Anna tries to glance behind her unobtrusively, her heart beating at a furious speed. Even though she doesn’t want to seem in a hurry, she quickens her steps in what she hopes looks like a deliberate and confident manner but she knows that her slight gait will make her increased speed look unnatural. Should she slow back down? She risks another peek behind her by shaking out her long auburn hair and gathers it in a ponytail while looking sideways…
Screw this! With her arms still swinging above her head, trying to tie down her wild mane, she jerks into a full trot. Her gait getting worse, she drags her left leg behind her while plowing on with her good leg. Steve warned her not to venture out yet; she probably pulled a few stiches. Just as the thought pops up in her mind, she feels a warm trickle oozing down her leg. Damnit! Nothing she can do about it now. Why doesn’t she ever listen?! Her stubborn pride always gets her in these jams and yet it seems she never learns from her mistakes. Trying not to think about what might be happening under the gauze taped just below her left hip bone, Anna takes a last look behind her and makes a desperate final dash for the coffee shop not ten feet in front of her. Sweat streaming down her face she turns for a last look behind her just as she reaches the door, backing at full speed into the shop and slamming into someone standing right behind her. She flinches and does a quick 180-turn to face her imagined assailant. Barely able to contain a scream she jams both fists down her throat to suppress it. The bewildered waiter takes a small inconspicuous step back seizing up Anna and trying to gauge the sanity of this crazy looking lady with big wild eyes, messy hair in a loose and askew ponytail, knuckles stuck in her mouth yet somehow attempting to suck in air through them and sweating profusely.
Anna tries to calm down her breathing, lowers her hands back to her side and offers the waiter a feeble smile. “Table for two please?” The waiter gives her another quick once-over, determines she’s sane enough, shrugs his shoulders and leads her to a small table near the coffee shop’s entry, just in case. He shoves a menu towards her and ambles on to the next table while giving her a last sideway glance to make sure won’t flip out on him again. Still a bit jittery, Anna waits till the waiter moves on before grabbing her phone from her jeans’ back pocket. She texts Steve rapidly while her eyes dart continuously from the phone screen to the door. Her still trembling fingers make it nearly impossible to type in the right letters and after a minute of grappling with the phone she gives up and presses the send button, hoping Steve will understand her garbled message. Steve should be able to get the gist of it, or at least that’s what Anna was counting on, she was too mentally exhausted to even try sending another less cryptic message.
She puts the phone in her pocket and leans back in her chair taking in another long deep breath. Looking down her jeans she suddenly remembers her possibly thorn stitches but feels nothing; the adrenaline must’ve numbed the pain. There’s a dark stain on the side of her denims that seems to slowly be spreading downwards. She grabs a bunch of napkins from the dispenser on the table and places them as casually as possible on the blood drenched spot, putting pressure on it while at the same time keeping an eye on the entrance. “Come on Steve, please hurry!” she mumbles between her teeth. The waiter comes up to her with pad and pen in hand ready to take her order. He seems anxious to take the possibly crazy lady’s order as soon as possible. “Just a black coffee please, no sugar.” She says in the friendliest voice she can muster, trying to set the waiter back at ease. He scribbles her order on his pad and rushes off to the kitchen.
Anna glances towards the door again, finally, Steve! He walks briskly inside, sees Anna sitting by the door and strides deliberately towards her table, sliding in on the seat next to her with casual aplomb. She almost jumps out of her seat into his arms but his reproving eyes hold her back. “What happened?!” He says in a grumbling whisper. “I told you not to go wandering around!” He automatically lowers his eyes towards her hip as he says this. “Shit! You pulled the stitches, didn’t you?!” Anna looks at him pleadingly. “It’s not my fault. I just wanted to go out for a walk, I was tired of looking at those four walls!” she whispers pleadingly. “What four walls?!” Steve barely manages to control the tone of his voice, he takes a deep breath and looks back at Anna, “Anna you’re staying in a sprawling 6-bedroom mansion with a manicured lawn and a pool in the back, what more space could you possibly need?” Anna looks back at him sheepishly but lowers her eyes as his gaze becomes too intense. “I just needed to make sure you were okay too Steve. I can’t just stay locked up in that house for God knows how long thinking that you might be in danger. I don’t understand why you can’t stay with me in the house.” Then she leans forward and lowers her voice even more; “I think someone was following me just now. There was this guy, he was wearing a dark blue shirt with a green skull decal on it, whenever I looked over my shoulder I would catch a glimpse of him. That’s why I ran towards here and texted you, but I haven’t seen him since I ran into the coffee shop.” She states all of this quickly, in one breath, almost rambling and when she’s done there is a thick silence. She seems to have run out of adrenaline, her shoulders sag and she shrinks back into her seat. Steve just looks at her and slowly shakes his head. This time it’s his turn to lean forward. He slowly reaches for her and gently lifts her chin up, looking deeply into her mournful eyes. “It’s okay Anna, that was Manuel, a security guard I hired to protect you. I knew you weren’t going to stay put even after I begged you too, so I hired Manuel for my own peace of mind.”
Anna was shocked, she didn’t know whether to be angry or grateful. “But you never told me you hired a goon to watch over me, why would you do that without telling me! He scared the hell out of me!” her voice became more agitated and increased in pitch with every word. “First of all, Manuel is not a goon and if you had told me in advance that you were going to go out by yourself, I would have had time to inform you about him. I’ve pulled a lot of strings to get you placed into that safe house and I already explained to you why I can’t stay with you in the house remember?” Steve says in a mildly accusatory but placating manner, trying to calm her frayed nerves. “How much longer until the case goes to trial?” Anna asks in a timorous voice. “Not much longer honey, don’t worry. Just hang in there and before you know it all of this will be a long-forgotten nightmare.”