Her pace changed for no one, not a dog or a car, for rain or heat, or for a pile of leaves. Shrouded in dark, flowing fabric, her heavy boots could have slowed her down, yet she skimmed the surface, as if pulled by a string. She walked the circle of our neighborhood to the pulse of an internal metronome. I drove past her on my way to work and again on my way home. It didn’t matter if I were early or late. I saw her so often, I didn’t see her anymore.
And I didn’t see her when I backed out of my driveway. The rain pattered and fogged my windows. I backed up slowly, then Bam. In my rearview mirror, I saw a blur, swirling like a top. At first, I didn’t realize it was her. She had regained her step like she was making up for lost time. I stumbled out of my door, falling on my knee. When I met the sidewalk, she turned down a hill out of my sight. Following at a steady jog, I dropped the hill and she was nowhere. She had vanished.
I reversed course to home. My husband greeted me in our kitchen.
“Karen, what’s the matter? You look beaten up.” Ivan turned away from his Twitter feed.
“I hit her,” I cried. “I didn’t see her. She came out of nowhere. She…”
“Who?” He grabbed my shoulders.
“Her. The walking woman. God, I don’t even know her name,” I peeled off my jacket.
Ivan looked at me blankly. “She’s a strange one.”
“You know her?”
“Well, no. It’s strange what she does. The walking. It’s obviously some kind of therapy,” Ivan grabbed his phone.
“I hope she’s okay.”
“I’m sure she is. She wouldn’t be able to disappear if she were hurt ” he said, stonefaced.
I scowled at him, finding his logic lacking. I imagined the woman in black limping like a wounded rabbit into a bush, not wanting her injury to be discovered.
“And I suppose you wouldn’t look for her anyway.”
He sighed. “You worry too much.”
“No, Ivan. I need to find her. I feel horrible.”
“Why don’t you ask her over for coffee?” he sat on the couch, flipping through channels.
The next time I saw her, I detected no limp. I drove alongside her in my car. She waved me off and told me to get lost. The second time it happened, she shrieked, “Leave me alone, lady.”
She left me feeling freakish, which probably smoothed my transition to stalking her. Being a stalker in your own neighborhood was hazardous to your lifestyle, especially if you were a beginner, like me. My clumsiness was rampant, crunching at leaves and running into hanging branches. The task was further complicated by the hundreds of houses, intersecting streets, and friendly neighbors. So potentially, I could lose her.
“Karen. Look, I’ve got some tomatoes.” It was Sharon, calling from the opposite side of the street, my cover obviously blown.
“Do you know her?” I asked, the tomatoes a forgotten subject.
“Who?” Sharon squinted her eyes into the sunlight. “Dara? Yeah, not the most friendly, but she likes her walking.” She chewed on her toothpick.
To be continued…