The woman lies still at last. A visible release. Peace. Safe.
The struggle is visceral but she doesn’t know what she struggles with. It is behind her. It is in front of her. It is inside her. Her skin is on fire; a thousand pins prick it. She is sick. Her tears are not droplets, they’re an animalistic exhalation of terror that seems to violently flood from her, mixing with spit and snot and bile. Not safe.
She turns off the main road finally, onto her estate. She hadn’t realised how tense she was until she felt her knuckles relax; the key allowed to fall free in her pocket. Maybe it was the wine, she suddenly felt so tired. Safe.
The jogger feels closer now. He has crossed the road. She thinks she can feel his breath but that is ridiculous. He is at least fifty steps behind her. So what does she feel on her neck? What lifts the wisps that have escaped her ponytail? Not safe.
She risks a glance behind her. He is closer than she remembered. Definitely a man. He wears tight dark clothes. A jogger? He is briefly lit, and she sees his water-bottle, white earbuds. Yes. A jogger. He has small flashing lights pinned to his arms so cars can see him. Safe.
As she joins the main road she clocks someone, opposite side, but going in her direction. Not safe.
She holds her new key tightly in her pocket, enmeshed between her fore and middle fingers. She snapped its predecessor in the lock the other day, if this one is as flimsy she isn’t sure what it will do. But it represents her attention. Her vigilance. Safe.
The Uber still doesn’t come. Frank and Alice have definitely left by now, they only had a two minute walk to their car. She weighs it up. She’s only a 15 minute walk away. And it’s safer than waiting outside the pub for another Uber.
Esther Amis-Hughes has had flash fiction published by Didcot Writers and Tortive Theatre. She loves reading and people (and reading people).