Flash Fiction by Voni Harris
Darlene Feldman headed quickly toward the subway, running a little late to catch the subway to church. She hated to ride the New York subways by herself, but they were singing the Messiah in five weeks, and she didn’t dare miss rehearsal. She’d missed three already, since she and Fred just returned two days ago.
The cool fall air reminded her of Halloween, but she forced herself to shake the thought away. No spooks and ghosts for her. Hadn’t believed in them since she was a little girl when her two big brothers took pleasure in scaring her each October 31.
Nevertheless, she was glad when she got to the terminal. She slid her pass into the slot at the turnstile, and hoped her husband was okay while she was gone. Fred was certainly down with a nasty cold.
She sat down in the mostly empty car. Just a handful of people sat around, looking as though they’d had long days too. She gave a brief nod to each and took a seat across from a young man who seemed the safest of the lot.
He smiled at her.
She smiled back and got out her book—the universal subway leave-me-alone symbol.
He looked back at his magazine.
He looked up at her again and cocked his head.
The Halloween feeling came back and tingled down her spine. She fingered her mace in her purse.
The young man’s gaze intensified. “Ma’am, I just wondered…”
“…I’m busy reading, young man,” she announced, trying to sound self-assured. She tightened her grip on the mace.
“I just wanted…”
She felt the blood drain from her face. Lord, what should I do?
As if in answer, the subway screeched to a stop, and Darlene took advantage. She dashed out the doors just as they began to close. She began walking toward the subway stairs, her footsteps echoing in the stairwell.
Other footsteps joined hers. Glancing behind her, she saw the man from the subway. She took the mace out of her purse, praying she wouldn’t have to use it, and began running, her breath coming in deep gulps as she mounted the stairs. Sweat began to drip down her face and into her eyes, despite the cool weather.
“Mrs. Feldman! Mrs. Feldman!” the man called.
Oh Lord! He knows my name! Protect me!
Fear and fear alone propelled her middle-age body down the street toward the church, a short distance from the subway stop. Thankfully, Pastor was out on the sidewalk, changing the church sign.
“Darlene? Are you okay?” he said. He put down the letters and walked over to her. But she could only gasp in the oxygen her body was crying for.
Just then the man ran up behind her.
“Manuel?” Pastor asked, sounding confused. Darlene was confused, too. How did Pastor know the hoodlum who was chasing her down?
“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” the man—Manuel—said, his own breath ragged from the chase. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m the janitor here at the church. Pastor asked me to work tonight to clean up after choir practice.” He reached into his wallet and pulled out a battered, torn piece of paper and unfolded it. “This is you, right?”
It was the prayer sheet she and Fred had created before they left for the Philippines for a three-year stint as church-planting missionaries. It had a picture of them at their favorite farmer’s market together.
“I picked up your prayer sheet one Sunday after service, and I just wanted to let you know I’ve been praying for you. Every day,” Manuel continued. “I was hoping I’d get to meet you now that you’re back from your mission journey. I thought I recognized you in the subway. So sorry to scare you like that. I wasn’t thinking.”
Suddenly, Darlene heard the sound of laughter. It was her own.
Just as suddenly she found herself hugging Manuel.
P.S: Don’t forget Word Nerd Wednesday tomorrow; it will be fearful!