By Jasmine Maharisi, Editor-in-Chief
It was well past midnight before she went home. She wasn’t scared walking alone through the city, even though she’d heard stories from the other waitresses. She knew they were just trying to scare her. She’d listen, her thin lips curled in an upward smile, her blond head nodding.
“I’ll be careful,” she’d always say.
And she was. Since she moved to this place six months ago, she’d been careful. Careful to keep her guard when walking alone at night, careful of her bag when leaving the restaurant with cash after a long shift.
“I’m not a child anymore,” she told her mother over the phone. “I can do this. I can’t be stuck in that small town forever.”
Her mother had gone quiet when she said that. But New York City was so big, and she was such a sweet girl. She’d trust anyone who seemed harmless.
She thrust her hands into her jacket as she turned the corner. Once she turned at the bakery, she was halfway home. Halfway to making it. She viewed the brick building as a checkpoint, imagined it to come to life as she approached.
“Good job!” imaginary fans would cheer. “You’re almost home. You’ve almost made it! Your mother was wrong, wasn’t she?”
She smiled at the thought.
After she turned the bakery’s corner, it became darker. Lighting in this stretch was terrible, but she quickly grew accustomed to the change a few strides in. She kicked an empty soda can and listened to its clink tink tink as it slid across the sidewalk onto the street before stopping.
Moments later, it clinked again. As if someone had kicked it.
Her entire body tightened and her breath caught in her throat as her heart quickly sped up. Cat, she thought. Or dog.
She’d seen the alley cats prance the streets, hopping on piles of garbage and poking their heads in trash cans. They made noises sometimes, graceful but loud.
She let herself relax. When she’d get home, she’d pop a bag of popcorn in the microwave and watch reality TV shows until she nodded off on the couch. She’d awaken a few hours later and move to her bed…
She felt the gun at the back of her head before she heard his voice. It was a calm voice, polite. Every well-mannered white male voice from that day forward would send shivers down her spine.
“Now get on the ground,” he instructed. She did so mechanically.
The moments to follow were a blur, but she’d recall later that he said he’d been watching her for a while, finding the right moment to strike, learning the ins and outs of her daily routine and long walk home.
“I’m fine here, mom,” she said the day before. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m doing it. I’m living life.”