The pain in my head built to an almost unbearable level and my muscles cramped with the effort to keep completely still and quiet. I was terrified to even breathe and risk drawing attention to
As the skull-splitting pressure continued to grow, I was grateful for one thing - that it wasn't the sudden, unexpected torture as before. Having it happen gradually like this, allowed me to prepare and keep myself in check. It was still unbelievably painful - more so, in fact, since I had more time to anticipate it. But I was able to cope with it better this way. And I was stubborn enough to keep fighting. I just tried to ignore the feeling that I was about to black out.
It felt like years until the pain started easing away, during which I started wishing rather than dreading that I'd pass out. I was vulnerable either way, but if I were unconscious I could get a reprieve from the agony.
I relaxed as the feeling diminished considerably, and was very grateful that I didn't have time to eat, this morning. I would have never been able to hold anything in my stomach. Even if the clothes were something I'd want, I could never afford to pay for them. It was bad enough that I was sweating all over the place.
Wanting to spare the clothes further contamination, I tossed them away, barely finding the strength to do it. And no wonder after that! But now even thinking of standing and waltzing out of here seemed like a fantasy. Not as if I felt safe to do that anyway, but I was mentally and physically exhausted.
I suppose this was as good a hiding place as any for a while. It was at least somewhat private, and I wouldn't have to worry about being chased out with a broom. I just hoped that sales girl wasn't observant enough to start wondering if I stayed here a little longer than the average customer. But why would she? There was no time limit and there were several rooms.
After a few minutes I felt strong enough to push off the floor and crawl onto the bench above me. If I did get caught by an overattentive sales girl, I didn't want to look like a mental patient.
Unfortunately that little bit of effort drained me again. And why shouldn't it? Even with that nap this morning, I was still basically running on fumes. And the adrenalin I used up just now, intensified the feeling of exhaustion by about ten. My head, arms, legs - my whole body felt heavy.
I'll just stay here a while, I told myself, leaning against the wall and yawning. I wasn't going anywhere at the moment anyway.
Just a little while, I thought again, closing my eyes. I'll just rest for a few minutes.
A loud noise jolted me awake and I tensely popped up, not knowing where I was or what to expect.
I relaxed when looking around for a few seconds allowed me to remember I was still alone in the fitting room.
Stretching to peer over the curtain, I realized it was almost dark outside. So much for resting for a few minutes. It had been hours. The stiffness in my neck attested to that fact.
How stupid I was! Anything could have happened while I was unconscious. Thankfully nothing had. How had no one come to check on me in so long?
I peeked my face around the curtain to asses things. There was a different girl, guarding the mouth of the fitting rooms now. She barely glanced at the people coming to try clothes on, but I noticed she scrutinized everyone leaving.
Thinking about it now, I suppose the first girl had been the same way. They probably didn't care how long you took in here, so long as you didn't steal anything.
Well, that explained why I'd gone undisturbed for so long, but watching the fair-skinned, red head on duty, alerted me to something else. There was a man trying to get passed her, and she apparently wasn't thrilled about the idea.
"I wanna leave! I want my ice cream!" a child in the next room shrieked and began to cry, briefly drawing my attention. I realized she'd been carrying on for a while and must be what woke me.
I looked back to the man trying to enter the women's only fitting room, feeling like I recognized him.
"I'm sorry sir." The sales girl was clearly losing patience. "You'll have to wait for your wife over there." She gestured to the right.
"But I just need to see her for a second," he tried with a forced and fairly creepy smile. "I have an appointment I need to make and she could be in there for hours."
Everything seemed off about this guy. His expression, his posture, his body language, not to mention the fact that he was trying to get back here at all. Weren't cell phones invented for this reason? He didn't even need it right now. I could hear him clearly and I'm sure his wife probably could too.
He shifted slightly, revealing what was in his hand, and I nearly fell backwards, realizing why I recognized him.
He was the man I saw from the cab window, last night. The dorky, accountant one. Strangely it was the briefcase he carried, inscribed with the initials J.P. that made it click in my brain. He wasn't looking for his wife. He was looking for me! And he wasn't going to keep up with the irritating lost husband routine for much longer.
How did he find me?
More importantly, how was I going to get away? He was blocking the exit and not likely to move until he discovered me.
I paced the tiny room, trying to think but still feeling slightly foggy from sleeping so long and uncomfortably.
Come on, Sam, I scolded myself. You're smarter than this!
He's blocking an exit, I corrected the thought from before, but maybe not the only exit!
Careful not to reveal too much of myself, I peeked through the curtain again and his eyes flicked to my face, making me freeze.
Apparently not recognizing me, he turned his attention back to the girl, and I let out a grateful breath before realizing that other women were poking their heads out of their rooms as well, trying to see what the commotion was.
Feeling a little more bold, I leaned out a little further and almost cried out when my eyes landed on the red exit sign to my left.
It wasn't ideal. I would have to walk across the now enormous-looking gap, allowing myself to be seen, to get there. Also, it was an emergency exit and if the sign on the door was to be believed, an alarm would sound as soon as it was opened.
If he was smart enough to have tracked me here, he was definitely smart enough to understand what happened if the alarm suddenly went off. I may as well just start screaming 'here I am' and let him come get me.
As I was watching the door, wondering what to do, the woman in the room beside the exit, threw the curtain aside and glared disdainfully at the man still trying to gain access, as she walked to the clothes rack to deposit her rejected items.
Getting an idea, I ducked back behind the curtain and quickly switched my hat for the black wig that was stuffed in my bag.
It was my best shot. He wouldn't be looking for short, black hair.
Grabbing the dresses, I forced myself to leave the temporary safety of the curtain and walk at a normal pace to the clothes rack just as the other woman had.
I didn't dare lift my head to look but I felt the man's eyes burning into me the entire time.
I took it as a very good sign when I made it to the other end of the small hallway without being grabbed, shouted at, or forced to succumb to the remote that I was positive he had in his other hand.
I wonder why he wasn't using it though. Maybe Wescott lied after all, and too much exposure was damaging.
Well, that was a pleasant thought, I thought sarcastically. But I wasn't going to question the rare good luck that it wasn't an issue right now. I risked a glance over my shoulder and was glad to see that he was just barely out of sight. Which was perfect.
I quickly pushed the door open before jumping into the room the woman vacated a minute before. Drawing the curtain, I held my breath and waited a few seconds before I was surprised to learn that nothing happened. No alarm sounded when I threw the door open.
I smiled in disbelief. I might actually be able to make it out of here undetected.
Unsure if my hurried movements would have drawn attention, I cautiously took another look.
On the up side, no one seemed to have noticed what I just did, including the man. But he had also advanced by several inches, clearly ready to push passed the sales girl who was now blocking his path and calling for someone to help her. I had maybe five seconds to get out that door.
Taking what was sure to be my last opportunity, I flew out of the fitting room and through the emergency exit, only stopping to help push the door closed again before I began sprinting down the long alley, praying that no one was following.
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