Surrounded, Alone

Reads: 194  | Likes: 3  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 5

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 10, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 10, 2017

A A A

A A A


Surrounded, Alone.

She knew it would come eventually, the day that she had to set foot outside her house. No one, it seemed, was capable of shutting themselves away for ever. It didn’t stop Kate dreading it, though.

She got out of bed, showered, cleaned her teeth. Finding something to wear was not too hard. Kate wanted something nondescript, an outfit in which she would be invisible in. Her wardrobe consisted entirely of clothes like that; ones that would cover her and help her to blend rather than stand out. And for that she needed all the help she could get.

She started to make coffee but the smell was just too strong, over-powering. Kate began to feel sick and a cold sweat began to break out across her forehead. Soon she felt like she was going to over-heat and for a moment could not stop herself from wondering if she was just about to burst in to flames. Maybe social phobia was the answer to spontaneous combustion.

Her hands shook so much that she could hardly pour herself a coffee, and it was so much harder to pick the cup up, raise it towards her lips. Even before it reached her mouth, Kate was shakily pouring it down the sink. Her mouth was dry but the aroma was too much. A tiny sip of water would have to do, just enough to bring a bit of moisture to her tongue.

She’d check again. Maybe there was enough. Maybe she could put it off for another day, just like she’d done for the past week. But no matter how she rationed them out, her grocery supplies could not last forever. The fridge was empty of all but one wrinkled tomato that should have gone into the rubbish days ago. The cupboard was empty too; just two crackers and a tin of butter beans which she could not stand.

Kate had a care worker, Helen, who always did the shopping for her and saw to any other tasks that needed her to go outside. On the rare occasion that she had to see a doctor, Helen would take her there, come in to the waiting room with her and take her home again. But Helen was sick, had been for two weeks and it would be another two or three weeks before she could return to work.

There had been a replacement offered, a substitute. John, his name was, but Kate had said no. She could not stand to be near men she did not already know and somewhat trust; and now she was left with the consequences and would have to go out on to the streets herself.

Kate had always been quiet, had never felt comfortable around people, but following a brutal attack that left her severely beaten, it had been a disability that had become over-powering. Never quite knowing how to act, what to say, now she wanted nothing more than to hide away from the big bad world and let it carry on without her.

Stop thinking about it!” The loudness of her own voice startled her; she had not meant to speak, just to think. But she knew all the prevaricating was just making it worse. She was giving herself too much time to think, to get worked up. If she did not force herself to go now she knew that she would not go at all.

Her hands shook uncontrollably as she tried to get her feet into her boots. ‘Breathe’, she told herself. Her coat hung by the door. She had not used it for so long that when she picked it up dust flew up, irritated her already teary eyes. Angrily she swiped at the tear that was creeping it’s way down her cheek. She refused to cry. It was only a walk down the road.

Not only could she not afford to move, she had been left the house following her aunt’s death, but she just could not do it. To open her doors to removal men, to have them inside her four walls, going through her possessions. It was never going to happen.

Kate pocketed her purse and her key, picked up a bag, and turned the lock. The force of the noise was like an assault. Of course she always heard the traffic, the people passing, but that was quietly, at a distance, muffled by her double-glazed windows. Now it hit her, struck her, almost demolished her resolve. Quickly, she stepped out and shut the door. Now she would have to stand there and fumble with the keys should she change her mind.

One step, two steps.....Just another couple and she was on the side-walk, in amongst the other walking pedestrians. Head down, arms drawn in and across her chest, she tried to match her pace to the others. The idea that someone might make physical contact, touch her in any way, made the blood drain from her face.

The urge to bolt, to turn and flee back home, was now almost overwhelming. Smells assaulted her, perfume, petrol, food, sweat; sounds pounded their way through her ears. For a moment her sight went black then white, quickly strobing between the two. She need to breathe slowly, steadily, or she would find herself passing out. Would anyone stop to help her, or would they just round her, over her? Kate did not want to have to find out.

Not much longer now, barely ten more steps. Her needs were basic, any grocery store would do. Kate focused her eyes on the building, concentrated on the doorway. The man in front of her turned and entered it holding open the door for her. She did not want to take it from him, would have preferred to open it herself, but how childish, how rude it would appear if she did not.

Inside the shop it was quieter. A few shoppers made their way along the aisles, picking up their purchases. Kate leant against the wall, fought to regain control over herself. She looked around; nobody seemed to be watching her, she had remained unnoticed. Trolley or basket? How much would she buy? Not too much because she would have to carry it home but she did not want to have to venture outside again. She’d take a trolley; it would help her to regain her balance, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Now, what did she need? Kate found her mind was blank. Why hadn’t she written a list? Now she was going to have to walk up and down each and every aisle hoping for inspiration. Milk and bread, obviously, but what else.

The panic began to build again as Kate fought with her mind, trying to think clearly. She felt so nauseous the last thing she wanted in her mind was images of food. The sounds of the store began to boom then fade, boom then fade; she stood still, head down, attempted to bring herself back to a functioning state.

Somebody touched her arm. Kate flinched, jolted away.

Are you okay ma’am,” it was a store assistant, concerned no doubt.

Kate nodded, mumbled, “I’m fine,” and made her feet start to walk again.

At the checkout she had to queue. The person in front was okay; she could see them, keep her distance. It was the one behind that caused concern. Kate could not really keep glancing over her shoulder to make sure they were far enough away. She put her groceries up on to the checkout, shaking so hard that she was sure everyone would be looking at her wondering about her. She could not take the money from her purse but had to hand it over to the cashier, to trust her to take the right amount and not to cheat her.

Two bags. How was she going to get home with two bags of shopping to carry? One in each hand, they were bound to bring her in to contact with someone and then she would just have to drop everything and run.

Kate picked up her bags, gripping them so tightly that her finger-nails dug into the palms of her hands. She held her arms tightly against her sides. It meant that the bags banged against her shins time after time, but at least they should be out of the way of any other pedestrians.

One step, two step.....If anything, it was harder than when she’d set out. No longer could she cross her arms to give herself at least some sense of protection. She felt vulnerable, open to attack. Even though it was cold, she could feel the sweat trickling down her face; she could feel the raggedness of her breath.

As soon as her house came in to view she picked up her pace. Her inclination was to make a run for it; it was just fear of falling, of making a total spectacle of herself that stopped her from doing so. Just a few more steps now.

Her whole body was shaking as she tried to stand her bags up, to find her key. She could not fit it in the lock. For a moment Kate wondered if she had made a mistake, had gone to the wrong house, the wrong door. She squinted her eyes, chewed at her lip, and at last got the key to fit into the keyhole, to turn.......and she almost fell inside with relief.

Dragging the bags in with her she shut the door and slumped down on to the floor. Some of the groceries spilled out of the bag but Kate did not care. She had done it! She was home. But she could not do it again.

They would have to send John. But only to do the shopping.

 


© Copyright 2019 hullabaloo22. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

More Literary Fiction Short Stories