[MyFiction!]: Short story – “The Woman in the Mask”

She walks with an air of finesse about her, the heels of her open-toed sandals knocking at the stone below in perfect harmony. Knock. Knock. Knock. A car pulls up and parks on her side of the pavement. The guy in the back seat rolls down his window and points at her. He curls his finger as he does so, a sign that he wants her to come closer. He wants to talk to her. The arch of her eyebrow rises, ever so slightly as she acknowledges his call. She contemplates him for what seems like a second, before fastening the last button on her camel coloured Mac so that it engulfs her neck entirely. He’s still staring and pointing and waiting. She stares back. People pass by and stare at them. The beautiful looking lady standing in the middle of the street staring at the dirty looking man in the back of the police car.

A policeman returns from a cafe holding two coffees and a bag of iced doughnuts. He gets into the car and passes the two coffees and the bag of iced doughnuts to the man in the passenger’s seat. He adjusts his rear view mirror and sees the back window down. He says something to the dirty man staring out of the open window. He winds it up, slowly, and sits back in the seat. The car pulls away and drives off down the street. She shakes her head at the car in the distance and puts her hands in her pockets.

***

She begins, again, to walk. A distant tune can be heard from the open door of a record shop. She hums in perfect tune, adjusting the sound at just the right notes. She continues to hum all the way down the street, even when the tune can no longer be heard. She reaches a pedestrian crossing. There’s a woman standing in front of her. She has headphones in and a white iPod in her hand. Her teeth grind at the chewing gum in her mouth as she rocks and taps her foot to an anonymous beat. She plays with something in her hand and looks to the right where she sees a green bin. The miniature man on the black box flashes green. She shrugs her shoulders and lets a chewing gum wrapper flutter to the floor. She crosses the road, leaving the beautiful woman standing in the same position. She looks uncomfortable. She tucks a strand of glossy, auburn hair behind her ear and crouches down to pick up the wrapper. Her tight bun remains in tact as she crosses the distance to the green bin. She drops the wrapper into it.  She pulls a small, clear bottle out of her pocket and squeezes it gently onto her palms, rubbing them delicately.

Behind the bin, stands an abandoned shop. An abandoned shop covered in three identical posters, lined up side by side. The Red Rooms. Red Rooms. The Red Rooms. The beautiful woman stares at the posters. A tear appears on her cheek. She turns and sees the miniature man on the black box flash in the distance. She hurries to cross the road and turns left.

***

Her heels meet cobblestones. They no longer knock. Instead they beat. Still harmonious. Her slender arms reach out across her frame, pulling herself closer. A cough comes from the shadows. A haggard old man sits amongst heaps of dirty rags. A sign is propped up in his hands. Spare change please. She doesn’t stop but already holds two coins. She tosses them into the plastic cup at his feet. He nods his head. He looks into the cup. She is at the end of the alley and turns left again. The second alley is narrow. She twists her body gracefully as she manoeuvres down the tight space. She searches for anything that may obstruct her course and rip at her tights. They’re nude in colour. An exact match to the tone of her skin so that her legs gleam in just the right light. They remain in tact. She reaches a brown door with no bell. She knocks twice. A squat man answers the knock and opens the door. He smiles. He has three teeth missing but she smiles back. She passes him as she walks in, nodding at the woman at the desk. More women. She unfastens her coat. More doors.

Music and bright lights seep in from a side door at the end of the hallway. A petite woman stands looking at the beautiful woman. She holds out her hand. The beautiful woman unfastens the last clasp of the Mac and slips it off. She places it in the hands of the woman and squeezes her gently. She breathes in deeply and grasps the handle of the side door. She pushes. She walks on a bit further and then stops. She slides her hand across her hair, making sure it’s in place. She adjusts the strap of her bra. A sequin falls to the stage floor. She waits for her signal. A cough. She hears him say her name. Loud applause. Hooting and whistling and banging of fists on tables. Her legs move one after the other as she passes the man and enters the bright lights. Her hands follow her curves as the applauds get louder. More banging. She reaches the centre and grips the hard, cold metal. She flicks one heel around the pole and twists and turns and twists.

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