"FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF HER LIFE"
- Lily Fox
She stepped out onto the bustling street, and, for a moment, was overwhelmed with the sheer wall of sound: car horns, voices, buses heaving past. For one wild moment, she considered hopping right back on the first train out of London and going home, forgetting she had ever tried such a mad venture. She caught herself, and straightened her tired shoulders. No, this was her opportunity, her moment: this was the first day of the rest of her life.
She stepped, on the second attempt, into the apparently unbreakable flow of people. Not a single one paid her any attention, but she was still vain and naive enough to pause to admire her professional-looking reflection in a shop window. Her face looked pale, even in nothing but darkened glass, but that was to be expected. This was the most important interview of her life, her make-or-break moment. She tried to put it out of her mind. She could be calm and collected and when she walked into that office, everyone would know she was perfect for the role.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she gasped automatically as she nearly ploughed into the back of the man in front. He didn't reply, or even acknowledge her presence, and she frowned for a moment, before giving a mental shrug. People probably barged their way through every street here. She laughed to herself at the wide-eyed girl she still mentally categorised herself as. She wondered if anyone could spot any little tells she gave off, but the further she walked, the more she realised no-one really cared a jot about her circumstances; they didn't even look her way. Maybe she, too, would grow to be like this after a few years in the city.
Was this the right street? Would consulting a map look too...well, touristy? She had to get the part right, like the nervous actor on the first opening of theatre doors, she had to nail it. No slips. No giveaways. And really, she had the fundamentals, otherwise she wouldn't have made it this far. She had an excellent Cambridge degree and she was hard-working, determined and bright. She had a suit that had cost her far too much and heels that were neither too high nor too prudishly flat, and her hair had been tousled into an flattering elegant wave effect. Yes, image mattered, especially in this crowd.
It unnerved her just how little attention anyone paid to anyone else here...or, no, that wasn't quite right...how little attention everyone paid to her, specifically. Leaflets were thrust at the other passers-by; ticket touters hollered in their indifferent faces. She might have been of no more substance than a puff of wind. Nothing was thrust into her face. No-one met her eyes as they leaned on their sandwich board signs. Was she that obvious?
he quickened her pace. She was nearly there, anyway. The flow of people was lessening as she reached the banking district. She had worked for this and seen too many of her fellows fall by the wayside, distracted, missing opportunities. She would go for it. She had to.
Last road, oh yes, there was the street she needed. Excitement trembled in her stomach. This was finally, finally it. She inhaled, and stepped into the road.
It didn't hurt as much as she had thought; what really hurt was the driver just carrying on, as if she hadn't just been tossed like so much dead meat over the windscreen, thrown bonelessly to the road and smashed, smashed on impact. The white-hot agony she would have imagined blinding her was just a vague memory-sense. The car had sped on to catch the lights as she lay dying. She tried to force out a sound. Wouldn't someone help her? This was central London, she could see, out of misting eyes, legs and feet moving past. Her mind blurred.
Her blue eyes rolled back in their sockets to meet, at last, for the first time in this damnable city, a pair of eyes, faintly startled, staring at her broken body in the road. She implored the girl to do something, anything, just not to let the blackness take her...she was scared. Something was dragging her away from the flesh, upward, onward. Her lips moved, mouthed, 'help'.
The girl's hands, tucked into the pockets of her bright pink coat, extended, but she didn't have the strength to do more. She was...oh, so tired, so heavy. It was taking her, and there wasn't a thing she could do. The pink jacket, the brown eyes, faded into light and finally, into nothing at all.
"It's so cold," Hannah pushed her hands back into her pockets, eyes fixed on the road. She couldn't, for some reason, drag them away.
"Oh, that'll be the corpse," said Gary casually, pulling one of Hannah's hands free from her pink jacket to hold in his own.
She rolled her eyes towards him. "What?"
"You must have heard the story. It's haunted around here..." Gary pulled a face, waving his free hand in Hannah's face. "Whooo!"
She batted his hand away. "Don't be stupid. It's just a chill..."
"No, seriously," Gary enthused, his face lighting up. Hannah put an exaggeratedly indulgent expression on. "You must have read that story about how that girl got killed here last year - that prodigy mathematician kid from Cambridge, won a load of prizes and scholarships and stuff? Going to work for some big bank over there?" He pointed at a particularly imposing building further down the road.
"Probably," Hannah conceded, although she couldn't remember it.
"Well, she wasn't looking and just stepped out in front of a car here, and got mown down, of course...but get this, people say they can feel a chill here and sometimes, they can hear her walk past and stuff...'cause, you know, ghosts can't leave where they were killed..."
"Sure," Hannah scoffed. "I mean, it's a horrible story, but ghosts aren't real. Not people who've died recently, especially. No-one becomes a ghost any more, Gar'." She grinned. "It's not cool."
Gary laughed easily, pulling Hannah closer, and turning her away from the crossroad to walk on. "Don't see why not...it's not like there's any reason why not..."
Their voices settled into the mildly argumentative tones that meant a debate would ensue as they wandered aimlessly away.
She stepped out onto the bustling street, and, for a moment, was overwhelmed with the sheer wall of sound: car horns, voices, buses heaving past. For one wild moment, she considered hopping right back on the first train out of London and going home, forgetting she had ever tried such a mad venture. She caught herself, and straightened her tired shoulders. No, this was her opportunity, her moment: this was the first day of the rest of her life...
BIO: Lily Fox is an MA graduate living in London