure and surprises. It could have been, if she let it. But she already had what she needed from him. Even without knowing each other’s names or any personal information, she already felt like he knew too much. She felt like he had come much too close.
“That isn’t going to happen. You don’t even know me.” She pushed her glasses higher on her nose.
“I know enough,” he said, as he pushed a tendril of her red hair behind her ear.
They walked into the subway in silence. He already knew they were going in opposite directions. She’d made sure to tell him that much.
His train was first. She stood with him near the top of the stairs. She took his hands. “You aren’t going to fall for me. You don’t love me. After tomorrow you never will.”
“What are you talking about?”
A train had come. She timed her reply with the onslaught of people. “None of this, nothing today, had anything to do with you.” She let go of his hands. “You had something I needed. I have it now. That’s all this ever was.”
She moved away and disappeared down a set of stairs before he could follow. It didn’t surprise her when she found him staring at her across the tracks. Nothing about him surprised her. Not after today.
“I don’t understand. Why did you do this? Why would you tell me?” he shouted at her, voice stricken.
She remembered when she kissed him, hours ago, probably harder than she should have. Definitely longer. She remembered forcing her hands out of his hair, her body away from his.
She couldn’t kiss him now. Not with an entire set of subway tracks between them. Her glasses were dirty and she could barely see him across the platform. She knew he was upset. But she could only guess at his face. Was he angry? Sad? She wondered if he would look for her as she yelled back, “Because we’re never going to see each other again!”
Her train was coming. She heard the rumbling and saw the gleaming light moving out of the tunnel. He finally noticed the train a moment after her. She watched him turn toward the tunnel.
“I’ll remember you!” he called when he realized he was running out of time. “I’ll remember today and I’ll remember you! I don’t believe it meant nothing!”
“I am sorry! Believe that at least!”
The train came then. It was too late to say anything else. It had always been too late.
She walked into the train car. He watched her, offered a feeble wave. She put her hand against the glass and smiled at him. She didn’t know if he saw it. She couldn’t tell if he watched the train as it left the station or if he would try to follow her. He wouldn’t find her. She knew that much for certain.
She left her glasses on the train when she got off at the next stop. Her vision cleared without the dirty lenses. For the first time all day she could see properly.
She waited until she was in the middle of a crowd before she pulled off the red wig. Her own dark hair was already in a bun. She threw her green sweater into the trash as she wove her way through the station to a different train. She kept her purse. It had the clone of his cell phone—the one that would clear all the obstacles that stood in her way. Tomorrow night she’d use it to buy her freedom. Then she would walk away.
She would sell the phone as promised. There had never been a choice about that. But she also knew she would save the information somewhere. Just for her.
He could try to look for her. Part of her hoped that he would. But he wouldn’t find her. It was much too late for that.
But maybe the day after would be early enough for her to try to find him.