Originally written for my Creative Writing workshop in response to a photo prompt, and later entered, shortlisted and published in the Wicked Young Writer Awards 2017 anthology.
THE WOMAN stands alone on the cracked sidewalk; bare feet, awaiting a cab though she has no money. She shelters her face from passing strangers to conceal the bruises splattered across her pale skin. Dark circles line her eyes and blood drips from her lip where it has split.
She stumbles, regains her balance, and hastily glances over her shoulder as if she is being watched or followed. Perhaps it is a lover, whose coat now hangs off her frame and protects her body from the unforgiving November morning.
Perhaps, it is a stranger’s jacket; one she had met at the bar last night and although she knew his name, she would never know his story. Perhaps, she doesn’t know the owner’s name at all, and it is, instead, property stolen solely for the sake of keeping her warm.
She hugs the beige coat around her shoulders, hands plunged into the empty pockets that would have held spare change, crumpled receipts and unlit cigarettes on other occasions. Maybe even a set of keys; one for the front door of the semi-detached house they shared, and the other for the old Cadillac parked in the gravel driveway. Sometimes, a third key for an unknown location belonging to her husband’s mistress of many years.
A car stops beside the kerb and she runs to it, dragging her legs behind her as if they are no longer attached to her body. She knocks on the window, leaving an imprint of her bloodstained hands on the frosted glass. When the driver restarts the car, she frantically tugs on the handles of the locked doors but to no avail. It pulls away.
The woman sits alone on the cracked sidewalk; bare feet, hysterical, hands now stark red from scrubbing against the ragged white dress draping her body like a shroud. The coat held high above her head, a useless shield against the raindrops clinging to her auburn hair.
Cars come and go, desperate to avoid the morning rush hour traffic, and passers-by toss the change from the steaming coffees they carry into her lap. A golden Labrador tails behind its owner, burying its head under the damp jacket now strewn across the pavement. It chews on the buttons that haven’t yet fallen off, decides that it dislikes beige coats and proceeds to pee on it.
She watches dawn become day and day become dusk; her lap becomes a pocket for bronze coins, unwanted snacks, a broken umbrella and a pair of mismatched gloves that conceal the crimes her hands have committed. She watches the beige coat decomposing near the overflowing trashcan and imagines it to be her husband.
She sees his body rotting away in the semi-detached house they shared, the one with the old Cadillac parked in the gravel driveway. They may not find his body for days, but at least they’d find hers, frozen on the streets of the city that never sleeps.
The woman rests alone on the cracked sidewalk; bare feet, uncovered, frost biting her skin smeared with green and purple bruises. She has little money, a dead husband and a huge secret staining her hands in blood only she can see.