Turned / Chapter Five

Chapter Five


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Caitlin walked quickly in the cold, March night down the side street, her heart still pounding from her episode with her mother. The cold air stung her face, and it felt good. Calming. She breathed deeply, and felt free. She would never have to go back to that apartment again, never have to retrace those grimy steps. Never have to see this neighborhood. And never have to step foot in that school. She had no idea where she was going, but at least it would be far from here.

Caitlin reached the avenue and looked up, scanning for a free cab. After a minute or so of waiting, she realized she wouldn't get one. The subway was her only option.

Caitlin marched towards the 135th Street station. She'd never taken a New York City subway before. She wasn't really sure which line to take, or where to get off, and this was the worst time to experiment. She dreaded what she might encounter down in the station on a cold, March night - especially in this neighborhood.

She descended the graffiti-lined steps and approached the booth. Luckily, it was manned.

"I need to get to Columbus Circle," Caitlin said.

The overweight agent behind the plexiglass ignored her.

"Excuse me," Caitlin said, "but I need to  - "

"I said down the platform!" snapped the woman.

"No you didn't," Caitlin answered. "You didn't say anything!"

The agent just ignored her again.

"How much is it?"

"Two fifty," snapped the agent.

Caitlin dug into her pocket and extracted three crumpled dollar bills. She slid them under the glass.

The agent, still ignoring her, slid back a Metrocard.

Caitlin just swiped the card and entered the system.

The platform was poorly lit, and nearly deserted. Two homeless people occupied the bench, draped in blankets. One slept, but the other looked up at her as she walked by. He started mumbling. Caitlin walked faster.

She went to the edge of the platform and leaned over, looking for the train. Nothing.

Come on. Come on.

She glanced at her watch yet again. Already five minutes late. She wondered how much longer it would take. She wondered if Jonah would leave. She couldn't blame him.

She noticed something moving quickly out of the corner of her eye. She turned. Nothing.

As she looked closely, she thought she saw a shadow creep along the white tiled, linoleum wall, then slink down into the railway track. She felt like she was being watched.

But she looked again and saw nothing.

I must be seeing things.

Caitlin walked over to the large subway map. It was scratched and torn and covered in graffiti, but she could still make out the subway line. At least she was at the right place. It should take her right to Columbus Circle. She started to feel a bit better.

"You lost, baby?"

Caitlin turned and saw a large, black man standing over her. He was unshaven, and when he grinned, she noticed that he was missing teeth. He leaned in too close, and she could smell his terrible breath. Drunk.

She sidestepped him and walked several feet away.

"Hey bitch, I'm talking to you!"

Caitlin kept walking.

The man seemed high, and he staggered and swayed as he slowly headed her way. But Caitlin walked much faster, and it was a long platform, so there was still room between them. She really wanted to avoid another confrontation. Not here. Not now.

He got closer. She wondered how long it would be until she'd have no choice but to confront him. Please God, get me out of here.

Just then, a deafening noise filled the station, and the train suddenly arrived. Thank God.

She boarded, and watched with satisfaction as the doors closed on the man. Drunk, he cursed and banged on the metal casing.

The train took off, and in moments he was no more than a blur. She was on her way out of this neighborhood. On her way to a new life.

*

Caitlin exited at Columbus Circle and walked at a brisk pace. She checked her watch again. She was 20 minutes late. She swallowed.

Please be there. Please don't go. Please.

As she walked, just a few blocks away, she suddenly felt a pang in her stomach. She stopped, taken aback by the intense pain.

She bent over, clutching her stomach, unable to move. She wondered if people were staring at her, but she was in too much pain to care. She'd never experienced anything like this before. She struggled to catch her breath.

People passed quickly by on either side, but no one stopped to check if she was OK.

After about a minute, she finally, slowly, stood back up. The pain began to subside.

She breathed deeply, wondering what it could possibly have been.

She began walking again, heading in the direction of the cafe. But she now felt completely disoriented. And something else....Hunger. It wasn't a normal hunger, but a deep, unquenchable thirst. As a woman walked past her, walking her dog, Caitlin noticed herself turning and staring at the animal. She found herself craning her neck and watching the animal as it walked past, and staring at its neck.

To her surprise, she could see the details of the veins on the dog's skin, the blood coursing through it. She watched the heartbeat through the blood, and she felt a dull, numbing sensation in her own teeth. She wanted that dog's blood.

As if sensing itself being watched, the dog turned as it walked, and stared with fear up at Caitlin. It growled, and hurried away. The owner of the dog turned and looked at Caitlin, not understanding.

Caitlin walked on. She couldn't understand what was happening to her. She loved dogs. She would never want to harm an animal, much less a fly. What was happening to her?

The hunger pains disappeared as quickly as they had come, and Caitlin felt herself returning to normal. As she rounded the corner, the cafe came into sight, and she doubled her pace, breathed deep, and almost felt herself again. She checked her watch. 30 minutes late. She prayed he'd be there.

She opened the doors. Her heart was pounding, this time not from pain, but from the fear that Jonah would be gone.

Caitlin quickly scanned the place. She walked in fast, out of breath, and already felt conspicuous. She could feel all eyes on her, and scanned the row of diners to her left, and to her right. But there was no sign of Jonah. Her heart fell. He must have left.

"Caitlin?"

Caitlin spun around. There, grinning, stood Jonah. She fell her heart swell with joy.

"I am so sorry," she said in a rush. "I am usually never late. I just  -  it just  - "

"It's OK," he said, gently laying his hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry about it, really. I'm just glad you're okay," he added.

She looked up into his smiling, green eyes, framed by a still bruised and swollen face, and for the first time that day, she felt at peace. She felt that everything could be all right after all.

"The only thing is, we don't have much time if we're going to make it," he said. "We only have about five minutes. So I guess we'll have to have that cup of coffee another time."

"That's fine," she said. "I'm just so happy that we didn't miss the concert altogether. I feel like such a  - "

Caitlin suddenly looked down and was horrified to realize that she was still dressed in her casual clothing. She was still clutching her gym bag which held her nice clothes and shoes. She had meant to get to the cafe early, slip into the bathroom, change into her nice clothing, and be ready to meet Jonah. Now she was standing there, facing him, dressed like a slob, and clutching a gym bag. Her cheeks reddened. She didn't know what to possibly say.

"Jonah, I am so sorry that I am dressed like this," she said. "I meant to change before I came, but....Did you say we have five minutes?"

He looked at his watch, a flash of concern crossing his face.

"Yes, but - "

"I'll be right back," she said, and before he could answer, she raced through the restaurant, heading for the bathroom.

Caitlin burst into the bathroom and locked it behind her. She tore open her gym bag and yanked out all of her nice clothing, now rumpled. She yanked off her clothes and sneakers, and quickly put on her black velvet skirt, and a white silk blouse. She also took out her faux diamond earrings and put them on. They were cheap, but they worked. She finished the outfit off with black, high-heeled shoes.

She checked the mirror. She was a little bit rumpled, not as bad as she would have imagined. Her slightly open blouse displayed the small, silver cross she still wore about her neck. She had no time for makeup, but at least she was dressed. She quickly ran her hands through the water and dabbed her hair, putting some strands in place. She completed the outfit with her black, leather clutch.

She was about to run out, when she noticed her pile of old clothing and sneakers. She hesitated, debating. She really didn't want to carry those clothes with her the rest of the night. In fact, she didn't ever want to wear those clothes again.

She picked them all up in a ball, and with great satisfaction crammed them into the garbage can in the corner of the room. She was now wearing her one and only outfit left in the world.

She felt good walking into her new life dressed like this.

Jonah waited for her outside the cafe, tapping his foot, glancing at his watch. When she opened the door, he spun, and when he saw her, all dressed up, he froze. He stared at her, speechless.

Caitlin had never seen a guy look at her that way before. She never really thought of herself as attractive. The way that Jonah looked at her made her feel...special. It made her feel, for the first time, like a woman.

"You...look beautiful," he said softly.

"Thanks," she said. So do you, she wanted to answer, but she held herself back.

With her newfound confidence, she walked up to him, slipped her hand into his arm, and gently lead the way towards Carnegie Hall. He walked with her, quickening the pace, placing his free hand on top of hers.

It felt good to be in a boy's arms. Despite everything that had happened that day, and the day before, Caitlin now felt as if she were walking on air.


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