So right now I’m fine. I just need you to know that I’m okay, I’m fine, I’m calm. I wasn’t. I wasn’t fine until about an hour ago. I was the furthest away from fine I think I’ve ever been. I was shaking, I was terrified. The city is on edge, as you’d expect with the week we’ve had, but this was something else. This was… I should explain.
I’d spent yesterday doing what I’ve pretty much been doing every day for the last two weeks, searching for the other Ackerly Green books. The Wolf and The Wild is on its way from Hong Kong but I’ve searched sites, been to libraries, and pretty much scoured every rare bookstore in lower Manhattan to find the rest. Nothing so far. Yesterday evening I was over in the East Village trying not to get too depressed by the fact that I was getting nowhere (when you only have one task to fill your time it can be quite discouraging when that task is all but impossible.) So I’d walked along East 4th and stopped into Lafayette’s as I had a hankering for something sweet and French. They do amazing pastry and breads, but my greed settled on a tarte au citron.
I then made my way across Broadway towards Washington Square Park when I had this odd sense that I was being watched. Maybe it was the fact that it’s starting to get dark early, but I felt spooked. Something made me look back across to the other side of the street and I saw this guy. The guy. I think. I could hardly make him out, but he seemed to be keeping pace with me. As a test I decided to switch from my usual direct route home and instead began to weave through the streets, making unnecessary turns. By the time I’d made it to 6th Ave he was still with me. Still keeping pace.
I panicked. I completely lost it. I ran. I could feel him running too. I heard the footsteps almost keeping time with mine. I didn’t dare look behind me to see if it was actually him, but I just knew it. I felt it. I could feel him there. I thought I could hear his breath. I was sure he’d crossed over to my side of the street and was now right behind me. He was running after me.
And then I stumbled. I fell. Hard, onto the sidewalk. I was on my hands and knees, looking at the tarte au citron which had been smeared across the sidewalk.
He was behind me. Standing over me. For a brief moment I thought I felt his hand on me. I thought I was going to die. But all I could think was how embarrassed I was about the tart. I actually wondered what he’d think about this sad girl crouched on the sidewalk, skinned knees, tears in her eyes, her pathetic little dessert for one on the ground. He’d pity me. The thought sent a rush of rage through me. I don’t know why, but I whipped around to look at him. See his face. Stare down his pity. But he was gone. No one was there.
I got up and started walking home. Faster and faster until I was running again, as fast as I could, not stopping until I was safely back inside the brownstone. I had been absolutely sure he was there. I was shaken. I was physically shaking. I sat on the edge of my mattress and the whole foolishness of the situation just hit me square in the face. I began to sob. Deep, shuddering (and deeply unflattering) sobs. It just all came out. Being here. Feeling alone. Unsure and overwhelmed about this whole summer and my dad and this house and… well, just about everything really.
There was only one person that could make it better. I picked up the phone and called Auntie Monica. I didn’t even think or care that it was midnight back home, but of course she’d been working late at the bar, so was wide awake. She had her sensible head on and talked me down. It was so comforting to hear her voice and talk like we used to about nothing. I miss her so much. I miss home so much. This situation is playing havoc with my head. I shouldn’t be here, alone in the stupid old house. I’m going to end up like Miss Havisham at this rate, rattling about. A ghost or “the witch of the place.”
Maybe I should be calling it quits. I’ve had my adventure, it’s time to put away childish things and get my life back on track. Isn’t it?