WEDNESDAY

I see only the colors of my reflection as I speed by the shop windows: a blur of stark white, hot pink, and turquoise, my hair pulled into a ponytail high on the back of my head. My skates clack-clack as they go over the cracks in the sidewalk; the pedestrians carefully share the concrete with me and the skateboarders and the bicyclists. There are so few cars now, the roads silent save for a few delivery trucks and government vehicles and the few buses that still run, the only things allowed on them. I don’t want to be late to work, I worry, as I skim past the deli and the coffee shop and the used bookstore. It’s all downhill in the morning. I’ll walk back up at the end of the day, my skates in my backpack, the dirt in the air and the sunset and the streetlights making colors you can only see in a city, horrible and beautiful.

The store is in a small bungalow, whitewashed, low to the ground. The woman who runs it, my boss Cora, is older; grandmotherly, smart, fair. Every Wednesday, like today, I open the store so Cora can go to the flea markets on Rosedale Avenue. We sell home d├ęcor stuff -- some vintage linens, antique knick-knacks, some pieces from the design students at the college a few miles away. We don’t get a lot of customers, but enough; usually hip mom-types or the people who run boutiques in the Chase Borough who can resell our stuff at a profit to the folks who won’t venture over here. I have plenty of time to read and sketch during the day, after organizing and cleaning and checking on inventory and the cash box and helping with customers. I suspect Cora keeps me around more for the company. She doesn’t really need the help.

I arrive and turn off the alarm and get everything set for the day. When Cora is not here, I turn the radio on to the college station, and a little louder than she thinks the customers prefer. I pull my book from my backpack and begin to read. I’m on page 234 of Henry Miller’s “Tropic Of Cancer.” I should be able to finish it this morning.

When the brass bells tied on the door jangle, I look up. Two young guys come in, one in a black t-shirt and dirty jeans, messy brown hair, the other in a white t-shirt with short red hair, baggy shorts. The red-haired one is smoking a cigarette.

“I’m sorry, you can’t smoke in here,” I say, still holding my book, sitting on a stool.

“Yeah, OK,” the red-haired guy says, yet he doesn’t put it out. He looks sweaty, distracted.

I’ve seen these guys around town before. Skateboarders. Hang around Fenter Park, drinking, hang around everywhere they aren’t really wanted, sometimes in a pack, sometimes just the two of them.

The guy in the black shirt starts messing with the glass stuff on a display rack. I get up, put my book down on a counter, and walk over to him.

“Can I help you?” My tone isn’t friendly.

“Uh…yeah. I wanna get something for my nana.” He begins to laugh; a piece of crystal teeters on the edge of the shelf.

I feel a warmth on my left arm, then sharp pain. I whip my head around. Red-hair is burning my arm with his cigarette. I yell, pull my arm away, stunned, staring at it as a blister forms almost instantly.

Black Shirt moves to the door, locks it, stands looking out the window, looking back at me, then the window, then at me, smiling. I twist my head around to see Red-hair. He isn’t smiling. He steps closer.

It's Wednesday. They know I am here alone.